Vincy culture explodes in Brooklyn

Fashion designer Zulema George (L) and her parents, Auton “Frankie” and Edna George, with displays from Zulema’s AK Couture Boutique and Beauty Bar in Brooklyn.
Nelson A. King

A kaleidoscope of colors, a potpourri of artistic designs and creativity, mouth-watering Vincentian foods and mesmerizing performances by myriad artistes all combined last Saturday in a Vincy cultural explosion at the Mahalia Jackson High School in Brooklyn.

Hundreds ensured they were part of the historic ninth Biannual Cultural Exposition, organized by Club St. Vincent, one of the nation’s leading cultural and educational groups in the United States.

Though patrons lamented the absence of perennial panorama champions Sea Operations Starlift Steel Orchestra – stuck in Barbados over visa issues and flight delays due primarily to inclement weather – they adhered to the exposition’s theme, Harambe (Swahili for “Let’s All Pull Together”).

And together they did in expressing delight over the sheer exhibition of Vincy culture.

“It was fantastic, it was fabulous, it was nice!” exclaimed Verna Arthur, chairperson of the Cultural Exposition Committee and public relations officer of Club St. Vincent, Inc., in an exclusive Caribbean Life interview. “Club St. Vincent, Inc. was very proud of the outcome of the exhibition.

“I think it was one of the better expositions,” added the group’s ex-president.

“I was very much pleased with the standard of the crafts from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Diaspora,” she continued. “The participants were very pleased. They were extremely impressed we had a very large turn-out.”

Arthur said vendors were generally very pleased with the contacts established during the exhibition.

“They were able to share information among themselves and others,” she said. “That we look at as an accomplishment.”

The wide variety of vendors from home and in the Diaspora, including Pennsylvania, showcased, among others, green seasoning; seasoning for pork and curry foods; pepper sauce with lime juice, ginger and mint; pepper and passion jelly; paintings; bangles; earings; clothing; table cloths; coasters; crochet; straw purses and fans; and footwear.

Agro products included breadfruit, breadnut, coconut and Black Fish.

Calypso maestro Alston “Becket” Cyrus showcased his multiple CDs, accumulated over the years; veteran mas producer Wesley Millington displayed his costumes for the West Indian American Carnival Parade on Labor Day Monday; and Garnes Byron sold T-shirts and showed a video on construction of the international airport at Argyle.

Patrons feasted on, among others, coconut and cornmeal dumpling; cooked banana and saltfish; conch; black pudding; curry chicken; doucana; and apple tart.

On the entertainment side, the band Clymax showed that it did not lose much, if any, luster in its long hiatus.

The band was revived just for the exposition, with Winston Soso and Garfield Palmer taking center stage.

“It was nostalgic,” Arthur said. “It was very nice that those guys came back together – all in keeping with Harambe.”

Other performers included: the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn; Abena Amory-Powell (daughter of Erlene Williams-King and Vance Amory, former premier of Nevis); Chico Ellis of New Artist Movement (NAM) fame and Omari Neverson, 12 (tribute in poetry to the late poet Shake Keane); Red Tiger Jiu Jitsu Academy; Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) national dresses; Asante Alexander, 8 (Tae-Kwon-do); Fayola Alexander (dance routine); flag ceremony; and St. Lucian poets/dramatists Hermina Marcellin and Yayah.

Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, presented a U.S. Congressional Proclamation to two members of Sea Operations Starlift Steel Orchestra, on behalf of the band – Kingsley “Hero” Roberts, musical director, and Stepano Billingy – during the entertainment segment.

Roberts told Caribbean Life that, since he and Billingy had prior visas, they were able to travel to New York ahead of other members.

He said a computer glitch at the U.S. Embassy in Barbados and subsequent flight delays had prevented other members from arriving in time for the cultural exposition.

The other members were expected to arrive in New York on Tuesday night, Arthur said.

Sea Operations Starlift Steel Orchestra was expected to perform at the Flatbush-Caton Market Place in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn on Saturday, Sept. 1, from 1:00 p.m.

The Vincy panorama champions were also expected to showcase their talent at Vee Jays Restaurant on Avenue J, corner of Troy Avenue in Brooklyn, as well as on J’ouvert morning, Sept. 3, as part of the West Indian American carnival.

In wrapping up their historic New York visit, the band will be in concert on Friday, Sept. 7, at Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.

“Starlift’s presence will provide opportunities to develop relationship with other Caribbean and other Vincentian pannists in the Diaspora,” Arthur said.

“People have a sense of pride about a Vincentian steel orchestra coming here,” she added.

“Starlift has a very large fan-base. People even came down from Canada (for the exposition) to see Starlift in action,” Arthur continued.

Junior masqueraders from Mas Productions Unlimited.
Photo credit Nelson A. King

Nelson A. King

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