The image above is a painting created by artist Brenda M. Sylvia.
As many of you all know, June is Caribbean American Heritage Month, and there are tons of concerts, open performances, Caribbean film events and events that all display the diverse and rich cultures of the Caribbean all over the country. If you live in a major city, then there is no doubt that there will be something for you and your family to be involved in. You’ll find people, young and old rocking traditional wear from Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Cuba, Panama, The Dominican Republic, Guyana etc. And if you are Caribbean, then YOU KNOW that our food and all its earth trembling succulence is to die for.
If you are just hearing about CAHM then here is a little background:
Caribbean immigrants and descendants have been contributing to this nation’s development, activism, entertainment, and well being for centuries. Some include: W.E.B DuBois (Haiti), Sidney Poitier (Bahamas), Stokely Carmichael (Trinidad), Marcus Garvey (Jamaica), Shirley Chrisholm (Barbados), James Weldon Johnson (Bahamas), and many more. In 1999 the Institute of Caribbean Studies began the effort with a petition to President Clinton for the recognition of Caribbean American Heritage Month. A final declaration making the month official was passed by President George W. Bush in 2006.
A good friend of mine recently invited me to perform one of my spoken word poems for a Caribbean celebration. There was music, dance, food, love, food, trivia, and food and being Haitian American myself, ya know your girl felt at home.
As much as I am proud of my heritage and in love with my people, it dawned on me just how much I have yet still to learn about all of the Caribbean to be exact. We are familiar with each others music, parties, famous dishes, accents, and clothing styles but we may not be necessarily familiar with each others flags, distinctive histories, and traditions. We also tend to forget about Caribbean countries that are not islands such as Belize and those that are not independent such as St. Martinique.
This month while we are all enjoying stacks of mouth watering Caribbean eats and getting it on to Reggae, Soca, Kompa etc. Lets try to learn more about each other and the beautiful details about our nations that make us unique. We are a people of golden customs and rich heritage and while we embrace our own, lets try to get to know more of each other’s and teach others as well.
If you’re Haitian and your buddy believes at ALL Haitians speak French, please kindly introduce them to the beauty of Haitian Creole, a lingual gem of the Caribbean.
If there are people around you that still believe that Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans ALL look one way, introduce them to the beautiful ethnic diversity of these countries.
If there are people around you that deem our carnival feather dress “provocative” or “inappropriate” save the shade for just a second and tell them the historical symbolism of these costumes and just how much they are precious to our culture.
We’re always having a good time so let the good vibes permeate and let us continue exploring our vast similarities and take pride in our unique differences.