Caribbean Student Association reaches out to students with message of self love

Students could enjoy free treats while learning about various Caribbean leaders and celebrities (photo by Amy Rose).
Students could enjoy free treats while learning about various Caribbean leaders and celebrities (photo by Amy Rose).

Continuing the educational thread of events for Black History Month, the Caribbean Student Association hosted a kiosk in the Johnson Center on Feb. 4, 11 and 18.

Students were invited to a kiosk that featured several fliers with photos of “Caribbean Greats” including influential leaders and well-known celebrities of Caribbean heritage, along with lesser-known facts regarding their background. Some of the featured figures were more historical, such as Antonio Maceo Grajales, the second-in-command of the Cuban Army on Independence in the late 1800s. Most of the fliers, however, showed modern celebrities handpicked by CSA members.

“We had a list of people that we decided to select,” said Jollene Allen, the CSA secretary. “We either did research online, or we talked to them personally. The [CSA] president is good friends with Chardelle Moore.”

Originally from Grandbay Dominica, Chardelle Moore is a jack of all trades known best for her exploits as a TV host, broadcast journalist, activist and model. As the former Miss Caribbean Metro USA, she has acted as a spokesperson for the Caribbean American community in both Virginia and Washington D.C. Also, her current work focuses on news and entertainment in the African-Caribbean region. She’s one of several positive role models of Caribbean heritage, one that CSA is proud to spread more knowledge about.

“So we selected [Moore] specifically so that people will know that, yeah, she’s born there, that she lived there for a while,” Allen said. “Raising that awareness is what’s really important to us.”

Yet, the group’s goals extend beyond simply showing that many important people hail from the Caribbean islands. The CSA wants to spread a message of general self-love and diversity, especially on a campus overflowing with students of various backgrounds. Allen mentioned how the group not only wants to grow, but help its members and other students appreciate all sides of their heritage.

For Allen especially, finding a place of inclusion helped her foster a stronger sense of pride as a Caribbean American.

Allen said, “You know how the say we are like a melting pot? I don’t think we should call it a melting pot. I think it’s like a tossed salad where there’s just all different ingredients. I think we’re one more element, you know what I mean?”

Just like the vast array of islands that make up the Caribbean, no two Mason students are exactly alike. They are set apart by their differences, but develop bonds through their similarities. These similarities, Allen expressed, don’t necessarily blend different groups into one general whole, but give them common points of interest to share as they spread awareness of their cultures. This is the core of CSA and the “Caribbean Greats” kiosk.

“I think we have a role to play in changing the culture of even the black community on campus, and showing them too that you should embrace whatever culture you are,” Allen said. “Just being able to embrace where you’re from and embrace your culture and not feel like you have to conform to anyone’s set standards. That’s why we’re doing this.”

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