Caribbean American Heritage Month opens with live performances

Jamaican Andrew “Braata” Clarke, of Braata Productions, performs “Rivers of Babylon” during the 2018 Caribbean American Heritage Month celebration at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn hosted by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Photo by Nelson A. King

The Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS), the architect of the Campaign to Celebrate June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month (NCAHM),  said on Monday that a special live performance by Jamaican Andrew “Braata” Clarke, performing a rendition of the American national anthem, heralded the beginning of Caribbean American Heritage Month.

ICS, which was founded and headed by Jamaican Dr. Claire Nelson, said the National Caribbean American Heritage Month opening event was hosted virtually on the Zoom platform and featured keynote speaker, Cynthia “Cindy” Kierscht, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the US Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Other speakers included Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Belizean Amb. Nestor Mendez, and Noel Lynch, Barbados’ ambassador to the United States.

ICS said that Keirscht charged the audience “not to focus on the distance between us but on what brings us together,” describing how “our histories were so interwoven that it is inevitable that our futures would be, too.”

Clarke, the featured vocalist, credited his success to his father “who wanted the best for me, so he planted me where I could bloom.”

ICS said Clarke had a passion for the arts and participated in music, theatre and speech.

“Andrew (Clarke), indeed, bloomed into a thespian, entrepreneur and philanthropist who has the furtherance of Caribbean Culture as the pillar of all his endeavors,” ICS said.

It said Michael Wilson, a self-taught violinist, was the second feature performer at the opening ceremony.

ICS said Wilson is an entrepreneur who owns “Springspired” and played his violin to “a sound-bed of Caribbean songs.”

Since 2006, ICS said June was designated as National Caribbean American Heritage Month by Presidential Proclamation.

“Caribbean Americans have contributed to the development of the United States in extraordinary ways,” it said. “Millions of people in the United States are connected to our Caribbean neighbors.”

With the theme “Our Shared History, Our Shared Future”, ICS said this year’s celebrations will be in recognition of “the contribution of the Caribbean peoples to the culture and economy of the nation.”

ICS said it is organizing the month of activities, with other regional associations co-coordinating activities in local counties and cities, with “high levels of Caribbean American nationals.”

“This year, the celebrations will be hosted entirely virtual, which will facilitate more access for the millions of people of Caribbean descent and affiliation around the world,” ICS said.

It said the celebrations will continue with other opening celebrations in Boston, Atlanta and New York, respectively.

ICS said of special note is the “Smart Caribbean Gathering – A Futures Brainfest,” a series of five forums bringing together Caribbean thought-leaders, academics and advocates from around the world “to explore the future of the Caribbean in a post-COVID world.”

“It is expected that members of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus administration officials, and national experts and scholars will participate in timely discussions of major policy issues affecting the Caribbean American community in Legislative Week, June 22-27,” ICS said.

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