Mary Graydon Center was alive with a myriad of Caribbean tastes and beats on the night of Saturday, March 19. It was the first time that AU’s Caribbean Circle was able to put on the annual Roots and Rhythms pageant in three years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students in the audience were donned in their best cocktail attire and food from the West Indies was catered by Jerk Pit (@myjerkpit on IG), Sunrise (@sunrisewdc), El Tamarindo (@eltamarindodc), and Gisele’s (@giselescreolerestaurant). A vibrant mix of dancehall, soca, reggaeton, and other Caribbean beats was provided by DJ Aakil (@djaakil). Steel drum band, the Young Picassos (@theyoungpcassos2), provided entertainment during the intermission, followed by the organization’s executive board strutting down the stage in colorful carnival costumes provided by Richard’s Carnival (@richardscarnival).
Contestants in this year’s pageant represented several West Indian nations including Jamaica (@ashticckums), Grenada (@karissa.frederick), Haiti, Antigua (@ehren.layne), and Guyana. Judges ultimately crowned Mr. Jamaica, sophomore TreVaughn Ellis (@tree._.vaughn on IG), as King of the pageant and Miss Guyana, senior Arielle Moore (@itgirlarielle), as Queen of the pageant.
Students getting food during the intermission of the pageant
(Image courtesy of Chasing Colors Imaging)
Moore is currently studying Performing Arts and Communications and chose to enter the pageant having been inspired by her older sister and an older friend who participated in the African Student Organization’s pageant several years ago. While inspired by the pageants that various Black organizations have put together over the years, she never thought that she would one day be a contestant, until she saw that Carribean Circle was searching for students to participate in this year’s event.
Moore’s Guyanese background means everything to her, which shone through as she said during her crowning at the pageant that she hopes to be the representation she once needed for other Guyanese girls. Her background shaped the decisions she made for each portion of the pageant that ultimately led to her victory.
Miss Guyana had a difficult time choosing what dresses to wear, but chose a midi-length bright pink dress to wear during the talent, interview, and crowning portions of the event to represent the vibrancy of her culture, including its beautiful nature and biodiversity. The gold dress she wore during the best-dressed portion was chosen because Moore described that Guyana is known for its gold through the clothing people love to wear and the gold in the flag.
One of the highlights of the night was Moore’s talent, where she read a poem called “Of Course When They Ask for Poems About the Realities of Black Women” by Guyanese poet Grace Nichols. The audience resonated with the poem’s message about the strength and beauty of being a Black woman, and of pushing against the narrative that Black women are a monolith.
Describing why she chose this for her talent, Moore said, “The poem came about because I like to talk and being a theater major I think the first instinct was to do something not only theatrical, but something that I guess kind of stuck to those roots, and also just how storytelling is such a big part of my culture too, and I wanted to be able to incorporate that.”
Arielle Moore being crowned Queen of the Carnival
(Image courtesy of Chasing Colors Imaging)
Moore’s Guyanese background did not just impact her decisions made during the pageant, but also played a large role in the way she acts in her everyday life. Being Guyanese has helped Moore navigate just about anything, from having a list of home remedies on deck when she feels sick, to attending American University, a predominantly white institution.
“We're very resourceful people. That’s what I take a lot from my culture. It’s cool to see how I have been able to use those tactics from my culture living on my own now. Being at a PWI, my background has helped me navigate that since Guyana is so diverse. It's been a way for me to relate to so many groups of people that I didn't think I would necessarily automatically be able to relate to.”
Ultimately Moore hopes that her representation of Guyana in the pageant showed people that her country is diverse and so much more than what it is typically associated with in the dominant culture, with Moore referring to the Jonestown tragedy. She hopes that her representation showed that the country is more than a tragedy and misinformation.
Moore is still navigating what being the reigning queen of the carnival looks like to her. However, moving forward she hopes that she is able to expand her network of Caribbeans and be able to mentor and be mentored by other Caribbean girls. She hopes that sharing her culture will have an impact on people.
“I hope that this helps me to share my culture with other people and to be able to meet more Guyanese and Caribbean people on campus. I hope it opens more doors for all of us. I hope that this helps me to be in spaces with people I can help out and impact positively.”