It was curious to the co-founders of the nonprofit Island SPACE that in 2019, with 1 in 4 South Floridians having been born in the Caribbean, there was no location in the tri-county area that the Caribbean community could call home.
By October of 2020, they had leveraged partnerships and resources to open the doors of Island SPACE Caribbean Museum, the first and only Caribbean heritage museum in the United States. Conveniently located on the outskirts of the Broward Mall in Plantation, Island SPACE Caribbean Museum presents a history of the Caribbean region — from the Indigenous people, colonialism and emancipation, through politics, festivals and religion, to contemporary music and sports — in its 1,500 square foot main archive. Standout items on display include a pair of Usain Bolt’s signed cleats, Taino artifacts more than 400 years old, a handmade ciba crown from a freedom-fighting Maroon chieftainess and a bedazzled bustier from Grammy-nominated dancehall diva, Spice.
Guests can then enter a large alcove to learn about the history of connections between the Caribbean and the United States, from pre-emancipation times until today, including the fact that Alexander Hamilton (Nevis) and Marcus Garvey (Jamaica) were both born in the Caribbean, Shirley Chisholm (Guayana and Barbados) grew up there, and Vice President Kamala Harris (Jamaica) is a granddaughter of the region.
Island SPACE Caribbean Museum provides a space for community members to host private and public events. The museum also presents its own fine art shows, exhibitions and cultural programming for the public to enjoy.
2022 programming includes popup activities surrounding themes such as Haitian Heritage Month in May, Caribbean-American Heritage Month in June, Emancipation Day for the British West Indian countries in August, various Independence Days, Miami Carnival in October, a history of the Jamaican Jerk Festival and Caribbean holiday traditions.
The current fine art exhibition, titled What is Important, showcases the work of contemporary Haitian artists who explore themes reflecting life in the nation of Haiti, Haitian-American life and overcoming social injustice. Beginning in July and through Jamaica’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations marking 60 years of independence, the work of award-winning photographer and museum co-founder David I. Muir, from his 2022 Pieces of Jamaica collection, will be on display.
The museum’s anchor programming for the year is a social justice series, presented with the support of Funds from the Community Foundation of Broward.
What Floats Your Boat, from Pieces of Jamaica®: Jamrock Edition by David I. Muir and Sean P. Henry (Island Syndicate)
Queer Caribbeans: In May and June, Island SPACE Caribbean Museum presents a groundbreaking exhibition and program set celebrating the Caribbean LGBTQ+ community. “Queer Caribbeans: Resilience, Resistance and Reimagining,” presents a historical retrospective showcase of the racial and cultural achievements of this often marginalized group. Queer Caribbeans co-producer
G. Wright of Black LGBTQ+ Liberation, Inc. said, “We’ve programmed queer Caribbean events in queer locations, but never in a Caribbean facility. This is something I’ve never seen done before and it means a lot to me.”
The exhibition features six prominent LGBTQ+ figures with varied Caribbean heritage, who have made an impact across the United States. Two talks in June, Pride Month and Caribbean American Heritage Month, will shed light and perspective on the Caribbean LGBTQ+ experience in America and in the Caribbean.
Emancipation: In July and August, programming at the museum will explore themes of the Caribbean’s ongoing quest for freedom. This part of the series is produced by doctoral student of Caribbean cultural anthropology, Arianne Richardson. Straddling social media and the physical museum space with digital factoids, video elements, an exhibition, interactive activities and panel discussions, the programming will explore themes of true freedom from a colonized mindset and recent movements toward statehood.
Hispanic Heritage: In September and October, during the period of Hispanic Heritage Month, Island SPACE Caribbean Museum will profile icons and events from Latin-American history that have paved the way for change in their home countries and for the advancement of their community in the United States. Activities and panel discussions will reflect the Latin experience in the United States, and focus on topics including old and new traditions, colorism and racism within Spanish culture, and understanding Hispanic women as homemakers vs. breadwinners.
What is Island SPACE?
Island Society for the Promotion of Artistic and Cultural Education (Island SPACE) is a Florida nonprofit dedicated to the development and advancement of arts, culture, history and educational initiatives that represent the Caribbean region, in South Florida and the broader diaspora community. Trini Robinson recently gave coverage to Island SPACE on NBC6.
Calibe and Trina.
The museum fulfills the need to create a unified space for exploring and celebrating the ancestry, heritage, and common traditions shared by Caribbean nations. “This is an exciting time,” says vice president of the board, Lloyd Stanbury. “ We are working to ensure that this venue strengthens the common cultural and historical bonds between American immigrants from the Spanish, French,
English and Dutch speaking countries of the Caribbean.”
To learn more about Island SPACE, visit: islandspacefl.org.