Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer Friday evening honored Vincentian community and cultural activist Verna Arthur for her success in “furthering the determination and excellence of the African American community through public service.”
At a reception preceding the 50th Annual African American Day Parade in Harlem on Sunday, Brewer highlighted Arthur’s contributions among others who were recognized and honored for their “outstanding achievements of African American leaders in the Manhattan community.”
In keeping with tradition, Brewer’s staff and volunteers marched in the parade with placards held high for each honoree.
“The entire experience was very humbling,” Arthur, who is also considered a cultural icon in the Vincentian community in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life afterwards. “I am extremely honored to be receiving this prestigious African American Day Parade Award and to be in the company of such distinguished persons. It’s a privilege.
“When Madison Marlow (from Brewer’s office) called me to follow up on the invitation, as she did not hear from me, and provided the details about the award, I asked her if she was sure she had the right person,” Arthur added. “After our conversation, I immediately got up from my desk and went into the hallway to compose myself.
“Thanks to a very hard-working borough president for paying so close attention to my contribution to the community,” she continued. “My promise is to continue doing what I do for the people and the community. 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.”
Arthur also said she was “extremely proud as a Vincentian at the reception on Friday and then to walk in the parade Sunday showing my ‘Vincentianness’ with my flag and all — only to hear the voice of someone as I travelled up Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard shouting ‘rise that Vincy flag’.
“It was a wonderful feeling,” she said. “That sealed the entire event for me.”
Arthur said she began her cultural journey as a masquerader in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at age 5, with Fuzzy Knights’ Mass Band.
Her journey continued as a member of Kingstown Chorale and Abbucalypse Steel Orchestra.
She continues to be an ardent participant in carnival as evidenced by her co-founding of the former NY J’Ouvert band, Yurumei Productions and by founding 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 about 25 years.
She is now the committee’s coordinator, working with RIDU and Invest SVG to coordinate and acquire products from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as getting Vincentian performers for the exposition in Brooklyn.
A champion of community volunteerism, Arthur said one of her proudest moments was when she spearheaded efforts and worked tirelessly to bring the leading Vincentian steel band, Starlift Steel Orchestra, to New York.
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.
Arthur is also the president of Troy Avenue H & I Block Association (TAHIBA) in Brooklyn.
In addition, she was among the first to introduce “some of our Garifuna brothers and sisters to the Vincentian Community in New York.”
She 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.
Arthur continues to make significant contributions to several organizations, such as: the Harlem Week Senior Jubilee Committee, a component of the Harlem Week Celebrations (the largest cultural event in the US); Henry Street Senior Companion Advisory Council; Manhattan Community Board 9 Senior Issues Committee; and Manhattan Community Board10 Senior Strategic Committee.
She is the Manhattan Community Outreach Director and Senior Advisory Council Liaison with the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA).
Arthur said her role with DFTA involves advocacy initiatives and community outreach on aging-related issues.
She also represents DFTA at special events sponsored by elected officials, community organizations and agencies.
Arthur originated and coordinated the first Artisans’ Market Place at DFTA’s then Age-in-Action event.
She is the recipient of several awards, including: NYC Council Members East Caribbean Heritage and Cultural Award; The Progressive Democrats Political Association Caribbean Heritage Award; Council Member Matthew Eugene’s City Council Citation; Senator Bill Perkins’ Community Service Award; Club St. Vincent, Inc. Past President Award; Vinci Cares, Inc. Community Service Award; Harlem Week, Inc. Public Service Award; SVG Diaspora Committee of New York Cultural Heritage Award; SVGOP 2011 Vincentian Person of the Year Award; New York Urban League Community Service Award; VIBE Caribbean Magazine Person of the Month; Manhattan Borough President’s Appreciation award; and The Vincy Cup Appreciation Award.
Arthur holds a Master’s degree in Urban Affairs from Hunter College, City University of New York.