Free Caribbean music and culture on tap June 15 at Baker Creek Bottoms in South Knoxville

The Caribbean is more than a tourist destination, and East Tennesseans of Caribbean descent want to share that.

To that end, they’ll be celebrating Caribbean Heritage Month with “Steelpan in the Park” on June 15 at Baker Creek Preserve.

The free event, from 4 to 8 p.m., will show some of the vibrant aspects of Caribbean culture with live music, a fashion show, face painting and food.

Vier Henry, who has lived in the U.S. for 40 years and is president of the East Tennessee Caribbean Community, has a goal of bringing the beauty of his culture to the public.

“We work together as a group within the Caribbean community,” Henry said. “So we're trying to step out now into Knoxville and let them know that we’re here. If you need information about the Caribbean, if you need somebody to come to a school and talk to kids about the Caribbean, we’re here. That's why we're reaching out now to show them this is what we can do here in East Tennessee.”

A member of the East Tennessee Caribbean Community prepares for a face painting session.
A member of the East Tennessee Caribbean Community prepares for a face painting session.

The event will place a large emphasis on the music, one of the most iconic aspects of Caribbean culture. It features a unique instrument called the steel drum, which produces a distinct, soothing sound.

“Steel drum is very fascinating,” Henry said. I know a lot of people like the steel drum. It is indigenous to the copy that was started in the Caribbean in Trinidad and Antigua. Just around the Second World War.”

Steelpan in the Park will also feature other indigenous forms of music such as reggae, Soca and calypso.

Along with the music, Caribbean fashion will be on display with vibrantly colored clothing of the region. There will be a face paint artist from Trinidad as well.

The fashion was once the casual clothing of the area, and now it has turned into something that can be shown off, similar to vintage clothing.

The East Tennessee Caribbean Community has a strong sense of togetherness.
The East Tennessee Caribbean Community has a strong sense of togetherness.

“In the olden days, all the time, the ladies used to wear these dresses at the marketplace,” Henry said. “Now, the younger generation takes it as a fashion; they wear them to banquets. Some of them to weddings. So, it's gonna be very rich to see the type of the thing that they'll be modeling.”

Given that the Caribbean is such a big tourist destination, the main goal of the East Tennessee Caribbean Community is to simply educate people on where they are going. They want to spread appreciation for the culture.

Henry and his organization want East Tennesseans to see the Caribbean as a place filled with vibrant community and history.

“As an association, we want to take the stigmatism out of the minds of people who don't know,” Henry said. “Let them understand that the Caribbean is a third-world country, but we are rich in resources, rich in culture, rich in family values. We are a very together people.”

Members of the East Tennessee Caribbean Community show off their flag while watching a swim meet.
Members of the East Tennessee Caribbean Community show off their flag while watching a swim meet.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Caribbean music and culture on tap June 15 in South Knoxville

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