Ira Leona Lewis is known throughout the Caribbean and American community as “Lady Ira”. Born in British Guiana to the late Omar Converty and Elaine Pile, Lady Ira has been an essential figure in spearheading efforts that promote the Cultural awareness and well being of New Jersey’s Guyanese American community for over 20 years.
Supporting her vision of a united and informed Guyanese community, Lady Ira is dedicated to the development of organizations and events that benefit Guyanese Americans and other Caribbean residents in New Jersey and throughout the United States. Lady Ira’s determination to establish a network of connectivity among the Guyanese Americans and Caribbean communities is rooted in her desire to establish and maintain ongoing interaction between the Guyanese Americans who immigrated to America from each of the 6 counties of Guyana. Her passion is influenced by 3 major driving forces; her desire to serve, her entrepreneurial spirit and her realization that the Guyanese community needs cohesive events that celebrate their culture.
Lady Ira’s early experiences while living in Guyana served to foster her passion for service by assisting, nurturing and supporting others. After the loss of her mother at the age of 10, with her father at sea for long periods, Lady Ira was responsible for taking care of home and her 6 brothers. She credits these early responsibilities for sparking her desire to help others. A graduate of the Guyanese Oriental College and St Stephen School in Georgetown, her dedication to service of other is further evidenced by her decision as a young lady to serve as a volunteer Clarinet player for three years in the Guyana National Service, instead of attending boarding school in England.
During her childhood, when her father would return from sea, Lady Ira would help sell the food that he’d caught. This introduction to the working world influenced her to attempt entrepreneurial ventures of her own at a young age. With an uncanny resourcefulness she earned money by making items to sell for a profit at school and in her neighborhood. Her knack for business has contributed greatly to her ongoing resolve to establish successful organizations and events that benefits so many people.
Given the limitation of opportunities available in Guyana at the time, Lady Ira decided to relocate to America seeking a better life and employment options. She arrived in America in 1985 with two bags and two-hundred dollars. Determined to find employment so that she could send money home to assist her brothers she started working a week after her arrivals. She eventually began to meet and mingle with other Guyanese Americans. When she attended the first Guyanese carnival in East Orange, New Jersey she loved reconnecting with some many of her follow Guyanese and celebrating her Guyanese culture. Unfortunately, the Guyanese organizers did not repeat the event the next year and that was when Lady Ira realized how instrumental the carnival was in bringing the Guyanese community together. It was then that she realized that the carnival was a good way to pursue her passion of service. She decided to organize the Guyana American Carnival of East Orange New Jersey as an annual event, which is still active today, 25 years later.
And so began Lady Ira endeavors to implement a broad spectrum of events that would benefit and unit the Guyanese and Caribbean communities in New Jersey. She has worked tirelessly servicing her community and creating the foundations and programs that provide invaluable assistance including the Guyana American Heritage Foundation, Caribbean American Fun Day, literacy programs for children, health screening programs for women and a hosts of other events.
Lady Ira has also been promoting her Annual Mother’s Day Awards & Dinner since 1997 and has honored over 55 mothers to date. She is also the founder of the Father’s Day Awards. She feels that Mothers who takes the time to be mothers should be honored and regrets that she is not able to honor her mother who passed away when Ira was 10 Years old. As a result , she spends each Mothers day paying tribute to community mothers. In 2007, Lady Ira was very instrumental in raising the Guyana flag in the Oranges, New Jersey in honor of Guyana Independence, which continues today.
As President of a viable 501c3 company, she continues to excel so much so that in 2014 she received the much deserved Danny Glover Power of Dreams Award and The Lifetime Community Award from Newark, New Jersey. She was the Grand Marshall for Jersey City Carnival 08, and has received several Awards, Proclamations and Recognitions from the New Jersey State, Towns and other organizations.
Lady Ira has served the Orange Memorial Hospital system for over 18 years in the fields of Nursing, Laboratory and Admissions where she took pride in caring for the sick and elderly. She has also worked at Montclair Community Hospital and the Hospital Center At Orange for over 14 years. At present Lady Ira is a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Foster Children in the State of New Jersey, and works with the Newark Board Of Education at John .F. Kennedy Public School servicing children with special needs. In keeping with her altruistic spirit and passion for service her work with the autistic children gives her great satisfaction. To truly capture her commitment and dedication, Lady Ira puts it best when she stated “Serving is the ultimate; I have to serve.” Her vision has led her to build a Free Public Library In Guyana for the underprivileged children living in the Agricola area in Guyana.
Lady Ira is happily married of Cornel Vieira Lewis , an accomplished musician and is the mother of Sherwin, a Chief Engineer and Mrs. Tandeica Lewis- Forrest, a Pace University Graduate , MBA , She is the proud Grand Mother of Emmanul, Omar, Natashia and Shyiloh.
To speak with Lady Ira, feel free to contact her at 973-951-9898.