Put Caribbean people in a country where the culture is vastly different from their own, then have a Caribbean event that transports them back to their culture for one night and you are guaranteed an unforgettable event. And that’s just what happened on Saturday, June 4th in Shanghai. The Caribbean Association in China (CAC) celebrated its fourth anniversary in Caribbean style at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Shanghai Fudan.
All day it rained but the poor weather wasn’t enough to hinder anyone from getting to this anticipated annual event. So much so, that most people were early or on time, a feat quite unusual for most Caribbean people. In attendance were people from many of the islands, Jamaica of course was well represented. There were also attendees from America, Greece, Australia, Nigeria and many other countries across the globe but for this one night we were all Caribbean. Almost 300 people were in attendance.
The evening began with dinner at 7pm which was quite a spread; there was a wide array of mouth watering Caribbean dishes, rice and peas and jerk chicken in abundance. The food was an all you can eat buffet and everyone ate and ate then ate some more. The air was filled with chatter, laughter, the smell of the sweet mixture of Caribbean cuisine and the sound of Caribbean music in the background. Each table with a mix of nationalities. Once everyone had had a bit to eat the evening’s program began. The MC of the evening, Ms Camille Lindo (who hails from Walkerswood, Jamaica) did a masterly job of keeping the event flowing smoothly throughout the night. Among the evening’s entertainment were a dancehall Dance performance, an African drumming performance and a fashion show displaying Caribbean carnival wear.
After this, the focus was drawn back to one of the key functions of the association that of its charity work. Representatives from two of the institutions that the CAC supports were in attendance and they thanked the association and spoke of the difference the association had made in the lives of the children. Mr. Zhou Zheng, Principal at the Chang lin Migrant School spoke about the four years cooperation between the CAC and his school, the joy and enthusiastic reception of the kids when they are hosted by the Caribbean Association. The CAC members and friends have volunteered to Teach English at the school, providing gifts of school supplies to the kids at every event, Hosting the kids to Fun Day activities at Shanghai Museums, or VIP Access Tour of Shanghai World Expo 2010, etc. Miss Chris Zhang represented the Chi Heng Foundation for HIV/AIDS impacted kids presented the President of the CAC, Dr. Nicoleen Johnson with an Award plaque of appreciation for the four years of excellent contribution to their organization. Miss Zhang Spoke about the impact that the Association has had on the lives of these AIDS/HIV affected kids. Every summer the CAC host a group of these kids to a Fun Day at the Shanghai Aquarium, Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, and last year VIP Access Tour of Shanghai World Expo 2010. All these programs incorporate activities to teach the children about the Caribbean. CAC President, Dr. Nicoleen Johnson, in her address to the Guests, also spoke about the CAC’s support of the Giving Tree Program over the past two years. The CAC helps by volunteering to prepare bags, by filling Christmas gift bags for migrant kids and last year Dr. Johnson enrolled the Chang Lin school into the program so that now all 750 students in the school could receive a gift bag.
Those who participated in the outreach programs for these schools or contributed in some way felt a sense of pride and happiness.
100% Profits from the evening’s activities would go towards these charities. To boost funds for the charities there was a raffle and a silent auction with a twist. Individuals were able to buy raffle tickets to have the opportunity to win several donated prizes such as Caribbean rums, Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, restaurant/Spa vouchers and much more .The silent auction included some similar prizes as the raffle but the twist was that in addition to those prizes one could bid on members and friends of the association who would go to the winners home to cook them a sumptuous meal, or give them lessons in music, cooking or English. For instance there was the Italian who would prepare candlelight four-course dinner for two people , the Taiwanese who would prepare a traditional Taiwanese meal for four at the winner’s home, a Caribbean Chef who would prepare traditional Caribbean Meal with all ingredients provided by the chefs.
After the various presentations and distribution of prizes, including presentation made by the Bahamian Ambassador to Beijing, Her Excellency Ambassador Ms. Elma Campbell who brought greetings from the Caribbean Caucus of Embassies in Beijing, the floor was cleared and another side of the party began, the dancing. The dance floor was opened and some shoes came off and some hairs were let down, to say it mildly. The DJ, Mr Brent Parker who hails from Antigua and Barbuda then took us on a journey of Caribbean Music – from carnival to the dancehall club. Then there was the limbo dance competition that has become a yearly tradition. This traditional dance originated on the Caribbean island of Trinidad & Tobago and the dancers moves to a Caribbean rhythm, then leans backward and dances under a horizontal pole without touching it. Upon touching it or falling backwards, the dancer is disqualified. Many guests tried but as the stick got lower, the competitors got fewer and everyone crowded around to see which country would take the title, in the end it went to Antigua and Barbuda.
The hard work of the team that organized the event under the leadership of Dr. Nicoleen Johnson (from Jamaica) paid off and resulted in a most successful event. There was great fun while simultaneously raising funds for the charities. I am sure many (myself included) are anxiously looking forward to next year’s event as the CAC continues to press on with its mission to ‘foster a stronger understanding and appreciation of our Caribbean culture’ in China.