By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Nov. 6, 2018: When political pundits speak of the minority voting blocs that could flip the hotly contested U.S. mid-term elections today, Nov. 6, 2018, their only focus is on Hispanic and African-American voters.
Lost in the mix, largely because they are mostly regarded as simply part of the African-American voting segment because the U.S. Census has so far not allowed them to accurately self-identify, is the growing Caribbean immigrant voting bloc. This segment of foreign-born voters is made up not just of black voters, but many of other ancestries, united simply by the region they were born and immigrated from or the cultural identity that binds.
As the U.S. President ratchets up his xenophobic attack on immigrants and immigration, and as the administration ramped up deportation efforts, ended Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, ended DACA and remains focused on targeting even legal immigrants and naturalized citizens, many Caribbean immigrants, Caribbean-Americans or West Indians, have become laser focused on mobilizing voters in their community to vote Democrat, while getting involved in other races that matter.
While they are put at a conservative estimate of 4 million nationally, or just about 9 percent of the nation’s 42.4 million immigrants, 58 percent of this bloc can vote. That’s compared to 47 percent of all foreign-born individuals, including Latinos.
The largest percentage of Non-Hispanic Caribbean immigrants are reportedly in Florida, almost a million of them while those reporting Caribbean ancestry was around 3.7 million.
With Florida in play this mid-term and many Caribbean immigrants feeling the heat from the President’s xenophobic comments and anti-immigrant policies, many are getting involved in getting out the vote while helping the campaign of Democrats, including the man who could become the state’s first black governor, Andrew Gillum.
Jamaican-born, Broward County Commissioner, Dale Holness, was among the first of the most prominent supporters of Gillum in the Primary Election, at a time when other commissioners were supporting different candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Holeness helped the Gillum campaign build a grass roots get-out-the-vote organization in the black and Caribbean immigrant communities in Broward, with messages targeting Caribbean immigrants in local Caribbean media like South Florida Caribbean news and Caribbean National Weekly.
In Miami-Dade, Jamaican immigrant, attorney and community advocate, Marlon Hill, says he is also playing a big part in the Gillum campaign. Hill is a member of Gillum’s Finance Committee, focusing on new donors and small dollars while advising the campaign of how to reach the Caribbean American voting segment.
He also serves as a campaign surrogate on TV, radio and fundraiser events and has coordinated the ‘DJs for GILLUM’ push, to activate music sound trucks at poll locations to inspire voters to stay in line.
He was also instrumental in getting the Democratic gubernatorial campaign present at the recent Miami Carnival community, using the BringitHome bandanas there while pushing voter education and mobilization through the #GET5forGILLUM campaign.
In Miramar, Jamaican-born Mayor Wayne Messam as well as compatriot and Candidate for County Commission 2019, Leo Gilling, has also been pushing the Gillum message to Caribbean American voters in the city.
Messam and Gilling were instrumental in hosting two rallies for Gillum in Miramar – one in August and one on Sunday, Nov. 4th, to appeal to those hard to reach voters of Caribbean heritage.
On Sunday, Gilling, who told News Americas he has been walking the beat in East Miramar, home of many Caribbean immigrants and small businesses and spreading the voter education message, helped emcee a final push at the Miramar Civic Center for the Democratic gubernatorial candidates and others on the slate today.
It was one of the last stops for Mayor Andrew Gillum before he headed back to Northern Florida, and it drew hundreds of Caribbean nationals along with a number of top Democratic Party bigwigs, including Florida DNC Chair and Vice Chair, Terri Rizzo and Mike Blake, respectively.
In Georgia, where the population of West Indians is just over 125,000, many are also not only voting but getting involved in using social media and Caribbean focused radio programs to urge eligible voters in their community to vote. Courtney Hume and Jason Walker are among the Caribbean immigrants in Georgia pushing that message. Walker says he’s been tasked with getting out the Caribbean American voters by the Democratic Candidate for Governor, Stacey Abrams’, campaign and he is laser focused on it.
In New Jersey, Sheila Newton-Moses, president of CCFED (the Caribbean Council For Economic Development), told NAN she will spend part of today driving senior Caribbean immigrant voters without access to a car, to the polls.
In New York, home to almost a million Caribbean immigrants conservatively, CaribPR Wire, founded by Caribbean-immigrant Felicia J. Persaud, has spent the weeks since National Voter Registration Day in September, pushing the “Lime, Wine, Vote” message on social media, on radio and in news articles in mainstream media.
The carnival-themed voter national promotion campaign tapped into the party culture of Caribbean immigrants with messages like “Vote Or Your Lime Is History,” “Jam Up The Polls This Nov. 6th,” “Jab Jab To The Polls This Nov. 6th,” “Hot Gyal A Vote,” “Dutty Wine To The Polls This Nov. 6th” and “Ride De Riddim and Vote This Nov. 6th.”
Caribbean radio programs like ‘Groovin’ Radio” on 93.5 FM with host Ras Clem, jumped on the voter education message, and together with Persaud, spent the last month with an ‘Election Talk’ segment, educating and urging Caribbean voters to register and “vote like their lives depend on it” and “vote blue” to ensure there is a checks and balance in place on democracy.
Trinidad-immigrant, Hayden Roger Celestin, did just that. Despite being unable to get out to the polls because of an injury, Celestin ensured he secured an absentee ballot to make his vote count in the Nov. 6, 2018 elections.
Meanwhile, Jamaican national, Gregory Smith, who worked on the Barack Obama campaign canvassing in Denver, Colorado in 2008, says he will spend today driving voters to the poll for the campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Bronx and Queens, NY.
All across the country, Caribbean immigrant and Caribbean American voters are voting and making their voices heard. Even Caribbean-born singer Rihanna has weighed in, urging fans to register weeks ago while weighing in on the Florida election this weekend.
The Barbados beauty endorsed the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, in an Instagram post, stating: Florida: You have the opportunity to make history this election. The US has only had four black governors in its entire history and we can help make #AndrewGillum the next one and Florida’s first.”
While many Caribbean immigrant voters in Florida have already heeded that call, many more are expected to do so today as well at polls across the country. And while their votes may not be recognized by political pundits nationally when they are counted tonight, the call to put a stop to Trumpism and the anti-immigrant dog whistles are resonating with this voting bloc, who realize it will take immigrant voters to stop the immigrant haters in this election.