From the very first Caribbean-American Heritage Month in 2006, the United States government has given official recognition to the great contributions of people of Caribbean heritage to the fabric of the nation.
This is an acknowledgement of the highest order that Caribbean immigrants, including those born in, or cultured by, the Caribbean, have had a highly positive impact on the United States. From the Nevis-born Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers, through to today, the contributions of Caribbean immigrants and their descendants to United States law, culture, politics, medicine, education, media and all walks of life have been immeasurable.
Caribbean American Heritage Month is meant to celebrate these contributions while serving as a reminder that the United States would not have been as great a country as it is without its diversity.
Of course, we cannot and ought not forget the contribution of Barbara Lee, the congresswoman from California, who in 2005 introduced the resolution to establish a Caribbean-American Heritage Month, giving official recognition to the region’s contribution to the development of the United States. The senate passed the resolution in February 2006 and President George W. Bush issued the proclamation on 6 June, 2006.
The month of June has since become the period during which every Caribbean immigrant, as well as those of us who live in the Caribbean, unite in our proud display of all that make us among the most creative, productive, vibrant, warm and welcoming people in the world. It’s also when the Caribbean Tourism Organization would take this vibrant energy and diversity to New York during Caribbean Week New York.
However, this year is different. This year we observe Caribbean American Heritage Month during what is one of the most difficult periods in our history and that of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed economies under tremendous strain, ground life as we’ve known it to a virtual halt, and, frankly, forced fundamental changes to all of our lives. And sadly, it has also taken so many lives, including large numbers of our Caribbean brothers and sisters.
We mourn this loss of life and our hearts ache for the families devastated by the loss of their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends.
The CTO also applauds and pays homage to the many Caribbean immigrants who join colleagues on the frontline, selflessly giving of themselves as nurses, doctors and other essential workers in the fight against the virus. You are all in our prayers.
Naturally, Caribbean Week New York has been cancelled due to COVID-19, including our Rum and Rhythm event, which allows the Caribbean Diaspora – our greatest tourism ambassadors and a most trusted and resilient component of the tourism market – and the CTO member countries to celebrate the rhythms, food and rums of the region, while raising funds to support Caribbean students pursuing studies in tourism and its related subjects.
As we celebrate Americans with roots in the Caribbean this month, the CTO looks forward to our emergence from this pandemic as a much stronger, more determined and more united people whose contribution to home and adopted home cannot be matched.