NYC Marks Jamaica Independence

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Jamaica Independence

The delightful accents of patois and other wonderful sights, sounds, and tastes of Jamaica filled City Hall last week as over 500 enthusiastic Jamaican Americans gathered to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of this beautiful Caribbean country’s Independence.

The festivity was co-sponsored by Council Members Kendall Stewart, who declares himself “Jamaican by infusion,” self-proclaimed “Jamerican” Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie, and Council Member Larry Seabrook. Also attending were City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and State Assemblyman Nick Perry, who hails from Jamaica.

This year’s ceremony was dedicated to the memory of United States Army Sgt. Kimel L. Watt, a Brooklyn resident and Jamaican native who was killed last June while serving his adopted nation in Iraq.

“It is my honor and privilege to celebrate the memory of Sgt. Kimel Watt,” said Council Member Comrie as he presented Sgt. Watt’s family with a City Council proclamation to pay tribute to their son’s ultimate sacrifice. “Like many young men and women before him, Sgt. Watt volunteered to serve his nation and his community. However, as a native of Jamaica, West Indies who was brought to our City as a child, he was volunteering to defend his adopted homeland, which brings an added significance to his sacrifice.”

The gala also featured presentations of City Council proclamations to several distinguished women and men of Jamaican heritage who have achieved success in various fields. This year’s honorees were:

The Hon. Basil K. Bryan, Consul General and Ambassador for Jamaica; Antonio Martin, Executive Director of the Queens Hospital Center and a 20-year veteran of the New York City Health & Hospital Corporation; Lloyd Mills, Brooklyn community activist and chairman of Community Board #17; Barrington Barrett Sr., a Brooklyn Community Board member and probation officer; and Amir Muhammed Abdul-Akbar, founder and director of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean-American Program for Empowerment.

Proclamations also went to several people distinguished in the arts: the award-winning playwright Debra Ehrhardt who is currently starring in the one-woman show “Jamaica Farewell”; Christopher John Farley, journalist and author of Before The Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley; the Grammy and American Music Award-nominated hip hop pioneer Chubb Rock, best known for hits “Ya Bad Chubbs” and “Treat ‘Em Right”; and Israel Vibration, the legendary reggae roots band that has entertained fans for over two decades with its positive Rastafarian messages.

The Hon. Dr. Bryan also bestowed honorary Jamaican citizenship upon Queens businessman and philanthropist Joseph Mattone Sr.

“The celebration of Jamaican heritage by the City Council is the recognition of our city’s great mosaic,” stated Council Member Kendall Stewart. “In every sector, whether it be the arts, business, education, or politics, Jamaican immigrants have embraced the American dream and worked for the betterment of their adopted homeland.”

“It gives me great pleasure to join my colleagues in celebrating the greatness of the Jamaican American experience,” added Council Member Larry Seabrook. “Through the contributions of great historical figures like Marcus Garvey, as well as the achievements of our distinguished honorees and others like them, our city and nation has been indelibly changed for the better.”

Members of the Jamaican Ex-Police Association and the Jamaica Ex-Soldiers Association served as the color guard for the celebration, which was emceed by Aubrey Campbell, Information Attaché to the Consulate General of Jamaica. The invocation and benediction were delivered by Pastor Lincoln Graham Jr. of Oneness Pentecostal Tabernacle of Jamaica, Queens. There was also a featured performance by singer Phoebe Ann Richards, and an appearance by Miss Jamaica USA 2007.

Lamb is The Black Star News' New York City Hall correspondent.

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