Hot, sandy beaches, towering palm trees, and vibrant blue oceans are what many associate with the Caribbean. What many don’t realize is that the region encompasses 28 independent countries and territories with various cultural differences. Recently, Andover students Nishani Clarke ’23, Kiefer Ebanks ’23, and Nick Donaldson ’23 revived the student-led club to celebrate Caribbean culture. So far, the club has brought in catered Caribbean food such as beef patties, yucca balls, and pastelitos. The club has also hosted a traditional Caribbean celebration known as Carnaval.
The club had been active a few years prior to 2022, however it fell through after its faculty advisor declined to continue the club. According to Donaldson, the three co-presidents of Caribbean Club restarted the group to provide a space to appreciate and engage with the region’s cultures. The club’s motto reads: “Bringing the Caribbean to Campus.”
“We looked around the school and saw that Caribbean people were very underrepresented on campus. We wanted to bring our home culture and bring the fun that we experienced growing up to campus to share with the rest of the school, and also to provide a space for other Caribbean people, whether directly from the Caribbean or descendants through parentage,” said Donaldson.
Clarke hopes the club provides room for non-Caribbean people to experience Caribbean culture as well. She believes that this should be a space for everyone, regardless of prior personal connection with the culture.
“Another thing that was really important to us when we started Caribbean Club was making sure that other people who weren’t necessarily Caribbean could join the experience of culture, because like Nick said, we feel like there are Caribbean people all around campus, even if it’s second generation, third generation, and we wanted to bring light to that. Even people who aren’t Caribbean, we wanted them to also learn about it, because we know that the Caribbean has so much to offer,” said Clarke.
Donaldson added that due to the physical distance from the Caribbean and Massachusetts, Caribbean students may feel an amplified disconnect from their culture. He hopes Caribbean Club will help bridge that gap.
“Specifically as well, in New England, we feel that because it’s so far […] certain aspects of the Caribbean… start to slip… Having a club allows them to experience [Caribbean culture and] allows it to be maintained in a faraway land,” said Donaldson.
For AJ Rodriguez ’23, a member of the Caribbean Club who is of Dominican heritage, joining the club was a step towards experiencing more parts of his culture on campus. In his opinion, it can be meaningful for Caribbean students to have a space to enjoy dancing to Caribbean music and eating Caribbean food.
“I joined because I’m from the Caribbean, and it was cool to see a space on campus that reflected my heritage. So I was like, ‘yeah, I’m going to join.’ […] I think it’s important [to have a Caribbean Club at Andover] because as we’ve already shown, like with Carnaval, [Caribbean culture] is a lot of fun. And it’s important for people who aren’t from the United States to get to express [Caribbean] culture and their heritage, like in food and dance,” said Rodriguez.
Member of the Caribbean Club Nahila Hutchinson ’24, of Jamaican descent, appreciated the fact that the Caribbean Club is open to everyone. They felt that the openness of the Caribbean Club is indicative of the welcoming nature of Caribbean culture.
“I feel like the Caribbean Club meets our [Caribbean students’] needs pretty well. […] In general, I think Caribbeans like to share our culture a lot. Not to the point of appropriation, but we do love to invite people to our spaces. I think it’s great that it’s a club, but I think that really represents Caribbean identity well because it’s supposed to be shared,” said Hutchinson.
Looking forward, the Caribbean Club is planning activities for the next school year. They plan to host the second fastest known woman alive, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, as an ASM speaker. Fraser-Pryce is from Jamaica, and will also be visiting a track meet during her time on campus. According to Ebanks, the club is also looking into hosting another dance next year.
“This has been in the works for about a year now, but we can finally confirm that next year we have a guest speaker coming. That speaker’s name is Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. […] We’ve also been talking to Mr. Capano about putting on another dance. [This year’s dance] changed into the Carnaval, which I’m happy about, but I think we might still be putting on a dance maybe next year,” said Ebanks.