“I’m actually nervous,” said Jamaica’s Consul General Geneive Brown Metzger as she started her speech at Thursday night’s Caribbean Students Association’s (CSA) Alumni Dinner at City College. Mrs. Brown Metzger explained that while she was used to addressing stodgy 50-somethings, being in front of a roomful of vibrant, “know everything” young people was more daunting. “You have so honored me,” she continued. “Thanks for doing me the honor of inviting me to be your keynote speaker.”
The alumni dinner capped the Caribbean Students Association (CSA) of City College’s Annual Caribbean Week, which is organized each spring to celebrate and showcase Caribbean culture. For Spring 2009, the week is April 23 to May 2, with a series of events held on and off campus. CSA has been a prominent organization for about 40 years, providing a voice for City College’s Caribbean students while offering the campus’s non-Caribbean population a chance to participate in events that raise awareness of the region. Many of the week’s activities were highlighted in a video presentation produced by Jabari Harry.
Kemron Dufont, the president of CSA who hails from Grenada, said the main purpose of inviting and involving alumni of Caribbean descent is to “obtain internships and scholarships from successful City College graduates” so current students can benefit from their network and expertise. In his speech at the Alumni Dinner, Mr. Dufont mentioned Colin Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State, as well as keynote speaker and Jamaica Consul General Mrs. Brown Metzger as past students who went on to highly successful careers.
“City College is very diverse,” said Mr. Dufont, “we have to take advantage of that.” He ended his speech with an impassioned plea: “This club should never die, whether you are born in or out to the Caribbean.”
The vigor of the organization wasn’t always a given, said treasurer Taressa Dalchand, who is from Guyana and joined CSA about four years ago. Before the dinner started, she explained that the club had gotten quiet and, “there was not much draw to it” for a while. She credited Mr. Dufont and public relations officers Kadian Johnson and Patrick Richards with “getting the word out” and increasing membership.
Jay-Sheree Allen, a Jamaican who is the coordinator of the alumni dinner, added: “Even with difficult majors – I’m a premed student and the president [Dufont] is doing engineering – we still find time to celebrate our culture.” She said it showed their level of commitment to CSA’s main goal of “keeping the community informed.”
Several members of CSA received awards. Faculty adviser and Tobago native Yuri Job, said he’d like to see a film series as part of CSA’s Caribbean week in the near future. He supported the notion of inclusiveness, “We’ll take anyone who wants to come” into the club, he said. Herbert Seignoret of Dominica, who coordinates an education program, was also recognized for his contributions to CSA students.
Ras Mo, who was born in Dominica, inspired the audience with his drums and spoken words. While the Caribbean islands are diverse, he chanted, “all a dem drums all a roll into one riddim.”
Consul General Brown Metzger also saluted the cultural strength of the Caribbean and the loving support and sacrifice of Caribbean parents. She told the audience of about 60 students, alumni and faculty to “recognize who you are and how you can make a contribution.” Mrs. Brown Metzger shared how she felt when she had to make a big decision in order to head the Consulate General of Jamaica in February 2008. “The U.S. citizenship that I coveted for 29 years – I gave it up and didn’t regret it,” she said. She urged students to know who they are so they can choose how to make a difference.
Mrs. Brown Metzger spoke about her parents and the sacrifices they made for her and her siblings, saying Caribbean students must love and honor their parents. She advised the audience not to be afraid of success and to make excellence a habit. “Don’t dumb down,” Mrs. Brown Metzger added. Everyone laughed when she reminded a rapt audience that in Caribbean household budgets “there is no money for psychotherapy.” There were, of course, no signs of nervousness in her presentation.