English town gets Jamaican mayor
JAMAICAN-born Donald Williams will be installed at the first Afro-Caribbean mayor of the town of Rugby located in Warwickshire, England on May 20.
“It is a great achievement for me and for the West Indian community. It means that we are being recognised for our contributions to the town," he said.
Williams said that while his role as mayor will be largely ceremonial, he intends to raise money to support the development of the Caribbean community.
"As mayor [I will help to] raise funds for the volunteer air ambulance service and to uplift the profile of Rugby's West Indian community," he stated.
Williams, who has lived in Rugby since 1957, is the first and only Jamaican or West Indian on the 48 member council of the West Midland market town.
He said that while the town's black and ethnic minority community has grown from the initial 43 in 1957, when he and his late brother Winston first moved there, the overall population remains a very small percentage of Rugby's overall 90,000 plus residents.
Despite this, he said the Jamaican and West Indian community continues to be vibrant and close knit.
"When we first came here there were very few black people. Most of us came and worked in public transportation or as nurses in the hospitals. My brother Winston and I were involved in setting up the town's first Community Relations Council and later the Rugby West Indian Association in the early 1960's," he said.
The association, which provides services and support for the West Indian community, operates a day care centre for the elderly and art and music programmes for young people.
Williams, who described himself as a long standing member of the British Labour party, said both he and his brother were strong community organisers.
His entry into politics came about in 1963 when the then Labour party parliamentary candidate, Bill Pryce, sought the brothers' support in his campaign.
In 1987, Williams was asked to stand for the County Council and placed second in the polls. He was however elected to the Rugby Town Council in 2001 and last year served as Deputy Mayor.
Williams' brother, who died a few years ago, was named a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for his community work and a street in the town is named after him.
Despite living in the United Kingdom for more than 40 years, the St Ann native maintains strong ties with his homeland. He is a regular visitor to Jamaica where two of his sisters and a host of other relatives still reside.
"You know how it is. No matter how long you have been away, or the life you have made, Jamaica always has a place in your heart," he said.