From the Archives: Youth Awards

I actually don’t remember what year this was (clues in the story suggest 2010). But it was published in the Daily Observer …and the sentiment stands. Copyright belongs to me; sharing welcomed but no stealing.

Support the Youth Awards…Here’s Why

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

“I felt very honoured to win the award…it acted as a bit of an encouragement to continue writing,” said former Youth Awards winner, Floree Williams. Williams is on the eve of the November 4th launch of her second book, Through the Window. Williams, who has not yet hit her mid-20s, is just one of the youths who’ve been recognized these past several years by the Youth Department’s awards programme, delayed this year due to financial and other challenges.

I’d like to go on record as saying this programme should not only go on, but be broadcast live on ABS TV, simulcast on other stations, with mini-featurettes of the awardees running throughout the year. Because every time I’ve attended this award programme it’s left me hopeful for the future. These young people are doers and dreamers; let me introduce, or in some instances, re-introduce you to some of them.

First, there’s Williams, as noted. Her first book was the memoir Pink Tea Cups and Blue Dresses. In-between, she, and another young Antiguan, the late Nerissa Percival, contributed a chapter on self-acceptance to Souls of My Young Sisters, sequel to the Essence bestseller Souls of My Sisters. “I push myself to take the things I imagine and make them a reality on paper, instead of just dreaming,” Williams told the Daily Observer. The payoff is more than monetary: “When someone I don’t know comes up to me and says they enjoy my book, it just gives me more reassurance that this is what I am supposed to be doing.” Quite an unusual turn for someone who majored in Information Technology in university in Canada. Also a departure for Williams has been her performances in Women of Antigua’s Vagina Monologues and When a Woman Moans.

These productions were co-directed by another of the former Youth Award winners, Zahra Airall. Airall is a busy, busy bee. With partner and another laudable young Antiguan, Linisa George, she started August Rush Productions which since 2009 has been producing a series of Expressions poetry Open Mics and recently launched the Young Antiguan Poets Society; she co-directs and co-stars in the named WOA productions with George, in addition to having her own youth theatre group, Zee’s Youth Theatre, which has produced critically acclaimed plays like School Bag and performances for Black History Month earlier this year at Word Up! Airall, a young mother, teacher, and media worker, also speaks from behind the lens; images from her byZia Photography – including the amazing series ‘She Rox Locks’, featuring locked and amazing sisters – showing up regularly on Facebook.

Speaking of amazing sisters, mention must be made of Janil Greenaway, another former Youth Award winner. Recognized while still working as minister counsellor with the Antigua and Barbuda diplomatic corps at the United Nations, she’s risen to the top in one of Antigua’s key markets as the country’s new consul general to Canada. Now 34, she’s the youngest appointee ever to this position. The former Fulbright Scholar, the first in 10 years from Antigua at the time, began her professional career at the Antigua Sun where she moved swiftly from editorial assistant to associate editor, and demonstrated that she was no shrinking violet when she was a runner-up, in 1998, in the Queen of Carnival competition and co-starred in the country’s first feature film, The Sweetest Mango. Greenaway is someone who clearly never shies from a challenge and she’s taken on this one during an economically difficult time.  “You know how you jump into a role wanting to do so many things but don’t have the resources to and that can be a bit frustrating?” she asked the Daily Observer. “But the thrill of the challenge (motivates) me and the positive feedback and encouragement from friends and relatives helps me to just take it one step at a time and appreciate the small successes.”

Challenges, meanwhile, are just ‘a day at the office’ for Antiguan and Barbudan star sprinter and former youth awardee, Daniel ‘Bakka’ Bailey. He’s represented the country at each of the summer Olympics since 2004.  Achievements include bronze in the 60 m at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships, becoming Antigua’s first medalist in the event, silver in 100 m at the Continental Cup, and bronze in the 200 m at the Pan American Junior Championships.

Marlon Rawlins, who at just 30 moved into the proverbial corner office at the Bank of Nova Scotia, is familiar with firsts. The former youth award winner, was, before becoming the first native born country manager in the bank’s 49 year history on the island, first to hold a similar position at RBTT. The former recipient of the British Chevening scholarship, is (or has been) deeply involved in the running of professional and social organizations like the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Bankers, Bankers Association, Chamber of Commerce, Carnival Development Committee, and Myst mas troupe. What motivates him? Shortly after his appointment, Rawlins told the Daily Observer, “I try to fight the urge of being ordinary.”

Artist Mark Brown’s work, meanwhile, is far from ordinary, and the Youth Awards selection committee no doubt recognized this when they singled him out. His website describes him as “a figurative painter who is not afraid to go beyond the boundaries” and his thought provoking Angel in Crisis show is evidence of this, imagining as it does the path of a celestial being angsting over and ultimately surrendering his immortality. One of the pieces from this series of paintings netted the former Princess Margaret School student his latest award, the critics’ choice Carmichael Award, in Barbados, where he, also, earned his fine arts degree with first class honours from the Barbados Community College. “He is being hailed as the most outstanding painting student ever to graduate from the gallery,” Zemicon owner, Therese Hadchity, was quoted as saying. Besides, how many Antiguan artists can say one of their paintings is in the private collection of Supreme diva, Diana Ross? Kudos to Brown, too, for his social work: notably harnessing his students’ talents to produce paintings to enliven the stark walls of the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre.

When Mickey Josiah received his Youth Award it was for his social work; he’s also a recipient of the First Caribbean International Bank Unsung Hero Award for his work in the New Winthorpes community. “It has transformed my life,” he was quoted as saying of his work with the New Winthorpes Upcoming Stars Sports & Community Club.

Really, little as it’s told, this article could go on and on, with its roll call of past Youth Award recipients who continue to make an impact. From former CXC most outstanding student and debater extraordinaire Carlon Knight, whose ‘Dear Dad’ video marking the Conventions on the Rights of the Child 20th anniversary is worth a repeat viewing and a keen listen; to Tanzania ‘Tizzy’ Sebastian who as front woman for El A Kru has flown the Antiguan and Barbudan flag before thousands of soca fans across the Caribbean, in Europe and America; to regional cycling champion and future Olympic prospect Jyme Bridges; to (in America) National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national champion (in both 100 and 200 m) Anika Jno Baptiste; and so many others, in just about every discipline you can think of.

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