Before June wraps, we want to bring attention to Caribbean Heritage Month. While it doesn’t receive the fanfare of other June-based celebrations like Pride, it’s important to acknowledge in a city where an estimated 20% of the population is of Caribbean descent. We also acknowledge that there is just one day of June left. We were late to the game on this one, but wanted to make sure to share what we learned.
Observed nationally since 2006, Caribbean Heritage Month celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Caribbean Americans. The islands haven’t just blessed us with stars like Rihanna, but civil rights activists like Marcus Garvey and political figures such as Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to be elected to Congress and the first woman to run for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination.
“If you look in any field you will find Caribbean Americans at the helm,” said Shelley Worrell, founder of whose parents hail from Trinidad. “Caribbean people have had a tremendous impact and influence on several sectors just like all other immigrant groups. There’s women’s history month, there’s Black history month, there are all of the other narratives that are centered and I think we are equally as important.”
It was this lack of representation that inspired her to create CaribBeing, a Prospect Park-based mobile art, cultural and market space representative of Brooklyn’s Caribbean diaspora. It will be reopening for the season soon; keep an eye out on its website for upcoming tours and events.
Worrell, a lifelong Flatbush resident, also spearheaded the 2017 movement to designate part of Brooklyn’s neighborhood — which is home to the most diverse Caribbean-American-LatinX community outside of the West Indies — as “Little Caribbean.”
And it’s not just Brooklyn that boasts a large Caribbean population – there are enclaves throughout the city like Little Guyana in Queens and Little Dominican Republic in Washington Heights.
Want to learn more? Start eating.
“I think that food is a great way to immerse yourself into something new,” Worrell said.
Her go-to meal is a roti — a sort of buttery flatbread particularly popular in Trinidad — stuffed with curried goat, pumpkin and pepper sauce from De Hot Pot in Flatbush.
Worrell has created several food-centric guides for “island hopping” between the different Caribbean communities in NYC:
Do you have a favorite Caribbean restaurant in the city? Let us know!
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AT YOUR LEISURE …
Every week, neighbor and acclaimed author Radha Vatsal will be providing her recommendations for what to read and watch throughout the summer.
This July Fourth seems to call for celebration balanced with reflection. To that end, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton streaming on Disney+. Based on the biography, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Miranda’s musical delivers an incredible history lesson with verve and joy, not to mention inspired music and casting. My favorite line (of many excellent ones): “Immigrants, we get the job done.”
The HBO miniseries John Adams offers a more traditional view of the road to independence. Starring Paul Giammatti as Adams and Laura Linney as his wife, Abigail, it begins in 1770, and ends in 1826, 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the year when both Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. For me, the most engrossing sections include the heated debates during the Continental Congress, which portray how ad hoc, and fragile, the creation of democracy was. The argument between Adams and others over what honorific should be used for the president of the new country drives the point home. A democratically elected president was a completely novel creation — and it was a task even to figure out how to refer to someone in his position.
Just Us: An American Conversation, by Claudia Rankine combines poetry, images and essays to raise nuanced questions about race in America. Rankine’s style is conversational, and she describes difficult discussions that she’s had with friends, neighbors and even strangers on airplanes and at airports. Each chapter ends with fact-checked notes and ideas for further reading. The book collectively considers race and its impact on all of our lives today, from different and unexpected angles.
Finally, a look at what happens when you’re not living in a democracy: The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, traces the fall of the despotic, depraved dictator Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. The gripping novel, which reads like a thriller, depicts the corrupting effect of Trujillo’s malevolence on both his enemies and supporters. The violence that marked Trujillo’s regime is matched by the events that lead to the dictator’s death, and its bloody aftermath.
ON THE POD
Make sure you have a listen to our latest episode where we speak with actor April Matthis about how she coped with the changes brought on by Covid-19 and what she thinks the future of theater in New York City looks like. Tune in tomorrow for a conversation with Sean Berthiaume, co-owner of Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Williamsburg (and inventor of the pizza box pizza), about how his business survived the pandemic.
OUT & ABOUT
Take a dip
NYC free public pools have finally opened daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a break for cleaning between 3 and 4 p.m. The pools will remain open through Sept. 12. View pool locations across the five boroughs here. If you’re going during this heatwave be prepared to wait in line — bring plenty of water!
Freaks, wonders and human curiosities
Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island — the last permanent venue in the country for traditional circus shows — returns this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 2 to 4. Shows will run continuously from 1 to 7 p.m. Tickets ($12) are sold at the door. Learn more.
This 4,800-square-foot art mural painted on iconic Doyers Street by artist Dasic Fernandez is part of the Department of Transportation and the Chinatown Business Improvement District’s initiative to recover tourism and bring attention to local businesses. The colorful mural, which was inspired by the rice terraces common around China, will be on display for the next 11 months.
Experience the surreal
The iconic New York City restaurant Cipriani is partnering with entertainment studio Moment Factory to create SuperReal, an interactive art exhibit that bridges reality and illusion. The immersive experience contrasts Cipriani’s historical architecture with technology that creates a contemporary and surreal experience, which blurs the lines between physical and digits, real and fake and illusion and reality. Learn more and buy tickets ($35) here.
Paris is still burning
The LGBT Community Center in partnership with the High Line, is currently exhibiting “Visions of Pride: Paris is Still Burning,” a photo display depicting ballroom culture in New York City and beyond. The exhibit, which features the work of Anja Matthes, Damien Armstrong and William Isaac Lockhart runs through July 11 and can be viewed on the High Line at 14th Street. Learn more.
GIVE & GET HELP
Help keep an undocumented family housed and fed
Jackson Heights Community Fridge is helping raise $1,300 for a local family to cover their next four months of rent and food. Money can be sent by Cash App to $AMYSOPHIAP or Venmo to @AMY-PINILLA. Questions can be directed to Amy Pinilla, who is collecting money on the family’s behalf.
Sunset Park food guide
South Brooklyn Mutual Aid asked hundreds of neighbors where they like to eat in order to create this guide that highlights small, independent local restaurants like Moonrise Bakehouse (challah cinnamon rolls); Gran Villa (cheese pupusas); Nieves Tia Mimi (chamoyada) and many others. Download the guide here.
This week Epicenter is taking you to Flushing, Queens, often referred to as the city’s “other Chinatown” (though it’s important to note, there are actually nine Chinatowns throughout the city). Getting there is easy: just hop on the 7 train until you get to Main Street. Our advice? Come hungry. The most challenging part of visiting Flushing is deciding where to eat, as the possibilities are endless. To get you started, a couple of our favorites:
Szechuan Mountain House is our go-to for bold, authentic flavors; you won’t be finding traditional go-to Chinese-American dishes like orange chicken here. We recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something you’ve never had before, like frog, a classic ingredient in Szechuan cuisine.
For what we think are some of the city’s best xiao long baos — soup dumplings — head to Shanghai You Garden, which also does an excellent (and affordable!) Peking duck.
Thanks Liz Phillips for the tip!
Make sure you save room for Spot Dessert Bar, where you’ll be forced to make the tough decision between menu items like matcha lava cake, caramel miso cookies and taro ice cream, to name a few.
For an in-between-meals-break, check out the Queens Historical Society, located in an 18th-century house that has the distinction of being the first New York City landmark in Queens County. Current exhibits include “Italians in Queens” and “Immigrant Bubbles,” which looks into the boom of bubble tea in the borough. Tickets ($5) must be booked in advance.
And, no trip to the neighborhood is complete without a visit to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to, you know, walk off those desserts and snap a photo of the iconic Unisphere for the gram.
We want to see, hear, feel, support your art and response to this moment. To submit a poem, short story, artwork or any shareable experience, email us. If your work is selected, you will receive a $100 stipend and become part of our growing network of artists.
This week we welcome Parijat Desai. An India-born, U.S.-raised dancemaker and educator, Desai is artistic director of Parijata Dance Company. She creates hybrids of contemporary, Indian classical and Gujarati folk dance; theater; and other forms, crossing boundaries of nation, language and identity. Her performances speak in blended languages to express her South Asian American identity and experience, and to challenge ideas of cultural purity and fear that underlie nationalism and xenophobia in the United States and India.
Parijat is a 2021 Artist in Residence with Center for Performance Research, BRIC and Soham Dance Space in Chicago, and is developing a new multidisciplinary performance called How Do I Become WE, which explores the relationship between our interiority and action in the world, between the individual and collective. This year, she will also be a guest choreographer at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Through her program, Dance In The Round, Parijat teaches circle dances from Gujarat, India, facilitating collective dance experiences for people across age, ability, caste, and gender, and supporting community well-being and engagement. She collaborates regularly with Queens-based India Home to provide movement classes for older adults.
Parijat’s work has been presented around the U.S., India, and Canada at venues including La MaMa, PioneerWorks, 92Y, and Queens Museum, J. Paul Getty Center, Asian Art Museum, Denver Art Museum and National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai.
Artist Statement: traversing different paradigms of dancemaking
To create hybrid choreographic works through rigorous experimentation in form and concept. To evolve our traditions of dance, music, and theater in dialogue with experimental approaches to performance. To challenge social and mental constructs that underlie nationalism, xenophobia, and fundamentalism through artistic practices that build bridges across cultural, linguistic, and political boundaries.