New Haven celebrates its 8th annual Caribbean Heritage Festival
Caribbean Americans and New Haven residents flooded the New Haven Green on Saturday to celebrate the city’s eighth annual Caribbean Heritage Festival.
This year’s event opened with a prayer, followed by numerous cultural performances showcasing the talent of different Caribbean countries. Performances included drumming sessions and lessons, a steelband rendition, and lots of cultural singing and dancing.
The event was founded by Karaine Holness, who was born in Jamaica but moved to the United States in 1987. When she moved, Holness was looking for ways to cling to her culture. She soon aligned herself with different Jamaican organizations, and eventually decided that she wanted a bigger connection to wider Caribbean culture.
With some planning, New Haven saw its first Caribbean Heritage Festival in 2014, at City Hall. Over the years, the venue has changed to accommodate bigger crowds.
The annual event started off as a way of bringing Caribbean people together and has also become a way to preserve cultures through teachings.
This is especially important to Shermaine Cooke-Edmonds, an event planner for the festival who was born in Dominica.
“The young folks who are born here, they probably don’t get to go home as often or may not have ever gone. So [here] they actually get to see different islands and people that identify with their culture that’s at home,” Cooke-Edmonds said.
Judaen Brown, 30, and a Jamaican-American, is living proof of Cooke-Edmonds’ reasoning, Brown was born in Connecticut, but strongly identifies with her Jamaican roots. This is her second year at the festival, and said she enjoying being surrounded by familiar foods and seeing cultural performances.
This year, she brought her two younger cousins along with her. Her cousins were born in Jamaica, but Brown thought the festival could still be a good opportunity to keep them connected to their culture.
“It’s definitely important to connect to your roots and if you haven’t before, I think this is a great platform to do so,” Brown said.
Most vendors shared and sold Caribbean food, clothing and jewelry, or shared information about a specific country’s culture. One vendor booth, spearheaded by Yale Medicine, focused on providing informational resources about Alzheimer's disease. Planner Cooke-Edmonds says having this booth was a small way of getting Caribbean people to look into their health.
“We turn to teas and herbs, yes, but sometimes it's a bit further along than that. So if we bring the resources out to them, then they have first hand conversations while they’re having fun,” she said.
The event planners said they have already begun organizing next year’s event, and hoping for more representation from other Caribbean countries.