T&T Diaspora - Bridgeport, CT, USA

Trinidad and Tobago Association: Sharing a culture of tolerance and harmony.
Written by Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn
The Bridgeport News.com | Wednesday, 03 August 2011 11:02

[Top left, Michael Gittens, Sharon Brown-Stewart, Michael Capasso, Gita Capasso; and bottom left, Cornelius Medas and Denis Granado, gather at Seaside Park, where they hold the Trinidad and Tobago national flag. (Photo by Ria Ari)]

"Tucked away in the Caribbean, just 15 miles from South America, sits Trinidad and Tobago, small islands whose beaches, culture and annual Carnival attract visitors from around the world.

Until recently, immigrants from these two countries didn’t realize how many of their fellow countrymen lived in Fairfield County, particularly in Bridgeport and Stratford.

“There’s a whole lot of people living here in Bridgeport alone, but no one knows each other,” said Michael Gittens, who hails from the islands.

Gittens said that he and a group of close friends often discussed hosting a party for Trinidadian and Tobagonians, but no one actually did anything about it until last summer.

After spearheading last August’s “Days in the Park” outdoor party at Seaside Park, Gittens said he was surprised to learn that Trinidadians often lived in the same neighborhoods without knowing one another.

The successful beach party drew 200 people and served as the inspiration for founding the Trinidad-Tobego Association, a group that endeavors to share awareness about its tropical homeland with the community.

The second “Days in the Park” event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 13, from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Gita Capasso emigrated from Trinidad to Stratford in 2001. She said her husband, Mike, whom she met in the United States shortly after she moved her, saw a flyer for last year’s party.

The couple, their three grown children and friends had a great time consuming traditional luncheon fare, listening to calypso music and meeting new friends. “It was very relaxing,” Capasso said.

This year, Capasso said the association invite the entire community to attend.

“You do not have to be from Trinidad or Tobago,” she said. “We want to share our culture with people. I think it will be a lot of fun.”

Traditional food will be served, along with snow cones and popcorn, all available for purchase. Proceeds will be used to support a college scholarship for a Bridgeport student.

Entertainment includes live Calypso singers, steel pan music, Tassa music, and chutney music. For the children, face painting, arts and crafts projects and kite making will be available.

Cadet Roach is the steel drum band set to perform. A popular Trinidadian game, marble pitching, will also take place. Members of the Bridgeport Fire Department will be on hand to offer safety tips.

“It’s a huge undertaking because we’re still such a small group, but we wanted to do something for the community,” Capasso said. “The idea is to create some awareness about the islands in this part of the world.”

She explained that she left last year’s event feeling like she wanted to continue to meet with Gittens and help him organize a more formal gathering for this year. Like Gittens, she felt like “something was missing.”

Gittens said that people hailing from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago often participate in festivals and parades sponsored by other Caribbean countries because — until now — they didn’t have one that they could call their own.

The closest in feel to the Carnival that takes place annually in Trinidad and Tobago occurs on Labor Day Weekend in Brooklyn.

Gittens said that people often mistake him for being Jamaican, African American or Haitian. “People don’t even know where Trinidad and Tobago are located,” he said.

Denis Granado, formerly of Trinidad, describes 116-square foot Tobago as “paradise” and said it is even smaller than Connecticut.

With its French, West African, Indian, Creole and European influences, Granado describes the countries as the “original melting pot.”

Granado said that 45% of its population is African, 45% is East Indian and the remaining 10% of the people descend from Asian, Lebanese, Syrian and European countries.

The three members of the association said that although the country was ethnically diverse, its inhabitants are tolerant of each other’s differences and live in harmony despite those differences.

Gittens said Trinidadians and Tobagonians truly live out their country’s motto of “Many Faces, One People.”

“Everyone adopts the holidays and traditions of their neighbors,” Capasso said.

In forming the association, the group hopes to encourage that kind of unity in their respective American communities.

“We are used to coming together as a people,” Capasso said.

The founders of the Trinidad and Tobago Association hope that people “young and old, big and small” come out to experience a taste of their beloved country.

“We thank the mayor of Bridgeport and his team for helping to make this happen,” Capasso said. “We’re excited to relax, listen to music and have some good, clean fun.”

For more information, e-mail ttassocofbpt@gmail.com or twitter @ttassocofbpt2 or call 203-257-7006. The Trinidad and Tobago Association is also on Facebook." SOURCE
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!