Our Readers' Opinions
December 14, 2012
COSAGO needs to get facts straight

Fri, Dec 14, 2012

Editor: My name is Utricia H. Charles, also known to my readers as author Trish St Hill. I am the organizer/promoter of the Yurumein Garifuna Language and Cultural Retrieval Project. In July of 2011, myself and five of our people (James Curtis, Verna Arthur, Kyla Herbert, Eleanor Bullock and James Lovell){{more}} sponsored the Habinaha Garinagu Cultural Retrieval Workshop in St Vincent. We did not get grants or monies from any government entities, nor were we there as part of any Garifuna or Vincentian organizations.

In 2012, James Lovell and I decided to sponsor the workshop as the Yurumein Garifuna Language and Cultural Retrieval Project. There were private monies given to the Culture Department to help with transport when the school bus broke down in SVG, and monies from some kind souls like Roxie Irish, Rene Baptiste, Dr Cadrin Gill, Moreen King, Fessie York and a language preservation organization who made donations. The rest of the workshop was funded by me and facilitated by James Lovell. James unselfishly spent five weeks in SVG teaching the Vincentian children about their culture, and deserves much respect and appreciation for doing an outstanding job. Erica Zuniga in LA also joined us on the 2012 venture and did a great job.

I am writing to clear up some confusion that I observed at the diaspora conference. Mr Jose Avila of the Garifuna Coalition, who is to receive an award from COSAGO, was credited by Selmon Walters with the work he is doing in SVG, because many believe we are part of his organization, when in fact he had nothing to do with us going there, and I am not a part of the Garifuna Coalition.

What concerns me is that when Mr Avila announced via email he was getting the award, I spoke to COSAGO’s President Lavern Thompson (about five to six weeks ago) and set the record straight. I was therefore confused as to why this credit was still being given to Mr Avila. Please note that neither Mr Lovell nor I are interested in receiving this or any award. If CSAGO choses to give awards to people without vetting them properly, then let them. We are all humans and can make mistakes, but when corrected, we need to rectify the situation. If we proceed and seek to cover up the mistake, then it is fraudulent.

I also spoke to Mr Walters to set the record straight. Mr Wellington Ramos, a Garifuna from Belize, also wrote to Mr Walters setting the record straight as to the history and organizational structure of the Garifuna Coalition. Mr Ramos is head of the United Garifuna Association Inc (one of the oldest Garifuna organizations) and knows the history of the Garifuna Coalition intimately. He asked Mr Walters to contact him. I do not know if that was done (see his email below).

I would like to make it clear that the Garifuna Coalition is not an umbrella organization like COSAGO. It is one of many Garifuna organizations and this one happens to be run by Mr Avila and is seen by many in the Garifuna community as the political wing of the Garifuna Culture (nothing wrong with that). I am not a part of the Garifuna Coalition and they played absolutely no part in us going to SVG to do the work that we are doing there. When we did a fundraiser at Friends of Crown Heights, they never showed up and Mr Avila did not respond and neither did the Honduran community on which Mr Avila has some influence. There was not even a response to say, “thanks, but I can’t make it.” We still reserved a seat at the dignitaries’ table, but they never showed up.

When we sent out the email about James going to SVG, Mr Avila’s response was to flood the Internet with pictures of his trip to SVG in 2008. He did not even utter a word of congratulation. By all means give him his award; this is what he lives for, but do not attribute the work that James and I are doing in SVG to this man. I take much offence to this and am vehement about this misinformation being paraded around the Vincentian community as credible. If anyone wishes to speak to me, I can be reached at 347-488-4395. Thank you.

Utricia H. Charles