Like an eagle on a cultural mission, once again James Lovell landed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to conduct the third Garifuna Cultural Retrieval Workshop. As I glanced at my brother and friend getting ready to board his flight, it was reminiscent of the previous times when he would bubble with excitement as he got ready to visit his ancestral homeland. With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes James gathered his suitcases getting ready to make his way into the terminal at JFK airport. “How are you feeling my friend,” I asked him. “I am always excited to go home to Vincy, you know that. I can’t wait to eat some Vincy mangoes and drink coconut water,” he replied. I recalled the ease with which he would navigate the streets of Kingstown as if he was born and raised there. At times he would have to direct me through the shortcuts to get around the city. I was even more amazed at how soon he had learned the bus system, knowing the buses to take to Barrouallie. It is obvious this brother’s spirit once roamed the streets of SVG at another time in history. I thanked my brother for standing by me during this project and wished him a safe flight. As airport security ushered me away from my parking, I eventually made the trip back to my home in Long Island. I called my brother on his cell phone to pray with him, as I had forgotten to do so while trying to get around security at JFK. I know his task will be a difficult one over the next week, because he must shepherd the large crowd of children skillfully while documenting and dealing with the unexpected emergencies that inevitably present themselves. But having done this workshop successfully twice before, there is no doubt my brother can manage this with perfect balance.
Based on the numerous emails, and Facebook messages James and I received from the children, It is obvious that they are excited to welcome back their old teacher and friend. Grasping their enthusiasm, made the monumental task of coordinating this workshop worthwhile. Before taking off for SVG, James and I reflected on preparations for the 2012 workshop when both of us along with my youngest daughter, decorated an entire large hall with no other helper in sight. The maintenance person commented that in all his years of being the maintenance man at this popular hall, he had never seen this huge hall decorated by only three people. Additionally we reminisced about the time when James and his friend Owusu Slater had to clean and bag all the trash from an overgrown back yard at which we were having a fundraiser. One of the condition under which we were allowed to use the building, was that we would have to clean up the backyard.
In 2013, we again had the arduous task of organizing the workshop without grants. But with numerous small fundraisers and precious support we were once again blessed with the ability to carry out this priceless project. We embarked on a mission of faith, trusting in the almighty while strategically working towards our goal with the help of friends. James must now carry out the formidable mission of educating the young people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines about a culture they are anxious to retrieve. His humility about the work ahead of him and his ability to deliver the Garifuna culture with dignity and confidence is second to none. James Lovell has landed and is ready and poised to carry out the work he was chosen to do by his ancestors, on Aug. 5, 2013 at the Central Leeward High School in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Let us congratulate this brother for undertaking such a selfless assignment. Good job my brother, and may God continue to bless, protect and guide you.
Trish St.Hill is a member of. YuGaCuRe, Yurumein Garifuna Cultural Retrieval Group