For centuries, the United States and nations in the Caribbean have grown alongside each other as partners in progress. Separated by sea, but united by a yearning for independence, our countries won the right to chart their own destinies after generations of colonial rule. Time and again, we have led the way to a brighter future together, from lifting the stains of slavery and segregation to widening the circle of opportunity for our sons and daughters.
National Caribbean American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate those enduring achievements. It is also a chance to recognize men and women, who trace their roots to the Caribbean. Through every chapter of our nation’s history, Caribbean Americans have made our country stronger by reshaping our politics and reigniting the arts, spurring our movements and answering the call to serve. Caribbean traditions have enriched our own, and woven new threads into our cultural fabric. Again and again, Caribbean immigrants and their descendants have reaffirmed America’s promise as a land of opportunity as place where, no matter who you are or where you come from, you can make it if you try.
From 1820 to 2002, more than 68,000,000 people emigrated from the Caribbean region to the U.S.; Caribbean-Americans have influenced every aspect of American culture, society and government. This is not a partisan issue; their history is interwoven with ours. Alexander Hamilton, Hazel Scott, Sidney Poitier, Jean Michel Basquiat, Eric Holder, Colin Powell, Edwidge Danticat, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Sidney Ponson, Maryse Condé, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Celia Cruz, Mervyn Dymally and Shirley Chisolm are just a few of the many Caribbean Americans, who have contributed to American government, politics, business, arts, education, science and culture.
In June 2005, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Concurrent Resolution 71, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the U.S. On Feb. 14, 2006, the resolution similarly passed the Senate, culminating a two-year, bipartisan and bicameral effort.
Since the declaration, the White House has issued an annual proclamation recognizing June as Caribbean American Heritage Month. This year marks the eighth anniversary of June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month.
The campaign to designate June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month was spearheaded by Dr. Claire Nelson, founder and president of the Institute of Caribbean Studies. Through this month’s observance, we hope to ensure that America is reminded that its greatness lies in its diversity, with Caribbean immigrants from founding father Alexander Hamilton, to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, who have shaped the American dream.