Sherrill-Ann Mason-Haywood, the widow of the late, prominent Vincentian community activist Maxwell Haywood, has succeeded him in leading the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Diaspora Committee of New York.
Mason-Haywood was elected chairperson during the group’s annual general meeting, on Jan. 20, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, becoming the second person to hold the position since the group was formed in 2010. Her husband was chairperson from the inception until his death in November after a seven-month battle with cancer.
Mason-Haywood previously served as general secretary, public relations officer and coordinator of the Leadership Development Workshop series for the SVG Diaspora Committee of NY.
“This is a bitter-sweet time for me to assume leadership of the organization, since this follows the passing of my husband, who was the founding chairman of the organization,” she told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview. “However, I feel uniquely poised to carry on his vision for the organization and the Vincentian Diaspora.
“I am also humbled by the confidence that members of the committee have bestowed on me to take on this new leadership position,” she added. “It is also an interesting time as we are witnessing an upsurge and increase in women assuming key leadership roles in politics, business and civil society. So, I am more than happy to be a part of this cultural shift.
“I want to ride this wave to encourage other women in the Vincentian community to become more involved in leadership roles and to bring Vincentians together to address some of the most pressing issues of the day,” Mason-Haywood continued. “One of the things that Maxwell really promoted, and I would like to continue to push for is greater unity among Vincentians.”
She said she would also like to work in strengthening the organization’s structure and embarking on a strategic recruitment drive “that will allow the committee to expand its reach and scope.
“This also means strengthening old alliances and forging new partnerships,” Mason-Haywood said. “Most specifically, I would like to refocus the organization on its policy focus and to position the committee as a major think-tank in the Vincentian and Caribbean Diasporas, especially focusing on migration and development issues.”
Additionally, Mason-Haywood said she will continue to consolidate the work of the Committee’s cultural and sporting organizations – Cultural Association of Vincentians in the U.S.A. and SVG-U.S.A. Sports Association – and connecting the Heritage Awards to “a process of documenting the legacy of our Vincentian icons.”
Another major focus will be mobilizing the Vincentian community to acquire a Vincentian-owned Community Center that can be used for hosting Vincentian functions and activities, Mason-Haywood said.
She is joined in the leadership of the SVG Diaspora Committee of NY by Atiba Williams (vice president); Philmore Sprott (general secretary); Theophilus Marshall (treasurer); Francesca Sam (assistant secretary/treasurer); Franklyn “Supadex” Richards (public relations officer); and Garnes Byron, Dawn Dopwell and Terrance Edwards (trustees).
Mason-Haywood has been involved in community development organizations since her youth, having served as an officer of the Girls’ Brigade; National Olympic Academy; SVG Track and Field Association; and vice president of the National Youth Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
She represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the 1998 United Nations World Youth Forum and the Ministers Responsible for Youth Conference – both in Portugal, where she met her late husband. She was later awarded an internship with the United Nations Youth Program in New York in 2000.
Mason-Haywood continued her involvement in the community, serving as president of the Vincentian Student Association of NY in the early 2000s. Currently, she serves as chair of the Board of the Traditional Educational Daycare Centers and as a member of the Education and Youth Committee of Community Board 9 in Brooklyn.
In 2016, she was appointed director of the Percy. E. Sutton Search for Education Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) Program at Brooklyn’s predominantly Black Medgar Evers College. Prior to that appointment, she served as the Academic Program Manager, adjunct lecturer and advisor. In 2009, she was recognized as the college’s Higher Education Officer of the Year.
Mason-Haywood holds a Bachelor of Arts (honors) in Sociology and Radio Broadcasting from the City University of New York (CUNY) Baccalaureate Program, and a Master of Science degree (M.S.) in Urban Affairs from Hunter College (CUNY) with a concentration in Community Development and Social Policy.
In 2008 – 2010, she was awarded a Thurgood Marshall Pathways Fellowship and earned a post-graduate certificate (2010) in Strengths-based Education from Gallup University’s, Clifton Strengths School.