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Sense of pride in the Garifuna children

It is not an easy task sustaining the YuGaCuRe program from a distance, but where there is a will, there is a way.

Our will, coupled with modern-day technology have made monitoring the program from a distance possible. The Children from Sandy Bay, (the northeastern side of the island of St.Vincent) and some in the central part of the island have performed at several venues with the assistance of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation and the Culture Department of St.Vincent and the Grenadines. Team Leader Kelvin May has been dedicating his time to accompany the children to their performances.

The children from Barrouallie, Layou and surrounding areas on the western side of the island, have performed at the International Book Fair in Kingstown, the capital in October. They, like the children in Sandy Bay, continue to grow culturally and to help spread the Garifuna culture around St.Vincent.

What makes this spectacular is that most of the performers in the Barrouallie group are new participants of the workshop. They did not attend the 2011 workshop. After their performance at the International Book Fair, they were featured The Vincentian newspaper and members of the audience commented that they experienced goose bumps when watching the children perform.

Under the watchful eyes of team leader Alexia Charles they gathered at the community center in Barrouallie to practice regularly.

Despite her busy schedule, Miss Charles, the Barrouallie town clerk (the equivalent of the mayor) set aside time to coordinate and chaperone the children. The parents of these children should also be commended for making sure they showed up for practice sessions and for the performance.

Miss Charles videotaped the first practice session on her son’s cell-phone and asked him to place the video on YouTube so James Lovell, Erica and I could review it. The quality was very poor and the music was barely audible; but the important thing was that they tried to keep us informed.

The following day, we decided to FedEx them a video camera so they could produce a better video. Funds are being raised to supply the Sandy Bay children with a video camera as well. Both children were sent Christmas decorations with which to deck the stages during their performances for the Nine Mornings celebrations.

Nine Mornings are a very important and festive early-morning events which take place at the breakmof dawn for nine consecutive days before Christmas. For the last three weeks the children have been taping their practice sessions and putting them on YouTube for us to review and offer feedback. Over this time we communicated with the children via phone, email and Facebook and I reached out to several parents to thank them for their dedication and support in making the program and the performances necessary.

The events culminate in a big performance as the children took to the stage and perform with such passion at the recreational park in the center of Barrouallie. The events begin with the singing of the St.Vincent and the Grenadines national anthem in Garifuna, followed by various Garifuna dance and musical routines.

After only one four-week workshop, the children are able to performing without the guidance of a choreographer or musical director. They were the highlight of the night and the announcer had to call them back onstage twice because the crowd could not get enough.

They have many miles to travel on their cultural journey, but I think they are right on track.

YeuGaCuRe congratulates the children and young people of Yurumein (St.Vincent and the Grenadines) for their vigor, determination and cultural pride.

To the children, I say: You make us proud and our ancestors are pleased with your fight to keep our culture alive.

Trish St.Hill

For the Garifuna Heritage Foundation

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