Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Anniversary of the Exile

213 Anniversary of the Exile of the Garifuna People

As we conclude the observance of the 213th anniversary of the exile of the Garifuna people from St Vincent on March 11th, 1797 and their settlement in Central America on April 12th, 1797. We wish to express sincere thanks to New York State Governor David A. Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Assemblyman Michael Benjamin and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. for the proclamation of March 11th to April 12th as Garifuna-American Heritage Month, 2010.

The proclamation of March 11th - April 12th, 2010 as Garifuna-American Heritage Month - 2010 is the highest recognition of New York's Garifuna Immigrant Community since becoming a vital part of New York City's social, cultural and economic way of life for the past 187 years, through The Drama of King Shotoway, the first black drama of the American Theatre and which had as its subject the 1795 Black Caribs (Garifunas) defense of the Island of Saint Vincent against colonization by the British. Further proof that New York is the Capital of the World, It also represents the first Garifuna Heritage Month proclamation in the world, evidence that we have become the subjects of our own history rather than objects of someone else's.

This achievement becomes even more significant when we consider that it happened on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the Happy Land Social Club fire. Despite many positive contributions to the social and economic fiber of New York City, Garifunas had remained outsiders with no influence on the important civic processes of New York City. They had been, in a word, invisible. Although Garifunas have been migrating to the United States in search of a better life since the 1930s, the community was virtually obscured in New York City until the Happy Land Social Club fire on March 25th, 1990. The majority of the victims were of Garifuna descent.

Therefore, the proclamation of Garifuna Heritage Month in New York represents a turning point for the Garifuna Immigrant Community in this great city and state, as we look forward to a future brimming with promise and hope for the future Garifuna generations, a future that includes our commitment to continue to resurrect the Garifuna Culture, in the image of its past glory by reclaiming our history for the sake of our future.

Towards that objective, we will launch the second Garinagu Wagia (We Are Garifunas) Campaign, to educate and create awareness and appreciation of the Garifuna culture by presenting a rich collection of programs through the year that promote cross-cultural understanding and celebrate our history, culture and religion, and their importance in shaping and enriching New York City.

The ultimate purpose of the Garifuna Coalition is to ensure that Garifunas in New York have access to resources and opportunities to improve their lives. Therefore, we will continue to promote change through civic engagement by helping the Garifuna community gets its fair share of federal funds by making sure our community mails back the 2010 census forms and continue our partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, We will continue to educate our community about the civic process and their rights, so that we can give a voice to the Garifuna community and policy makers hear what we have to say and understand our needs.

To ascertain our efforts can be sustainable, we will continue to identify, develop and cultivate young leaders, so that young people can be part of the solution and can feel empowered to take action and develop into community leaders, so that our community has a pool of potential leaders, so that that eventually, our community can have the resources to thrive.

Due to the international dispersion of the Garifuna people, we will continue nurturing and promoting the Garifuna Heritage and Culture in all parts of the Garifuna Diaspora as well as collaborate in practical ways to support the Renaissance of the Garifuna Heritage and Culture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines "Yurumein" the Ancestral Homeland of the Garifuna people.

Therefore, as we conclude the 213th anniversary of the exile of the Garifuna people from St Vincent on March 11th, 1797 and their settlement in Central America on April 12th, 1797, we invite the Global Garifuna Nation and friends to join us in July 2011 at the Reunification of the Garifuna people in Yurumein to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of UNESCO's Proclamation of the Garifuna Language, Music and Dance as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible.

On behalf of the Garifuna community we serve, we thank you for the support and for helping us ascertain that future Garifuna generations will not forget that the Garifuna American legacy and history are inextricably linked to the United States and New York and that there are many Garifuna Americans, heroes and heroines, who fought hard to make our country a better place for all of us and will celebrate the history and contributions they have made to the United States