By Janice Anne Farray
On Saturday, October 15, Grenadians in Montreal and friends of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique will celebrate the 50th anniversary of community organizing and the establishment of the Grenada Nationals Association of Montreal, Inc. (GNAM) with a reception at the Holiday Inn.
Ambassador Derrick James, consul general for Grenada in Canada, will deliver the keynote address.
The evening’s theme: ‘Giving Thanks and Acknowledgements to our Founding Members and Grenadian Community’ is quite fitting. It is because of the insight and diligence of the founders that the association continues to flourish and serve nationals here and at home.
Founding members include Dennis Bonaparte (deceased), Bertha Pitt-Bonaparte, Dominic Samuel, Douglas Alexander, Ed Ellick, Eileen Phillips (deceased), Desmond Phillips, Magbert Anthony Farray (deceased), Cyril McFarlane, George Japal, Michael Joseph, Albert Kingston, and Vaughn Steele. Mr. Bonaparte served as the first president of the association.
At the event, in addition to recognizing its past presidents, the GNAM will honour Ms. Hermes Cobb, Dr. Bertha Pitt-Bonaparte, Mr. Eric Llewellyn and Mr. Roosevelt Alexis as long-standing members. Mrs. Lona Williams will receive a lifetime award.
In its 50 years of service in Montreal the GNAM counts many landmarks and accomplishments including:
• Service to Homeland – Following the devastation of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, GNAM mobilized the community and shipped several containers of supplies together with monies raised to assist in rebuilding the nation. Then president Mrs. Pitt-Bonaparte spearheaded an effort to send medical supplies and equipment to hospitals, including an EKG machine. The GNAM also bought bonds to support the building of the Maurice Bishop International Airport.
• Advocacy/Scholarship – Since 1999, the GNAM has distributed more than $10,000 in bursaries to students. The bursary program was inaugurated at a “Celebration of Grenada’s Silver Jubilee” on October 2, 1999, when current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell gave the keynote address. At that event, which was conceived by Peter “Uncle” Charles and held under the presidency of Mr. John Cruickshank, the PM received a hearty welcome by First Nation Peoples from Kahnawake’s “Thunder Hawk Dancers.” And this writer worked diligently to build the bursary fund.
• Earlier, on July 3, 1971, GNAM hosted a Conference on Grenada Affairs to explore issues affecting the nation and the Caribbean. It was held at McGill University’s Leacock Building; the Caribbean Mellotones from New York played at the reception.
• Showcase-Cultural Ambassadors – GNAM continues to provide opportunities for Grenada’s cultural ambassadors (local and international), such as Ajamu, Squeezy, Black Wizard, Randy Issaac, Specky, Doggies, Sugarman, Jenny, Beast, Praying Mantis, Jab-Jab and Peter Humphrey to showcase their talent. It also hosted Grenada’s Heritage Theatre performing group.
• Partnership – Partnership initiatives over the years include co-hosting the 2002 event to honor Grenada born Dr. Jean Augustine on her election as a Member of Parliament. In 2007, the association was also involved in helping to raise funds for the inauguration of a Chair in Dr. Augustine’s name at York University.
• Social Hub/Honour – Members and supporters are brought together at picnics, dances, Mothers’ Day activities and Christmas parties hosted annually by the association. And the GNAM regularly takes the opportunity to recognize and honor outstanding Montrealers for their contributions and service to our community.
•Nurturing/Skills Development – GNAM has assisted many of its members by enabling them to “conquer” fears of public speaking and developing their presentation, coordination, and organizational skills. Most notably, the team of Patrice Farray-Taylor, Theresa “Clo” Henwood and Anne Matthew, which was responsible for coordinating the association’s much anticipated annual fashion show. It also provided ‘fashionistas’ such as Clo, Anne, and Patrice the “stage” to grow and showcase their talents.
• Community Engagement – Homeland – Over the years, several Grenadian politicians, including Hon. Dr. Keith Mitchell, Hon. Tilman Thomas, Hon. Peter David, Hon. Delma Thomas, Dr. Francis Alexis, Hon. Nazim Burke, Hon. George Brizan, Hon. Dr. George Vincent, have been given the opportunity to connect with nationals in Montreal.
• Recent Initiatives – In recent years the association has added several cultural activities to its agenda, including the Grenadian Style Harvest, the Spice Island Ladies Pageant organized by current president, Mrs. Karen Parke-Bernard, and participating in the Montreal’s Carifiesta parade an initiative once championed by the late Mr. John “Spanky” McMillan. Also, Kenny Calder, a past president, became a driving force behind a City of Montreal project, the Regroupement des Organismes du Montreal Ethnique pour le Logement (ROMEL), which resulted in securing 98 affordable housing units, 25 of which were designated for members of the Grenadian community.
In its earliest years, the association’s activities served as a meeting place for the few Grenadians in Montreal at the time, and it has spawned several groups such as Grenada Ensemble, Grenada Islanders Sports Club, and the Spice Island Ladies Cultural Association.
Over the past 50 years the GNAM has been a source of strength and inspiration to Grenadians and the community. Members and officers look forward to welcoming all Montrealers as they celebrate on October 15.
Grenada Nationals Association of Montreal Inc.’s 50th Anniversary celebration at Holiday Inn, 6500 Cote de Liesse. Cocktails 7:00 p.m. Info. Karen Bernard-Parke 514-369-5788; John Cruickshank @ 514-737-8313; Frederick Peters @ 514-483-2178; Hazelanne @ 514-561-8546.