By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. June 2, 2021: Some five hours after News Americas pointed out on Tuesday that the Joe Biden administration with a Caribbean roots vice-president had failed to issue a proclamation to mark the official start of National Caribbean American Heritage Month 2021, the White House finally did.
National Caribbean American Heritage Month in the United States was signed into law by President George W. Bush 15 years ago and has been proclaimed by every administration since – often the day before. But not this year.
The day began on June 1, 2021 with “A Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, 2021.” This was soon followed by one declaring June “National Immigrant Month.”
Finally, at around 2 p.m. EST on June 1st, “A Proclamation on National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, 2021,” was issued, hours after the NANN story. By contrast, a Proclamation on Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, 2021, which is held every May, was issued on April 30th.
The White House also then issued several other proclamations, including ‘A Proclamation on Black Music Appreciation Month, 2021;’ ‘A Proclamation on National Homeownership Month, 2021,’ A Proclamation on National Ocean Month, 2021 and A Proclamation on Great Outdoors Month, 2021,’ further diluting the significance of CAHM.
In the CAHM proclamation, President Joe Biden stated: “I am honored to celebrate this National Caribbean-American Heritage Month alongside Caribbean-American barrier-breaking public servants in my Administration — including Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice — all of whom continue to be sources of pride and inspiration for Caribbean Americans across the country.”
Vice President Harris’ father was born in Jamaica while US DHS Secretary Mayorkas was born in Cuba. Rice’s maternal grandparents were Jamaican immigrants to Portland, Maine. Cardona’s parents were born in Puerto Rico.
The CAHM proclamation by The White House also recognized Caribbean Americans like artists James Weldon Johnson, the poet who wrote the anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing;’ celebrated neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat; John B. Russwurm, the first Caribbean-American editor of a U.S. newspaper; Caribbean-American jurist Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman appointed to the Federal bench; and former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. It ignored Alexander Hamilton, America’s greatest immigrant and the US’ first secretary of the treasury, who was born on the Caribbean Island of Nevis.
The full proclamation is as follows:
“A Proclamation on National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, 2021
America’s diversity is and always has been the defining strength of our Nation — in every generation, our society, spirit, and shared ambitions have been refreshed by wave after wave of immigrants seeking out their American dream. Throughout our history, Caribbean Americans have brought vibrant cultures, languages, traditions, and values that strengthen our country and add new chapters to our common story. In recognition of Caribbean Americans’ countless gifts and contributions to our Nation, we celebrate National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
Caribbean Americans have made our country more innovative and more prosperous; they have enriched our Nation’s arts and culture, our public institutions, and our economy. I am honored to celebrate this National Caribbean-American Heritage Month alongside Caribbean-American barrier-breaking public servants in my Administration — including Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice — all of whom continue to be sources of pride and inspiration for Caribbean Americans across the country.
Caribbean-American intellects and artists like James Weldon Johnson, the poet who gave us the anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing; celebrated neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat; and John B. Russwurm, the first Caribbean-American editor of a U.S. newspaper, have left a lasting impact on our country. Caribbean-American jurists like Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman appointed to the Federal bench, and the Nation’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, have made innumerable contributions to the American justice system. Shirley Chisholm, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, blazed new trails as our Nation’s first Black Congresswoman — and the first Black woman to launch a major-party bid for the Presidency. Public servants like Antonia Novello, our Nation’s first female Surgeon General, and Colin Powell, our first Black Secretary of State, have followed in her footsteps, charting new paths of their own in service to the American people.
Despite the powerful legacy of achievement of Caribbean Americans, many members of the Caribbean-American community continue to face systemic barriers to equity, opportunity, and justice. Systemic racism has uniquely impacted Black and Latino immigrant communities, including Caribbean Americans, leading to disparities in health care, education, housing, criminal justice, and economic opportunity. My Administration is committed to addressing those entrenched disparities — and to bringing our Nation closer to its promise that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout their lives. That is why I have launched a whole-of-government approach to advancing racial justice and equity.
During National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, we celebrate the legacy and essential contributions of Caribbean Americans who have added so much to our American fabric.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2021 as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month. I encourage all Americans to join in celebrating the history, culture, and achievements of Caribbean Americans with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty‑one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.”
There are millions of Caribbean Americans in the United States whose heritage runs back to slavery. They include slaves from Barbados who were brought to the US to work on South Carolina plantations; the founder of Chicago, Jean-Baptist-Point Du Sable and America’s Greatest immigrant and the US’ first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
Today, Caribbean Americans make up a large percentage of the black voting population and are put at over 10 million nationally conservatively and are in every facet of life in America. They were at the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 with the first person in the US to receive a COVId-19 vaccine being a nurse born in the Caribbean even as thousands lost their lives to the disease.
The month-long observance is meant to promote the rich culture and heritage of the Caribbean American people and their contribution to the United States of America.