SVG Diaspora Committee of NY head ‘very happy’ about call for greater youth engagement

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States Rondy “Luta” McIntosh, center, receives plague, on behalf of Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, from Dr. Ken Irish-Bramble, to McIntosh’s left, chair of Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College’s (MEC) Caribbean Research Center, in June 2023 in commemorating Caribbean-American History Month at MEC. Others in photo from left: Horace Davis, president of Caribbean-American Society of New York; MEC Provost Dr. Antoinette Coleman; Sherrill-Ann Mason-Haywood, director of MEC’s Seek Program; Dr. Evelyn Castro, senior advisor to MEC President Dr. Patricia Ramsey; and Anna Walker, representative of the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI).
Photo by Nelson A. King

Chairperson of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc. Sherrill-Ann Mason says she was “very happy” about the “clarion call for decisive action” to fully engage the youth in the Vincentian Diaspora in the United States.

“The attendance was great, with a nice cross section of Vincentians from across the US and even SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines),” Mason told Caribbean Life on Sunday about a seminal virtual conference that her group held on Thursday evening, with members of Vincentian Diaspora in the United States, in its attempt to focus on challenges and solutions confronting Vincentian community leadership transition.

At the same time, Mason, who moderated the panel discussion, said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc. sought to find means in engaging and empowering the youth in the Vincentian Diaspora.

“Folks were very appreciative for the opportunity to be a part of a timely and needed conversation,” she said. “We had to be a bit flexible with the tributes because Kenley “Shortmus” John was unable to be with us, but Cecil Ryan and myself jumped in to compliment what CG (Consul General Rondy ‘Luta’) McIntosh did with the memorial tributes.

“Listening to the tributes, you felt the magnitude of the collective contributions and impact of the stalwarts we have lost,” added Mason, referring to the late Moreen King; Maxwell Haywood (Mason’s husband and former chair of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc.); Ulric “Soca” Jones, Jr.; Franklyn “Supadex” Richards; Vaughan Toney; Colin Liverpool; and Gailene Windsor.

“But it also forces all of us to consider what more we can do in our individual spheres to contribute to the well-being of the community,” she continued. “I really hope, moving forward, that we find the way to keep the community together in meaningful ways to support the development of the Vincentian community here in the Diaspora and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I think the deceased stalwarts, now our ancestors, would be proud of the discussions held in their honor,” she said.

Mason said the panelists, during the two-hour-long Dialogue on Zoom, were “really amazing” in giving “great insights” from their respective perspectives.

“I think a lot of people are concerned about how we carry on the rich legacy of our Vincentian community here in North America,” she said. “And I feel our youngest panelist, Kyra-Lee Harry, brought such energy and wisdom that we got a glimpse of the bright possibilities.”

In her contribution, Harry, a youth leader and founder of Future Change Makers Academy, lamented that “a lot of events (in the Vincentian community) are not geared towards us,” urging that social media be used as “a great start” to better engage the Vincentian Diaspora youth.

“If you put out a hashtag of where are all the Vincy youths…that way, it’ll capture us,” she said. “That is how it makes us to come into leadership role.

“Think about what legacy you want to leave,” added Harry, who was born in Brooklyn to Vincentian parents and was 15, when, she said, she became the youngest person appointed to a community board in the US.

“Let’s have a monthly discussion,” she urged.

Panelist Jenell James, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Massachusetts, said technology and innovation play “a large part” in getting the youth engaged.

“We can possibly develop exchange programs,” said James, who migrated from St. Vincent and the Grenadines when she was 10.

“So, there are so many dynamics in our culture that we can keep them engaged,” she added.

Another panelist, Francesca Sam – a playwright, poet, actress, and founder the Brooklyn-based Chatoyer Productions, Inc. – said that “technology is where the youth can have the greatest know-how,” adding that the youth need to be brought in on “the discussion.”

“You have to be willing to change,” she said. “You have to be willing to give way.”

California-based panelist Ivan Morgan, president of the St. Martin’s Secondary School Past Students Association, said that the Diaspora community needs to be “open-minded,” stating that his group is bent on forging “relationship from one group to the next.”

Panelist Crispin Friday — the newly-elected president of the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations USA, Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian organization in the United States – said that while youth leaders “may not have access to the same goals, experience leaders can provide leadership.

“Organizations can provide support for youth leaders,” he added.

McIntosh – who was not a panelist but spoke briefly about the contributions of Richards, Jones and Toney — urged that a pilot program be established “to bring young people together.”

“Let the young people start the group,” he recommended. “I think it’s time to start something new.”

Mason said the “insightful and engaging Dialogue” was the start of a series of similar ones and events in her group’s bid to address “challenges and solutions related to leadership transition in the Vincy Diaspora, and practical ways to engage and empower youth in the community.”

She identified four “major takeaways” from the Dialogue: “Need for structured intergenerational dialogue; capacity building for organizations to clarify clear visions and goals for the future to attract youth and new streams of funding; the establishment of a subcommittee of youth focused on youth engagement; and the use of social media campaign utilizing platforms like Instagram to attract and engage youth.”

“I think if we keep up the momentum and keep the dialogue going and come up with some strategic plans and concrete action steps to realize plans, we would have started some very important and critical work,” she said. “I am just really satisfied with the outcome on the event, and the feedback has been very encouraging.

“Folks are really excited and energized, and looking forward to the next steps,” Mason added. “I think the Diaspora Committee has its work cut out for the next few years, but decisively 2024.”

Philmore Sprott – general secretary of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc., who gave the welcome remarks and overview of the program – said: “The issue is very timely and critical.

“The Diaspora Committee strongly believes this discussion is very important and welcome,” he said.