Garifuna Arts & Culture Appreciation Month

During the month of May, in honor of the 13th anniversary of the UNESCO’s proclamation of the Garifuna language, dance and music as masterpieces of the oral and Intangible heritage of humanity, on May 18th, 2001.

The Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. are poised to observe and celebrate Garifuna Arts & Culture Appreciation Month in New York.

We will recall the known and unknown artists who helped create this Garifuna Arts & Culture history. Their contributions help illuminate the human experience and spirit, and they help us reflect on our City’s ongoing narrative.

The Garifuna Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage has enriched New York City’s cultural landscape since 1823, when William Henry Brown recognized as the first American playwright of African descent wrote: “The Drama of King Shotaway,” a play which is recognized as the first black drama of the American Theatre and had as its subject the 1795 Black Caribs (Garifunas) defense of the Island of Saint Vincent against colonization, led by Paramount Garifuna Chief Joseph Chatoyer.

The legacy of Garifuna composers, singers, songwriters, and musicians is an indelible piece of New York City’s culture. Generations of Garifunas have carried forward the musical traditions of their ancestors, blending old styles with innovative rhythms and sounds. They have enriched American music and captured the diversity of our City. During Garifuna Arts & Culture Appreciation Month we will honor this rich heritage.

This legacy tells a story of ingenuity and faith. Amidst the injustice of their forced deportation from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Garifunas lifted their voices to the heavens through traditional songs such as “Yurumein”, which have transmitted the beliefs that have guided the life of the Garifuna for generations.

The songs are poetry. They capture the history, the values, the aspirations, the concerns and the deepest feelings of a people who have been kept illiterate in their own language. The songs capture and express the totality of the Garifuna experience and in a sense serve as a literature that is waiting to be committed to writing and translated into other languages for our common benefit.

As for the melodies and the rhythms, which again are a very interesting amalgam of African and Amerindian elements enhanced by simple instruments in traditional music or by more elaborate instrumentation in the more modern Punta Rock forms, the appeal is universal.

Throughout the month of May, we will be exploring Garifuna Arts & Culture from the legends who set the foundation to the artists of the future. We will examine all through articles, photo galleries, timelines, videos and more. In the meanwhile, everyone is cordially invited to: A Celebration of Garifuna Culture on Saturday, May 17 at 6:00 – 10:30pm at Bronx Music Heritage Center Lab: 1303 Louis Niñé Blvd. Bronx.

Súngubei lidan Aban Garinagu Wagia.