This year’s 26th Annual Caribbean Festival was full of activity and fellowship at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing last weekend.
The Caribbean Festival Committee worked to include various activities including Caribbean workshops, a children’s corner and dance, song and poetry performances. With a number of vendors present and authentic Caribbean food, the diverse crowd had plenty to do.
Cecelia Straker, stage/entertainment coordinator, felt it was important to have a wide range of performances and activities.
“I think it went very well,” she said. “For the past three years it rained, but today it was really a wonderful crowd — it was beautiful.”
The CFC’s focus has been to expose the greater Delaware Valley to the culture of the various islands and to raise awareness of the contributions people of the Caribbean have made to Philadelphia, surrounding communities and the world.
With both Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago celebrating 50 years of independence this year, the CFC decided to highlight the two islands in celebration of their milestones.
“This year, since it was Trinidad and Jamaica’s 50th independence, we figured it would be the focal point — it’s a milestone,” Straker said.
The festival consisted of an array of performances opening with remarks by Minister Nigel Pierre. Bands; Timi Television & Dubway Reggae Band, InnaSense and the Image Band all graced the staged. Dance performances included, Nia4Dance and Sistah Mafalda & the Kuumba Dancers.
The remaining performers consisted of spoken word from David Benjamin Watkis and musical entertainment from Kenny Sykes & Soul on Demand, Hfla Nyah, Ted Robinson, Cocoa Scorpion and Tony D.
Watkis, poet and vocalist, was pleased to perform on stage in addition to assisting in the work of the CFC. He believes festivals like this, brings communities together.
“The whole idea behind the Caribbean festival is to support and encourage the Caribbean community in our region,” he said. “It’s not just Philly it’s the whole tri-state area — we have people that come from Virginia, South Carolina and people even come from England just to support the Caribbean community. We always have a very supportive Caribbean community. Every year we have an awesome turnout.”
In addition to providing entertainment and promoting fellowship among the 14 participating Caribbean islands and community, the Caribbean festival aims to encourage scholarship and partake in charitable causes.
The proceeds from the festival contribute to awarding scholarships to Caribbean and Caribbean American students, aid to fund-raising hurricane victims and various other efforts.
This year, the CFC awarded Chantelle Angela Preston, an honor student who will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall, with the “Charles Gordon Henry Scholarship” and Gabriel Andre’ Gitten, honor student who plans to attend Coastal Carolina University, with the “Joan Gordon Scholarship.”
With awards, music, dance and food, the Caribbean Festival wrapped up their 26th year, last Sunday.
“I really like the mixture of cultures, I was excited to get some Jamaican and Caribbean food as well—my family is from Jamaica,” said Alexandrea Morris. “I’ve been coming to the festival for years.”