Bajan fare and air!

Consul general in inaugual Independence extravaganza

The dateline? Brooklyn –– the George W. Wingate High School to be precise. But to hear the strong Bajan accents, taste local delicacies and see the colours of ultramarine, gold and black being proudly worn, it could very well have been Bridgetown, Barbados.

The event on Saturday was the inaugural Barbados 48th Anniversary Of Independence Extravaganza, organized by the Consulate General of Barbados in New York.

It was the brainchild of Consul General Dr Donna Hunte-Cox, who worked with a planning committee that included people from the Diaspora, to give Barbadians living in the American state “a taste of Barbados, a little nostalgia, a little trip down memory lane”.

“We really wanted to encourage Barbadians and their friends, and also their children, to come out and taste and see what Barbados means to their parents and hopefully, by extension, to them as well,” she told Barbados TODAY.

And they received more than a taste.

Patrons got their fill of not only rice, chicken and beef stew, green banana cou-cou, breadfruit cou-cou, cornmeal cou-cou, saltfish, flying fish, pork, conkies, fishcakes, sweet bread, cheese cutters, ham cutters, great cake, pone, pudding and souse, mauby, sorrel, ginger beer, and lemonade, but also of Barbadian music, talent and entrepreneurship –– and they even participated in games of dominoes and cards.

Chicken stew was also on the menu.
Chicken stew was also on the menu.
Principal Jeff Broomes (centre) flew in for the extravaganza.
Principal Jeff Broomes (centre) flew in for the extravaganza.
Helen Walker getting a sample of Tiger Malt from Banks representative in New York, Adisa AJA Andwele.
Helen Walker getting a sample of Tiger Malt from Banks representative in New York, Adisa AJA Andwele.

The school’s cafeteria was transformed into a Bajan village, featuring not only eats and drinks, but businesses started by Barbadians who now call the United States their home, or Americans with Bajan parentage.

Among the exhibitors were former Consul General to New York Jessica Odle-Baril and Sandra Went.

Odle-Baril, whose mission ended in 2008, owns Your Best Image Associates –– a personal image improvement and enhancement company –– and works in conjunction with fine jeweller Went and photographer Donald Hight.

She gave the organizers thumbs up for the event: “I’m happy to be part of this. This really is a great initiative.”

Many of the exhibits had tongues wagging, but not all for the same reason. While the art, fashion and souvenirs prompted patrons to compliment exhibitors and pull their pockets to purchase products, the booth set up by R. Steven Legall Home For Funerals got a completely
different reaction.

Patrons could not hide their surprise –– and amusement – when they walked into the room and saw a casket amid the exhibitors. It was a reaction Legall told Barbados TODAY he expected.

“We wanted the reaction of ‘Wow!’,” he said with a chuckle.

“It makes reality set in: that in all the lively things that are happening, you also have to think about death, because it’s gonna happen. Sooner or later –– hopefully later for most people –– it’s gonna happen. So in the midst of life you have to think about death.”

Even so, the presence of the funeral home booth was no indication of the atmosphere that permeated the high school’s cafeteria.

The room was lively, and excitement filled the air, particularly as more people filed in, greeted each other, hugged, smiled and chatted, as popular Bajan tunes blared from the speakers.

Also featured in the exhibitors’ section were genealogist Sandra Taitt-Eaddy who helped people find their roots –– including one woman who was able to trace her ancestry as far back as to the 1700s, as well as teams from Invest Barbados and the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

There were also a few dance and spoken word performances that kept people entertained as they ate.

But it was upstairs in the school’s auditorium that patrons were treated to a potpourri of cultural presentations –– with performances ranging from poetry, song, and dance to fashion shows and comedy from the hilarious Synck of BET Comic View fame who was also MC for the entertainment segment.

Among the performers were singer Ashawnya Bellamy who flew in from Barbados, especially for the occasion, Hotta FlamesShekinah Band, Nicole Hope and IntrigueSomething PositiveLaramade Dancers, Jeff Haynes and Karen Taylor, and Cutting Edge.

An energetic Zumba presentation by Rodney Greaves also delighted the audience.

The designs of Barbadians Jewel Shannon and Fontaine Archer were the showstoppers as models strutted across the stage in sexy swimsuits, gowns, suits and other pieces.

At the end of the night, several patrons who spoke with Barbados TODAY agreed that the event was a success and should be repeated.

Dr Hunte-Cox was grateful for the support.

“It was fantastic. The Barbadians and their friends really came out and supported the event, and I am truly happy,” she said as the night wound down.

Asked whether she hoped to make it an annual event, the Consul General responded: “We hope so. Persons who didn’t get a chance this year are saying to me, ‘We want to be on the planning committee for the 50th Anniversary Of Independence.”

Consul General Dr Donna Hunte-Cox with genealogist Sandra Taitt-Eaddy.
Consul General Dr Donna Hunte-Cox with genealogist Sandra Taitt-Eaddy.

And she is not wasting any time planning for that occasion.

“We’re starting next year, from as early as January,” she said with a smile, as she watched the curtain come down on the extravaganza that marked her first major undertaking since taking up the post of Consul General in July this year.

This weekend, the Independence celebrations will continue with a ball and a church service.

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