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Local Birmingham heroes in the spotlight

HEROES ALL: (From left) Claudette Mitchell, Joan Mardner-Bailey, Sir Geoff Palmer, Camille Ade-John, Bishop Dr Eric Brown, Beverly Lindsay, chair of AJN, Errol Lawson, Merle Miller, Mable Slater, Rensford Pryce and Karl George

THE MAGNIFICENT seven names of Bogle, Gordon, Nanny, Sharpe, Bustamante, Manley and Garvey are the inspiration behind a glittering annual awards night in Birmingham where seven local heroes’ efforts are rewarded as they are ‘matched’ with Jamaica’s seven national icons.

More than 400 guests attended the glittering annual gala at Aston Villa Football Club organised by the Association of Jamaican Nationals (Birmingham) UK, (AJN).

Keynote speaker Bentley Cunningham, a retired university lecturer, who was born in Kingston, brought the house down and won a standing ovation for a brilliantly-timed speech on his life’s experiences both in the UK and in Jamaica.

In her statement, Beverly Lindsay, AJN chairman, wrote of leaving a ‘trail of hope’ for the next generation and how it was important to show them that real heroes could be found right at the heart of their own communities, not in the celebrity world.

Former Emmerdale actor Wil Johnson, who played single dad Dom in the long-running soap, presented the awards, saying he was always delighted to be back in Birmingham.


Alexander Bustamante matched with Bishop Dr Eric Brown, who has served three consecutive terms as National Overseer of the New Testament Church of God.

Marcus Garvey teamed with Errol Lawson, a pastor, a published author and motivational speaker who has worked with schools, churches and individuals in the UK, Europe and Africa for the past 15 years.

Paul Bogle matched with Karl George, MBE, an accountant, who is MD of the Governance Forum and was instrumental in launching the Association of Corporate Governance, a professional body for cross sector governance practitioners.

Nanny of the Maroons united with Claudette Mitchell, founder and director of the Wolverhampton Sickle Cell Care & Social Activity Centre which provides holistic care for those suffering from sickle cell and thalassaemia.

Norman Manley matched with Joan Mardner-Bailey. A nurse, whose career spanned more than 30 years in the health service, Joan is now busy working with Erma’s Jamaica Hospital Appeal Fund supporting the Bethlehem Orphanage project and severely disabled children in Kingston.

Sam Sharpe teamed with Mable Slater, a long standing member of the Derby West Indian Community Association who returned to full time education to gain a diploma in child care development. She now works as a teaching assistant, while also running breakfast and after school clubs.

George Gordon matched with Merle Miller, a former nursing sister, who also worked as a Nurse Tutor, and a volunteer for the Probation Service, and the Staffordshire Police Activities and Community Enterprise (SPACE).

Four individual youth awards were presented to Anisa Haghdadi, for young entrepreneur; Kyrah Clarke, outstanding achievement award; Romaine Sawyers, inspiring sports personality and achievement award; Zara Sykes, inspiring entertainment achievement award.

A team from the MAC - Midlands Arts Centre received an award for inspiring youth provision.

Three chairman’s appreciation awards were given to Camille Ade-John, Rensford Pryce and Emeritus Professor Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who is also an honorary president of the AJN.

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