June marks the seventh anniversary of the National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
The celebrations recognise the significance of Caribbean people and their descendents in the history and culture of the United States and the resolution was passed in 2006, the culmination of a two-year bipartisan and bicameral effort. The White House now issues an annual proclamation recognising the month and notes that since the 16th Century, the destinies of the Caribbean and American people have been inextricably linked.
In 2011, President Barack Obama issued a statement that highlighted the reason for the celebrations.
“In their pursuit of success, Caribbean Americans exhibit the traits all Americans prize: determination, a devotion to community, and patriotism.
“They have made their mark in every facet of our society, from art to athletics and science to service. Caribbean Americans have also safeguarded our Nation in the United States Armed Forces,” said the President.
Throughout the month, celebrations take place across America.
The Washington, DC Caribbean Film Festival takes place at AFI Silver Spring from 1st to 3rd June, featuring films from Haiti, Trinidad, Jamaica and Cuba. And in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Independence for Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, organisers say, the opening night will feature cricket.
The niftily-named Allspice is a Caribbean arts and culture festival which was expanded in 2010 to include music and dance. By the way, Allspice is an acronym which stands for All Spectacular, Positive, Irie Caribbean Edutainment. Which is fair enough.
Organisers say that they will produce a banquet of activities from literature to music to art, all signifying the crossings of Caribbean identity in America.
“From dance to literature, to music to orature, the canon has demonstrated that there are many voices who signify our experiences from Paule Marshall, through Michael Thelwell, through Aime Cesaire, Derek Walcott, Lorna Goodison, Rosa Guy to Malcolm Gladwell and Colin Channer.
“These travellers are among the many who cultivate the ingredients of the American melting pot. They cook up life with creativity. Lorna Goodison says, ‘from root to leaf tip my every part has been employed to meet human need.’” says spokesman Lorainne Toussaint.
She explained “In Groundations the festival will bring together community artists and activists to reason on African Roots and Caribbean American Routes and make offerings to our ancestors who died on the ocean of tears and in the plantations that were their prisons.”
Spice of life
In bringing the Caribbean Arts and Humanities to Washington DC, the team says it aims to create a stew (‘a callaloo of sound and sight’) that will awaken the sense of the heart and serve up the spice of life.
Events run from 9 June to 17 June at various venues throughout the city.
Caribbean American Legislative Conference Week runs from Tuesday, 19 June and hosts a number of discussions and dialogues. It begins with a Faith based leadership dialogue under the theme of Building the Kingdom, Empowering the Community. On 20th, there’s a small business breakfast including a round table on intellectual property plus a White House Caribbean American Community Briefing at 2pm including small business network initiative, 100,000-strong educational exchanges initiative, small business, job creation and workforce development plus Haiti update and discussions.
The 14th Annual Caribbean American Legislative Forum will take place on Thursday, 21 June at Capitol Hill. Topics include Caribbean American Elected Officials Breakfast Roundtable, Issues in Trade, Issues in Small Business and Job Creation, Update on Haiti and a dialogue on Education, Immigration and Workforce Development, immediately followed by a reception.
Aside from this a number of faith-based ceremonies throughout the month take place country-wide.
Vision and passion
The vision is to create a network of Caribbean American leaders driven by a passion to cultivate an enduring community. Through the establishment of a network of Caribbean American Heritage Councils/Organisations around the country, Americans of all backgrounds and nationalities will join in the commemoration of June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month.
It is dedicated to building bridges between Caribbean Americans and the US population at large and advocating for the wellbeing of the Caribbean American community. The mission is to create and disseminate knowledge about the contributions of Caribbean immigrants to America, and to be a crucible for a dialogue between Caribbean peoples and the American public. Additionally, the program is to ensure that Americans at large are advised of the many and great contributions of immigrants of Caribbean heritage to the nation, said organisers.
The month ends with a bang on Friday, 29 June as the Caribbean Heritage Organisation puts on a red carpet reception, art exhibit and Caribbean Heritage Salute to Hollywood and the Arts Awards Show at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Universal City, California.
This year, the awards will be saluting Antonio Fargas, Lorraine Toussaint, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Rob Edwards as the United States arm of the Diaspora gathers in celebration of a special month.