The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania, Inc. (SVGOP) on Saturday night bestowed a special honor on prominent community organizer Verna V. Arthur during its annual Independence gala in Philadelphia.
The very vibrant group presented the Brooklyn, New York-based Arthur, who is also considered a cultural icon in the United States and senior citizen advocate, with its “Vincentian Person of the Year” award at its 16th Annual Dinner, Dance and Award ceremony, at Penn’s Landing Caterers, on Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia.
The event also culminated SVGOP’s activities, which included an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving, commemorating the 32nd anniversary of the nation’s political independence.
SVGOP also presented the “Outstanding Member” award to Angella Davis and “Community Service” award to finance specialist Stanley Straughter, who was very instrumental in having the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ flag flown on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.
“I am truly honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award, SVGOP 2011 Vincentian Person of the Year,” said Arthur, a former president of Club St. Vincent, Inc., a pre-eminent Vincentian cultural and educational group in Brooklyn, in her acceptance speech. “Wow!”
Arthur, who now serves as Club St. Vincent’s public relations officer, said was shocked when James Cordice, SVGOP’s ex-president, now public relations officer, informed her that she would be honored.
“When James Cordice called me, I thought he was about to discuss another community project and wanted to run it by me,” she told the ceremony, which included U.S. Ambassador La Celia Prince; a contingent of New York community personalities, including Laverne McDowald-Thompson, president of the Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the United States; Arthur’s daughter, Odinga Neverson; her sister, Cornelia Arthur-Edwards; and other relatives and friends.
“To my surprise, it had to do with why I am standing before you tonight,” added Arthur, who had returned from home two days before, where she discussed with local artistes and other figures her organization’s 2012 Cultural Exposition. “After lost for words, for a few moments, I accepted, and thanked him (Cordice) and the organization.”
Arthur, who is also chairperson of Club St. Vincent’s Cultural Exposition Committee, said being honored by her compatriots indicates that she “must be doing something right; and, for this, I am grateful.
“Actively involved in the community, and advocating and addressing the needs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines give me a true sense of satisfaction,” she said.
“I would like to take this moment to thank Club St. Vincent, Inc. for being one of the avenues in which I am able to utilize my skills,” she added.
Arthur said she has “mastered a few challenges,” in her years of community service, but has persevered because “the community is who I am.
“And, as long as I am able, I will continue to do its work to the best of my ability,” she said.
Arthur said she is “especially proud” of her work on Club St. Vincent’s cultural symposia in Brooklyn, when she chaired the St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Cultural Symposium Committee of New York from 2002 to 2008.
She is also co-founder of the Vincentian J’Ouvert band, Yurumein Productions, in New York, and an “ardent supporter” of the cultural art form in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Arthur, who began her cultural journey as a masquerader at home, at age five, is a former member of the Kingstown Chorale and the Abbucalypse Steel Orchestra.
She said her extensive background in strategic and project planning and program development enables her to make “significant contributions” to several organizations and senior centers, like the New York Urban League, Harlem Week Senior Jubilee Committee, New York Citizens Committee on Aging, Henry Street Senior Settlement Advisory Council, and New York City Housing Authority Entitlement and Benefit Fair Committee.
Arthur is Manhattan Community Outreach Director and Senior Advisory Council Liaison with the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA).
Arlette Dopwell-James, who completed her first year as SVGOP’s first female president, congratulated the 2011 honorees and commended members of her group for their “continued hard work and dedication.
“We have accomplished much, and there’s lot more to be done,” said the younger sister of popular local broadcaster Ferrand “Randy D” Dopwell.
“When we work hard, it is evident that together we get results, such as the SVG flag flying high on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, SVG athletes participating at the Penn relays for the time this year, and the anticipation and pride to see more athletes represent SVG in the coming years,” she added.
“Let’s continue to work together towards the same purpose – to foster the growth and development of the beautiful place we are fortunate to call home, St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Dopwell-James continued.