BY TRONE DOWD
The Queens Tribune honored seven Caribbean Americans for their community work during the paper’s inaugural Caribbean Heritage Month celebration on June 2 at Douglaston Manor.
“We are a great city of diversity,” Queens Tribune publisher Mike Nussbaum told attendees. “We’re proud of that. We take pride in our cultural roots. It’s a significant part of who we are and each of the immigrants who have come to this borough here has a story.”
The ceremony drew a number of special guests, including city Public Advocate Letitia James, U.S. Rep. Yvette Clark (D-Brooklyn), city Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop and consulate generals of Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados.
Bishop recalled the journey that his grandmother took when she immigrated to New York City from a politically ailing Grenada, pushing his mother at a young age to do all that she could. He said that his mother attended college, while ensuring that her children had the same values that her mother taught her. He said that he was proud of the role that he has in “helping small business and entrepreneurs,” many of whom come to the city from abroad to start anew.
Clark talked about the historic importance of Caribbean Americans, both in the past and the present, and said that the city should protect immigrants, especially in the current political climate.
James told the crowd that it is important to recognize the contributions of Caribbean Americans and that “their hard work and commitment to family is part of what makes New York City great.”
The event’s honorees all had a chance to speak upon receiving their awards, reflecting on their lives as successful Caribbean Americans and how far they have come in their respective fields.
Jamaica native Patricia Chin, founder of the world-renowned VP Records, accepted her award on behalf of both her Caribbean heritage and status as a woman in a male-dominated field.
“I am blessed that I could have continued what my mom and dad told me—to help others,” Chin said. “This country is a beautiful country. If you work hard and play by the rules, you can be a success. Just make sure that you never forget where you come from.”
Clive White, a banker with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and second-generation Caribbean American of Barbadian and Dominican descent, said that he was thankful for the opportunities afforded to his parents—which, in turn, laid the groundwork for his success.
“They helped nourish my passion to help the community,” he said, adding that he was pleased for the opportunity he has to help “cultivate small businesses” and further his passion for “assisting the little man.”
Deputy Inspector Deodat Urprasad, the commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, dedicated his award to honor his family in an emotional speech.
“It’s a humbling experience to be here,” said Urprasad, who moved to the United States with his parents in 1973. “I am happy to share the moment with my family and friends.”
Urprasad also gave a shout-out to his brothers in blue, thanking them for the support they’ve given him over the years.
“I have some great men and women in the 102nd Precinct,” he said. He attributed a 41 percent deduction in crime since he took the position in 2015 to their work.
Carlo Thertus, a Haiti-born artist whose work is frequently of a political nature, displayed some of the artwork from children who attend Creative Space for Kids, an art school Thertus founded in Long Island in 1996. He told the Queens Tribune that he wanted to show off his students’ work—rather than his own—during the event.
Adrian Peters, a branch manager for New York Community Bank who originally hails from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said that he was grateful to be recognized for his work.
“I am grateful for my parents,” he said. “I realized the value of what they taught me growing up. It starts with my mom. She taught me how to cook and bake some of my favorites, like callaloo. She taught kindness. I remember weekends with people who did odd jobs. They had lunch with us and were served first. I was told, ‘It will come back to you.’”
Peters also remembered that his father taught him the importance of service above self, whether through an organization—such as a church—or community programs.
State Sen. Roxanne Persaud (D-Brooklyn), who hails from Guyana, was recognized for her extensive involvement in her community—which culminated in her running for office three years ago. Persaud said that Caribbean Americans should be proud of their heritage and encouraged them to become involved in their communities. She closed out her acceptance speech with a plea to end gun violence in the five boroughs.
Dr. Roy Hastick, a Grenada native who worked in a number of city agencies and operated a newspaper before founding the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, thanked his wife upon accepting his award, noting that it is “good to have a strong woman beside you, behind you and, sometimes, driving you.”
Hastick said that he was thrilled to see fellow Caribbean Americans being recognized for work in their respective fields as he pointed out City Council candidate Richard David in the audience—especially in government, where he was “pleased” that they “can help move a document to the top of the pile.”