Emergence and establishment of the first MPSA in the USA



Conrad Savariau

The idea of a Mannings High Past Students Association (MHPSA), was conceptualized by a brainstorming group of alumni and non-alumni having an enjoyable and social repartee at Carmen’s Deli on Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, New York in early Fall 1987. This first original gathering according to Roger Meyler and Edward "Eddie" Munro were: Anton Tomlinson, Eddie Munro, Karl Munro, Kingsley Chambers, Trevor (Tush) Lyons, Errol (Pronto) Titus, host and hostess Mansfield and Carmen Stewart. They comprised the founding members of the MHPSA, now MPSA.

It was evident that noble intention had garnered interest as other alumni expressed with enthusiasm their interest in joining the effort. That second group included the Grant sisters - Joan, Sylvia and Norma, Sonny Dawkins, Hope Scarlet, Noel Grant, Merle Titus-Gordon, Wren Porter, Ruby McKenzie, Winsome Hamilton, Elaine Henry, Carmen Munro-Flowers, Marjorie Munro-Allen, Mable Munro-Meyler, Kent Lyttle, Avery Francis, Yvonne Ruddock-Miller, Cynthia Gopaulsingh-Wright, Audrey Campbell, Jacquelyn Campbell, Trevor Brooks, Trevor Locke, Millie McBean-Thompson, Nyron Pringle, Junior Blake and Wendell Turner. As the gathering increased the venue was changed to The Jamaica Constabulary located on Roger’s Avenue, Brooklyn.

In early December 1987, I was informed and invited to January’s meeting by Eddie Munro but I had a previous engagement and regretfully advised him accordingly. Eddie called me a few days after that meeting informing me of the momentum and growing interest as the gathering had significantly grown since the previous one. He invited me to attend February’s meeting, which was expected to be more formal at Hope Scarlett’s apartment in Brooklyn, and I did. This meeting was convened on February 21, 1988. Those in attendance were Anton Tomlinson, Errol Titus, Kent Lyttle, Eddie Munro, Trevor Brooks, Roger and Mable Meyler, Yvonne Ruddock-Miller, Kingsley Chambers, Cynthia Gopaulsigh-Wright, Joan, Sylvia and Norma Grant, Audrey and Jacquelyn Campbell, Avery Francis, Sonny Dawkins, Hope Scarlet and myself.

We were all mingling and greeting each other while enjoying Hope’s hospitality, particularly her hors d’oeuvres. I had just asked Hope for another hors d’oeuvres when someone announced the meeting was about to begin. I proceeded to take a seat to participate in the meeting. Within two minutes Hope brought me the hors d’oeuvres when surprisingly I heard Roger say, “I beg to nominate Stedger for President!” I wanted to be polite and express my appreciation to Hope, but paused and opined if I said thanks that would also purport to mean my acceptance of the nomination. Still in a state of disbelief, I shifted my position in the chair and was about to decline when Eddie preempted me and said, “I beg to second Stedger’s nomination for President!” Before I could open my mouth, Anton quickly and admonishingly told me “Eeeh too late.” An eerie but brief silence followed then a few alumni expressed—congratulations Stedger! I quickly recovered from my bemused state, and hesitatingly said, thank you. Anton was overwhelmingly nominated Vice President. Members of the first Board of Directors were appointed a few minutes after, they were: Trevor Brooks – Counsel, Yvonne Ruddock-Miller – Recording Secretary, Avery Francis - Assistant Recording Secretary, Kingsley Chambers – Treasurer, Eddie Munro - Assistant Treasurer, Kent Lyttle – Public Relations, Roger Meyler - Assistant Public Relations and Ex-Officio Members - Norma, Sylvia and Joan Grant, Sonny Dawkins, Audrey and Jacquelyn Campbell. Upon completion of the MHPSA Board of Directors nomination, I thanked everyone for attending the meeting, giving me the opportunity to lead the Association, and asked for continued support. To the new Board of Directors, I assured them I would diligently work and collaboratively lead the Association to ensure its contribution to the successful underpinnings of the MHPSA goals and objectives.

Having finally and formally completed the formation of the Association, the Board proceeded to discuss its legal ramifications. Our Counsel - Trevor Brooks' advice was sought about registration of the MHPSA as a 5O1 C3 entity. He advised the Board on the prerequisites, which included a fixed address and mandatory social security number for its registration. I volunteered, and offered my social security number for the purpose of registering the MHPSA. A few minutes later, the MHPSA first formal meeting was brought to a conclusion. Members left enthused and optimistic about the dynamics of the newly formed Association and its potential to contribute to the needs of our Alma Mater, and its deserving students. Later on my return home to Stamford, Connecticut about 65 miles North of Brooklyn, I revolved in my mind, how could my alumni have selected me, a simple man, the least among the group. They were all known and competent individuals, lived in Brooklyn and in touch with the alumni living in Brooklyn and its immediate environs. I was the direct opposite, not known, living out of the area and out of touch, an obscurity. Notwithstanding my shortcomings, I was motivated to do my best to contribute to the enhancement of my Alma Mater strengths and competencies in general, and to the Association in particular.

We prudently decided to await the Association’s legal documents availability before convening April’s meeting. In mid-April, Trevor Brooks informed me the MHPSA Article and Memorandum of Association had been received. A meeting was convened two weeks later, which was held at Anton’s residence. All Board Members were in attendance. It was at this meeting someone suggested the Association’s first Fundraising Ball and that we could rent the Africa House in Brooklyn for the purpose. This was formally and unanimously agreed, thereafter each member undertook certain responsibilities. We recognized the tight time constraint, given the date of the function. Everyone including non-alumni worked collaboratively with passion and commitment to ascertain its success.

May’s meeting was primarily focused on planning, not only for the ensuing Ball but also for the beginning of the first MHPSA annual picnic to be held in little over two weeks on 7/17/88. Many enthused alumni, particularly the younger ones, and well-wishers embraced the idea and offered their help in promoting the effort. It was from this meeting our MHPSA annual picnic on Long Island emerged. The essence of this event was strategic in nature. The objective was to attract and sustain certain demographics to facilitate a more diverse base to which our younger alumni could relate. The Fundraising Ball was excellently coordinated and generated a resounding success! It was appreciatively supported by alumni, and many others. We had an estimated 300 persons in attendance, and it could have been much more had not it been for attendance limits imposed by the city's fire code. I remember while I was greeting some of the attendees at the Function, Trevor Brooks pleasingly and excitingly greeted me gesticulating in colorful expression as he looked around, telling me for the first time, “Stedger mi geet a blast, mi ask wan DJ fi geet a blast." The attendees were entertained with a variety of dances of African Culture. At its conclusion, I offered a few words thanking the attendees for their support of the MHPSA first Fundraising Ball, etcetera. I cannot now recall the events proceeds, but the Board of Directors representative, Vice-President - Anton Tomlinson, went to Jamaica and proudly presented the first of many donations to our Alma Mater.

The MHPSA notwithstanding its challenges and obstacles which were all successfully overcome, continued to expand. It is noteworthy, that the Fundraising Ball and annual picnic played an integral role in growth of the association and has continued to play a role in its exponential growth. The MHPSA Board worked in concert to develop a variety of social functions on a smaller scale to simultaneously generate revenue and increase membership.

The MHPSA held its next election in the spring of 1989. Anton was elected President. I was elected Vice-President.

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