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A Quality Of Voices

Commentary By Steinberg Henry

CaribWorldNews, ATLANTA, GA, Fri. May 15 2009: Five years ago I was outside Walgreens on Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton, Queens and met a Jamaican woman eager to share `The Word` with me.

She carried those tracts containing summarized Biblical passages, words for the day, scriptural readings for those on the move etcetera. We spoke for a while and she told me, `I`ve been in New York for over fifteen years. They ask me why I came here? I answer, I came here to pray for you all. Without the prayers of Caribbean people, America would be worse.`

Would it?. She`s sassy isn`t she? Which raises additional observations. Is our strength only in numbers and taxes paid, or also in integrity, discipline, content of character?

You know, Burning Spear once sang in `Statue Of Liberty,` `We have no intention to bomb-threat.`

The fact is that Caribbean people in the United States have brought more peace and consciousness of self and community than can be measured – measurement of everything being the norm of all forms of progress.

But what if our presence has been accompanied all along by a definitive body of powerful ideas designed for the advancement of the American spirit? It may well be for the advancement of a universal spirit. In this light, it still amazes me that Marcus Garvey launched the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Universal might`ve been the nomenclature before it was reduced to global as an economic expression.

How did I get to musing on this subject of Carib ID? I read Felicia Persaud`s article in CaribWorldNews after having spoken with her over a piece written by me on traces of superstition in the May 8, 2009 issue.

Felicia was quick to tell me about  her determination to see Caribbean placed in as an `ancestry category` on the 2010 US Census Form.

A babbling response came back at me. America and the American Administration do not listen to anything except the bottom-line.

Many virtues have been practiced by Caribbean people for more than a century in the US, but whether they`ll bolster Congresswoman Yvette Clarke`s arguments in her bill cannot be left unanswered by readers and observers of conversations over human rights and social justice.

Didn`t Caribbean people contribute to development of an American political economy? In flowing, I came upon the Marcus Garvey site, discovering that his two wives – Amy Ashwood and Amy Jacques – were from Jamaica. They moved America and Britain to struggle, touching Nigeria and Liberia. I thought of Stokley Carmichael who Trinidad and Tobago and Harlem claim to be their son. I recalled Louis Farakan boasting about his Kittitian roots by Mother.

Does this qualify us? Didn`t we and don`t we contribute to formation of modern America`s social history? Would Hip-Hop have been the same without Sly And Robbie? Were it not for Bob Marley, would American resistance in popular song be as formidable? Evidently, we must advance this conversation beyond sun, sex, sea and party.

The Association Of Caribbean-Americans In Correction, writes at nyacac.org/index.html that when one speaks of Caribbeans in America, the most prominent include, Jean Baptist Point Du Sable (Haiti); Shirley chisolm, (Mother/Barbados Father/Guyana); Colin Powell, (Jamaica); Harry Belafonte, (Jamaica); Marcus Garvey, (Jamaica); Sidney Poitier, (Bahamas); Malcolm X, (Grenada/Mother); Constance Baker Motley, (Parents/Nevis); Prince Hall, (Barbados); Alicia Keys, (Father/Jamaica); Eric Holder, US Attorney General in the Barak Obama Administration (Barbados). I dare to add Dominicans Dr. Edward Scobie and Jones Murphy Jr., a genius on Wall Street.

At surface, do these add to Felicia Persaud`s discussions on the matter? When you think of them, they add to the celebrity numbers. Just think what will happen, when they lend professional voices to Carib ID`s call.

Persaud would be well-pleased when their influence and power catch the attention of a constitutional law professor interested in jurisprudence as much as execution of a stimulus package affecting lives of all Caribbeans` skilled and tested in the United States.

EDITOR`S NOTE: Steinberg Henry is a Dominica-born, Atlanta-based writer.