The highlight of the 20th Anniversary Celebrations of the Commancheros New York Support Organisation was the awarding of persons who were responsible for establishing and providing helpful support service to Commancheros steel-band.
Held last week Saturday night at the Grand Prospect Hall, 263 Prospect Avenue, Brooklyn, the platinum celebrations in the form of a Dinner, Awards and Dance bought out hundreds in the New York Grenadian Community as well as a delegation from Commancheros Grenada.
Described by Executive Member George MacLeish as: “Paying recognition to the four for their outstanding, exceptional and excellent contribution towards the preservation of the steel-band culture in Grenada and in the Grenadian Community in New York,” there was a live performance from Spice Isle Pan Rockers” — a group of Grenadian steel band players who presently resides in Brooklyn.
Receiving crystal awards were foundation members of Commancheros — Denis Phillip and Leslie Robinson, while Cecil Belfon and Michelle DeSouza received wooden plaques. According to the citation Denis Phillip has the distinct honour of being the man with the foresight of establishing Commancheros steel-band 46 years ago.
With his foresight and tenacity, he captured the attention and talent of the boys in the village. They included: Leslie ‘Fats’ Robinson, Oliver ‘Dolly House’ Charles, Harold ‘Old Post’ Charles, Jude ‘Bassay’ Phillip and others, who were making music on the oil cans they collected from the gas stations and tuned to their likeness in those days.
They named themselves ‘Tin Tots’. Having had some experience in playing pan, Phillip bought a pair of pans from Kenneth ‘Tilloty’ Hood of Wayside symphony and thereafter got his good friends Steve “ Spanky” Cyrus and Jonathan “Jukie” Phillip to make some others pans for the boys to play; resulting in the rebirth of a steel band in the community of St. Paul’s. “From initiative and motivation, to physical, financial and moral support to individual members and the band, he is seen as a father to all,” said that citation.
Leslie Robinson was described as a pillar of strength for the band from its foundation because of his ability to make things happen. “He was responsible for running electrical cables from the kitchen of his parents’ home without permission and connecting a light bulb to a tree, to provide light for practicing. The designer, the architect, the builder, from board stands to iron stands to mobile stands, whether with a hammer or the wielding torch, he always made sure there was enough for practice and play out,” said the citation.
Though not a registered member of CNYSO, Michelle DeSouza has given unselfishly to the organisation for over 15 years. “Whether it is selling tickets for many of our functions; often surpassing the sales of most of our members, or sampling of her exotic culinary skills, to making suggestions for menus and helping in the preparation of them, she has been there for us and given to us without seeking payment in return,” said the Organisation about DeSouza.
Cecil Belfon according to the organisation has unselfishly written and produced many winning compositions specifically for Commancheros Steel Orchestra’s renditions at Spicemas Panorama competition. As co-sponsor to the tour of the steel band to the North-East United States in 1997, he worked tirelessly with CNYSO to negotiate and coordinate the many arrangements that led to the last live recording done by the steel band.
“Whether it was the need to reproduce CDs or the promotion of the interest of the steel band and CNYSO on his website, the response to our calls has always been enthusiastically filled with advices, suggestions and or opinions; and may I say ‘free of cost’,” said the organisation.
There was no featured speaker and the surprise highlight of the awards ceremony was the reading of a message from Mayor Michael Bloomberg by former Consul General Janice Celestine and a proclamation from Borough of Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz which was read out by the Master of Ceremony Derek Ventour.
Bloomberg said that Caribbean New Yorkers have contributed greatly to the diversity of New York city while Markowitz applauded the organization for their many contributions towards the development of Caribbean culture both in New York and Grenada.
The delegation from Grenada used the occasion to also recognition the New York Support Group contribution towards the sustainable development of the steel-band over the past 20 years with a plaque.
by Linda Straker
Photos by Michael Bascombe