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SEEN UP NORTH: Bajan fixing issues that affect people

Tony Best

SEEN UP NORTH: Bajan fixing issues  that affect people

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Can involvement in the economic and social life of the community you call home become too tiring?

Not if you are Douglas Mayers, a Barbadian who has been living for decades in the village of Freeport, an ethnically and economically mixed community on Long Island.

“Being involved is part of my life,” said the father of three adult children.

That’s why it didn’t come as a surprise when the word began to circulate that the six-foot plus Episcopalian, who until recently operated his own appliance repair business decided to run for an elected position as a trustee of the incorporated village of Freeport.

“I believe it is important for us to play an active role in our communities,” said Mayers.

“If you don’t get involved then you are not in a good position to complain if and when things go wrong.”

Vocal activist

Mayers, 73, has been a highly vocal activist in Freeport ever since 1969 when he arrived in the US from Jamaica to pursue the American dream. He has an enviable scorecard of involvement in many facets of village life to prove it.

Some cases in point:

• As head of the Freeport branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organisation, “Doug,” as he is more frequently called, is the eye and ear for people who have been victimised on the job, in housing or by the criminal justice system.

• As a housing commissioner in Freeport, appointed by the Village Mayor, Robert Kennedy, the Bajan who was born in St John but spent many years as a soldier in the West Indies Regiment based in Kingston and later joined the Jamaica Defence Force after the island became independent in 1962 pays considerable attention to the low-income housing needs of Freeport’s poor.

• In the Church of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal Parish in the Long Island Diocese, he is always on the hunt for people who can help boost the parish’s social programme. As a member of the church’s vestry, Mayers channels a lot of his energy into the work of the religious institution.

• Then there is Caribbean American Association on Long Island, a body he helped to launch and now leads. Its mission is to ensure that immigrants are fully integrated into the social, business and political life, not simply of Freeport but Nassau County.

• Before the demise of many black radio-stations in New York, Mayers was a frequent caller to many talk shows raising economic and social issues affecting the Caribbean and people of color in the United States

Now, he wants to add another notch to his belt. He is a candidate in the March 18 election for the position of Freeport village trustee so he can assist in the running of the municipality and its 50 000 people.

“I decided to seek a seat at the table as a trustee because of my interest in and commitment to Freeport,” said Mayers.

“I know I can make a difference.”

To get elected Mayers is conducting an independent and multifaceted campaign, running on the line of the “We Are All In” Party.

“In this election, being a Republican or Democrat doesn’t mean anything. As a matter of fact, the election isn’t between the Democrats and the Republicans,” he explained.

“The battle is between seven independents and we are fighting for two seats as trustees.”

The planks in his campaign platform run the gamut from a plan for more affordable housing; the development of the North Main Street corridor; and better roads; to a pledge to keep village taxes at current levels.

“These are all local issues. We need affordable housing to keep young people in Freeport and satisfy the needs of people who want to move here,” he said. “There is also a need for housing for seniors. We should develop the North Main Street corridor to attract more businesses which create jobs. And we must have tax stability.”

The current campaign isn’t his first try for elective office. Mayers ran in the Democratic primary for a seat in the New York State Assembly in 2000 but lost to the then incumbent.

“I regret losing but it wasn’t the end of the world. You have to be involved,” he said.

Mayers who attended Society Mixed School in St John hasn’t lived in Barbados since 1959 when he left as an 18 year old to join the West Indies Regiment and switched to the Jamaica Defence Force three years later when the West Indies Federation was dissolved and Jamaica became an independent nation.

“I am interested in everything that goes on back home in Barbados and in the wider Caribbean region,” asserted the man whose strong Bajan accent remains a part of his persona.