Bajan Great Genes celebrations in New York
BY Tony Best
Many successful organizations which have blossomed into dynamic institutions trace their origins to a simple idea: how to bring people together behind a noble cause or mix of goals.
These interests can run the gamut from education, health, national economic development and guiding the youth to a combination of all or some of those factors. So it is with the Young Barbadian Professional Society, a seven year old body whose mission, according to its website and Renee Cutting, a co-founder and leader, “is to garner the intellectual capital of its members to further advance positive transformations in the global Barbadian communities, through the Society’s economic development, education and philanthropic programmes.”
The members of the Society are an interesting group --- attorney’s, investment bankers, corporate executives, educators and other professionals. They were either born in Barbados, have family roots there or are “Barbadians by choice.” With a growing network of professionals in Boston, Connecticut, Washington D.C., North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland, the New York-based YBPS has earned a reputation for sponsoring events that place Bajans on center stage in a positive fashion.
One such function was its “Bajan Great Genes” celebration held recently at Scholastic, a prominent national education corporation in Manhattan a week ago when at least 200 guests assembled in the corporation’s auditorium on Broadway. Actually, the tastefully arranged event had a dual purpose: to launch the Society’s seven part series honoring Barbadian families and to focus attention on the public service work of several Society members and others deserving of the accolades.
“The Society must be applauded for its educational initiatives and mentoring program and for this wonderful event,” said Lennox Price, Barbados’ Consul-General in the City. “The project (seven part series) deserves full support.”
Rupee, one of Barbados’ best known entertainers who stirred the well-dressed audience from their seats and had some of them waving Barbados flags, moving in their seats and singing along to some his popular numbers agreed. Dennis Walcott, New York City’s Chancellor of the Department of Education, whose grandparents came from Barbados, joined in the flag waving after receiving an award.
“The planning that went into the celebration and the organization of it were both professionally done and inspirational,” Rupee said after his electrifying performance. “When I was invited to participate I decided immediately I had to be a part of it.”
The audience was happy that he did.
In all, 17 awards were presented to the honorees. Included on the list were Francesca Harewood, Director of Business Affairs for Disney ABC Television, who negotiates production and talent deals for ABC’s daytime and syndicated television programmes and Rawle Sealy, Vice President and Information Risk Manager at JP Morgan/Chase, each of whom received the “In Plenty and in Time of Need Award. Then they were Juliana Dawson, a former project manager at Newsweek International who is now Publication Director of Clinical Oncology News, who received the “Fair Land was Young Trailblazer Award”; Verna Holder, Vice President in the Strategy Division of Optinuity Alliance Resources, and Dave Dowrich, Vice President of Risk Management and Capital Markets in the Financial Institution Group at Goldman Sachs, the large Wall Street investment bank, the recipients of “Binds our Hearts anthem award;” and Colga Hylton Springer, a retired executive of the New York State Office of Mental Health, and her son, Christian Hylton, an attorney and acting Chief General Counsel for the Land Use Division of the New York City Council who were presented with the “Loyal Sons and Daughters Award.”
In addition, the “Expectations Great Genes award went to Linda Gadsby, a founder of YBPS and Scholastic’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, and Gregory R. Worrell, President of Scholastic Classroom and Community Group; the “Guardians of our Heritage Award” was presented to Jessica Odle-Baril, a former Barbados Consul-General in New York City, Linda Watson-Lorde, the Consulate-General’s cultural and community liaison officer, Lennox Price, the current Barbados Consul-General, and Campbell Rudder, Barbados Tourism Authority’s Vice President in the U.S.
Next were the “Firm Craftsmen of our Fate Award” earned by Michelle Daniel-Robertson, an educator and an executive board member of the New York City Association of Assistant Principals of English, and Matthew Mugo Fields, co-founder and President of Rocket Learning, a national education company that provides learning products and services to kindergarten through high school students across the country.
Rupee received the Barbados Entertainment Legends Award while Walcott, the head of America’s largest public school system with 1.2 million students received the Barbados Legends Award. He is a regular visitor to the island.
“I have a great and fantastic job,” said Walcott, who for almost a decade was the City’s Deputy Mayor for Education.
“The awards ceremony was truly outstanding,” said the Chancellor.
It was sponsored by the BTA, the Nation Corporation, the Barbados Public Workers Credit Union, Jet Blue and Mount Gay Rum.
The Society’s other events honoring Bajan families: are a June 24th Sunday Lunch in Valley Stream; an inaugural trip to Barbados August 2-12; a June to December programme for youth; an invest in Barbados initiative in Brooklyn, September 15; October 13th function hailing YBPS member of the year and family; and a November 30th unveiling of the Bajan Great Commemorative Journal.