A popular Vincentian group in Brooklyn on Sunday, Oct. 8 honored three outstanding community personalities at its 34th Anniversary Luncheon at El Caribe Country Club in the Mill Basin, Brooklyn.
Vincentian American Independent National Charities, Inc. (VINCI) bestowed the honor on podiatrist and ex-Brooklyn legislator Dr. Kendall Stewart, cultural figure Ainsley Primus and athletics director Damani Thomas.
The gala affair also marked the group’s celebration of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ 38th year of political independence.
“Our honorees today — Damani Thomas, Dr. Kendall Stewart and Ainsley Primus reflect the spirit of our organization,” said VINCI’s vice president, Wayne Raguette, a political consultant in Brooklyn, deputizing for the ill president, Augustus McMillan. “They have and continue to provide guidance and assistance to many in our community in their respective field — without fanfare and without looking for rewards.
“Our bestowing of honor on them is just a small token to demonstrate our appreciation and to offer encouragement,” added Raguette at the gala event that was attended by Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (D-9th Congressional District), St. Vincent and the Grenadines United Nations Ambassador I. Rhonda King, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines New York Consul General Howie Prince.
“We pray God’s blessing and guidance on them and hope they continue doing what they, do knowing that service to our fellow man is the greatest gift of all,” Raguette continued.
Clarke congratulated the “distinguished honorees, three outstanding Vincentian citizens who are deserving of recognition,” adding that “the broader community of the people of Vincentian descent in New York have, undoubtedly, made enormous contributions this country and this community, in areas including academics, civil service, athletics, business, politics and law.
“I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Vincentian American Independent National Charities, Inc., and supporting their invaluable work of promoting and celebrating the many achievements of the Vincentian community,” Clarke said.
“On behalf of the people of the Ninth Congressional District of New York, I thank the Vincentian American National Charities, Inc., for their superb efforts within my district,” she continued. “I wish the Charities, as well as this year’s honorees, many successes in the future.”
King applauded “the objectives of this initiative” and acknowledged “the work of this year’s awardees.”
“As we gather each year to celebrate the independence of our beloved homeland, it is fitting that space is created each year, whereby due recognition is paid to the outstanding contributions of Vincentians in the Diaspora,” she said.
Prince “highly” commended the honorees, stating that each merit “loud praise for their extemporary contribution in their respective fields of endeavor.
“Dr. Kendal Stewart (medicine and politics), Mr. Ainsley Primus (culture and entertainment) and Mr. Damani Thomas (sports and sports administration), a grateful people say thank you for standing so tall among us,” said Prince before asking patrons to raise their glasses in a toast to the honorees.
In his acceptance remarks, Dr. Stewart, the Union Island, St. Vincent Grenadines-born former representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said that “a person who has the skills to lead but does not exercise that skill is no better than someone who is incapable.”
He added that a true leader is one who “understands how to be truly humble,” asking patrons to, among other things, govern themselves accordingly, exercise self-control, be independent thinkers, “creatively handle disappointments,” understand the art of conciliation, be good mobilizers and be reliable.
Primus, the president of the Dynamite Calypso Tent, the only Vincentian-owned Calypso Tent in New York City, said he was delighted to receive the award “not only on behalf of myself but on behalf of the many who inspired, encouraged and supported me on this journey,” identifying among them Maxwell Haywood, the ailing president of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc.
Primus asked patrons for special prayers for Haywood’s speedy recovery, breaking down before concluding his remarks and leaving the podium.
Thomas, the Director of Athletics, Recreation and Intramurals at the Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, said he was “very happy for this award.
“Throughout my life, I learn about accountability,” he said. “For me, my life has to be an example to others.
“I have to live a life, where I can give back,” he added. “I love sports, and sports is a way to give back. I’m happy to be giving back to others.”
Raguett said VINCI has been in existence for almost four decades, adding that the group is committed to fulfilling its motto: “Where need exists we pledged to assist.”
Over the years, he said the group has assisted through scholarships to high school students and have provided financial assistance to others for medical expenses and other needs.
“Although, at times, the challenges may be great, we continue to strive onward,” Raguette said. “As part of our efforts to identify areas of need, where VINCI maybe able to make a difference in someone’s life, we have initiated discussions on mental health in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We created a fund and a committee to focus on this initiative.”
During September, he said VINCI held two fundraising activities to raise funds specifically for that program.
In lauding the group, Prince said he was “heartened to learn of your concern for the state of mental health of teenagers and young adults in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“It is good to note that your approach involves extensive research, which can direct the actions needed to be taken for improvements in this area,” he said. “We wish this initiative success and look forward to working on it with you.”