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TONY BEST: A taste of home in New York


TONY BEST: A taste of home in New York

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ON MOST SATURDAY afternoons in the summer, a small park surrounded by trees and shrubs is taken over by flannel-clad men playing an outdoor sporting event most Americans don’t understand.

It is the Canarsie Cricket ground which is in the pathway of jet aircraft flying every minute or two to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The quiet middle class section of Brooklyn, a mostly Caribbean enclave of single or two family homes, was transformed two Saturdays ago into a piece of Barbados and as many as 3 000 Bajans took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy what is officially called “Barbados Festival Day”.

They came by bus, train, plane or privately owned vehicles from across New York, Connecticut and New Jersey as well as from Massachusetts, Washington DC, Toronto, Montreal, Baltimore and Vermont.

“It was a wonderful event, thoroughly enjoyable,” said Dr Esther Byer, Barbados’ Minister of Labour and Social Security, who was able to push aside the labour troubles back home for about 48 hours to be in Brooklyn. “I am very glad I came.”

Byer’s cabinet colleague, Michael Lashley, the Minister of Transport and Works who was also there, said: “I saw many people there I hadn’t seen for years.”

The Festival Day, a 13-year old annual celebration of Barbadian culture was fashioned by the Friends of Barbados, DLP, Association, the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s branch in the US.

“We don’t make money from this event,” explained Trevor Massiah, the association’s newly elected president.

“Indeed, it has never been profitable. What it does though, is bring people together to enjoy themselves.”

Adrian Mapp, Mayor of the 50 000 suburban City of Plainfield in New Jersey, who made the one-hour journey from the Garden State to Brooklyn to mix and mingle among the  Bajans, told the large gathering that the event was truly worthy of their support.

“We are a people and we must support Barbados,” insisted Mayor Mapp.

Ricardo Baker, a New York city official and son of Ralph Walker, a retired public servant in Barbados said: “We must show the flag.”

The political side of the weekend was on display the next day when the DLP held a town hall meeting at St Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in the heart of Crown Heights and East Flatbush, the same place where the Barbados Labour Party, headed by Mia Mottley, held a town hall meeting two months before.

George Pilgrim, DLP’s general secretary, who along with Byer and Lashley were the key speakers, defended the Freundel Stuart Administration’s track record and chided the Opposition for being locked into “expediency” and a political campaign mood. He charged that the BLP was motivated to force an early election.

Byer insisted that the Government had implemented a “home-grown” economic stabilisation programme that was showing positive results.

In his speech, Lashley listed several debts the DLP had inherited in 2008, citing cost overruns in construction of a police station at Crab Hill, questionable spending on the Greenland landfill, and the large bill for the building of a new prison at Dodd’s.

At the same time, he said, housing construction involving the public and private sectors and undertaken by the Government had worked and redevelopment of Sam Lord’s Castle should start soon.

“We have done well despite the challenges,” he declared.