United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn performs “Long Time Ago in Bethlehem.”
Photo by Nelson A. King

Several members of the Caribbean community on Thanksgiving Saturday joined the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn (UVCGB) in participating in the group’s annual Christmas Serenade at the Fellowship Hall of the Miracle Temple Ministries in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Members and patrons sang lustily popular Christmas carols and songs, recited poems, gave speeches and performed a skit in evoking much Caribbean Christmas nostalgia.

After singing “Silent Night” and “Long Time Ago in Bethlehem,” UVCGB members recited, in part, “The Gift.”

“It’s better to give than to receive/So, this December/Let it be a reason to remember / So, what is your gift to Him this Christmas/Good things come in small packages.”

Noting that each village in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has “a unique way in celebrating Christmas,” Mistress of Ceremonies Caren Charles-DeFreitas, asked patrons to describe the way in which this was done and to sing a Christmas carol.

“During Christmas, we sneaked and opened up our gift,” said Registered Nurse Pamela Griffin, who trekked from the Bronx with her husband to attend the event for the first time, recalling Christmas in her household as a child in Frenches, Kingstown, the Vincentian capital. “We have we [our] mauby.”

One patron from Georgetown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ second largest town, said her house was thoroughly cleaned in preparation for Christmas Day.

“We cleaned the windows as usual,” she said. “we had our ham and sorrel beer.”

Geoffrey Holder, UVCGB vice president, who hails from Byera Hill in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said his family stocked up on beverages from local manufacturing companies.

“We never waited until Christmas; we used to drink out the Ju-C,” he said, about he and his siblings’ indulgence as youths, to laughter.

“The best Christmas is in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added, announcing that he was going home this year for Christmas.

UVCGB president and founder Dr. Roxie Irish, a youth minister at the Miracle Temple Ministries, and her youthful friends — Jamaican Faith Bennett and London-born Yvonne Wilkes-Slater — reconnected at the event after singing together, about 20 years ago, as “The Zionnaires.”

“Christmas to me is an enjoyable time,” said Bennett, who journeyed from Connecticut. “When I was a child, Christmas, to me, took 20 years. We were up at 4 am, and marched and sang up to 7 am.”

The reunited “Zionnaires” then offered, acapella, to rave reviews, “There’s a Name,” and “Jesus, Jesus, O What a Wonderful Child.”

Laverne McDowald-Thompson, president of the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), COSAGO treasurer and Bequia United Progressive Organization (BUPO) president O’Brien Simmons, and UVCGB member Judith “Baffy” Cuffy-Murray collaborated in singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy.”

Jamaican Maxine Fisher, who worships at Miracle Temple Ministries, sang “Thank You, Lord,” and her compatriot, Lavina Hall, also a Miracle Temple Ministries worshipper, belched out “Dawn from the Glory.”

Other performances included selections from the Miracle Temple Ministries choir (“Joy to the World”); Pastor Rudolph Telesford, of Nehemiah Christian Outreach Ministries in Flatbush (“Lilly of the Valley”); Lorna Jackson (“Raises Your Voices”); Emily Scykes (“Ra Pa Pom Pom”); Bishop Hollis Charles, of Bethel Gospel Assembly in Chester Cottage, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (“Trust Him Because He Loves You”); and Sheba (“We Three Kings”).

Cuffy-Murray also led a short skit on “Beatrice Beauty Shop,” ending with the cast rendering “Christmas, Christmas, We Wish You a Merry, Merry Christmas.”

Using a broken bottle and aluminum foil as instruments, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ New York Consul General Howie Prince demonstrated his versatility by playing to, loud applause, “O, Holy Night.”

The UVCGB brought the house down with a medley, comprising, among others, “Christmas, Christmas,” and “All We Want for Christmas is Peace and Love.”

“I’m so excited to be here,” said Savanda Latrice, originally from Georgetown, South Carolina, who traveled from Hartford, Conn. “I’m really enjoying myself.

“Christmas, for me, when growing up in the South, was about loving each other,” she added.

Besides nationals from the US, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica, nationals from several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries attended and participated in the event: Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Haiti, Guyana, Guyana and Belize.

O’Brien Simmons sings “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”
Photo by Nelson A. King

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