Union Island nationals enjoy a day in the park

“Daka” belches out Winston Soso’s “I Don’t Mind.”   Photo by Nelson A. King
“Daka” belches out Winston Soso’s “I Don’t Mind.” Photo by Nelson A. King

After a year’s hiatus, amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Island Day annul picnic returned this year with much success, organizers say.

“We widen the scope this year,” co-coordinator Phil Stewart told Caribbean Life on Sunday, as Caribbean rhythms blasted from DJ Gof at Canarsie Park in Brooklyn.

“We want to promote unity – all inclusive,” added Stewart, who coordinates the 5th annual event with fellow Unionites Roger Mulzac and Angela Stowe.

“We have people from Chateaubelair, Sandy Bay, Vermont, Sion Hill, Bequia, Canouan, Union Island, Mayreau, promoting unity among everybody,” continued Stewart, listing a town, villages and islands in the multi-island St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“It’s good,” Mulzac chimed in. “We bring people together – people we have not seen for a very long time — to meet and greet, exchange ideas, and catch up for old time’s sake.

“Next year, we want to make it much bigger and better, seeking sponsorship in the process,” he added.

Union Island Day coordinators, Angela Stowe with Phil Stewart (left) and Roger Mulzac. Photo by Nelson A. King

Vincentian Jeff Glasgow – a Brooklyn resident, who hails from Campden Park on mainland St. Vincent — brought along his Jamaican-born wife, Carol.

“It’s a good thing, especially, since the pandemic, we couldn’t do anything,” he said about Union Island Day, alluding to the peak of the pandemic. “Good gathering! You know Vincies love to party.”

Mrs. Glasgow lauded the “togetherness” among Vincentians.

“Vincentians are very together,” she said. “They have the good spirit in them. They’re not fussy, and I love the Vincy food — different dishes, not just Jamaican.”

Ann Edwards said she helped prepare the menu at one tent: Corn coucou (known as Wangoo in Union Island) wangoo par (peas and corn), rice and peas, callaloo, roll rice, stewed pork, fried fish, saltfish and bake, dumplin and provision, and boiled corn.

“Every year, we normally cook and feed everybody,” she said. “We love feeding people. It’s our culture.”

Nearby, Deloris Adams, originally from Morvant, Trinidad and Tobago, feasted on saltfish and bake.

Providing meals to patrons at the Union Island Day Picnic at Canarsie Park, Brooklyn.  Photo by Nelson A. King

“I’m enjoying the food,” she said, flanked by her compatriot sister, Deloris Adams, stating that she was invited, for the first time, by her friend, Jardine Wilson-Duncan, a Unionite.

Adams, who also attended the picnic for the first time, said, he enjoyed the day.

“It’s very entertaining and well-organized,” she said. “Hope to be back next year.”

Wilson-Duncan, who brought along her Gouyave, Grenadian husband, said she contributes every year financially and otherwise to Union Island Day.

“I’m happy to be here to represent my island and to mingle with family and friends, and make new friends,” said the former student of Emmanuel High School in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital.

“I’m enjoying the music, enjoying different dishes,” added Wilson-Duncan, disclosing, at the same time, that she and her husband recently shipped three barrels of supplies to help families in Sandy Bay affected by the explosive eruptions of La Soufriere Volcano on mainland St. Vincent.

A few tents away, Union Island native Bernice Hutchinson, otherwise known as “DJ Hutch,” struck up Caribbean vibes, as his friend, Yolanda Robles, from Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, served Caribbean dishes.

“I’m enjoying it (picnic),” she said, disclosing that her late grand-mother hailed from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “It’s interesting. I love the fact that people are coming together and celebrating.

“We came to support,” added Robles, accompanied by another Trinidadian, James Fraser, of Claxton Bay, South Trinidad. “It’s been a lovely day. This is good. I love people to come together; no fighting.”

Fraser couldn’t agree more.

“Every day, you have to enjoy life,” he said. “We live in a time (in which) you have to enjoy life. Nothing is promised to anyone.

“Don’t wait for a celebration; pamper yourself,” Fraser urged.

Jakie criticizes “Dem Judges.”  Photo by Nelson A. King

Back at picnic center, a Brooklyn-based Vincentian band, “For the Hard Way,” entertained picnic-goers, with Don “Daka” Griffith-Primus, a vocalist with the defunct Vincentian band, Touch, providing lead vocals.

Among other hits, Griffith-Primus sang Becket’s “Small Pin,” and the late Winston Soso’s “Big Bottom” and “I Don’t Mind.”

“It’s very nice,” he told Caribbean Life afterwards about Union Island Day. “I had a ‘Block-O’ on Lewis Avenue (in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn), and I came down here to be with my fellow Vincentians.”

Two Vincentian calypsonians were also on hand: Jakie and Joel “Navel String” Bartholomew.

Jakie took a swipe at “Dem Judges,” urged patrons to “Come on Over Here,” then told them that “Ah Feeling Nice.”

Bartholomew, a three-time Union Island Calypso King and several-time finalist in the National Calypso Competition in Vincy Mas, said he performs annually at the picnic.

“I feel good, great about it,” he said after entertaining the crowd with “Jennifer”, “Are You Ready for Carnival?” and “Saltfish.”“I like doing this. I feel good to be here with my people in spite of the pandemic.”

More from Around NYC