Pellissippi State hosts Caribbean Fest on Feb. 28

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steel drum band
When it came time to plan Caribbean Fest, Pellissippi State Community College’s Access and Diversity Office relied on an in-house consultant and native of the southern Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago, student Roshni Joseph-Biles.

Pellissippi State hosts Caribbean Fest 4-7 p.m. on Feb. 28 in the Goins Building College Center of the Pellissippi Campus.

For Joseph-Biles, a student worker in Access and Diversity, the event is a chance to share the history and culture behind “carnival,” a week of revelry and feasting leading up to Lent throughout the world.

Joseph-Biles grew up on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, where the annual celebration has taken place since the arrival of French settlers in the 18th century, evolving into one of the most imitated festivals in the world.

In the U.S., people celebrate Mardi Gras—French for “Fat Tuesday,” in reference to the Catholic tradition of eating richer, fatty foods just before the Lenten fast.

“People know about carnival; they know about Mardi Gras. They don’t seem to really know the history or why, what set it off, what the meaning behind it is,” said Joseph-Biles, who is studying philosophy and pursuing an associate’s degree at Pellissippi State.

“To have the opportunity to share that, to show people who are going to participate what their actual connection is historically, is amazing.”

At Pellissippi State’s Caribbean Fest, participants can sample jerk chicken with rice, beans and a traditional dessert, Trinidadian black cake. Music will be performed by the Carib Sounds Band 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Vere Henry, a native of the Caribbean island of Antigua, directs Carib Sounds. Henry said that the music will move audience members into that “island attitude” with hot calypso and soca beats, reggae, and other arrangements.

Masquerade will be part of Pellissippi State’s Caribbean Fest as well. Traditionally, masks and costumes take center stage at carnival, with artists devoting much time and effort on their creations.

“The individual costumes are exceedingly expensive, and those take sometimes years to make,” said Joseph-Biles. “Those are the ones that are very elaborate; those are the ones that go on display from country to country every now and then. You find a display in the U.S. and it’s the carnival costumes from the year before.”

The public is invited to attend the free event, one of several that have taken place in February as part of the college’s Black History Month celebration.

The Pellissippi Campus is located at 10915 Hardin Valley Road, and parking is available in any lot marked “Open.”

For more information, contact (865) 694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action for Pellissippi State, (865) 694-6607 or