Queens-based Caribbean cultural organization Braata Productions had a fulfilling year in 2017, producing and organizing theater shows, concerts, and other major events for the Caribbean community. Its founder and executive director Andrew Clarke says this year he plans to continue to reach out to the community and maintain their existence.
“We are hoping that we are just as efficient and productive, and we are focused on retaining all of our events, which have grown and taken on a life of their own,” he said.
Last year Braata produced and hosted eight events, from their more recent Old Time Grand Market, to their annual Bankra Folk Festival, and producing the highly popular musical, “Welcome to America.” The group has grown significantly over the years since it started eight years ago.
But it was not always an easy journey to navigate. Clarke says in the years he has dedicated to his entity — one of the very few organizations that highlights traditional and ancestral customs — he has gone through a lot of adversity.
“We’ve certainly started the course but it’s been a challenging eight years. We were able to see how our work has shaped, and we found a lot of successes,” he said. “After many years of hardwork, now we are seeing the tip of the iceberg, we are growing, and have the opportunity to be solidified in people’s minds.”
As an organization committed to celebrating the folk aspects of Caribbean culture, he says this niche focus allows him to emphasize something that has taken a backseat to what is commonly associated with Caribbean identity.
“I do this for the very reason that many folks think of Caribbean culture as reggae, dancehall and other popular forms — but we’ve forgotten how they were founded,” said Clarke. “It’s very important for us to keep reminding folks so we don’t get overshadowed by everything else.”
This year much of the staple events will return, and while no new events are going to debut, Clarke says retaining their visibility will help them reach wider audiences.
“The reason we’re successful — Braata is synonymous with excellence, but we are hoping it won’t be restricted or pigeonholed just to the Caribbean community,” said Clarke. “We want to be able to grow and appeal to the mainstream.”