'One heart, two homes': St Lucia's national day celebrated with East Ham town hall ceremony
PUBLISHED: 17:00 13 December 2019
St Lucians have celebrated the Caribbean island's national day in a town hall flag-raising ceremony.
About 70 people gathered at East Ham Town Hall on Friday, December 13 for the annual event marking the public holiday also known as the "Festival of Lights".
The atmosphere was joyful as a crowd of people gathered around the steps of the town hall to sing prayers and the national anthem as the flag was raised.
Afterwards, the crowd moved indoors to enjoy food and drink, listening to speeches given by a series of distinguished guests, including His Excellency Guy Mayers - the High Commissioner for St Lucia, journalist Aaliyah Harry, Cllr Terry Paul, Pc Tracy Gunn and event organiser Justin Moore MBE JP.
The event was hosted by youth organisation Greenlight Youth Club and Unity of UK St Lucian Associations (Unity UK), both of which have raised money to put on a number of events for the community.
The High Commissioner praised the "excellent project" and commended the organisers for their work "bringing the St Lucian community together for a common cause".
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He added that while a greater focus now falls on Independence Day in February, National Day is still an important national holiday in St Lucia.
He said: "For us, the Christmas season starts from December 13th."
Also present was the president of Unity UK, Felicia Hippolyte, who said: "Let us continue to show our patriotism to our country and fly the flag with pride."
Chairman Dr Benoit Charles told the crowd that the ceremony has grown from year to year: "Showing that the bond between the diaspora is very, very strong."
Repeating a phrase intended to resonate with many guests, he said: "One heart, two homes."
Mr Moore said: "It is a duty to bring people together annually, as a form of diaspora. The community look forward to it every year."
Cllr Paul spoke warning words about the impact of the hostile environment on the Windrush generation, urging people from any of the Caribbean Islands, from across boroughs, to contact him for assistance in getting their papers in order.
The ceremony has been supported by Newham Council since 2007.