After seeing a lack of representation of his Caribbean roots in Surrey, Oliver Baley created the city’s first Afro-Caribbean Cultural Summer Festival for everyone to enjoy and participate in the cultural entertainment.
The all-ages festival kicked off on Saturday (August 13) and will end around 10 p.m. tonight. Last night hundreds of people came out for the inaugural event and even more are expected for tonight’s event.
“It’s a dream come true. I’m glad a lot of people like it too,” Baley said. Peace Ark News.
Residents of the town enjoy all the cultural food, clothing, live music and bouncy castles thanks to Baley’s goal he set himself shortly after moving to Surrey in 2014.
Originally from Jamaica, Baley describes Summerfest as his “childhood vision” coming to life. The planning for the event is rooted in his musical journey as a drummer in a reggae band.
Surrey’s Afro Caribbean Cultural Summerfest was scheduled to kick off earlier but has been suspended due to health measures during the pandemic, until now.
What really drove Baley to continue planning the event was that he wanted to make a difference himself rather than waiting for someone else to take up the torch.
“There are people who try, but for me trying is not enough,” he said.
Although Surrey is home to the largest black population in the province, Baley finds that representation is still sorely lacking in British Columbia.
“For my country and other Caribbean countries, the representation here is pretty low, so I just decided somebody needed to raise the bar a little bit higher, so I had this idea (to) change the culture, representation at a higher level,” he said.
Hopes for the first event are high, as Baley envisions the festival “getting bigger than I can expect”.
In the years to come, he wants to see Caribbean festivals and parties take place on the waterfront and become a real Caribbean party.
For now, Baley is networking with other festival organizers across the country. Last week Ottawa hosted an Afro-Caribbean Festival and next week there will be one in Edmonton. It’s important for Baley and others like him to “work together because it’s not a competition, it’s a mission.”
As the beloved festival draws to a close, Surrey residents can look forward to it returning next year, perhaps on a bigger scale.