November 13, 2009
Vincies celebrate Independence in US

United States-based Vincentians celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Independence of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) with a gala event at the ornate and historic “Hall of the Americas” of the Organisation of American States (OAS) headquarters in Washington, DC, on Saturday, October 31, 2009.{{more}}

The annual Independence Dinner/Dance, under the patronage of the Ambassador of SVG, La Celia Prince, was organised by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Nationals Association (SVGNA) of Washington, DC, and attracted nationals and well-wishers from neighbouring states, and as far away as South Florida.

The event marked the culmination of celebrations, which began on October 25 with a thanksgiving service at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Washington, DC. The Embassy of SVG hosted a reception at OAS headquarters on October 27, Independence Day.

After a cocktail hour in the Atrium, with background music performed by Vincentian pannist Wentworth Richardson, guests repaired to the Hall of the Americas for the main activities, chaired by Eppie T. A. Marecheau. The invocation, by Wesley Jackson, was followed by the singing of the national anthems of the United States and SVG. The formal proceedings began with an address by the President of SVGNA, Lennox Simon, who welcomed participants, and thanked his organising committees. In her address, Ambassador Prince reflected on the expectations, anxieties and achievements associated with the attainment of the age of 30, both as individuals and as a nation.

The keynote address was delivered by economist, Dr. Wendell Samuel, who noted that the celebrations were taking place in what could turn out to be the worst year of the post-colonial Eastern Caribbean.

Samuel, a Vincentian national, is Senior Economist and Mission Chief in the Caribbean 1 Division of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Western Hemisphere Department. He addressed the issue of “recent economic developments in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries, and the prospects for the year ahead”.

Looking to the future, Samuel said that 2010 would be another year of belt-tightening, and emphasised the enhanced role of remittances in this scenario.

The highlight of the evening’s formal proceedings was the presentation of awards to five distinguished Vincentian nationals for their outstanding contributions in the professions, diplomacy, and the development of the Vincentian community at home and abroad.

The five were:

• Betty Eileen King – for her work in the US philanthropic and health sectors, and her service as US Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (1997-2001). She was recently nominated, by President Barack Obama, as US Representative to the Office of the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador. She is awaiting confirmation by the Senate;

• Kingsley C.A. Layne, CMG – for his many-faceted contributions to SVG; distinguished international public servant; established SVG’s Embassy in Washington, DC; first resident ambassador to the US; permanent representative to the UN and OAS; negotiated establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba; first ambassador of SVG to Cuba; spearheaded the formation of COSAGO, the Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organisations USA, Inc; dean of Caribbean Community and OAS ambassadors; OAS director in the Republic of Suriname (2001-2004); international consultant;

• Dr. Baldwin King – for his contribution to science; senior chemistry teacher, St. Vincent Grammar School, (1964-65); research fellow, Dupont chemical company, Parlin, New Jersey; lecturer in chemistry, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica (1971-79); professor of chemistry, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey; Chairman, Department of Chemistry, (1983-88 &2003-2005); research in inorganic medical chemistry, especially inorganic anti-cancer agents; major supporter of education in SVG, and fundraiser for the St. Vincent Grammar School;

• Clemon M. Dopwell, for his consistent contributions in sports, culture and community activities; co-founded the Gladiators Cultural Club of Layou, with Alston “Beckett” Cyrus; captained the first team from outside the boundaries of Kingstown to play competitive soccer in SVG, Gladiators FC; member, Cavaliers Sports Club, New York; co-founder Swansea Soccer Club, the first soccer club to represent SVG in the Brooklyn Soccer League; founding member SVGNA; founder of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Florida in 1997, while working in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl;

• Dr. Roy L. Austin; teacher, sportsman, and carnival bandleader in SVG before emigrating to the US in 1964 to study sociology at Yale University, where he was a classmate of the future president George W. Bush; Ph.D University of Washington, 1973; associate professor of Sociology, Justice and African American Studies; director of the Crime, Law and Justice Programme at Penn State, 1994-1998; director of the African Research Centre, July 2001; US ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, 2001-2008.