Adams hosts historic Garifuna celebration at Gracie Mansion

Mayor Eric Adams delivers remarks during a reception in honor of Garifuna Heritage.
Mayor Eric Adams delivers remarks during a reception in honor of Garifuna Heritage.
Photo by José Francisco Ávila

Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday, April 13 hosted the first-ever Garifuna celebration at Gracie Mansion, his official residence, in honor of Garifuna Heritage Month.

“When I became the (Brooklyn) borough president, I stated that, in eight years when I become the mayor, we’re going to have the first Garifuna celebration in Gracie Mansion, because I knew, if I planted the seed, many people don’t want to acknowledge,” Adams told the reception. “They acknowledge your success in business. They acknowledge your success in civil service. They acknowledge your success in education, but they don’t know you have a direct communication with the ancestors. And I planted to seed with you; you made it happen and you created what was to come into existence.

“I am just really proud here,” he added. “Everywhere I go, someone pulls me over. If I’m in an agency, they pull me over and they say, ‘I’m from Garifuna, I’m Garifunan, I’m Garifunan, I’m Garifunan.”

“If it’s someone from St. Vincent, if it’s someone from Honduras, if it’s someone from Trinidad, if it’s someone from Grenada, it doesn’t matter where I am, I am around my Garifuna families, and I just really appreciate the support that you have shown me,” the mayor continued. “But your strength is so larger than the Bronx. As our assemblyman stated, your population is strong and you are multiplying throughout the city, but you are a powerful force and deep in your ancestry; think about it.

Rosemary Ordonez-Jenkins, NYC Mayor Eric Adams and  José Francisco Ávila.
Rosemary Ordonez-Jenkins, NYC Mayor Eric Adams and  José Francisco Ávila. Courtesy NYC Mayor’s Office, @NYCMayorsOffice Twitter account

“And, sometimes, I think that as time moves forward, we don’t really acknowledge who we are,” he said. “It gets watered down throughout the history. But it’s imperative that your young children know your history, that you were free and you freed yourself from slavery. You were fighters, you were warriors. And when colonial powers attempt to colonize you, you said no and you fought for your freedom. And so, you did not fight for your freedom physically to be emotionally and intellectually enslaved here.”

Adams urged the Garifunas to reach into your history and “rise up as the mighty people you are.

“What does that mean? Every Garifuna who can vote needs to register to vote, use the power of your vote,” he said. “And we are moving around the city in what we call hiring halls. We have thousands of vacancies in the city. It is time now for you to join the others who are in civil service.

“No one knows it better than the Garifuna community,” he added. “I need you to be part of this team the same way you were part of the team that allowed me to get elected. I would not have gotten elected if I didn’t have the strong support from your community. Now I need you to help me run this city the way we know this city could be run in the correct way. This is our opportunity.

“I was blessed to have people in my setting that told me about the richness of this community, and I want everyone to know that and know what you contributed, not only to America but to the African Diaspora,” Adams continued. “So, I thank you as we acknowledge this moment here in Gracie Mansion. We have a lot to do, a lot to accomplish, but the same energy you brought when you released the shackles off your physical body, let’s re-release the shackles off our mental bodies here in this country. Thank you so much. Happy Garifuna.”

José Francisco Ávila, chairman of the Board of the Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition, USA, nc., expressed “sincerest gratitude” to Major Adams for celebrating Garifuna heritage at Gracie Mansion for the first time ever.

Garifuna entertainers Yolanda Solorzano and Guillermo "Don Cuellar" Alvarez.
Garifuna entertainers Yolanda Solorzano and Guillermo “Don Cuellar” Alvarez. Photo by José Francisco Ávila

“The reception paid tribute to Garífuna Heritage.,” he told Caribbean Life afterwards. “It provided Garifuna community leaders with an opportunity to network with each other, City agency leaders, elected officials, partners and promoting greater knowledge of and interest for the heritage, culture and contribution of Garifuna people to the development of society. Seremein, Gracias, thank You.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States, Rondy “Luta” McIntosh, whose country is the ancestral homeland of the Garifuna people, said it was “indeed an honor to be invited to Gracie Mansion to celebrate the Garifuna Heritage.”

“I stood there and felt a sense of pride and joy for the descendants of our Garifuna ancestors,” he told Caribbean Life. “I reminisce about the history and journey of the Garifuna people, who were exiled to Baliceaux (small uninhabited island in the St. Vincent Grenadines), with the intention of genocide by the colonial powers and their attempt at wiping that ethnic group from the face of the earth.

“Today, we can proudly say, they survived, and are being recognized by the Mayor of the greatest city on earth, Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City,” said McIntosh, who assumed office last August. “People with good intentions make promises, and people with good character keep them.

“And, for this, I applaud Mayor Adams because eight years ago, when he was Brooklyn Borough President, he made a promise to the Garifuna people that when he becomes the Mayor of New York City, he will have the first Garifuna celebration in Gracie Mansion, and he stuck to his word and made it a reality on April 13, 2023,” he added. “Let me also take the opportunity to commend Jose Avila and the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. for your work in preserving the history, language and culture of the Garifuna civilization. Abaisieni.”