Bronx Borough Prez to host Garifuna Heritage Month Celebration

Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson.
Photo courtesy Office of Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson

The Board of Directors of the Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc., announced on Sunday that Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson will host the 16thAnnual Garifuna Heritage Month Celebration on Thursday, March 7 at the Bronx County Borough Hall.

José Francisco Ávila – a Garifuna/Afro-Latino author, self-publisher, prominent Garifuna/Afro-Latino social justice activist and chairman of the Board of the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. – told Caribbean Life that the event will take place in the Rotunda, 851 Grand concourse, The Bronx, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Ávila – who was born in Honduras, raised in Boston, and is managing partner of Garifuna Afro-Latino Entertainment LLC – said Garifuna Heritage Month celebrates “Garifuna heritage, culture and contributions to the development of society.”

He said that each year since 2008, the Garifuna in New York observe Mar. 11 to April 12 as Garifuna Heritage Month “in observance of the 227th Anniversary of the Forcible Displacement of the Garifuna People by the British from their Ancestral Homeland St. Vincent ‘Yurumein’ (presently known as St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to Central America in 1797.”

Ávila said New York City is home to the largest Garifuna population outside of Central America, with an estimated population of 250,000, with over half the population calling the Bronx home, “which makes it the largest Garifuna community outside of Central America.”

“Although the Garifuna have been migrating here in search of a better life since the 1930s, the community was virtually obscured until the Happy Land Social Club fire (in the Bronx) on Mar. 25, 1990,” he said. “Most of the victims were Garifunas.

“Thanks to the support of elected officials, including then-Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, who, in 2014, presented the first annual proclamation at the New York City Council, declaring Mar. 11 – April 12 as Garifuna-American Heritage Month, in New York City, New Yorkers can gain a greater appreciation of Garifuna history, heritage, culture and traditions, and of the role Garifunas have played, and will continue to play, in New York’s society,” Ávila added.

He said Garifuna Heritage Month also pays tribute to the “common culture and bonds of friendship that unite the United States and the countries of the Garifuna Diaspora (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”