CANIH ‘Invigorate’ Celebrates Caribbean Culture

CANIH founder and president Althea Grey-McKenzie

“At our Caribbean celebration, everyone is welcome,” said CANIH founder and president Althea Grey-McKenzie. “You don’t have to be from the Caribbean to join us.”

Photo: Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

The Fuego Dancers get down to a little reggae-Zumba.

Members of CANIH who call themselves the Fuego Dancers get down to a little reggae-Zumba.

Photo: Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

An NIH’er moves to the music at CANIH Invigorate.

An NIH’er moves to the music at CANIH Invigorate.

Photo: Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

CANIH members visit with members of CACCE-GWAN.

CANIH members, including the littlest new member, visit with members of CACCE-GWAN, the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise for the Greater Washington Area Network.

Photo: Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

Attendees enjoy regional cuisine on the Bldg. 31 patio.

Attendees enjoy regional cuisine on the Bldg. 31 patio.

Photo: Chia-Chi Charlie Chang

The sun emerged and a gentle breeze was blowing. It was the perfect day to take a cultural journey to the Caribbean.

On June 21, NIH’ers enjoyed regional Caribbean cuisine, music and dance on the Bldg. 31 patio at CANIH (Caribbean Association at NIH) Invigorate. The celebration, in its 11th year, featured foods from Haiti and Jamaica, reggae-Zumba, health and community information tables and international crafts.

“We called this year’s event CANIH Invigorate in an effort to support and motivate others to learn about Caribbean culture and food,” said CANIH founder and president Althea Grey-McKenzie, an event associate with the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences. “We’re restructuring the Caribbean Association here and, as we grow, we welcome the contributions of others to the group.”

The event, a collaboration with NIH’s R&W Association and the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise for the Greater Washington Area Network, donates proceeds to NIH charities. This year and last, CANIH donated to the Children’s Inn at NIH.

“This event supports the community,” said Grey-McKenzie. “It’s one way we give back.”

Grey-McKenzie started CANIH shortly after then-President George W. Bush signed a proclamation in 2006 designating June as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month. Having an official heritage month, she said, is a source of pride and gives the Caribbean-American community an opportunity to share their rich and diverse culture with the nation.

“We have done so much here to build the fabric of this country,” she said.

A native of Jamaica, Grey-McKenzie added, “I love the beauty, creativity and tenacity of Jamaica and its people. Our saying ‘Wi likkle, but wi tallawah’—meaning we may be a little country, but we have huge aspirations—is how I share what makes us great.”

During the event, several CANIH members who dub themselves the Fuego Dancers led a reggae-Zumba workout. One of the dancers, Fiona Vaughans, is the treasurer of CANIH and has worked at NIH for 14 years. Originally from Jamaica, she came to the United States to pursue her doctorate in cybersecurity. She’s now an IT program manager at NCI. What does she miss most about Jamaica?

“I miss the gorgeous beaches and the peace of mind.