The Board of Alders Black and Hispanic Caucus closed out Black History Month by celebrating the city’s West Indian Connection with food, music, and dance.
People from all over the West Indies who now call New Haven County home converged on the Hall of Records at 200 Orange St. last week to celebrate their island flavor and the rich history that they bring to the African diaspora.
Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison, who chairs the Black History program for the caucus said, that over the last 25 years there has been a boom in the number of West Indian people who call the Elm City and surrounding towns home. But program attendees also learned that West Indians have been immigrating to the city since the 1900s. Natives of St. Kitts and Nevis have the distinction of being among the first to arrive in New Haven.
Morrison said it is important for the caucus to acknowledge the city’s West Indian connection and help break down the false narratives between African-Americans and West Indians that pit them against each other.
“Coming together through a program like this really shows there’s no real difference between us,” she said. “There are some cultural differences but we’re all black. We all have to embrace that. And that was the purpose of this program—encouraging folks to embrace one another.”
Program attendees also got to hear from Carlah Esdaile-Bragg, who happens to be the marketing and communications director for Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, and her cousin Eileen Huggins Williams. Their family is among the first West Indian families from St. Kitts and Nives to settle here in New Haven.
Their grandparents came to New Haven from St. Kitts and Nevis by way of Cuba and then New York and helped establish the vibrant West Indian community that exists here today. The women are both third-generation West Indians in New Haven and now that Esdaile-Bragg is a grandmother there is now a fifth-generation afoot.
Music for the evening was provided by St. Luke’s Steel Band, while the Hamden Dance Academy put on a show. The audience got to get in on the act during the “Roll Call/Rep Yuh Flag” segment of the program. Food for the event was provided by Tropical Delight, Island Spice, Ninth Square Market Too Caribbean Style Restaurant, and Patty’s Caribbean Restaurant.