Caribbean to the core – A chat with DJ Papa Keith

June is designated Caribbean Heritage Month.

Caribbean National Weekly hails persons of West Indian heritage.

Even though he was born in Brooklyn, New York, Disc Jockey Papa Keith is not afraid to acknowledge his Caribbean heritage. In fact, he believes it is something Caribbean-Americans should do more.

“We’ve played a significant role in building this nation and don’t get enough recognition. I make it clear where I’m from every chance I get,” he said in an interview with National Weekly.

Papa Keith’s parents are from Trinidad and Tobago. They have lived in the United States since the late 1960s but ensured their son was always in tune with his roots. Born Keith Walcott, he hosts PM Drive/Afternoon on 103.5 The BEAT in South Florida. The station is dominated by hip hop but Papa Keith manages to slip in some Caribbean flavor.

“I play Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder, Bunji (Garlin), Serani…all of the songs that crossed over,” he said, adding that his favorite artists are Sizzla and Machel Montano. Though he is known for music, Papa Keith points to interviewing President Barack Obama on his show last November as a career highlight.  They discussed matters affecting young people and solutions for problems that affect an evolving American society.

“That was a big deal for me…it made my family proud,” he said.

While his roots are in St. James, Trinidad, Papa Keith admits Jamaica is the Caribbean country he visits most. However, he is back in T&T twice a year for Carnival and Christmas.

As much as Caribbean-Americans have contributed to the modern American experience, Papa Keith notes those achievements are largely overlooked. He points to a reason for this.

“I compare it with voting. Most politicians don’t target young people because they don’t vote. If we don’t put our hands up we have no one to blame but ourselves,” he said.

– Howard Campbell

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