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Caribbean celebrations in Springfield highlight food, culture

Caribbean American African Athletic Social Club serves traditional Caribbean food to community members.
Caitlin Reardon
Caribbean American African Athletic Social Club serves traditional Caribbean food to community members.

Several events in Springfield, Massachusetts, this summer are highlighting Caribbean culture in the city.

Despite the cloudy skies and impending rain, community members dressed in colorful greens, yellows and blues brightened Springfield Friday at the Caribbean American African Athletic Social Club’s (CAAASC) annual Taste of the Caribbean. The event celebrated the unique offerings from various islands through food, while celebrating Caribbean culture and spirit as a whole.

Smiling attendees, young and old, were served a variety of traditional Caribbean foods – including Jamaican, Trinidadian, Barbadian and more – such as rice, ackee and saltfish, roast breadfruit, chicken and curry.

City officials including Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, City Council President Jesse Lederman and City Councilor Justin Hurst attended the tasting.

“I think about the cultural nuances of, you know, all communities that food is sort of like that equalizer – that when we can sit down and we can break bread together over a nice meal that's wholesome and good and that makes you feel good – now we can talk about the things that we need to do together, and food brings us together with that,” said Ayanna Crawford, a Springfield resident and chief of staff for state Rep. Orlando Ramos, D-Springfield.

The cultural organization puts together several events and initiatives for the Caribbean residents of Springfield to bolster and support its population, such as an after-school program for children, scholarships for high school students seeking higher education and the organization’s most anticipated event of the year – the annual Caribbean Parade, which will commence for its 23rd year on Sat., Aug. 19.

CAAASC Treasurer and Caribbean Parade Chairwoman Delva Campbell used to live in Boston, where she said she didn’t find a great sense of community as a Caribbean.

Delva described “just float[ing] around” on Beacon Street during her time there. This changed when she moved to Springfield – a city made up of approximately 5,000 Caribbean residents, a majority consisting of Jamaican residents – in 2021.

“But in Springfield, I can find a sense of community. There's people to embrace, things to do, people to help, people to reach out to, people that reach out to me. So it's more of a sense of community,” Campbell said, noting the impact of the city’s Caribbean residents.

She continued, “We take pride in whatever we can do to bring a little awareness to the Caribbean culture, because there's quite a few Caribbean folks in Springfield, and sometimes they go unnoticed.”

CAAASC President Gloria Scarlett highlighted the significance of the upcoming Caribbean Parade, which will proceed from Rebecca Johnson School to Blunt Park. Local Caribbean artists, dancers, foods and festivities will be featured.

“The food also speaks a lot. It tells you a lot about what we like and who we are like…Yet we are the same Caribbean, so it's good to know each other so we can embrace each other and love each other for who we are,” she said.

Scarlett said the events helpe people feel seen.

"If we have these events every year highlighting who we are, telling people that we exist in this community, we are part of it…Then we have a better world, isn't it?” she said.

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