By Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. June 12, 2009: As a second generation Caribbean- American, American by birth, Caribbean by parentage, I am proud to join in the celebration of National Caribbean Heritage Month. Since the passage of the Caribbean-American heritage month resolution that was authored by the Honorable Barbara Lee of California in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005, our nation has commenced the tradition that celebrates and recognizes the various roles and the contributions that Caribbean Americans have made to the growth and development of our great country.
Caribbean American Heritage Month was created to herald the unique historical relationship between the people of the Caribbean region and the United States. As a Caribbean American woman and as a Member of Congress, it is my hope that we can continue to improve diplomatic relationships between our country and CARICOM nation states that are often marginalized and have lingered in the shadows for far too long under previous administrations.
As I reflect on the many contributions to the strengthening of our nation by individuals of Caribbean descent, I can’t help but reflect on the service rendered to our community by the very first black woman to be elected to Congress, the Honorable Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisolm.
Shirley Chisholm, who represented the 12th Congressional district of Brooklyn in the United States Congress from 1969-1983, was the first Black woman to run for President and she paved the way for me, serving as the only Black woman in our states’ delegation in Congress. Her indomitable spirit and steadfast pursuit of justice and equality has left us a legacy of excellence that is truly indicative of the Caribbean-American experience.
EDITOR`S NOTE: A few weeks prior to the commencement of Caribbean American Heritage Month, Congresswoman Clarke introduced the Caribbean Count Bill (H.R. 2071), which garnered the attention of and received support from Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY), and who are offering a Senate companion bill to the House legislation. This bill requires a checkbox or a similar option be included in all questionnaires used in the taking of any decennial census of the U.S. population so that respondents may indicate Caribbean extraction or descent. It does not call for an additional race category, but rather a self-identifying ancestry category/national origin in order to get a more accurate count of people of Caribbean descent living in the United States.