New York City Councilwoman VANESSA L. GIBSON To Proclaim 2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York on WEDNESDAY, March 11th 2015 at City Hall

 

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New York, New York — Today, March 11th 2015 marks the first day of Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York.  A contingent of Garifuna Americans will join New York City Council Member VANESSA L. GIBSON as she hosts a Proclamation Ceremony for 2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York.

At this Proclamation Ceremony, New York City Councilwoman VANESSA L. GIBSON will declare March 11th through April 12th 2015 as Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York City.  It will take place at City Council Chambers on WEDNESDAY, March 11th 2015 at 12 noon.  This event marks the first of a series of events taking place in New York City for 2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York.

While proclamations are considered to be largely ceremonial or symbolic in nature, proclamations are the most significant of non-legal, yet OFFICIAL forms of recognition issued by politicians.  They are used ceremonially by politicians to honor a group or situation or to call attention to certain issues or events.  In this instance, proclamations are used to help spread awareness of the Garifuna presence in the United States of America and New York City in particular.

New York City Council Member VANESSA L. GIBSON.

New York City Council Member VANESSA L. GIBSON.

New York City Council Member VANESSA L. GIBSON was elected to represent District 16 in the Bronx on November 5th 2013.  District 16 in the Bronx includes the neighborhoods, West Bronx, Morrisania, Highbridge and Melrose.  1

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About Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York

Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York (March 11th through April 12th) is designed to reflect on and observe the occasion of the Garifuna people (then known as Black Caribs) being kicked out of their ancestral land of St. Vincent Island on March 11th 1797 to their arrival in Central America on April 12th 1797.  The dates reference the period of time where the Garifuna voyage took place between their ancestral land and their new place of residence, where a new life was forced upon them.

New York City Council Member VANESSA L. GIBSON.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

New York City Council Member VANESSA L. GIBSON. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

According to a press release from the non-profit organization the Garifuna Coalition USA Inc, Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York also,

“celebrates the great contributions of Garífuna-Americans to the fabric of New York City and New York State, and pays tribute to the common culture and bonds of friendship that unite the United States and the Garífuna’s countries of origin (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua and St Vincent and the Grenadines.)”.

The Garifuna Coalition adds, “New York City is home to the largest Garífuna Community outside of Central America!  However, although Garífunas have been migrating here in search of a better life since the 1930s; the community was virtually obscured until the Happy Land Social Club fire on March 25th, 1990.”  Most of the victims of that tragedy were Honduran, many were of Garifuna descent 2.

2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York. (March 11th through April 12th). Logo by Ivan Moreira.

2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York. (March 11th through April 12th). Logo by Ivan Moreira.

Overall, the idea is to pay tribute to the survival and resiliency of the Garifuna people and also highlight the contributions made by Garifunas to the state of New York and the United States of America.  Also, this as well as other activities taking place in New York during Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York are designed to further visibility of the Garifuna ethnic group to the general populace of New York City.

This proclamation ceremony is FREE and open to the public.

New York City Council Chambers are located at City Hall.

City Hall

260 Broadway

New York, NY

Subway: 4, 5, 6 Subway Trains to City Hall/Brooklyn Bridge Subway Stop

2 or 3 Subway Trains to Park Place Subway Stop

R or W trains to City Hall Subway Stop

A or C Trains to Chambers St or Fulton Street/Broadway-Nassau Subway Stop

This isn’t the first time that Garifunas were in City Council Chambers.  In June 2010, there was a commemoration of Caribbean American History Month hosted by New York City Council member Mathieu Eugene (District 40 in Brooklyn).  3 Garifuna Talent represented at that event included:

  • The Hamalali Wayunagu Garifuna Folkloric and Modern Dance Company  4
  • Azeekweh ‘El Escojido’ (a.k.a. Kevin Castillo)  5

They were the only artists of Garifuna descent among the many Caribbean artists who performed at that Ceremony. The following footnotes are links to BEING GARIFUNA Facebook photo albums from that event.   6 ,   7 , 8

ABOUT The Garifuna People

The Garifuna people are people of African descent (in other words, Black people) whose ancestry can be traced to Africans mixing with Carib Indians and Arawak Indians on the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent. From this fusion of race and ethnicities in St. Vincent Island, a distinct culture and language arose.  They are noted for being one of the few (only?) peoples of African descent (again, in other words, Black people) in the Americas to have maintained aspects of their ancestral culture and full use of their ancestral language for everyday use over the course of hundreds of years.

After being defeated in war with the British on St. Vincent in 1796; 1004 men,  1779 women and 1,555 children for a total of 4,338 people (mostly Black Caribs, as the Garifuna people were then known) were captured and taken to Baliceaux, a small island, a rock, basically, off the coast of St. Vincent.  This took place from July 1796 through February/March 1797.  About 2,000 Garifunas died of a mysterious and very infectious fever while living on Baliceaux awaiting their fate.  9

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In early March 1797, the remaining Garifunas were loaded onto the HMS Experiment and other ships.  Once they were rounded up, the convoy were taken to a Bequia, which is another island off the coast of St. Vincent. They proceeded to go to Grenada to get water, then Jamaica for refueling, then finally Roatan, Honduras, arriving on April 12th 1797.

Finding much of Roatan unliveable, the Garifuna people petitioned officials representing Spain and it’s government (which controlled much of Central America at the time) to be allowed to move to the Honduran mainland.  Upon being allowed to move to the Honduran mainland, namely the port town of Trujillo, Honduras in May 1797; the Garifunas settled many towns and villages along the Caribbean coast of Honduras.  They also migrated to the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize (then known as British Honduras) and Nicaragua over the years.  Finally, Garifuna People have also migrated to the United States of America where generations have settled in cities like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.

If you find the BEING GARIFUNA Website helpful and useful, please DONATE.  Every dollar donated helps keep this website in operation.  Donations are accepted via the PAYPAL website so your potential donations are SAFE and SECURE.

Notes:

  1. http://council.nyc.gov/d16/html/members/home.shtml
  2. Edna Negron, “Club Tragedy an Awakening for Garifuna”, New York Newsday, Sunday, August 18th 1991.
  3. http://www.council.nyc.gov/d40/html/members/home.shtml
  4. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hamalali-Wayunagu-Garifuna-Folkloric-Modern-Dance-Company/268267799945064
  5. http://www.reverbnation.com/azeekweh
  6. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.398262453595.174039.305542983595&type=3
  7. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.398317143595.174109.305542983595&type=3
  8. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.398935618595.174791.305542983595&type=3
  9. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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