Florida Southern students gathered to listen, dance and celebrate at the annual MSC Caribbean Fest Friday, January 19 where they learned about steel drum music and the Caribbean spirit among a more tense, recent political environment.
Held in the Eleanor Searle drawing room in Joseph Reynolds Hall, the Carlton Borde
trio, a Caribbean, family-oriented group, encouraged dancing students with music as they twirled and laughed on the dance floor. The hour-long event’s fun wasn’t overshadowed by the recent controversial comments from President Donald Trump.
Though denied by Trump and several Washington Republicans, the assertion that the President had called certain African and Caribbean countries, in particular, Haiti, “shitholes” or “shit houses,” in relation to immigration, caused controversy.
“To think that the President of the United States would refer to any country on Earth as an S-House country, for goodness’ sakes, what does that say?” Sen. Dick Durbin said, on CNN’s The Lead.
While the legitimacy and seriousness of the comments is still held in question, the effect of them were widespread, as US diplomats for Haiti and other countries were ordered to meet with their respective governments, and the African Union called on the president to apologize.
“Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out,” President Trump tweeted, after denying the comments. “I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”
Though days after the headlines, students at the MSC Caribbean Fest still had the scandal on their minds. In particular, Haitian-American FSC student Irma Tanelus, disagreed with the President’s view of Haiti.
“My personal sense of pride aside, it makes me angry when I hear comments like this,” Tanelus said. “From the beginning, Haitians were here, fighting for America, even though we weren’t Americans.”
While not high in the global rankings for Human Freedom, Haiti stands in history as the first black republic and is older than the United States, having sent troops in the 1779 Battle of Savannah. The United States likewise had a hand in Haiti’s history, having occupied the country for 19 years.
“From our food, to our dancing, to our church, my family has always been proudly Haitian,” Tanelus said. “So to have this feeling of disrespect from our President is disappointing, at the very least.”
The Carlton Borde trio, while not bringing up politics themselves at the event, focused on unity. The band stressed to the students who had danced and laughed to the steel drum music the importance of themselves, and each other.
“When we come to Florida Southern, we’re always glad to see the students interact with us and each other,” said band member Carlton Borde. “We want the takeaway from the event to be how important we are to each other, and how we must work together.”
“I had so much fun teaching my friends about my life and culture at this event,” Irma said. “So despite what other certain people might say, I’m proud to be Haitian, and I’m happy to share why.”