NYC Celebrates Trini & Tobago

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(Dr. Harold Robertson, Consul General of Trinidad and Tobago, delivers greetings on 44th anniversary of his country’s independence).

While New York City’s Caribbean community was busy putting the final touches on carnival and parade preparations, very appropriately, the 44th anniversary of the independence of Trinidad and Tobago – where carnival originated – was being celebrated at City Hall.

As always on such festive occasions, Council Members Kendall Stewart and Yvette Clarke mixed seriousness with humor. Stewart began by welcoming the capacity crowd to City Hall on behalf of the Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, who he called “a wonderful lady who is truly concerned about immigrant issues and is really looking out for our interests.” Then, in a lighter vein, he spoke of having been told two weeks earlier that he was Jamaican “by confusion and infusion.” “But I want you to know that I am a Trinidadian by boat,” he declared. He then recounted several hilarious stories of his youth spent studying on this beautiful island.

Council Member Clarke said that she’s proud so many people have come from the twin islands to make the United States their adopted home because, “You add the variety that is the spice of life. You add a certain spirit – your endurance, passion, and joy. So I'm just hoping,” she continued, “that a little bit of that is rubbing off on me. I'd like to say I'm ‘Trini to the bone’ and a Soca Warrior by infusion and not confusion.”

The Honorable Dr. Harold Robertson, Consul General of Trinidad and Tobago, delivered his greetings as well. He stated that it’s been 44 years of freedom, progress, and building a society. “That is not to say that it has been 44 years of perfection,” Robertson added. “I ask you to join me and the citizens back home in celebrating 44 glorious years while also reflecting on what has been right and what has been wrong, and pledging ourselves to ensuring that what is right stays right and what is wrong is put right.”

With the illustrious Janice Forde and Jillian Clement emceeing, the entire evening was an illustration of just how “right” the people of Trinidad and Tobago are when it comes to artistry and the willingness to make a contribution to society. Take the seven notable women who were awarded City Council proclamations. They were:

* Joyce Gilman, President of the East 45th Block Association and a member of both the Wesley McDonald Holder Democratic Club and Community Board 17. She has volunteered countless hours to political campaigns and other social activism within her community.

* Ursula McBurnie, who opened Brooklyn’s Little Angels Day Care Center & Nursery, which proved so successful she expanded her franchise over the next two decades to include four additional Day Care Centers.

* Penny Bernard, the lovely Miss Trinidad and Tobago 2005, who is now a Kindergarten teacher at Kids World Early Learning Center. She aspires to open learning centers for children in every borough of the City and in Trinidad.

* Alethea St. Bernard-Marshall, who is actively involved in Mothers Uplifting Children Horizon and served as both group mother in the Girl Scouts and President for the PS 208 PTA.

* Gloria Morancie, a longtime City employee who currently works in Adult Protective Services and has advocated for workers' rights with District Council 37, AFSCME, and the AFL-CIO.

* Elenora Bernard, the multi-faceted Founder, President and CEO of Petra B. Corp., a female- and minority-owned construction company, along with the lingerie and apparel store Another World Secrets.

* Sharon Ghanny, a self-published poet, singer, and freelance journalist who covers stories concerning health issues and also writes about local singers, dancers and other talented individuals.

The outstanding artistic contributions of several men were also honored. Proclamations went to:

* The noted carnival costume designer Morris Stewart, creator of the highly successful band "Oriental Fantasy," which had as this year’s theme "Aztec Warriors."

* The gifted musician Joseph Olivache, who currently serves as Captain of the Sunrise Symphony Steelpan Corporation, a New York State Not-for-Profit corporation.

* The highly skilled steelpan maker and player Herman Conrad Jordan, who eventually ceased making pans for bands to focus almost exclusively on improving the sound quality of the instrument.

Two other men, the talented singers Alvin Pierre and Hilton Samuel, also received proclamations. Pierre, a Spiritual Baptist, is active in his church and continues to give back to the community by teaching youth how to sing and play the keyboard. Samuel, a twenty-eight year veteran of the music industry, has appearing with such bands as Passion, City Players, and Caribbean In-Sync and with such performers as Percy Sledge, Mighty Sparrow, and the Mighty Clouds of Joy. To the delight of the audience, instead of acceptance speeches, they were asked to showcase their very considerable singing abilities – which they did happily.

The audience was also treated to some stunning musical performances by the award winning gospel singer and now Army Private Gerard Placide who is on leave from Iraq, Evangelist Wendy Mitchell, the 60-member New Dimensions Performing Arts Company straight from Tobago, and calypsonian Johnny King. In fact, King was such a hit that when the audience called for an encore and Council Member Stewart said they must choose between having time to enjoy the feast in the rotunda or hearing him sing again, they shouted, “King, King!”

Also turning in terrific performances were blues singer Jennifer Walters, steelpan player Joseph Lett, and the Mildred Forde Dance Ensemble. After a final vote of thanks from Council Member Stewart, Johnny King sang the participants out to the reception in rotunda.

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