For almost 20 years, the date of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival has had a permanent thumbtack on the calendars of South Florida residents. It grew to over 15,000 attendees in recent years with visitors from around the world, and developed popular spinoffs in New York and Washington D.C.
This year, in observance of the health and safety of their fans, The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival will carry on 2020 style. The festivities move online on the inaugural National Jamaican Jerk Day, October 25, celebrating Jamaica’s unique way of seasoning and grilling foods nationally in the USA.
Jerk cuisine has evolved from simple local street food to gourmet status in first-rate restaurants worldwide and celebrated through numerous Jerk Festivals around the globe.
On the third Sunday in October, Jamaican Jerk Festival USA Inc., in collaboration with other Jerk Festival Promoters throughout the USA and Canada, is urging fans to fire up the grill or oven to prepare their favorite Jerk Dish at home, or to support a local restaurant, and celebrate the day. Jerk fans should also share their jerk creations on social media using the hashtags #JamaicanJerkDay #JerkDay2020 #NationalJerkDay2020. Follow Jamaican Jerk Festival on IG @jajerkfestival and comment on posts you like.
To join the virtual celebrations, tune in to the VP Records YouTube channel and watch the Best of Jerk Festivals from around the world featuring top reggae and soca acts, along with cultural presentations. The live stream premieres 7:00 pm on October 25.
Event partners include Publix Supermarkets, Grace Foods, Western Union, Jamaican Tourist Board, Digicel and the City of Miramar and VP Records.
Where to Get Your Jerk
As part of National Jamaican Jerk Day activities, the promoters are encouraging jerk fans to support their local Jamaican restaurants. Here are some of their official restaurant partners in South Florida and the New York area.
Broward County has always been a cultural melting pot. Within its diversity lies a heavy dose of the Caribbean, adding island flair to the city’s arts, entertainment and nightlife. Caribbean people were among the founders of this South Florida destination in the 18th century. Over time, Broward County has become a wellspring of Caribbean cultural attractions, serving up flair and fun for all ages. This remains true, even in the new normal brought on by COVID-19 and age of social distancing. There’s still much to explore throughout Greater Fort Lauderdale while staying safe and healthy.
Esther Rolle Centennial Celebration
Actress Esther Rolle is most known as her iconic character Florida Evans on “Good Times,” but her Sunshine State connections aren’t in name only. The beloved star’s SoFlo roots run deep. She was born on November 8, 1920, in Pompano Beach to Bahamian parents. Though she passed away in 1998, her legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere.
Often dubbed the yachting capital of the world, your visit to Fort Lauderdale wouldn’t feel complete without a morning, midday or nighttime cruise. Why not add a little island flair to your trip and enjoy the fresh air with Captain Tyler on his Tuff Gong Reggae Boat Tour? Here you can relax in the tropical vibes, jamming to sweet, sweet reggae music, or take a quick swim and snorkel in the clear shallow water. This is a great experience for the entire family, a girl’s trip or romantic escape. This four-hour lazy day tour offers tranquillity and modern comfort while exploring the beautiful Intracoastal waters. There will be no shortage of photo ops to update your favourite social media pages.
Grace Jerk Festival
In place of their popular festivities held annually in Miramar, the hosts of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival have created a series of smaller events to get you through the quarantine slump. On the last Sunday in October, celebrate the newly designated National Jerk Day—feting the unique way of seasoning and grilling foods created by the Maroons of Jamaica. Foodies fiending for jerk bites are encouraged to support restaurants serving up the speciality throughout Broward County. In the home city of Miramar, festival promoters are planning something special involving residents and elected officials on the major event day. Locations and dates of official events will be posted on the organization’s social media pages and held with social distancing measures and safety protocols in place.
Coquitos Bar & Grill in Hollywood
Dancing the night away is more than a saying at Coquitos Bar & Grill in Hollywood. Here you can move your body to the intimate sounds of bachata, spin to the quick drums of salsa, or simply sit back, relax and enjoy the vibrations of Latin rhythms. Considered one of the city’s most attractive bars, this Caribbean-Latin fusion venue hosts live music almost every night, with dancing inside and outside. Make sure to visit this local favourite for their popular salsa and bachata block party events. If dancing isn’t your style, warm up your vocal cords and knock out the lyrics to your favourite song during their karaoke night. Karaoke gives everyone a chance to be a star, if only for the length of a song.
To paraphrase Dr Claire Nelson, one of the champions of Caribbean-American culture: “There is no ‘Caribbean community’ until you land in the U.S.” She’s right. As a native living in Jamaica or Haiti or Cuba, the Caribbean is an intellectual concept—a grouping of separate islands that are theoretically connected, but whose regular inhabitants never have to meet or talk together. But, when you live in the United States, particularly in West Indian strongholds like South Florida and the New York tri-state area, you begin to recognize Guyanese, Barbadian, Kittitian and other singsong accents as the sweet, familiar sounds of your adopted Caribbean brothers and sisters. Their food and music remind you of home, and they become your family.
“The contributions of Caribbean-Americans to the United States are long-standing, historic and, simply put, tremendous. And, in some ways, these contributions have not been recognized due to how well we have assimilated into the fabric of American culture,” said Jamaican David I. Muir, who is president and co-founder of the organization.
According to Vice President Lloyd Stanbury, “Island SPACE provides an important vehicle to facilitate the strengthening and recognition of the common cultural and historical bonds between American immigrants from the Spanish-, French-, English- and Dutch-speaking countries of the Caribbean.”
The mission of the Island SPACE Caribbean Museum is to tell the comprehensive story of Caribbean and Caribbean-American communities, uniting the diaspora and strengthening its connections to the region. Here, Caribbean history and culture will be celebrated, Caribbean art will be on display, and diverse people can gather in a place dedicated to this colourful community. For the first time, multiple generations of families with Caribbean ancestry will have a place to learn about their island legacies. All visitors, regardless of background, will learn that while there are many things that make us unique, there are also many commonalities that bind us together.
In its archives, visitors will learn about the progression of the region, from its original inhabitants to colonization and emancipation. From the governments established to the spiritual and cultural traditions that evolved. And from the Caribbean-American connection recognizing our imprint from the founding fathers to the first black woman in Congress and the first black woman to run for vice president of the United States. The archives will feature both permanent and periodic displays.
The gallery will host visual art exhibitions, small gatherings and events.
While COVID-19 continues to be a concern, the museum will be open to limited public traffic. Once public gatherings are again possible, the facility will begin small programmed events including artist talks, cultural debates, panel discussions, art exhibitions and networking mixers
Island SPACE Caribbean Museum Center
A Sustainable Legacy
Antiguan Gilbert Boustany, dean of the Caribbean Consular Corps, offered a thoughtful view on the project. “Every island has a uniqueness to it, and what we’re going to try to do is create one storyline to incorporate all of the Caribbean. We all will participate as much as possible because [this project] does tell the greater story.”
Island SPACE is moving forward with the support of the Caribbean Consular Corps in South Florida; tourism organizations including those from The Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados and the U.S. Virgin Islands; Broward Mayor Dale Holness, who is himself of Caribbean descent; and many others.
As the face of the project, Muir has been feeling a groundswell of encouragement, advocating daily that “the community should support the project with their artefact contributions, by volunteering and with their dollars.” Specifically, he said they may donate to the organization’s GoFundMe campaign, donate artefacts from their personal collections and volunteer to help with ongoing activities like research and marketing.
Director Tamara Philippeaux added: “I am confident the museum will reflect the mosaic of Caribbean cultures, and I’m proud to bring the rich Haitian culture to its board.” Board members are currently raising funds from private and corporate donors.
More than 150 Founding Funders have so far given individual donations from $10 to $1,000. The project is made possible with generous support provided by the following funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Helen and Frank Stoykov Charitable Endowment Fund, David and Francie Horvitz Family Fund, Ann Adams Fund, Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Blockbuster Entertainment Unrestricted Fund, Robert E. Dooley Unrestricted Fund for Broward, Harold D. Franks Fund, and the Jan Moran Unrestricted Fund.
Learn more about the Island SPACE Caribbean Museum, including the official opening date at islandspacefl.org
Leaders at Island Origins magazine also serve the nonprofit launching Island SPACE. Publisher Calibe Thompson, co-publisher David I. Muir and business development director Tamara Philippeaux are board members of the museum.
At the humble corner of U.S. 441 and Broward Boulevard awaits a paradise of Caribbean eateries for any food lover in the know to enjoy. Now, I have experienced one more reason to eat at this iconic intersection in Plantation, equally for its health benefits as well as its rich island flavours. Welcome to Veg by Hakin, the second vegetarian cafe owned by Antigua-born restaurateur Hakin Alexander Hill. He also runs a popular outpost in Miami called Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin.
Hill was introduced to the plant-based lifestyle at an early age and has been vegetarian for 35 years, with 22 years as a vegan. “I’ve seen the benefits of health and the financial prosperity of the lifestyle,” Hill said about his wish to share delicious plant-based dining with others.
Known as Me Hungry Vegetarian Restaurant before Hill took over ownership, the revamped spot launched this past March (just before the release of social distancing orders). The timing certainly posed a unique challenge, but their health-centric offerings feel more relevant than ever. Hill explains that Veg by Hakin serves Caribbean macrobiotic cuisine, which includes plant-based substitutes for animal-based products. For example, soy adds the secret meatiness to their ginger “chicken” and barbecue dishes. They also feature a range of natural juices.
Plant-Based Veg Dishes
Donna, my server, recommended I try the ginger “chicken,” and Hill encouraged me to also order the barbecue. Spinach rice and a generous serving of fresh vegetables accompanied my lunch. As a side, I also opted to try both versions of their vegetable patties.
The ginger soy chicken makes an amazing start for any meal. The flavours remind me of a Chinese-Jamaican dish I have eaten at the best restaurants back home. The soy was tender with a light, yet distinct, ginger flavour and smooth gravy. The spinach-seasoned rice makes an absolutely delightful pairing. This is the type of meal I could eat daily.
The barbecue was also tender, but the flavour was much bolder and sweeter. I haven’t typically seen barbecued meat with this super-soft, moist texture or saucy gravy, but the difference was welcome and enjoyable. I would definitely enjoy this as an occasional treat, and I found that it worked well with the fresh greens.
Lastly, I sampled their veggie patties. Both versions were consistent: warm with the flaky crust typically associated with Jamaican patties. As a fan of spice, to me, the mixed-vegetable patty was good, yet unremarkable. The spinach patty had a much better mixture of flavours, such that I’d happily eat it again.
There are so many more options to try. I’ve told Hill that I also wish to visit his Miami restaurant for comparison. He informed me that it is “considered one of Miami’s first Black vegan restaurants and markets.” With such pedigree, this new Broward locale is on its way to becoming desirable to carnivores and plant-based foodies alike.
Veg by Hakin is located in the Westgate Plaza at 105 North State Rd. 7, Plantation, Fla. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday through Thursday and on Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
At a time when the world has grown more aware than ever about the Black community’s continued struggle for equality, a demand for a new type of conscious travel is emerging. Experiences that celebrate Pan-African and Indigenous cultural heritages are forecast to increasingly drive travel demands for the foreseeable future. Don’t be surprised if that guidance leads globetrotters right to the Caribbean. Scores of Caribbean attractions and historical sites rooted in proud Black and Indigenous history exist throughout the West Indies. Here are a few of the best:
A moving testament to the Caribbean’s legacy of slavery, La Savane des Esclaves is an open-air museum replicating a typical village in Martinique during the years immediately following emancipation. Sprawling over a windswept hillside in Les Trois-Îlets, La Savane showcases both the hardships and creativity of the Afro-Caribbean people who survived one of history’s darkest chapters. Carefully documented displays guide visitors through the enslaved experience, exploring the transatlantic slave trade, daily violent life on the plantation, and the numerous revolts in resistance to bondage.
Giving voice to their struggle, however, marks just one aspect of La Savane des Esclaves. The museum also celebrates the persistence, bravery, and ingenuity espoused by Black Martinicans. For example, a network of paths leads visitors to a series of huts modelled after Black homesteads of the 1800s, featuring the traditional folk architecture’s signature earthen floors, thatched roofs, and walls of lattice and mud. These classic “wattle and daub” structures are a fusion of both African and Caribbean Indigenous construction.
Gardens filled with herbs employed by Afro-Martinicans to cure all manner of ailments also form a big part of the museum. The farm crops they grew and animals they kept are also here, so guests can learn about what life was like among such free villages through sight, smell, and taste. The result is an all-encompassing, tactile museum experience that goes well beyond any textbook toward helping visitors understand more about Afro-Caribbean history.
The world knows them as the Caribs, a name ascribed by Europeans bent on furthering unfounded legends of cannibalism in a campaign to ease public dissent over their enslavement and near-extermination. The community, however, goes by their real name, the Kalinago. To learn about their proud civilization, the best place to visit is the Kalinago Territory in Dominica.
Contrary to long-held beliefs, the original Indigenous people who inhabited the Caribbean islands were not wiped out following European colonization. In Dominica, the Kalinago persisted throughout the turbulent 1600s and 1700s, as the French and British fought for control of the island. When the British ultimately took possession in 1763, the Kalinago were limited to 232 acres of land in northeastern Dominica for their settlement. In 1903, the territory was expanded to 3,700 acres.
Visiting the Kalinago Territory today provides the closest view into what Caribbean life was like before Columbus. While signs of modern life remain present, so too do many ancient Kalinago traditions. Here, you can learn wood carving and basket weaving techniques passed down through the centuries. Or, try a slice of warm cassava bread fresh from a stone oven.
Hiking trails also take you to sacred spots like L’Escalier Tête Chien. As legend has it, here a giant mythical snake came ashore in Dominica after travelling from South America. Truly, nowhere else connects you more with the original, untamed spirit of the Caribbean.
It is a little known fact that Haiti was once home to the Caribbean’s first and only native royal monarchy. Kings, queens, a royal palace, crown jewels: Haiti once had it all. All of it was based in the tiny enclave of Milot.
Located in northern Haiti, just 12 miles south of Cap-Haïtien, Milot is where the self-appointed King Henri Christophe established the Kingdom of Haiti in 1811. Christophe rose to prominence as a top military leader in the Haitian Revolution between 1791 and 1804.
Immediately following independence, Christophe joined forces with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, supreme leader of the Haitian Revolution, to form a new government based in Port-au-Prince. When Dessalines was assassinated in 1806, however, Christophe returned to Milot. In short order, he broke with the southern government and, in 1807, established himself as president of what he called the State of Haiti. This would be the precursor to his kingdom, established five years later.
The power and glory of King Henri’s kingdom are best exemplified in two top attractions: the Sans-Souci Palace and the Citadelle Laferrière. Completed in 1813, Sans-Souci Palace was once known as the Versailles of the Caribbean. Its ruins loudly echo this former grandeur. The immense stone structure is akin to a stately royal manor one might expect to find somewhere in Europe rather than in a sleepy agrarian corner of Haiti.
The Citadelle is even more impressive. Constructed atop the peak of the Bonnet à l’Evêque mountain (elevation: 3,000 feet), the fortress is the largest in all of the Americas. The full structure stretches more than 100,000 square feet. More than 150 cannons once rang her ramparts.
These magnificent structures help place the world’s only successful slave revolt in a broader context—one that evokes a sense of pride over the strength and achievements of Afro-Caribbean people.
In a whole lot of ways, the year 2020 has felt like the perfect storm. Political gamesmanship seems to have impressed anti-immigrant sentiment into the American psyche; Coronavirus has devastated the nation and the world; police brutality and social and economic inequality have turned up the volume on the Black Lives Matter movement internationally; and whether or not you believe in climate change, Mother Nature is unleashing indiscriminate fury on multiple targets.
The Caribbean region we represent was the original melting pot of the world and remains a smorgasbord of ethnic backgrounds. Our focus at Island Origins, and all our affiliated brands, has always been to celebrate this diversity and to honor that mixed heritage. It felt right that, in this moment, we should dedicate an issue to the soul of our people and to memorializing the crazy, unforgettable, history-making year this has been.
The pandemic and political environment have forced us all to make major life adjustments. In the case of Island Origins Magazine, we’ve been forced to shift our focus from purely life-style to considering life-struggles as well. As we offer island immigrant perspectives on the breathtaking events of this moment in history, our hope is that the loud social dialogue going on around us leads to solutions rather than falling on deaf ears. Like G said so simply and powerfully, we’re all in this together.
Fashion isn’t for appearance only. What we wear can be a proud declaration of our cultural heritage. This is the guiding principle for these Caribbean fashion designers, who are using African-inspired prints to create styles that fit every woman. Inspired by their culturally grounded, but always fashion-forward perspective, we take their stunning looks out for a stroll.
From fashion brand Brass and Sassy, this dark, striped romper feels fit for the daring diva, combining a bare midriff with butterfly sleeves with layered pum pum shorts. Add a pair of dark strappy heels and prepare to have all eyes on you.
Model: Michelle McLean
Also from Brass and Sassy, this matching tied bandeau top and fitted flared pants in earthy hues of orange, green and deep red create a statuesque silhouette.
Model: Michelle McLean
Bright orange with bands of purple is made fit for a queen in this regal, billowing off-the-shoulder dress from Kulture Klothes, a chic boutique in Miami Gardens. With a floor-length hemline, it’ll make you look like you’re walking on air.
Model: Maisie McNaught
This off-the-shoulder denim number from Kulture Klothes is dressed up with large flower patterns, accent bands of fabric, and a whole lot of bling. Casual, eye-catching, fabulous.
Model: Maisie McNaught
From Kulture Klothes, this sleeveless, high-low baby doll dress is fitted at the top with a shapely lower half that’s short in the front and long in the back. The blue and red fabric is accessorized with a royal blue shawl and head wrap.
Wear your Afro-Caribbean roots proudly on your sleeve with these thoughtful designer fashion and home decor accessories. All made by creatives across the Caribbean diaspora, these special pieces celebrate the Afrocentric heart of island style.
Represent your African heritage proudly with these delicate, heirloom-worthy pieces by Jamaican-Canadian designer Ashley Alexis McFarlane. Ethically handmade with fair-trade gold, her designs include lost-wax casts of vintage coins from the Caribbean and Africa.
Traditional African beading never felt so modern! This versatile, hand-beaded clutch by the Haitian-based apparel brand Karabely’n combines geometric beaded designs with either burlap or traditional Haitian karabela fabric.
Treasured throughout history across Africa, cowrie shells have become an iconic natural symbol of the diaspora. Designer Lisette Scott reimagines them in her stunning Kingston earrings, which are also an homage to her Puerto Rican and Jamaican roots.
Add a little “Black girl magic” to your decor with these charming, handmade throw pillows by Haitian designer Valerie Louis. The Black Girl Magic motif, in particular, depicts powerful portraits of women throughout Black history, from 1500 to the present day. Available at 54kibo.com
The traditional Caribbean “bush” natural remedies of our grandparents seem ever more appealing in these uncertain times. While a strong immune system is one weapon in the war against illness, conventional supplements have been coming under fire for the number of additives they contain. Warm herbal elixirs offer nostalgic and soulful comfort, as well as a boost of body-loving nutrients. Here’s a look at some essential Caribbean all-natural salves, their potential health benefits, and risks.
Whether growing along the side of a country road or neatly packaged for sale in grocery aisles, cerasee (known to Haitians as asosi) remains a bush tea staple for islanders. Native to Africa, the herb is known as a natural detoxifier, containing vitamins A and C, as well as phosphorus and iron. The popular leaves have traditionally been drawn in a hot beverage sipped to calm symptoms of hypertension, diabetes, liver problems, fever, and constipation. It is also claimed to reduce menstrual pain and urinary tract infections. An old school cerasee “bath,” where the leaves are steeped in hot water, has been used to soothe skin irritation caused by conditions like eczema. When it comes to consumption, however, experts warn that prolonged and continual use could possibly lead to liver damage, so caution is advised.
A longtime staple in South Asian cuisine and medicinal remedies, lemongrass is better known to some Caribbean folk as fever grass, named as such for its fever-reducing properties. Rich in natural antioxidants, tea brewed from lemongrass stalks is used to alleviate some cold and flu symptoms, such as coughs and headaches. The tea also acts as a digestive aid, known to relieve bloating, stomach cramps, and constipation. The roots of fever grass can be made into a tea and used as a mouthwash for gum problems and periodontal disease. Like everything else, however, moderation is key. Drinking an excessive amount of lemongrass tea can cause stomach aches.
A favorite of Caribbean kids everywhere, the sweet guanábana or soursop fruit is as nutritious as it is delicious, packed with immune-boosting vitamins B and C as well as calcium and potassium. Aside from the sweet nectar of its fruit, the leaves of the soursop tree are also purported to have remarkable health benefits. Most often made into tea, the leaves aid in calming several ailments related to the digestive system, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and gallbladder problems. Keeping your gut happy is crucial to maintaining overall immune health. As a cautionary note, excessive consumption is linked to nerve damage, which presents as tremors or stiff muscles. Also, the seeds should never be consumed due to their toxicity.
They say whatever tastes bitter must be good for you. By those standards, the benefits of neem tea offer a strong testament. Commonly known as Indian lilac, neem is consumed as a tea throughout the West Indies and has become an Ayurvedic essential. The plant is high in antioxidants and possesses natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Drinking neem tea is believed to help with a variety of conditions, including fever, diabetes, liver problems, constipation, bloating, and stomach and intestinal ulcers. Like many other natural remedies, however, drinking neem tea for a prolonged period can affect the kidneys and liver.
It is important to keep in mind that natural ingredients vary in potency and can affect individuals or interfere with medical treatments in unexpected ways. With this in mind, please consult your physician before making any dramatic changes or additions to your diet regimen.
ISLAND ORIGINS MAGAZINE is a lifestyle brand that reflects the Caribbean American community. It celebrates the accomplishments and seeks the advice of our high achievers, explores the complex social issues that affect us and our neighbors, and enjoys the frivolities of design, fashion and entertainment inspired by our colorful cultures.