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Diaspora Committee – New York discusses SVG cultural policy

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A Round Table Policy Consultation was held on November 18, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, Inc., in Brooklyn, New York, to discuss the St Vincent and the Grenadines Cultural Policy.{{more}} It was organized by the St Vincent and the Grenadines diaspora Committee of New York, Inc.

The objective of the Round Table Consultation was to highlight the National Cultural Policy framework of SVG and to generate Diaspora contributions to this policy framework.

There was lively discussion by the over 40 participants who represented various forms and levels of the cultural arts.

A feature presentation was delivered by Cecil McKie, Minister of Sports, Culture, and Tourism in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Remarks were also delivered by Hon. Selmon Walters, Consul General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Joanne Legair, Cultural Coordinator of the Council of Vincentian Organizations USA (COSAGO); and Jose Avila, President of the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc.

Maxwell Haywood, chair for the Round Table Consultations, welcomed all the participants and stressed the importance of the consultation. He also explained the objectives, expected outcomes and method of the consultation.

Mckie underlined the importance of such meetings in the diaspora, in the context of filling the gaps and improving the linkages between Vincentians at home in SVG and those living abroad. He recognized the importance of the expertise and resources that gathered around the table for the Consultation. He then described the structure of the Ministry of Culture: its responsibilities, its various components, programmes, projects and activities.

The minister shared with the audience the rationale for the consultation on culture and the process that it will pass through, including consultations in communities throughout SVG and the Vincentian diaspora. He also shared with the participants the vision for the further development of the cultural infrastructure in SVG and the diaspora, which includes plans for museums, centre for performing arts, song writing opportunities, film production, heritage festivals, and the development of festivals generally.

Consul General Selmon Walters, declared the consultation on the National Cultural Policy as a worthwhile venture. He indicated that developing countries are increasingly looking to their diaspora as a resource base to be tapped for national development purposes. He charged that the livelihood of the artistes must be ensured. He called for more education opportunities for the next generation of artistes and the need for Vincentians to define what constitutes Vincentian culture.

Joanne Legair, Cultural Coordinator of the Council of Vincentian Organizations USA (COSAGO), outlined the cultural project of COSAGO and reviewed its achievements and challenges, while Jose Avila of the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. shared his perspectives on the Garifuna aspects of Vincentian culture.

During the discussion segment of the consultation, many ideas emerged, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Emphasis should be placed on encouraging young people to pay more attention to the cultural arts. More emphasis must be placed on educating the next generation of artistes. More cultural programmes should be organized for young people. Cultural education should be taught to students as early as in pre-kindergarten.
  • Gender issues within our culture need to be addressed. As a nation, we need to review gender relations.
  • As a nation, Vincentians need to address where we are going. There is the need to create and popularize our visions of a better future. In this connection, there is need to identify what SVG culture is made up of and what distinguishes the Vincentian way of life. This will improve the understanding of Vincentians as to who they are as a nation. Toward this end, efforts are needed to define the Vincentian way of life.
  • Promote SVG as a cultural destination. Marketing strategies could make a huge difference in promoting the cultural arts industry of SVG. A marketing strategy for the cultural arts should have a focus on Central America, where the Garifuna communities exist. Moreover, marketing SVG’s carnival is too weak. Attention must be paid to the way we sell the carnival at home and abroad. Appropriate people must be in place to do this effectively and efficiently. Also, a sample of Vincy Mas should be paraded in carnivals in different countries. A section of Mas bands could be tied to various festivals in different countries.
  • We need to pay more attention to the quality of our cultural arts output. Training in the arts is vital. There should be more attention paid to the way we present our products. Training opportunities should be provided for workers in the cultural arts creative industry, and workers should also seek these opportunities on their own.
  • Cultural arts must also be seen as a business instead of just a hobby.
  • Radio programmes do not reflect Vincentian cultural arts sufficiently. Soca and calypso are played mostly during carnival. After that, these art forms are not given due respect on radio stations. Radio stations should play a certain percentage of local music.
  • The cultural creative industry must be inclusive of all musical art forms. Vincentian reggae artistes must be given more opportunities to showcase their talent and works. It is felt that this section of the cultural arts industry must be shown more respect. Interestingly, many of these Vincentian reggae artistes are enjoying the respect and support of other nations and non-Vincentian people.
  • Resource bases, including the financial base, should be identified and targeted in order to attract resources for the cultural arts. Donors, foundations, and international organizations should be indentified for providing assistance.
  • The international airport needs a strong cultural arts industry.
  • The Garifuna culture should be integrated into the cultural life of SVG. The Garifuna culture should be reclaimed. Balliceaux should become a national heritage site. Moreover, a school should be named after Chatoyer. The Garifuna language should be protected and developed in SVG.
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