I AM Caribbeing, Little Caribbean NYC launch grand opening of official headquarters in Brooklyn

Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman, second from left, with patrons outside I AM Caribbeing HQ.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Amid much fanfare, I AM Caribbeing and Little Caribbean NYC on Thursday launched the grand opening of their official headquarters on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn.

Several elected officials, including Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman, and business and community leaders, witnessed and participated in the launching ceremony at 1399 Nostrand Ave., between Martense Street and Linden Boulevard, in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

“This is a long time coming,” Chandler-Waterman, representative for the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life during the ceremony.

“It’s amazing for the Caribbean to be under one roof,” she added, stating that, “as a daughter of Caribbean immigrants from Barbados and Jamaica, I have the honor of representing a community that is almost 90 percent Caribbean immigrants located in Little Caribbean.

“I am extremely proud to witness the grand opening of Caribbeing led by Shelley Worrell,” Chandler-Waterman continued. “This location serves as a physical representation of a melting pot of Caribbean islands. “This celebration falls on the same day as the Hon. Shirley Chisholm’s birthday and the independence of Barbados.

“It is important that we embrace our culture, and we are unified,” she said. “It’s not an ‘I Thing’; it’s a ‘We Ting.’”

Community member Jelanie DeShong, the son of Grenadian immigrants, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, said he was enthralled by the launch.

“This is a great invite to the Caribbean Diaspora – something to celebrate; to be a proud Caribbean,” he told Caribbean Life.

“This is an amazing work,” he added. “I’m so happy to be part of it.”

From left:Nicole Robinson-Etienne, Shelley Worrell, Monique Chandler-Waterman and Kenneth Mbonu, president of the Flatbush Junction BID.
From left:Nicole Robinson-Etienne, Shelley Worrell, Monique Chandler-Waterman and Kenneth Mbonu, president of the Flatbush Junction BID.Photo by Nelson A. King

Worrell, founder and chief executive officer of I AM Caribbeing and Little Caribbean NYC, said she was “excited to be opening our flagship in the neighborhood, where I was born and raised.

“It’s a vibe!” added the daughter of Trinidadian immigrants in a Caribbean Life interview.

Later, Worrell said the ceremony was “very successful, very well attended, and a great sign of what is to come.”

She said the official headquarters of I AM Caribbeing was “created as a tribute to the neighborhood where we were born and raised, Flatbush.

“Inspired by Caribpolitan lifestyle and heritage, we hope this space will help us develop an even deeper connection with the community that inspired it — a place to lime, feel at home and be inspired,” Worrell said.

“Step in where you will find a thoughtfully curated selection of everyday ‘tings’ from back home, aka (also known as) the Caribbean blue soap, enamel cups, as well as products from some of local makers, vintage wares, our best-selling sweatshirts and more,” she added.

Worrell said “the space @1399 will also serve as a gallery for emerging artists, our work atelier and Mas Camp leading up to the West Indian Day Parade.”

Simultaneously, she said she was also “thrilled” to launch I AM Caribbeing’s 7th Annual Holiday Market Experience, featuring 30-plus artisans from the Caribbean Diaspora, including a “curated selection of goods from Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Martinique and others.”

Among others, Worrell said the market will host weekly “Meet the Makers,” book reading and sugar scrub workshops.

Displaying Shirley Chisholm Way signage,from left, Shelley Worrell, Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman and Nicole Robinson-Etienne.
Displaying Shirley Chisholm Way signage, from left, Shelley Worrell, Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman and Nicole Robinson-Etienne. Photo by Nelson A. King

During Thursday’s launching ceremony, Worrell and Chandler-Waterman displayed a sign depicting Shirley Chisholm Way.

The late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, née St. Hill, who was born on Nov. 30, 1924 and died on Jan. 1, 2005, was the daughter of Barbadian and Guyanese immigrants.

In 1968, Chisholm became the first Black woman to be elected to the US Congress, representing Brooklyn’s then 12th Congressional District.

Four years later, she created more history by becoming the first Black candidate for a major party nomination for President of the US and, simultaneously, the first woman candidate to seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

“The sign is part of our advocacy with Shirley Chisholm,” said Worrell, noting that Thursday was Chisholm’s birthday.

“We have petitions with over 2,000 signatures for street renaming in Little Caribbean,” she added.

Established in 2017, Worrell said Little Caribbean is “home to the largest and most diverse Caribbean-American-LatinX community outside of the West Indies, making up 20 percent of New York City.”

She said Little Caribbean is also home to a “thriving Caribbean community and concentration of Caribbean/Black-owned businesses that come together to share social and cultural histories and futures.”

Since 2010, Worrell said Caribbeing has “amplified this thriving community, and will continue to celebrate and commemorate the history of the Caribbean Diaspora in New York City.”