Vincentians mark flag-raising anniversary

“It has been two whole years since the installation of the flag on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It is still so fresh in my mind, it seems like it happened yesterday,” James Cordice, the architect behind the flag-raising ceremony, in an exclusive interview with Caribbean Life on Nov. 19, on the second anniversary of the historic event.

“I am proud and blessed to be a Vincentian,” added Cordice, a former president of the organizing group, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP).

“I applaud the attributes of our people; and, on this day, Nov. 19, 2012, SVG Flag Day in Pennsylvania, I pray that we channel our energies and recourses to the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, especially to our airport project ,which, to date, is our most extensive and expensive project,” he continued.

“Let us prevail in our bid to becoming a service nation,” the SVGOP public relations officer said. “Let us represent our flag with dignity wherever we are. Our fathers fought and died. Let us fight so our children may live a harmonious life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and its Diaspora.”

Nov. 19, 2010 was clearly, a special day in the lives of all Vincentians, at home and in the Diaspora, particularly for nationals residing in Philadelphia.

After what was described as a seven-year struggle, the blue, green and gold colors of the national flag were, for the first time, officially on display in the “City of Brotherly Love.”

Cordice said the city had finally acquiesced to the wishes of some very adamant Vincentians by allowing the national flag to be hoisted officially on the popular parkway.

At that time, the Vincentian flag was raised, along with 19 other national flags from around the world, including two other Caribbean countries’ – Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Kitts and Nevis – at an official ceremony, downtown Philadelphia.

Twelve members of the SVGOP executive, as well as then Deputy New York Consul General, Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas, and hundreds of Vincentians, were on hand to witness the historic event.

Other dignitaries included Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Philadelphia Council Woman Jannie Blackwell, and Vincentian-born Yeadon, Pennsylvania, Borough Council Woman Deborah Robinson Howell.

Robinson Howell, SVGOP’s corresponding secretary, exclaimed on Monday: “Simply wonderful! It (national flag) is a constant reminder that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is right here with us.

“Seeing and showing off my flag is the greatest,” she said.

Emille Williams, SVGOP’s vice president and chairman of the Education and Independence committees said: “Every time I drive on BF (Benjamin Franklin) Parkway, I feel especially proud to see the Vincentian flag publicly displayed and flying high.”

Wendell Leslie, SVGOP’s Alternate and Special Committee chair, also told Caribbean Life: “It makes me very proud to see our flag flying high among the flags of the top counties of the world – really a special feeling.”

Construction worker Rohan “Old Buff” Pierre said he “felt proud” from the first day the national flag was raised.

“My son, Ronaldo, and I went when they actually put up the flag,” he said. “(James) Cordice and I went crazy. Others joined us.

“We were hugging the flagpole and celebrating,” he added. “We never left the flag until it was almost night (time).”

The indefatigable Cordice said the drive for the historic Vincy flag-raising started in 2003, when he was SVGOP’s Education Committee chair.

He said he had made the request in a letter to the Philadelphia City Council and that the petition was rejected each successive year, including the years after he became president in 2005.

But Cordice said, perhaps tired of his relentless demand, the City Council finally capitulated in 2010, resulting in the historic feat.

“The national flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines flying in Philadelphia signifies the level of contribution our people have imparted on this city,” he said. “It also encourages me to feel more at home in the state of Pennsylvania, the place that I call home for 21 years,” he added Other Vincentian community figures in the U.S. have joined SVGOP in marking the flag’s second anniversary in Philadelphia.

“Coming from the small country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I am very proud of our flag and what it represents, because it does not matter where our country stands today,” said Joel Pompey, past president and current vice president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Florida.

“What’s important is the direction we are heading,” he added.

O’Brien Simmons, treasurer of the Brooklyn, New York-based umbrella Vincentian group in the U.S., Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO) and president of the Brooklyn-based Bequia United Progressive Organization (BUPO), intoned: “Congrats to all SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) massives, especially James Cordice and members of SVGOP.”