The three-year-old Friends of Sion Hill, a Brooklyn-based Vincentian group, last Saturday night honored four individuals and an organization for their outstanding service to the community.
The group also presented its president, Oxley Lowman, with a surprise award at the packed, gala ceremony at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.
Veteran Vincentian mas producer Wesley Millington received the Community Service Award; former St. Vincent and the Grenadines national football (soccer) star Raymond “Bally” Ballantyne received the Diaspora Award; Wilfred Miller was the recipient of the Pillar of the Community Award; the Get Nice Crew was bestowed the Trailblazer Award; and the “consummate culture man” David Augustine “Darkie” Williams, who trekked from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Millington, like the other honorees, expressed gratitude for the honor, using the occasion to appeal to the community to support his 25-year-old mas band, Mas Productions Unlimited.
“I’ll like to appeal for Mas Production,” said Millington in his acceptance speech. “We need the support.
“Going forward, we cannot do it without your support,” he added. “We’ll like to support young members.”
Millington spent his early years growing up in Sion Hill, a huge village overlooking the Vincentian capital, Kingstown.
Being the son of one of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ premier mas band leaders, Millington said he began participating as a child masquerader at age six.
Millington’s involvement in Brooklyn’s carnival began in 1972, when, at the suggestion of the late Vincentian mas man Roy Ralph, a group of Brooklyn-based Vincentians, including the late Sam Debique and EJ “Paddy” Correa, started “Caribbean Festive Associates.”
For the past 25 years, Millington said he has spearheaded Mas Productions Unlimited, which he founded.
Ballantyne hails from a sporting family in which he and his siblings have represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines in various sporting events, such as soccer, table tennis, netball and athletics.
He said his love of soccer was initiated by veteran mas producer Ricardo “Puzzle” Grant, with his soccer journey beginning in 1971.
Before migrating to Brooklyn in 1986, Ballantyne represented the nation in soccer at the junior and senior levels.
In Brooklyn, he played for the Vincentian-owned Hairoun Sports Club in the Central Brooklyn Soccer League.
Ballantyne also represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines in table tennis, along with two of his brothers, Bob and Orde.
Additionally, he is an accomplished Pan man. He began playing in 1979 with the local 20th Century Steel Orchestra.
In Brooklyn, he is a member of Century USA Steel Orchestra.
Today, after putting aside this soccer boots, Ballantyne is concentrating on growing KBB Shipping, of which he is part-owner.
Sion Hill native Miller is described as “a dedicated generous and hardworking Vincentian and an inspiration to all.”
His biography indicates that he is also “a friend, a confidant and even a social butterfly.”
“Wilfred’s multitude of professional accolades and awards, doesn’t get in his way of his greatest accomplishments — being a loving husband to Joyce, a devoted father to his children and grandchildren,” the biography says.
“Wilfred is a one of a kind organizer, great man who loves his family, his friends and his community,” it adds.
Formed in 2005, the Get Nice Crew has successfully organized fundraising events in Brooklyn to support several causes in Brooklyn and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.