A prominent Vincentian cultural group in Brooklyn has honored five outstanding nationals for their exemplary service to the community.
The United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn (UVCGB) bestowed the honors on Saturday, Sept. 7 at its 10th Anniversary Gala, at Antun’s Catering in Jamaica, Queens, under the auspices of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Consulate General in New York.
Shipping agent Carl Munroe and his wife, Laverne, a registered nurse, received the Humanitarian Award; music teacher and cultural figure June Goodluck-McQueen and drummer Tyrone Owusu Slater received the Cultural Award; and podiatrist Dr. Kendall Stewart received the Medical Award.
Jamaicans Valrie Wilson – coordinator of Healthcare International (HCI), a Brooklyn-based group that offers medical services in Jamaica and other countries, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines – and Kimberle Thompson, adjutant to Dr. Roxie Irish, UVCGB president, also presented a plaque to Irish on behalf of UVCGB members.
“I accept this award on behalf of so many people, so many cultural activists,” said Slater. As a youth, Slater said he attended many spiritual Baptist celebrations, where he “became mesmerized by the intense rhythms and pulsating vibrations of the participants.”
He identified members of the New Artists Movement (NAM), such as Cecil “Blazer” Williams, Nzimbu and Tswalla Brown, and Leroy “Chico” Ellis, as having early influence on his cultural journey.
Union Island-born Stewart, a former New York City Councilman, said he was very surprised in receiving the honor. Dr. Stewart entered politics and became a Council Member of the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn in 2002. “I’m so proud of this group – to see so many of us today,” he said. “I did not expect it (award). Thank you for bestowing this award on me.”
Goodluck-McQueen praised God for giving her “not a talent but a gift. She has written many of UVCGB’s poems and skits and is a qualified assistant teacher in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I’m so glad that you decided to give me my award while I’m alive,” she said, stating that many nationals have been honored posthumously, including George McIntosh, who is being touted to be named among the country’s National Heroes.
Carl Munroe, the owner and chief executive officer of the Brooklyn-based Standard Caribbean Shipping, has made several generous contributions to many organizations at home and in New York, including sports, medical, educational and religious, as well as to carnival groups.
His wife started her nursing career in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, migrating to New York in 1972 soon after graduating from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ School of Nursing.
She was employed, as a registered nurse for more than 30 years, at the now defunct St. Mary’s Hospital in Brooklyn, and is currently employed as assistant director of Perioperative Services at Beth Israel Hospital in Brooklyn.
In delivering the keynote address, in place of community activist Nelcia Robinson-Hazell, who was unable to make the trip to New York, Jamaican-born Bishop Dr. David Mc Donald, pastor of First Community Church of God Ministries in Brooklyn, urged community members to have a “humanistic approach” in helping others.
“You don’t have to be in church to get involved (in helping others),” he said, adding that “you should not only help your family but your community.”
Irish, a born-again Christian and former national netball star, said UVCGB has been “making a difference” in the lives of many at home and abroad since it began its “journey 10 years ago.
“There have been some very challenging times and situations, but, through it all, we have learnt that God is Sovereign,” she said.
New York Consul General Selmon Walters congratulated UVCGB for “10 years of representation and hard work.
“To operate for 10 years without breaking up is a milestone,” the former government minister told patrons. “Many organizations came and did not last 10 years.”
Laverne McDowald-Thompson, president of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), also commended UVCGB for “working so hard.
“Trust me, this organization has been delivering and continue to deliver, working in the community,” she told the gala ceremony. “We cannot depend on the government to do everything. We need a healthy, vibrant society.”
Popular Caribbean gospel diva, Bridget Blucher, then brought the gala ceremony down with hits from her wide gospel repertoire, with patrons enthusiastically joining her on the dance floor.