Culture: Caribbeans Celebrate Heritage at Reading Terminal Market Event

Scutt Blanc preparing to serve fried chicken fritay at Reading Termial Market. (Eden MacDougall/PN)

Tucked away in a corner of Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphians celebrated the 9th annual Caribbean Heritage Day on Sunday, June 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with speeches from politicians, live music, and free food. 

The Caribbean Community in Philadelphia, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a positive image of Caribbean culture, started hosting Caribbean Heritage Day in Reading Terminal Market in 2013. Miranda Alexander, the founder and president of CCP, and Lamya Broussard, the vice president of operations, wanted to highlight the diversity, talent and strength of Caribbean people and educate others about their countries. 

Speakers included Councilmembers Helen Gym and Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Alain Joinville from the Office of Immigrant Affairs, André Laveau, the consul general for the Consulate General of the Republic of Trinidad in Tobago in New York, and Zabeth Teelucksingh, executive director of Global Philadelphia Association

Sánchez spoke about the importance of keeping traditions alive, making Philadelphia more inclusive and welcoming to the Caribbean community and other immigrants, and supporting immigrant businesses.

“As someone who comes from the last remaining colony of the United States, the evolution of how we got accepted in the United States and the City of Philadelphia has been paved by a lot of hard work and a lot of struggles,” Sánchez, who moved to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico when she was 6 months old, said. 

Sánchez, Joinville, and Gym took turns reading aloud from the resolution Sánchez sponsored that officially recognized June as Caribbean Heritage Month and Immigrant Heritage Month in Philadelphia.  

“Throughout the country’s history, immigrants have built dynamic communities, started families, served in the military and public life, grown successful businesses, and strengthened the American economy,” Sánchez read.

Laveau spoke about Caribbean people’s ability to succeed and thrive despite historical obstacles like colonialism and celebrated the sovereignty of English-speaking Caribbean nations. 

Because Caribbean people have been colonized by multiple European nations throughout history and having to overcome those hardships makes Caribbean people brave and ready to excel in life, Laveau said. 

“It helps you to realize that this world isn’t that big after all, there is nothing to be daunted by, you know, that we can achieve,” Laveau said. 

Teelucksingh’s husband is from Trinidad and Tobago and her speech focused on her connection to the Caribbean through friends and family members. 

She first visited the Caribbean when she was younger to stay with a friend in Barbados and began learning about the country’s rich culture and history, including some of its World Heritage Sites, she said. Now, she and her husband visit Trinidad and Tobago to see their daughter. 

“It’s not just coconut trees and the beaches,” she added. “They’re great but there’s a whole lot more.”

Renée Richardson, a Haitian American opera singer, performed a song and members of the Caribbean Community in Philadelphia and Carey Dennis from the Jamaica Tourist Board gave an impromptu performance of “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley & the Wailers.  

The speeches and music were followed by two cooking demonstrations — one by Scutt Blanc, a chef from Haiti who cooked with his mother, and the second by Sonia from Sonia’s Kitchen. Blanc made fried chicken fritay and invited audience members to help him prepare the dish. Sonia made a tamarind drink. Free samples were provided to audience members.  

The event ended with more music and dancing. The Caribbean Community in Philadelphia hopes to have a Caribbean Heritage Day festival next year when construction for Reading Terminal Market’s outdoor space finishes, Broussard said. 

“We plan to be outside continuing to share our culture, continuing to share our resources, and everything that celebrates and acknowledges our Caribbean community,” she added. 

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