The sight, smell, taste, sounds and colors of the Caribbean were on full display on Sept. 16 during International Day 2023 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rosedale, Queens.
Nationals from several Caribbean islands and territories decked out in their national colors, cooked and served local dishes, and played and danced to hypnotic Caribbean music as part of the church’s Homecoming festivities.
The parish, located in Southeast Queens, comprises members from various communities, including nationals from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Aruba, Barbados and the United States of America.
And so, members ensured that they exhibited their respective cultures on the fun-filled day.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also attended the spectacular event, expressing enthusiasm and applauding organizers for the cultural displays.
He also disclosed that he will be in Grenada next year for the “Spice Isle’s” 50th Independence Anniversary.
Among several dishes, the Grenadian booth served the finger-licking national dish, “Oil-down”, among other delicacies.
Trinidadian served roti; Vincentians offered breadfruit and saltfish, along with Black Fish and ground provisions; and Americans whetted one’s appetite with collared-greens and fried chicken.
In the interim, members danced and waved their national colors to folk, soca, reggae and other Caribbean vibes.
Jamaicans took to the stage, singing and dancing to Harry Belafonte’s “Day O” and “O, Islands in the Sun”; Vincentians danced and waved to Winston Soso’s “Big Bottom,” with Delano “Detta” Joseph leading the ensemble; Guyanese danced to folk music; Haitian Maryse Cadet sang “Haiti Cheri,” with five-year-old Zane Trotman in tow; Judy Alloko, of Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), belched out “Calm Down” by Rema; and Barbadians displayed their national pride.
Pan Massie Steel Orchestra beat out Caribbean rhythms after which nationals formed a Congo Line, as a DJ played “Soca Train,” among other Caribbean hits.
“It was very exciting,” Barbara McDowall, who headed the Vincentian booth, told Caribbean Life after her team’s performance. “I think we really were at the top with the performance.”
The Very Rev. Steve L. Foster, VI Rector, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Rosedale, said the celebration is “borrowing from welcoming alums and residents back to their alma mater to share in sports and cultural events that celebrate the spirit and camaraderie of the institution.
“Homecoming has come to be a celebration where parishioners, new members, friends and family return from summer break, renewed and energized to take up the mantle of continuing the work and ministry of the church, striving to continue building the kingdom of God,” he added.
But Fr. Foster said there is “a twist at St. Peter’s,” stating that connecting International Day with Homecoming “allows parishioners and friends to display their cultural heritage, such as culinary delights and the arts.
“For many, it may be a trip down memory lane,” he said. “For the youth, it may serve as an introduction to the cultural expressions from across various countries.”
Fr. Foster said this year’s celebration was “a fitting re-gathering in the post-pandemic world.
“It allowed for creativity and resilience while highlighting unity in diversity,” he said. “I fervently pray that this International Day/Homecoming Celebration continues to offer a kaleidoscope of color, cuisine and culture, but it reflects the Kingdom of God amid our neighborhoods.”
Rookwood said the celebration is “a biennial festival of many countries of the African Diaspora,” noting that this year’s was “an explosion of color, music, food and dancing.”
He said a highlight of the festival was the flag parade, stating that St. Peter’s Sunday School and Youth Group members marched around the churchyard with large “fluttering” flags and presented them to dignitaries from the represented countries.
“Dignitaries spoke about their connection to their beautiful country before delivering their flags to the country’s booth,” Rookwood said. “Each country had a decorated booth showing the history and artifacts of the country. Visitors enjoyed dancing and waving their flags well past sundown, thanks to the spirited DJ. St. Peter’s Rosedale looks forward to seeing everyone again in 2025 at the next Homecoming International Day.”
Pearl Paul, a youth of St. Peter’s, said: “To me, an international fair represents a celebration of global diversity and culture coming together in one place. It’s a vibrant tapestry of nations showcasing their unique traditions, cuisines, and innovations. “
“Witnessing this diversity is a profound reminder of our interconnected world and the richness it offers,” she said. “It fills me with a sense of awe and appreciation for the beauty that emerges when people from different backgrounds unite in a spirit of collaboration and exchange.”
Sunday School Director Ms. Powell [first name not given] said that St. Peter’s Episcopal Church International Day “shows that although we represent different countries, we stand united in our efforts of Christian unity, discipleship and mission to ensure that our community benefits from our diverse congregation.”
Fr. Foster said St. Peter’s reach and welcome “extend to the beloved of God.
“Since its founding in 1907, St. Peter’s continues to be a lighthouse of faith, hope and love,” he said.