Caribbean pols celebrate Caribbean-American Heritage Month

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn.
Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn.
Photo by Corazon Aguirre

Clearly hoping not to be outdone, Caribbean-American elected officials, among others, have ensured that their voices and actions are heard and seen, as celebrations commemorating National Caribbean-American Heritage Month draw to a close.

“Our Caribbean communities provide rich heritage and cultural diversity,” Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, told Caribbean Life on Monday. “Throughout this month, our nation celebrates Caribbean-Americans for their overwhelming contributions to American society.

“Many Caribbeans leave their native countries and come to America in search of a better life,” added the daughter of Haitian immigrants. “While in America, they study to become our teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers and more; and play a pivotal role in our society.

“During the past year, as we experienced the height of the coronavirus pandemic, our nation watched as our essential workers, many of whom are Caribbean-Americans, stood steadfast and worked tirelessly and faithfully to support and protect our communities in spite of unprecedented challenges,” continued the representative for the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “Our society owes a debt of gratitude to Caribbean-Americans across the United States.”

With the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us and summer on the horizon, another daughter of Haitian immigrants, Council Member Farah N. Louis, said she was “excited to see the return of our city’s vibrancy.

“June is a national celebration of Caribbean culture, people, and their immeasurable contributions throughout history,” Louis, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life. “In Flatbush, the heart of Brooklyn and the Caribbean Diaspora, the festivities will take center stage amongst a growing population of immigrants from Antigua to Trinidad and Tobago.

“This month is meaningful for so many reasons, because we are forever indebted to the thousands of Caribbean healthcare and essential workers who were on the frontlines while paying homage to the pillars of our community that we lost during the pandemic,” she added. “From the bright and colorful flags to the rhythmic music and bold flavors, the streets of New York City will once again come alive and fill our lives with joy.

“After months of restrictions and uncertainty, I encourage you to shop and dine locally to support the small businesses who need us now more than ever to keep their doors open and sustain local jobs,” Louis continued. “Their recovery is crucial to our city’s economic growth.”

Haitian-born Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene, a candidate for Brooklyn Borough President, said Caribbean-American Heritage Month is “an important time for our community to take pause and reflect on the many contributions of the Caribbean American people to New York City and our country as a whole.

Councilman Mathieu Eugene. Photo by Corazon Aguirre

“Caribbean culture and history helped shape the present day United States, and it is only right that we acknowledge the legacy of our ancestors and the role that Caribbean Americans continue to serve in maintaining the strength and prosperity of America,” said the representative for the 40th Council District in Brooklyn. “Caribbean Americans are our doctors, nurses, bus drivers, teachers, business owners, elected officials, and so many other professions that keep our society and economy moving forward.

“This year, in the wake of COVID-19, we owe so much to our Caribbean American first responders and essential workers, who put their health and safety at risk in order to save lives,” Dr. Eugene added. “Let us come together in appreciation and respect for Caribbean American heritage and its continued influence on making our society stronger and more beneficial for future generations.”

Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, the daughter of Aruban and St. Martin immigrants, noted that National Caribbean American Heritage Month “acknowledges the presence and contributions made by ordinary and exemplary Caribbean peoples to the history and culture of the United States, which now spans over a century.

“For us, it is an opportunity to celebrate our faith journeys from our Caribbean islands and the deep collective pride we share in the challenges we have overcome, communities we have created and the promising futures for our children on these shores,” added Richardson, who represents the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn.

“We are from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Bahamas, St. Marteen, Dominica, Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos, Aruba, Grenada, Anguilla, Bermuda, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Montserrat, St. Barts, Saba, US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bonaire,” she continued. “And we can’t forget our people in Guyana, Suriname, Panama, Costa Rica and the Garifunas from St. Vincent, who were taken to Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize.

“We are a proud people whose music, food and dance are celebrated around the world,” Richardson said. “Our Little Caribbean in Central Brooklyn has been a part of that continuum. Our public intellectuals have inspired movements. Our poets raised our sights to the stars. We are a people who support each other through natural disasters. A people with strong diasporic ties that have sustained at home and abroad. Let us celebrate our accomplishments. In doing so, we honor the best in our people, and the hopes and promise of our ancestors.”

Congressional Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-NY, speaking at a news conference, in New York.  Associated Press / Bebeto Matthews, File

Caribbean American Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life on Monday: “This month, we honor, celebrate, and commemorate the boundless contributions of Caribbean Americans to our nation.

“From grassroots activists, the first Black woman to run for president, thought leaders, diplomats, business moguls and Michelin Star Chefs, Caribbean Americans are an integral part of our nation’s legacy and future,” said the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “I am proud to be a woman of Jamaican descent representing my home, my community and my people.

“Let this month be a beacon for celebrating diversity, the preservation of legacy, and the proliferation of unity,” Clarke added. “From Jamaica to Barbados and everyone in-between: ‘Bless Up.’”

Stating that America’s diversity is and always has been the defining strength of the nation, United States President Joseph “Joe” Biden proclaimed June National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.

“In every generation, our society, spirit and shared ambitions have been refreshed by wave after wave of immigrants seeking out their American dream,” said Biden in a White House Proclamation. “Throughout our history, Caribbean Americans have brought vibrant cultures, languages, traditions and values that strengthen our country and add new chapters to our common story.

“In recognition of Caribbean Americans’ countless gifts and contributions to our nation, we celebrate National Caribbean-American Heritage Month,” he added.

The US president said Caribbean Americans have made America “more innovative and more prosperous.

“They have enriched our nation’s arts and culture, our public institutions and our economy,” he said. “I am honored to celebrate this National Caribbean-American Heritage Month alongside Caribbean-American barrier-breaking public servants in my administration — including Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice — all of whom continue to be sources of pride and inspiration for Caribbean Americans across the country.”