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Local heroes in the spotlight

LOCAL HEROES: The night’s winners with AJN chair Beverly Lindsay (centre)

JAMAICA-BORN tenor soloist Steve Higgins urged his fellow countrymen and women at a gala dinner in Birmingham to ensure they passed on the unique culture of their homeland to the next generation so their children value their Caribbean identity.

He was the inspirational keynote speaker at the 25th anniversary awards of the Association of Jamaican Nationals (AJN) (Birmingham) UK, where local heroes across the West Midlands were recognised alongside Jamaica’s seven national heroes.

“We need to know who we are in order to tell our youngsters who they are,” said Higgins, who is director of the South Florida Caribbean Chorale.

He praised the association’s chair Beverly Lindsay, OBE, OD, DL, for being a heroine and a trailblazer in leading the organisation for the past quarter of a century and for highlighting those unsung local heroes within the community.

Lindsay said it was more crucial than ever for AJN members to stand together and support the organisation as years of austerity in the UK had taken its toll on the group.

“We can only be the catalyst for the change we want to see here in Birmingham and Jamaica with your support and commitment, not only to the association but to the good causes it has historically championed,” she told guests at Aston Villa Football Club.


Five special Chairman’s Awards were presented to: Dr Mashuq Ally, Birmingham City Council’s assistant director for equalities, cohesion and community safety; Yvonne Mosquito, deputy police & crime commissioner for the West Midlands; Aaron Mapp, of the Second Generation of Barbadians and Friends; Pauline Lewars and Karen Duke-Thompson, for their work with the AJN.

A trio of ‘Be Inspired’ Youth Awards, led by Terrence Wallen, went to: professional footballer Rushian Marcus Amari Hepburn-Murphy, whose award was collected by his mum Elaine as he had been called up for the junior England World Cup squad.

The Best Youth Organisation prize was awarded to Aston Performing Arts Academy, and Outstanding Individual Award went to Rheanna Elizabeth Russell, for her mentoring work with young people while also studying for a master’s degree in the criminal justice process.

Named after Jamaica’s seven national heroes and heroine, the George William Gordon Award was given to Derby-based community worker Joyce Grundy, who in 1982 set up the Hadhari Day Centre for African Caribbean elders. She received her award from Ray Hassall, Lord Mayor of Birmingham.

The Alexander Bustamante Award went to local hero Rev Lloyd Denny, DL, who has more than 25 years experience as a Christian minister based in Luton, and also travels regularly to Africa and North America to carry out ministry work. His award was collected on his behalf by Bishop Melvin Brooks.

The Nanny of the Maroons Award was bestowed on nurse and midwife Olga Marr, who was presented with her award by Lord Bill Morris of Handsworth. Marr has chaired the Derby-based Caribbean Association of Carers for the past 16 years.

The Paul Bogle Award presented by Torrance Lewis, of the Jamaica Tourist Board, went to stand-up comic Hugh Edwards, better known as John Simmit.


The Sam Sharpe Award was given to Gloucester-based Carol Rose, who received her award from Dr Kevin Isaac, the high commissioner for St Kitts and Nevis. Rose has had a varied career which she has combined with many years of voluntary and charity work.

The Norman Manley Award was presented to Wolverhampton-based Junior Hemans by Diedre Mills, deputy high commissioner for Jamaica. A lifelong supporter of his local community, Hemans is one of the founding members of the African Caribbean Community Initiative and was one of the investors in acquiring the African Caribbean Heritage Centre in Wolverhampton.

The Marcus Garvey Award was given to Dr Jenny Douglas, one of the most respected individuals within the UK’s health care sector. Her award was presented by Emeritus Professor Sir Geoffrey Palmer, AJN honorary president.

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