Detroit Welcomes Ambassador John Beale of Barbados With Open Arms

Equally impressed by his overall experience and host, His Excellency Parsan added, "Our visit was highly organized and evident of meticulous planning at the highest level... Robert (Shumake) is very well connected; a young, bright, successful individual, he truly gives others something to aspire to what he has achieved and has offered us a richer frame of reference and perspective of the city for which he serves as a proud ambassador, Detroit!"

His Excellency John Beale of Barbados and His Excellency Dr. Neil Parsan of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago served as Ambassadors during their recent visit to the unique and reemerging city of Detroit. Local businessman Robert Shumake hosted the West Indian dignitaries.

According to both Beale and Parsan, their impression of the Motor City not only exceeded their expectation, but ignited a new and fervent interest in building stronger ties.

I must admit, that since my first visit to Michigan over 40 years ago, all I have heard or read about Detroit is bad news, naturally I had a certain impression… I was looking for devastation,” shared Ambassador Beale.

When I arrived at Detroit Metro airport, I not only found it to be among the finest that I had ever seen, but I learned it was the first official stop for the Chinese in the U.S., and the roads into the city were very nice. I am proud to say that my initial impression was vastly superior than what I was anticipating.

Both Ambassadors found their V.I.P. accommodations at MGM Grand Hotel and Casino first class and exceptional. Their visit included a feast at the Eastern Market and tour of many of Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Ambassador Parsons of Trinidad and Tobago and Bal Africain Chairperson Roxanne Thomas create island rhythms on steel drums at Detroit Institute of Art's Bal Africain Gala -- photo credit: Eric Hobson. (PRNewsFoto/United States Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, Eric Hobson)

Although we found that some areas of the city has suffered deterioration, as with most major metropolitan cities, this translated to us as an opportunity to come back and look at projects that will both develop these areas and impregnate a stronger cultural tie among Detroit and our countries,” explained Dr. Parsan.

During the memorable visit was a celebration at the cultural heritage of the African diaspora, Bal Africain┬«. With “Caribbean Splendor” as its theme, the event featured both His Excellency Dr. Neil Parsan and His Excellency John Beale as special guests at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), which had been metamorphosed into a tropical paradise.

Among other illustrious attendees were former NBA/NFL player Paris McCurdy, Bank of America Michigan president Keith Cockrell, master of ceremonies Huel Perkins of WJBK-TV Fox 2, and Detroit Public Schools honcho Roy & Maureen Roberts, for whom the DIA recently named a gallery.

Bal Africain┬« is one of the most important fundraising events at the DIA. Proceeds support acquisitions for the museum’s collections of African and African-American art, as well as lectures and programs sponsored by the Friends of African and African American Art (FAAAA).

As a gesture of support and goodwill, Ambassador Beale arranged the donation of an original work by celebrated Barbadian artist Wayne Branch to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The colorful painting featured a vibrant depiction of a traditional Barbados Market vendor and received many praises from the audience.

Ambassador Beale found great pleasure in meeting Detroit royalty and prominent business leaders such as Mayor Bing, Roy Roberts, Bal Africain® Chairperson Roxanne Thomas and Inheritance Capital Group CEO Robert Shumake.

I learned that there are many connections among the people of Detroit and the Caribbean and I would be honored to host folks like Roy and Robert to speak to our people as role models for entrepreneurship and education,” said Ambassador Beale.

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