On Saturday, the Caribbean American Heritage Foundation of Texas (CAHFT) celebrated the arrival of Caribbean American Heritage Month -- held in June -- with an afternoon festival at Jones Plaza. Just a few miles away from the Free Press Summer Fest, CAHFT held its own with three live bands, a kids zone, cultural performances from University of Houston students and, of course, tasty Caribbean foods.
It was seven years ago that the White House signed a proclamation recognizing June as Caribbean American Heritage Month. For two years since then, CAHFT has served as the Bayou City's link to the culture of the islands.
"Our goal is to foster relations between Caribbean islands and make the Houston population aware of our culture," said Alicia Cave, CAHFT's PR person. You too can celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month. Listed here are the top five places to go in Houston to get a feel of Caribbean culture.
Jamaica House is a Westheimer eatery specializing in authentic Jamaican food. Popular menu items include the Jammin Jerk Chicken and Mama's Mac. The beer of Jamaica is Red Stripe, and they offer it in abundance at Jamaica House; enjoy it chilled or incorporated into one of their cocktails, the Ginger Shandy. The restaurant is open from 11 a. m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. On the weekends from 8 to 10 p.m., Jamaica House hosts Rhythm Nights: reggae, Soca and other Caribbean bands that fill up the space with festive tunes.
Jamaica House, 6357 Westheimer, 713-339-1004. 2. Club Riddims
This is the biggest and, to some, the one and only Caribbean nightclub in Houston. Located on West Bellfort, the club has maintained its presence for ten years by offering a mix of reggae, dancehall and hip-hop music, hosting weekly events like Saturdays at Club Riddims and by hosting local reggae talent, like DJ Goldfinga.
Club Riddims, 8220 West Bellfort. 713-779-0033
3. First Fridays: Caribbean Style at Uptown Hookah
On the first Friday of every month, Uptown Hookah goes Caribbean Style; you can gather with friends to smoke tobacco through a hookah. Although the first Friday in this month has already passed, every Sunday the club has a Sunday Caribbean Cooldown party on the patio from 6 to 10 p.m. Before you walk up to the door, however, remember: This club is 21 and up.
Uptown Hookah, 5706 Richmond. 713-785-4188. 4. Last Fridays: Caribbean Fete at Soca Passion
Soca is an up-tempo style of music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago, and its fast-paced rhythms inspired the hip-gyrating style of dance we know as "whining." If you're still "whining" about that First Friday thing we mentioned, not to worry. Soca Passion has you covered. The last Friday of every month is the club's Caribbean Fete, noted on its Web site as "the ultimate Caribbean experience." Soca Passion not only offers a club scene at nights, it's also a hub for community events such as fashion shows and concerts.
Soca Passion hosts events all over Houston. For more information, call 832-414-9309.
Jugglers United is a group of youngsters that perform Caribbean dances throughout the Houston area. Starting out with just six members, it has grown to become a lucky group of 13. Jugglers United is sponsoring some great events during Caribbean American Heritage Month: The Soca Queen Dance Competition 2K12, a whining competition on June 16, and the Oliver Live Show, featuring internationally known Jamaican comedian Oliver Samuels the day after.
Bonus: Houston CaribFest 2012
This event is now happening in July, not June, but we wanted to give you enough time to plan for its arrival, as it is considered Houston's biggest Caribbean event, according to Cave. Houston CaribFest 2012 is a weeklong annual event that starts on July 2 and gives Houstonians a taste of what Carnival has to offer. This year's CaribFest is a special one. It's the tenth anniversary, and a host of special stars are promised to perform.
Check out the Web site for Houston CaribFest 2012 locations.