Caribbean Heritage Month at the Pratt

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By Ann Marie Lalmansingh and Becky Hass

June marked the seventh year of celebration of Caribbean American Heritage Month. The celebration also marked the 50th anniversary of independence for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Three Pratt branches Cherry Hill, Reisterstown and Waverly had a total of 11 programs.

Tent City Neighborhoods #1

The Waverly Branch hosted a Caribbean Art Exhibit from June 4-30, featuring the works of Mirlande Jean-Gilles, Haitian and Dirk Joseph, Trinidadian. Caribbean Americans in Baltimore Forum on June 4th held a discussion of topics for and about Caribbean nationals living and working in the area. The discussion was great, and we offer thanks to Ras Wayne Rose, UMBC Professor and IDOR President, Mirlande Jean-Gilles, Artist, and Dirk Joseph, Artist for contributing to the discussion.

Live music on the Avenue with Strykers' Posse on June 20 was hot with temperatures in the 90s! As the sun set, the sweet sounds of Reggae music could be heard on the avenue and bought residents out to listen and dance outside of the branch. The audience came out for a musical journey from mento to ska to calypso to rock steady and reggae songs.&

Boy with Hawk

Caribbean ArtsFest on June 23 came about from collaborative effort with artist team Mirlande Jean-Gilles and Dirk Joseph. The Caribbean 3-D Village art project was amazing! Parents and children spent a Saturday morning creating a seaside village. The 3-D village is still on display in the children’s area.

Guyanese descendent Pierre Bennu presented some of his short films to an audience who loved the films and had a lively discussion. Cher Jey used poetry, folk songs, and dance to show the connection of African culture on the Caribbean and its descendants living in the diaspora. Katia Ulysse, website founder of Voices of Haiti, also presented a short story to the audience.

The Reisterstown Road Branch hosted a number of programs including a slide-illustrated lecture by Pratt Librarian Herbert Rogers titled Cuba: the Forbidden Country. Rogers shared his impressions from multiple trips to Cuba and discussed aspects of Cuban culture and society. Many participants said they felt transported through Rogers’s stories and images.

We also showed the film “In the Time of the Butterflies” staring Selma Hayek and Marc Anthony from 2001. It is based on the book of the same title by Julia Alvarez telling the real-life story of the Mirabel sisters during the reign of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. The story of these sisters inspired the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. We all agreed it was a story none of us would forget.

Caribbean RST.450

The St. Veronica’s Steel Pan Orchestra also performed and bought a wonderful blend of traditional songs and fan favorites, like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. One customer said after the performance, “Thank you for bringing these talented youth and sharing their gifts with the community. Awesome!” We hope to have these programs again next year to celebrate the many cultures represented in our community and share in the rich heritage of the Caribbean.

See a video of STVYSO performing in 2008:

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