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(SNO) — Members of the St. Lucian diaspora in the United Kingdom (UK) marked the start of the country’s National Day celebrations with the annual special flag-raising ceremony held in Newham, London, on Friday, December 13.
A sizeable crowd from all over the UK gathered at the Newham Town Hall in London’s east-end before midday to celebrate and mark the ‘nationhood of the nation’.
The yearly event, which is hosted by prominent community activist and local magistrate Justin Moore, has now become a yearly “must-attend” ceremony since it was first held in 2007.
The main part of the ceremony, which saw the flag being hoisted above the well-known building, had to be performed quickly due to the unpleasantly cold weather.
After prayer, the proud community of St. Lucians, who were gathered outside, did not hold back in putting the state’s national hymn into song. The rendition was moving and touching as it reminded people of their beautiful island in the sun — a place they would rather be in right now instead of the confines of the brutally cold weather in London.
Dr. Ben Charles, a British-based St. Lucian academic and an influential member of the community, said that St. Lucians are proud of their national day.
“The bond is very strong between St. Lucia and the diaspora and we must maintain this bond,” said Dr. Charles, who was moderating the event.
Young journalist, Aaliyah Harry, 21, spoke about her love for St. Lucia and it’s people. The young reporter, who was named after the American singer, stressed the need for the youths of the UK to connect with their St. Lucian counterparts.
“Our island’s identity is dying and it would be good to bring the young people together in events like this to connect,” said Harry, who plans to visit St. Lucia in the near future to help in any way she can for her beloved island. “Events like this should never die. We need to keep going.”
High Commissioner Guy Mayers took time out to thank Justin Moore and his wife Theresa in helping to organize and in making this event a reality.
“I am calling on all St. Lucians to work together and to come together as one. We need to continue to support each other in the spirit of camaraderie,” said Mayers, who is offering to help St. Lucians in the UK to regularize their stay in Britain via his High Commission.
He is also calling on St. Lucians born in the UK to get St. Lucian citizenship.
“We need to get them to identify with St. Lucia and in the process to get their St. Lucian identity,” he said.
Felicia Hippolyte, who has just returned from a trip to St. Lucia where she and her organization made donations to several worthy causes, said she was seeking ways to collaborate with St. Lucia from the UK.
“We sponsored schools, gave out Christmas gifts to the needy. It was such a pleasure to see so many Caribbean people coming together as one,” said Hippolyte, who originally comes from Anse La Raye on St. Lucia’s west coast.
Other participants at the memorable flag-raising ceremony included Cllr Terence Paul from Newham Council. He reminded the audience of the days when his St. Lucian parents kept their documents in their suitcases and “Grips” just in case, as things were so different back then.
“The National Front wanted to send us back to where we came from,” said Cllr Paul, who promised to help those from the Windrush generation who are currently left stranded.
In his closing remarks, Moore, a pillar and one of the most distinguished St. Lucians to have ever graced the shores of the UK, said he is always willing to lend a hand and to do whatever possible to help St, Lucia in her times of need.
“This event promotes community cohesion and helps bring members of the diaspora and their friends together to share their experiences and to develop new friends,” said Moore, who singled out the High Commissioner Mayers, Cllr Paul, the Newham Council, the police, Dr. Charles and all those who spoke at the event, as well as the audience who came out to support.
“I would like to thank them all,” he said.
Moore maintains that he will never give up on his mother country of St. Lucia and reveals that he would like to see this important ceremony carry on for many more years to come. He credits his wife Theresa, and in his vote of thanks speech, said: “Behind every successful man there is a successful woman.”
The qualified social worker and JP said he was grateful for the attendance: “Despite the cold weather, we are gathered here to celebrate this special moment. This shows commitment and dedication to St. Lucia and it’s people.”
Moore and his wife Theresa are already planning next year’s event.
“Oh yes, we are,” he said gracefully.