From the Caribbean to Minnesota, a community comes together

From the Caribbean to Minnesota, a community comes together

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Print this page Email A Friend!

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minnesota (AP) — Standing in a park in Brooklyn Center, Jamaican immigrant Don Steele basked in the culture he grew up in roughly 2,000 miles away.

“Look at the face of the people,” he said. “They're happy, they're joyous. If you notice something, nobody ever mention about cellphone use and stuff. People are engaging, talking to each other, and that's unique.”

Steele and his community had gathered recently for the Jamaica Minnesota Organization's annual picnic. The event is held to celebrate Jamaica's Independence Day, but it attracts people from all over the Caribbean. It is a chance to come together and celebrate their heritage. Many of them look forward to it all year, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

At one corner of the picnic, an intense game of dominoes was being played. Steele was one of the players. He's lived in Minnesota for more than three decades and sees the state as his home, but events like the picnic are important to him. They remind him of life back in Jamaica.

“I need this to refresh my mind and the culture, so it's big,” Steele said. “Even watching the domino game... Biggest pastime and stuff, just bring back so much memories. The music and dance [bring] me back, you know what I mean? You see people here you've seen for years come together, and you just have a fun time.”

The Caribbean community in the “Twin Cities” is not as large as in cities like Miami or Toronto, but it's growing. According to the US Census Bureau, there are nearly 8,000 Caribbean people living in Minnesota.

Brent Bidjou of Trinidad and Tobago is one of them. He said others may not always recognise a Caribbean person when they see one.

“We are probably a larger community than people may necessarily understand or appreciate because we don't fall within a specific box,” Bidjou said. “We are multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multiracial.”

The Caribbean community has changed over the years, but there are people who remember what it used to be like.

Yvette Trotman is a long-time member of the Caribbean community in Minnesota who helped start many of the Caribbean associations in the area today. She said most of the people who moved to Minnesota came for jobs and education. At first, living in different areas made it hard to get together. The community wasn't as connected as it is today.

“It was very difficult initially,” Trotman reflected. “We weren't neighbours; we lived in different places. It was lonely to begin with, but we were focused on our careers...the majority of the Caribbean people that came initially, the core group, were all professionals — doctors, lawyers, dietitians, and engineers.”

Eventually, a tight-knit community began to form — through the game of cricket, among other ways. Charles Peterson, originally from Antigua and Barbuda, said the sport was one of the first activities to bring people together.

“Everything was like word of mouth,” Peterson said. “People hear that there's a cricket game, or some people just come down for a few hours and watch; people just come and watch, or bring a lunch and sit around in the park. And then we're always looking for players.”

Now, decades later, the Caribbean community has come a long way. Trotman said the core group of immigrants still does a lot together, but she's happy to see more of the community's children and grandchildren. She hopes the culture will continue to be passed down for years to come.

“A man without a culture is nobody,” she said. “Knowing your culture and understanding your culture, and teaching others about your culture and teaching your children about your's very important.”

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon