National Caribbean American Heritage Month
June 26, 2023 | DEI Department
This month, Evident Change and its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Department invite you to celebrate the contributions and achievements of Caribbean Americans as part of National Caribbean American Heritage Month (NCAHM).
Dr. Claire Nelson, a futurist, sustainability engineer, and innovation consultant, led the campaign to declare June as a celebration of Caribbean Americans. June was chosen to honor the arrival of the first documented Caribbean immigrants to the United States on June 2, 1898, at Ellis Island. The initiative was aimed at acknowledging the contributions made by Caribbean Americans to our nation’s history, culture, economy, and society.
In 2005, Nelson and US Representative Barbara Lee worked together to introduce legislation recognizing the role of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States. A presidential proclamation declaring June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month was signed by President George W. Bush in 2006.
NCAHM is not only meant to uplift the Caribbean community, but also to recognize the culture, talent, music, cuisine, and economic expansion brought to the United States from Caribbeans to help shape American society.
What Makes Up the Caribbean Region?
The Caribbean is home to more than a dozen island nations, including Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
Caribbean American Heritage Month Flag
Between 1958 and 1962, the Caribbean region was dominated by the West Indies Federation, whose flag featured a blue field with four undulating white lines and a golden circle in the center. The design by Edna Manley (wife of Norman Manley, the first premier of Jamaica) was intended to represent the sun shining on the Caribbean Sea. The Institute of Caribbean Studies has reinterpreted the design, with the blue field representing the Caribbean Sea and the white lines representing the waves of immigration from former colonial Europe—Dutch, French, English, and Spanish, whose cultures still resonate in the region today. The lines further represent the waves of entanglement and immigration from the Caribbean to the United States, both past (pre- and post-American Revolution and post-slavery) and present (20th and 21st centuries). In the center is the Caribbean American Heritage Month crest, which sits on the golden sun, representing hope.
Advocates of the Community
W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He was a scholar, editor, and civil rights pioneer. The son of Mary Silvina Burghardt and Alfred Du Bois (who emigrated from Haiti), Du Bois was the first Black American to earn a PhD from Harvard University and a founding member of the NAACP. An intellectual man of powerful words, Du Bois published many articles and other materials spotlighting the injustices of colonialism and embracing African heritage.
“Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.” – W. E. B. Du Bois, Niagara Movement Speech, 1905
Kamala Harris, born in Oakland, California, is the 49th vice president of the United States. She is the first woman and woman of color to hold this title. Harris’ parents emigrated from Jamaica and India; her father taught at Stanford University, and her mother was a cancer researcher. Harris earned her law degree at Howard University.
A Call for Action
NCAHM acknowledges the contributions and achievements of Caribbean Americans while also fostering cultural understanding and appreciation. Caribbean immigrants have played, and continue to play, a vital role in American society, yet they often encounter barriers, prejudice, and discrimination that hinder their pursuit of opportunities.
To promote inclusivity and equity, we can start by learning about Caribbean American history and understanding how our cultural, legal, and social systems both include and exclude Caribbean individuals and communities. Recognizing the challenges and inequalities Caribbean immigrants face with policies and laws surrounding immigration, for example, would allow individuals, groups, and organizations to better understand what ways they can align themselves with the fight for equity and inclusivity.
Embracing the spirit of unity and diversity while also taking actions through individual and systemic work is one of the many ways folks can honor and appreciate the invaluable contributions of Caribbean Americans to the multicultural tapestry of the United States.
Ways To Honor and Celebrate
- Caribbean immigrants in the United States
- Books that celebrate NCAHM
- Key findings about Black immigrants in the US
Visit a local Caribbean restaurant in your area!