Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"We speak dialects with fast rhythms exotic mixtures of english/french/spanish/dutch each blended with spices of ashanti/yorsba and fulani we wear hot colours colours of red/black/green . . . We are just another shade of black,"
Copyright (c) 1977, Stephenson Michael
Around the stage of the Martin Luther King Library Monday night, the recognition of a common Caribbean heritage was acknowledged by lilting cries of "Yeah mahn," quick phrases of Haitian patois and laughter.
As Stephenson Michael, a poet born on the island of St. Vincent, read, a drum matched his staccatoed accent and a trio of dancers turned the library basement into a street wild with Carnival rhythms.
On Sunday, the West Indian community had prayed together at Washington Cathedral and Monday night they hugged, drank a Caribbean drink with rum called sorrel and ate curried meat balls as a week of tributes to the Caribbean countries officially opened.
Sponsored by the Caribbean American Intercultural Organisation, Inc. (CAIO), this annual lineup of activities salutes the culture, politics and sports of the entire Caribbean region, from Venezuela to the Bahamas. CAIO was founded 19 years ago by the West Indian students at Howard University to ease both cultural alienation and to fight job discrimination.
Although those purposes haven't diminished greatly, now CAIO also serves as an information service, not only for the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 West Indians who live in the metropolitan area, but also for others who are curious or confused about political trends.
Vincent McDonald, a Jamaican-born economist and professor at Howard, is president of CAIO. "So many people are misinformed about the direction of social change in the Caribbean," he said."When people wanted to know why Jamaica was getting friendly with Cuba and were we going Communist, we had the foreign minister speak about our historic ties."
In the past few months Rosalynn Carter, Andrew Young and Cyrus Vance have taken diplomatic swings through the Caribbean. That highranking attention has given a psychological lift to the region, many of the 300 guests atMonday night's reception agreed.
"Largely, at this point, it means the U.S. is thinking seriously about its neighbors," said Orlando Marville, the consular officer of the Barbados embasay.
In addition to the future political power of the region, the heroes of the past will be discussed at seminars this week. In the front window of the King library are blow-ups of Toussaint L'Ouverture of Haiti, Simon Bolivar of Venezuela, Jose Marti of Cuba and Marcus Garvey, all leaders of political or economic movements.
In the library's downstairs exhibit rooms nearly 90 paintings and sculptures by African, black American, and West Indian artists are on display this week. "I feel a closeness of the culture, the way we cook, the way we behave, the way we worship," said Tesfaye Tessema, a 25-year-old Ethiopian, who uses the artistic style of the Coptic church.
This week, a time that coincides with many of the independence dates of the Caribbean countries, has been proclaimed "Caribbean Independence Week," by the mayor.