Saturday, April 13, 2024

Tribute to National Heroes


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“Models of our time.”
That’s how Anglican Archbishop of the West Indies, Dr John Holder, described Barbados’ National Heroes at a Brooklyn church service attended by hundreds of Barbadian worshippers, members of the Caribbean diplomatic and consular corps in the city, senior lawmakers at the New York State and United States federal levels in Washington, and prominent members of the Barbadian community.
Two years have elapsed since the Anglican prelate, who is also Barbados’ bishop, made that important declaration, but his words still ring in people’s ears, especially his advice: learn from the lessons of the heroes by standing up for your convictions but avoiding becoming trapped in the past.
The service and related activities gave Barbadians in the diaspora an opportunity to reflect on their nation’s history, while looking ahead to the future.
This year’s service at St Alban’s Episcopal Church, a predominantly West Indian parish led by Canon George Bonner, a graduate of Codrington College, wasn’t any different. It was well attended and was filled with prayers, music and tribute to the National Heroes – Bussa, Dr Charles Duncan O’Neal, Clement Payne, Samuel Jackman Prescod, Sir Hugh Springer, Sarah-Ann Gill, Sir Frank Walcott, Errol Barrow, Sir Grantley Adams and Sir Garfield Sobers.
The events organized by the Barbados Consulate provided an occasion for Barbadian to wear their nationalism on their sleeves and beat their breasts with pride. It was also a chance for non-Barbadians to join in the celebrations.
“Barbados is a wonderful nation that’s helped to shape the lives of so many important contributors to the United States,” said United States Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat. “Its National Heroes are part of the country’s history of which we are all proud.”
The congresswoman, daughter of Jamaican parents, had good reason to attend. She told the congregation that Barbadians helped to shape “who I am”.
She was referring to the fact that decades ago, the Barbados Ex-Police Association, a leading Bajan organization, launched a daily day care educational programme in Crown Heights and her mother Una Clarke was its first director.
“The members of the Barbados Ex-Police Association planted many seeds,” the member of the United States House of Representatives said.
In a sermon, Reverend Anthony Bowen, of Christ Church Episcopal parish in Brooklyn, said that like many other heroes in different parts of the world – the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Teresa, for instance – Barbados’ carefully chosen national figures were inextricably linked by the challenges, outstanding contributions, remarkable actions, not to mention the suffering they endured for the common good.
And the example he cited the most was Payne, who used his oratorical skills to stir people to action and, in the end, helped to bring about the birth of the trade union movement along with “significant constitutional change”.
The two-hour service was coordinated by Rev. Eddie Alleyne, a rural dean of the Episcopal Church and rector of St Gabriel’s in Brooklyn. Several Bajan clergymen participated.
In addition to scripture readings by Gianna Smith and Sira Pollard, there was a tribute by Caroline “Empress Poetry” Lane and musical selections provided by organist Peter Mayers, musicians Michael Smokey Roett and Cecil Watson, and soloists Wendell Pilgrim and Maggie Parker-Rollock.
“We are paying tribute to the heroes who helped to shape our economic and social development,” said Barbados’ Consul-General in New York Lennox Price.
Two key organizations, the National Association of Barbados Organizations and the Council of Barbadian Organizations in New York, along with the Barbados Public Workers’ Cooperative Credit Union and vendors promoting art, craft, plants, condiments and other products made in Barbados, participated in a six-hour celebration held almost a week later when the Barbados Government offices held an open house at Albany Manor, a Brooklyn community centre.


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