As Vincentians in New York on Sunday culminated their celebrations of their 43rd anniversary of political independence from Great Britain, the Brooklyn-based Vincentian umbrella group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO) bestowed its independence honor on the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association, USA, Inc.
The police group received the special award Sunday evening at the five-hour Gala Independence Awards and Dinner ceremony at Russo’s On The Bay, on Cross Bay Boulevard, Howard Beach, Queens.
It was the first time that COSAGO held the event at that venue and also the first independence gala in two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several dignitaries attended the event, including Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn; Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse, the Haitian-born representative for the 46th Council District in Brooklyn; new St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States Rondy McIntosh; and Vaughan Toney, the newly-appointed St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador-at-Large, who is also president and chief executive officer of the Brooklyn-based Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centers, Inc.
“Let me take this opportunity to congratulate our honoree, The SVG Ex-Police Association, USA, Inc., who has exemplified outstanding humanitarian efforts in the Diaspora,” said COSAGO President Laverne McDowald-Thompson in her Independence Message.
“Today, we also bestow special recognition on our guest speaker, Dr. Charlene Emmanuel, for her outstanding leadership and exceptional service as a healthcare professional,” she added. “Special thanks to all our guests, supporting organizations, members, families and friends.
“We could not have done this without your valuable support,” continued Mc-Dowald-Thompson. “God Bless and keep you all. Happy Independence! Let love and peace reign!”
Pamella Ferrari-Easter, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association, USA, Inc., thanked COSAGO for the special honor.
“I know many organizations have done great work, but we could not have done this without you,” said Ferrari-Easter, whose group also received a proclamation from Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, presented by Ancilla Friday, a COSAGO member and former president of the Brooklyn-based group Club St. Vincent, Inc.
Friday also presented a proclamation, on behalf of Reynoso, to COSAGO; Narcisse presented a proclamation to Dr. Emmanuel, whose mother, Shermin Walker Emmanuel, is a retired Vincentian-born registered nurse, and father, Dr. Jacquelin Emmanuel, is a retired Haitian-born physician; and COSAGO presented a plague to the younger Dr. Emmanuel.
Earlier this year, Departments of Nursing across all of New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s main campuses named Dr. Charlene Emmanuel as “Doctor of the Year”.
The annual award – which was presented on Mar. 30, via Zoom, to Dr. Emmanuel, celebrates collegiality, collaboration and physicians’ contributions to New York-Presbyterian Hospital’ nursing practice.
Dr. Emmanuel, whose parents are Queens residents, is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University Medical Center, Attending Physician at New York-Presbyterian/Allen Hospital and Medical Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) for the Ambulatory Care Network (outpatient clinics).
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association, USA, Inc. was formed out of a tragedy in 1979, when a vacationing sergeant in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, identified as Sgt. Diamond, was “awakened from sleep by the heat from the building on fire.
“Sgt Diamond, in an attempt to escape the burning building, jumped to his death,” said the group in a statement. “Sgt. Diamond’s family was back in St. Vincent (and the Grenadines), and sending the body back was a hardship.
“Ex-police living here ‘passed their hats’ around seeking donations to make sending the body back possible,” it added. “To prevent another situation from happening, the founding brothers banded together to form this wonderful organization.”
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ex-Police Association, USA, Inc. said that while membership began with ex-semi-military and police officers, it has extended to honorary members, who, to date, have been “a very important part of our organization.”
The group said that its motto, “Staying together to Serve”, was put to the test with the “life-changing COVID-19 pandemic.”
It also said that, while it was difficult for every organization, “we were directly affected when our Vice President Anthony Husbands, who was elected to serve only six months prior, succumbed to the dreadful virus. (Husbands was a United Nations Security Officer).
“Our organization stayed together by keeping our members together, meeting every week virtually, which helped us tremendously,” the statement said.
“We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our supporters who have continued to be the driving force in making our events successful, and we look forward to your continued support,” it added. “Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to The Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations (CASAGO) for the recognition of this noble award.”
In addressing the ceremony, McIntosh, who has only been on the job for less than three months, noted the historic raising of the Vincentian flag at Bowling Green and the lighting of the Empire State Building — both in Lower Manhattan — on Thursday, Independence Day in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The consul general said, while one, or any organization, has to apply three months in advance to get the Empire State Building lit up for a special occasion, it was done for St. Vincent and the Grenadines in less than a month.
“The good Lord was smiling on us,” he said, flanked by Jolie Curbin, the daughter of Vincentian immigrants, who was recently crowned Miss Caribbean-USA Teen in Philadelphia. Curbin was born in Brooklyn.
McIntosh also urged patrons to bring more children along next year during the independence anniversary gala.
Turning to Curbin, he said: “Jolie, you are the next generation.”
“I’m seeing a renewed spirit, a new vibe,” the consul general added. “Reach out to us. My job is a political appointment, but I’m not here to do a political job (applause).”
With the mid-term elections just days away, on Nov. 8, Clarke urged patrons to go out and vote.
“My work in only amplified if you go out and do what?” she asked.
Patrons responded resoundingly: “Vote!”
“There are those who want to discourage you from voting,” the congresswoman added. “When we vote, we do what? We win.
“Get it together,” she added. “Reach out to everyone; and, on Nov. 8, let us unleash a power, so they don’t have to ask.
“I love you,” Clarke continued. “You’re like my mama’s good cook food (laughter).”
Toney noted that, in his inaugural address to America, just over six decades ago, President John F. Kennedy challenged the American people to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
The Ambassador-at-Large said Kennedy’s call has withstood the test of time to become one of the most memorable exhortations in American presidential history, and an enduring meditation on the role and responsibility of citizenship in a democracy.
“Today, as we celebrate the 43rd anniversary of our own political independence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we, too, must ask ourselves that cardinal question: what can we do, what should we do, and what must we do to fulfill our role as citizens?” he said. “For each of us, the details may differ, but there is one overarching imperative to which we are all equally bound.
“As citizens, we are all equally bound to serve our country in whatever way we can, with whatever talents we are blessed, and by whatever means we can afford,” he added. “This call to service is both the price and the privilege of citizenship. It is the highest calling to which the citizen can be summoned. And we are all obliged to answer that call – each in our own way.
“For almost as long as our nation has been politically independent, the Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations – COSAGO – has exemplified that commitment to service, and provided its many member-organizations with the leadership and support needed to flourish and prosper throughout the Vincentian Diaspora,” Toney continued. “Today, our community and homeland are fortunate to be further enriched by the charitable work and philanthropic contributions of dozens of volunteer groups and other membership organizations throughout the New York tri-state area and beyond.”
The ambassador said he firmly believes that the proliferation of these benevolent organizations is “an expression of our collective generosity as a people and the love we share for each other as fellow Vincentians – both at home and abroad.
“So, I would like to take this opportunity to salute all of our charitable associations, our benevolent societies and humanitarian organizations,” he said. “We thank you for the magnanimous work you have done and continue to do each day.
“We thank you for your enduring commitment to the service of our people,” Toney added. “We wish you continued success in all of your future endeavors and join you in resolving that ‘What e’er the future brings, our faith will see us through. May peace reign from shore to shore, and may God bless and keep us true’” (reciting some of the words of the national anthem).