natalya-miller-odum_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

LAUDERDALE LAKES —Dressed in a festive red ruffled blouse and white denims, the state’s highest profile Caribbean American, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a Trinidadian,  felt right at home recently in Lauderdale Lakes where she was grand marshal and guest of honor at the city’s 17th annual Unifest Cultural Festival and its 50th anniversary celebration. 

The festival, held at Vincent Torres Park on May 21, celebrates the heritage of the Caribbean and its many peoples. It brought out a who’s who of Caribbean Americans in South Florida and elsewhere, along with thousands of residents of all ages and walks of life.

“This year was amazing,” said Felicia Gerard, 32, of Lauderdale Lakes, a Bahamian native, who has attended the event with her children for the past several years.  Gerard said she was thrilled to see Carroll.

Prior to the start of the lively event, which featured a mini-carnival, costume parade and a parade of countries, dignitaries gathered at City Hall for a reception and press conference featuring Carroll.

Upon entering the building, where she was awaited by invited special guests, Carroll greeted each of them with a firm handshake and a bright smile.

Carroll was the invited guest of state Rep. Hazelle Rogers, D- Lauderdale Lakes, a friend and colleague.

There were also other dignitaries to welcome her.  Among the special guests was pilot Barrington Irving, the youngest person to fly solo around the world.

Several Caribbean diplomatic representatives attended the reception, where Carroll gave brief remarks and answered a few questions. They included Ralph LaTortur of Haiti, Rhonda Jackson, Bahamas; Sandra Grant-Griffiths, Jamaica; and Amil Ramnanan, Trinidad and Tobago. Officials from the city of Lauderdale Lakes who were in attendance included Mayor Barrington A. Russell, Vice Mayor Levoyd Williams and Deputy Vice Mayor Patricia Hawkins-Williams. Lauderhill Mayor Richard J. Kaplan was also on hand, along with other officials from his city.

Entertainers wowed the crowd with song and dance, festive costumes, stilt walking, storytelling, face painting, a display of cultural artifacts and an array of Caribbean cuisine. Marching bands, both local, and from Jamaica, performed.

National gospel recording artist, J. Moss gave a rousing performance and was well received by the crowd. A host of other performers had the crowd on their feet.

Carroll presented the winner of a Caribbean Heritage Essay Contest, Natalya Miller-Odum, who wrote on Marcus Garvey and his impact on American society.

Daphne Taylor may be reached at