Vincentian community activist dead at 53

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A report by Nelson A. King for Caribbean Life News.

The Brooklyn-based St. Vincent & the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc. (SVGDCNY) said on Monday that it was profoundly saddened by the passing of its chairman, Maxwell Fitz-Osbourne Haywood.

Haywood, a popular Vincentian community activist in Brooklyn and United Nations Development Officer, died on Nov. 29, said his wife Sherrill-Ann Haywood, who had worked closely with him in SVGDCNY. He was 53.

Mrs. Haywood said her husband was ailing for most of this year. His Home-going Service takes place on Friday at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal (Anglican) Church, between Nostrand and New York Aves., in Brooklyn.

Haywood was instrumental in the formation of SVGDCNY in 2010 and was elected its first chairman, a position he held until his “untimely demise,” said SVGDCNY in a statement on Monday.

“He made an indelible mark on the organization, both in terms of his governance style and expertise,” it said. “Over his tenure, Maxwell brought unique insight, acumen and leadership to the Diaspora Committee, as it expanded beyond its core mission as a policy-making organization, to community outreach in the areas of sports and culture.

“His vision and emphasis were to promote unity among Vincentians in the U.S.A. and the wider Diaspora, and to positively impact issues related to development and migration in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.,” it added. “His leadership and commitment to the mission and mandate of the Diaspora Committee was unmatched, and he worked tirelessly to advocate and raise awareness of the particular issues confronting the Vincentian Diaspora in the U.S.A.”

The group said Haywood presided over the establishment of its annual Gala and Heritage Awards, a program to honor Vincentians for their outstanding contributions to all aspects of Vincentian life and excellence.

“He had a deep love of the Caribbean, Africa and his beloved homeland, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and its people,” it said. “The long-term sustainability and engagement of the Diaspora Committee were some of his top priorities, and we shall endeavor to that goal.

“On this sad occasion, the members of the SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines] Diaspora Committee of New York extend our deepest condolences to his family, and our heartfelt gratitude to this exceptional, but humble man,” the group added.

Haywood’s death overshadowed, on Dec. 3, the gala 8th Annual Luncheon of the Brooklyn-based group VincyCares at El Caribe Country Club in Brooklyn.

Haywood died after VincyCares had announced early this year that he would be among four individuals and a group to be honored at its annual grand celebration that usually takes place at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn. The event was held Sunday, for the first time, at El Caribe Country Club.

Mrs. Haywood, an employee at Brooklyn’s predominantly Black Medgar Evers College, accepted the award posthumously in the highly passionate ceremony.

The Rev. Dr. Roxie Irish, a youth minister at Miracle Temple Ministries in the Brownville section of Brooklyn and founder and president of the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn, had, inevitably, set the tone for the pall, which was cast over the ceremony, in very terse remarks before delivering the opening prayer.

“In our community, we’re mourning, because one of our very special stalwarts transitioned from this life,” she said, asking for, and receiving, a minute’s silence from patrons in honor of Haywood. “And it’s none other but our dear brother, Maxwell Haywood.”

Mrs. Haywood’s acceptance speech was preceded and followed by standing ovations, and interspersed with selections – by DJ Kemmy “Man Kemmy” Christopher, the 1989 Junior Calypso King in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – from calypsonian Rasum’s “Perseverance” and Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind.”

“Thanks for the overwhelming support since Maxwell’s passing and all the prayers and well wishes,” said Mrs. Haywood, as tears streamed down the cheeks of some patrons, and some used tissue to dry their eyes. “Maxwell was especially happy to receive this particular award because of his respect for Vincycares and the work they do. This year’s theme ‘Youth development is the path to successful leadership’ also resonated with him, because it exemplifies his own life and journey.”.

Since migrating to the US, Haywood served many organizations in the Vincentian community in Brooklyn. He was the former chairperson of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Progressive League; and he played an active role in the formation of the Vincentian umbrella group in the US, the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO).

He also served as general secretary to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Homecoming preparations in New York in 2009, and served as the general secretary to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Cultural Symposium Committee in New York.

In addition, he was the public relations officer of the Brooklyn-based Dynamite Calypso Tent, the sole Vincentian-owned calypso tent in New York.

Haywood was a regular writer in the Searchlight newspaper and regular social critic on WE FM radio – both in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He was also a published poet and musician.

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