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TONY BEST: Kudos for Bajans in America


TONY BEST: Kudos for Bajans in America

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WHAT DO THE composer of some of the world’s bestselling Caribbean music, the elected mayor of a middle-size American city, and a Broadway makeup artist have in common?

That question can also be asked about a leader of one of New York City’s major trade unions, a colonel in the United States Army, two actors, the first Black woman to perform an organ transplant anywhere in the world, a former deputy Mayor of New York, a colonel in the US Army and a retired UN professional who became his birthplace’s top diplomat at the world body.

Answer: They are Barbadians. And they were presented with awards that recognised “outstanding” contributions to Barbados’ development and to America’s prosperity, and for their efforts that brought honour and glory to Barbados and to the individuals themselves. They were all feted at a Barbados 50th Anniversary of Independence Awards Dinner on a recent weekday evening attended by at least 200 guests at Giando on the Water in Brooklyn.

More than 30 Barbadians received awards. Among them were New York State Appeals Court Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix; Irving Burgie, a leading music composer who also wrote the lyrics of Barbados’ national anthem; Dr Christopher Hackett, a former Barbados UN Ambassador; Earl Phillips, secretary-treasurer of New York’s Transport Workers Union; and Adrian Mapp, Mayor of Plainfield, a city of 60 000 people in New Jersey. 

In addition, Thelma Pollard, make-up artist of the long-running Broadway show, Phantom Of The Opera; Colonel Wendy Sawyer of the US Army; Dennis Walcott, a former deputy mayor who became Chancellor of the New York Department of Education; and Dr Velma Scantlebury, kidney transport surgeon, were on the list of honorees. Neville Bushell, a radio host;  Steven Legall, a funeral director in Brooklyn; and Dahved Levy, a top radio personality. 

They were more, the Rev. Harvey Ince, Dr Grace Hackett, a classical soloist, Dr Gale Gibson, an educator;  Linda Gadsby, a corporate executive and attorney of an international book publishing company; and Llewellyn Drayton and Jiggs Kirton, two leading entertainers were also on the list of honorees.

Two young Barbadians – Jennifer Hodge and Daria Legall received youth incentive awards.

The Shirley Chisholm Award went to Hinds-Radix and the Errol Barrow Award Of Excellence was presented to Dr Hackett.

In welcoming the honorees and guests, Dr Donna Hunte-Cox, Barbados’ Consul-General in New York, said, “over the years, we have heard the saying you will find a Barbadian everywhere,  but these Barbadians are not just operating as residents in a strange land being burdens to the local government, they have made and continue to make significant contributions to the development of these nations through their citizenship participation.”

She described the honorees as “unsung heroes” who have “served their country well”.

Unfortunately, the function’s late start and missteps in the programme may have marred the joys which the honorees, their relatives and friends, foreign diplomats and members of the Barbadian and Caribbean community were expecting. Indeed, an honoree left before he received his award.

“It was an appropriate thing to do but unfortunately it wasn’t executed effectively,” said an awardee who requested anonymity.

“The event’s mission was appropriate with the intent to elevate Barbados and to award Barbadians living in the US for their accomplishments. I do appreciate it. However it is not good when we have someone who was supposed to accept the award leave without accepting it.”

The honorees received awards for Pride and Industry, the arts, drama, military service, work in medicine, education, business, union-labour relations, organisational leadership entertainment, media, academic excellence and community service.

“It was an honour to have been chosen,” said Dr Hackett. The master of ceremonies was Dr Milton Haynes, a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist in Manhattan who once headed the 30 000-plus Medical Society of New York. 

He teaches medicine at major medical centres and schools in the City.

“It was an honour to be recognised as a Barbadian who made his mark in the US as a public elected official,” said Mapp. “I have risen to become the mayor of a City, the only Barbadian born on the island to have done that. I look forward with pride to being a part of a celebration in December marking the 50th anniversary of Independence, including a flag-raising in Plainfield.”


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