South Jersey Caribbean fest celebrates 16th anniversary

Educator Dr. Bernadine Gordon, whose parents hail from Cat Island in the Bahamas, poses for our camera, adorned in full Junkanoo carnival costume.
Photo by Nelson A. King

The South Jersey Caribbean Cultural and Development Organization (SJCCDO) recently celebrated its 16th Annual South Jersey Caribbean Festival at Wiggins Park at the Camden waterfront, across from Philadelphia.

The free cultural event, on July 9, showcased Caribbean art, music, food and dance, encompassing diverse aspects of the Caribbean, including limbo and salsa dancers, and steel drum, reggae and calypso / soca music.

The multi-cultural family event attracted Caribbean and other nationals from the New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York regions, with dynamic entertainment and Caribbean food favorites, such as jerk chicken, oxtail, curry shrimp and roti.

There were also free activities in the children’s tent, community information, health screenings, Caribbean food vendors and gives-away.

The event, adjacent to the Adventure Aquarium and the Susquehanna Bank Center, attracted international and local artistes, who enwrapped attendees with energetic cultural dance and musical performances on the huge Wiggins Park concert stage.

Artistes included international recording artist Vincentian Curtis C; Dance4Ever Dance Company; Jay Live; Living Image; Soca Fitness; Universal Dance & Drum Ensemble; Verse Mega; Ras Professor; El Feco; and Bahamas Potcakes Junkanoo.

Performers also comprised martial arts demonstration by Dan Jennings; Caribbean Line Dance by Charged Up Dance; Poetry by Niger Ali; CSS Drill Team; and Philadelphia Pan Stars Steel Orchestra.

Masqueraders delighted the crowd with their colorful costumes, adding to “island atmosphere”, according to SJCCDO president and festival coordinator Kylla Herbert.

Masquerader Dr. Bernadine Gordon, whose parents came from Cat Island in the Bahamas, said she attends the event annually “and dance.”

“I honor my father [Bartholomew “Broad” Brown] by doing this,” the Lindenwold, NJ educator, adorned in a full Junkanoo carnival costume, told Caribbean Life.

“It’s [festival] diverse, which I appreciate,” added Dr. Gordon, while swaying to the beat of the Philadelphia Pan Stars Steel Orchestra. “Everybody comes from different parts of the Caribbean. We all come together. I’m happy I chose this. I love to dance.”

As in last year, tribute was paid to the organizing group’s founder, the late Nkem Tshombe, a native of Nevis, the sister isle of St. Kitts, and Camden City resident for 30 years, who died in 2007.

“The SJCCDO relies solely on donations and sponsors to present this free cultural experience to the community,” said Herbert, Tshombe’s daughter.

Philadelphia Pan Stars Steel Orchestra bangs out Caribbean soca vibes.
Photo by Nelson A. King

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