Vincentian Maxwell Haywood, chairman of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG)Diaspora Committee of New York, says he was “pleased” with the outcome of the recent Diaspora and Development Conference held recently in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
“In many ways, it was a success,” Haywood told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview. The three main objectives of the conference: To provide an opportunity for the Vincentian Diaspora in the U.S. to focus on the development challenges and opportunities at home and in the U.S.; to strengthen the unity among Vincentians in the U.S.; and to “promote the opportunity for the grand periodic meeting of Vincentians at home and abroad in the U.S.A.”
Held under the theme, “Embracing the Challenges and Opportunities for Development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Vincentian Diaspora in the U.S.A.,” the conference, among other things, addressed business challenges and opportunities facing the nation and the Diaspora in the U.S., the socio-economic development opportunities in SVG and in the Vincentian Diaspora in the U.S., and building on current initiatives within the Vincentian Diaspora in the U.S. and between the Diaspora and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
SVG Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves delivered a two-hour keynote address on “The Role of the Vincentian Diaspora in the Development of SVG and its Diaspora.”
“The content of the conference and the quality of the discussion were very high,” said Haywood, adding that there was “excellent response” from the government, the prime minister and institutions at home such as, Invest SVG, the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Non-State Actors Advisory Panel, LOVINSVG and the Red Cross.
Haywood, a U.N. development officer, said there were “important and active participation” by persons, who travelled from home to attend the conference as well as local supporters including U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke of Jamaican heritage and Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Sandra Chapman, who was born in Guyana.
“The private sector supported the conference,” Haywood said, adding that representatives of sponsors such as LIME and AI Real Estate company in SVG spoke at the conference. “I’m very pleased with that.”
The New York Diaspora chairman said he was also pleased about the fact that the conference addressed what he referred to as a “creative tension” surounding SVG Diaspora affairs. “Despite the contributions that the Vincentian Diaspora has made over many decades, there is creative tension within Diaspora relations between SVG and its sons and daughters abroad,” Haywood said.
“This creative tension is a result of the recognition that SVG and its Diaspora could do more; and we must do more in order to make use of the great potential for improving relations between SVG and its Diaspora,” he added.
“The conference was a huge step forward in answering the questions: Where do we go from here? How do we realize (our) full potential.”
Haywood aid the conference was a “big success because it demonstrated that, as a conference, it is part of the process in bringing the full potential of Diaspora relations to reality.”
Haywood said the event – conducted in collaboration with St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ New York Consulate General, the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), and the Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition, U.S.A. – “helped us to turn a new page in SVG’s Diaspora relations,” and that “many excellent recommendations were made by participants.”