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Local heroes shine at glittering Birmingham awards night

ALL TOGETHER NOW: The line-up of Local Hero award winners for 2017

THE DIVERSITY and multiculturalism brought to Birmingham by the African-Caribbean community has helped to shape it into the great city it is today – a city on the brink of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Seth George Ramocan, High Commissioner for Jamaica, was full of praise for the major role played by Jamaicans in the UK’s second city, as he gave a keynote speech at the 27th annual gala and awards evening hosted by the Association of Jamaican Nationals (AJN) in Birmingham, UK.

The glittering gala dinner, attended by many dignitaries including the Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands John Crabtree OBE, Lord Mayor of Birmingham Anne Underwood, and AJN patron Lord Bill Morris of Handsworth OJ, put the spotlight on local unsung heroes in the community across the West Midlands.

Each one is paired with one of Jamaica’s own national heroes and the ceremony coincides with the celebration of National heroes Week back home in the Caribbean.

His Excellency Mr Ramocan, who has also served in Canada, spoke of how Jamaican people, wherever they settle in the world, tend to take on a leadership role in standing up for people’s rights, not only for Jamaicans themselves, but for people generally who might feel a sense of neglect or oppression. He said:

RECOGNITION: Lord Bill Morris OJ, presents an award to Rev Hermilyn James

“This is a very great trait of the Jamaican UK community – and I would like to pay tribute to those Jamaicans who arrived here on the Empire Windrush, almost 70 years ago. We believe this was a landmark event as so many Caribbean people answered Britain’s call to help rebuild the country after the Second World War.

“It also showed the resilience and determination of our people to survive and thrive wherever they find themselves. I would also like to commend the churches within the Jamaican UK community which have provided an oasis for people coming into a new culture for the first time without a support system. The churches have been that support and kept our people together.

“So, we are very proud of the Jamaican UK community, numbering between 600,000 and 800,000, who have contributed significantly in health, education and transportation. Many of our nationals occupy the highest positions in this country in government, business and the public sector. More and more people are coming to realise the significant contribution that the Jamaican community has made to the wellbeing of the United Kingdom.”

Dr. Beverly Lindsay OBE, OD, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands and AJN chairman, said 2017, Jamaica’s 55th year of independence, had been very challenging during which several loved community champions had passed away. She paid tribute to the late Bishop Dunn, entertainer Enid Rose Weir, cricket ambassador Sted Wallen, popular personality Dr. Love and former High Commissioner Mr Herbert Walker. She also praised the success of the three-day Jamaica in the Square 2017 celebrations, organised by Dean Alexander, which passed off peacefully and included a flag raising ceremony, attended by thousands of people. She thanked Birmingham City Council, Victoria Mutual, the Royal Navy, Grace Foods and all organisations which supported the event.

ACHIEVEMENTS: Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands John Crabtree OBE, left, presents an award to Tony Kelly

‘Be Inspired’ Youth Awards were presented to talented music mentor Mahaliah Edwards, who won a scholarship to continue her studies in music at Birmingham Conservatoire and James Frater, an industrious role model who is part of the Reach Society, a social enterprise that encourages, motivates and inspires black boys.

Chairman’s Special Recognition Awards were awarded to Rev. Henroy Green, a community stalwart and founder member of King Solomon International Business School in Aston, Birmingham. The Cape Community Centre in Smethwick was recognised for its 25 years of work supporting the local community – Rev. Stan Fairin collected the awards.

Surprise Chairman’s Awards were also given to saxophonist Millicent Stephenson and the singers Brothers United in Christ. Dean Alexander was awarded for his organising of Jamaica in the Square.

Local winners of the seven National hero Awards, presented by Dr. Joe Aldred, were as follows:

The Norman Manley Award was given to Dr. Mark Richards, BSc, PhD, DIC, a multi-talented academic, sportsman, and radio presenter, who is a dedicated teacher, while also focussing on research.

BRAVO: From left - HE Seth George Ramocan, with Dr Beverly Lindsay OBE,OD, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, right, presenting an award to Brothers United In Christ members Patrick Spence and Carl Shirley

The Alexander Bustamante Award went to Derby-born local hero Beverley Stewart, a former highly respected employee at British Midland airline, who went on to launch her own after school club before becoming co-founder of Open Door Forum, which promoted community engagement within the BME sector.

National hero George Gordon was paired with Jamaican-born Veronica (Peggy) Cooper, now based in Gloucester, who is a supervisor manager X-ray technician within Gloucester NHS, and has also chaired Gloucester’s Jamaican Sports & Social Club. She has been part of the St Ann Society of Gloucester, which aims to foster good relations between Gloucester and the parish of St Ann in Jamaica.

The Paul Bogle Award was awarded to retired senior probation officer Tony Kelly who is now an award-winning community champion for Diabetes UK. Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes 12 years ago, Tony is an inspirational campaigner raising awareness of the condition, which he manages with his own disciplined approach through diet and exercise.

National hero Sam Sharpe was paired with St Ann-born Daphne Gibbs, who came to the UK where she trained in both orthopaedic and maternity nursing based in Burton-on-Trent. She has also been an active volunteer with the Burton Caribbean Association for more than 30 years, helping with the luncheon club on a weekly basis, supporting the carnival and organising day trips for the elderly.


The Marcus Garvey Award was presented to David King, a successful ecumenist who has voluntarily served the New Testament Church of God for more than 30 years. He holds a Master of Science in Industrial Logistics and has overseen many varied projects – from delivering the largest UK 60th Windrush anniversary event in 2008, to organising the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005 that culminated in a march of 225,000 people in Edinburgh.

National hero Nanny of the Maroons Award was presented to Rev. Hermilyn James, Senior Pastor at Dudley New Testament Church of God. Born in Westmoreland, Jamaica, she has been involved in the work of the church all her life, gaining a Diploma in Pastoral Theology while working as a legal secretary in Birmingham. Community focused, James has represented the church in a variety of initiatives; she serves as Chaplain to the traders and residents of Dudley town and to SHAPE, a local women’s refuge in Birmingham. She is also a national and international speaker.

Following the awards, the Jamaica Tourist Board presented Lindsay and her Diamond Travel team with an award thanking them for 30 years of loyal trading service.

The evening, which was run by toastmaster Reuben Lynch, included entertainment from Pauline Blair-Manuel, hip hop dancer Crisis, soloist Ayanna and singer Jay Bigby.

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