A Caribbean lawyer in Brooklyn says greatness can be achieved through community service.
“We can empower our community through service. What, a remarkable way to become great!” said Vincentian-born Curlina Edwards in delivering the keynote address Saturday night at the third Annual Dinner and Award Ceremony of the Vincentian group, Friends of Sion Hill, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.
“There’s no greater sense of purpose and satisfaction in life than serving and helping others,” added Edwards, who serves as the legal adviser for several Vincentian organizations in Brooklyn, and who sits on the executive boards of the Brooklyn-based groups, Chateaubelair Development Organization and the umbrella Vincentian group, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc.
“In order to empower our community, we must seek to understand what our community’s needs are; what are the issues facing our community; what impacts others most within our community; and what can we do” Edwards continued.
Having assessed the Vincentian community in New York, Edwards highlighted a few areas that she said the community can work on.
“We can empower our community by empowering others,” said Edwards an evangelist and director of the Fundraising and Events Committee at the Abundant Life Christian Church on Church Avenue in Brooklyn.
“First, let’s begin with the simple ways of impacting our community and empowering others – changing our attitude and mindset,” she added. “Ladies and Gentlemen, attitude is everything. The relationships that we build with people are everything.”
Alluding to Brian Tracey, a renowned motivational speaker and self-development author, Edwards said, “’one of the most basic things we can do is to refrain from doing anything that disempowers [our people] or reduces their energy and enthusiasm for what they are doing.’”
Hence, Edwards, who practices immigration law, said: “We need to learn how to motivate and inspire.
“This means that we stop using Facebook or social media as a tool to criticize and bring others down. Stop the fighting! Stop the gossiping! Stop the divisions! Let’s be positive! Let’s smile! Let’s express appreciation!” she urged.
“Let’s begin to use Facebook and social media to share ideas, to encourage others and encourage creativity,” she added. “Growing up, my grandmother used to tell us, ‘If you have nothing good to say, put a sock in it.’
“At times, we need to learn how to keep our mouth close,” she continued. “Learn how to respect one another.”
Edwards said stronger communities can be created if residents learn how to connect with each other, “and express genuine empathy for others.
“It is not by tearing down that we empower communities but by helping others to reach their highest potential,” she said. “What impacts others most is our words, our attitudes, our behaviors and our choices
“As community members, as Vincentians, as West Indians, as Americans, we can choose how we want to act,” she added. “We can choose how we can influence others. Always be positive. Brother Bob Marley said, ‘The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.’”
Edwards said not only must community members affect those around positively, but they must also serve by providing exemplary leadership.
Referring to the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership Model, she said good leaders “model the way,” stating that they set an example for others to follow.
Reflecting on her own life, Edwards said she takes “great pleasure in serving in whatever capacity that I can.
“I truly believe that I am a product of community empowerment,” she said.
She said she grew up in a poor family, had limited access to resources, did not have textbooks, “but a neighbor who I call my mother, took interest in me.
“She ensured that after her eldest daughter completed her homework, I was given her books to complete my work,” Edwards said. “It has not been an easy road for me. I have been knocked down, but yet I rise.
“I continue to serve,” she added. “Whether through giving, cooking, providing legal advice or evangelizing, I serve. At the end of my journey on earth, if I have changed one life, then I have accomplished a lot.”
Edwards, therefore, urged patrons to collaborate in creating an impact in the community, referencing the internationally-recognized consultant, Idowu Koyenikan.
In in his book, “Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability,” Koyenikan writes, “There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests get together to work toward the same goals.”
“We need to work together to empower our community,” Edwards urged. “While it is good for individual organizations to contribute to work on specific goals and target specific areas, there’s great potential in Vincentian organizations collaborating to create an impact locally, or to work on projects of national significance in SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
“When we share ideas and pool our resources and talents together, we can accomplish so much more,” she added. “More important, we can mobilize Vincentians in our communities to act. So, let’s explore ways of collaborating on national projects that can benefit all Vincentians.”
Edwards said former US First Lady Michelle Obama “succinctly captures the essence of service” by saying, “’Success is not about how much money you make. It is about the difference you make in people’s lives.’
“When was the last time you made a difference in someone’s life?” asked Edwards rhetorically. “When was the last time you inspired someone? When was the last time you served?
“I call upon each of you tonight to rise up and strive to become great by serving,” she appealed. “Be positive. Serve by exemplary leadership, with humility, gratitude and respect. Let’s collaborate to create an impact of national significance.”