The three-year-old Friends of Sion Hill, Inc. Saturday evening bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on former St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ New York Deputy Consul General Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas at the group’s Second Annual Black-Tie Awards Ceremony and Dance at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.
Thomas – a native of the village of Sion Hill, overlooking capital city Kingstown native – who carries the calypso sobriquet “Scorcher”, was among three other honorees at the standing-room-only gala event.
The Brooklyn-based Friends of Sion Hill, Inc. also honored former Sion Hill and Richmond Hill Government (now Thomas Saunders Secondary) schools’ teacher Sandra Millington, with the Diaspora Award; Lloyd George Hayde, with the Community Service Award; and Elka “Granny Tounce” Browne, with the Pillar of the Community Award.
“When they called, and said they were honoring me on April 1, I said, ‘they must be think I [am] stupid,’” said Thomas, to loud laughter, in his acceptance speech. “It’s All-Fools Day.
“Friends of Sion Hill, continue to do the good work ‘cause it takes a village to raise somebody like me,” he added.
Millington and Hayde are also Sion Hill natives; Browne is originally from Paul’s Avenue, Kingstown.
“Thanks to Friends of Sion Hill,” said Millington, a former president of the Brooklyn-based Club St. Vincent, Inc., after receiving her award. “This is so special, because I am Sion Hill. You have to be Sion Hill to understand Sion Hill.
“In my life, I was given a lot,” she added. “It takes a village to raise a child. [I] never knew my mother, never knew my father, but I don’t think I missed anything. I was raised by my village.”
As tears welled up, Browne said she was “very happy to be here this evening.
“[I am] so grateful that what I want to say can’t come out,” she said. “I thank my Sion Hill family, I thank my children. May the Lord keep on blessing you!”
Oxley Lowman, president of Friends of Sion Hill, Inc., thanked the honorees, as well as the guest speaker Maxwell Haywood, for their support, adding that he looked forward to their and the patrons’ support “in the years to come.”
“To the honorees, I know each one of us have played a big part,” he said, departing from his prepared text. “Without many of you, you wouldn’t be here today.”
New York Consul General Howie Prince also briefly addressed the ceremony, stating that Sion Hill was a “special community” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Thomas was a student teacher, customs officer and magistrate’s clerk before migrating to the US. He also taught at public schools in New York.
At home, he played Division One basketball; was national volleyball player; and was the first person from Sion Hill to be selected to play soccer in the national soccer team, both as a junior and senior player.
From an early age, Thomas demonstrated great love for music. Over the years, he wrote and sang may hits, including “Wilma wuk Obeah on me;” “Party Fever;” “Wake up the Party;” “Sweetness is my Weakness;” and “Fork up the Beaches.”
He credits the “ABC of Calypso,” Alson “Becket” Cyprus, for putting him on the “right track.”
Millington, a community advocate, is currently employed by New York City Human Resources Administration as a User Support Analyst. One of her responsibilities is to mentor high school students.
Browne, who was a cook at the then Olive Hotel in Kingstown, continues her passion on migration to New York.
She – with assistance from her son, Othniel “Attie” Bibby, and Eula Telesford — specializes in traditional, mouth-watering Vincy cuisine, such as pelau, salt fish cakes and homemade bread.
Hayde, who lived in England before migrating to New York, was “very active in the steelpan world,” according to his biography.
“He still keeps an eye and ear on the general scene, always inquiring about the steel band and calypso competitions back home,” the biography says.