Arnold “Lydon” Charles, former president of the umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), and James Cordice, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVOP) were bestowed the special honors, at Tropical Paradise Ballroom, on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, organized by COSAGO, in collaboration with the New York Consulate General.
“Today, we salute you for your contributions,” COSAGO president, Lavern McDowald-Thompson, told the honorees at the event, attended by Tourism Minister Glen Beache.
“You have played a significant role in forming a strong link with Vincentians in the Diaspora and at home,” she added.
Charles, a Queens-based Certified Public Accountant (CPA), said he was humbled and surprised by the award.
“I was a big surprise when I was informed [about the award],” he said in his acceptance remarks.
“First, I accept this award on behalf of COSAGO, who works for the betterment of Vincentians in the Diaspora; and, second, my wife, with whom I had to make excuses because I have a meeting to go to. For all of you, I say ‘thank you,’” Charles added.
Cordice, who was among some natives instrumental in last week’s raising of the Vincentian flag, for the very first time, at City Hall in Philadelphia, said, he, too, was very humbled by the special recognition.
“It’s just a real honor in being highlighted,” he told patrons at the sell-out gala affair.
“I want to make sure that St. Vincent and the Grenadines lives on,” added Cordice, who is also in the vanguard of getting secondary schools at home to participate in the annual Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
The Penn Relays is considered the “breeding ground” for many outstanding athletes in the United States and Jamaica, such as World record holder and Olympic gold medalist, Usain Bolt. Cordice said the Thomas Saunders Secondary School has already indicated its willingness to participate in the Penn Relays next summer.
“Sometimes, people don’t honor you until you’re dead,” said Cordice, referring to his award. “So, I’m honored to receive this honor.”
Before introducing Beache, Deputy New York Consul General, Cyril Thomas, renowned by the calypso sobriquet, “Scorcher,” lamented that he was denied rendering a calypso during the first independence celebrations here in October 1979.
He said one of the organizers told him that the celebration was no place for calypso. Thomas subsequently declined to identify that individual when pressed by Caribbean Life.
He, however, used the opportunity on Sunday to recite a verse and the chorus of the Independence Song he composed 31 years ago:
Congratulations to you, my people/
And may God’s speed go forth with you/
Ah say, take a bow/Right now/
Fall down on your knees and pray/
We are a brand new nation today/
But here are the roles that we have to play.
(Chorus) We have to employ we common sense/
To whip incompetence/
And ah say, women and men must join hand in hand/
To build we nation/
Black or white we must no see/
We want national solidarity/
For, to be truly free/
Individuality must give way to unity.
Beache said while everyone is entitled to his/her opinion about the country’s independence, “St. Vincent and the Grenadines is truly an independent nation.”
He said the nation has weathered some very challenging times, but has demonstrated sheer resilience.
“We’ve done some absolutely remarkable things,” said the tourism minister, pointing to the construction of the international airport at Argyle, on the eastern coast on mainland St. Vincent, and the Education Revolution, among others.
He urged nationals in the Diaspora to teach their children their heritage, adding: “We might be small, but we have a great heart.”
Amid the gaiety, Beache also updated nationals on the destruction caused by Hurricane Tomas.
“We were very, very badly hit,” he said, disclosing that he was in touch with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who, he said, was considering calling a state of emergency.
McDowald-Thompson said US$2,971.00 was raised in cash, check and pledge during the ad hoc appeal at the Independence Luncheon.