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TONY BEST: New York helped shape Gabby


TONY BEST: New York helped shape Gabby

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THE SCENE TOLD a fascinating story.

Along the hallway of the multi-story office building in downtown Brooklyn, photographs of yesteryear sketched tales of unionised New Yorkers standing up for their rights.

Inside the upstairs auditorium, Bajans of all walks of life held on to every word, whether in song or speech about a cultural guru and about life back home “on the rock,” their birthplace. The occasion was the launch of a biography of a man Opposition Leader Mia Mottley called a “national treasure.”

The person of the hour was Anthony Carter, the internationally known composer and folklorist whose professional name, The Mighty Gabby is recognisable to almost every Bajan at home or abroad.

Held at the headquarters of the 40 000-member Transport Workers Union, Local 100 and organised by a “Better Life for Our People,” the Barbados Labour Party’s arm in the US, the function enabled scores of Bajans to line up for autographed copies of Who Gabby Think He Is? the well researched 403-page book written by Barbara Chase, a UWI librarian. They also came to hear Mottley expound on the state of things back home. Interestingly, she studiously avoided using her speech as a politically partisan weapon that extolled the BLP virtues while castigating the present DLP Government.

“It was a wonderful and joyous occasion,” said Earl Phillips, a Bajan who is the TWU secretary-treasurer, the number two person in the union’s hierarchy. “We considered it an honour to have been able to extend an invitation to The Mighty Gabby, the Opposition Leader and Barbadians across the board so they can to hail a favourite son and also hear about things in Barbados.”

Archie Miller, a New York-based singer who considers Gabby a “long-standing mentor” couldn’t contain himself afterwards saying: “I was in awe, just to see and hear him sing and listen to Mottley.”

Ralph Thorne, a Queen’s Counsel and a BLP candidate in Christ Church, who accompanied Mottley to the city said the celebration “was simply wonderful as both Gabby and Mottley rose to the occasion.”

Dr Donna Hunte-Cox, Barbados’ Consul-General in New York, told the more than 150 people present that Gabby was a chronicler of “our stories” and he used music and lyrics to “capture elements of our history.”

During her address, the Opposition Leader praised Gabby for employing music and lyrics to paint beautiful mental pictures of key chapters “of our history” in an entertaining and informative way. Mottley noted that Barbados was in its eighth year of an economic drought that must be reversed and the way to achieve that was to have all hands on deck.

“We must speak to a new governance which will come from the principles about who we are,” she said. “We must build a national consciousness.”

She spoke of the need to have a Bajan diaspora who were treated as active citizens.

Turning to the realities of life today, she said: “We must speak to a new governance” and invoked the contents of a booklet, “Our Covenant of Hope,” the principle and vision” of her party, copies of which were distributed to the audience. It was a guiding document, she insisted.

Gabby, who delighted the audience by singing some of his popular songs, including Emmerton, Hit It and Jack, said the function surpassed “my expectations.” He spoke affectionately of New York City calling it a familiar stage where he was married, was the home of his children and where he was welcomed enthusiastically by audiences.

“New York City made me a more rounded person,” he insisted.

The master of ceremonies was Jessica Odle, a former Consul-General who along with Sam Clarke, president of the BLP branch, planned the event.

Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: [email protected]