CaribSA brings Caribbean cultures to Institute

Aniyah Bussey, second-year CS, was one of the vendors at CaribSA’s event and sold her jewlwery. The student organization created space for small Black-owned businesses to promote themselves. // Photo courtesy of @aniyahs.anklets on Instagram

Flags of all colors, hot food, games, music, dance, laughter, community and smiles filled the second floor of Exhibition Hall on Sunday, March 2 as the Caribbean Student Association (CaribSA) celebrated Caribbean culture at the “Homesick: Back to the Islands” event.

The festival, which ran 2-6 p.m. welcomed students of all backgrounds to come out and learn more about Caribbean cultures. Students were able to come up to eight different stations that each represented a Caribbean country with an activity and information on the culture.

Barbados native Kayla Kirnon, third-year CS and external social chair of CaribSA spoke on the event’s niche role at the Institute. She explained that CaribSA wanted to create an environment of comfort and good times for international students from the Caribbean.

“This event is a celebration of Caribbean culture. It’s called ‘Homesick’ because as a Caribbean student myself, when you’re on campus, you struggle with homesickness because America is nothing like the Caribbean. So we just wanted to bring splashes of the food, the music [and] the dancing. Just a very fun event to uplift members and the general public and show off Caribbean culture,” Kirnon said.

In line with the organization’s objectives stated on their Engage page to “provide a welcoming environment for free cultural expression by Caribbean students” and “help students of Caribbean descent to connect with their roots,” they also aim to raise awareness of Caribbean culture outside of the community. CaribSA was able to achieve this objective as students from all backgrounds attended the event; some to get a taste of home, some to learn something new like Jaila Kimbro, first-year CMPE.

“It’s been a unique learning experience getting to see about the Caribbean culture. The food’s been really great and I really enjoyed the dance performance,” Kimbro said. She explained that she expanded her palette by experimenting with several new food items that evening and said she enjoyed all of them.

Ultimately, Kimbro explained that the experience of learning about others, inspired her to learn more about herself, “learning and watching them knowing so much about where they came from … it makes me interested to see where I’m from,” Kimbro said.

Other students like CaribSA Public Relations Officer Kamori Sawyer, third-year BMED came to the event looking for a sense of belonging and familiarity. Sawyer described her experience as an international student, having moved to the United States for school when she was just 17. 

“It’s really hard being Caribbean at Georgia Tech because there are so few of us. In terms of Bahamians there are very few of us. And it kind of felt hard at times to feel at home,” Sawyer said.

Although Kirnon praised the Institute for the opportunities it has afforded her, she spoke about a lack of support that marked her transition to Atlanta at age 18.

“There’s not that much support after you arrive. During the process to get here you have to deal with a lot of things yourself. And then when you get here, there are a lot of struggles that you have to face on your own, unless you personally know another international student that has been through it,” Kirnon said.

Both Kirnon and Sawyer pointed to CaribSA as a major source of support in their academic journeys as international students studying at the Institute.

“[CaribSA has] been amazing. CaribSA is my family. The e-board [executive board] is my family. I love everybody that comes to support our events, to support our culture. It really makes you feel like you belong here when people are interested in learning more about where you’re from, who you are, the things you do, things like that. So CaribSA is everything to me,” Kirnon said.

Of the activities avalaible for atendees, Jamaica’s Chinese skip rope was among the most popular. The intricate arrangement requires two, long elastic bands and a minimum of three people: two to hold each end of the band and one person to stand in the middle. The person in the middle must step, jump and loop the bands using their feet, in a specific order to complete the pattern. Activity operator Gabrielle Pratt spoke on her connection to the game and its history.

“I used to play [Chinese skip rope] when I was younger since it came from my childhood, which we usually play at home.The name, ‘Chinese skip rope’ … it might sound [confusing] cause the name is Chinese, but it’s just a cultural thing. Jamaica has a bunch of cultures put together. It’s like a melting pot of different cultures,” Pratt said.

The event also promoted small businesses, recruiting local vendors and allowing them a space to sell their products. Mayenie Conton, third-year LMC (@brownsugarstitches on Instagram) explained how the invitation from CaribSA provided an opportunity for economic empowerment within the Black community at Tech.

 “I think it’s been so great just having an opportunity to have a space for Black creators. Most of us in here [the vendor section] are Black women. There’s only so much I can elevate myself  outside of my own friends and family. So just being able to be at one of these tabling events is really important for me as a small, Black, woman-owned business,” Conton said.

Information for other vendors who attended the event can be found on Instagram @aleessas_artifacts and @aniyahs.anklets.

Although they have not released the official dates for their upcoming Carnival and CaribSA Sports Day events, CaribSA President Kayla Jeffery, third-year BCHM confirmed both will take place in late April. 

Those interested can follow the organization on Instagram @gt.caribsa for more information on how to get involved in the organizations and future events.