Woman of Caribbean descent supports others with breast cancer

Jamila Gulstone, organizer of the annual soca aerobics class, Wukkin’ for a Cure.
Photo by Jamila Gulstone

Jamila Gulstone, who is of Barbadian descent, holds an annual soca aerobics class, Wukkin’ for a Cure, to raise funds for charities directly helping women with breast cancer get treatment and support, while also honoring survivors, in honor of her mom.

It may surprise people to know that she’s very shy. “I am confident and well-spoken especially when it comes to the public facing things that I do, but I am literally melting inside usually. But for the sake of helping my community and preserving my culture, I push through,” she said.

Gulstone, who was born in Brooklyn, credits her parents, natives of Barbados, as well as her godfather, as her greatest influences on her path in life she has chosen.

“Both of my Barbadian born parents instilled the culture in me from the very beginning, and it remains to be a very important part of my being. My godfather I owe my ability to do anything I put my mind to and making the impossible possible,” she added.

As a child, she spent several summers in Barbados on her grandparents’ plantation home in Colleton, St. John. An act of kindness she witnessed was the hard work they put into rearing chickens and providing them to their community, even though it wasn’t free.

“My first act of kindness that I can say changed my perspective on giving back would be back in college where it was assigned for a communications class to group up and perform a random act of kindness. It was at a food bank, and it felt amazing seeing the gratitude from those that it benefitted,” she stated.

Gulstone has been band manager for B Paradise Mas Band, formally Bajan Paradise, for about four years now. Five years ago, the band was looking for ways to get involved outside of the Labor Day parade in NY to engage with our community during other parts of the year.

“I came up with the idea to register a group as part of the Breast Cancer Walk with Making Strides back in 2018, but instead of walking, we ‘chipped’ to the accompaniment of music, and called it ‘Chippin 4 A Cure.’” After two years, it became what it is now.

“I like that it is more intimate and closer to the people now, than the broader commercialized walk. We took a break due to COVID, but are eager to bring this back bigger and better with funding as we had positive feedback from attendees,” she added.

Playing steel pan was one of her many hobbies growing up. She played steel pan from age 9 to 18. In that time, she competed in three NY Panoramas, winning two with her band at the time, Pan Sonatas.

“As a child I enjoyed going on adventures to different museums, amusement parks, and attractions. I also enjoyed building things with my godfather who would literally comply to every imaginative thing that came to my mind. I learned to sew and embroider from my godmother, and still tinker with sewing machines to this day, often doing self-taught projects,” she continued.

Other hobbies now include designing carnival costumes, doing balloon art, and doing freelance graphic design.

The band now has a non-profit, called BP Cares Inc., solely dedicated to charity and giving back to the community. “In addition to the breast cancer soca aerobics event, we collected over 68 coats for women and children in shelters this winter, as well as a toy drive this past Christmas for children in our immediate Brooklyn community,” she stated.

According to Gulstone, they are looking forward to creating a bigger impact going forward and growing our efforts. We have a lot of plans going forward for the community. Gulstone added that community members who benefitted from these contributions have been very grateful.

The impact overall so far, according to Gulstone, has been small, but the feelings/reactions regarding the contributions have been huge.

“It has shown me that there is a need and for that we will continue to brainstorm ways to make the impact grow. I love being able to help those that have a need to fulfill,” she continued.

She says being Caribbean (by descent) is an indescribable feeling, and our sense of community no matter where we are, it is infectious. However, she has noticed that as the generations increase, there is a wider disconnect with the culture of the Caribbean.

“I would love to inspire the younger generations to embrace their cultures, and learn all of the things that make us, US, and ensure this continues to be passed down. As a mom, I do this

already with my nine-year-old, and hope to be able to do that with the community of children and young adults here in NY,” she said.