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Henry Singleton, Byron & Sylvia Lewis, Hon. David N. Dinkins, Michael Mulgrew

*West Indian pride is a contagious behavior at the annual American Foundation for the University of the West Indies (AFUWI) Legacy Awards event that was staged at the ritzy Pierre Hotel, NYC on Wednesday January 27, 2012.  The always colorful event is the primary fund raiser for the Foundation to benefit the scholarship program for needy students at The University of the West Indies (UWI), the premier tertiary institution in the English speaking Caribbean.

With some forty-six thousand students on roll, largely from the UWI comprised of 16 member countries in the region, there is an urgent need by hundreds of these students for financial aid.  In 2011 the Foundation awarded 35 scholarships; in 2012 it is hoping to award 50 such scholarships.

The event featured a reception and silent auction followed by the perennial salute to the flags during the flag presentation of the 16 member countries of the English speaking Caribbean including Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.  With their respective flags adorning the room, as each Island’s name was called, loud cheers erupted from their tables always trying to one-up the previous named island.

After a stirring invocation by The Rev. Mark Bozzuti-Jones, Priest for Pastoral Care and Nurture, Trinity Church, Wall Street, a delectable Caribbean dinner — replete with hot sauce and very, very hot sauce — was served with premium wines.

Themed “The Legacy Continues,” the handsome and very honorable Dr. Harry Belafonte, OJ, was joined by several speakers in extolling the importance of the institution which boasts world leaders, prime ministers, doctors, lawyers, agriculturalists, teachers and academicians among its growing list of alumni which stands at approximately 90K.

“All of you who have come here this evening are more than just a testimony to that fact.  We are the urgent reality that the University of the West Indies cannot thrive and continue to exist without our constant nurturing for its growth and development,” commented Dr. Belafonte.

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(back row l-r) Michael Flanigan, AFUWI board member Dr. Hazel Carter, AFUWI partnership board chair Lowell Hawthorne, Gail Moaney, Richard Pino (front row l-r) UWI vice chancellor Dr. E Nigel Harris, gala chair Janet Rollé, UWIAA New York president Dr. Gerald White Davis

Dr. Belafonte, who serves as honorary patron and is one of the most recognizable faces at the institution’s annual marquee fundraiser, received a standing ovation, following the screening of a trailer  from his  recently released  HBO documentary ‘Sing your Song,’  featuring his life’s journey and work; from his involvement with the iconic Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his relentless advocacy for equal rights and justice for all humankind to his current day role activities with defense of the underserved.

This year’s AFUWI special award was presented to Byron Lewis, chairman & CEO, Uniworld Group, Inc, one of the nation’s oldest multicultural advertising agencies with annual net worth in excess of $250,000,000.

The vice chancellors achievement awards which recognizes corporate and community leaders who are rising stars were presented by Professor E. Nigel Harris, vice chancellor, UWI, to: Ricardo Bryan (JAM), regional business manager for Grace Kennedy (USA), Inc.; Barbara Pyle (USA), corporate vice president, Environmental Policy-TBS; and Terrence Samuel (T&T), deputy political editor, The Washington Post.

Caribbean Luminary Awards which are bestowed on persons of Caribbean Heritage or Caribbean nationals who have achieved excellence and are recognized as being on the cutting edge in their chosen profession were presented by Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor, UWI, to: Dr. Erroll Byer, Jr., (Barbados/American), Brooklyn Hospital Center, NY; Dr. Milton Haynes (Barbados) OB/GYN specialist on NYC; and Basil Paterson, Esq. (Jamaican/Grenadian) of the law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, PC.  Attorney Paterson is the father of David Paterson, former Governor of the State of New York.

The corporate award was presented to JetBlue Airways, represented by vice president Brandon Nelson, with flights to seven countries in Caribbean and seeking to expand its routes in the region.  The company was recognized for their service excellence and contribution to the communities of the Caribbean as well as its Diaspora.

Three of the thirty five students – Tara Stephens (St. Kitts/Nevis), Arshelle English (Grenada), Kenzil King (Jamaica) – who are currently benefiting directly from scholarships from AFUWI, were the toast of the gala, stirring the emotions of an attentive audience with their passionate and moving thank you/testimonials.

The star-studded guest list included Hon. David N. Dinkins, former New York City Mayor (honorary chair),  Janet Rolle executive vice president & chief marketing officer CNN Worldwide (gala chair); Kaye Foster-Cheek, senior vice president, Onyx Pharmaceuticals (dinner chair); Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor-UWI; Professor E. Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor-UWI; Lowell Hawthorne, president & CEO, Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill and chairman, AFUWI Partnership Board; and Wesley Wainwright, chairman, AFUWI.

Trust Company of the West and Verizon Foundation served as dinner chairs and Johnson & Johnson and CNN Worldwide served as vice chairs.  Michael Flanigan, Ann Marie Grant, Lowell Hawthorne, Gail Moaney and Wesley Wainwright served on the gala committee.

TV personality/attorney Star Jones; CBS2 News anchor Maurice DuBois; and My 9 News anchor Brenda Blackmon served as emcees.  Kudos to AFUWI’s AnnMarie Grant, and event producer Dwight Johnson of Dwight Johnson Design and his impeccable staff for a wonderful production.   (Photos by Margot Jordan)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey j. bernard