The Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO) on Sunday honored two community stalwarts, as it wrapped up the nation’s 37th Independence Anniversary celebrations in the Big Apple.
Registered Nurse Judith Lewis and retired public school teacher Olson Thomas were honored before over 400 patrons at a gala luncheon at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. COSAGO organized the event in collaboration with the New York Consulate General.
The honorees also received a New York City Proclamation from Brooklyn Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene, the Haitian-born representative for the 40th City Council District, which covers Flatbush and East Flatbush, among other sections, in Brooklyn. Registered Nurse Celia Bramble, a former president of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Nurses Association of New York, and a COSAGO executive, was instrumental in getting Eugene to bestow the proclamations.
In addition, COSAGO and its president Laverne McDowald-Thompson received citations, from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, which were read by COSAGO executive Ancilla Friday, who is also public relations officer of the Brooklyn-based Club St. Vincent, Inc., one of the leading cultural and educational Vincentian groups in the United States.
“I’ll like to acknowledge Mrs. Judith Lewis and Mr. Olson Thomas,” said McDowald-Thompson in her introductory remarks. “Keep up the good work!”
Earlier, Mc-Dowald-Thompson, an erstwhile elementary school teacher in her native land, acknowledged the DeShong sisters and Claudette Thomas-Butler, of Kingstown, and Club St. Vincent, Inc. for their efforts, over the years, in helping to raise funds to assist Vincentian athletes competing in the prestigious Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“It’s an honor, and I feel very humble to receive this prestigious award,” said Lewis, an associate professor in the Department of Nursing at her alma mater, Medgar Evers College. “You don’t need a speech; you can speak off the cuff, like Donald Trump [the US Republican Presidential Candidate].”
While patrons still roared about her reference to Trump, Lewis said: “I will cherish this award, especially [coming] from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
She said she grew up in Bequia, the St. Vincent Grenadine islande, renowned for its community spiritedness, where her mother also instilled in her that sense of pride and value.
“And so, coming to this country, I try to help [as many as she could,” continued Lewis, who, for the past 16 years, has volunteered twice weekly, as an adult literacy instructor, at the Brooklyn Public Library.
Lewis is also very active in many professional organizations, including the Omega Chi Chapter (Brooklyn) Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Nurses Association of New York.
Thomas, whose teaching career in St. Vincent and the Grenadines culminated in 1971, as principal of Union Methodist School in South Central Windward, said he was “thrilled” to receive the award.
He said he shared the award with members of the Brooklyn-based SVG Humanitarian Organization, of which he is president. These included Earl Bailey, who introduced him; Allie James and Erlene Peters.
“I’m very proud of my country because of what I have done,” said Thomas, a retired Math specialist with New York City Department of Education, whose enthusiasm for culture is described as “exemplary.”
As a songwriter, his list of songs includes: “Welcome to St. Vincent and the Grenadines;” “Love One Another;” “Banana Man;” and “Stand Up for What is Right.”
Thomas, who is also a poet, was the founding member of the now defunct Dulce Melos Orchestra, of Georgetown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ second largest town.
New Consul General Howie Prince, former head of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), challenged cultural and sports ambassadors in the Diaspora to “step up their game,” putting on the spot two such ambassadors present – Cyril N. “Scorcher” Thomas and Stanley “Luxie” Morris – to state “what it means to be an ambassador.”
Joining Prince on the elevated platform, Thomas, a calypsonian, briefly recapped his role as a former national goal keeper in football (soccer) and ex-deputy New York consul general, among other things, adding: “What more can a man be?”
Morris – who was captain of the national soccer team, coach of the national youth soccer team and assistant manager of the national soccer team in 1981, among other things – said his life-long dream was “to serve St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“It was never about me,” he said. “I have served, and will continue to serve [applause].”
Popular Vincentian DJs SupaEyes and EZ Sounds provided pulsating soca and reggae vibes, as nationals took to the dance floor.
The gala Independence Anniversary Luncheon was preceded last Friday by a free Cultural Showcase at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.
Last Sunday, nationals congregated at an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving at St. Mark’s Episcopal (Anglican) Church on Union Street in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.