Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

National Caribbean-American Heritage Month 2019 Marks Fourteenth Celebration

National Caribbean-American Heritage Month 2019 Marks Fourteenth Celebration

The Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) effort to establish National Caribbean American Heritage Month (NCAHM) began in 1999 with outreach to President Bill Clinton asking for the recognition of August as National Caribbean American Heritage Month.  This resulted in the first White House Caribbean American Community Briefing being held at the Clinton White House that same year.  Meanwhile, a now-defunct ad hoc group of Caribbean Americans led by Doreen Thompson organized efforts to get June declared Caribbean Heritage Month in Washington DC.  ICS joined forces with the ad hoc group in June 1999, but, by 2000, the group dispersed.

In June 2000, ICS took on the mantle of leadership in Washington DC, changed the name to National Caribbean American Heritage Month, and organized events in June under that banner.  Efforts to engage the White House were fruitless.   In 2001, ICS was joined by the Trans-Africa Forum and the Caribbean Staff Association of the World Bank to organize events during June promoting recognition of the month as National Caribbean American Heritage Month and the momentum slowly began to build.  In 2004, the efforts gathered steam when an official campaign was launched upon the tabling of a Bill in the US Congress by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, with language provided by ICS Founder and President, Dr. Claire Nelson. ICS worked with the Office of Congresswoman Lee to galvanize support for the Bill from organizations across the country and organized events on Capitol Hill in recognition of June in 2004. This campaign to designate June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month, was spearheaded by Dr. Nelson. The Bill was reintroduced and passed the House in June, 2005, and the Senate in February, 2006.  A Proclamation making the Resolution official was signed by President George W. Bush in June of 2006. This Bill recognizes the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States.

Actress and Singer Sheryl Lee Ralph, of Jamaican heritage, and basketball great Rick Fox, of Bahamian heritage, were named Official Spokespersons for the inaugural National Caribbean American Heritage Month in 2006.

Through the commemoration of this month, the National Caribbean American Foundation (NACF) hopes to ensure that America is reminded that its greatness lies in its diversity with Caribbean immigrants from the likes of founding father Alexander Hamilton, to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, who have shaped the American dream.

Since the declaration, the White House has issued an annual proclamation recognizing June as Caribbean-American Heritage Month. This year marks the fourteenth celebration.

The Vision

The Vision of the National Caribbean American Heritage Month movement is an America where all the contributions of the diverse immigrants that have come to these shores are celebrated and the American dream of a melting pot society that honors and promotes inclusive prosperity is realized as we all pursue the unfolding of a more perfect union.

The Mission

The mission of National Caribbean American Heritage Month is to promote the rich culture and heritage of the Caribbean American people and their contribution to the United States of America – from the likes of John Russworm, the first Black Newspaper Publisher, to James Weldon Johnson, to General Colin Powell, Hon. Shirley Chisholm, Cicely Tyson, Sanya Richards-Ross and so many more.   From South Florida to Boston to Los Angeles, cultural events abound in June. These events are organized and curated by Caribbean community leaders all over the United States including in the District of Columbia.

Publishers Notes: Information for this column is provided by Dr. Claire Nelson and the NCAF. It was a pleasure talking with her and we look forward to working with the group next year. There are big plans for the 2020 celebration.

National Caribbean American Heritage Foundation

1629 K Street NW


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