Black Excellence. Black Opulence. Black Royalty. That was the vibe and energy in the room at REIGN. Gentlemen Noire and LaVie beautifully curated the night with precise detail and care which was evident when you walked into the room. Everyone was dressed to the nine in tailored suits and beautiful gowns that would make our ancestors proud.
It was everyone’s time to REIGN. Mission Accomplished. The Houston Caribbean Professionals Association’s (HCPA)Annual Scholarship Fundraiser was a glamourous tribute to grace and class. Henke and Pilot was the perfect venue to create the ambiance of a celebratory night of community achievements, culture, dance, art, and fashion. HCPA’s Education Committee’s goal is to raise $10,000 for their scholarship fund.
HCPA formed in 2016, is a non-profit organization of Caribbean-heritage individuals who look to connect with like-minded persons who are ready to challenge the status quo and commit to supporting, empowering, and celebrating members’ achievements while fostering sincere relationships that impact our Houston and their shared heritage communities abroad.
As an organization, they thrive because of its diverse origins. They represent islands from all over the Caribbean. Whether their stories began by birth “back home” or in the United States as the descendants of Caribbean immigrants, they share a rich and cultured legacy with a moral duty to teach, elevate, and preserve our heritage. They are also a diverse body of professionals and entrepreneurs from all sectors of employment who aim to inspire, leverage, and channel their interests and experience towards opportune areas of Caribbean impact. In response, the fundamental concept of synergy stands that as an organization they collectively grow in knowledge, expertise, and magnanimity because of individual member contributions.
According to one of their founding members, Sledge Leonidas, “Our mission is to support, connect and unite professionals of Caribbean heritage for the advancement of Caribbean communities domestic and abroad informs our trajectory as an organization. To that end, we have and will continue to initiate and champion initiatives across Greater Houston and the Caribbean that achieve meaningful humanitarian impact, positivity, and lasting bonds for years to come. So, in the ethos of one love and unity, we hope you join HCPA to connect and achieve the change you want to see reflected in our Caribbean community!”
Leonidas went on to say, “I founded the organization back in 2016. What started out as an endeavor to connect and network with Caribbean professionals via cultural activities (predominantly art and music) evolved into a non-profit that leverages and channels our diverse professional backgrounds towards creating and championing initiatives across the Greater Houston and international Caribbean communities. To date, we’ve stayed grounded and guided by our mission, which is to advance Caribbean communities both domestic and abroad, all while celebrating members’ achievements and fostering the relationships needed to continue this work. Our focus is largely centered on our Caribbean population; however, we do not exclude other populations from accessing our public-facing initiatives. Still, it is important to underscore that the primary reason behind the organization’s formation was the realization that our Houston Caribbean community was grossly underserved in opportunities around charitable outreach, scholastic achievement, civic engagement, and leisure. And so- fast forward six years later, we have transformed into this professional family of individuals from various islands who are committed to creating a more equitable environment of opportunities for our Caribbean population.”
We were excited to ask Mr. Leonidas to share three significant accomplishments that HCPA has achieved since its inception. “The Give to Serve initiative, our annual scholarship initiative, and a built network of professionals who volunteer support, and champion core organizational initiatives have been some of our most successful and impact accomplishments to date.”
He proudly expanded on each initiative:
Give to Serve is our charitable arm of the organization that was formed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fundamentally, Give to Serve acts as a liaison between community partners, and provides a mechanism by which we can help our community’s most vulnerable fare better because of our community engagement efforts. Within this “arm,” we had our Annual Houston Cares event where we prepare and deliver warm plates to over 200 homeless in downtown Houston, and Bountiful blessings where we prepare and provide 25 food hampers (with turkeys) to vulnerable families. To date, we have provided over 2000 meals to Houston residents.
For the past six years, through our scholarship initiative, we have disbursed small scholarships to students with outstanding academic backgrounds, who so happen to experience financial hardships. The process of selection is rigorous and consist of a six-member panel who scores each package using a de-identified confidentiality process.
We also have civic-engagement initiatives throughout the year that our members are heavily engaged in. Some of these initiatives include our back-to-school drive, our powered to succeed series on financial empowerment and education advancement, etc.), our throughout-the-year food drives and an interview segment called Caribiz, which sheds a spotlight on Caribbean businesses –which, without the organization- would not have had a platform to amplify their entrepreneurial efforts. To date, the organization has raised over $20, 000 towards these efforts! To date, approximately ten students have benefited.”
According to Mr. Leonidas, HCPA has done substantial work abroad to help the countries of origin that your members. “We desire to elevate some of these causes to maximize impact and reach. We have supported orphanages and low-income families with financial support and school supplies in Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent, and Antigua. This year, we sent a couple of barrels of school supplies to Antiguan schools, helped set up a computer lab for a boy’s group home in Jamaica, and shipped Christmas gifts to Haiti and St. Vincent. In the coming year, we look forward to shipping literature books to Dominica’s public library, which Hurricane Maria destroyed in 2017.
We asked Mr. Leonidas about HCPA’s future goals. He responded, “There is unanimity amongst members that the focus should strongly be on civic engagement, charitable giving, and education initiatives. As a body of professionals, we have the opportunity to carve out a niche in the types of opportunities that we provide to our target population. And so, increasing the number of scholarships is key, as well as increasing the number of people in need and the homeless population we serve throughout the year. We would also like to engage a greater segment of our international community in accessing school supplies, clothing, and food resources. Lastly, as we expand our education platform, we see the need to engage our Caribbean community is still stigmatized topics, including mental health, sexual health, and financial aptitude (including being prepared for end-of-life care decisions). We have already created an outline of what these activities can look like and the timeline for completion.”
To learn more about the extraordinary work of the Houston Caribbean Professional Association (HCPA), check out their website at https://hcpassoc.org/.