By Nelson A. King
Hundreds of Vincentians Saturday night joined the Brooklyn-based Garifuna Indigenous People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Inc. (GIPSVG) in celebrating National Heroes Day with a cultural extravaganza at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.
The six-hour-long event featured a wide array of performances, as well as mouth-watering Vincentian cuisine, such as pelau, breadfruit and saltfish, banana and smoke herring, chokie bam bam (cassava bread) and dukuna (a sweet potato-based pudding prototype).
Performances included: Flag ceremony by the Belize Garifuna Settlement Day Mass Cultural Committee; chant by GIPSVG; GIPSVG Quadrille dancers; GIPSVG choir; poems, speeches, songs, drumming and skits by Belizean singer and song writer James Lovell and the Garifuna Kids; and Brooklyn Century Steel Orchestra.
Other performances were by: Crooner Theo Homer; calypsonian Franklin “Supadex” Richards; singer Garfield Palmer; the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn (UVCGB); GIPSVG parents and children dance (pankiba); Janelle (poem — “Ode to the King”); Garifuna Warrior; and soca artiste and entertainer Prim Adonna.
Homer enwrapped patrons with “I Need Your Love and Affection”; “Don’t Go Away”; and “Woman for a Man.”
The Brooklyn Century Steel Orchestra banged out Becket’s “St. Vincent (and the Grenadines) I Love You”; “Red, Red Wine”; “African Queen” by 2 Face Idibia; “Feel So Good” by Jamaican reggae artiste Beres Hammond; “I am a Music Man” by former perennial Grenada Calypso Monarch Ajamu; and “Wet” by Vincentian soca artiste Bomani.
New York Consul General Howie Prince noted that 225 years have passed since the Garifuna or Black Caribs – an admixture of the indigenous Kalinago and Africans – were sent into exile by British colonizers.
“We celebrate our forefathers and what they have done,” he told patrons. “But, thank God, they have lived on.”
Culture Minister Cecil “Ces” McKie, in town for the official launch of new air service from New York to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said there were expected to be “lots of celebrations” at home on Mar. 14 on National Heroes Day, urging the crowd to travel home next year for the grand Garifuna celebrations.
GIPSVG President Marcia James, who hails from the northeastern village of Owia on mainland St. Vincent, said proceeds from the event will, among other things, augment the sponsoring of an essay competition for students from Overland to Fancy, along the country’s northeastern corridor; provide care packages for the elderly; and aid in the annual book bag package.
“Today, you’re not only being entertained, but you are making these goals possible,” she said.
Joseph Chatoyer, the paramount chief of the Black Caribs, was officially declared the first — and to date the only — National Hero of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Mar. 14, 2002.
March 14 has been designated National Heroes Day in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and is celebrated annually as a public holiday.