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'Bigger Than Us': Sumfest Mizik unites Haitian, Caribbean communities through culture

Attendees at Sumfest Mizik 2023 at Virginia Key Beach
Sumfest Mizik
Attendees at Sumfest Mizik 2023 at Virginia Key Beach

For its second year in Miami, Sumfest Mizik will take place at the historic Virginia Key Beach Park returning with the theme “ Bigger Than Us.”

Originating in Haiti in 2016, this year’s event aims to promote unity throughout the Caribbean, and to heal and support the Haitian community.

For years the event grew in Haiti, but insecurity and safety concerns led them to move to Miami.

A new and bigger market was one of the prominent challenges for the festival’s organizers. In Haiti and the Caribbean, Sumfest had a smaller market audience.

“For example, in Martinique, you have 350,000 people. You're not going to market it the same way as Florida where you have millions of people that are not necessarily your targets," Sarah Jeanty, the festival’s spokesperson, told WLRN who said moving the festival to Miami last year represented a big risk.

Said Jeanty: “It even came to a point where we're questioning, can we do the festival this year or not?”

"So at the end, it's really the resilience, the unity, and the hope in a better future for all Caribbean communities that brought us," she said.
"We need to do something that this year is going to be bigger than us.”

READ MORE: Michaël Brun’s BAYO conjures a joyous destination for the Haitian diaspora

Alongside the music performances from artists that include Kes, Kreyol La, and Tonymix, organizers are partnering with two non-profit organizations Big Blue and You and Afrikin.

Big Blue and Youis a nonprofit encouraging young people from marginalized and underserved communities to engage in ocean conservation, according to Jeanty.

Danni Washington, co-founder of Big Blue and You, said her family is Jamaican and she wants the Caribbean and South Floridian community to protect the ocean.

“I want everyone to have access to it, so that's really the main drive for our partnership and to provide education as well for the people who are attending the festival,” Washington told WLRN. “Because it's being held at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, which in itself is just a treasure trove of history for the black community.

Opened in 1945 as a “colored only” beach, Virginia Key Beach Park was the only area beach, at the time, that permitted Blacks.

The other non-profit sponsor is Afrikin, a nonprofit that aims to connect South Florida with Africa through arts and culture. It is the fusion of two words: African and kinship.

Alfonso Brooks, founder of Afrikin, said "the beauty" of Sumfest is that it represents "a gateway and a melting pot."

"We pass these invisible lines of culture all day … Little Haiti, Little Havana, Little Russia, all these different communities that we pass through all day on our way to our destination," Brooks said.

WHAT: Sumfest Mizik Carribean Festival
WHERE: Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr, Miami, FL 33149.
WHEN: Sunday, July 7, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Gates open at 10 a.m.
Find more information about the festival here.

Natu Tweh is WLRN's Morning Host.
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