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SEEN UP NORTH: Group honours notable Bajans

Tony Best

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Not many organizations can get a newly elected mayor and a prominent entertainer with an international reputation to share the spotlight at the independence celebration of a Caribbean nation.
But the Barbados-American Charitable Organization of New Jersey, (BACONJ), a 34-year-old body, was able to achieve that feat when Red Plastic Bag, one of the Caribbean’s leading stage performers, and Adrian Mapp, the new Mayor of Plainfield, a City of at least 50 000 people in the Garden State, were their guests of honour at the association’s annual Barbados independence gala.
Travel through the Holland or Lincoln Tunnels and leave New York City’s skyscrapers behind and you would land in New Jersey with a population of almost nine million, the size of the five boroughs that comprise the Big Apple.
It’s a sprawling place with urban centres, wealthy communities and middle-income villages, towns, cities and counties, some next door to Philadelphia where you find tens of thousands of Barbadians and other West Indians who have made the state their home-away-from home. Many of the Bajans, for instance, commute to Manhattan daily to earn a decent living but return to their tree-lined communities of single family homes and low crime rates to get away from the hustle and bustle for which New York City has become well-known.
It was in one such suburban bedroom community last weekend that about 200 Barbadians, celebrated the 47th anniversary of Barbados’ independence.
“The evening allowed us to salute our country and honour some outstanding persons who have and are continuing to make significant contribution to Barbados and to the communities in which they live,” said Miguel Edghill, BACONJ’s President, who grew up in St Philip, works on Wall Street and lives in middle class neighbourhood in Plainfield.
“What this year’s celebration also did was to remind us that we can take nothing for granted. Just last year, all of our plans to celebrate another year of our island-nation’s independence were in place when super storm Sandy struck New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and neighbouring areas leaving a trail of devastation, death and discomfort in its wake. Many lives were lost or changed forever. Events like Sandy, remind us of the importance of organizations such as ours that strive to help those in need. We simply had to reach out and try to help the victims.”
Jacqui Workman, an events manager for a real estate in New Jersey and a long-standing BACONJ member, agreed.
“Red Plastic Bag has been a keen supporter of our organization for several years and has been instrumental in helping us to attain some of our goals. We wanted to let him know that we are proud of him and we also wanted to say thanks,” said Workman. “The newly elected Mayor has made all of us very proud of him and it gave us a chance to let him know how we feel.”
Mapp, a Barbadian who grew up in St George and came to the United States at least 30 years ago, was elected Mayor earlier this month with more than 70 per cent of the vote in Plainfield. He is perhaps the first Caribbean immigrant to head a municipality in New Jersey.
“I consider it an honour to be singled out by the Barbadian organization to be recognized in that way,” said Mapp.
Both Red Plastic Bag and Mapp were joined by Camille R. Douglas, a community development specialist for Union County, on the list of recipients of special honours from BACONJ at the function which was held at L’Affaires, a banquet centre in Mountainside in New Jersey. Douglas works with young women and children using talent and beauty shows and education programs to help build confidence and showcase the skills of the teenagers.
“She has done a remarkable job with the young women,” said Workman of Douglas.
Since its founding in 1979, BACONJ has donated more than US$100 000 to charitable causes in Barbados, Haiti, Grenada and the United States. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, primary schools and the Thelma Vaughan Memorial Home in Barbados have been major recipients of BACOBJ generosity.
Lennox Price, Barbados’ Consul-General in New York, hailed the charitable organization for its “unshakeable patriotism” while Joseph Goddard, Ambassador at the United Nations said that “the philanthropic, charitable undertakings and other acts of kindness of BACONJ are so important and must therefore be applauded.”