The Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), on Sunday bestowed honors on prominent cultural figure Verna Arthur and Cavaliers Sports and Athletic Club during St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ 40th Independence Anniversary Gala Luncheon at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn.
COSAGO also recognized three former Vincentian athletes from the Thomas Saunders Secondary School in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who participated in the prestigious Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia: Zenron Chance, Kailon Kirby and Brandon Valentine-Parris.
In addition, Arthur received a US Congressional Citation from Brooklyn Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke and a Brooklyn Borough Hall Proclamation from Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams.
Trinidadian Lystra Collis, an official in Clarke’s Brooklyn office, presented the citation to Arthur on behalf of Clarke; and Ancilla Friday, COSAGO’s general secretary, presented the Borough Hall Proclamation on behalf of Adams.
Friday also represented Adams in presenting a Brooklyn Borough Hall Proclamation to Marcia Baptiste, a Vincentian-born Cavaliers executive, who accepted on behalf of the club.
“Let me take this opportunity to congratulate our honorees,” said COSAGO president Laverne McDowald-Thompson in her opening remarks at the celebration attended by Sen. Deborah Charles, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education; Consul General to the United States Howie Prince; and representatives from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York.
McDowald-Thompson said Arthur “demonstrates outstanding leadership qualities in the areas of arts and culture, advocacy and community service here in the Diaspora and at home”, and that the Brooklyn-based Cavaliers Sports and Athletic Club has “a long-standing record in the area of sports and culture here in the Diaspora and at home.”
On Chance, Kirby and Valentine-Parris, McDowald-Thompson said their “outstanding achievements have paved the way” for them to attend colleges in the US, adding: “We are very proud of you.”
Arthur, considered a “cultural icon,” community organizer and senior citizen advocate; Verna V. Verna began her cultural journey as a masquerader in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, when she was only five years old, with Fuzzy Knights’ Mas Band.
Her cultural journey continued as a member of the New Kingstown Chorale and of the Abbucalypse Steel Orchestra.
Arthur continues to be an ardent participant in carnival as evidenced by her co-founding of the former Brooklyn-based J’Ouvert band, Yurumei Productions, and by founding the Brooklyn-based SVG Connect J’Ouvert Band.
A former president and public relations officer of the Brooklyn-based cultural and educational organization, Club St. Vincent, Inc., Arthur was also chairperson of the organization’s Cultural Exposition Committee for more than 25 years.
She is now the committee’s coordinator, working with the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit (RIDU) in the Office of the Prime Minister in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Invest SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) “to coordinate and acquire products from SVG, as well as getting SVG performers for the exposition.”
A champion of community volunteerism, Arthur said one of her proudest moments was when she spearheaded efforts, and worked tirelessly, to bring perennial panorama champions, Starlift Steel Orchestra, to New York.
Likewise, were her efforts as chairperson of the SVG Cultural Symposium Committee of New York, 2005-2009.
She said two successful symposia and Vincy Homecoming 2009, the brainchild of former Ambassador to the US and OAS, Ellsworth John, now Ambassador to Cuba, were held during that time.
Arthur’s exceptional work with Club St. Vincent, Inc.’s three-day Cultural Exhibition held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in December 1995 is further testament of her leadership skills.
She was among the first to introduce some of the Garifuna brothers and sisters to the Vincentian Community in New York, and was also a foundation member of the then Garifuna Cultural Retrieval Committee, which conducted a month-long Garifuna Cultural Retrieval Workshop in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in August 2012.
Currently, Arthur is the Manhattan Community Outreach Director with the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) and president of Troy Avenue H & I Block Association (TAHIBA) in Brooklyn.
“It is an honor to receive this award and to be in the company of Cavaliers Sports Club; congratulations Cavaliers!” said Arthur in her acceptance speech Sunday. “Thanks to COSAGO for recognizing my contribution to the community and for selecting me to receive this prestigious award.
“I am truly grateful to have my family and friends here,” she added. “This journey would not have been possible without your help. This award also belongs to you.
“My promise is to continue serving the community,” Arthur continued. “My mantra is: ‘The community is who I am; and, as long as I am able, I will continue to do its work to the best of my ability’”.
Cavaliers Sports and Athletic Club was officially established in 1970 by a few Vincentian expatriates, namely Cadman Marksman, Arthon Clouden, Edwin Edwards and Arnot “Bullet” Edwards.
The mission of the club was guided by its motto, “Insieme per Il Progresso,” meaning “Together for Progress.”
“Today, 49 years later, Cavaliers Sports and Athletic Club is still living up to its motto, based on its performance on and off the cricket field,” said club president Casmas Bailey.
He said that Cavaliers, which became part of the Brooklyn Cricket League in 1970, dominated the league championship for many years.
Bailey said the club is “responsible for bringing many cricketers to New York, among whom are some to be recognized for their outstanding contributions to the greater society.”
He said, for example, that the late Edgerton “Creech” Wood, the founding owner of the Brooklyn-based Square Deal Shippers and Movers, “did not just play for Cavaliers; he stayed in New York and became a successful businessman serving the Caribbean community.”
Bailey said Cavaliers made numerous contributions to individuals in the Diaspora and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including sponsoring the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Women’s National Team; honoring regional cricket legends, such as Vincentian T. Michael Findlay and Dominican Irvin Shillingford; and helping individuals to enhance their cricketing skills.
Bailey said the club also participated in many humanitarian projects.
He said that, despite the fact that Cavaliers Sports Club has predominantly comprised Vincentians, “there are some non-Vincentians who have played and devoted their cricket career to Cavaliers Sports and Athletic Club,” such as Guyanese Terrie Drayton and Antiguan Eustace ‘Tommy’ Thomas.
“I take this opportunity to express sincere gratitude to all for their service,” Bailey said. “To the members of COSAGO, thank you for recognizing the contributions that Cavaliers Sports and Athletic Club has made.
“We are committed to working together for progress for our people, community and nation at large,” he added.
Chance told patrons on Sunday that his recognition would not “be possible without your support.”
Kirby was also present at the ceremony, but Valentine-Parris was reportedly sick and was, therefore, absent.