Melting Pot Achieves Nirvana

The week of March 9, 2020 was a very strange time to be on campus. Colleges throughout the country began to close. At every Commons meal, a new piece of cutlery or tableware was suddenly plastic. 100, and then 50, person capacity limits. When we got the email on March 13 sending us home, one event still happened that night: Melting Pot, an annual celebration hosted by the Caribbean Students Association (CSA).

Now, two years later, Melting Pot returned to its traditional home of the Olin Arts Center on April 1. (Last year, it was held on Bardwell Field.) What a welcome home it was. The theme, “Nirvana,” spoke to a return to joy and celebration after the strife of the last two years.

CSA represents students from across the Caribbean, and a variety of cultures were celebrated and displayed. Cristina Salazar ‘25 and Sebastián Léon ‘25 performed traditional Costa Rican folk dance in traditional outfits. A few acts later, 2B.E.A.T.S., a hip-hop group performed. (Hip-hop, after all, came in part out of Caribbean communities in New York in the 1970s and 1980s.) Lauren Reed ‘23, Osceola Heard ‘22, Anntonia Taylor ‘24 and David Allen ‘24 also performed an incredibly high energy dance that was exhilarating to watch.

While dance played a major role in the showcase, it was not the only event. Bora Lugunda ‘25 and Suhana Liedtke ‘25 both read original poems about the immigrant experience and cultural marginalization. Lugunda’s, “The Inner Monologue of a Minority Gaslighting Themself,” had a more spoken word rhythm and delivery to it which aided the frantic, manic thoughts of the poem. Liedtke’s felt much more like I was at a reading for a new written poetry collection. Even while the poem asked poignant questions about discrimination, the delivery was much calmer, which made it all the more emotional.

Other performances included original rap from Uche Anyanwu ‘25, performing “Grab n Go,” two songs from the Gospelaires and a solo performance by Jermiah Germain ‘24. The crowd was into them all, cheering along for the students.

The true highlight of the showcase was the Carnival portion. A red carpet was rolled out and models descended wearing their best recreations of traditional Carnival costumes. To my untrained eye, they all seemed to follow the same general style and theme, but the models were split into four groups: 1) “Wings of Freedom,” featuring models Heard, Reed, Lugunda ‘25 and Macdony Charles ‘22, 2) “Ecstasy,” featuring Salazar, Juliebeth Santos ‘25, Sean Vaz ‘22, Kilston T’Naya Lee ‘23, ZaQuir Jones ‘24, Jamil Mouehla ‘25 and Faith Nwando ‘24, 3) “Serenity,” featuring Ray Joseph ‘22, Candace Johnson ‘22, Chidubem Umeh ‘22 and Anthony Morgan ‘24 and 4) “Wanderlust,” featuring Nakelm Nicholson ‘25, Anyanwu, Emily Gonzalez ‘25 and George Hawkins ‘24.

Nicholson was a highlight of the event from start to finish. He led a “whine” dance session, a move I’d (perhaps naively) never heard of. The whole audience was all but forced to participate, with a few brave souls joining Nicholson on stage. Admittedly, it was much easier to do such a gyrating hip thrust knowing that all of the audience was doing it with me, but I was safely ensconced in my seat. I truly applaud those who volunteered to join the performance.

His Carnival outfit was also the most dramatic. He looked like a true god when he entered. He was a standout in the ensuing Carnival dance performance as well. While the performers who’d doubled as models changed into easier to move into outfits, they each wore a flag representing various Caribbean countries. I couldn’t tell if they were each representing one of the official countries considered part of the Caribbean, or if they were wearing ones that represented their own identities and family histories, but regardless, the gesture was touching.

All in all, Melting Pot was a lovely celebration of the dance, music and culture of the Caribbean. I applaud CSA for injecting such enthusiasm and spirit into the event and for sharing it with all of us.