Four years ago, senior Nadine Nicholson wanted to form a group that would share the vast Caribbean culture with the student body. As of a result, Nicholson and her friends formed the Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness, also known as SOCA (a play on words for a Caribbean genre of music). SOCA is one of three committees under the Black Students’ Union.
Now, junior Amelia Stone leads the organization. While the group was primarily performance-based in its early stages, it has expanded to other cultural events. This past Friday, the group celebrated Bob Marley with an expo at the Community Learning Center.
The group continues to seek innovative ways to share Caribbean culture with students through music, food, dance and entertainment.
What aspects of Caribbean culture are often overlooked or misunderstood by people who are unfamiliar with it?
When people think of Caribbean culture, they automatically think of the culture of Jamaica, Haiti, or Trinidad. In actuality there is an extensive list of countries that make up the Caribbean, including mainland nations. Some of these nations are Guyana, Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc.
What has been SOCA’s biggest success since starting?
We have had numerous successes including winning the March for Creativity in Performing award from the Minority Students Advisory Board for creativity in performance.
Our biggest success occurred last spring when we cosponsored the program Ox and Oxtails with the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority along with numerous other organizations. Through this event we drew parallels between the Caribbean and Chinese culture while uniting the student body for a celebration of culture and the last day of classes.
I understand that the Caribbean culture is vast and varies because of the numerous countries/islands. How does SOCA share and encompass all of those cultures?
Each country has its unique culture, yet there is a lot of overlapping since we all are descendants from the same people the indigenous people (Arawaks, Tanos, Ciboney, etc.) and the African slaves.
During Caribfest, we try to incorporate all these cultures and create fun and educational programs to showcase these cultures and spread Caribbean awareness across campus.
Who’s contributed the most to Caribbean culture? And what country has the strongest influence on Caribbean culture?
No one person has contributed [the most] to the Caribbean culture. We are one people, and we all have contributed to our culture, but Bob Marley has contributed to the spread of the Caribbean culture. … Individuals like him allow foreigners to open their eyes to the Caribbean.
Immigration has also contributed a lot to the spread of the Caribbean culture; there are a great amount of Caribbean people that now reside in Europe, Canada and the U.S.
If SOCA had unlimited funds, where would be the ideal place you’d send the campus community for vacation?
We would probably send the campus community to one of the Caribbean countries during its Carnival or independence day, namely Trinidad. It is at Carnival where you will be able to experience the true essence of our culture through music, dance and food. Here is also where you will experience the term ‘One Love.”
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.