Student-run celebration mirrors Caribbean culture

Students gathered downtown to celebrate Latin and Caribbean culture in the spirit of an annual celebration observed on islands worldwide.

Long before the spring warmth arrived, three student groups on campus were anticipating this celebratory wave and working hard to plan a colorful, festive and philanthropic event: Carnival.

UVM’s Black Student Union, Vermont Students Toward Environmental Protection and Living and Learning Center Caribbean House collaborated to pull off the annual Caribbean Carnival at North End Studios in downtown Burlington April 21.

“Carnival is an annual event that takes place in cities worldwide. It is the most significant event on any islands’ cultural calendar,” said Jasmine Laurent, junior and Program Director of L/L’s Caribbean House. “It’s said that if the islanders are not celebrating it, then they are preparing for it.”

The carnival’s impact extended farther still than solely cultural celebration. Additionally, the carnival was planned to generate zero waste in honor of this year’s Earth Week, Headley said.

The space was decorated warmly with string lights, flags of Caribbean nations and large potted plants. The music was lively, with artists DJ Sandstorm and King Zae actively engaging the crowd on the dance floor.

“Preparation for Carnival was no joke! For me, planning began in the summer time and did not stop,” Laurent said.

About halfway through the evening, a group of six female students took the floor to perform a fast-paced dance routine, choreographed by Laurent, to a mash-up of Caribbean reggae, soca and dancehall music.

The carnival was catered by Jamaican Supreme Food Truck, providing cuisine which was, to many, the highlight of the event.

“My favorite part was the food! I do go home to Philadelphia for the school breaks but I haven’t been back HOME home — Barbados — for a few years now. The island food is truly one of a kind,” said RiRi Stuart-Thompson, first-year student and member of L/L’s Caribbean House.

Ivonne Headley, junior and president of the BSU, had a similar appreciation for the event’s focus on Caribbean identity.

“I am a strong believer in giving back to one’s community, and for me my community includes Latin America and the Caribbean,” she said. “It was great to organize an event where funds would directly impact one of the many countries in the region that are in need of help.”

All of the ticket proceeds went to a nonprofit called Three Little Flowers Center, Inc.

The organization works to provide financial, educational and technical assistance to the San Twa Ti Fle primary school in Haiti, which encourages students to learn in their native language.

The San Twa Ti Fle school was severely impacted by Hurricane Matthew. It has faced many environmental and social justice challenges as a result, according to the Three Little Flowers official website.

“The intersection of social and environmental justice issues that characterize the challenges faced by the San Twa Ti Fle school are exactly the kind of problems that must be centered in the modern environmental movement,” stated junior Sonya Buglion-Gluck, the BSU historian, in a recent blog post on BSU’s website.

The event sold 200 tickets, yielding over $1000 toward Three Little Flowers, Inc.

“This event was important to me because it was the beginning of what I hope can become an annual event at UVM, even after I graduate,” said Headley.

“I couldn’t have done it without BSU and all of the hard work and dedication they put into all my wishes and dreams of what I wanted Carnival to look like. And from the reviews that I received it was worth every cent,” said Laurent.