June is Caribbean American Heritage Month. Yes, there is actually a resolution by the United States Congress 'H. Con. Res 71 introduced in February 2005. The bill contains a lot of Whereas, and several references to culture, economy contribution, etc. And like most resolutions it ends with a therefore.
_Whereas June is an appropriate month to establish a Caribbean -American Heritage Month : Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that-- ''
(1) a Caribbean-American Heritage Month should be established; and
(2) ''(2) the people of the United States should observe the month with appropriate ceremonies, celebrations, and activities.
So why is this important? Why does Congress think it is important to celebrate Caribbean heritage? Why is it important for us ' those who migrated here making the USA our home, and for our children to claim and celebrate our heritage?
First of all, the United States is a county of immigrants. Regardless of when we came, or how we came, and from which Island we came, the United States is now our home and it is definitely our children's home. We have become citizens. We have and we will continue to leave our stamp on this country. We, now and forever will be a part of the American story.
We helped to elect the first Black president. We helped put several leaders in the various City Halls, Governor's Mansions, even the US capital. We collectively brought the power with us from the Caribbean to be major players in this county we've adopted. The United States Congress has taken notice. It is time now for us to take notice as well.
The resolution made mention of many West Indians, and Caribbean Nationals who have risen above their peers to become champions in their fields. Secretary of State Colin Powel, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, Jean Baptiste du Sable, Sidney Poitier, and Roberto Clemente are a small cross section of the diverse Caribbean influence with whom we relate and whom we celebrate and try to emulate. It is important we hold on to these and share their accomplishments with our children. Let them know that those tiny islands created greatness.
These accomplishments are not only important to the people who live here in the US. When we succeed here, we inspire the people we left at home. Just as we celebrate their successes they celebrate ours. When we achieve they share our pride. So it is important for us to exalt every successful West Indian. Put them on a pedestal. Shine a light on them. And for the entire month of June let the world know where they're from.
And when that happens people will notice. They will take note of our success. They will notice our willingness to work harder then anyone else in the room. They will notice the way we carry our selves. The way we speak. They will notice the fact that we say good morning when we walk into a room. The will notice the importance we place on education. Because while we celebrate our success and accomplishments, we dare not forget to celebrate and showcase our Caribbean values. Our upbringing. And that will open up doors, opportunities, and borders for the ones who will come later.
So this June we should take advantage of the decree to showcase the good we brought with us from the islands.
So why are we not embracing and celebrating this month? Why are we not observing our month with appropriate ceremonies and celebrations? Why is it not important to us?
The truth is, as I look at the official National Caribbean American Heritage Month website I see an uninformed attempt by academics to engage West Indians. But it is as if they don't know who their target is. It is as if they don't know how Caribbean people celebrate. They seem to have forgotten, the food, the music, the flag waving. They seem to have forgotten the way we talk. Our tone, cadence, and idiosyncrasies of our mixed up languages. To Caribbean people appropriate ceremonies celebrations means parties, cook out, fete, and carnival. Do they not know?
That is why we are not engaged. They are trying to have a party for us. That is not the way to engage us. You have to come to our party. Come celebrate at our fete. There are several Carnivals all across the country. You will see us at any one of them waving our flags, eating roti, pelau, salfish and fungi. Dancing to reggae and soca. You will see us playing dominoes. You will see us chipping on the road, wearing costumes made of a million colors. You will hear us greeting each other saying; "sa ca fete - Wah goin' on?", "Wah happenin - Sak Pase And you will know like we know that Caribbean heritage is alive and well in these United States. And we do observe it in appropriate ceremonies and celebrations.
But if the United States' Congress feels the need to reach out to us as a constituency we need to pay attention. Because we might just be able to gain some leverage that might be valuable not just to us living in our adopted country but influence that might be helpful to our Island homes.
In any case it is June, so I am going to play some soca, drink some rum and rally around the West Indies. Happy Caribbean American Heritage Month from MNI-Alive.com
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Theo Semper is an Associate Editor with MNI Alive: A global Caribbean marketing, networking and information media house.