The Caribbean Students Association (CSA) Week 2017 has been showcasing and celebrating Caribbean culture and history all week. Taking place from April 23-29, the week has included a number of talks and programs aimed to make students more aware of Wesleyan’s Caribbean community and Caribbean identities.
The week kicked off on Saturday the 23rd with a panel composed of members of Wesleyan’s Caribbean community. The event also had a special guest, Dr. Andrea Baldwin, who is a professor at Connecticut College.
“There will be a panel of various students and faculty of Wesleyan’s Caribbean community including Kelly D’eolo, Hyekyung Moon, Holly Nicolas and guest Dr. Andrea Baldwin from Connecticut College,” the Facebook event read. “Dr. Baldwin’s long-term research involves transnational feminist pedagogies and praxis, theorizing love as power in intimate heterosexual relationships in the Anglophone Caribbean, the migration of Caribbean women as a form of care work, and cyber feminism.”
On Monday, Shelley Worrell spoke at an event titled iamCaribBeing Speaks. Worrell is the founder of the Brooklyn-based lifestyle and event brand iamCaribBeing.
“Our goal is to create unique + unconventional collections for those who crave authenticity + cultural relevance,” iamCaribBeing’s website reads. “The collection draws inspiration from the Founder and Principal Shelley V. Worrell’s passion for Caribbean travel + art + culture + history to curate authentic creations.”
On Tuesday, writer, blogger, and founder of Latina Rebels Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez spoke about Latina embodiment. This event was sponsored by Ajúa Campos, but CSA assisted in its planning.
“She is from Managua, Nicaragua currently living in Nashville, TN,” the event’s Facebook page reads. “In 2015, she graduated with her Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. She is the founder of Latina Rebels, an online platform that boasts over 100k followers. Currently she is a writer at Philadelphia Printworks, TeleSur, SupaDaily Latina, Chica Magazine, Mitú, BeVisible Latinx, Vivala, and a slew of other publications. Her interests are within biopolitics as it relates to Latina embodiment, specifically concerning models of conquerable flesh around narratives of naturalization for women of color. Thus her work is around reclaiming and upholding embodied resistance, particularly within chonga and chola subcultures.”
“Prisca Dorcas is who I wish I was,” said Chely Córdoval ’19. “She has an understanding of what her latinidad means to her, while I’m still discover mine. Her stories allowed me to reflect about my life in and out of Wesleyan.”
A discussion concerning intersectionality in the Caribbean also occurred Tuesday.
Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse gave her eleventh-anniversary spoken word performance on Wednesday in the Memorial Chapel. She read a powerful passage from her new book, “Because When God is Too Busy: Haiti, Me, and the World.” Dr. Kyrah Daniels, who recently received her PhD. in African and African American Studies with a primary focus in Religion from Harvard University, responded to the piece. She discussed the importance of Vodou traditions in Haitian culture and their presence in Professor Ulysse’s work.
“I think some of us are silent, and we shouldn’t be…Silence kills,” Professor Ulysse said in speaking about what role artists and student activists should play in fighting injustice.
Events taking place later in the week are a program in the Career Center, a cooking workshop in the Malcolm X House kitchen, and a dance workshop Saturday afternoon in Fayerweather. The week concludes with Bajari, CSA’s annual cultural show, which takes place on Saturday the 29th at 9 PM in Memorial Chapel.
Katherine Puntiel ’19, who is on the board of the CSA, expressed her feelings about the event.
“The motivation behind this week is a celebration and awareness of the Caribbean in Wesleyan and the greater Middletown community,” said Puntiel. “It is kind of this ‘for us by us’ model. We want to send a message that we are here and we are here to stay.”
Jamilia Simon ’17 also expressed what Caribbean Week means to her and what she hopes the Wesleyan community learns from its events.
“Through CaribWeek, we hope to highlight how the Caribbean diaspora is very multifaceted, and that there is no single narrative,” she said. “We started off CaribWeek with a convocation featuring panelists who all have difference experiences and all had valuable input to the conversation. The focus of our other events range from entrepreneurship, intersectionality, and sexuality in the Caribbean, to dance and discussions about food recipes. In providing this range, the CSA hopes to foster space for students to have riveting conversations but also have fun!”
An immense amount of planning went into organizing the week’s events.
“The planning is always crazy especially when it comes to money (shout out to Jamilia Simon!) and receiving an audience for the events we plan,” Puntiel said. “But there is always a group of people every year who are excited and have their ideas like performances and guest speakers. And board members just put them to life.”
Puntiel also reflected on how this year’s CSA Week resembles past CSA weeks.
“CSA Week is always different because there are always different people who come into the CSA Week planning, which is always good. Different point of views are always good! Like themes, event-ideas, and guest speakers are different, but we keep it in the CSA family,” she said.
For Puntiel, CSA Week makes Wesleyan’s Caribbean community members visible and celebrates their existence.
“The message I personally want to release about CSA is the simple fact that we are here,” Puntiel said. “We are here and we are not afraid to express our culture and who we are and we demand a mutual respect for everyone and everyone’s identity.”