June is National Caribbean American Heritage Month.
As of 2010, West Indians became the largest foreign-born population in our state. Now, several groups are working to turn a temporary exhibit into a permanent museum to share and celebrate their culture and history.
The temporary exhibit is currently housed in the Windsor Historical Society and is a taste of what will be the full story of how a group created a “home away from home” here in Connecticut.
"This exhibition is just a part of the content that we have. We have almost 40 panels, and we've never been able to put all of them out," said Dr. Fiona Vernal, a professor at UConn and the curator for the exhibit "Home Away From Home - Greater Hartford's West Indian Diaspora."
She explains that shade tobacco first brought West Indians to Connecticut, "during World War II, with labor shortages, there was a lot of recruitment of West Indians, and with Jamaica being the largest English-speaking island, there was this sense that it wouldn't take very long to assimilate West Indian men to work there."
While Jamaicans made up a large part of the West Indian population coming to Connecticut in the 1940s – and still today – many other countries such as Barbados, the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago are also represented in the state.
These workers found their own community in the area through churches and creating spaces such as the West Indian Social Club in 1950, where the museum will live permanently.
The scheduled opening date is June 2023 for next Caribbean American Heritage Month.
This is a community effort - the organizers are looking for anyone willing to donate or verbally share their family’s story, as there will be an oral history component to the museum, as well.
The current exhibit is located at 96 Palisado Ave, Windsor, CT 06095 at the Windsor Historical Society's Chaffee House.
If you would like to get in contact to share your story or contribute to the museum, you can contact Dr. Fiona Vernal: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For more information on the West Indian Social Club, click here.
Other informational links can be found here.
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