First-Ever Caribbean Museum Goes Global With Star-Studded Launch Party
MIAMI — In the midst of the pandemic, the first and only museum in the United States dedicated to chronicling the culture and history of Caribbean island nations had a quiet opening in Plantation’s Westfield Broward Mall.
That just won’t do for Florida, where much of the West Indies diaspora has made their adopted home. So the Island SPACE Caribbean Museum is planning a splashy worldwide launch on June 27 with a red carpet of famous faces in entertainment, sports, politics and religion at 5:30 p.m. as well as a slate of performances starting at 6 p.m.
The gala and fundraiser will be a mix of a live in-person event and an online virtual livestream. “The livestream is free for everyone from anywhere in the world,” says executive director Calibe Thompson. “They can watch at our website IslandSpaceFL.org.”
For those who want to attend, for a minimum donation of $50, you can reserve tickets at 2021Magic.Eventbrite.com. There will be small bites and drinks at the launch party.
This is a far cry from when the museum opened for regular hours in mid-November when COVID-19 prevented such an event to really get the word out, according to David I. Muir, the chairman of the museum’s board.
“People in Broward and some people in Miami and Palm Beach know what we’re doing, but no one else around the world knows that the first Caribbean museum is open [and we want] to share that with everyone we can reach,” he says. “That’s the goal. We want to introduce…that work we have undertaken to a global audience. When you start a museum…the goal is to inform people. It’s really about sharing information.”
Hosted by former WPLG-Channel 10 news anchor (and Trinidadian) Neki Mohan, the celebrity guest list so far includes:
- Marcia Griffiths, Jamaican reggae singer best known for the song “Electric Boogie,” which introduced the electric slide dance to the world in 1989. She was also a former Bob Marley background vocalist.
- Kevin Lyttle, a soca artist from Saint Vincent whose hits include 2003′s “Turn Me On,” 2011′s “Anywhere” with Flo Rida and 2014′s “Feel So Good” with Shaggy.
- Ato Boldon, track and field star, four-time Olympian and politician from Trinidad & Tobago.
- Exile One, the kadans (Creole dance music) group with musicians from Dominica and Guadeloupe.
- P.J. Patterson, former prime minister of Jamaica.
- Inner Circle, an iconic Jamaican reggae band with major crossover chart-toppers such as “Sweat (A La La La La Long)” and the mega hit “Bad Boys,” a theme song for both the documentary reality TV show “Cops” and the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence “Bad Boys” film franchise.
- Willie Stewart, the original drummer for the Jamaican reggae fusion band Third World who played on such hits as “Now That We Found Love,” “Try Jah Love” and “Always Around.”
- Patricia “Miss Pat” Chin, one of the founders of VP records with a roster of artists that over the years has included Sean Paul, Beenie Man, Maxi Priest, Etana, Inner Circle, Shaggy, Elephant Man and Shabba Ranks.
- Rastafarian and Vooddon spiritual practitioners, as well as drummers from the Rastafari Indigenous Village in Saint James Parish in Jamaica.
- Indigenous people including the Taino, the original people of Florida and the Caribbean.
The show will mirror the stories that the exhibits in the museum tell, starting with indigenous people and colonialism/slavery before putting the spotlight on identity, such as home life and childhood.
And then — again, like the museum displays — the presentation will move on to celebrity chefs and cuisine, experts from politics and economics, before finishing with celebrities in sports such as cricket and track and field as well as, of course, a music section.
“And it can be enjoyed and seen worldwide,” adds Thompson. “You know, there are Caribbean people everywhere. Wherever you are in the world, you can feel a connection to this story we are telling.”
So far, visitor numbers have been low, mostly do to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Muir. This despite South Florida having a sizable population of people now living here with heritage in the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cuba and more island nations in the West Indies or Caribbean Sea.
“It’s been slow,” Muir, a photographer, admits. “Through the holiday season in December, that was the busiest. People were shopping in the mall…so we had a fairly steady arrival of people. I’d say 25 to 35 people a day during the holidays. But some of those people, they fly in from various states…and they say they heard about it and they wanted to see it. We have some tourists that want to experience this new thing. It’s gaining tractions. We have a ways to go. The good news is that word is spreading.”
Thompson’s background is in television production. She was the executive producer of PBS’ gourmet foodie show “Taste of the Islands with Chef Irie” in 2015. And so she is also working on video segments for the show.
“We have people from Barbados, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas or Haiti and they all talk about childhood experiences,” Thompson explains. “It’s not exactly the same…but everyone had something about having a woman with a basket on her head at the market, or a peanut man or a tire where you take the spokes out and…run down the road with it as a child. These commonalities, I don’t think I’ve seen them like this before.”
By ROD STAFFORD HAGWOOD/South Florida Sun-Sentinel