A street in Harlem, New York, has been renamed in honour of a late Antiguan community leader. A ceremony took place on Saturday at 122nd Street Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Blvd to co-name the street in tribute to the founder of the Antigua and Barbuda Progressive Society, Bishop James P Roberts Sr.
Roberts arrived in New York City in the early 1900s from Newgate Street, St, John’s.
Roberts gained employment as an elevator operator in a commercial building in Harlem while simultaneously pursuing academic studies at night. He was a member of the Holy Cross Pro-Cathedral of the African Orthodox Cathedral and a part of the United Negro Improvement Association (the Marcus Garvey Movement).
Roberts later became a postulant in the Endich Theological Seminary under the tutelage of his Eminence George Alexander McGuire before he was admitted to the Holy Orders.
On August 22 1934, during the Great Depression, Bishop Roberts and a group of 22 fellow Antiguans living in Harlem founded the Antigua Progressive Society. As president of the organisation, Bishop Roberts provided new immigrants with spiritual guidance and economic support to help them navigate the challenges they faced arriving in a new country.
The “New Deal” enacted by President Franklin D Roosevelt rolled out a series of social programmes, however they did not address the needs of new immigrants. The by-laws of the organisation were later changed to include the sister island of Barbuda.
In 1964, ABPS purchased the brownstone building located at 12 West 122nd Street in the village of Harlem which continues to serve as its headquarters. The block on which this edifice stands has been officially co-named in honour of Roberts.
In 2012, the first 50 years of the history of the ABPS were featured at the Schomburg Center, Research in Black Culture, in an exhibit titled “A Light House in New York”. The ABPS remains dedicated to the principles of promoting and cultivating social and intellectual activities among its members and throughout the Harlem community as it has done for almost 90 years.
“We are extremely proud of the work that the ABPS has done for almost nine decades. We are proud that we can preserve the dreams, aspirations and physical movements of our ancestors.
“It is critical that we continue to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of Caribbean people as we remain a beacon of faith, hope and charity for future generations,” said former ABPS President Mona Wyre-Manigo.