June 2006 marks the first ever Caribbean American Heritage Month in the United States. That is, a bill authored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee to designate June as Caribbean American Heritage Month, was passed by Congress in February of this year; the recent legislation is sitting before George W. Bush, still unsigned, so the observance isn't official...yet. But the celebrating has already begun.
The Institute of Caribbean Studies in Washington, D.C. has observed June as Nation Caribbean-American Month since 1999. In Philadelphia, an annual Caribbean festival is an ongoing event in June. And this year, the Georgia Caribbean American Heritage Month Planning Committee has organized a myriad of events to celebrate the culture and contributions of Caribbean Americans. The activities include a Caribbean breakfast at the state capitol to kick-off the festivities, art exhibits, a health fair, a film festival, sporting events, demonstrations of Caribbean cuisine and a music concert that will feature more than twenty artists.
The Institute of Caribbean Studies has networked with state and local organizers in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York to guarantee that Caribbean American Heritage Month is celebrated nation-wide this year. They've also called upon all Caribbean American Community organizations to participate in the upcoming commemorative festivities. The Institute of Caribbean Studies believes a national month of recognition for Caribbean-Americans will serve as a platform for highlighting the many contributions people of Caribbean descent have made to American culture.
As a member of the Caribbean Caucus, Congresswoman Lee has served as a strong proponent for national recognition for people of the Caribbean and their descendents in the United States. "The Caribbean-American community is a true melting pot of languages, cultures, and people," Lee is quoted on her website. She notes that "Alexander Hamilton, Hazel Scott, Sidney Poitier, Jean Michel Basquiat, Eric Holder, Colin Powell, Susan Taylor, Edwidge Danticat, Kelsey Grammer, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Roberto Clemente, Maryse Condé, Cicely Tyson, Harry Belafonte, Celia Cruz, Mervyn Dymally and Shirley Chisholm are just a few of the many Caribbean-Americans who have contributed to American government, politics, business, arts, education, science, and culture. Their story is inseparable from ours."
Organizers hope that all people of Caribbean descent will come out to support the movement for national recognition of Caribbean American Heritage Month in June and demonstrate pride of their heritage. They invite all Americans with an interest in Caribbean culture to join in the festivities.