Salute to Caribbean achievers

Several honorees shed tears as emotions ran high at the inaugural Caribbean Life/ DiasporaDashboard.com 20 Under 40 Award Ceremony Thursday night, Nov. 14, at News Corp’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan at a tribute to 20 Caribbean honorees, many of whom could not withhold the emotions as they spoke about their struggles to overcome adversity on their journey towards success.

But while applauding their parents, close relatives and the community in general for contributing to their achievements, the 20 extraordinary honorees remained humble during their acceptance speeches and in interviews with Caribbean Life, as they pledged to continue the journey.

“It’s a great opportunity. I like what Caribbean Life is doing,” Grenadian-born honoree Junior George said before receiving his award. George is co-founder and managing director of the Queens-based media enterprise, Total Caribbean Network,

“It’s a great opportunity for small businesses in the Caribbean community to promote themselves, and I personally appreciate it,” added George, who considers his network a “conduit” between nationals in the region and their compatriots in the Diaspora.

“I stand here very humbled, because, two years ago, the idea of Caribbean television was a thought. I stand here to say we’re broadcasting around the world.”

George’s humility and success story, like the other honorees, was shared by Jamaican Sabrina HoSang, 34, chief operating officer of the Bronx-based Royal Caribbean Bakery and Caribbean Food Delights, whose parents, Vincent and Jeannette HoSang established the family empire in the 1970s as a single store in the Bronx. “I’m just so humbled,” Sabrina said. “I’m humbled because I never expected to be chosen. But I realized that all my hard work had paid off.

“I have to help people and give back, added Sabrina, whose father was among relatives and friends who attended the gala event.

I just have to thank Caribbean Life for recognizing me and for the work I do in the community. I hope to inspire many young people.”

Guyanese Melissa Chapman, vice president of government and community relations at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said she too was “honored to be recognized for her hard work.

“This award recognizes my obligation to be a forceful advocate for the Caribbean American community,” she said, thanking her mom, Cheryl Wharton, manager of human resources at CenterLight Health Systems at Brooklyn’s Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.

Shelly Worrell, born in Flatbush, Brooklyn to Trinidadian parents is the founder, chief curator and cultural entrepreneur for CaribBEING, the Flatbush Film Festival and Worrell Media Group said Caribbean nationals have “a very important role to play” in the U.S. “I’m really proud to stand here with my fellow honorees. “Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve,” she added, quoting the motto of the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago after receiving her award

Haitian activist Yve-Car Momperousse, 31, who quit her job at Cornell University to found Kreyol Essence, applauded her co-honorees for their accomplishments.

“I accept this award on behalf of Haiti, (which) set the precedent for freedom,” said Momperousse who, in 2005 founded the National Haitian Student Alliance with Grammy Award-winning artist Wyclef Jean.

Yasmin Spiro, 39, the Jamaican-born associate marketing director at Interior Design magazine, said it was “really touching” to hear everybody’s story. “I feel very fortunate,” said the former design manager at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, who attended Art school in Jamaica and the United States, and “spent many years in Jamaica working as a teacher.”

The other honorees were: Fashion designer Anya Ayoung-Chee of Anya Ayoung-Chee, Inc., Marc Chin (Google), Andrew Clarke (Braata Productions), Jinelle Craig (New York City Law Dept.), Dexter English (Hunter Roberts Construction Group), Haywood Hawthorne (Golden Krust Bakery and Grill) and Gavin Khan (Laparkan Trading Limited).

Also on the list of honorees were: Coral King (Coral King PR, Entertainment LLC); Lawman Lynch (The Salvation Army); Kerry McClean (Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corp.); Neil Nichols (Monroe College); Andrew Patterson (Major League Baseball Advanced Media); Susanne Walker (Bloomberg News) and Jordan Wright (Quality Auto Mall).

In applauding the honorees, the guest speaker, Brooklyn Borough President-elect Eric Adams, urged them to continue their vision and “not to give up on our kids.

“You may be the only voice they have to protect them,” he said and warning about children’s potential for failure “if left on their own.”

Roy Hastick, the Grenadian-born founder and president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CACCI), said the honorees were also “visionaries” with “a lot of guts. “Sometimes, you have to be radical,” he said, urging the honorees to “really cherish” the award.

“You’re doing what you love and taking the challenge every day, sometimes without thanks,” he added.

Clifford Luster, publisher of Caribbean Life, founded in 1990, said the paper was “looking for something to celebrate in the community, and the awards event “was the perfect thing.”

He told the honorees that their “dedication is appreciated.”

Kenton Kirby, the paper’s Vincentian-born editor said, “The pleasure is mine to honor today’s generation of Caribbean achievers. We’re proud to participate in this.”

”The challenge for today’s generation is to carry on the torch that was lit by those who came before them,” he said, adding that Caribbean Life will continue to shine the spotlight on people who are doing things.”

Geneive Brown Metzger, executive vice president of DiasporaDashboard.com, who co-created the awards and chaired the proceedings, noted that “events such as these are fantastic networking opportunities.

“This part of the program to honor young people makes this occasion special,” added Brown Metzger, the former Jamaica Consul General in New York whose idea it was to recognize the next generation of Caribbean American leaders. “It’s really encouraging to get recognition, especially at a young age.” Clarke, 29, the Jamaican-born founder and executive director of Braata Productions, told Caribbean Life. “It’s very encouraging for the work that you do.”

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