SOCA Hosts Carribean Carnival

Agora was filled with pumping music, fragrant and exotic dishes and people wandering from booth to booth on Sunday at the Student of Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA) Carnival. Tables were laden with authentic Caribbean dishes and posters about Caribbean nations. Students served the food and offered up information to the attendees, all while jamming to the music.

SOCA focused mainly on the food this year, bringing dishes and ingredients from home, having family members cook the food and shopping for ingredients in Boston. The students cooked the night before and the morning of the event, in addition to setting up and cleaning up afterwards.

"We had to figure out what islands the majority of kids on campus’ family members are from," SOCA president and upper Shaquille Brown said. "Then we had to look at those countries--what are their traditional dishes, what would be the easiest things to make that would represent the wide variety of Caribbean students on campus. New Hampshire is not the most culturally-diverse place in the world, so we had to figure out where to get our ingredients."

Students were able to connect to and learn about the culture of the Caribbean nations before the Carnival even began. Many of the students who helped with the preparation had little or no direct connection to the region.

"There were about twelve people in the kitchen, and we all cooked," Brown continued. "It’s funny because only two of us are living in the Caribbean, and if you count the number of us who have Caribbean parents, then it might have been around half. A good half of them were American kids who have no ties to the Caribbean, but were interested in learning how to cook these dishes and helping out with the Carnival, so we were grateful for that."

AK Ikwuakor, Dean of Multicultural Affairs, helped students prepare for the Carnival.

"It was a good time to connect and see different food," Ikwuakor said. "Some of the dishes that they eat are actually similar to African culture. I’m from Nigeria, and the food dishes are similar in some ways. I think it was also a good time to have something not from dhall, and try something that may be a bit outside of their comfort zone, and some end up liking the food, and the music and the good time dancing they had."

The students manning the booths enjoyed sharing their cultures with the students, especially since some Big Sib Little Sib pairs stopped by the Carnival.

"It exposes people to different cultures," lower Warren Charleston said. "We had some information about our cultures, like me about Haiti, me being born in Haiti, so I know something about the Caribbean that most people don’t. I think that was good for the kids and to hear some of the music as well."

Perhaps due to the indoor location, because of the chance of rain, or the food focus of the event, the student turnout was lower than in past years.

"We got, I would say, about fifty people in total," Brown said. "We didn’t have any leftover food—people loved the food. There wasn’t much entertainment this year with Precision performances or anything, but the food was a big hit, so it was a success. And I’m happy."

Preps Michele Okeke and Vennela Vellanki attended the Carnival.

"I thought it was a lot of fun," Okeke said. "I know how much effort went into cooking. I had friends who had been up since like 6:30 p.m. cooking. I thought, for the amount of time they put into it, the end product was really good."

Vellanki had a different experience, which may have been due to going later in the day.

"I went towards 2:30 or 3:00 p.m., and everyone was there at the booths, but there was no one in Agora besides the people serving, she said. "There was like no food left, but the food that I did have was really good. I was kind of expecting more than just booths, but the music was really good. I was expecting there to be activities or something, because it’s a carnival and not just a food showing."

Next year, with faculty advisor Catherine Holden on sabbatical, SOCA will have to make a decision about the direction they will take the Carnival in.

"We can either try and take it to the next level to try and become closer to what a real Carnival is, like get people to dress up and come, or we could make it more a food-centered event and probably have dhall take it over, where we help the dhall staff and make it like a Sunday night dinner," Brown said.

SOCA is trying out different approaches to this event and next year may solidify the direction the Carnival will go in. The main focus of this year’s event, the food, was a big hit, and students and faculty pooled their efforts to make the event a success, giving Exonians and visitors to campus insight into the different Caribbean cultures.


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