*The Calabash Consortium was founded by Geoff K. Cooper, a native son of Trinidad and Tobago after travelling to different Caribbean islands and recognizing that youths throughout the region faced increasingly similar issues. As a humanitarian, youth activist and having been instated as a youth spokesperson for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the young entrepreneur saw a need for a new approach to youth and community advancement in the Caribbean.
Hence the start of The Calabash Consortium — a U.S. and Caribbean based non-profit organization started to engage the Caribbean Diaspora and Americans in giving back to the region in an effort to raise funds for its multi-island research and empowerment initiative, the Calabash Caravan. The organization focuses on leveraging a collaborative approach to advancing the development of the Caribbean youth and communities by mobilizing resources and collective action.
The “calabash” in the organization’s name comes from the renowned calabash; a gourd that has a multiplicity of uses. In the Caribbean the calabash is used in many ways; to hold food, as a dipper and as a raw material for crafts and accessories, to name a few. To the organization, the calabash represents a vessel that holds resources (both financial and non-financial) and a resource in itself.
Further it is their expressed belief that human beings, businesses, and other entities serve as ‘calabashes’ in many respects. Using the metaphor of the calabash, the Calabash Consortium aims to convene vessels of resources (calabashes), directed at forging a healthy and productive future for Caribbean people.
The Calabash Consortium’s U.S. launch got off to a booming start with the guest appearances of Caribbean luminary and international star Geoffrey Holder and a memorable video appearance from Haitian humanitarian Wyclef Jean on Friday, May 14, 2010 at the New York Times Center.
Themed “The Sailing” the event featured electrifying performances from Ano Okera, Earl Brooks Jr., Jewel Allison and dance company Something Positive Inc. Wyclef Jean addressed guests via video urging them to give back to the youth of the Caribbean.
The always entertaining Holder mesmerized guests with a riveting address beckoning the crowd to come closer, as he bellowed in his thunderous voice “WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?? ALL YUH, AH COME! AH SAY AH COME!” Attendees were spellbound by his interaction as he engaged the crowd, interacting and having playful banter in a decidedly Caribbean way.
The colorful event attracted numerous distinguished guests including consul generals from various Caribbean countries, notably Jamaican Consul General Hon. Genevieve Brown Metzger who addressed the assemblage. Other notable guests included model Shaun Ross, members of the sensational hip rock soul group New Terrace Heights, power-players from various organizations, corporate sponsors, philanthropic leaders and impassioned humanitarians concerned with helping Caribbean youths. The inaugural affair was hosted by Dahved Levy, WBLS radio personality, who also presided over a live auction.
Guests luxuriated on delicious Caribbean cuisine and delightful cocktails featuring the event’s lead liquor sponsor Alizé. The live auction, conducted by Levy, proved to be very successful with animated guests jumping out of their seats to bid for fabulous items ranging from hotel stays at the Standard Hotel, Hollywood and the Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada to autographed paraphernalia from the world’s fastest man and triple Olympic gold medalist, Jamaican sprinter Usain “The Lightening” Bolt.
Other popular items auctioned off throughout the evening included beautiful coffee table books by MACO Caribbean Homes. However, no one went home empty handed as each guest left with a lovely swag bag filled with treats from Alizé, MACO Caribbean Living Magazine and the Caribbean Tourism Organization, to name a few.
The memorable evening was co-chaired by celebrity publicists Yvette Noel-Schure and Karen D. Hunter who joined forces behind the scenes to add to the event’s luster. Some of the sponsors included: Alizé, Americana Vodka, Beyoncé Parfums, Claudia Pegus Designs Ltd., DEX Cosmetics, Diana Des Bois P.R., Giorgio Armani Cosmetics, MACO Caribbean Living Magazine, Monroe College, Spice Island Beach Resort.
“We were blessed by God to have been able to bring this vision to fruition, we are thankful for the tremendous support of so many,” beamed Calabash Consortium’s very happy founder and convener, Cooper. “Now our attention turns toward cultivating better outcomes for Caribbean youths and communities.”
Cooper has made an indelible impression as a passionate, dedicated and action-oriented young man who is deeply committed to the roots of his community. Currently he serves as chair for the Caribbean Region in the U.N. Young Leaders Network and is involved in different capacities with numerous non-profit organizations in the US.
Namely, he chairs the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (“NABA”) New York Chapter’s Job Bank Program which focuses on increasing the number of entry-level minority college students hired by major US companies. He is also a frequent speaker on leadership, empowerment and advancement, specifically as it pertains to youth
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.