Marsena Ballantyne, the Sandy Bay-born president of the one-year-old, Brooklyn-based Garifuna Indigenous People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Incorporated (GIPSVG, Inc.), has described as very successful last Saturday’s staging of the group’s inaugural National Heroes Day celebration in Brooklyn.
“The event, being the first to be held in New York, is deemed a success,” Ballantyne told Caribbean Life about the cultural variety show and dance that also marked the group’s first anniversary.
“The main objective of the event was to bring together Vincentians in New York and surrounding areas to honor the heroism of the Rt. Hon. Joseph Chatoyer, paramount chief of the Garifuna and national hero of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and to celebrate that which is distinctly special about us as a people – our Garifuna heritage,” she added about the event that was held at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.
“I am of the view that we accomplished that objective,” Ballantyne continued. “We had a great turn-out and the presentations by the artistes and performers were outstanding.
“The audience was interactive, which is usually a good sign,” she said. “It was great to see among the audience representations from the various Vincentian associations in New York and from the Garifuna community.”
Additionally, Ballantyne said the quality of the production was of “high standard.”
Donnette Lewis, the group’s vice president, also told Caribbean Life that, “when members first discussed the first anniversary and what will be the ideal celebration, National Heroes Day came to thought.
“It was beyond expectation,” she said about Saturday’s event. “The crafts, the food, the performances, the drumming, the GAMA Dance Company, which filled in at the last minute, were extraordinary.
“The expressions on our guests’ faces, as they looked on, and the bobbing of their heads to the music and their willingness to participate were overwhelming,” Lewis added.
Besides the Greenburg, New Jersey-based GAMA Dance Company, led by Garifuna Eleanor Bullock, other artistes and performers included Belizean singer and songwriter James Lovell, a Garifuna; Chief Joseph Chatoyer Dance Company; reggae artiste Afari Haywood; the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn; Vincentian soca artiste Edson “Lively” McDowald; the multitalented Primadonna Bascombe; and cultural ambassador, soca and ragga soca artiste and calypsonian Shern “Skarpyon” Williams.
Primadonna, described as “the original first lady,” wowed the audience with her diverse selections, including Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”
She even forced a reporter to “back his jacket”, as patrons roared.
After performing a number of hits, Skarpyon brought the house down with the ever-popular “Hammer.”
Local delicacies – such as cassava bread (“chokee bam bam”), farine, dukuna, and doughboy, breakfruit and saltfish, and callaloo soup – were on sale, as patrons washed them down with sorrel, mauby and fruit punch.
In addition, handicraft items such as placemats, coasters and baskets were on display and on sale; and artists conducted paintings.
Ballantyne said proceeds “will benefit the indigenous communities north of the Rabacca River” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.