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Vincy activist’s death overshadows gala luncheon

Sherrill-Ann Haywood gives acceptance speech on behalf of her late husband Maxwell Haywood.
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The death of popular Vincentian community activist and United Nations Development Officer Maxwell Haywood overshadowed the gala 8th Annual Luncheon Sunday of the Brooklyn-based group VincyCares at El Caribe Country Club in Brooklyn.

Haywood, the long-standing chairman of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc., died Wednesday morning after ailing for most of this year. He was 53. He would have turned 54 on Dec. 13, two days before his Home-going Service takes place at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal (Anglican) Church, between Nostrand and New York Aves., in Brooklyn.

Haywood died after VincyCares had announced early this year that he would be among four individuals and a group to be honored at its annual grand celebration that usually takes place at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn. The event was held Sunday, for the first time, at El Caribe Country Club.

Haywood’s wife, Sherrill-Ann Haywood — an employee at Brooklyn’s predominantly Black Medgar Evers College, who had worked closely with him in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc. — accepted the award posthumously in the highly passionate ceremony.

Other honorees comprised veteran Vincentian broadcaster Ferrand “Randy D” Dopwell (Lifetime Achievement Award); Head Master of the St. Vincent Grammar School Curtis King; popular Brooklyn-based Vincentian disc jockey Joseph Caiphas “SupaEyes” Cuffy; the Brooklyn-based Garifuna Indigenous People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Inc.; and disc jockey Jonell “Yung Hova” Goodluck.

The Rev. Dr. Roxie Irish, a youth minister at Miracle Temple Ministries in the Brownville section of Brooklyn and founder and president of the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn, inevitably, set the tone for the pall, which was cast over the ceremony, in very terse remarks before delivering the opening prayer.

“In our community, we’re mourning, because one of our very special stalwarts transitioned from this life,” she said, asking for, and receiving, a minute’s silence from patrons in honor of Haywood. “And it’s none other but our dear brother, Maxwell Haywood.”

Mrs. Haywood’s acceptance speech was preceded and followed by standing ovations, and interspersed with selections — by DJ Kemmy “Man Kemmy” Christopher, the 1989 Junior Calypso King in St. Vincent and the Grenadines — from calypsonian Rasum’s “Perseverance” and Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind.”

“Thanks for the overwhelming support since Maxwell’s passing and all the prayers and well wishes,” said Mrs. Haywood, as tears streamed down the cheeks of some patrons, and some used tissue to dry their eyes. “Maxwell was especially happy to receive this particular award because of his respect for Vincycares and the work they do. This year’s theme ‘Youth development is the path to successful leadership’ also resonated with him, because it exemplifies his own life and journey.

“Maxwell, as a youth, was heavily involved in sports, culture, community and political organizati­ons,” she added. “He was positively mentored and developed his leadership capacity. This led him to be an effective youth and student leader. In fact, he began his professional career in the United Nations in the Youth Unit.

“So, Maxwell is here with us in the spirit today, and he is well pleased to receive this award from VincyCares,” she continued about her late husband, who was also a student leader at Medgar Evers College. “In fact, he had prepared a message from his bedside that he wanted me to share today. He had hoped to watch the live stream today, but that was not to be.”

In that speech, Haywood wrote, and Mrs. Haywood read: “Many countries around the world have created visions, programs and policies to promote youth development and development in general. Some of these include study abroad, cultural exchanges and sports program. Without these types of programs, our countries and societies will be poorer socially, politically and environmentally.

“The implication for us in SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines] is that we must seek to systematically create such programs for our youth, if we are to develop socially-conscious, global thinkers, who will creatively aid in solving the problems facing the world, region and country,” Mrs. Haywood said. “So, VincyCares’ current programs for scholarship, and the provision of school supplies and clothing are moves in the right direction.

“The next step must be a venture to impact policy directions to ensure our youth are empowered with the right knowledge and tools that will allow them to develop key leadership skills and to become successful leaders,” she added. “This will significantly and positively increase VincyCares’ scope and reach as one of the premier organizations in the Diaspora. So, keep the vision alive. One love, Maxwell.”

Mrs. Haywood, then said: “So, to VincyCares, I proudly accept this award in Maxwell’s honor and memory. May his legacy live on!”

She also announced, to loud applause, that she would like to “commit a scholarship in honor of Maxwell.”

Besides his wife, Haywood is survived by their two young daughters, Njeri and Makeda.

The viewing that immediately precedes the Home-going service, on Dec. 15, takes place from 5 pm to 7 pm.

Updated 2:56 pm, December 7, 2017
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