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WASHINGTON DC — The Caribbean community in Washington DC turned out in their numbers last week to honour accomplished nationals in various fields, at the 19th annual Caribbean American Heritage Awards (CARAH) held at the Capital Hilton hotel.

Jazz great Monty Alexander and Third World lead singer, William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clarke were among four Jamaicans to receive the award presented by the Washington-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS).

This year’s event, which was also a salute to the 50th anniversary of Independence of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, brought together hundreds of Caribbean nationals and friends of the region, to celebrate Caribbean achievement, service, and excellence.

Among those in attendance were: Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Professor Stephen Vasciannie and wife Lisa; Guyana’s Ambassador Bayney Karran, who is also Dean of the Caribbean diplomatic corps in Washington; ICS board chairman Ambassador Carl Masters; and ICS president and founder Dr. Claire Nelson.  Governor of the Bank of Jamaica, Brian Wynter was also on hand.

Professor Stephen Vasciannie presented Monty Alexander with the 2012 Caribbean American Heritage Luminary Award in recognition of his remarkable musical career spanning 50 years.  

The Ambassador, in making the presentation, pointed to some highlights of Mr. Alexander’s career, including producing 70 recorded albums to date, and collaborations with other music industry icons such as Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. He said his musical creations have had a unique, enduring appeal enjoyed by many generations.

Third World’s Bunny Rugs, received the Cultural Ambassador Award for his outstanding contribution to reggae music, which was presented by United States (US) Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, whose parents hail from Jamaica.

The other Jamaican honourees were:  President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), Dean Garfield for outstanding contribution to corporate America; and Editor-in-Chief of Essence magazine Constance C.R. White, for excellence in journalism.

Deputy Director of Public Engagement at the White House, Heather Foster, who is a Jamaican national, was specially honoured.

Other 2012 CARAH honourees were: Trinidadians Anya Ayoung Chee, of Project Runway fame, who received the Vanguard award; soccer star Shaka Hislop received the award for excellence in sports; and Robert Greenidge, pan master with the Jimmy Buffett Band, received the Marcus Garvey Lifetime Award.

Bahamian Andy Ingraham, CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, received the Trail Blazer Award.  

Congresswoman Clarke commended the ICS for being consistent in recognizing the outstanding contribution made by Caribbean American nationals over the past 19 years. “All honourees, tonight, have distinguished themselves in their various fields of endeavour, and are deserving of the honour being bestowed upon them by the Caribbean community here in Washington, D.C,” she stated.

In his response, Mr. Alexander said he was humbled to be honoured. He said he has been a musical ambassador for Jamaica for over 50 years and would continue to do so. He said it was important for young people to learn to play a musical instrument as it provides an avenue to channel their creativity and keep them occupied and out of trouble.

Bunny Rugs, gave his thanks in music, taking to the stage to thrill the audience with some classic reggae songs.

One of the most prominent Caribbean organizations in the US, the non-profit ICS was established in 1993. It focuses on education, and advocacy on issues that impact Caribbean-Americans and the Caribbean countries. ICS works to advance the interests of and to raise the profile of Caribbean Americans and their contributions to the US.