Center for Caribbean Studies Hosts Garveys’ ‘State Visit’ at Constitution Plaza

Trinity’s First Event at Downtown Location Features Performance by Marcus Garvey Popular Theatre Project

Hartford, Connecticut, December 14, 2017 – Trinity College’s Center for Caribbean Studies hosted the first public event at the college’s new downtown location on Saturday, December 2: “Marcus and Amy Garvey State Visit to Hartford, Connecticut.” Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney and local City and State officials were on hand to greet the Garveys, portrayed by actors Michael Cherrie and Penelope Spencer, along with more than 100 members of the Greater Hartford community who attended the event at 10 Constitution Plaza.

The Marcus Garvey Popular Theatre Project received a warm welcome to Hartford—a city where the percentage of residents of West Indian and Caribbean heritage is among the highest in the United States. The theatrical and educational project is designed to help people explore and reflect on the history and legacy of Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), who initiated a movement dedicated to black racial pride and economic self-sufficiency known as Pan Africanism and was the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) and the Black Star Line shipping company.

A commemoration of a 1924 visit to Hartford by Marcus Garvey, the event began with a curbside welcoming of the couple as their chauffeur-driven car pulled up on State Street. Dressed in vibrant costume, the Garveys were greeted by Berger-Sweeney, wearing her academic robes, and a crowd of well-wishers. Then, with the musical accompaniment of the UNIA anthem playing in the background, the group marched in procession from the street level up to Constitution Plaza, where a ceremony took place at the entrance to Trinity’s 10 Constitution Plaza building.

Berger-Sweeney said, “This is a great event for Trinity and our new Center for Caribbean Studies. This is the first of what I hope to be many events for Trinity in downtown Hartford.” Berger-Sweeney noted the rich diversity of people in Hartford, including the 28,000 people of Jamaican heritage who call Hartford home. She also referenced Trinity’s Liberal Arts Action Lab (LAAL), a collaboration with Capital Community College, whose first projects will begin in January. “Our Liberal Arts Action Lab here at Constitution Plaza will be an opportunity for students, faculty, and community leaders to work together to identify solutions to issues in the Hartford community.”

Other speakers included State Representative Angel Arce, D-Hartford, and Hartford City Council President Thomas J. “T.J.” Clarke II. Clarke shared greetings from Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and the official proclamation by the mayor of December 2 as Marcus Garvey Day in the City of Hartford. Clarke also said, “We are so grateful that Trinity has seen fit to open a branch of their institution to engage the rich cultural heritage of the Caribbean here in Hartford.”

Hartford City Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez, a 2004 Trinity alumna who earned her B.A. in Latin American and Caribbean studies, also spoke. Bermudez said that, while to some observers the gathering may have seemed anachronistic, in fact, “history is not linear, but transcends time and space, and we are here in this space, transcending.”

Professor of Religious Studies and International Studies Leslie Desmangles, the first director of Trinity’s Center for Caribbean Studies, introduced the Garveys, each of whom delivered historic speeches.

Following the formal program, a festive Jamaican meal and discussion took place inside the building. Featured speakers included Beverly Coker, member of the board of the International Foundation for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey (IFEMG), and Dermoth Brown, the president of the IFEMG. Also sharing his thoughts about the legacy of Marcus Garvey was Tony Hall, renowned Trinidadian playwright and lecturer in the Trinity in Trinidad study away program. Hall conceived of the Marcus Garvey Popular Theatre Project when he visited Costa Rica with the current co-directors of Trinity’s Center for Caribbean Studies, Professor of Fine Arts Pablo Delano and Professor of History and International Studies Dario Euraque, along with a group of Trinity in Trinidad students in fall 2014.

According to Hall, “Though it seems that the Garveys (including his second wife, Amy Jacques Garvey, who also was an activist and an editor of the UNIA newspaper Negro World) have of late been relegated to a footnote in diasporic African history, we still have here a significant Pan-Caribbean story. It is a story that offers opportunities not only to restore these important figures to their rightful place in history but also to help to tie Caribbean countries together, further the links between Trinity College and the Caribbean-oriented population of Hartford, and offer the Trinity campuses in Hartford and the Caribbean an opportunity to engage faculty and students in a process that is at once scholarly and artistic.”

For more information about the Center for Caribbean Studies, click here. View more photos from this event here.

 Written by Kyle M. McGrath ’18
Photos by Monica Jorge