Tag Archives caribbean culture

Caribbean carnival platforms to follow

By Posted on 4min read79 views

AWM’s platform is going on its fourth year in 2022! But guess what?

  • There are many people that’s been doing this way longer than I.
  • I don’t know it all.
  • There’s a good chance I haven’t gone to your carnival of interest.
  • I’m NOT the biggest fete person.

This platform is based on my experiences and perspectives of Caribbean Carnival as an African American.  I WANT YOU to check out the other content creators! Especially those of West-Indian descent.  Check below for a list of notable content creators and platforms you should follow/use to learn about Caribbean culture and experience Caribbean carnival from different lenses.

Caribbean Carnival content creators

Crista aka Bahamianista. Photo Credit Bahamainista.com

Tingz Nice

In my eyes, Sha is the OG Carnival mentor.  I remember watching her YouTube videos as I got ready for my first carnival experience.  Her YouTube videos about Carnival still ring relevant! She runs a podcast, and I’ve purchased several pairs of her earrings.

Blackie97

The go-to for all things soca music.  He will keep you abreast of all the latest releases, so you are prepared to revel in the familiarity of the tunes. Blackie also covers the goings-on at fetes and has excellent content about fete etiquette.  If you want to learn how to gracefully solicit a w(h)ine without getting curved, this is the guy to watch.

Bahamianista

Crista is a lifestyle, fitness, and travel influencer who has probably done most Caribbean Carnival events.  She was my go-to source for Carnival events I was unfamiliar with.  Many tips I have shared have been learned from her. 

OHG Choice

Also known as OHGVibe on YouTube, he is known for covering Carnival’s good, bad, and ugly.  He has pivoted into a skincare niche, but as outside opens up, I expect him to produce amazing content, especially for St. Lucia Carnival 2022 with Xuvo.

Carnivalbae

Headed to Caribana this year? Carnivalbae is carnival influencer and freelance model, she posts weekly tips to get you prepared.  Check her out.

More Caribbean Carnival creators...

Caribbean Carnival content creator
Simone aka everytingsimsimma. Photo: Travel Noire

EverytingSimSimma

I love Simone and her food porn. Also represents our curvy girls that play mas and has been featured on Travel Noire! Simone is super talented with photography and evokes serious envy with her footage of drone flights over St. Kitts.

Fluffy Carnival Gyal

I love her because she openly takes on difficult topics as it pertains to Caribbean Carnival and culture.  Also gives a plus-size masquerader perspective.

Strictly Soca

Runs an entertainment website dedicated to all things Soca and Caribbean carnival. I also love that they capture about Carnival highlights ALL body types.

Mickisha 868

I love her most for her makeup tips and ideas! She has a wide variety of content shared on her YouTube channel, including skin care, natural hair care, travel and more. She does a lot of Carnival makeup tips and looks, and also covers all things carnival.

Carnival forums, directories, and apps

CarniPass

CarniPass was also known as Feters Lifestyle but has since pivoted into a Social Networking Platform and Carnival Guide.  Be sure to head over to their website and download their app while you’re at it.

SoloMas App

It’s true that when you play mas, you will never be alone. Solo masquerader? Looking for a travel/fete buddy? Check out the SoloMas App.

My Carnival Match

Your Caribbean carnival directory! Search for carnival-related services (hair and makeup, etc), and they even have a forum where you can chat it up with others in the Carnival community.  Need to buy or sell fete tickets or a costume? They got you covered.

Initiatives

Know Your Caribbean

I just love this page.  Fiona has expanded my mind in unimaginable ways and has encouraged me to do a lot of my own research.  Learning about Caribbean culture and the roots of Carnival will also help you deeply connect to the experience and perhaps make you love it as much as I do.

CarniCycle

Caribbean Carnival is an incredible experience, but it is not sustainable at all.  CarniCycle is working hard to reduce the carbon footprint of carnival and make it greener overall. Follow them, learn some green tips, and show support!

This list was in no particular order of importance, and will be refined as I discover other amazing creators and initiatives that resonate with the message of AWM’s mission statement.

. This platform aims to function as a branch of a tree, bringing you to Caribbean content creators to expand your mind and encourage you to get out there and play mas from an educated point of view. Besides, I can’t do this alone! I hope this list was helpful to you.  Be sure to share with others!

If there is someone I overlooked, please hit the comments below!

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Should I pre-register for carnival?

By Posted on 2min read60 views

If you are participating in the carnival for the very first time, you might be confused when you hear about pre-registration. You are already on FOMO mode and you might be wondering if this is something you should do too. Is it a good option to pre-register for carnival for you? But pump your brakes, there are some things to consider.

What is pre-registration?

Pre-registration allows you to put down a deposit for a future costume (that has not been seen yet).  This puts you “ahead” of other masqueraders that do not pre-gegister. 

Typically, the pre-registration deposit in the United States is about $100.  

Once a band launches, those that have pre-registered are able to choose their costumes before registration opens publicly.  This guarantees you your choice and options before everyone else.

Who should pre-register for carnival?

Pre-registration flyer for carnival
Pre-registration annoucement for an Atlanta-Dekalb Carnival mas band

Pre-registration really benefits those who know in their hearts of hearts they will be participating with a specific band or section leader. They have probably played mas with them once before, or over a span of several years.  They could care less about the other bands or designs; they are LOYAL to that brand.  Simply put: Pre-registration really supports the experienced carnival-goer.

Also, if you are going with a person or group of people to carnival that is already set on that band, it may also benefit you to pre-register as well.  Popular bands sell-out very quickly and you’d hate to be left with slim choices when registration opens.

Why you shouldn't pregister for carnival.

If you are not sure what band you are going to want to register with, I advise you to hold onto your money until the band launches occur, or you have made a solid decision.  If you pre-register and change your mind, your funds are forfeit.  To help, start researching the carnival bands early before you observe the band launches so your list is narrowed and you are not so overwhelmed by a decision.

Have fun picking out your carnival costumes!

Band launch season is super exciting! I hope this little bit of information helps demystify any confusion about pre-registration for carnival.  Don’t forget the carnival experience is more important than any band, and don’t forget that you ARE the vibe that helps make a mas band great.

Thinking of going to Atalnta-Dekalb carnival?  Check out the bands here.

See you on the road,

American Wines Matter Logo

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Going to Caribbean Carnival as a Couple

By Posted on 5min read66 views

Even couples go to a Caribbean carnival together. Check out these couples that talk about how they navigate the carnival experience together.

Setting expectations and the spirit of Carnival.

The w(h)ine: a dance stemming from ancestral fertility dance that you will commonly see at Caribbean carnival and fetes. The energy of the festivities can be viewed as (overly) sexual if you have not researched, or you are outside a West Indian upbringing. 

The spirit of carnival is freedom of expression, joy, and sharing the experience.  And while many people would agree, people still have boundaries that should be honored. And make no mistake, there are people OF the culture that have their own limits and take on these festivities with rules of engagement (ROE).   And if you are in a relationship with someone you are taking with you to carnival, it is key to have a mutual discussion beforehand. 

Communication is key.

In my relationship, Im a huge communicator and I am big on setting mutable boundaries, even at Carnival.  When I approached him on the subject, he was actually very shocked at my line of questioning . But he kept very simple: “No jealousy stuff.”  Okay, well what does that mean?  How long do you dance with someone? Is there anything that is off limits? (Juking, getting picked up, wheel-barrowing, etc).  And after many questions, we both realized that there are some things we should actually discuss before setting out to Carnival.  I was genuinely glad that we had that discussion before hand!

Questions to ask...

Below is a list of questions developed from a conversation I had with my significant other about going to carnival together.   If you are seasoned feteran you may find this not necessary for you, or discover that you indeed have some things to share with your partner.  And if you and/or your significant other is new to fetes, this may be helpful to you too.

  1. What would make you uncomfortable if I danced with someone else?
  2. What do you feel would not be appropriate for us to do with other people?
  3. What would make you feel uncomfortable about being touched by another person?
  4. How will we communicate with each other if one of us becomes uncomfortable?

Couples that go to Caribbean Carnival together

couple at caribbean carnival fete
Couple at Caribbean Carnival

About 1 1/2 years into the relationship and there was never any rules set or discussed, we met in party/fetting mode and it was some type of unspoken agreement that dancing with others is ok, fun, and part of the scene. I speak for myself when I say I'm not the jealous nor possessive type of partner, where I as well would like to wine up on male or female and at the end of the day we accomplish the purpose of the outing, which is to have fun and be free!!!

couple at caribbean carnival jouvert
Couple at Caribbean Carnival

Ok so to be honest, we’re here struggling to find an answer lol. We’ve been together for over 10yrs and we partied together all those years and never discussed “rules”. There was always some sort of common understanding/respect for each other. For example you won’t see my husband stabbing out someone on the ground 🥴 He was never that type of feter, so I never had to say “hey please don’t do xyz at fetes”. And the same goes for me, we take our lil whine and move on, nothing dramatic or over-sexual. Apart from the whining part, we generally stay near each other. We usually pick a truck/ section of the fete to go to in case we get separated. If we go with a group then sometimes we may be apart for a while.

couple at caribbean carnival fete
Couple at Caribbean Carnival

We actually don't have any specific rules (that we have ever had to discuss). We have been together for more than 10 years now and discovered our love for Soca and Carnival together. I think general rules of courtesy apply at Carnival as they would elsewhere. But in terms of dancing with others, etc. no rules and I wouldn't think they would make sense either. Because Carnival is about freeing up and celebrating not thinking about rules. If a person and their partner are truly for each other and in tune nobody will do stuff that will offend the other naturally.

couple at caribbean carnival jouvert
Couple at Caribbean Carnival

I wouldn't so much call it rules per say but more of a respect of each other's cultural beliefs and comfort levels. I will not allow any man to dance on me out of respect to my husband and he does the same when it comes to women wanting to dance. We both tend to have jealous tendencies and hot tempers and respect that in each other. With that being said in 15 years you can't always stop an unprovoked wine and those are always handled with a step to the side and the other person not getting upset as we both know that this is the norm for fete and mas culture ❤ Also there is always little joke wines with very close friends. But we go to all fetes together, and prefer this as we actually feel off when not with each other at events. When it comes to mas though, if local I play mas without him, if international he joins me.

Couple at caribbean carnival fete
Couple at Caribbean Carnival

So when we talked about it, our only rules for feting together was, I can't get picked up or be on the ground with someone, and he can’t pick anyone up and be on the ground with someone but we have been feting together pretty much our whole relationship and we’ve come to understand you need a bit more discernment than that. There are unspoken respectful rules we abide by that I think don’t require us to communicate, we just do them. Like I’m not about to get daggered or do anything that causes me a lot of attention while he’s right there and vice versa. We’re both all over the place sometimes, but always have an idea of what area the other person is in. Sometimes we only dance together, and that’s fine too but we both know we have the freedom to wine up on anyone in the place.

Forward thinking.

Communication and respect is key. If you are new to the Carnival/fete scene and you are brininging a significant other with you, its imperative to establish clear lines of communication.  Understand you are not going to know what you don’t know.  Sometimes you wont even know you have a boundary until you are met with a challenge. I encourage all couples to be open minded, patient and understanding when it comes to charting unfamiliar territory.  I hope that this discussion broadens your perspective, and maybe even encourages a discussion that you didn’t think you might need.  Don’t forget the overall premise of the festivities is freedom and joy! Most importantly, have fun.

 

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(Culture) Activities for Miami Carnival

By Posted on 5min read67 views

Enjoying the culture consciously.

As Miami Carnival approaches, we are all stuck on which costume to choose, lodging, and what fetes to attend.  But let’s not forget to give back to the culture and the community by patronizing some of the local businesses and initiatives.  Ive researched a few places and even took some recommendations to share.  Below you will find a few along with brief information taken from their websites. These would be great activities post-carnival too, or if you don’t have any fetes planned for some time. Caribbean culture is not JUST carnival. Let’s explore together!

Island Space Caribbean Museum

Island Space Caribbean Museum in Plantation, FL.

Island SPACE Caribbean Museum
(Located on the northeast corner of Westfield Broward mall)
8000 W. Broward Blvd #1422
Plantation, FL 33388
Phone: 954-999-0989

Opening Days and Hours
Thursday to Sunday | 11:00a.m. to 7:00p.m.
Monday to Wednesday | Closed

Admission
Adults: $10.00
Children: $5.00

Island SPACE Caribbean Museum is an archive, exhibit and event space in Plantation, Florida featuring a collection of artifacts, iconic paraphernalia, cultural relics and historical data and fine art representing South Florida’s Caribbean communities. Inside the facility, guests learn the story of the history, heritage and culture of the Caribbean people and the impact of the Caribbean Diaspora on the American landscape. Our mission is to elevate the profile of Caribbean art, history, and culture in every form throughout South Florida and the broader diaspora.

The goal of the Museum is to establish a one-of-a-kind space to unify the fragmented Caribbean communities and celebrate the shared Caribbean experience while building a prestigious, well-respected attraction for visitors from around the world. Additionally, the Museum will preserve and promote Caribbean history, culture, art, and traditions and engage multiple generations of Caribbean-Americans in the diaspora to learn about their ancestry and heritage.

Little Haiti Cultural Center and the Caribbean Marketplace

Little Haiti Cultural Complex and Marketplace
212-260 NE 59th Terrace
Miami, FL 33137
Hours:
Monday – Friday 10 AM to 9 PM
Saturday 10 AM to 4 PM.

The Miami Carnival costume showcase was actually held here, and I got to check out the  pop-up shops in the Caribbean marketplace and enjoy the live Kompa music playing. Their popular Caribbean Market day happens on Saturdays, so be sure to check it out if you have time!

LHCC offers a unique opportunity for residents and visitors to gain exposure to Afro-Caribbean culture, expand their knowledge of the arts and develop new talents. The complex is committed to fostering imagination, creativity and positive experiences for children and adults year round.

Perez Art Museum (Caribbean Cultural Institute)

Perez Art Museum (Caribbean Cultural Institute)
1103 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33132

305 375 3000 

Hours:
Monday – Wednesday: Closed
Thursday: 2-9 PM
Friday  – Sunday: 11-6 PM
 

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) holds one of the most significant collections of contemporary Caribbean art in an American museum, especially its Cuban holdings. Its evolving Caribbean art collection represents PAMM’s commitment to reflecting the artistic and cultural richness and diversity of the Caribbean and its diaspora from the modern period to the present moment. These artworks span almost a century of creative expression in various media including painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, textiles, video, photography, artists’ books, and mixed media art.  

The CCI develops research and scholarship on the museum’s current holdings and promotes the growth of its Caribbean art collection. With works from artists from the diaspora, insular, and continental Caribbean, the museum’s collection nurtures a cross-cultural approach to Caribbean art and acknowledges both its diversity and its specificities. Promoting the visibility of Caribbean art and culture in Miami, the CCI aims to expand the research and collection holdings of areas still not represented in PAMM’s collection.  

Caribbean collection highlights can be found here.

Historic Hampton House

The Historic Hampton House:
4240 NW 27th Ave #3010, 
Miami, FL 33142
(305) 638-5800
 
Hours of Operation
Summer Hours: Closed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
Thursday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
 
Tours:
11AM, 1PM, 4PM
 
To schedule group tours, please email
info@historichamptonhouse.org
 

The 1960s were also a tumultuous time in Miami with racial inequality and segregation laws were strictly enforced. While Ali had his star-making win in Miami Beach on February 25,1964, he was not allowed to spend the night in Miami Beach because of Jim Crow’s segregation laws. He went instead to the Hampton House Motel in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood, a story later shared on the big screen called, One Night In Miami, directed by Regina King. The Historic Hampton House was just outside of Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood on the mainland, where Ali would later celebrate with his friend Malcolm X. It’s said that he enjoyed a bowl of ice cream to mark his big win.

During this time, the Hampton House was the place to see and be seen in Miami’s black community, replacing the former hotspots of Overtown, like the Sir John. Overtown’s community began to fall into disrepair as the more affluent members of the neighborhood migrated to Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood in the 1960s after the opening of Liberty Square apartments.

In 2015, The Historic Hampton House started its restoration of the Miami Green Book motel on a $6 million budget, thanks to the efforts of the preservationist Dr. Enid Pinkney’s single-minded focus.

After nearly two years of construction, the Historic Hampton House was restored and updated to function as a historic and cultural epicenter in Miami’s Brownsville corridor.

With the completion of the facility in the budget, the Historic Hampton House is now challenged to become a reputable and renowned museum empowered to share America’s story of discrimination and racism as it relates to African Americans and people of color.

More to come!

Be sure to stay tuned for my listing on restaurants and other businesses to support during your Miami Carnival festivities. I hope that you have fun at the fetes and on the road, but I also hope that you leave with new knowledge to share with others. 

 

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Reyes’ Traditional Puncha Creama

By Posted on 4min read57 views
Introducing Reyes Puncha Creama.

Tell us a little about yourself!

Hello my name is Monique and I am the creator of Reyes’ Traditional  Puncha Creama. I am from Queens, New York born and raised. I am a Black Entrepreneur with a Dream. Single with no kids.  I was introduced by my grandmother and mother to Puncha Creama. Christmas was the time of year that both my mom and grandma would spend hours in the kitchen making batches of Puncha Creama for the family get together.  I think because of those times, Christmas is my favorite time of the year.

As a New Yorker, all I know is coquito. What is puncha creama and how does it differ?

You are right a lot of people do know mainly about Coquito in the New York area.  I think because it is more vocalized by Spanish culture to the world.  I believe Coquito is distributed more so in the Northeast area.  

Puncha Creama which is also known to a lot of Caribbean (Trinidadian) households as Ponche de Creme. Its made with Condensed Milk, Evaporated Milk, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Lime peels, Angostura Bitters, and Rum  for taste. 

There are a few companies in Trinidad and Tobago that do mass distribution. I don’t know of any in the states. The difference between the two is Coquito’s main ingredient is made with coconut milk. Puncha Creama does not have that ingredient, but we do make ours with egg. Puncha Creama is a thicker drink, compared to Coquito. 

Like coquito, puncha creama is a traditional drink to share with friends, family and loved ones during the holidays.

What inspired you to start your business and how has it been for you during the COVID-19 era?

I actually just started my business this year, and I feel like COVID is the reason why Reyes’ Puncha Creama hit the ground running.  I know that we are all dealing with the affects of this virus.  We have been in a state of survival since March.  I thought to myself that starting  Reyes’ Puncha Creama was going to shine a light on a dim situation. I know that when I drink Puncha Creama, there is always a story of my family being together and filled with love. I wanted others to either reminisce about their times they had with their loved ones and create new memories with those they are quarantined with.

I was inspired by my family to create Reyes’ Puncha Creama . They were a driving force behind me. They knew how much I loved to make it and spread Joy around the Holiday Season, especially Christmas. I started out making it around Christmas for my friends and family.  It was always a little bit of joy in a bottle that I could spread around.  It was how I brought Christmas cheer to the ones I loved. 

It brings me great joy to know that I made something, that was taught to me by my mom and grandma.  I am so blessed to know that people can also share Reyes Puncha Creama, which is a piece of my family’s Trinidadian culture with their loved ones.  It’s a delicious culture story. 

 

How has sharing puncha creama helped bridge cultural gaps?

It definitely has brought culture awareness to the forefront.  I would always have to explain the difference between the two amazing drinks coquito and puncha creama.  It’s cool teaching my friends that are Spanish speaking about puncha creama.  They have taught me a lot about their culture too. So I’m honored to teach them about mine. I have tons of people that love the taste and start asking questions. I only share my family history with it.  That’s the one I know the best. 

What advice do you have for small business owners?

 The advice I have for small businesses is simply to stay consistent. If you really want your business to be successful, you have to eat, live and breathe it.  You have to love what you are doing.  There are no days off.

Connect with Reyes' Puncha Creama

Check her out and instagram! While you're at it, DM her to order!

AWM thoughts and thank you!

Do not buy this stuff and expect to save it for later.

So far, the only thing I have been breaking my clean eating on is Reyes’ puncha creama. No lie.  The first jar I got did not last a full 12 hours. I was supposed to take photos first before sampling.  I thought I was going to take a few sips of the stuff, then photograph. I was wrong. I had to order another damn jar to shoot with. Seriously, it is that good.

Coquito and her puncha creama have similarities, but they taste different. I like the creaminess of her drink and the generous splash of rum “to taste lol”. But honestly I can’t tell which I like more.  Coquito is good too, but if you want to change it up with a taste of Caribbean culture for the holidays, be sure to check her out on instagram. Tell her AWM sent you! 

Monique! I am so glad to have stumbled across your IG page! It was super fun learning about your business and of course tasting THREE orders of puncha creama since we connected in the beginning of November.  I wish you all of the success in your business. 

 

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Not Asking For It.

By Posted on 5min read118 views

A celebration of life.

Caribbean carnival is a celebration of life; an experience that honors liberation from slavery, societal norms, our traumas and our own self-limiting beliefs. During carnival, we celebrate the miracle that is our bodies and the things that we have endured. It’s considered a safe environment of mutual trust and respect.  Carnival is known as a “no –judgement zone”; women and men are free to express themselves without shame or criticism.  Most people that play mas understand this.  But for people outside the culture and the experience, there is a serious disconnect.

America is known as a melting pot, and Caribbean culture brings a wonderful flavor. If you look to your left and right in America, chances are you are friends with, work with someone that is of Caribbean/West Indian descent.  Currently, there are roughly 18 Caribbean Carnivals held across the United States (pre-covid, of course) and I have found on many occasions the cultural experience to clash with American values and perceptions.

Sexualizing the experience.

I can recall several incidences where I explained Caribbean carnival to my American male counterparts.  In my efforts to get them to consider participation, I found myself showing pictures or videos of the celebrations and meeting inquiries about why I was dressed a certain way.  Once they realized that “all” women are in costume, their eyes widened and I could sense their minds processing an opportunity to meet women… a free for all if you will. They completely forgot about my discussion about its originations and fixated on a “sexualized” experience. I have to remind them that Carnival is not necessarily the place to pick up women or test their limits, and I sense disappointment. It’s funny how their motivation to participate suddenly wanes.

 

I even spoke about Carnival to my own brother. His attitude was that women were inviting attention, and in his presence, it would be received whether it was desired or not. Needless to say, I’d never bring him out to Carnival.

The looks I get from guys who think Carnival is a place to hit on women.

NOT asking for it.

I have flashbacks to 2016 to when I discovered the “Not Asking for It” campaign led by Fiona Compton on Facebook. In the video above, its campaign targeted sexual harassment/assault during Carnival. I had not experienced any of the negative experiences described by women, but I was so offended by the responses left by a lot of men and some women, namely the feedback stating that women were indeed “asking for it”.

 

I engaged a guy on this on the Not Asking For it Facebook Page, and this was his response.

Then I got to experience it myself. Since 2018, I have had run-ins with men who felt it appropriate to grab or smack my ass.   When they met my rage, they were confused, staring back at me as wild as a deer in its last moments of life Their eyes would meet mine and they would look at what I was wearing only to continue to stare me back in my face as if to say, “well if you don’t want to be touched, why are you wearing this?”

Respect ALL women. Not just professionals.

My IG reel celebrating professional women who play mas, and reminding people to respect them... but being limited to 30 seconds didn't get my whole point across. So, we have this blog.

My last IG reels post highlighted women in various professions that also play mas.  But I am afraid that the struggle to get my message across in the thirty seconds allowed made it seem as only professional women deserve respect.  It should be abundantly clear that all women from all walks of life, professions, economic classes, education levels, etc. deserve all the respect on the road and are not asking to have their limits tested due to the beauty of their w(h)ine and the costume they chose to wear.

By all means, Carnival is about abandoning societal norms. To be clear, we are referring to HARMFUL societal norms and expectations.  This means that it is not permissible to lay aside respect for women’s boundaries, even for a day.  This is Carnival, not a scene out of “the purge” where you’re free to lay your morals aside. Carnival does not mean one gets to be slack in their respect for people and their boundaries.

A clash of American perceptions and values.

I blame the twerk, strip club, and lap dance culture displayed in rap videos. Feeding a false narrative of what the pinnacle of what the high life should be, men somehow distort the magic of the w(h)ine with their unfulfilled fantasies of the “tip drill” video.

I blame the people that love to talk about the “melting pot” that is America, but somehow can’t get past accepting cultural differences.

I blame societal beliefs that women should take responsibility for how a man behaves; the emphasis on preventing sexual harassment/assault and not teaching men to not commit sexual harassment/assault.

I blame the commercial initiatives that promote carnival and a lack of resources to educate our communities.  What people see when researching carnival is skin, cheeks and feathers. While culture has been considered a marketable commodity, this has led to the evolution; a dance of our African ancestors that honors the miracle of a woman’s womb to an invitation for inappropriate touch and disrespect.

Forward thinking.

Combatting rape culture, slut-shaming the culture, and “toxic” masculine values will be a never-ending battle.

As Caribbean carnival continues to become popular in the United States, I believe that we should also continue to support the platforms that are designed to educate the masses.  While education will not get rid of the biases and negative perceptions, it will serve as opportunities for those that are confused about this cultural experience, yet open minded enough to accept it for what it is.  Bringing minds together is essential to ensuring that Carnival will continue to be a safe, judgment-free experience.  

As humans, we possess the high capacity to check our behavior. The attraction is normal but charging disrespectful behavior to a “natural impulse” as a man is no excuse. If that is your plea, just know that should you ever fall ill, you don’t need to see a doctor… you need to see a veterinarian.

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More than bikinis, beads, and feathers.

By Posted on 5min read136 views

My realization that I didn't know sh*t.

There was an experience that I had in 2018 that made me realize that I needed to read up a little bit more about carnival and Caribbean culture. I first started my discovery by asking questions but was left a bit deflated by the responses.  “It’s just my culture” didn’t really seem to suffice, so I decided to start with a basic google search in hopes to find some more information from better sources.

I remember when I first googled “Caribbean culture” I went to the images. I’m a visual learner so reading text is not my thing If I can help it. The first few images that were listed in the feed were from…. Carnival. 

What a google query currently looks like.

I was just starting my initial discovery in the culture, but based off my experiences and discussions with other West Indian/Caribbean people, I already knew that there was more to the culture than bikinis, beads and feathers. What gives? I found myself constantly having to weed out a lot of carnival-focused topics online to really get to the traditional perspective of the experience and not so much the view of commercialization/advertisement.

If I was blind, so are other masqueraders.

I think about where I once was on this journey. I also think about the new and seasoned Masqueraders that can sum up Caribbean culture by the experience of carnival.  That’s disheartening, because there is so much history and a deep connection to our African roots that we should all be aware of.  By understanding the culture just a little bit more, I have found  an enhanced experience every time I get on the road , and I genuinely connect with my ancestors and revel alongside them (spiritually) in that moment.

“Carnival is our iconic artistic experience because it captures so much of what we do...We understand that our culture is the most significant asset that we have and it’s limitless unlike oil which is finite. Culture is a sellable commodity.”

Dr. Lincoln Douglas, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism (2014). Tweet

Carnival is what drives tourism and MAJOR revenue in the island countries. Many people survive of what they make from carnival season, so I completely acknowledge and respect the hustle.  But the commercialization of this cultural experience is a blessing and a curse.

The curse: Consumption of a cultural experience without initiatives in place predisposes its traditions and historical roots to be long forgotten.  Let’s think about this— Do you really think that “bikinis, beads and feathers” is how carnival started in the first place?  Or was the evolution of the carnival costumes supported to bring in more revelers? Although the scantily clad costumes are a lot of fun to wear, being “skin out” is not the spirit of carnival.

Take your time to learn about the culture.

Most people make their trips to experience the popular fetes, jouvert and carnival. But if you are culture conscious, there are a few things that masqueraders can do to really embrace the culture and the locals, especially when you hop to an island country for your next carnival jump. And, its actually fun to do! These examples are specific to Trinidad but might  be applied to other islands as well:

Immerse yourself with the locals.

Visit the “locals” fetes.  I remember walking through downtown Port of Spain with my travel mates and people were LITERALLY fetting in the streets.  People were in plan clothing, not dressed to impressed and were vibing in the spirit of Carnival. No stush vibes, everyone was carefree and happy.  It was a warm, welcoming feeling, and I put that energy over any fete that I attended while I was there.

Abandon your diet for a few days and eat the food.

I don't even like beer. But for the culture experience I tried it and liked it!

Eat the food.  You can get the best doubles right outside the airport in Port-of-Spain, but the best corn soup I had was on the corner of a small town in Arouca. The locals I spoke to really enjoyed the conversations I had with them about how they prepared the food for us to enjoy.

Doubles on my taste buds is pure joy.

Visit the Carnival Villages

Did you know that there are SEVERAL Carnival villages in Trinidad? Interact with the people, check out the merchandise, listen to the steel pan, Wave hello to the Moko Jumbies, listen to the night robber speak, Take pictures with baby doll, the dame Lorraine and EXPLORE… and ask questions!

Attend the local shows/competitions.

Stickfighting is an old African tradition, brought to Trinidad by the slaves. In TT there are two types of stickfighting tradition: kalinda and gatka. The kalinda which is the form that is observed in National Stickfight Competition. Kalinda is based on martial traditions that can be found in Central and West Africa and also among the Oromo people of Ethiopia. The competition did not happen this year due to payment disagreements between the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and the fighters.  Maybe we will be abe to see it again at the next Post-Corona Carnival.

The Trinidad Panorama is the largest steelpan competition in world. This annual steelband competition takes place in Trinidad every year during Carnival, culminating the Saturday before carnival Monday and Tuesday. The championship band is chosen from the 60 to 80 bands who enter the preliminaries. Each band consists of 75 to 200 musicians. The competition brings out the best steel pan players (known as pannists) in the world and lasts for several weeks. The finals take place on the Queen’s Park Savanah, which is also known as the Big Yard.

A massive cultural show, Dimanche Gras is held the Sunday night before Carnival at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain. In addition, on the night of Dimanche Gras, 10 to 13 calypso singers battle for the title of Calypso Monarch against the defending title holder from the previous year. 

The King and Queen of the March is a competition to determine the best costume of the Carnival. Each band is lead by a King and a Queen who wear very large costumes which are often so large that other masqueraders have to help them carry it through the streets. Many of these costumes will move on wheels. The King and Queen are always chosen on Carnival Sunday  (Dimanche Gras).

Visit the Museums

the National Museum and Art gallery has displays depicting the evolution of carnival, national festivals and other interesting artifacts.

Forward Thinking.

A lot of people attend Carnival overseas primarily for the fetes, j’ouvert and Carnival.  But there is so much more to the culture. I hope that this helps you consider taking a moment from your next excursion to really immerse yourself in an experience that will bring you just a little closer to home.

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The Evolution of AWM

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Inception.

September 18, 2018 American Wines Matter was born in an office space of the Army Medical Department of the US Army (AMEDD) Center in San Antonio, TX. Inspired by many discussions over the span of several days, I was encouraged to start a simple Instagram page to function as a form of reference for the conversations that I had been having with a lot of people.  Those conversations detailed how carnival and the Caribbean culture has positively impacted my life, and how people of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes are welcome to play mas.  

A spark--January 2019.

Coming home for a quick shower before I go back out on mission.

Each assignment that I have had has come with with unique challenges.  My last assignment in Arizona with a deployment to Kosovo really challenged my ability to navigate many personalities to accomplish the common mission.  But Fort Irwin’s demands REALLY taxed my ability to maintain a work-personal life schedule.  Because of what we do here, you really have to find a way to balance that or you’re just not going to fare well… mentally.  Fort Irwin exists in the middle of nowhere, but the middle of everything—2 hours or so from Vegas, Los Angeles, and maybe 3 hours to San Diego.  And when I say this, it doesn’t sound like a bad place to be until you have to work 18 days straight before you get time off. 

Ya girl has been tired since 2018.

Training units preparing for deployment is a serious honor but the rinse-recycle-repeat of our rotations is mentally TAXING.  Having already been exhausted from multiple moves since 2016, I had to find ways  keep myself balanced.  In 2019, I jumped a total of 5 times. Some were planned, one completely impromptu because I recognized that chronic high-levels of stress was starting to get to me a bit.  I always came back from these jumps physically sore from my endeavors but mentally recharged ready to face the shenanigans.

Caribmask 2019 Raleigh
With masqueraders in Unity Mas Band, Caribmask 2019.

What I found really interesting about people and younger generations is that their common language is through social media.  You strike up a conversation with someone and they immediately want to know your Instagram/twitter handle. Is that a Xennial thing?  Anyway, my user handle started to strike up many conversations.  Carrying my American flag (as opposed to another island-country) encouraged others to approach me and express my appreciation for expressing my origins openly. 

Shortly after UberSoca Cruise, I launched my official mission statement.

Trinidad 2020.

My intent for Trinidad Carnival was to spend most of my time capturing experiences such as Panorama, the carnival villages and the FOOD (ya’ll know I like to eat).  Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Wotless on a boat? But that was IT.  Me and my (then) home girl had even rented a vehicle to get us around and reserved a hotel space in the heart of Port of Spain.  I’m a person that enjoys sleeping when I am tired, I don’t drink much; I really don’t consider myself a hardcore feteran whatsoever. On top of that, there are a lot of platforms that cover this material and I felt doing so would be redundant. I understand that carnival is but a small piece of the culture, and want the world to see the rest. What is most important to me is displaying the CULTURE as a whole as best I could. 

Caribbean culture is more than carnival.

But after 9-10 months of planning, I found myself homeless and without transportation FIVE DAYS before I was supposed to get on a plane to head to Trinidad Carnival.  Out of desperation, I found myself purchasing a last-minute package from someone who could not go for about $700.  Provided how last minute it was, I considered this a good deal especially since I had some place to lay my head and I wasn’t going to be alone. Downside? I was nowhere near Port of Spain… I was settled in the mountains of Arouca (45 minutes away).  This last minute arrangement pushed me in a completely different direction… FETES…. BACK TO BACK.  I was completely thrown out of my comfort zone but decided that maybe this was the direction I was meant to go in light of everything that happened.

I was incredibly exhausted, but I had the time of my life.  But looking back on those moments I really hated the fact that I didn’t get to accomplish what I set out to. But that was a blessing in disguise because my presence at those fetes gave AWM traction.  I got back from Trinidad still on a mission to capture the caribbean culture as I had intended. I figured I had 7 more opportunities and told myself there would be Trinidad 2021.

Syke! Coronavirus!

I tried to remain optimistic.  I think a lot of us did. But the reality of COVID sank in, and I had to think about how exactly I was going to be able to spread my message/presence without carnival. Curvy Wines Matter launched in December 2019 with the idea of capturing curvy and voluptuous women in mas/fetes wherever I went in 2020.  I didn’t like the idea of recycling others’ content, we have enough platforms doing that. Of course this has been shelved because there have been no carnivals to go to. But as I started posting women, I started to have conflict with myself in that I was evaluating other women’s bodies. Who was curvy/voluptuous enough to be on my page? That to this day just doesn’t sit well with me, and I will continue to rethink CWM in the months to come.

I cried soul-tears.

I decided that this was a great time to do some of the things I probably would not have accomplished if I was busy carnival hopping.  Launching my website became important because Instagram just captures my platform on a superficial aspect. I wanted something for people to go to really understand the mission. One of the things that I have learned through social media observation is to abandon perfection. So, I launched the website although it wasn’t totally ready and continue to make revisions and additions to this day.  I am really proud of the website and how it has developed over the past six months.  I also learned how to use adobe premiere pro, and LightRoom so that I could add quality to my content, and create YouTube videos like I had always intended. 

Social media algorithms...

The coronavirus era has challenged a lot of creatives to think outside of the box in order to thrive.  Instagram has done nothing but make it more difficult us to do so.  Currently, my page has been devoted to producing high quality videos and photos in the hopes of capturing and maintaining attention until we can all be free and go outside again while peppering the timeline with inspirational discussions to remind people what AWM is about.  But the challenge is STILL battling IG algorithms and engagement data.  The fact of the matter is, there is less interest in culture topics right now.  Currently want drives social media is SKIN and DRAMA. It’s the reason why I can only see @knowyourcarribean when she posts her cheeks to prove a point, but have to intentionally seek her page to find out what new knowledge she is dropping.  Algorithm and engagement is fed by YOUR interests, and not my mission.  So I currently play the game, archiving my tiles and rearranging things in a way to give my platform a chance to be visible to the world without compromising my mission and values.

But make no mistake… my mission has not changed.

Don't allow my videos and photo shoots to make you think I forgot my own mission statement.

In fact, it has expanded.  I have always stated that AWM is a platform shaped by my followers, and I truly mean it. It’s been a dream bringing souls together through this platform. As I get closer to retirement, I envision continuing to travel the world, displaying the beautiful culture, its people, and its struggles. Flying my drone over the Pitons of St. Lucia, the Grande Anse Beach in Grenada, and The forests/waterfalls in Jamaica. I smile at the thought of welcoming difficult discussions, continuing to educate others, and celebrating the things that make us different.  I daydream about impacting lives and instilling hope and inspiration.  I’m sincerely looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life and the direction that AWM is heading.  In light of how things have happened, I cannot help but think this platform is driven by something much higher than us all.  I take this purpose honorably and continue to go with the flow as I have been guided to do so.

I can’t wait to see you all on the road again.

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