The Antigua and Barbuda Progressive Society (ABPS), one of the longest surviving national institutions, celebrated 78 years of service to the community on September 30.
Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Baldwin Spencer and his wife Jacqueline Spencer were special guests of honor and joined members officers and friends in this momentous celebration.Under the leadership of President Roz Olatunji, the 78th Anniversary celebration centered on Harlem, where the ABPS is headquartered and the day of activities began with a Service of Thanksgiving at the Beulah Wesleyan Methodist Church.
Pastor Kirton J. Lashley officiated and charged the members of the ABPS to combine their talents and work together as a team to continue the good work of this great Society.
The ABPS was founded by a group and Antiguan and Barbudan nationals during the Great Depression as a way to support Caribbean immigrants who were ineligible for assistance from many social programs in the United States. The Society received two proclamations that recognized the organization’s contributions throughout New York and Antigua and Barbuda over the past 78 years. One proclamation was from Borough President of Brooklyn and the other from State Senator, Bill Perkins of the 30th District of Harlem.
Following the service, Prime Minister Spencer visited the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for a private viewing of authentic historical records from the ABPS that will be part of an official exhibit that links Antigua and Barbuda’s history to Black Culture. Dr. Edwina Dei Ashie-Nikoi Archivist in Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division at the Schomburg presents several documents for the Prime Minister to review. Dr. Ashie-Nikoi indicated that the final exhibit will be unveiled in March 2013. She stated, “There are really some exciting gems in the collection and we are anxious to have the exhibit fully processed and available to patrons.”
Documents reviewed by PM Spencer included:
* 1950 letter from V C Bird commending “the efforts made by Antiguans in America to help their folks at home”
* letters from Antigua recipients of the Society’s aid, including acknowledgement of $76.98 contribution to St. Stevens Memorial Domestic Service Center in 1948
* checks from the Antigua Progressive Society to members in need, to other Caribbean benevolent societies (Anguilla, Barbuda, Bermuda and Montserrat) and to non-Caribbean organizations in New York.
* 1946-1949 Book of minutes from monthly meetings
The Prime Minister proceeded to “Antigua House,” a Harlem brownstone that is the official “home” of the ABPS. The Antiguan-style open house luncheon was catered by Culinary Ambassador Chef Murphy and hosted by members, officers and friends of the ABPS.
In addressing the audience PM Spencer lauded the ABPS for their continued efforts in forging links between Antigua and Barbuda and the United States. He commended the pioneers of the ABPS, including Bishop James P Roberts, Sr., Founder of the association and 22 other Antigua and Barbudan nationals who were the original members.
PM Spencer challenged the current leadership to keep the organization vibrant and relevant. “You have the responsibility of taking the society into another era. Of course, you will have to bring your own vision, but I urge you to continue to mirror the vision of our forefathers and continue to be ‘Progressive’ in name and deeds.”
Referring to his tour at the Schomburg, PM Spencer was impressed by the level of detail in the records. “It was almost as if they knew that they were building for the future and the level of organization that went into to their record keeping demonstrates their passion and commitment to the cause.”
The eldest member of the ABPS, Sis, Margaret Maynard, who was also celebrating her 86th Birthday was presented with a bouquet by First Lady Spencer. Ms. :Mona Wyre Manigo, Chair of Anniversary Celebration, welcomed all attendees and acknowledged special guests and stakeholders.