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At first there was darkness. Suddenly, strobe lights illuminated the massive audience in the Goldstein Auditorium as dancers flooded the aisles with Caribbean flags draped across their backs. Contestants jumped onto the podium and waved to the crowd, and the audience’s cheers exploded with energy and approval.

Throughout the walls were flags of several Caribbean nations, including but not limited to Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent, Belize and Saint Lucia.

Caribbean pride was in the air Sunday night at Caribfest 2022, hosted by the Syracuse University Caribbean Student Association. The event featured TikTok star Ojay Suave, performances by SU dance groups, a contest and a performance by Jamaican dancehall and reggae musician Kranium.

“I’m so excited to be your host, because you all know I’m a ghetto like all of you,” Suave said.

When CSA launched Caribfest over a decade ago, the event was just a spectacle without the multiple performances at this year’s event. But the organization is excited to see the celebration grow, said Valkyrie Hardy, CSA president and co-host of the event.

The pageant portion dominated the event, with contestants vying for the title of Miss or Mr. Caribfest. A panel of three judges deliberated throughout the various competition events to decide who to crown this year.

CSA’s board of directors selected candidates for this year’s competition based on their ties to Caribbean culture and involvement in the SU community, Hardy said. They also wanted to include students from all university years, and this was considered in the decision process.

Competitors included six SU students: senior Andrew Prado-Alipui, sophomore Ashante McCord, freshman Milan Imari, junior Fabryce Fetus, junior Omar Wallen and sophomore Shakira Santos.

Each candidate represented a country from which he or his parents originated. Imari and Wallen both represented Jamaica, while Fetus and Santos competed for Haiti and Puerto Rico respectively. McCord represented both Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

“The Caribbean is the most beautiful place in the world and I am the most beautiful man here,” Prado-Alipui said in his introduction, which received thunderous applause.

While Prado-Alipui represented Ghana, an African country, he regularly enjoys the music, food and other aspects of Caribbean culture. He was welcomed with open arms by Hardy and the CSA e-boarder at this year’s Caribfest competition because of his community connection, Hardy said.

Between the pageant portions of the event, the Raíces Dance Troupe, One World Dance Team and Kalabash Dance Troupe lit up the stage with high-energy moves. Jaden Chen | photo editing assistant

Carnival clothes, the second part of the show, was an ode to one of the biggest celebrations in the Caribbean.

“Carnival attire has to be at Caribfest. We can’t have Caribfest without carnival attire,” Hardy said in an interview. emphasizing and emphasizing being comfortable in your own skin and your own body.”

As the pageant briefly turned into a fashion show, the three women let feather headdresses and wings take center stage, while the men were literally dripping in jewelry as they paraded down the catwalk. The vibrant and extravagant fashion was a crowd favorite – as each contestant flaunted their costume, the audience cheered in support.

The talent portion gave the audience a more personal look at each contestant’s passions, as well as their love for their country. Imari and Wallen made full use of the stage and captured the audience’s attention by dancing to catchy numbers.

Santos sang “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys, which stunned the audience so much that there were cheers and a few standing ovations before the song was over. Likewise, Prado-Alipui performed a song he wrote himself titled “Love Story”, receiving thunderous support from the crowd.

Fetus recited a poem he wrote, titled “Ode to Haiti”, which was written as a love letter and explored his enduring love and yearning for his country.

“I was 7 when I left you, but I still think of you like the first day I met you,” Fetus said. “When I faced loneliness, I dreamed of you, and when you faced sadness, I cried too.”

McCord performed a spoken word piece titled “An Ode to My Caribbean”, a deeply personal piece that discussed how her Caribbean culture had healed her as she grew as a woman.

“And my Caribbean ancestry gave me the sway from the waist up, allowing me to find peace beyond trauma in a womb space. Soca is culture and countless historical connections,” he said. she said, “Soca connects me to myself and to a world beyond the reach of physical eyes.” McCord paused briefly as the crowd gasped and cheered at the power of this line before she finished. : “Soca, I love you, thank you for granting me peace, and to all those who have gone before me, the strength to stay alive.”

The contestants brought elegance to the stage during the evening wear portion of the event, which included red carpet-worthy dresses and suits. During this segment, Suave asked them various questions on topics concerning social progress for the Caribbean community.

For a question, Suave asked Wallen what he thought the Caribbean community was like on this campus.

“I feel like (for) these organizations, creating a place we can all call home, creating great memories, networking and creating friendships that last beyond college will mean they’ve succeeded. “Wallen said. “Just bringing all of us together, because we are a very small number on this campus, and making ourselves feel larger than life.”

With the anticipation of the crowd and contestants, Santos was finally crowned Miss Caribfest, alongside Fetus as Mr. Caribfest.

The Raíces Dance Troupe, One World Dance Team and Kalabash Dance Troupe electrified the stage between parts of the competition with their intricate and energetic moves and spectacular hair flips. Fueled by cheers and applause from the audience, the dancers embodied confidence and Latin, African and Caribbean style respectively.

At the end of the event, attendees flocked to the stage waiting for Kranium. The auditorium darkened and Kranium immediately captivated the crowd with its catchy beats and vocal strength. The night ended with the sound of his dancehall songs.

“The bright colors, the music…everyone being together, dancing, having fun, kinda educating people,” Hardy said. “Caribfest is just one great showcase of Caribbean culture.”