SEEN UP NORTH: DLP branch praised
If barbershops and hairdressing salons have a reputation everywhere as excellent places for gossip, what are galas, dinners and banquets in immigrant communities known for?
Quite a lot.
For one thing they give the foreign born living in a country they often call “home away from home” a sense of belonging.
For another, they provide an opportunity to mix and mingle with acquaintances of a bygone era, people they haven’t seen in decades. Just as important, the social gatherings are an excellent vehicle to raise funds for worthy causes “back home”, usually scholarships, equipment for hospitals, clinics, schools and amenities for community facilities.
Put those factors together and the mix would explain why more than 300 Barbadians flocked to the St Peter and St Paul Banquet Hall on Milner Avenue in Scarborough, a Toronto suburb, on a recent Saturday evening.
The occasion was the Sixth Errol Barrow Memorial Dinner sponsored by DLP Barbados (Canada), the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s branch in Canada.
Of course, it helped that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was the guest of honour and main speaker. Earlier in the day, Stuart had met with the board of directors of the party’s chapter and held a news conference. Several hours later he mixed and mingled with the Bajan diaspora there.
The function seemingly has a magnetic hold on DLP leaders.
David Thompson attended the first three memorial dinners before he fell ill and later died while this year’s event was the second in a row for Stuart. His presence in Toronto allowed him to fulfil a two-pronged promise given last year.
He had assured the Bajan-Canadians he would return to the city for the next dinner and he would do so as the head of Government.
Stuart, who used the event to give a report card on Barbados’ economy, praised the branch for its loyalty and commitment, asserting that “over the years” it had “shown genuine support for the work” of the DLP.
Evelyn Greaves, Barbados’ top diplomat in Canada, explained that the Errol Barrow Memorial Trust Fund, a beneficiary of the annual dinner, was a registered charity in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, and its key goal was to provide grants to needy students from the Commonwealth Caribbean studying at Canadian universities.
Haynesley Benn, the new Consul General in Toronto, said Barbadians in Canada should see their role as fostering “greater relationships among our people” and playing a “key role in our development”.
“We should therefore see our role as that of supporting the policies and actions of the Government of Barbados as together we seek to build and strengthen all sectors of the economy,” he added.
But there was more to the evening than speeches and dining. Calypsonian Red Plastic Bag delighted the crowd with his music, as did Susan Grogan and Omar Gittens.
Incidentally, Gittens was a scholarship winner of the Barrow trust fund and that enabled him to study music in the United States.
The Prime Minister was later presented with a portrait painted by Roland Walkes, a Bajan artist in Toronto.
Joan Rowe, who along with Marsene Maloney and Margaret Haynes headed the planning committee, presented Stuart with a plaque that recognized his contribution to the country.
The president of the DLP Barbados (Canada) is Reynold Austin.