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Caribbean American Heritage Month

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June is National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.  Before this month gets away from me I want to wish all of our Caribbean Americans, descendants, and ancestors Happy Caribbean-American Month!

In June 2005, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted H. Con. Res. 71, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States. On February 14, 2006, the resolution similarly passed the Senate, culminating a two-year, bipartisan and bicameral effort. The Proclamation was issued by President George W. Bush on June 6, 2006.

Caribbean Americans have been contributing to the well-being of American society since its founding. Alexander Hamilton, the First Secretary of the Treasury was from the Caribbean island of Nevis. Famous Caribbean Americans include Maya Angelou (1928-2014) Poet, Activist, Singer, Dancer and Author, (James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) who wrote the Black National Anthem.  Lift Every Voice and sing.  Andre Lorde (1934 – 1992) American writer, professor, philosopher, intersectional feminist, poet, and civil rights activist.  Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) Politician and first Black women to be elected to the United States Congress, Secretary of State Colin Powell (1937-2021), Cicely Tyson (1924-2021) Actress and Presidential Medal of Freedom Honoree, W.E.B Dubois (1868 - 1963) Scholar, American sociologist, socialist, historian, and Pan-Africanist civil rights activist, James Weldon Johnson (1871 - 1938) Lawyer, Civil Rights Activist, Writer, Diplomat, Harry Belafonte (1927 - 2023) Civil Rights Activist, Actor and Singer, Sidney Poitier (1927 -2022) American actor, film director, and diplomat, Malcom X(1925-1965) Human Rights Activist, Revolutionary, Imam, and Jean-Baptiste Pointe Dusable (1745 - 1818), the founder of Chicago, to name a few.

While we celebrate the rich culture Caribbean Americans have contributed and continue to enrich our lives with, remember, the struggle is still real. Caribbean American’s face racism, classism, harmful stereotypes, recovery from colonization, and other barriers to equality and equitable outcomes in America.

Resistance, resilience and advocacy for equity, equality, and independence is part of Caribbean culture and history.  The Caribbean was at the core of the crime against humanity induced by the transatlantic slave trade and slavery. Some 40 per cent of enslaved Africans were shipped to the Caribbean Islands, which, in the seventeenth century, surpassed Portuguese Brazil as the principal market for forced enslaved labor. The sugar plantations of the region, owned and operated primarily by English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Danish colonists, consumed Black life as quickly as it was imported.

There are a total of 16 sovereign states / independent countries in the Caribbean region.  Most former British colonies.  Not every island in and around the Caribbean Sea is independent.  Many Caribbean islands are still aligned with their former oppressors. Including France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Can a nation truly be a sovereign country if its head of state is in a distant land?  Many would argue no, which is why there are increasing calls for commonwealth realm countries in the Caribbean to become Republics.

Heeding the call is Barbados which became a republic on November 30th, 2021, the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain. By becoming a republic, Barbados nicknamed "Little England," ended its colonial ties nearly 400 years after the first British settlement was established in 1627 with the arrival of William and John ship.

This month we get to celebrate the astounding contributions of our Caribbean Americans, their legacies and all of the sacrifices and work that helped shape our democracy for the better. 

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