By Aubrey Campbell
HARTFORD, CT. Friday, April 27, 2018–Addressing the large gathering which showed up to celebrate the West Indian Social Club’s (WISC) 68th anniversary held on Saturday, April 21, at the club, President Richard Gordon declared that the organization’s footprint is hard to miss.
“As we celebrate today, it is a time for us to look back at our journey and to access our path forward,” he said. “In gathering here today, we bear witness of the stellar achievements and pioneering spirit of our founders and honorees, which is underscored by the enormity of your numbers and spiritedness of your participation.”
“The club was conceived and founded as a gathering place, a center of education and culture with the vital mission of preserving and invigorating the precepts and values of West Indian residents of the Greater Hartford Community. Through our varied programs, our organization emulates the legacy which provide in large part, major cultural endowments that derived from the post-colonial Caribbean in music, athletics, education and culture. As such, these traditions must therefore be examined only with great admiration and veneration.”
“Although our founders came from various walks of life in the Caribbean, they were united in their desire to erect a home to gather, and to culturally impact their community,” he added. Over the years, we have hosted prime ministers, governors, government ministers, ambassadors, mayors, corporate heads, scholars, athletes, artists, teachers and many others. The respect we now enjoy derived not from what our founders said, but how they lived.”
According to the president, the organization’s achievements are numerous. “We proudly claim the role of father and granddaddy to almost every West Indian organization in the Greater Hartford community. Most of the organizations in this city will tell you that at some point they were members of the (WIS) Club. Today we are the meeting place for at least 10 organizations including the West Indian Celebration Committee, the West Indian Lions Club and the Committee for the Exoneration of Marcus Mosiah Garvey.”
“The club is the leader of the West Indian community in Connecticut. Sixty-eight years ago, Caribbean people were few in numbers in Greater Hartford, but particularly through the efforts of the club, the community has grown to become the third largest West Indian community in the USA. In my mind, the cultural, social and economic growth of this community is directly related to the initial efforts of our visionary founders.”
“Since we started the first West Indian Independence carnival, in 1962, we concomitantly awarded scholarship monies nearing $200,000 to young people desiring to further their education beyond high school. As part of our continued commitment to the Greater Hartford community, in 1978, we formed the West Indian Foundation to better serve the needs of the young people in our community. Forty years later, the Foundation continues its journey while fulfilling the needs of numerous young people over the years,” he stated.
“So, friends, in a sense, we are in fact celebrating the contributions of immigrants to the development of America. In these times of anti-immigrant sentiments, we can look proudly at our achievements while certifying the positive contributions of our immigrant pedigree.”
“As we move forward, we remain confident in our past accomplishments and are hungry to achieve more in the future. So today, as we celebrate, we remain mindful of the achievements of our distinguished membership and are marching ahead strongly and boldly in the knowledge that there is still much to be done. But, as we forge ahead we can take instructions from the fact that we remain a positive, steadfast frame within the cultural ethos of North America. Our members stand tall, strong and proud,” he said.
During the program, nine individuals were honored for their work in the community. They were Vangella Buchanan and Dr. Jacqueline Evans-Phillips-Education; Desmond Collins, Cyrus Aimey, Donavan Halsoll, Clive Clunie and Carolyn Vermont-Community Service; Valmore Stewart Jr.,-Youth Leadership; and Everton Fitzroy Dickens-Member of the Year, which was a surprise to many in the audience.
In their remarks, Hartford’s Mayor, Luke Bronin and Bloomfield’s Mayor (interim) Suzette Debeatham-Brown, a Jamaican, congratulated the Club on the attainment of this milestone.
CAPTION FOR PICTURE:
A FEW GOOD OFFICERS. West Indian Social Club’s Officers for 2018, (l-r), President-Richard Gordon, First Vice President-Clive Garrison, Second VP-Valmore Stewart, Treasurer-Judy Williams and Corresponding Secretary-Joanna Gibson.