A bounty of culture in the Caribbean

Hebetudinous locale rises from the ashes of pirate playground

By Katie Tracy
Staff Writer

The Caribbean is much more than a playground for “Pirates”; it is a constellation of over 7,000 islands, including 13 independent island countries.  It is also the region chosen to be highlighted in the Schoolcraft International Institute-sponsored Focus Series.  Every year , a new region of the world is chosen to be the focus and is highlighted using film, lectures, presentations, and performances.  As stated on the Focus Series’ page on Schoolcraft’s website, the goal of these exhibitions is to educate Schoolcraft students, as well as the general community, about the culture, politics, economics and history of the region and how that relates to the rest of the world.  Mathematics professor at Schoolcraft College, Randy K. Schwartz, is the Editor of the “International Agenda” magazine, a publication that possesses all of the information in this article and more.

The Caribbean was chosen by the Schoolcraft International Institute’s members for this semester because of the region’s multiculturalism, influence on music based on the wide-range of genres that originated on the islands, and its history of colonialism and racial divisions that it is trying to overcome.

The Series kicks off on Monday, Feb. 3 in the Liberal Arts building, Room 200 at 1:00.  Krysta Ryzewski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Anthropology and acting Director of the Grosscup Museum of Anthropology at Wayne State University, will be giving a presentation titled “Cultural Heritage Resources in the Wake of Volcanic Disaster on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat.”

The focus of the presentation is on the Soufriére Hills Volcano’s continuous eruptions since 1995.  These eruptions have forced two-thirds of the island’s population to emigrate and damaged much of the island’s landscape.  Professor Ryzewski will discuss how recovery of the island is affecting  its culture  Professor Ryzewski has conducted archaeological research on Montserrat and will use that as the context of her presentation.

Port Royal, located on the island of Jamaica, was a pirate haven known for gaudy displays of wealth. Currently it is a top tourist destination.

Another presentation will be given on Wednesday, March 19 in the Lower Waterman at 1:00.  This photography exhibition by photographer Chris Cavaliere will present “Portraits of Haiti.”  Cavaliere traveled to Haiti and photographed the beauty and pain of the country in the wake of natural disasters and political unrest.  Cavaliere will combine stories with his photographs in this presentation.  His photographs can also be viewed as part of the Multicultural Fair on Thursday, April 3 in the Vis TaTech Center between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

The Multicultural Fair is another Schoolcraft International Institute-sponsored event.  Upon arrival to the fair, one will receive a passport which will get “stamped” by each table, representing a different country or region.  There are usually ethnic foods to sample and sometimes crafts to do at each table.  The Multicultural Fair is a free event (as are all of the Focus Series presentations), and has even been offered as extra credit by some professors.

The final presentation in the Focus Series is on Saturday, April 19 in the Lower Waterman starting at noon.  The “Focus Caribbean Film Festival” will present three films, taking place in various places in the Caribbean.  The first film (starting at noon), “In the Time of Butterflies” (2001), takes place in the Dominican Republic and is inspired by a true story  It chronicles the story of three sisters who were murdered in 1960 for their involvement in a plot to overthrow  the government.

At 3:00, the same day, a second film will be shown.  This documentary, “The Agronomist” (2003), follows the life of Jean Dominique, the Haitian radio journalist who ran Haiti’s first independent radio station during multiple repressive government administrations.

The final film is Spanish animated with Spanish and English languages called “Chico and Rita” (2010).  It takes place in Havana, New York City, Las Vegas, Hollywood, and Paris in the late 1940s, early 1950s.  The two characters, one a songwriter, the other a singer, search for each other and follow their dreams of stardom throughout the 94-minute film.  Romance and music are what make their journey memorable in film.

As a mathematics professor, Randy K. Schwartz, Editor of the International Institute’s “International Agenda” magazine, it is interesting that he would be so passionate as to be such a huge part of something supposedly unrelated to his teaching.   He says that “Mathematics is a fascinating specific example of humanity’s global interrelatedness, with outstanding contributions to this unified subject…besides mathematics and science, there are many other examples of multicultural development, and they are all interesting and interrelated!”

It just goes to show that whether someone lives on the opposite side of the world, or has a major on the opposite side of the spectrum, part of being part of humanity is curiosity.  “We can’t help but notice that the world is increasingly shaped by forces acting on a global scale, not just a local scale,” to put it properly in Professor Schwartz’s words.  The Focus Series is made possible by a generous grant from the Schoolcraft College Foundation so take advantage of this free educational experience and sign-up for a free subscription of the “International Agenda” magazine to stay up-to-date on the events held by the Schoolcraft International Institute by e-mailing Professor Schwartz with your request at rschwart@schoolcraft.edu.