Speech by Mackie Holder, Chair, CARICOM Consul Corps
Mayor Eric Adams, Honourable Vindhya Persaud, Minister of Human Services and Social Security of Guyana, Honorable Kenneth Bryan – Minister of Tourism – Cayman Islands & Chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Fellow Consul Generals, Commissioners in the Mayor’s office, Consuls and staff of Consulates, Caribbean Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Henderson, and Caribbean People:
At the outset, I salute the collaboration that has led to this moment, and particularly thank the sub-committee of the CARICOM Consular Corps, chaired by Bernadette Ambrose-Black of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is fitting that, against the background of June being designated as Caribbean American Heritage Month, we gather here to raise the CARICOM flag, the symbol of the unity and greatness of, collectively, the world’s smallest region.
We do so in recognition of the significant milestone of a half century of progress by our home countries.
We do so in recognition of the vision of the four founding fathers and the debt owed to them.
We do so in recognition of the dedication of leaders, Secretaries Generals and staff of the many organs of the Caribbean Community, which has seen membership move from Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados to include 20 countries, 15 full members and five associate members.
And we do so in recognition of the history and impact of the Caribbean on these United States, the longstanding partnerships between the US and the region, and the indelible ongoing contributions of our people.
In a relatively short time, CARICOM, among other things, has established a single market and economy facilitating the movement of workers; undertaken numerous important negotiations and has established critical regional agencies in charge of disaster mitigation and response, (CEDEMA) and health, (CARPHA) and has been a voice of reason in a world of ongoing chaos.
On its own, as the oldest surviving integration movement in the developing world, and through its work individually with Member States, CARICOM has helped propel our people to new levels of achievements in America and throughout the world.
It is an indisputable fact that no area of such a small size as the Caribbean has contributed as much, and continue to do so, to New York; indeed the United States.
The examples of excellence abounds from Founding Father Alexander Hamilton of St. Kitts and Nevis, to National Hero of Jamaica Marcus Garvey, to Shirley Chisholm, to National Hero of Barbados Robyn Rihanna Fenty and hundreds in between – in medicine, education, sports, cuisine, entertainment, in every single aspect of American life.
And in our thousands, every day, exuding the combination of an unbeatable work ethic and humanity, we reflect and reinforce Caribbean values and win respect and friends for our countries.
It is not by accident that New York is considered the Caribbean capital of the world. Our people represent 20 percent of the 3.3 million immigrants in NYC, with Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago being the largest groups. If you go to Crown Heights Flatbush, you know you are in the Caribbean.
So, in every respect, we are an important group and in the spirit of Caribbean American Heritage Month, we should demand and get the same respect as other groupings.
I commend Mayor Adams for recognising this, for the diversity of his team, which includes Barbadian Hon. Sylvia Hinds Radix as Corporation Counsel, Trinidadian/Barbadian Ingrid Lewis-Martin as Chief Advisor, and others of Caribbean descent; for launching the Caribbean Advisory Council initiative; chaired by Barbadian Lamona Worrell, and for, generally, seeking to embrace Caribbean people from his days as Brooklyn Borough President.
But I look forward to the day when the marking of Caribbean American Heritage Month is etched in the mainstream and all media, and Caribbean people are parading through Manhattan, like so many other nationalities, proudly showing our culture.
It would have been great if today we could also be celebrating the passage of The New York For All Act, which is aimed at restricting collaboration to aid the deportation of immigrants, a problem facing the Caribbean.
This law has 62 co-sponsors in the New York State Assembly and 32 co-sponsors in the New York State Senate, and is widely supported otherwise, but is still not passed.
It is up to us, Caribbean people, to make these things happen. Let us assert ourselves and settle for no less.
Finally, in 1783 at this very site, Americans removed the British flag and hoisted the American Flag. Today we will hoist both the American Flag and the flag of CARICOM.
There is sovereignty and freedom captured in the raising of the CARICOM flag today. And I say to my fellow Caribbean people who call America home, let us always, mindful of our history, guard our hard won rights; continue to exhibit the best attributes of our diverse cultures and be ambassadors for all that is relevant to you here and the Caribbean, whether climate change or gun trafficking.
As representatives of our Governments and as people residing in America, we must, in understanding our history, guard against repeating it.
We must not now, having progressed thus far, exchange one set of masters for another, whether political or public institution.
We must see ourselves as, and be determined to be, equal partners, who have more than earned our right to be here, and not assume subservient roles in discourse or partnerships.
Together, the Mayor Adams and his office, Caribbean Government representatives, the many organisations devoted to protecting, integrating and advancing Caribbean people, and all our citizens – together we can continue to weave the beautiful tapestry of Caribbean American people that contributes to making New York, New York.
To my diverse, beautiful, uniquely cultural Caribbean people, I say, in the spirit of CARICOM, keep on! Keep on achieving, uniting, guarding and raising the image of the region and demonstrating excellence in everything we do.
Let everyone know we come from the best area in the world!
I thank you.