BY Nelson King
The Brooklyn-based Garifuna Indigenous People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (GIPSVG) says it is sponsoring an inaugural, free Garifuna Heritage Camp in its homeland this month.
The group’s president, Marsena J. Ballantyne, told Caribbean Life over the weekend that the camp will be held at the Owia Government School, north of the Rabacca Dry River on mainland St. Vincent.
She said the three-week camp, which runs from July 22 to Aug. 10, will be co-ordinated by the local Owia Heritage Organization, led by Laverne Lavia.
“The Garifuna Heritage Camp is the first of its kind, at which kids from all the communities above the river will participate,” said Ballantyne, who is also a counsellor at the Permanent Mission of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations.
“We hope to make it an annual heritage camp for teaching the Garifuna language and culture,” she added. “Participation in the camp is free, as most of the kids above the river belong to families that are financially-strapped and cannot afford most of the summer activities taking place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Ballantyne said teaching the Garifuna language is one of the camp’s main focus.
“This is important for us, considering that we should be able to speak the language,” she said. “But we are unable, because of our history.”
Ballantyne said children between the ages of seven and 16 are eligible to participate in the camp, which also features drumming, dancing, and arts and crafts, including local craft.
“So far, over 100 students have registered to take part,” she said. “GIPSVG is proud to be sponsoring such a viable project, as the outcome will not only benefit the participants but, in the long term, will have a positive impact on our Vincentian culture and communities.”
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, the Garifuna — plural Garinagu in Garifuna — are an indigenous people, originally from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, “who speak an eponymous Arawakan language.”
“The Garifuna also called the Black Caribs are the descendants of the yellow Caribs, Island Caribs and Africans who intermarried and created a large populous civilization on the Anglo-Caribbean island of St. Vincent, now called Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Windward Islands in the British West Indies in the Lesser Antilles,” Wikipedia said.
It said “Garifuna communities still live in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
“However, after the Carib Wars with the British and peace the treaties were made between the British and the Black Caribs, over 5,000 were exiled to Honduras, with smaller populations in Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua,” Wikipedia said. “A large number have moved to the United States.”
Most Garifuna in New York are based in the Bronx, Harlem and East New York in Brooklyn.
A significant number is also reported to be living in California.