In Recognition of Caribbean-American Heritage Month Freeport, New York
Sunday 5th June, 2016
Like the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.”
And so we are gathered here today to celebrate Caribbean-American Heritage Month. It is important to do so because, “A people without knowledge of their past is like a tree without roots – it will wither and die.” So we have come to pay tribute to our ancestors and to pray for future generations.
I join with the psalmist when he said “Because of the house of the Lord thy God, I will seek thy good.”
Today, we are gathered in the House of the Lord where we have come to give praise and to seek out good. We pray that when we would have left this sacred house, good would also follow each of us.
As Caribbean nationals, we must begin to understand our rightful place in history. We must not accept that evil and the scourge of misfortune is part of our everyday existence. The painful and unending strife of our forefathers must not define who we are as a people or determine our destiny. Yes we were once slaves; bound to a master who dictated our way of life. We were the means to a prosperous end for our masters. We were of no value, save for the sweat of our brow to till the soil. We were a people without an identity. But we fought against ALL odds.
It therefore is no small feat to have come from a place of such sub-human conditions to become a people who have charted a course where tenacity, drive, boldness and vision have brought us to the threshold of prosperity, triumph and success unlike anything our forefathers could have ever imagined. What our ancestors longed for, we as a people have achieved. What they once envisioned has become a reality for Caribbean people.
We have become economic, academic, financial, political and social champions who continue to make great strides and achievements. Today, Caribbean nationals are charged to ensure that we continue to build on the advances that we have made as a people, and to ensure we channel our successes to the generations who will come after us.
In his recent declaration proclaiming June 2016 as Caribbean-American Heritage Month, President Barack Obama, reminds us that June is a time when “We celebrate the contributions of our Caribbean-American brothers and sisters, and we reflect on how they have bolstered our country and enriched our traditions.”
Near the end of his proclamation, President Obama states, “This month, let us honor the resilient heritage and rich history of Caribbean-Americans, and let us reflect upon the diversity of experiences that unites us as a people.”
The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis boasts its abundantly rich Caribbean heritage through the various initiatives spearheaded by Government and NGO’s particularly, through education and the arts, and in our ever bourgeoning tourism product.
I speak to you today as the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis to the United Nations; however, I wish to remind all of us that every citizen of the Caribbean is an Ambassador. Our people are the real advocates and promoters of all things Caribbean. Off their tongues roll the passion for these beautiful isles. Our historic sites, our nightlife, our beautiful and friendly people are but some of the charms that appeal to every visitor to the Caribbean.
Nationals who have migrated abroad haven’t lost touch either. In fact, some have become even more committed to the cause of nation building as migrants to other shores. In the New York City area alone, dozens of organizations engage in community building initiatives which essentially ensure support for nationals despite the barrier of distance; a testimony to the connectivity between America and the Caribbean.
Two years ago, during the third annual Conference on Small Island States, participants agreed that “Migrants and Diaspora communities and organizations play an important role in enhancing development in their communities of origin.” This in itself is a proclamation that continues to challenge every Caribbean national to remain connected to his/her roots, all the while embracing the multiple opportunities that enrich our people no matter where their life’s journey takes them.
We beam with pride in reflection of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that our ancestors overcame. We are mindful of the numerous sacrifices mothers and fathers made to provide opportunities for their children. The stories are countless and similar in nature.
They are the stories of us: a Caribbean people who continue to play an integral role in shaping the communities we have adopted as our homes, all the while remaining steadfast contributors to the lands we love; the lands we forever call home.
I take this opportunity to join each of you in celebration of Caribbean-American History month. May the ties that bind us together as a people forever be strengthened for the posterity of those who will come after we are gone.
God Bless us ALL!