Caribbean students in the North Country can get their dose of Caribbean culture, but they have to be willing to make some trips, possibly get a visa and unfortunately be the ripe, old age of 21.
The State University of New York at Plattsburgh prides itself on being the institution that has the greatest number of international students among the SUNY schools. Students from the Caribbean make up a substantial percentage of these international students. Coming from the Caribbean to a place like Plattsburgh where there are not only many societal differences but also a complete change in climate is a huge shock and often requires a great deal of adjustment. It is therefore not surprising that many Caribbean students have a yearning for any small piece of their culture while they are at school here in Plattsburgh. These students don’t have to look very far but they do need to do their research. Large neighboring cities like Montreal and Burlington have proven to be a haven for people from the Caribbean looking to hear the music of their homeland, eat some Caribbean cuisine or simply ‘lime’ which is the equivalent to the American term of ‘hanging out’.
Montreal is the largest metropolitan city near Plattsburgh. It is only about an hour away by car or bus. This Canadian city, whose primary language is French, is one where there has been a large influx of people from the Caribbean. There are many venues including various bars and nightclubs that cater strictly to a Caribbean audience.
“If you’re from the Caribbean and looking to party, Montreal is the place to be,” said Kerstin Perrin, a senior at PSU who frequents many Caribbean ‘hotspots’ in Montreal. With all the variety that Montreal has to offer, two locations can be highlighted as being extremely popular with Caribbean students. They are ‘Testa Rossa Bar and Longe’ and ‘Vision’. ‘Testa Rossa’ is located at 2110 Crescent (between De Maisonneuve & Sherbrooke), Montreal while ‘Vision’ is located at 662-90th Ave, Montreal.
“Testa Rossa is where you want to be on a Friday night. They play only ‘soca’* and dancehall and you can even get ‘bake and shark’*. On Saturday you want to be at ‘Vision’ because they play strictly ‘soca’.” Perrin said. Montreal is appealing to students not only because the drinking age is 18 as opposed to 21 as in the states but there is simply just more to choose from than in Plattsburgh. The only setback is that some Caribbean students may need a Canadian visa depending on which country they are from. Students from islands like The Bahamas and St. Kitt’s and Nevis do not need a visa whereas students from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago do need one.
* ‘bake and shark’ is a local dish from Trinidad and Tobago
* ‘soca’ is a form of dance music which originated in Trinidad and Tobago
Above: Flyer advertising ‘Testa Rossa’
Burlington is in Vermont which is the state bordering New York. It is about an hour by car from Plattsburgh. The trip requires you to take a ferry across Lake Champlain and then drive about 45 minutes to Burlington. Unlike Montreal the club and bar scene in Burlington is reserved for those who are 21 plus. However, this does not take away from the fact that there is an immense Caribbean vibrancy in the city. Venues such as Nectar’s and Red Square provide the Caribbean population in Burlington with ample entertainment to keep their desire for something Caribbean satisfied.
Nectar’s is located at 188 Main Street. Red Square is found at 136 Church Street. “The clubs in Burlington may not have a designated night for Caribbean music, but they play a lot of dancehall on a regular basis so you definitely don’t have to worry about hearing techno all night.” said Yasharae Pierre, a senior at PSU who says she loves the nightlife in Burlington.
Above: Red Square (left) and Nectar’s (right)
Plattsburgh "Plattsburgh has a little bit to offer us Caribbean folk,” said Jodi Powell, a PSU senior from Jamaica. “Places like ‘Green Room’ will play some ‘soca’ and dancehall but they don’t have anything that is strictly Caribbean. Then you have places like ‘Monopole’ and ‘Peabody’s’ that will often have reggae bands performing. ‘The Naked Turtle’ has a Thursday night dedicated to Caribbean music, but they only open during the summer months.” said Powell.
Whether it is going across the border, cruising over a lake or simply remaining in Plattsburgh, the North Country has enough Caribbean culture to delight the majority of Caribbean students. They just need to go a little extra way to get that enjoyment.