Rondon, Salandy-Brown, Hosein humbled by awards

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Hummingbird gold medal recipient Martin Terry Rondon at Saturday’s National Awards ceremony, NAPA, Port of Spain. – PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

Unexpected but greatly appreciated was how several awardees described receiving a national award after two years without a ceremony due to the pandemic.

The National Awards ceremony took place at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain on Saturday night, with 63 people from all aspects of society getting awards for their contributions to TT.

Martin Terry Rondon, the longest serving local government representative in TT, received the Hummingbird gold medal, after 27 years of public service.

The former Sangre Grande Regional Corporation chairman and councillor for Valencia East/Toco, was beloved by his constituents and was known for his assistance to other elected officials, NGOs, and citizens throughout TT.

Rondon told Sunday Newsday he “felt great” about the award and dedicated it to the people from Matura to Matelot for their support.

“I dedicate it especially to the people of Matelot, where I was born and raised, and who gave me that spiritual upbringing, who taught me how to share and give, and have respect for the elderly.

“I am humbled. I never thought I would one day reach a stage where I would be rewarded with something like this. Everything I was doing, I did it from my heart. I always pray for my people and ask God to give me so I could give to and help people because it’s a joy to help others.”

He said he had surgery on his spine earlier this year and he was having pains but that would not stop him from going to receive his award. He also planned to go to Matelot on Sunday to see what could be done about the landslide blocking the road there. He refused to let anything stop him.

Marina Salandy-Brown, founder and president of the Bocas Lit Fest, received the Hummingbird silver medal.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife Sharon Rowley greet Hummingbird silver medal recipient Marina Salandy-Brown during the National Awards ceremony, NAPA, Port of Spain on Saturday. – PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

The journalist, broadcaster, and cultural activist founded the country’s only annual literary festival and had been involved in the development of TT’s literary and cinematic arts for years. As a result, many local and regional writers have received support and recognition, and went on to be published and win international prizes.

Salandy-Brown, a Newsday columnist, said she was a bit surprised about the news as journalists were often overlooked for such awards because they said difficult things, but she was pleased.

“I’m pleased that the work we have been trying to do is recognised. I know many people recognise it but this is a kind of official stamp of approval. I very much don’t see this as an award to me alone, but an award to all the people I’ve worked with over the past 12 years who, without them, nothing would have happened.”

Sharon Rowley, wife of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, greets Dr Gabrielle Hosein, recipient of the Medal for the Development of Women at NAPA, Port of Spain on Saturday. – PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

She congratulated the past and present members of the Bocas Lit Fest team saying they believed in the work they were doing and worked very hard at it. She also expressed appreciation for committed and supportive directors and sponsors.

She said TT’s society was not one that read a lot so it was difficult to convince people of the importance of words. But, people had recognised the importance of the lit fest.

“People think we’re a good thing and they support us and that’s great because it encourages us to get on with it. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Dr Gabrielle Hosein, senior lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, UWI, St Augustine, received the Medal for the Development of Women, gold, in the spheres of public education and advocacy.

Hosein, also a Newsday columnist, was surprised by the award and glad because she was nurtured, taught and mentored by many women.

“I am the product of a village of women who came before me so I was glad their decades of advice and patience and mentorship allowed me to achieve this much. I hope it made them proud.”

She wanted to honour the spirit of gender activist and former president of the Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women, Hazel Brown, who died last week. She said the award made her feel like she was waking in a path Brown cut.

She said the award honoured the legacy of the women’s movement and feminists who made women’s rights part of TT’s national agenda. It also recognised the continuing work to advance those rights and create a better country.

“What I hope the awards does is inspire others to know that the work for women’s rights is important, that it deserves to be recognised and can inspire others to get involved and see it as part of a national contribution.”

She added that she was happy to represent the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, a “Caribbean feminist scholarly activist institute,” in the context of women’s right and development in the global south.

Also receiving the same award was president and founding member of the Network of Rural Women Producers of TT, Gia Gaspard-Taylor in the sphere of public service.