The African Caribbean Celebration will mark its 10th year on Saturday, Aug. 7, at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Manchester. The event will feature food and performances from a variety of African and Caribbean cultural groups.
The event is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The celebration typically draws between 1,000 and 1,500 people.
“It’s an exciting event, well-attended by a cross-section of the community,” said Woullard Lett, one of the celebration’s founders and organizers.
The food vendors will include a Filipino vendor who will serve a dish of thinly cut steak marinated and grilled. A new addition to the event will be a Congolese vendor.
“The food they make will be indigenous to their area, which will probably be these fried breads and an entrée like fish or chicken, spiced up and prepared in their traditional fashion,” Lett said.
Sabroso, a local Dominican restaurant, will serve food at the event. Lett said their offerings will likely include beans, rice and stewed chicken. A Jamaican family will be selling jerk chicken and curried goat, and Famous Dave’s BBQ will be offering their barbecue foods. The variety of cuisines will represent only some of the many African and Caribbean cultures in Manchester.
Some of the performers this year include the Southern Sudan community doing a traditional dance, a rapper from Burundi and Manchuka, a local funk and jazz band. Other performers scheduled are Mystic Vibes, a reggae band from Portland, Maine; singer Ruby Shabbaz; and the Akwaaba ensemble, a group that performs West African dancing and drumming.
“We think it’s really important to have the participation of community members in the event,” Lett said. “This year we were really pressed, because there were so many people who were interested in participating in the event.”
Lett said that the organization has been criticized in the past because the entertainment portion of the event seemed too much like a talent show.
“It is a talent show, not a concert,” Lett said.
Bringing in big-name performing groups would be outside the celebration’s budget, and the mission of the event is to build community. Lett said that when a performer from a community is slated to go onstage, his or her family and friends from that community come to watch, making the event more diverse.
“Their community comes out to support them, and it gives their community an opportunity to make connections and mingle at the event,” Lett said.
For the second year, the celebration will include a health fair with 10 to 15 different health care providers distributing information and giving screenings.
The New Hampshire Haitian Community Center will also be present, collecting contributions for earthquake relief efforts.
Lett said the original celebration was inspired by the Latino Festival that started in Manchester in 2000. Several of the Haitian and Jamaican community members thought that holding a celebration of the African and Caribbean people of Manchester would be a good community-building opportunity. They enlisted the help of friends who had worked on developing the Latino Festival.
“They were very helpful in helping us get started with technical stuff,” Lett said.
The event’s purpose is two-fold. According to Lett, Manchester’s African community experiences a lot of cultural isolation, and the organizers wanted to take steps to resolve this issue.
“One of the reasons we do this is to promote bonding and relationship-building within the community of African descent,” Lett said. “The other part is creating a venue that can serve as a bridge to other parts of the community here in Manchester.”
The African community has changed and developed over the last 10 years, with several new countries being represented, including Sudan and Somalia. There have been an increasing number of Muslim people within the African community, and the date of the celebration was moved to accommodate Ramadan, a period of fasting observed by Muslims, which begins on Aug. 11.
“We’re doing it early. It’s one of the ways that we’re responding to the religious diversity that has come into the community,” Lett said.