‘The Caribbean story really is a universal story’: Fifth annual Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival begins Sept. 7

Child walks with banner of Caribbean country flags brooklyn caribbean literary festival
The fifth annual Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival — celebrating Caribbean writers, books, and culture — will return to Brooklyn on Sept. 7.
File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Caribbean writers, artists, and more will be celebrated for four full days this month at the fifth annual Brooklyn Caribbean Literary festival.

The festival begins on Sept. 7, and will feature plenty of books and writers as well as panel discussions, music and dance performances, and a workshop on the Art of Kalinda, a form of hybrid martial arts and traditional folk dance.

Events will be hosted across four days at at four venues: the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Heights branch, the Center for Fiction, New York University’s Brooklyn campus at MetroTech Center, and at the Plaza at 300 Ashland.

Guests will have the opportunity to not only pick up dozens of books by their favorite Caribbean authors, but to catch esteemed speakers like Trinidadian-American novelist Elizabeth Nunez, poet and librarian Eintou Pearl Springer and more. 

The festival will not only function as a form of community for Caribbean New Yorkers, but will also serve as an homage to the incalculable contributions of Caribbean Americans.

“Caribbean migrants have done a phenomenal job of developing the tapestry of New York,” Caribbean Literary Festival founder and executive director Marsha Massiah-Aaron told Brooklyn Paper. “There have been Caribbean people behind all of the very important political and economic movements in the United States, including the Civil Rights movement.”

The festival, Massiah-Aaron said, is an opportunity to recognize the differences and diversities that make the Caribbean-American experience so unique, and to facilitate greater connection and tolerance amongst the community which can thrive outside of the festival afterwards.

“What we do is we create a space in which diverse storytellers are allowed to prosper, come to the surface and really have an equitable share of the resources that are here,” said Massiah-Aaron. “I think it is very important now that storytellers and the people who have carried these stories receive visibility outside of the literary festival itself.”     

Outside of the festival, the BCLF organization works to ensure that Caribbean people and their narratives have the opportunity to reach acclaim and visibility outside of the diaspora. Through partnerships with other organizations like the Center for Fiction, the BCLF hosts a number of writing workshops and contests to help Caribbean writers thrive and access to the resources they need to succeed as storytellers.

“For us as a really small team, strategic partnerships are important because we’re really able to harness [and] create the opportunities to achieve our objectives,” Massiah-Aaron said. “The Caribbean story really is a universal story and that has to do with how the Caribbean was formed and really being peep-holed by various cultures, so any Caribbean, like you feel like you’re reading a Caribbean story, really you are reading a human and universal story.”

The Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival begins on Thursday, Sept. 7, with events through Sunday. Sept. 10. All events are free with RSVP. Time and location of events varies – check www.bklyncbeanlitfest.org/festival-5 for the full schedule.