CSA looks to bring Caribbean culture to UB

Caribbean Students Association holds annual Caribbean Awareness Week


American movies, television and music often depict Caribbean culture as dreadlocks, Rastafarianism and marijuana.

But Caribbean culture is an umbrella term for the various different cultures among the different Caribbean islands.

“You don’t have to smoke ganja to love reggae and you don't have to love reggae to smoke ganja,” said Arianne Johnson, a senior communication major.

UB’s Caribbean Students Association (CSA) has held its annual Caribbean Awareness Week throughout this week, with events to highlight Caribbean culture, educate the UB community and dispel stereotypes.

CSA want more students to be aware of Caribbean culture because of the Caribbean population at UB and the influence the culture has on society.

The Caribbean culture at UB is not as prevalent as I would love for it to be. I think we all know the major reason for this is the fact that this is a predominantly white institution,” said Yarini Garcia, secretary of CSA and a senior speech and hearing major. “Definitely, with New York being such a melting pot of different races, cultures, etc., I believe it is only right for UB to bring more Caribbean spirit to its students.”

Forty-eight percent of UB students are white, while 79 percent of faculty is white.

Johnson is of Jamaican decent and said people have a lack of knowledge about Jamaican culture. She emphasized that not every Caribbean island was the same and that not everything done in the Caribbean should be considered “Jamaican.”

Hadiyyah Thomas, CSA president and a senior health and human services major, said the first event of the week was a cooking class in which CSA showed students how to make things such as jerk shrimp, jerk chicken, morir soñando and pastelitos.

Dishes such as jerk shrimp and jerk chicken originated in Jamaica, which is the motherland for all things “jerk.” Pastelitos, or what some may know as “empanadas,” originated in Cuba but have diffused throughout the Caribbean to places such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Morir soñando is a traditional Dominican drink unknown to most students.

Tuesday members hosted an event entitled, “Shake, Shake, Shake,” where CSA members and their branch “Crossfyah Dancers” played cultural music, made smoothies and taught participants dance moves.

Cultural music of the Caribbean consists of reggae, reggaeton, dembow, soca (soul-calypso) and more. Throughout the week, CSA tabled in the Student Union, held interactive Jeopardy to spread awareness of Caribbean culture and history and hosted an arts and crafts workshop entitled “Carib(beads).”

Garcia also emphasized the importance of education and awareness on campus so that people can stop grouping the Caribbean all into one bracket and learn to at least distinguish some differences.

“Someone asked me where I was from, and I told them that I am from the Dominican Republic. They went on to say, ‘Oh, so you’re Haitian too.’ But I corrected this person just because I wanted to make sure that they were aware of the differences between these two Caribbean countries,” Garcia said. “We might share the same island, but our cultures are highly different.”

CSA has made ample efforts to bring Caribbean culture to UB’s campus. It has brought Caribbean celebrities such as “Kranium” to perform at its huge annual event “Carifest,” and thrown parties like “Pon Di Floor” and an annual pageant.

“We just try to do our best to stick to Caribbean culture and make the events fun and exciting so that everyone can attend them,” said Brittany Henry, treasurer for CSA and a senior health and human services major.

These members care deeply about their culture and wish to spread awareness of it through Caribbean Awareness Week.

“Being Caribbean means everything to me,” Johnson said. “My morals and values are derived from the culture I acquired from the Caribbean. It means I love and appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices my parents had to make in order to create a better life for my siblings and [me].”

Ty Adams is a features staff writer and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com.