‘The world has lost a giant’ in Joyce Quamina: Parker

Joyce Quamina.   WIADCA/Rhea Smith
Joyce Quamina.
WIADCA/Rhea Smith

In paying tribute to Trinidadian Joyce Quamina, one of the former stalwart executive members of the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), organizer of the annual massive carnival parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, New York State Sen. Kevin Parker says that “the world has lost a giant.”

Quamina, a long-time Brooklyn resident, died on March 1 — incidentally, the same day as “Carnival Tuesday” in Trinidad and Tobago — at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, Long Is., her only daughter Michelle Quamina told Caribbean Life. She was 85.

Parker, representative for the largely Caribbean 21st Senate District in Brooklyn, presented a proclamation to Michelle Quamina during a funeral service for her mom on Saturday at Harmony Funeral Home on Clarendon Road in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

“In the cultural arena Ms. Joyce Quamina was an icon,” Parker told Caribbean Life on Tuesday. “To our Caribbean community, she was a legend. Her work impacted millions in the US and abroad, as she spent all of her life lifting youth and adults to their best potential, educating and empowering them to succeed in continuing the work of those who went before them.

“She never backed away from adversity, and she masterfully, along with the elders and founding members of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, held the fort to ensure New York’s Caribbean legacy remained respected and intact for generations to come,” the state senator added.

“Her leadership has left an indelible mark on me, and I encourage other elected members to join me, and continue to support our Caribbean community and groups through their struggles and successes in their authentic representation of their tradition, heritage and pride,” Parker continued.

According to the funeral program’s “Reflections of Life,” or obituary, Quamina was born on Jan. 4, 1937 to Beryl and Decosta Jones in Trinidad and Tobago.

She migrated to the United States in the 1960’s “to accomplish her goals and dreams.”

“Her dreams were beginning to become reality, when she met Carlos Lezama in the 1980’s,” states the obituary, referring to WIADCA’s late founder and former president.

“At first, when Mr. Lezama approached Joyce to become part of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, she turned him down,” it adds. “This continued for some time until, one day, she decided to give in.

“Little did she know that this was just the beginning of her awesome journey that awaited her,” the obituary continues. “Joyce grew with the organization and became the business manager for many years. She made a great impact and contribution to the organization that would never be forgotten.

“She was an influential woman, who gained the respect and love of the organization, her community, her family and her peers,” it says. “Joyce helped and changed the lives of many people. If you needed her assistance, and she was able to do it, she did it, with love.”

Besides WIADCA, Quamina contributed to many other organizations, according to the obituary, including being president of the International Culture Carnival for many years, and involvement in the Junkanoo Carnival in Bahamas for 10 years and the process of establishing the West Indian Carnival in Westchester.

Quamina also lectured to Caribbean inmates in the Folsom Prison, as well as to students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the obituary says.

Some of the awards that she received over the years included: Lifetime Achievement Award and Certificate of Appreciation from WIADCA; Certificate of Merit (Carnival Ambassador) – International Caribbean Carnival Association; Award – 25 years of TUCO in Trinidad and Tobago; and Distinguished Community Service Award from the Brooklyn-based CASCYM Steel Orchestra.

Among other elected officials who eulogized, or paid their last respects to, Quamina on Saturday were Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants; and outgoing Assemblyman N. Nick Perry, who was confirmed last week by the US Senate as the next United States Ambassador to his native Jamaica.

Michelle Quamina and Rachael David, Joyce Quamina’s niece, said in a joint statement to Caribbean Life on Tuesday that Quamina “worked tirelessly throughout the Caribbean community and in the Diaspora in regards to the culture.”

“Pastor Dr. Jonathan A. McClaren, who officiated over the service, said ‘ReJoyce’”, clearly meaning that “Aunt Joyce’s work in culture should be celebrated and never forgotten,” they said.

“On behalf of our family, we want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support that have been given to us,” Michelle and Rachael added. “Aunt Joyce was our matriarch, and it was a pleasure to share her with everyone.

“We are currently working on something that will keep the legacy of Joyce Quamina’s hard work alive,” they continued, giving “special thanks to the owners and staff at Harmony Funeral Home. “The professionalism from start to finish was amazing.”

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