The amazing Bajan diaspora in North America


In “The amazing Bajan diaspora in North America,” Henry S. Fraser (past Dean of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies and Professor Emeritus of Medicine) writes about many renowned Barbados nationals and descendants in the United States and Canada. Here are excerpts:

It’s often said that there’s a Bajan in every country in the world. And the number of Bajans in North America, many of whom have contributed hugely to their adopted country, is out of all proportion to our tiny country of just a few more than a quarter million people. We’re proud of them but we do wish more had found their way home!

This column about the diaspora was prompted by the recent Lifetime Achievement Award for 2014 given to my brother John Fraser, chartered accountant and risk management guru. John is one of those many Bajan Canadian stars. In 2010, a splendid book about these stars of the diaspora in Canada was published: Some Barbadian Canadians – A Biographical Dictionary, with an editorial committee headed by our High Commissioner in Ottawa, His Excellency Evelyn Greaves, and distinguished historian Professor Keith Sandiford as Editor-in-Chief. It told much of our close relationship with Canada over generations – partnership, friendship and kinship!

The story of the diaspora could be said to have begun with Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Moody, born at St. Ann’s Garrison in Barbados 200 years ago, on February 13th, 1813. He became Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia and Port Moody was named after him. Our next Bajan Canadian hero was Seraphim “Joe” Fortes, Vancouver’s first lifeguard, who was declared Vancouver’s Citizen of the Century in 1972. Born in 1865, he became a legendary lifeguard at English Bay, saving the lives of scores of people and teaching thousands of children to swim. A monument in a park by the beach commemorates him, as well as a library and the magnificent Joe Fortes restaurant. Canada has now brought out postage stamps commemorating Joe Fortes and the famous jazz pianist Oliver Jones, son of Bajan parents in Toronto.

[. . .] My brother John is Senior Vice-President, lnternal Audit, and former Chief Risk Officer (thirteen years) of Hydro One Networks lnc., one of North America’s largest electricity transmission and distribution companies. John started his career with then Bovell and Skeete and later Coopers and Lybrand, in Barbados, St. Lucia and Dominica. He moved to Canada some 40 years ago, where he pioneered computer auditing at Coopers and Lybrand in the 1970s.

He’s now Adjunct Professor at York University [. . .] and he’s not only a great teacher and writer, but a superb proof reader, as he kindly proofed my new book Historic Churches of Barbados.

And this brings me to the even larger and more fascinating subject of the Bajan Americans – those thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of first, second and third generation Bajan Americans, many of whom have starred in the USA. Just last week, at our magnificent Police Band’s 125th anniversary function, I met Lawrence “Lolly” Walker, my brother John’s classmate at The Lodge. Lolly is Radiology Manager at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. And Dr. Ken Harewood, another Lodge alumnus, is just about the most distinguished Bajan scientist in the USA, while Dr. Chelston Brathwaite, now Ambassador to China, has made a name both in the USA and globally in agriculture. There’s Professor Calvin Holder (a Combermerian and PhD Harvard) of the City University of New York; and so many of our brilliant physicians, including two urologists, Professor Barlow Lynch, of Federal High School and now at George Washington University in Washington D.C., and Dr. Leslie Deane at the University of Illinois in Chicago. While Dr. Deane is a UWI Cave Hill graduate, Professor Lynch is a graduate of the State University of New York, and divides his time between Barbados and Washington.

In fact there are so many medical doctors working in the USA, who, if they returned they could establish and run my dream state-of-the-art hospital – The Mayo Clinic of the Caribbean!

And what about the second generation Bajan Americans? Eric Holder, President Obama’s Attorney General [see photo above], is the son of Bajan parents; as is Earl Greaves, famous publisher of the magazine Black Enterprise, and recipient of an Honorary Degree from the UWI at Cave Hill; and Shirley Chisolm, America’s first African American congresswoman. [. . .]

For full opinion piece, see

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