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Queen Street to be renamed in her honour

Sunday, July 16 2017

QUEEN STREET, Port-of- Spain is to be renamed Queen Janelle Commissiong Street in honour of Trinidad and Tobago’s first Miss Universe winner, and the first woman of colour to take the title, exactly 40 years ago on today’s date.

Deputy Port-of-Spain Mayor Hillan Morean announced the change yesterday in a statement which was issued to the media.

“The Port-of-Spain Council has agreed to show their love and appreciation by honouring our queen. The now Queen Street is to be renamed Queen Janelle Commissiong Street in recognition and appreciation of Queen Penny,” he said.

Commissiong, then a 24-yearold beauty, won the prestigious Miss Universe crown in Santo Domingo on July 16, 1977. The street renaming project is to be managed by chairman of the planning committee Stephen Harper.

Morean said the decision to rename the street was discussed with the stakeholders of the city, including the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association and other groups. “Discussions continue to be underway to ensure proper consultation is had,” he said.

“The general consensus of this project is that it presents a catalyst in keeping with the vision of the Port-of-Spain City Council for further developing the city of Port-of-Spain.

“The thought process and thinking behind this project initiative is to enhance the aesthetics of the entire central business district area.” Morean said the council looked forward to the upgrade of the general infrastructure of the central business district. He said the council intends to recognise the country’ s national icons.

Commissiong, on June 24 in Atlanta, Georgia, was honoured at the Movers and Shakers Awards for her contribution in the area of empowerment.

Hosted by a caribbean media group dedicated to highlighting people of Caribbean heritage, Commissiong told Newsday yesterday she had a prepared speech. However, when she got on stage, she realised it was important that she acknowledge the experience of being a person of colour in an international competition at that time. Even more importantly, she wanted to acknowledge the struggle and the eventual victory which belonged to all the Caribbean competitors and all competitors of colour. It was the very first Commissiong opened up about her experience at the 26th Miss Universe pageant.

In accepting the award she said, “We (contestants) were kind of eyeing each other in the beginning, checking out the competition, and the Caribbean women were doing that to each other as well. But a week later we realised we were not seeing ourselves. We were not on the front pages of the newspapers.

On the front pages were Miss Germany, Miss Switzerland, Miss Columbia, but you weren’t seeing people of the Caribbean, or people of colour. Whenever I have the opportunity, I would really like to thank Connie Frith - Miss Bermuda, because she had the strength to make a little noise to the pageant coordinators.

And after Connie made noise, the photographers started paying us attention.” Commissiong said she was “fortunate” to win the Miss Photogenic award which was announced a couple days before the show.

“But I was really a little disappointed.

(I felt it was) a kind of token thing because Connie made a little noise. So that happened and then on the night of the show, as fate would have it, I was the one that was crowned.

But at the end of the day it really was not just me, it was all the other women of colour who shared that stage with me.” She advised everyone to review the taping of the event and observe what transpired when she was crowned by Rina Messinger of Israel.

“You see so many Caribbean, even some African women sobbing and because it was such of a victory for us. So tonight I accept this award on behalf of Miss Barbados, Margaret Rouse - she was my best friend, Lulu (Iva Lua Mendes), Miss St. Lucia, Miss Antigua, Miss Bahamas, Miss Haiti, Miss US Virgin Islands, I must include Miss Liberia, and all the other women of colour who participated with me, and who at the end of the day were not competitors as much as supporters because we shared the same struggle, and it is a struggle that ended in victory.” Other awardees included US Senator John Lewis, Celia Crux and Sandals’ Adam Stewart.

Commenting on receiving the award, Commissiong said, “I appreciated the recognition and to be in such illustrious company.

This recognition award serves as a reminder to everyone of the many contributions made by Caribbean people to the politics, economy and society of America and the wider world.” WITH REPORTING BY JOAN RAMPERSAD

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