Vincentian cultural icon, community organizer Verna Arthur heads volcanic relief

Vincentian Cultural Icon and Community Activist, Verna Arthur.  Verna Arthur
Vincentian Cultural Icon and Community Activist, Verna Arthur.
Verna Arthur

Black History Month

When La Soufriere Volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines erupted explosively last April, a group of Vincentians in New York immediately sprang into action to coordinate relief efforts for their ravaged homeland.

With the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn serving as the hub of activities, Vincentian cultural icon and community organizer Verna Arthur headed the initiative.

As president of Brooklyn-based SVG Relief USA, Inc., Arthur told Caribbean Life on Monday that she is “proud to lead an exceptional team of members and volunteers who selflessly responded to the clarion call of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Arthur said the team has not only responded to relief efforts, in view of the explosive eruptions, but also sought to address the needs of their compatriots “faced with the multi-dimensional threat” of dengue fever, COVID-19.

“The team work tirelessly on weekends and weekdays to deliver nine commercial bind, and five 40-ft containers of items, one of which went via airfreight,” said Arthur, adding that the organization is now participating in the ongoing recovery efforts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by “focusing on specific requests.”

Considered a dynamic force in the community, Arthur began her cultural journey as a masquerader in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at the tender age of five, with the late Fuzzy Knights’ mass band.

She is also a former member of Kingstown Chorale and ex- member of the then Abbucalypse Steel Orchestra.

As co-founder of the former Brooklyn-based J’ouvert band, Yuremi Productions, Arthur continues to be an ardent participant in carnival as evidenced by her founding of SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) Connect J’ouvert Band in Brooklyn, which participates in Vincy Mas, the country’s national carnival.

Arthur, who holds a Master of Science degree, was among the first to introduce “some of our Garifuna brothers and sisters to the Vincentian community in New York.”

She was also a foundation member of the then Garifuna Cultural Retrieval Committee, which conducted a month-long Garifuna Cultural Retrieval Workshop in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in August 2012.

A former president and public relations officer of the Brooklyn-based cultural and educational organization, Club St. Vincent, Inc., Arthur was also chairperson of the organization’s Cultural Exposition Committee.

She is now the committee’s coordinator, working with the Regional Integration Diaspora Unit (RIDU) and Invest SVG in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to coordinate and acquire products from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as getting Vincentian performers for the exposition.

Additionally, Arthur is the former president of Troy Avenue H & I Block Association (TAHIBA) in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

A champion of community volunteerism, Arthur’s efforts, as chairperson of the SVG Cultural Symposium Committee, New York for 2005-2009 — the brainchild of Ellsworth John, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to Cuba, and former Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States (OAS) – resulted in two successful symposia and the much-lauded Vincy Homecoming 2009.

Arthur’s exceptional work was also demonstrated with Club St. Vincent, Inc.’s three-day Cultural Exhibition, held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in December 1995.

She said one of her proudest moments was spearheading efforts and working tirelessly to bring Starlift Steel Orchestra, the perennial panorama champions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to New York for Club St. Vincent, Inc.’s Cultural Exposition, a further testament of her leadership skills.

The indefatigable Arthur continues to make significant contributions to several organizations in New York, such as the Harlem Week Senior Jubilee Committee, a component of the Harlem Week, Inc. Celebrations, regarded as the largest cultural event in the US; Henry Street Senior Companion Advisory Council; Manhattan Community Board 9 Senior Issues Committee; and Manhattan Community Board 10 Senior Strategic Committee.

As a senior citizen advocate, Arthur is also the Government Affairs Officer, Manhattan – New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA).

In that role, she said she is “one of the agency’s primary liaisons to elected officials, community boards, aging services providers and advocate to promote DFTA’s mission and priorities.”

In addition, Arthur represents the commissioner at public hearings, high level-meetings and community events.

Over the years, Arthur has received several proclamations, awards and citations for her cultural and community activism.

They include: NYC Council Members East Caribbean Heritage and Cultural Award; Congressional Citation; The Progressive Democrats Political Association Caribbean Heritage; Council Member Matthew Eugene’s City Council Citation; Senator Bill Perkins’ Community Service Award; Club St. Vincent, Inc. Past President Award; Vinci Cares, Inc. Community Service Award; and Harlem Week, Inc. Public Service Award.

Others are: SVG Diaspora Committee of New York Cultural Heritage Award; SVGOP 2011 Vincentian Person of the Year Award; New York Urban League Community Service Award; COSAGO Leadership and Community Service Award; VIBE Caribbean Magazine Person of the Month Award; Manhattan Borough President’s Appreciation Award; African American Day Leadership Award; and The Vincy Cup Appreciation Award.

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