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HomeArtsStudent club provides a second home to Caribbean students

Student club provides a second home to Caribbean students

The Caribbean islands are more than just vibrant outfits and party music. They’re home to a diverse community with unique cultures. Many from this background attend Durham College and Ontario Tech University, and there’s even a club for them.

Breanne McAlpin, the Caribbean Student Association (CSA) co-president, says the CSA welcomes all but serves as a safe space for Caribbeans.

“It’s a very student-centred club that focuses on bringing the community together of different Caribbean cultures,” McAlpin said.

The association holds events for students such as parties, fundraisers, and most recently a “paint and sip” night that was packed with students of Caribbean descent.

Island-themed mocktails were served while students painted a sunset-themed picture for a chance to win a free ticket to an upcoming Black History Month Party.

A picture of a sunset painted by a student.
A picture of a sunset a student painted at the Paint and Sip event. Photo credit: Andre Spence

McAlpin is originally from Jamaica and said Canada has a different atmosphere than her home country, but the CSA makes her feel like “home.”

“I’m able to speak my dialect easily and everyone understands me,” McAplin said. “I don’t have to speak standard English and have people say excuse me, pardon me. I’m free, I can be who I want to be here.”

Liyah West is the other co-president of the CSA and is of Trinidadian descent. She says seeing the Caribbean students on campus come together in one place is one of her favourite parts of the club.

“We don’t see people like us on campus,” West says. “So, it’s nice to have these events because we can pull them together.”

She says the schools are doing a lot more for Black representation, but problems still exist. A monolithic perception is still held about the Caribbean identity.

“When people think of the Caribbean, they automatically go to Jamaica, so representation to me is recognizing all the different islands and traditions we have,” West said. “With these events, we showcase everyone.”

McAlpin said having representation is about sharing everything: food, culture, vibes, and welcoming everyone.

“Because we may not be from the same background, we are one people,” McAlpin said.

To keep doing this, the CSA is participating in the school’s Pangaea event this March. Every year the school holds an event to showcase the cultural diversity on campus. The CSA performed on stage two years ago but didn’t last year due to planning difficulties.

“Everyone was asking if we could come back because they really liked our performance,“ West said. “So, this year, I don’t wanna spoil what we have planned, but we plan to perform again.”