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AFUWI Gala 2007

10th anniversary: The Legend Continues

by Marcia Erskine

He has been described by the Guinness Who’s Who of Reggae “as one of the great popularizers of reggae music, who blazed a trail into rock that Bob Marley followed”.  But when Dr. The Hon. Jimmy Cliff took the stage on Monday, January 22, 2007, at the American Foundation of the University of the West Indies (AFUWI) 10th annual gala at New York’s celebrated Waldorf Astoria, it was to accept an award from the man whom he introduced to his own record producer at the very start of his career.

The University of the West Indies Bob Marley Award, was graciously accepted by Dr. Cliff who told the capacity audience at the gala, “I have completed half my journey which has included the movie, ‘The Harder They Come’ and the music which has touched the lives of many.  Look in the second half for the sequel of that movie.”

The award was presented by Patron of the event, Dr. the Hon. Harry Belafonte, O.J., and Professor Rex Nettleford, Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the UWI.

Professor Nettleford thanked Dr. Cliff for his influence on the entire world. “The UWI honours people like Harry Belafonte as philosophers –they help us remember who we are and where we come from and help us to survive.”  He noted however, “We have to move beyond survival and people like Jimmy Cliff have helped us there.”  

Dr. Cliff was among a number of distinguished recipients of awards at the AFUWI Gala.

He shared the main spotlight with Ruby Dee Davis, actor, writer producer and activist; Richard P. Brown, Attorney-at-Law and Civic Leader, and Atlantic LNG Company of Trinidad & Tobago, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) company.

Ruby Dee Davis was honoured “for her commitment and dedication to peace and equal rights”.  She and her husband, the late Ossie Davis, were close friends of the Late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and served as Masters of Ceremonies for the historic 1963 March on Washington.

Dee and Ossie won several awards including one from the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP); the Academy of Television Arts & Science; the Screen Actor’s Guild and the John F. Kennedy Center.

Richard Brown was honoured for “devoting his time, expertise and imagination to organizations working to improve education and quality of life around the world”.

A member of the AFUWI Board of Directors in the late 1970’s, Mr. Brown gave “almost three decades of dedicated commitment and contribution to the organization and UWI”.  He is a past chairman of the International Law Section, American Bar Association, Trustee Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania, Board member of PBS Station WHYY (Philadelphia) and the International Peace Academy (NY) and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Atlantic LNG was lauded for “its outstanding contributions to the economic development of the West Indies, as well as its commitment to improving the lives of its constituents in Trinidad & Tobago.”

The fifth largest LNG producer in the world, Atlantic LNG conducts programmes that develop the skills of young persons in the community and partners with communities to improve the infrastructure that supports them.  “Atlantic For Children”, a fund for annual projects initiated and fully sponsored by Atlantic LNG, benefits the children of Trinidad & Tobago.

Four individuals received Vice Chancellor Achievement Awards which recognize deserving individuals of Caribbean heritage who are rising stars in their respective fields or persons who have made significant contributions to, or brought to prominence issues that affect the Caribbean.

Recipients were Lloyd W. Brown II, Executive Vice President, Bank of New York; Eric Eve, Snr. Vice President, Community Relations, Citigroup Global Consumer Group; Michael Granger, General Partner & Co-Founder, Ark Capital Management Fund and Wayne Seaton, Executive Vice President & Head of Public Finance for M.R. Beal & Company.

Professor E. Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor of the UWI, thanked them all for their contributions to the growth and development and their commitment to the region. He noted that UWI, which celebrates its 60th anniversary next year, “has built tremendous capacity in academia and industry across the region and even non-graduates of UWI share the love and support for the institution.”

A third category of awards celebrated “Caribbean Luminaries” who “have left their indelible mark on the Caribbean region and the world, signify the progress made during the 20th century and represent some of the significant contributions made by the Caribbean Diaspora.’

The eight “Caribbean Luminaries” recognized were Grenada-born Jean Augustine OBE, QC, the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to the Parliament of Canada; Irving Burgie, one of the greatest composers of Caribbean music including “Day-O” and “Jamaica Farewell”; Samuel J. Daniel (of Antiguan heritage), President & CEO of North General Hospital; Dr. Geoffrey Frankson, Belizean National Scholar & UWI graduate; Malcolm Gladwell (of Jamaican heritage), Journalist and Author of “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make A Big Difference” and “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”; Her Excellency Dame Calliopa Pearlette Louisy, Governor General of St. Lucia; Barbadian Eliott Mottley, QC, non-resident President of the Court of Appeal of Belize and R. Dancia Penn, OBE, QC, Acting Governor General of the British Virgin Islands.