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SVG Diaspora Heritage Awards delivers on promise to be epic

SVG Diaspora Heritage Awards delivers on  promise to be epic

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In an elegant affair on Saturday, September 17, 2016, 15 Vincentians received awards during the inaugural St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Heritage Awards and Gala, held at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn under the theme “Heritage is Everything: Celebrating Vincentian Excellence.”{{more}}

This historic event was organized by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc, in collaboration with its two newly formed institutions, namely the St Vincent and the Grenadines United States of America Sports Association (SVG-USASA), and the Cultural Association of Vincentians in the USA (CAVUSA).

The well-attended event, which delivered on its promise to be “Epic”, kicked off with the honorees being paraded into the hall to the sounds of Garifuna drumming. The honourees received awards in four categories: Lifetime Achievement, Sports, Culture, and Humanitarianism.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Vaughan P Toney for his more than 40 years of outstanding public service and leadership in the fields of early childhood education, political empowerment and community activism.

Culture Awards were given to Verna Arthur, Errol “D Man Age” Rose, Lennox “Scully” Hunte and Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas, in recognition of their contribution, dedication and tireless support of culture in the diaspora, as well as the homeland, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

In sports, Gloria Ballantyne, Hermina Cambridge, Garnet Niles, Rudy Boucher, and Donald Llewellyn were inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame. The Chatoyer Award was given to Justin Stapleton for his spirit to overcome adversity, while demonstrating strength and resolve. In addition, Kemillia John received the sports Merit Award.

Humanitarian Awards were given to Robert McBarnett, Gideon “Fessie” Yorke and Mary Neverson (posthumously) in appreciation of the love, zeal, passion, tenacity, persistence and commitment that they displayed over the years in matters relating to humanitarian service.

In his acceptance remarks, the Lifetime Achievement honouree, Vaughan Toney, paid tribute to his fellow honourees as “giants” in their respective fields and congratulated the leadership and members of the SVG Diaspora Committee for their “distinguished record of commitment to the development of the Vincentian nation and people at home and abroad.”

He added that the distinction bestowed on him had caused him to “reflect more deeply upon the arc of my own life and my purpose for being.” In a moving tribute to the many people who taught, cared for, and otherwise helped him along the way, Toney noted that “public service will continue to be the central focus of my life because much is expected of those to whom God has been so generous in his blessings. For in the end the measure of a man is not how much he is able to accumulate in life, but how much of that blessing he is willing to invest and share in the service of others.”

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York Inc sees the Diaspora Heritage Awards as destined to become a major event and process in the Vincentian diaspora in the USA.

According to chairperson of the Diaspora Committee of New York Maxwell Haywood, the initiative is: “The start of a process to document our positive Vincentian legacies here in the USA and in SVG. We plan to make this documentation available for the entire world to see, especially the younger generations of Vincentians. In the years ahead, we will continue to build this event that will make all of us proud of our Vincentian contribution to world civilization. We intend to inspire the younger generation of Vincentians so they too can reach for the stars, aim high and develop a social conscience as displayed by our brothers and sisters who we are celebrating and honoring.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Owusu Slater, chairperson of the Cultural Association of Vincentians in the USA (CAVUSA). He stressed that “The Cultural Association of Vincentians in the United States of America (CAVUSA) is overwhelmed with patriotic pride to be identified with this significant historic milestone in the life of our diaspora. Congratulations and showers of adoration to all awardees, for their unwavering labor of love in their respective fields of endeavors on behalf of our homeland. This truth is not exaggerated; you are the embodiment of Vincentian excellence; extraordinary leadership; our indomitable spirit; the very essence of patriotism. These values you exemplify are without a doubt wordy of emulation. These fundamental qualities we must embrace as we face the difficult challenges ahead of us.”

Expanding on these sentiments, Peter Burke, chair of the St Vincent & the Grenadines United States of America Sports Association (SVG-USASA), stated this Diaspora Heritage Awards “cannot be overstated. Today, is only a beginning – to the enhancement of the legacy, the preservation of our heritage, as we chose to pay due homage to those who have paved the way for us, and those to whom we must inevitably pass the baton. Each generation is the legacy of those that went before and the heritage of those that follow, and each must build on that legacy and pass on the heritage.”

All of these sentiments were supported by the one of the major offices of SVG in New York namely the SVG Consulate. The newly appointed Consul-General Howie Prince said “I salute the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc on this another milestone in your journey of documenting and celebrating the history, accomplishments and heritage of our country. Yours is a tangible demonstration of the good in us through your recognition of those who stand tall among us, of those who continue to inspire us; of those who fly our colours and to make us proud to be Vincy.”

Rhonda King, SVG’s Ambassador to the United Nations, said “As a developing nation it is important that we locate ourselves in the universe, I believe the most important thing in life is to recognize one’s worth. So it is in this context that I express immense pride in the initiative that recognizes those who have given themselves to the effort required in realizing progress and which will in turn inspire others to do likewise. I applaud the efforts of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York Inc. for creating the space in which we can recognize those amongst us who are speaking on our behalf, lifting us up and inspiring us by their excellence.”

Messages recognizing the significance of the SVG Diaspora Heritage Awards, were sent directly from SVG.

In a message to the Diaspora Heritage Awards, Prime Minister Gonsalves said that “The Government and People of St Vincent and the Grenadines congratulates Diaspora Committee on this innovation that seeks to highlight the cultural diversity of our people and the recognition of contributions made with a view to inspire and motivate our outstanding citizens. The nature of this collaboration … would further enhance the image of our nation’s unity and strength.”

He was supported by the statement of Cecil Mckie, Minister of Sports, Culture and Tourism who congratulated the Diaspora Committee “On this wonderful initiative to recognize Vincentians at home and the diaspora…your recognition program will allow us all to reflect on their work over a lifetime and to say thanks while they can still appreciate the gesture. Congratulations are in order to all the recipients as they are bestowed with the various honors of recognition while they still reside with us on planet earth.”

The audience was well entertained by performers, including pannist Wayne Commissiong, Garifuna drummers and dancers, and reggae artistes Patrick Jr “D Minister”, Ras Ziah, Afari Haywood and Qushan Deya. The show was emceed by Atiba Williams, vice-chair of CAVUSA.

Expectations are high for the continuation of the SVG Diaspora Heritage Awards. The St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York Inc will do everything to ensure that these expectations are met.

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