Vincentian group honors two nationals

Kevin Lyttle and Nina Maloney at the head table.
Photo by Nelson A. King

The Brooklyn-based Vincentian-American Independent National Charities, Inc. (VINCI) on Sunday honored international soca superstar Kevin Lyttle and retired national broadcaster Nina Maloney at the group’s 36th Annual Gala and Awards Ceremony at El Caribe Country Club on Strickland Avenue in Brooklyn.

VINCI also used the occasion to commemorate the 40th anniversary of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ political independence from Great Britain.

“Today, we honor two outstanding citizens of our nation — Ms. Nina Maloney, who has had an outstanding career in media and has helped to shape the acculturation of many through her radio programs or through her civic works,” said Wayne Raguette, VINCI president and political consultant in Brooklyn.

“We also honor Mr. Kevin Lyttle, who needs very little introduction,” he added. “He is a world-renowned recording artiste and cultural ambassador.”

Raguette also described the honorees as “two great persons, who enrich our society, influence many in a positive way, contribute significantly to our nation, the Caribbean civilization, and will surely leave a legacy behind.

“We salute them!” he said.

Additionally, Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, presented the honorees with a congressional proclamation.

“We know Kevin Lyttle and what he has done to lift up the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, in her remarks. “Let’s give Kevin Lyttle a round of applause (patrons enthusiastically obliged).

“And Nina Maloney, she was extraordinary around the world,” she added. “And so, we celebrate here, and I say ‘woman power!’”

Before giving patrons an acapella version of two of his, “Home for Carnival” and “Drive Me Crazy,” Lyttle said he was “very honored” to receive the award.

“Not every day you get honored and appreciated,” said Lyttle, who flew from his home in Miami for the honor. “When it comes from my country and my people, it’s like a 1,000 times.”

Maloney said it was “a great pleasure and honor of mine to say a word that has become very scarce to say, ‘thank you’.

“I’m so honored to be chosen,” she said in her acceptance speech. “Today, it’s mixed feelings that I accept this award, because (of) the late Sylvia Wilson (former VINCI president and co-founder). I’m happy that this organization is still going and still going strong.

“To me, I’m very, very humbled to accept this recognition,” Maloney added. “I always have the feeling to help.

“I must also say thanks to the MC (Master of Ceremonies, Don Bobb),” she continued. “I learned from him, and I hope I have not disappointed him.

“I got paid for 27 years (as a broadcaster), and you (patrons) can’t shut me up,” she mused after speaking relatively long. “I don’t have any bad feelings for anyone. Once again, I want to say thanks, thanks, thanks again.”

Lyttle is said to have broken the common mold and altered the course of traditional soca music, infusing a more international flavor and taking a strong foot hold in the music industry in 2003 with his hit single “Turn Me On.”

“Turn Me On” topped charts around the world — the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Australia and the US.

After earning spots on MTV, Billboard’s Hot 100, and even signing a deal with Atlantic Records, Lyttle’s single and album both went multiplatinum, selling over 5,000,000 and 2,000,000 copies, respectively, in the beginning.

He went on to produce two more songs, “Drive Me Crazy” and “Home for Carnival,” which hit number one on the charts for two consecutive years.

Four albums later, Lyttle again joined a major label when his label, Tarakon Records, partnered with the Sony / Ultra family to release his hit single “Slow Motion” in 2017.

In 2017, Billboard named “Turn Me on” the number one dancehall chorus of the 21st century, stating: “Perhaps, no other hook on this list could turn a club into carnival faster than this reggae / soca smash.”

During the same year, Lyttle also returned to the Billboard charts with another number one: the reggaetón smash “Midnight” made it to No 1 on the Tropical Billboard Charts.

This year, Lyttle released album number five, a carnival masterpiece, “Kill Me Wid It,” featuring the hit single “Close to You.”

Lyttle, also a businessman, said he has simultaneously been working to create the first ever music streaming site for the Caribbean, with plans of expanding into other under-represented markets, such as Africa and South America.

Lyttle said he gives back to the community. He co-founded The Janice Lyttle Foundation, in honor of his late mother.

He said the foundation was created to “help win the battle for heart disease.”

Lyttle said the foundation donated over US$500,000 worth of supplies and equipment to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, in the wake of the December 2013 freak storm disaster.

In 2018, he said the foundation facilitated a mission by the Starkey Foundation to outfit residents of major cities in need of a hearing aid.

“The mission continues in 2019, accommodating more of the island’s towns and villages,” Lyttle said.

Nina Eslyn Maloney was first a primary school teacher at the then Kingstown Anglican School.

She then moved on to the General Clerical Service as a “telephonist” with the Telephone Department in the Ministry of Communication and Works in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

After six years, she was transferred to the General Post Office in Kingstown and served as a dispatcher of mails to the District Post Offices.

Maloney said she became the first philatelic clerk in the country. She was an accounts clerk and secretary to the Postmaster General before transferring to the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), where she served as a radio announcer, coordinator of religious broadcasts island-wide, record librarian, program manager and finally executive director / general manager.

She said her services as a broadcaster lasted almost 26 years, retiring in 2001. She was trained at the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1980.

Maloney said two events stood out during her long broadcasting career: The Eruption of La Soufriere in 1979 and the country’s political independence that same year.

Her long list of civic engagements over the years include: Girl Guides Movement; member of the House of Hope for AIDS patients and the Cancer Committee; president of the Jaycettes in 1972; visiting Justice to Her Majesty’s Prison; president for the Committee for the Elderly; foundation member of the St. Vincent Children’s Welfare Fund; secretary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; executive member of the Royal St. Vincent Legion; Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force’s Welfare Committee; emergency communication with the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO); Anglican Soup Kitchen; Salvation Army Advisory Board member; St. Vincent Netball Association; St. Vincent Cricket Association Ladies Committees; and executive member of the Carnival Development Committee.

“I am a people’s person and served my country faithfully over the years,” Maloney said.

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