By Seanna Bowen-Wishart
There was no better way to spend this past Sunday evening than to be at the West Indian Social Club’s Black History Month Celebration! Upwards of 160 men, women and children from all over the state and bordering states filled the rooms during the celebration. Even students from the University of Connecticut were present. The celebration featured a mixture of local and regional talent who performed prior to the screening of Roy T. Anderson’s film, “Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Cheiftainess”.
The program commenced with the guests gathering in the Founder’s Lounge for the reception and cultural portion of the program. The attendees fellowshipped with each other as the performers delivered riveting, entertaining and engaging performances. Janice “Miss Mattie Lou” Hart served as the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies and kept the audience laughing while echoing her folk chants and listening to her stories in between each performance.
The performances began with Kevin Flynn, College Career Specialist for Hartford Public Schools, who gave a moving rendition of the “Black American National Anthem”. He was followed by the talented and locally based reggae singer who performed a musical tribute. Authors Vangella “Vjange Hazel” Buchanan and Karl A. Mitchell performed readings from their books “The Master’s Daughter” and “Afrika’s Struggle” respectively. The highlights of the cultural performances were the MLK Freedom Drummers, a student ensemble from MLK School in Hartford, who deliver a delightful performance on the African drums, as well as the Caribbean American Dance Company, who performed a brilliantly executed display of the Jamaican folk dance, Kumina while dressed in traditional bandana costumes. The audience was held captive and could be seen clapping and dancing along to the rhythmic beats of the music.
At the end of the performances, the audience transitioned into the Disco Room for the viewing of the “Queen Nanny” film. The audience was very attentive and even laughed and happily commented during appropriate moments of the film. The film ended with cheers and applause as the program segued into the discussion portion of the event.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Fiona Vernal of UConn. The panelists included authors Vjange Hazel and Karl Mitchell who answered questions and responded to comments posed by members of the audience. The discussion ranged from questions about Nanny’s origin and mode of entry into Jamaica to comments echoing the sentiment that it is important to talk about our heritage and teach the younger generations as our history is not being taught in schools.
The program concluded with a sense of unstated understanding that we as a community need to do more to remember our past and the struggles our people went through in order for future generations to gain respect and equality in an uneven world.
The committee would like to extend our sincerest thanks to everyone who came out and supported this event. Special thanks to our MC and performers who donated their time and talent to the community. Thank you to our donors Jacqueline’s Event Planning, Collins Tax & Accounting Services, Airey Insurance, Dorman Law Firm, Busy Radio & Energy Radio. The committee would like to recognize Natasha Samuels for her individual effort in bringing this film to the club. Last but not least, the committee would like to recognize everyone who stepped in to assist on the day of the event. We look forward to your continued support for the 53rd Annual Scholarship Pageant which will be held on Sunday, July 10th.
Seanna Bowen-Wishart is the Education Committee Chair for the West Indian Social Club of Hartford, Inc.