From Colin Powell and Sidney Poitier, to Tina Charles, Julissa Bermudez, and Patrick Ewing, the contributions of the Caribbean diaspora in the United States have touched every aspect of American Life. To underscore the achievements of these communities and the shared history between the people of the United States with those of the Caribbean, President Trump proclaimed June to be National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
As Americans, we recognize that our ties with the countries of the Caribbean go well beyond our shared regional interests. Today, more than four million Americans of Caribbean heritage live in the United States, and every year the Caribbean welcomes over six million American tourists.
This year, National Caribbean-American Heritage Month falls during the same month as the State Department’s release of its Caribbean strategy under the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 (H.R. 4939). The State Department’s strategy establishes a framework to deepen U.S. engagement in the region and strengthens our partnerships by focusing on six key areas: security, diplomacy, prosperity, energy, education, and health. The bill received bipartisan and unanimous support in Congress, an indication of the strong commitment for U.S.-Caribbean relations. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who co-sponsored the bill, has described the strategy as “a positive step forward” for U.S.-Caribbean relations. Rep. Eliot Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Relations and co-sponsor of the bill, said the law “makes it clear that we will prioritize U.S.-Caribbean relations for many years to come.”
The increased commitment to the Caribbean under the law will only strengthen partnerships that have already been formed. During National Caribbean-American Heritage month, the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) hosted its first Regional Workshop on Entrepreneurship in Kingston, Jamaica with over 100 young Caribbean entrepreneurs representing 20 countries. The two-day long conference included a reception at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Luis Moreno and a keynote address by none other than Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.
Workshop participants expanded their regional networks – increasing trade opportunities – and gained better understandings of regional economic growth through corporate social responsibility.
The YLAI and the YLAI Network provide guidance and mentorship to young people throughout the Western Hemisphere. In the Caribbean, YLAI is focused on developing new leaders in business. As the primary trading partner for the Caribbean, the U.S. values its close ties to the region, and recognizes the importance of a dynamic diaspora at home in helping to create economic growth in the region.
Beyond this month’s Caribbean-American Heritage Month celebration, the State Department looks forward to building networks and engaging with partners in the Caribbean for years to come. Caribbean-American Heritage Month is a perfect opportunity to underscore the prominent role Caribbean-Americans play in American Life. High-profile events included the Haitian-American Business Summit in Miami, the Caribbean-American Legislative Forum on Capitol Hill, and a closing reception at the White House to honor Caribbean-American leaders in the diaspora.
Caribbean-American Heritage Month is a perfect opportunity to underscore the prominent role Caribbean-Americans play in American Life. High-profile events included the Haitian-American Business Summit in Miami, the Caribbean-American Legislative Forum on Capitol Hill, and a closing reception at the White House to honor Caribbean-American leaders in the diaspora.
About the Author: Nelson Tamayo, serves in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.