Vincentian cultural group honors icon

UVCGB President Dr. Roxie Irish in cultural attire (right) presents award to Gordon “Don” Sutherland.
Photo by Nelson A. King

The United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn (UVCGB) on Saturday honored the cultural figure whose songs it has been using during its cultural performances in the past 14 years.

The UVCGB surprised Gordon “Don” Sutherland, during its Annual Cultural Show, at Meyer Levin Intermediate School on Beverly Road in Brooklyn, by bestowing the special award almost at show’s end.

UVCGB President and Founder, Dr. Roxie Irish, who presented the award, told Caribbean Life afterwards that Sutherland is a “very gifted and talented” man.

She described him as, among other things, “honorable, humble, unselfish, giving, devoted, exemplary, team player and a great lover of culture.”

“Don Sutherland, certainly, deserves this award for over 40 years of promoting Vincy culture,” said Irish, an Evangelical Church Youth Minister and former national netball star in her native St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“UVCGB is proud to salute this champion of culture,” she added. “It is such a blessing that he is part of our ministry.”

Irish said that Sutherland, a member of the group, who plays the lead guitar in the UVCGB band, travels weekly from his home in Woodbridge Hills in Central New Jersey for rehearsals in Brooklyn.

She also disclosed that Sutherland’s wife, Louise, despite her blind condition, helps him sell at least 30 tickets for the group’s annual showcase.

“First of all, I must give thanks and praise to our Lord Jesus for keeping me alive and to continue to work as a team member with our UVCG of Brooklyn,” said Sutherland, in a Caribbean Life interview, who suffered a heart attack a few years ago. “This was a surprise from Dr. Roxie Irish and our group to give me this recognition for over 40 years of writing original folk songs and still performing on stage.

“The love and dedication that I share with our group were given back to me,” he added. “I’m blessed to be a blessing and to be honored by our UVCG of Brooklyn.”

Sutherland, who taught elementary and secondary schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the late 1960s to late 1970s, was one of the nation’s folklorists in the 1970s. He is still very actively participating and writing folk and other songs.

As the musical producer, Sutherland wrote five of the 11 songs on UVCGB’s first CD, “Keep We Culture Alive,” which was released in May.

He was very instrumental in writing original folk songs and calypsos for a school in his native Georgetown in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, enabling it to win two consecutive years in the local music festival.

Sutherland said folk songs, such as “Ole Time Fashion Never Die” and “Vincentian Local Dish, are still being played on radio stations in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and sung in schools.

He was influential in forming the Georgetown Folk Creation group, of old and young singers, in the 1970s, and shares his talent freely with the John John String Band, among numerous groups and churches.

Sutherland was also one of the founders, lead guitarist and song writer for the popular, now defunct, Affetuosos Band in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the 1970s.

He said one of the better songs he wrote, while a member of the band, was “Children of the Caribbean.”

In 2003, Sutherland said he and Ralph Nassan Browne formed the band, Second Generation, which played in Long Island and South New Jersey, which produced the CD, “Live in Harmony.”

Sutherland said he is still working with the same company, Multiplastic Exclusion, Inc., in Avenel, Central NJ, for 38 years, as the EHS /quality manager.

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York is also expected to honor Sutherland this Saturday night during its Second Annual Awards Ceremony at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn. Sutherland was nominated by UVCGB drummer and Diaspora Committee member Owusu Slater.

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