Every June, National Caribbean American Heritage Month recognizes and celebrates the significant contributions of Caribbean people to the United States, and it shares in the community’s rich history and diversity.
Caribbean immigrants have contributed to America’s growth and development since its founding. Some arrived to America’s shores through the bondage of slavery. Others voluntarily departed their native countries to seek a better life in this country, dubbed the “land of opportunity.”
Caribbean culture is vibrance, a melting pot of dynamic languages, cuisine, music, festivals, religions, and customs. The largest Caribbean communities in America are in New York, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, and California. Brooklyn, New York, is home to the country’s first and only Little Caribbean neighborhood.
This year marks the 17th anniversary of June being designated as Caribbean American Heritage Month, a national recognition that was championed by the Washington D.C.-based Institute Of Caribbean Studies (ICS). The official campaign to have a National Caribbean American Heritage Month launched in 2004 when Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced a legislative bill in Congress. The bill was reintroduced and passed both the House and the Senate in June 2005 and February 2006. On June 5, 2006, former President George W. Bush signed a proclamation making the resolution official.”
On Thursday, President Joe Biden issued what has become an annual proclamation to open the month and recognize Caribbean Americans, noting that our nation’s diversity has always been its strength.
“During Caribbean-American Heritage Month, we celebrate the achievements and dreams of the millions of people of Caribbean origin now living in the United States while honoring the shared history of joy and perseverance that has united and enriched life across our region for centuries,” said Biden noting that “there is no single Caribbean American identity.”
“The mix of cultures, languages, and religions alive across the United States and the islands reflects the diversity of spirit that defines the American story,” he said.
“Meanwhile, our countries are bound by common values and a shared history — overcoming the yoke of colonialism, confronting the original sin of slavery, and charting new opportunities across borders and generations.”
President Biden stated that Caribbean Americans have contributed to the United States in the “most profound ways” since its founding. In fact, many notable figures that have broken barriers and helped transform U.S. history and culture and more specifically, Black history and culture in America have roots in the Caribbean.
People like Marcus Garvey, Harry Belafonte, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Malcolm X, Cicely Tyson, Kwame Ture and Shirley Chisholm are among some of the most influential figures of U.S. history. They were either immigrants or the children of immigrants from the Caribbean region.
Chisolm, the daughter of a Barbadian mother and a Guyanese father, was the first black US Congresswoman. She also made history as the first woman in the United States to seek the presidential nomination of a major political party. Her iconic career in politics has inspired a generation of women to seek public office.
Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) was from Trinidad and Tobago and played a major role as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement and global Pan African movement. It was Ture, who originated the rallying slogan “Black power” in the 1960’s. The critical research of Puerto Rican historian and activist, Arturo Schomburg raised awareness about the great contributions that Afro-Latinos and African- Americans have made to society. It was his collection of literature, art and other materials of African history that became the basis of the collection for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NY.
Today, history makers like the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, billionaire music superstar and businesswoman Rihanna, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Emmy-award winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph are among some of the most well known Caribbean Americans.
“Caribbean-American Heritage Month is a chance to celebrate the rich diversity that covenant has brought us and to renew its promise for future generations of Caribbean Americans and for us all,” Biden said. “I encourage all Americans to join in celebrating the history, culture, and achievements of Caribbean Americans with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”