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Caribbean Americans celebrate heritage in June

admin | 6/14/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Friday, June 1st marked the first day of seventh annual National Caribbean-American Heritage Month. Caribbean-Americans have made numerous invaluable contributions to our nation through areas such as the arts, politics, armed forces and science, said Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who is of Bahamian descent. The term Caribbean American is a broad term and encapsulates a wide variety of people who hail from countries including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Martinique and the Cayman Islands. According to the Miami-Dade Countys Office of Black Affairs, nearly one third of the countys Black population are Caribbean immigrants. Meanwhile, in Broward County, an estimated 10 percent of the countys population identifies as having West Indian ancestry (a large portion of that includes Haitians and Jamaicans), according to the 2000 Census. The Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) was one of the major organizations who helped to raise awareness about officially recognizing June as Caribbean American Heritage Month. According to the Institute of Caribbean Studies, the month was founded to [raise awareness] about the contributions that immigrants of Caribbean descent have made to American history and society. Although it took a long struggle to have Caribbean Heritage Month be nationally recognized, Rhoda Jackson, the Bahamian consulate general in Miami, believes that the holiday benefits Caribbean Americans and non-Caribbean Americans alike. I think that for Caribbean nationals, [the holiday] serves as an impetus to go out there and make a meaningful contribution to society because they can say, we can do this; we can be a part of the economy and the local culture, she said. Jackson further explained, On the other hand, for [non-Caribbean nationals] the celebration exposes them to other cultures, it promotes tolerance to some extent and it creates a desire to want to visit these other countries. Notable Caribbean-Americans include a list of statesman Colin Powell, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, activist Marcus Garvey, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and poet Claude McKay. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com