As the countdown intensifies in anticipation of fresh general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, constitutionally due by early next year, supporters in New York of the two main political parties have begun hosting a series of fundraising events in helping to finance what is expected to be a hard-fought, bruising campaign.
Over the Memorial Holiday weekend, nationals and friends of both the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP), of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), of former Prime Minister Arnhim Eustace, have demonstrated their fervent commitment to both parties by attending barbecues in Brooklyn and Queens hosted by the parties’ affiliates and individuals.
On Saturday, the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Progressive Organization of New York (SPOONY), an arm of the NDP, staged what officials described as a very successful BBQ at Standard Shippers on Clarendon Road.
Eustace, the opposition leader and NDP president, and Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) for North Leeward, Roland “Patel” Matthews, were on hand, mingling with the crowd, listening to supporters’ advices and concerns, and strategizing on how to prevent the Gonsalves-led administration from gaining a fourth, five-year term.
Eustace, an economist by training, who has been criticized within and without his party for lack of charisma and social interaction skills, spent a significant portion of his time conversing with patrons – to the delight of SPOONY officials.
“We’re very grateful to a number of organizations and persons who supported a very successful barbecue,” Stephen “Scombo” John, SPOONY president and former NDP candidate for South Windward, told Caribbean Life afterwards. “It was nice to have our leader interacting with so many different Vincentians who came out to the event.
“Many of them were so pleased to give what they can,” added John, a high school principal in Brooklyn. “This is definitely NDP time, and we’re prepared to rid our country of the scourge that’s infecting our nation. We’ll stay strong and work together as a party until victory is achieved.”
Matthews, who attended his first fund-raising BBQ in New York, also told Caribbean Life that “the experience was a great one.
“I got to interact with quite a few people from home,” he said. “What amazed me, too, is the way in which people are well in-tuned with current issues back in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I really enjoyed the multiple discussions with Vincentians at the SPOONY BBQ,” he added. “In all, I truly enjoyed the occasion and hope that organizations, such as SPOONY, will be given the support to continue the good work it [they] is [are] doing.”
Eustace and Matthews were also the featured guests at a SPOONY “sit and chat” fundraiser Friday evening at Café Omar, a few yards from Standard Shippers. Café’ Omar is owned and operated by Dr. Kendall Stewart, a Union Island, St. Vincent-born former New York City Councilman.
Stewart’s elder brother, Glenford Stewart, a former NDP Communications and Works Minister, will join Eustace and Matthews on Sunday for what SPOONY officials expect to be a massive town hall meeting at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.
The event, to be broadcast live on the local NICE Radio, begins at 6:00 pm. John said.
Over in Laurelton, Queens, Lennox and Avette Joslyn hosted on Memorial Day, Monday, a backyard BBQ in honor of ULP candidate for West Kingstown, Luke Browne.
The event was attended by stalwart ULP supporters and friends, including officials from the Brooklyn-based Friends of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Committee, the ULP New York arm, as well as by former St. Vincent Labor Party (SVLP) MP for South Central Windward, Offord Morris, and erstwhile Deputy New York Consul General Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas.
“It’s a good turn-out,” Wayne Raguette, president of the Friends of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Committee, told Caribbean Life, flanked by his vice president Lemrick Jack Alexander and other officials. “It seems as though people are enthused about supporting the candidate (Browne) and the party.
“We’ve had a number of fundraisers, and they’re been good,” Raguette added. “People are enthusiastic of the candidate, the party leader (Gonsalves) and the progress that the ULP has made in the last 14 years and counting.”
Chris Ralph, a ULP activist and coordinator for all ULP-affiliated fundraising events in New York, said he was very pleased with the support for the BBQ.
“It’s a good, private event – nice participation from friends and family,” he said, adding that “a lot of the patrons here are Luke’s relatives.”
Erlin Richards – a former police officer in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, who will be hosting a BBQ on Friday evening, at his Brooklyn residence, for ULP North Leeward candidate Carlos James – said Browne was unable to attend the event because of his participation in the ULP youth convention last Sunday.
“Luke is seen as a future leader for St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Richards told Caribbean Life. “I think, as far as I’m concerned, everybody is hoping that he’ll come home with the seat in East Kingstown.”
Browne will be challenging Eustace for the second time in that constituency.
The “Friends of Carlos James” will also be conducting a “Night of Praise” fundraising gospel concert for the candidate on Saturday, May 30, at 2205 Utica Avenue, Brooklyn. James is expected to attend both the BBQ and gospel concert, Richards said.
On July 25, “Vaughn Toney and Friends” will host a fundraising cocktail reception for Foreign Affairs Minister Camillo Gonsalves, candidate for East St. George, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.
Toney is the president and chief executive officer of the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centers.