Vincentian-born podiatrist and former New York City Councilman, Dr. Kendall Stewart has written his first book, recapping his life growing up on Union Island, in the southern St. Vincent Grenadines, to becoming a New York City elected official.
“I wrote it because I wanted individuals to understand some of the struggles I went through to achieve my goals and encourage readers to not let barriers hinder them from reaching greater heights,” Dr. Stewart, who served in the City Council from 2002-2009, told Caribbean Life about “An Island Boy’s Story: From Union Island to New York City Council.”
He said the book highlights “the challenges I had in living on a small island, St. Vincent, Trinidad, as I migrated to the US, while grasping at limited opportunities within the context of setting my goals of becoming a professional.”
In the preface of “An Island Boy’s Story,” Dr. Stewart — who was defeated in 2009 by Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, now New York City public advocate, as representative for the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn — writes that “many things go through our minds, as we reach retirement age, but one thing that is universal is we want to share our story with younger generations.
“We want for them to know it all — the good and the bad; the triumphs and the failures,” says the Brooklyn resident. “Pride gives way to a more urgent desire — the desire to be truly known.
“You are holding my story,” he adds. “But it’s more than that; this is a story of progress — a love letter to my home island and the greater Caribbean.
“My story is evidence that no matter how remote or humble our beginnings, this world has endless opportunities for us all,” Dr. Stewart continues. “And that, we must always, always, remember where we came from.”
The 221-page book features 28 chapters, including information on Union Island; the Stewart clan; his wife, Selene; high school days; preparation for migration to the US; early skirmishes and political fights; his re-election battle; lasting community achievements; and culture, carnival and steelpan.
It is also loaded with photos, with, among others, Stewart on the front cover; Stewart and former US President Barack Obama shaking hands on the back cover and on the last page; Stewart and former US Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton on the first page; Stewart with current and former New York City elected officials; and views of Union Island.
“From a very young age, I’ve always been a very hard, focused and dedicated worker, with a driving ambition to be successful,” Dr. Stewart writes in “An Island’s Boy’s Story.”
“As an immigrant from the Caribbean, I’ve had first-hand knowledge of what it takes to move forward, the sacrifices necessary and inherent fortitude in making a new home in an adopted homeland,” he adds.
Dr. Kendall Basil Stewart, born on Oct. 7, 1950, was educated at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Boys Grammar School in the Vincentian capital, Kingstown, from 1965 to 1970.
On graduation, he attended the Caribbean Union College (CUC) in Trinidad and Tobago, where he earned an associate’s degree.
In pursuit of higher learning, Stewart migrated to New York in 1973, where he obtained a certificate in computer programing, between 1973 and 1974, at Albert Merrill College in Manhattan.
In 1976, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the City University of New York (CUNY), and, in 1981, earned his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from New York College of Podiatric Medicine, where he was voted “Outstanding Young Man of the Year.”
Dr. Stewart said he began practicing podiatric medicine in 1981, and also tutored students working towards their high school equivalency examinations between 1979 and 1981.
Two years later, he said he became director and chief surgeon at Comprehensive Foot Care in Elmhurst, Queens, a position he held up to 1986.
That same year, Dr. Stewart said he became director and chief surgeon at Unique Foot Care of Brooklyn until retiring in 2019.
Stewart said his political career started in earnest in 1989, when he became district leader of the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, represented by veteran State Assemblyman Jamaican N. Nick Perry.
During that time, he said he founded the now defunct Wesley McDonald Holder Regular Democratic Club (1989 -1998).
In 2002, Dr. Stewart was elected to serve the 45th Council District, but his political career ended in 2009, when Williams beat him. In the City Council, he chaired the Immigration Committee.
Considered a multi-talented renaissance man, Stewart’s impressive and remarkable life includes a stint in the real estate industry as the president and chief executive officer of the Brooklyn-based Kendall Stewart Realty, Inc.; Ken’s Chateau, Inc.; and Cafe Omar, Inc.
He was a member of Caribbean American Sports and Cultural Youth Movement (CASYM), a very prominent, Brooklyn-based steelpan organization; and founder and president of the Professors All Fours Club.
Among professional organizations, Dr. Stewart is a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, Medical Panel member of Local 1199, the American Podiatric Circulatory Society, New York State Podiatric Medical Association and the American Institute of Food Medicine.
“My life has been a series of many ups and downs,” Dr. Stewart writes, “but, through them all, I always tried to stand tall and do what my mother drilled into me since I was a little boy: ‘If you don’t help people, nobody will help you.’
“So, I’ve tried my life helping other people,” he adds. “Sometimes, it seemed like a thankless activity; but, if the saga of my life inspires you to help one person, then it’s worth it.”
You can order a copy of “An Island Boy’s Story: From Union Island to New York City Council” through Amazon at https://tinyurl.com/UnionIsland or call Dr. Stewart at (347) 203-0257.