February 6, 2009
Vincy Diaspora gets Homecoming update

By Sherrill-Ann Mason 06.FEB.09

In a pioneering dinner meeting held on Saturday, January 31, 2009, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, New York, Vincentians from Boston, Pennsylvania and New York received a briefing about plans to mark Vincy Homecoming 2009.{{more}}

The gathering of over 40 dignitaries, representatives of Vincentian clubs and organizations and concerned Vincentians, met with the New York-based Vincy Homecoming 2009 Committee led by Verna Arthur. Arthur chaired the meeting and gave welcoming remarks.

Also addressing the gathering was Ambassador to the United Nations, Camillo Gonsalves, who stated that the government would be counting on the patriotism of Vincentians in the Diaspora who participate in the Homecoming process to “find synergies of benefit for Vincentians at home and abroad.” Cosmos Cozier, Consul General to New York, added that “Vincy Homecoming was long overdue.” Jose Francisco Avila, Executive Director of the Garifuna Coalition Inc., also gave an update on plans for a Garifuna Reunion in St. Vincent between July 18 – 25, 2009.

General Secretary of the New York Homecoming Planning Committee, Maxwell Haywood, who was slated to give an update on the NY leg of the Vincy Homecoming Conference, filled in for Ambassador Ellsworth John, who arrived late to deliver the Keynote Address. Vincy Homecoming 2009 “is an on-going process that has developed from decades of great work by Vincentians and their organizations,” Haywood said. He provided a snapshot of the historical and socio-political context in which Vincy Homecoming emerged. He noted that Vincy Homecoming is a manifestation of the government’s efforts to deal with the global trend of migration and issues such as brain drain. Haywood went on to note that a subcommittee is being formed to develop a draft Programme of Action to come up with recommendations that will guide relations between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and its Diaspora in areas of Social Development, Economic/Business Development, and Politics and Policy. The draft will be tabled for discussion at the May 9, 2009, Vincy Homecoming Conference in New York.

For his part, Ambassador John, Director of the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit (RIDU), provided a wealth of information about the advanced planning for Vincy Homecoming 2009 and a detailed plan of activities. He noted that activities will be pegged to major activities such as Easter, Carnival and Christmas, when Vincentians are most likely to travel home to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In response to issues raised about air travel and accommodation, John said that talks were ongoing with LIAT, the Immigration Services and hoteliers. He went on to state that this year’s 30th Anniversary of Independence will be extra special, with activities scheduled for October 14 – 27, 2009, to celebrate our achievements as a people. Activities include a National Service Day, Diaspora Homecoming Conference, Business Forum, International Cultural Day, Cultural Performances, a Children’s Fair and the annual Military Parade.

During the Question and Answer section of the meeting, John was quick to allay any fears raised by members of the gathering about the partisan nature of Vincy Homecoming. He noted that numerous efforts were made to reach out to the opposition parties, chiefly the NDP, but while support was not forthcoming at the leadership level, the rank and file members of the party are getting involved in planning at the village level. He noted that there was growing excitement in the villages about plans for Vincy Homecoming and preparations to welcome home Vincentians residing abroad. The enthusiasm was shared by persons in the gathering, who stated their support to make Vincy Homecoming 2009 a success. Philmore Sprott, an ex-teacher, cautioned that it must be kept in mind that Vincy Homecoming 2009 is only one leg of an ongoing process that will be refined over the coming years. The Homecoming Model, while novel to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is held every few years in places like Jamaica and Dominica.

In wrapping up the meeting and addressing concerns about promotion for Vincy Homecoming 2009, Ambassador John indicated that a new informational website has been launched (