Members of the Brooklyn-based Garifuna Indigenous People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (GIPSVG), Inc. last week joined other Garifuna delegations in New York City in participating for the very first time in the eighth annual Garífuna-American Legislative Day in Albany.
According to Donnette Lewis, GIPSVG, Inc. co-founder, who headed the GIPSVG delegation, the visit provided them with “an opportunity to witness the introduction of a Resolution in the New York State Senate and Assembly memorializing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare March 11 - April 12, 2018 as Garifuna-American Heritage Month in the State of New York.”
Lewis said this was “in observance of the 221st anniversary of the forcible deportation of the Garifuna people by the British from St. Vincent and the Grenadines on March 11, 1797 and their settlement in Central America on April 12, 1797.”
Besides Lewis, the GIPSVG, Inc. delegation comprised Jemma Lewis, public relations officer, and Victor Lewis, group photographer.
Ms. Lewis said the GIPSVG, Inc. delegation received a proclamation during a reception that followed the formal event.
She described as “emotional” GIPSVG, Inc.’s historic participation in the Garífuna-American Legislative Day.
“The negatives of our history are haunting, but today, May 15, has changed my life,” Ms. Lewis told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview. “We are a special people.”
She said her group’s visit to Albany was organized by Jose Francisco Avila, the Honduran-born president of the Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition U.S.A, Inc.
The event was hosted by Bronx legislators – Sens. Luis Sepulveda and Jamaal Bailey, and Assembly Members Marcos Crespo, Victor Pichardo and Michael Blake.
During the Legislative Day, Garifuna Sergeant First Class Roberto Clotter was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
Avila said the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame was created to “honor and recognize outstanding veterans from our State who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life.”
In March 1977, Avila said Clotter joined the United States Army and retired on April 1, 1997.
Avila said the proclamation of Garífuna–American Heritage Month has “uplifted the Garífuna Community from obscurity to the pinnacle of recognition in New York.
“Thank you for helping us celebrate the great contributions of Garifuna-Americans to the fabric of New York State and the United States, and paying tribute to the common culture and bonds of friendship that unite the United States and the Garifunas’ countries of origin (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua and St. Vincent and the Grenadines),” he said.