Creating Community for the West Indian Culture in Hartford
West Indian Social Club of Hartford, Inc. Director of Marketing & Public Relations Shauna Whitter shares about why Hartford is a perfect location for their organization.
Tell us a little about your organization.
SHAUNA WHITTER: The West Indian Social Club of Hartford, Inc. is a cultural center of education and entertainment that serves as a resource for the West Indian and Caribbean-American culture. One of our unique services is a location that’s available for clients to rent out for meetings, special events, and private parties. We also provide free community and social events for our West Indian community and we have an operational bar with employed staff who manage and run the bar as a business.
Our organization is made up members, volunteers and paid staff. The volunteers consist of board of directors who play various roles in ensuring the organization runs smoothly and we adhere to all rules and regulations for operating a business under the State of Connecticut and Federal guidelines. We outsource most of our maintenance and are always looking for more reliable and efficient clients to do that kind of work for us.
Why did West Indian Social Club become a Hartford Chamber member?
SHAUNA: We joined the Hartford Chamber of Commerce because it provides necessary support and exposure to help expand and grow our organization and connect us to businesses, interested patrons, customers, and members. With the work we do and the services we provide, the Hartford Chamber of Commerce is the key to helping us bring more awareness to the organization and product we offer to clients and customers.
Also, our mission is to promote, articulate, and preserve the West Indian and Caribbean culture. We believe our membership with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce can help us achieve this mission.
Why Hartford? How did the organization choose the location?
SHAUNA: The West Indian Social Club was founded in 1950 by farm workers who were a good proportion of immigrants who came to the Greater Hartford area during World War II. These farm workers wanted to preserve the cultural heritage of the West Indian community and provide economic development in the Greater Hartford area, hence they created and named the organization to achieve this goal.
The Hartford location was chosen because that’s where the majority of farm workers were located and we carry on the legacy they left behind. Hartford turns out to be a suitable location as there’s a strong presence of West Indian in the area. This makes it easier for our organization to attract activities and businesses to promote economic development while preserving the West Indian Cultural heritage of Greater Hartford.
We do a lot of community and social events around the West Indian culture and having it be in a location that’s easily accessible has helped. It gives our targeted crowd motivation to participate because they know they can easily get here.
What makes your specific location unique?
SHAUNA: We’re located in the North End of Hartford on Main Street. It’s a perfect area for a West Indian Social Club because of the strong presence of West Indians in that area and the close proximity to the highway to drive traffic to the center. In addition, there are a lot of surrounding West Indian businesses nearby, which we benefit from through partnerships. The location is also unique because it’s in the city and located in a high-traffic area.
What’s the best thing about living and or working in the Hartford area?
SHAUNA: The best thing about being located in Hartford is the sense of community and intimate connection to the West Indian community. As I mentioned, there’s a strong presence of West Indians in the Hartford area and having a center that helps to preserve the West Indian culture and heritage provides a win-win for both our organization and the community.
Photo: Bloomfield Mayor Suzette DeBeatham-Brown (speaking) and other members and friends of the Greater Hartford West Indian-American community express their support of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris outside the West Indian Social Club in November 2020. (Photo courtesy Brad Horrigan, The Hartford Courant)