New York Carib News CEO Recognized as “Visionary Publisher” at SACD Awards

 Last Sunday, June 23rd, 2012 at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, The Society for the Advancement of Caribbean Diaspora (SACD) held its Annual Awards Luncheon. The theme that the organization aptly chose for this year was “Working together with our Youth.” Among the several recipients that were recognized, New York Carib News’s publisher, Karl B. Rodney, was among the honoree.

This year’s recipients all fit well with SACD’s theme. Aside from selecting Caribbean American youth from the community that have excelled in various aspects of their academic studies; the organization also made room in their theme to celebrate the achievements of distinguished Caribbean Americans.

Minna Hamilton-LaFortune, in a letter to the Mr. Rodney, “The Board of Directors and membership of SACD would like to pay tribute to Mr. Rodney’s achievements and contributions to America and the Caribbean region with our Community Media and Visionary Award.”

Mr. Rodney recognizes that the youth play an important role in sustaining the Caribbean heritage well into the future. As a publisher and CEO of New York Carib News, he strategically dedicates a portion of the newspaper and website to stories that report on youth education and activities in their communities.

In addition, Mr. Rodney has always contributed to the youth of Caribbean Heritage. He chaired the American Foundation at the University of the West Indies since the late 1990s. Now, he chairs the board of the National Newspaper Publishers Association; an organization that helps the White House reward 40 scholarships a year to college-bound African American students.

President Obama Recognizes New York Carib News Publishers for their Volunteer Service

 Last Sunday, New York Carib News’s publishers, Mr. Karl B. Rodney and Mrs. Faye Rodney received the President’s Volunteer Service Award. This honorable presentation took place at the weekly newspaper’s annual Fathers reception at the Bentley Hotel Penthouse in the Upper East Side of New York City.

Among the fathers that were honored at the reception; Basketball Hall of Famer, philanthropist, public speaker and humanitarian, Thabiti Boone, presented the Rodney’s with this award on behalf of the President and the Council on Service and Civic Participation.

This award marks the pinnacle in the Rodney’s more than 40 years of service to New York City’s Caribbean American community and beyond. Mr. Rodney says, “We are grateful for this recognition by the President, and will continue to do our best on behalf of our community.”

In a personal letter that was placed with the official certificate, President Obama writes, “We need a new era of responsibility – a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our Nation, and the world. These are duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit than giving our all to a difficult task.”

The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation was established in 2003 to honor volunteers that have set a standard for service, encouraged a sustained commitment to civic participation, and inspired others to make service a central part of their lives. The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes individuals, families and groups that have achieved a specific standard – one measured by the number of hours of service over a 12-month period or the hours accumulated over the course of a lifetime.

Carib News’s Fabulous Fathers Program: George Gresham’s Passion for Youth

 This Father’s Day, we celebrated the Dads that have been there for their children, and made a difference in the lives of others. Last Sunday at the Bentley Hotel Penthouse, New York Carib News honored the following fathers and community leaders at their Fabulous Father’s Program: television actor from HBO’s “Oz” and NBC’s “Crossing Jordan”, Leon Robinson; physician and medical director Dr. J. Carl Kenel-Pierre MD; director, writer, composer and choreographer from South Africa, Mbongeni Ngema; President of Tower Isle Foods Ltd, Patrick A. Jolly; basketball hall-of-famer, public speaker, and humanitarian, Thabiti Boone; and George Gresham, the Secretary Treasurer of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Among Mr. Gresham’s many contributions, the program coordinator of the Youth Empowerment Project in the Bronx, Andy King talked about how Mr. Gresham’s support and generosity for this 1199 organization positively impacts the community’s young people.

Mr. King states, “I appreciate all that Mr. Gresham does and his passion for young people.” Mr. King also shares the story of how the Youth Empowerment Project started.

“Seven years ago, we invited the young people between the ages 13 and 21 from the Bronx to get involved in a campaign for the Fernando Ferrer,” the 2001 candidate for the New York City mayoral campaign. Mr. King continues, “The youth involved worked with the community to address the political and economic issues. Even when the campaign was over, they were so inspired by the experience, they wanted to do more.” 

The interest from young members of the campaign and their commitment that led Mr. King and one of his partners, Vicky Owens, the Vice President of the 1199 Retirees Division, to create the Youth Empowerment Project.

Since its beginnings in 2004, YEP has been showing young individuals how to be successful individuals. The organization’s slogan reads “Building body, mind and community.” Mr. King discusses how each component is essential in a young adult’s development.

“Body: our youth learns about what they need in order to take care of themselves by having conversations about health care with medical professionals.

“Mind: Developing a mind-set that will help you make better decisions, prepares you to deal with life changes.

“Community: Our youth members sit in on communication board meetings; Community Educational Council (CEC) meetings; and rallies that focus on issues that affect them. This includes youth crime, or education cuts made by Albany.”

In addition, YEP provides young adults with information and help to properly deal with the negatives in their lives, whether it is the influence of gangs in their neighborhoods or peer pressure. YEP also provides young people within their neighborhood the opportunities to work with the senior community and the disabled. George Gresham, who has also been a close acquaintance of Mr. King’s for years, saw an opportunity to expand this organization’s influence.

“Working as one of President Obama’s campaign leaders in Philadelphia, Mr. Gresham and I were invited to a special event with the president,” explained Mr. King. “Here, talked about giving the young people at YEP an opportunity to see Washington D.C.” This resulted in a trip to the nation capital, organized by YEP, with a bus and lunch provided by Mr. Gresham.

For the last three years, Mr. Gresham invited YEP’s youth to the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus in Albany, NY. The gratitude from both the organization and the youth is rewarding. Mr. King claims that for some, these experiences changed their lives.

As a whole, with Mr. Gresham’s support, the youth that were a part of YEP have gained positive experience and knowledge that would help them better themselves. According to Mr. King, those who have benefited the most from YEP have experienced an improvement in self confidence; an increase in self-discipline; overcoming their shyness; and a developed sense of commitment towards achieving their dreams, like studying more or studying smarter in order to get into college.

Mr. King also recalls a comment that the Superintendent of District 88 at the NYC Department of Education, Anthony Orzo, once made at a Community Education Council. According to Mr. King, Orzo said, “When we have a community problem, we turn to YEP.”

Aside from Orzo, Mr. and Mrs. Rodney, who were just rewarded President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award, also value this organization. Mr. Rodney says:

“George Gresham sees the value of a strong community as one of the best ways to raise the quality of life for all its members. He is very committed and determined in that endeavor.”

Tarrus Riley joins Jamaican legend, Monty Alexander to celebrate 50 years of independence and music

The Monty Alexander Birthday Bash, which took place at Kaufman Center on June 6th, gave Jamaicans, Caribbean Americans and a few lucky invites the chance to celebrate three great occasions: Jamaica’s 50th year of independence; Monty Alexander’s 50 years in music; and his birthday. Reggae artist, Tarrus Riley was among some of the guests that joined Mr. Alexander and his band on stage for an unforgettable evening.

Along with including some of his hits like “She’s Royal,” which practically the entire audience sang along to, he also joined Jamaica’s foremost saxophone player, Dean Frazer, in a short duet accompanied by Monty Alexander’s band. In between his songs, Riley briefly acknowledged the legends and icons in Jamaica and music that have paved the way for musicians of both his generation and younger.

During a brief telephone chat, the following afternoon with Carib News, Mr. Riley stated, “There were so many things to celebrate [on June 6]. Jamaica is a small place with a lot of power. We’ve done a lot of great things, and we continue to do great things.

“We have accomplished so much in 50 years. People of my age and in the music business continue to represent Jamaica, and the elders – the music legends that paved the way for us as young musicians.”

Certainly, Monty Alexander is one of the greats that have come before Riley’s time. Inside the Kaufman Center’s Merkin Concert Hall, Alexander painted a picture for audience members of some of his most treasured life experiences. Like this one:

One fine day, when Alexander was just a boy, he got to shake the hand of the American swing jazz legend, Louis Armstrong inside a theater in Kingston, Jamaica. He followed this story with an improvised melody on the piano which soon transformed into a composition – one that flowed like a conversation between the piano, acoustic bass and drum set. Further the music itself sounded canonical.

 In the composition that followed, “Strawberry Hill,” Mr. Alexander’s chamber jazz band, reunited with his original ensemble, the one that accompanied Riley earlier in the program. In this composition, jazz met reggae. Here, two genres that dominated the American and Caribbean music scene at different times in the 20th century fused with one another.

Later in the program, Mr. Alexander was joined by Riley in collaboration. Both musicians have a love and passion for Jamaican music. Riley genuinely expressed his own love for a genre that first developed in Jamaica, reggae. He explains:

“[Reggae] is very cultural; it is the music of my people. It brings together communities and it is very thought provoking – Reggae teaches us about life.

“Just like Jamaica is made up of people from different backgrounds, reggae is also made up of different influences.”

Riley has become recognized as a Reggae artist, and for some people, it seems like no surprise. His father is the noted reggae singer, Jimmy Riley. Those who are familiar with his music can only assume that he was destined for a career in music. Riley claims:

“I was into music since I was very young. Music was my environment. Whenever I would travel with my Dad into the city we would always sing on the ride there. I was also making up songs with my friends in school, and music was our sport; we were around it a lot.

“But when I was young, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was always doing music before I made the decision to do it professionally.”

During his first phase as a musician, Riley started his career on the Dance Hall scene. Later, he realized he needed to find his own sound  if he wanted to be a musician full-time. This led him to explore his own potential as an artist and discover his own style. Riley enumerates:

“I started to get into songwriting when I decided to become a full-time, professional musician. So, I took up more singing and learned several instruments to develop a style. My first album I titled “Challenges” because creating my own sound was a challenge, and so was getting it noticed.”

In the albums that followed his debut, “Challenges” Riley claims he continued to grow spiritually with each record. He also promises to stay true to his values and all he represents. Riley states:

“All my songs have a message, like lessons about human nature and everyday life. These include basic human nature and relationships of all kinds.”

“She’s Royal” is one single that falls into this category, and it is a single that has gained mass popularity in the Caribbean. Everybody in the audience at Merkin Concert Hall sang out “she’s royal” during Riley’s performance. Additional songs that people sang along with included Riley’s remake of a song by yet another Jamaican legend and reggae icon, Bob Marley, called “Redemption Song.”

Riley’s performances and collaborations with both Alexander, Frazer and other renowned musicians at the Monty Alexander Birthday Bash, raised the audience’s spirits in celebrating Jamaica as a nation and Monty Alexander’s love for music throughout the years. One can perhaps hope that Riley will host a performance in a few decades from now, perhaps celebrating his 50th year in music. However, the young musician still has a long way to go. At the moment, Riley is working on a new album, one that he surely hopes will surprise. When Carib News inquired about his new work, Riley politely and jokingly responded:

“I want to surprise people with my new music. When it is ready, then I will start talking about it. I have to surprise you; if I don’t then I’m not doing my job.”