CMBC 2020: Discussing Culture and Tourism

The Caribbean Multinational Business  Conference (CMBC) was founded in 1995, by Karl and Faye Rodney. It has been dubbed the  “Davos of The Caribbean” – a conference of  African-American, Caribbean-American, US business persons, corporation leaders, thought leaders, and elected officials who gather in the Caribbean to explore the possibilities.

Every year, since 1995, several Heads of State come together with the business community to discuss issues and blend ideas, network, and plan forward to strengthen the ties within the  Diasporic communities.

This year the theme was “The Dual Pandemic Global Impact on People of Color”.

On Friday 13 November, at 2:00 pm, Melissa Noel, an award-winning multimedia journalist and Caribbean correspondent led the panel on Culture – Global Impact On Society: A Tribute to Harry Belafonte. 

The conversation was a discussion around tourism and the global impact that our Caribbean culture has on society. 

Panelists included the Hon. Olivia Babsy Grange, Minister of Culture, Jamaica, Marta Moreno Vega, founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), an actress and producer Gina Belafonte.

Noel started off the conversation by posing this question to the panel – What do you think are some ways that we can build on the awareness that people have right now? 

Belafonte shared first saying that she thinks we have an opportunity to reclaim many narratives and also shape the stories that we want to tell and that we want to include Caribbean lifestyles, our history, our rich culture, and the roots of our Caribbean ways. With the onslaught of Zoom events and live streams that the pandemic brought, people have an opportunity to come together in ways that we generally and typically did not prior.

Dr. Vega reminded us that as Caribbean people we have had an incredible impact here in America, throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. 

She said, “We have to understand that our  presence has been consistent and with that, the traditions that are our legacy addresses our ancestor’s traditions.” She reminded us that it has been a process and that “we’ve always been pressed from the Harlem Renaissance forward.”

On moving forward as a continuum, all panelists agreed that they are now meeting people where they are, and with the use of technology platforms, they can easily do so. 

“The bringing together of all of the branches of who we are with our root traditions and the reality going forward is that normal was not good. So, we have to create a new normal…We have the responsibility now that we know,” said Dr. Vega.

How do we capitalize on this moment where people are paying so much more attention to the contributions of the African Diaspora?

In striking a balance between the need for safety precautions and keeping people safe, but at the same time developing and giving people those impactful cultural experiences, Minister Grange shared that it was at first a challenge, but Jamaica has tried by making those cultural offerings virtually. 

In celebration of Harry Belafonte, she presented that in 2018, the cabinet of Jamaica offered the confinement of the order of merit to Belafonte. And they further decided to name a section of the North coast highway in his honor. They honor him for demonstrating the impact of culture and artists on global society, through his belief in the heritage and traditions of our ancestors and his deliberate sharing of it with the peoples of the world we recognize.

How do we now think the events of 2020 will create long-lasting change and how are the roles of people in the cultural space going to evolve?

“Well I will say is that as we have seen throughout history, there is so much incredible art that has been birthed through adversity and challenge and times when our communities are in desperate need trying to survive.” – Dr. Vega.

Gina Belafonte shared, “I think much of the time during COVID many of us, especially artists have taken the time to really go within, to deepen our meditative practice, to deepen our artistic practice if we had the fortune to do so. And so I believe there will emerge from this time amazing literature and art and film and documentaries and dance and music and descriptions of some of the deep anguish many of our communities have gone through.”

“More and more are coming together to work on projects. We’re finding more and more in the art space, a decentralized experience, and more of a wanting to uplift more of our cultural leaders in a given space to emerge. So I would hope is that anyone out there who has a song in their heart, an expression at the tip of their fingertips, whether it’s through painting through sculpture, multimedia, music or dance or food, film, documentary, or narrative, that we take this opportunity to really make our presence known and bring forth and collaborate across the diaspora and show the immense richness in the diversity of all of who we are together.”

Dr. Vega said, “2020 has opened up the reality that America, which is already African Diaspora, an African community, and the responsibility and the imperative has to be for us to connect…so at this moment where there is an awareness that we exist in the world, not only in our isolated neighborhoods or locations, it is imperative for us to build and understand that we are speaking different languages, we can make family wherever we go and wherever we are, and we make the family right now.” 

All in all, everyone agrees that given this time we’ve all had, it is the perfect time for us to expand our artistic expressions and share them with each other.

We now have vast opportunities given the virtual life we’ve been thrust into. 

For the entire replay of this session, please visit the Carib News YouTube channel or cmbc2020.com.

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