Community Organizations Culture diaspora History

Caribbean-American History: The Manhattan-based Antigua and Barbuda Progressive Society

The following article was written by Jared MacCallister and published in the New York Daily News, Sept. 14, 2013.

AntBarbThe national flag flies proudly outside the Antigua and Barbuda Progressive Society’s Harlem headquarters, purchased in 1964. Picture by Jared MacCallister.

Those who think Caribbean immigrants are newcomers to New York really need to think again. The 79-year-old Antigua and Barbuda Progressive Society shatters that untruth.

The Manhattan-based organization will have its history and decades-long dedication to Caribbean culture and Harlem, and some of its artifacts, touted in “A Lighthouse in New York: Opening Reception; Panel Discussion,” a free exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Blvd. (at W. 135th St.), from 6 p.m to 9 p.m., in Manhattan, on Sept. 27.

“Everything is going very, very well,” society spokeswoman Mona Wyre Manigo said of the exhibition, which reflects the trials and tribulations of Caribbean peoples — here and abroad — over the organization’s first 50 years of exsistence. “It’s going to be an exciting moment for Antigua and Barbuda. I’ve looked at the documents and every time I think about it, I get chills.”

For example, said Manigo, there are documents about an urgent meeting calling “all Caribbean people in Harlem” to support a letter to Britain, demanding that the head of colonial Antigua be removed from office for mistreating island residents. Antigua and Barbuda gained independence from Britain in 1981.

The donated materials also contain historic correspondence from institutions and individuals, such as Antigua Trades and Labour Union President V.C. Bird, before he became Antigua and Barbuda’s first prime minister.

Donated in 2011, the historic records provide a detailed glimpse into migration to New York and the life and pursuits of new arrvials. The records will later be available for researchers.

In 1934, James Roberts and 22 other Antiguan immigrants started the Antigua Progressive Society, which was incorporated the following year with the goals of promoting their culture, aiding members and their families in times of sickness and death, aiding their Caribbean homeland and encouraging “educational excellence” among youth.

The Antigua and Barbuda Progressive Society was created through a 2010 bylaw change designed to incorporate Barbudian New Yorkers who were served by the now-defunct Barbuda Benevolent Society of America. The Barbuda group was established in 1915 and lasted 62 years.

Today, Antigua and Barbuda Progressive Society members continue to work hard at maintining cultural — and many civic — commitments under a board of directors, including President M. Roz. Olatunji. The group meets monthly at society headquarters, the Antigua and Barbuda House on W. 122nd St. in Harlem.

In addition to aiding Antiguan and Barbudian nationals, the children in the Harlem and other projects, the group fulfills its civic responsibility by participating in the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, Central Harlem’s Community Board 10 and the 28th Precinct Community Council.

In October, the society will commemorate its birthday with a 79th Anniversary Celebration and Awards Banquet, “Honoring Our Past and Embracing Our Future.” The event will be held Oct. 19 in the faculty dining hall of the City College Of New York, 160 Covent Ave., from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Donation is $75 and proceeds will aid the organization’s building renovation fund.

Read more: NYDailyNews

Community Organizations Emancipation Festivals

Celebration of Emancipation

The Committee for the Commemoration of Emancipation Day is inviting everyone to join in the commemoration and internationalizing of Emancipation Day.

This event would be on August 4th, 2012 at Prospect Park, Oriental Pavilion, Brooklyn New York.

Start time is 2:00pm, with a short parade beginning at the corner of Parkside and Flatbush Aves., and entering the park at Lincoln Road and Ocean Ave.  There would be a spiritual and cultural component to the event.

No matter where you are from, whether it is the Caribbean Islands, North or South America, bring your country’s Flag and make this a family day.

Emancipation of the slaves is the Ancestors and our business.

Thanks to the the Committee for the Commemoration of Emancipation Day for the information.


Community Organizations diaspora Emancipation

Caribbean Maroons Hope Tourism Can Save Culture

The following Bloomberg News Business Week report, written by David Mc Fadden, was republished by Repeating Islands.

In a backwoods town along a river cutting between green mountains, quick-footed men and women spin and stomp to the beat of drums. One dancer waving a knife is wrapped head-to-foot in leafy branches, his flashing eyes barely visible through the camouflage.

This traditional dance re-enacts the Jamaican Maroons’ specialty: the ambush. It was once a secret ritual of the fierce bands of escaped slaves who won freedom by launching raids on planters’ estates and repelling invasions of their forest havens with a mastery of guerrilla warfare.

But on this day, descendants of those 18th century fugitives are performing for tourists, academics, filmmakers and other curious outsiders in a fenced “Asafu” dancing yard in Charles Town, a once-moribund Maroon settlement in eastern Jamaica that seemed destined to lose its traditions until revivalists gradually brought it back.

Maroons in the Caribbean are increasingly showcasing their unique culture for visitors in hopes that heritage tourism will guarantee jobs for the young generation and preserve what remains of their centuries-old practices in mostly remote settlements. The basic idea has been tried around the world, from the Gusii people of Kenya to the artisans of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

“If we don’t follow in the footsteps of our foreparents we will find ourselves on the heap of history,” said Wallace Sterling, the “colonel” of the Windward Maroon community of Moore Town. It is one of Jamaica’s four semi-autonomous Maroon tracts, each governed by an elected colonel, a title bestowed on Maroon leaders since their battles with the British army, and a council appointed by the leader.

Trying to counter the endless tide of migration and assimilation, long secretive Maroons are more and more going public with the old ways — singing sacred songs, drumming, making herbal medicine, talking to ancestral spirits, woodcarving, hunting and “jerking” wild pigs. Maroons are credited with inventing Jamaica’s “jerk” style of cooking, in which aromatic spices are rubbed or stuffed into meat before it is roasted on an open fire.

The turn to small-scale tourism for income can safeguard the Maroons’ future and their cultural identity, leaders say. They say it has boosted pride among younger Maroons and encouraged some to stay in their rural hometowns. Other money-making opportunities are scarce in the communities of modest cement-block homes and tiny shops selling cold drinks and snacks.

“For a long time, it’s been very difficult to keep the young people because they tend to leave for the cities to seek work. But now we can train tour guides and our people can sell their crafts, their banana and coconuts,” said Fearon Williams, the colonel of Accompong. An annual Jan. 6 celebration draws thousands of visitors to the isolated town, which sits among rocky cliffs and limestone towers in northwestern Jamaica. “Tourism is making us stronger.”

A tour bus now comes weekly to Charles Town, a village whose colonel, Frank Lumsden, worked as a commodities trader in Chicago before returning to Jamaica in the late 1990s to focus on his ancestral roots.

There are also Maroons in Suriname, on the South American mainland, where escaped slaves over the centuries built their own African-centered societies in sparsely populated Amazonian forests. Suriname’s Maroons also say a broadening emphasis on ecotourism is helping fight cultural disintegration.

“The world is turning into one large village, so it makes no sense for Maroon villages to keep out tourists. Tourists and the money they bring stimulate people in the Maroon communities to produce the products that represent their culture,” said Ronny Asabina, a Maroon who serves in Suriname’s legislature.

But most acknowledge the obstacles facing Maroons, who are estimated to number in the thousands in Jamaica and the tens of thousands in Suriname. The passing along of traditions and customs from one generation to the next has long been weakened by the lures and necessities of modern life.

In Scott’s Hall, a subsistence farming community in eastern Jamaica, longtime colonel Noel Prehay said he hopes tourism can provide a place for many of his townspeople to relearn their traditions.

Prehay said devotion to clandestine spiritual rituals is strong among the town’s ever-dwindling number of elderly residents, as is their knowledge of the Maroon’s Kromanti language, which is closely related to the Twi spoken in parts of the West African nation of Ghana.

“If a person is mad or if they are sick, we can make a healing dance. Our Obeah is a good Obeah,” Prehay said, referring to an Afro-Caribbean religion that involves channeling spiritual forces and is feared by some in Jamaica’s countryside, where superstitions about shamanism and the occult run deep.

But visitors are very rare in his poor town along a dusty, rutted road about a 45-minute drive from Jamaica’s capital, Kingston. Unlike the other three Maroon communities in Jamaica, Scott’s Hall has no museum, dancing grounds or other attractions aimed at tourists.

So Prehay worries that most young Maroons will still continue to leave.

“I think the young people are willing and ready to accept the teaching of the culture. But the continual migration to Kingston, to London, to Canada is difficult,” the 70-year-old Prehay said, pointing to surrounding slopes that were farms when he was a young man but are now overgrown with bamboo.

Settlements of escaped slaves emerged in many places in the Western Hemisphere, including the U.S., but the Maroons’ biggest success came in Jamaica, where they helped the British expel the Spanish and then turned on the new rulers, wreaking havoc across an island that was then one of the world’s largest sugar producers.

The Maroons’ name derives from the Spanish word “cimarron,” which means “untamed” or “the wild ones.” Descendants of the warrior Ashanti and Fante tribes of West Africa, the Maroons became adept at surviving in tangled forests in the mountains.

Jamaica’s Maroons avoided open warfare, relying on their knowledge of the terrain, camouflaging themselves with leaves and communicating with the abeng, a cow horn whose call carries for miles.

After nearly a century of fighting, the British finally granted the Maroons formal freedom in a 1739 treaty signed in a cave a few miles outside Accompong by legendary Maroon leader Cudjoe and British army Col. John Guthrie.

But in return for their autonomy, the Maroons agreed to help the British hunt down future runaway slaves. That arrangement may be at the root of a sense of isolation some Maroons felt from other Jamaicans and long kept them living apart. Maroon separatism began to fade with the ebbing of colonialism in Jamaica, which became independent in 1962.

Not all Maroons are confident that relying on tourism can successfully bring back cultural traditions.

“It will take a giant effort if you can find the will. I am not sure that the will is there,” said C.L.G. Harris, a highly respected 95-year-old who was Moore Town’s colonel for decades and worked hard to modernize the community — sometimes, he says, at the expense of traditional religious practices.

Anthropologist Kenneth Bilby, whose book “True-Born Maroons” is based on years of research, much of it conducted while living in Moore Town in the 1970s, said it remains to be seen whether heritage tourism can preserve indigenous communities.

“It’s really quite a complex question whether or not communities can try to develop aspects of their culture and commodify them without also suffering certain losses or negative consequences,” Bilby said from his home in Colorado. Some experts fear that cultural tourism can introduce harmful influences or can make communities into parodies of themselves.

Still, the message of cultural identity is reaching some young Maroons.

“What I’ve learned is that without the culture, you’re nothing,” said Rodney Rose, Charles Town’s 29-year-old abeng blower and museum treasurer who until recently had to travel outside the village for employment. “And while we young Maroons are learning, people from overseas can also learn.”

For the original report: Caribbean Maroons

See also: Caribbean Maroons Hope Tourism Can Save Culture « Repeating Islands.

Community Organizations Festivals Mask

Trinidad All Stars: Fleet’s In

Dr. Kim Johnson discusses the sailor mas’ protrayal of the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra and the origins of this style of masquerade from the independent organizations of the enslaved in nineteenth century Trinidad. Caribbean Beat Magazine, issue 113.

The Fleet’s In sailor mas might seem just a grown-up way of enjoying Carnival with a great steelband, Trinidad All Stars. Actually, it’s much more than that. It is a venerable tradition of the oldest steel orchestra in the world, a tradition that links us to the world the slaves made, and, through them, to the culture of West Africa.

Trinidad All Stars was once “Cross of Lorraine” and before that “Fisheye band”, and even before that, during World War II, “Second Fiddle”. When, in 1939, it was launched in the immediate wake of the first progenitive steelband, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, however, it was simply called “Hell Yard band”, after Hell Yard, an empty lot next to the band’s current home.

In the early, pre-steelband years of the twentieth century the Hell Yard crew played cricket and football. They gambled, wrestled, boxed and lifted weights.  And on J’Ouvert morning they produced one of the most famous sailor bands: USS Bad Behaviour.

There were other themes in plebeian mas in Port of Spain: African Ju Ju warriors and wild Indian tribes, for instance. But generally the largest bands, which represented each district of the city, were sailor bands. There were the immaculate, rigorously drilled military sailor bands, such as the USS Oregon from John John, Texas from Laventille, and Hit The Deck from St Paul’s Street.  And there were the dirty “knockabout” sailor bands, such as USS Bad Behaviour, which was drunk, dirty and disorderly – like real sailors ashore.

No one knows Bad Behaviour’s age, but sailor bands have been around for at least a century. In 1911 traditional “masks”, according to the Port of Spain Gazette, included wild Indians, bakers, Barbadian cooks, clowns, devils and sailors. Military bands go back even further. In 1834, describing the first Carnival after abolition of slavery, the Gazette complained of “a large crowd of idle negroes and little people, accompanying a party intending to represent the Artillery.”

Scrupulously observing the minutiae of naval or military ranks, such bands catered to the needs of African slaves to found their own social and ritual hierarchies. They were worlds complete with their own divisions of labour, ranks, chains of command and degrees of prestige, all outside and independent of the grinding racism of the wider, white-dominated society.

They were descended from Trinidad’s slave convoys or regiments, groups dedicated to holding dances on holidays. These – the Cocorite, the Macaque, the St George and the Sans-peur, with up to 17 different ranks, kings, queens, princes and political, legal and military personnel – terrified the whites in 1805. They considered the bands insurrectionary, and cruelly punished their members.

The vicious reaction of the whites was a product of their own hysteria, of course; the slave gangs were formed for nothing more than to hold drum dances and compete against one another. But in another sense, the slave owners’ instinctive fear had grounds, because those bands, built on rules and responsibilities independent of the slave society’s, were forged from no less than the love of liberty.

For original post: Trinidad All Stars: Fleet’s In | Caribbean Beat Magazine.

Community Organizations Festivals

Disappointed at NYPD cops’ Facebook comments

The following is the statement of Yolanda Lezama Clarke, President of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. This is her response to reports of offensive comments made on Facebook by members of the NYPD, about the Carnival and the West Indian American community. It was published in Caribbean Life, Dec. 11, 2011.

Hearing and reading about these remarks made by NYPD officers, “animals, savages, bomb them” was truly disappointing, however, not surprising. While these are the views of many, I am sure that does not reflect all of the administration. These are gross, irresponsible descriptions that undermine the mission and purpose of the event.

WIADCA is grateful for the ongoing long-term support of the Mayor’s Office, Commissioner Kelly, the NYPD and all of those officers who assist in the Labor Day parade, carnival and events. There are many NYPD officers that believe that our community, similar to so many other New York City parades and events, is simply having a wonderful time in Carnival song, dance, music and art. They also know and believe that WIADCA’s families, participants, supporters and children are expressing the performance, joy and exuberance of Carnival.

WIADCA is the largest parade and carnival in the city and a significant economic component of revenue for both the city as well as New York State. The positive economic impact on New York’s large and small businesses is unparalleled. The hotels, MTA riders, restaurants, and other tourism -supporting components of the city would suffer greatly without the Labor Day event.

Carnival is supposed to be a euphoric experience that is enjoyed by all who attend, police included. It is meaningful and brings together many friends and family members from “back home” every Labor Day in a reunion filled with music, island food, and beautiful costumes. The difference with this Carnival is that it is celebrated by many of the islands where Eastern Parkway comes alive every Labor Day with representation from Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, and even Panama. This carnival has become a celebration of over 2.5 million people, which also speaks volumes about the funds it contributes to the city’s coffers.

We are extremely disappointed to learn about the Facebook page set up by some NYPD officers that maligned not only the Labor Day event but also the participants and members of our community. The language and expressions used to characterize our community members is both racist and volatile and cannot be characterized in any other manner.

In addition, in sharp contrast to the current official reactions to any and all terrorist-type comments and actions, the comment such as: “I say have the parade one more year and when they all gather drop a bomb and wipe them all out,” would not be tolerated in any part of New York. It would not be tolerated on New Year’s in Times Square, it would not be tolerated at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it would not be tolerated in Central Park. NO EXCEPTION can be made. It cannot be tolerated on Labor Day.

If these statements are true, it justifies the need for more cultural awareness. When segments of our community, especially those who are supposed to protect our youth express these feelings and sentiments regarding other groups, then we need more effective dialogue, because it represents the most obvious need.

The fact that there are members of the New York community who are sworn to protect the rights of New York citizens and who function as role-models for our children, in 2012 would express such vile and historically racist beliefs, is greatly disturbing. Any culture of police officers’ contempt for New York’s Black and Brown communities — either real or symbolic, cannot be tolerated.

We are calling on our elected officials and communitiy leaders to support our effort to end any and all police contempt towards members of our community. We are calling on Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly and Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio for an immediate meeting to assist us in rooting out all volatile racist behavior and attitudes from members of our NYPD.

One medium could be a “wellness over violence initiative” to heal and address these types of concerns in order to bring us closer together, as a community and a nation.

In 1826 Thomas Jefferson passed away and stated that he was leaving the issue of race relations for another generation to solve. Did he mean 2012? Must it take so long for us to live up to the ideals of the founding fathers of this great nation? If we choose to become a leader when will we completely grow into our own ideal and can we bring these members of the NYPD along?

Neither the violence exhibited within the community due to various socio-economic ills facing people of color, or the violence against the community, including external and internal aspects of racism, can be accepted in any form. Today’s words become tomorrow’s bullets. It cannot be allowed to exist anywhere, any longer.

Yolanda Lezama Clarke

President, West Indian American Day Carnival Association.

For the original post: Disappointed at NYPD cops’ Facebook comments • Caribbean Life.

Community Organizations History

New York Garifuna group honors a compatriot

The following article was written by Nelson A. King and published in Caribbean Life on Nov. 9, 2011.

The board of directors of the Bronx, N.Y.-based Garifuna Coalition, U.S.A, say they will honor Erline Williams-King, a former aide to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines New York Consul General, at its “Fourth Annual Yellow, White, Black Garifuna Settlement Day 2011” fundraising gala on Nov. 19.

Williams-King will be recognized for her “support of the renaissance of the Garifuna Heritage and Culture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at The Eastwood Manor, 3371 Eastchester Rd., the Bronx.

The coalition said that although Williams-King was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (‘Yurumein,’ the ancestral homeland of the Garifuna people), she can be “classified as a Caribbean woman, having lived in Carriacou, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nevis and her homeland, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Ms. Williams-King, a social worker by profession, has always been involved in community service and is very passionate about the welfare of her fellow brothers and sisters,” it said. “She has been a high school teacher, guidance counselor and mentor to many.

“Her record of humanitarian achievements is best highlighted by her involvement in many organizations and committees,” it added, stating that Williams-King, who was a founding member of Hearts and Hands for Nevis, Inc., worked “assiduously” to ensure that the goals and objectives of the organization were maintained.

Photo: Courtesy Bajun Sun Online.

Williams-King, who retired from her substantive position at the consulate, at the end of August, is also a very active member of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean-American Renal Failure Relief Fund Steering Committee, where she performs the duties of secretary.

This committee assists Vincentians who come to the United States seeking medical attention for renal failure.

Williams-King – the youngest and last daughter of the late, former St. Vincent and the Grenadines Governor General Henry Williams – is also a vibrant member of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO)

“Ms. Williams-King has a penchant for all things cultural, and she is always willing to learn about the many cultural practices of different countries and peoples,” the Garifuna Coalition said.

“She enjoys the dancing, singing and cuisine of the various countries, and never misses an opportunity to be involved and to learn,” it added.

The group said Williams-King first became aware of the Garifunas when she migrated to the United States, and has since embraced their culture.

Williams-King enjoys singing and has been featured in many concerts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Barbados and the United States.

She is currently a member of The Roy Prescod Chorale and her church choir, at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, both in Brooklyn.

“The Garifuna Coalition Inc. is an organization that I have always held in high esteem,” Williams-King told Caribbean Life.

“When I became aware of its existence, and after attending some of their functions, I realized that they were a people with a mission. I was totally fascinated with their commitment and how resolute they were to ensure that they kept their culture alive, in their language, cuisine and practices, from the elders to the youth,” she added.

“To be honored by this organization, for which I have the greatest respect and admiration, is truly humbling,” Williams-King continued.

“I deem it a privilege to be associated with this organization and to be even considered for this recognition,” she said.

In recent years, the local Garifuna group, COSAGO and former U.S. Ambassador Ellsworth John were among St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ groups and individuals honored by the Garifuna Coalition, U.S.A. Inc.

For original report: New York Garifuna group honors a compatriot • Caribbean Life.

Community Organizations Dance Music

Preserving folk culture:

Malick Folk Performing Company stages nostalgic and futuristic expressions.

The following article was written by Cherisse Moe and published in the Trinidad Guardian, Oct. 12, 2011.

The Malick Folk Performing Company has been working assiduously to bring the indigenous art form of folk music to the forefront since 1979. With a long list of accolades to its name and no signs of slowing down, the local group, which received the 2004 Chaconia Medal Silver for its outstanding contribution in the field of culture, is now gearing up to stage yet another exciting production, titled, Nostalgic & Futuristic Expressions, at the Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, on November 6.

Secretary/public relations officer, Jemma Jordan said the production, directed by Louis Mc Williams and Norvan Fullerton, promised to be one to remember and featured some of the nation’s brightest stars, including the Shiv Shakti Dance Company, the Lydian Singers, Los Alumnos de San Juan and African dance ensemble, Wasa Foli. “The production highlights Malick through the years so its nostalgic in that it showcases the senior members and futuristic because we have a junior company,” she explained. “We are going to give them a taste of our indigenous culture in T&T in a very theatrical production with beautiful music and dance.”

Members of the Malick Folk Performing Company put on a show for the recently concluded Best Village Dance Finals at the National Arts and Performing Academy.


With Jamaican and American genres such as dancehall and hip hop the music of choice among the nation’s youth, Jordan said local genres like folk music was not gaining the recognition it deserved. And while the performing company—which holds the record for being the only folk group to win the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition on ten occasions—was doing its part to keep the tradition alive, Jordan stated that the time had come to do more. “A people without a culture is like a people without a soul,” she asserted. “We feel that it’s important that our young people know our culture and take pride in what is our own. They must know what we created as a result of us being colonised. They must know where we came from in order to know where they are going.”

Runs deep

Having toured extensively with the music group over the years throughout the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, Brazil and the Caribbean, Jordan’s love for country runs deep. She said her main goal remained putting T&T on the global map and helping to preserve the country’s dying culture. Also an integral part of Carnival for the past 21 years, the Diego Martin resident who has worked as an announcer for local events such as Dimanche Gras and  The National Steelband Panorama, as well internationally for New York’s Labour Day Celebrations, disclosed that the group was on a “recruitment drive” to attract new members. She noted that interested individuals should be “committed and dedicated,” have an interest in the performing arts and “be prepared to work hard.”

More Info

The production—Nostalgic & Futuristic Expressions starts promptly at 4:30pm  on November 6 at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s. Adult admission is $100 and $50 for children 12 and under.

For original report: Preserving folk culture | The Trinidad Guardian.

Community Organizations

Not Just Mas and Pan

Mr. Winston Munroe gives an overview of the Sesame Flyers International organization, its activities, the services it provides, and its overall impact within the Caribbean community in Brooklyn, New York.

Community Organizations Festivals Music

Mr. Winston Munroe: The Brooklyn Carnival

Mr. Winston Munroe, founding member of Sesame Flyers International, speaks about his early involvement in the Brooklyn Carnival and briefly recalls historical aspects of the festival.

Community Organizations Festivals

Burglars rob camp, not spirits of Carnival’s winningest band

In the following article, which appeared in Caribbean Life on September 21, Glenda Cadogan reports on the recent robbery at the premises of  the Brooklyn-based community organization Sesame Flyers International.


The strength, resilience and character of the Sesame Flyers International (SFI) brand stood up to the test this week in the face of two burglaries at the Church Avenue headquarters of the community-base organization. In the robbery which took place in two separate incidents on Wednesday and Saturday nights, the organization suffered losses of computers, televisions, sound systems and electronic equipment and a small amount of cash. There were also some significant damage to the property, known as the Cultural Center, as the burglars ransacked both floors of the building located at 3510 Church Avenue. But despite the losses, the organization this week was back to its full operational schedule.

The organization’s chairman, Raymond Luke took the opportunity to inform and assure the wider community that all is well with everyone in the Sesame Flyers family. “As expected, the burglaries may have momentarily rattled some nerves, but by pulling together as a team we have been able to put all our operations back up and is fully operational,” says Luke. “This is a testament to the strength of the organization which has been one of the vanguards of community and cultural empowerment in Brooklyn. You don’t build an organization of 28 years and have the kind of success that is part of our track record by being weak and giving in to challenges in any form,” he adds.

Luke also praised their neighbors who alerted the police while the robbery was still in progress and also officers of the 67th Police Precinct who took swift action and have been able to recover some of the stolen items. “I guess the good neighbor policy which we have embraced and developed over the past 20 years at this location has paid dividends in this case,” says Luke. “And in addition, the police officers have been outstanding in their response and are feverishly working toward apprehending the perpetrators.”

With the distinction of being the “winningest” band in the Brooklyn Labor Day Carnival, Sesame Flyers again captured the coveted title of “Band of the Year” in both the adults and children categories of the 2011 Carnival/parade with a presentation titled: Brazilia. The significance of this win, more than a dozen in its history, was celebrated even in the face of the robberies.

“We have a commitment to making excellence a priority in everything we do whether it is mastering our presentations on Eastern Parkway or in the numerous youth and community empowerment programs which form a part of our annual roster of services,” says Luke. “So we will celebrate both our victory in the masquerader competition as well as the fact that our daily operations are in full effect not just at our main office but at all three locations under our supervision.”


The celebrations move forward with an appreciation party for masqueraders of the winning children’s band on Sept. 24 and on Sept. 25 for the adult masqueraders. The events take place at the (SFI) Culture Center on Church Avenue and Tikki Village on Ralph Avenue respectively.

Founded in 1983 by Joseph Charles, SFI is a multi service agency catering to the needs of youth and adults. The agency provides a comprehensive, holistic strategy to youth and community development with culture art at its core. Recognized as one of the top eight youth community programs in New York City, Sesame Flyers International schedule of programs includes academics support, recreational programs, counseling services, cultural events, summer youth employment, computer literacy and job readiness.

Over the past 28 years the organization has enriched its name and recognition in the New York cultural community by winning the “Band of The Year” title in the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade for the past 12 times in the last 13 years. (There were 11 consecutive wins from 1999-2008). Their steelband orchestra has also been a force in the annual Panorama competition and has performed at some of the most prestigious concert venues in New York City.

For original report: Burglars rob camp, not spirits of Carnival’s winningest band • Caribbean Life.