Spirit of Independence awardee

Observer West reporter

Thursday, August 09, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Robert Blake, who is visually impaired, was happy to be among the 10 individuals to be bestowed with the Spirit of Independence award during the St James Municipal Corporation/Jamaica Cultural Development Commission Independence Civic Ceremony on Independence Monday.

But Blake, who is also vice- president of the Cornwall Combined Disability Association Benevolent Society, is livid that throughout the ceremony, speaker after speaker failed to acknowledge members of the disabled community who were present. .

“I will tell them (speakers) straight in their faces that all their welcome and their greetings (at the civic ceremony), they did not say anything about persons with disabilities. They welcomed all the other groups, but not even to say, 'the persons from the disabilities community, we welcome them.' Me feel bad about that, honestly!” an upset Blake said.

“I am proud that they gave me the award, but I believe that now that we have that relationship, the least they could have done was acknowledge the disabled persons.”

Chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation Civic and Community Affairs Committee, Dwight Crawford, who was the moderator of the ceremony conceded that “it is a very good point that Blake has made”.

“It's a valid concern,” Crawford said.

In fact, Crawford, the sitting councillor for the Welcome Hall Division, pointed out that he was the person who nominated Blake for the award. He further revealed plans to start including people with disabilities on some of the committees he chairs at the Corporation.

“On some of my committees that I am chairing here at the Municipal Corporation, I am going to start including members of the disabilities community on those committees,” he said, adding that he ensured that they were all seated at the front and centre during the recent launch of the civic ceremony.

“I am actually trying to give them (disabled persons) some more relevance. Awarding Blake was my way to start focus on that community.”

A journalist by profession, Blake, who is also affectionately called 'Winston,' was cited as one who has touched the lives of many, particularly from the disabled community, both locally and internationally, through his highly informative radio programme aired on Yahweh Health FM, a local radio station operating in Montego Bay. Blake also serves on the board of the Jamaica Society for the Blind, among others.

He was awarded for his outstanding contribution in the field of community development. Others awarded in the same category, included Joseph Smith and Clinton Jackson.

Carlene Ricketts, Carmen Ellis, Joy Jeannite and Veronice Amos-Williams were awarded for excellence in the field of Education; Frank Sondern, Tourism; and Norma Webster and Tannoy Dunkley for Entrepreneurship.

Chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation, Councillor Homer Davis, paid tribute to the awardees.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I pause to pay tribute to the Spirit of Independence awardees who have been selected based on their hard work, dedication, commitment, and contribution towards the development of our great parish, St James,” said Davis, who is also mayor of Montego Bay.

“These awardees are among the great unsung heroes and heroines of St James, and are living examples to us all as to what can be achieved through commitment and dedication.”

The governor general's message was read by Custos of St James Bishop Conrad Perkins, Security Minister Dr Horace Chang read the Prime minister's message, while Councillor Kerry Thomas read the Opposition leader's address.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, who is also Member of Parliament for the St James West Central constituency, was among the handful of political representatives spotted at the annual civic ceremony.

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