GREAT BAY, St. Martin —Chester York is the island’s senior panman and steel pan maker, “Gassy” Richardson was a champion bicycle rider, and “Mr. Bibi” Gumbs designed modern and affordable houses for 25 years.
“These men should be known for their perseverance from a humble start in life, discipline in studying and practicing their fields, excelling in their pioneer work, and contributing to our island,” said Urmain Dormoy, leader of the 30-member Generation New Status St. Maarten drum band (GNSSTM).
The St. Martin Book Fair, scheduled for June 5-7, 2014, recently gave the Generation New Status band 90 booklets, profiling the life and pioneering work of George “Gassy” Gaston Richardson, Chester York, and Alexis “Bibi” Guillaume [Duzant] Gumbs. The current members of Generation New Status range from five to 16 years of age, and make up one of the island’s busiest youth music groups. Each member of GNSSTM will receive one booklet about each pioneer nation-builder, said Dormoy.
The pioneerseries booklets are entitled Gassy York – Champion Cyclist, Chester York – Making of a panman, and Mr. Bibi – Pioneer in House Drawing & Design.
“Getting these booklets in the hands and homes of children and teens is part of HNP’s reading motivation, creative writing, and literacy building activities that involve the St. Martin Book Fair,” said Jacqueline Sample of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), the book fair co-organizer that published the mini-biographies.
“I’m so happy to receive the booklets for Generation New Status STM members. This is a way for the boys and girls, and for some of their parents, to know more about our island, our people, and our culture, which they are all part of,” said Dormoy.
The pre-Book Fair presentation was made to Dormoy last week by HNP. “Urmain in turn presented GNSSTM’s archival copy of each title to Princess Beatrix on Tuesday during the Dutch royal’s visit to the territory this week,” said Sample.
“I wanted to get these books for the youngsters for about two years but we couldn’t get a sponsor just for that, so I’m happy that the Book Fair is making this contribution,” said Dormoy, himself a well-known musician.
Over the years, Dormoy has brought the VKS to the band’s practice to train the members in forms of marching discipline; he has led the performing group in the Boardwalk Mas, and in the US city of Orlando at Sea World. Last Sunday, Generation New Status was one of the youth groups performing at the St. Louis/Freetown fête, which was made famous island-wide by the late folklorist “Yaya” Richards.
Photo caption: Members of Generation New Status St. Maarten drum band and Jennifer Thomas (R), a principal of the foundation, holding up the pioneerseries booklets of “non-traditional” nation-builders. (GNSSTM photo)