By Olivia Montes
Elm Staff Writer
This past Saturday in the Egg, students participated in the second annual LAfro Caribe, or Latin-African Caribbean Pageant, planned by a committee sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Affairs, the Student Government Association, and Shore Steppers.
“The pageant was created by students of Caribbean descent who were interested in giving visibility to students of color, specifically, students of Latin American, Caribbean or African nationality, descent or ethnicity,” said Dr. Jean-Pierre Laurenceau-Medina, the assistant dean of students and the director of Intercultural affairs.
“Through this pageant, the committee seeks to share, celebrate, and appreciate each other’s differences while expressing pride of our individual roots,” he said.
Junior Stephaney Wilson was in charge of inaugurating last year’s event.
“I started this pageant back in my sophomore year because I saw the increasing need for people from African, Latin American and Caribbean nations to be heard and to have a platform to spread knowledge about their country,” she said.
In addition to a performance by the Shore Steppers, the contestants this year included seniors Fatimata Kane and Jalelewak Tolessa, junior Alex Rowe, sophomores Eileen Hernandez and Lizet Ivarra, and freshman Robert Kabonero.
The event also made charitable contributions to the community.
“This year each contestant will speak about a charity or philanthropy that they are interested in. With donations via Eventbrite or at the door, we help to raise money in order to give the proceeds to the charity or philanthropy of the two winners,” Laurenceau-Medina said.
For senior Calisa Gayle, former secretary of diversity and culture for the SGA, the event was also about visibility.
“The purpose of the LAfro Caribe Pageant is to give visibility to students of color—specifically students of Latin American, Caribbean or African nationality, descent or ethnicity,” she said.
Beyond just a celebration, the pageant is also intended to enter into an ongoing dialogue about racial minorities on campus, according to junior Ervens Jean-Pierre, vice president of the Black Student Union.
“I hope it will make people at [WC] more aware of the diversity that exist within people of color, to be mindful of certain important issues, such as racial microaggressions which minorities often face whether intentional and unintentional. I hope we share a light to the minority students on campus in general,” he said.
Additionally, the pageant aimed to celebrate cultural similarities and differences between those of African and Caribbean heritage.
“The group purpose as mentioned above is to tell the campus that we are here as well and we have a lot to offer. Although our similarities may bring us together, we also have tremendous differences among us which make us who we are. Thus, we aim to appreciate and celebrate all of these,” Jean-Pierre said.
Gayle also saw the event as a learning opportunity.
“This event is about spreading awareness and knowledge about Latin America, Caribbean, and African culture. The LAfro Caribe Pageant is a way of celebrating the rich culture and beauty of these individuals and to make students more knowledgeable about the diversity and background of the people around them,” she said.