Massachusetts – The Authentic Caribbean Foundation (ACF) held its virtual launch of “National Caribbean American Heritage Month – Massachusetts” on June 1, 2020 at 6pm in association with The Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS).
There was strong representation from the state’s elected officials, led by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (House of Representative Massachusetts’s 7th Congressional District); Mike Vazquez (Representative of Governor Charley Baker, Massachusetts Governor’s Office); Robert F. Sullivan (Mayor, City of Brockton); Kim Janey (Boston City Council); Julia Mejia (Boston City Council); Michelle Wu (Boston City Council); Quinton Zandorvan (Cambridge City Council); Ken Clifton (Town Council, Randolph); Gerlin Adrien (Everett City Council) and Natacha Clergy, (Town Council, Randolph).
Moderators for the evening were Lisa Harper and Co-host Donna Frett. Ms. Frett highlighted the Presidential Proclamation for Caribbean American Heritage month and encouraged everyone to view it on the organization’s website, www.authenticcarribbeanfoundation.org .
Since 2006, June has been designated as National Caribbean American Heritage Month by Presidential Proclamation in recognition of the extraordinary contribution of Caribbean- Americans to the American society.
In his opening remarks Andrew Sharpe emphasized the importance of the day and its significance in highlighting Caribbean Culture. In doing so, he quoted the late Rex Nettleford (former Vice-Chancellor Emeritus, University of the W.I.) in saying, “Caribbean Culture is too diverse to label” that “Creative diversity defines Caribbean life” and that “they have in common a full grasp of the power of culture, according its inhabitants a sense of place and purpose. ”
Dr. Claire Nelson, (President, Institute of Caribbean Studies, Washington DC) and one of the founders in achieving the designation of June as National Caribbean Heritage Month, spoke on the new approach in working together against the background of Covid-19 Pandemic. “The opportunity in crisis” she said “lies in the future we want to procreate and how we want our stories will be told.” She commended the ACF for bringing together all the council divisions in the state to mark the occasion.
Mike Vasquez who represented Governor, Charley Baker expressed his solidarity with the black community adding “the greatest fear is that nothing changes and we mustn’t allow that; we mustn’t be silent. We must demand action and we must demand justice.” Andrew Sharpe thanked the Governor for the Proclamation which proclaimed (among other attributes): “Whereas June commemorates the contribution to the USA of the distinctive, enriching, cultural traditions which influence the personality and accomplishments of Caribbean Americans” he (Charley Baker) proclaims June as Caribbean Heritage Month in his capacity of Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
A Proclamation was also presented by the Mayor of Brockton, Robert F. Sullivan which highlighted the Caribbean-American community as “An integral component of the vibrant, diverse and multicultural fabric of the country;” and Natacha Clergy and Ryan P. Howard (Town Council, Randolph) which recognized ACF for “your contribution and development in the USA to our Caribbean Neighbors and your continued support to youth.”
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley gave the Keynote. She commended the Caribbean-American community for coming together “to build, to inform joy, and to celebrate diversity.” She spoke of her intentional decision to join the Caribbean-American Caucus to work on the community’s behalf and commended the “resilience and diversity of the Caribbean community;” which are “lessons we can take from you to get through this recent storm”.
There were notable contributions from other council members. Kim Janey (President, Boston City Council) spoke of “the joy of celebrating together to build and uplift the community especially in these times.” She highlighted co-sponsoring a resolution with fellow Councilor, Michelle Wu on how the Caribbean American community is celebrated. In her comments Ms. Wu added that it was “necessary to lift up powerful voices and do something together with that.” She lauded immigrants for “coming to a land and making it their own” having “put in the sweat equity.”
Julia Mejia (Boston City Council); a first time member of Afro Latina Heritage from the Dominican Republic spoke of her pride in representing her community and highlighted her work with the immigrant small business to be “Covid Ready” especially for a second wave.
Gerlin Adrien (Everett City Council) spoke of her Haitian heritage “My heritage is my Story” she said. She encouraged everyone with a quote from Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman elected to the US Congress): “You don’t make progress by whimpering or complaining; you make progress by implementing ideas.”
Ken Clifton (Town Council, Randolph) highlighted the significant contributions of Caribbean Americans to the USA with Alexander Hamilton one of our founding fathers from St. Kitts & Nevis being the first Secretary of the Treasury; Colin Powell of Jamaican heritage who was US National Security Advisor; Shirley Chisolm of Barbados descent was the first black woman elected to the United States Congress; W.E.B. DuBois, of Bahamian heritage was a historian, civil rights activist and Pan-Africanist. As a student at Harvard, he was the first African American to earn a doctorate. Toussaint Le Overture of Haiti (although not Caribbean American) was mentioned. He was as a Haitian general and leader of the Haitian Revolution that was the first jurisdiction globally to end slavery and make possible the Louisiana Purchase.
A beautiful steel pan rendition of “Redemption Song” (Bob Marley) was delivered by Becky Bates.
For a full calendar of Caribbean American Month activities visit: www.celebratejune.org