(Brownsville Recreation Center)
My name is Brenda Stoute and I was born on a little island called Barbados, which we call “the gem of the Caribbean.” I grew up in the country part of the island, in the parish of St. James. It was fun growing up with the freedom to leave your doors open, or visit our neighbor’s home and have lunch or dinner any time. It is just a whole different environment from a big metropolitan city – people are warm, friendly, and neighborly. My role models were my parents. My mother was domesticated and talented. She sewed our clothes and made beautiful window dressings. My father the perfectionist, a lover of Shakespeare, and was also very talented; he did creative art work, and was a great gardener. I can say I acquired the love of art from my parents. Like my father, I too, strive for excellence.
I lived in Barbados with my parents until I came to the USA at the age of twenty-two, to where I now reside in Brooklyn. Most people are attracted to the big apple because of its diverse cultures, and the opportunity to continue their education.
My uncle came to Barbados on vacation from New York and he asked “Would you like to come to New York?” And I said, “Yes.” At that time, my parents wanted me to go to England to study nursing, but I wanted to come to New York. I heard so much about it and I have no regrets so far. I STILL love New York! Brooklyn is my home now. When I came here, I wanted to be a cosmetologist. Instead, I attended the New York Art Students League and majored in Fine Arts. I worked for a jewelry import-export company, and I stayed there for fourteen and a half years. Cosmetology was still my love, so I attended evening classes at Robert Feance and Christene Valmay Schools and became a licensed cosmetologist. A different world, a different environment; I later went into healthcare and worked at Bellevue Hospital Center in administration and finance.
I’m now retired which allows me to do all the things I enjoy. There’s something exciting about New York! If you want to stay home and read a book, you can do that. If you want go to a museum, the botanical gardens, see a Broadway play—just a walk in the city is exciting to me. I don’t do it as often as I used to. My favorite haunt remains going to the Village or Lincoln Center. New York is home to me. I’ve lived here for forty-seven years with my uncle who was instrumental in exposing me to New York City life. He often attended Broadway plays and took me along with his daughter.
My love for art and dancing continues today. I previously did African dance classes with the well-known dance instructor, Charles Moore. I am excited that at my age, I can still dance and I’m excited to be in the production of The Tempest. We have a great instructor, Chanon, who gives compliments and encouragement. Once I hear the sound of the drum, I’m ready.