June 27, 2003 – Lloyd "Sonny" Barnes shared his accolades with others at a ceremony held in his honor at the Virgin Islands Protection and Advocacy office in Frederiksted on Friday, a month after he was similarly recognized in Washington, D.C.
Barnes, who has muscular dystrophy, was one of two persons honored at the annual conference of the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems for "awe-inspiring efforts in self advocacy" and for advancing the rights of persons with disabilities.
Amelia Headly-Lamont, executive director of V.I. Protection and Advocacy, said that a local news story on Barnes captured the attention of Curt Decker, executive director of the national association, and led to the St. Croix resident's being honored on May 30.
The news account was of Barnes parking his wheelchair in front of a VITRAN bus on St. Croix and declaring that he would not move until he could get on the bus like everyone else. The story sparked a local movement that is ongoing today in demand of accessible transportation for disabled persons.
In Washington, "When I introduced Sonny to the conference attendees and told them his story, the audience broke out in a thunderous applause at his courage and determination," Headly-Lamont said on Friday. "It was a proud moment for the Virgin Islands."
Barnes has been called an advocate for the handicapped, an astute political observer, and sometimes a rebel. He also proved to be a study in humility, requesting Friday's gathering so that he could turn the award he received in Washington over to the local advocacy office.
"This organization encouraged me to go forward," Barnes said. "Even though I have the award, it does not belong to me. I am glad they chose me, for the experience, but I know that it is not me alone who deserves this award, because the people of this organization were behind me, at my side and in front of me all the way."
Barnes said he was given the royal treatment in the nation's capital. He marveled at the amenities available there for handicapped persons, including accessibility to trains, buses, stores and restaurants.
"I saw a better way of life for people like me," he said. "Here at home, I have so many problems getting around; it's a real struggle. I want to be able to go anywhere I want, just like everyone else."
"Sometime I think about just giving up and taking it easy," he said, "but I have a purpose here. I will keep struggling, and I will never give up on my home."
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