By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
The union celebrated the history and heritage of people of the Caribbean diaspora June 3 at the annual Caribbean Heritage ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“I am excited to mark the Committee’s 15th year at DC 37,” said Committee Chair and founder Carmen Charles, president of New York City Hospitals Employees Local 420.
With lilting calypso and reggae played on steel drums in the background, the audience enjoyed traditional patties and sorrel, a beverage brewed from hibiscus flowers and herbs. They purveyed art and artifacts that traced the history of peoples stolen from Africa, enslaved as free labor on Caribbean sugar cane, banana, spice and cotton plantations from Antigua to Trinidad. Their story includes mass freedom revolts in Haiti, Jamaica and the Americas and includes the historic presidency of Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Committee co-chair and Local 768 President Fitz Reid curated the exhibit.
New York City’s largest influx of immigrants are from five Caribbean nations; the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guyana, Haiti and Trinidad. They fuel New York’s economy, contributing more than $100 billion in earnings or roughly 32 percent of total earnings in New York City.
Charles noted that 45 percent of DC 37 membership is comprised of Caribbean immigrants or their descendants, including Executive Director Henry Garrido and DC 37 and Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I, and local leaders Val Colon, Dennis Ifill, Laura Morand, Reid and others.
“We came to America seeking a better life and opportunity to achieve our dreams,” said Charles. There are forces who are separating families at our borders and trying to extinguish the light of liberty. We can’t let that happen.”
“We share our culture on the job and in our union and stand together as part of something bigger than ourselves,” Charles said.
The Caribbean Heritage Committee will host a jump up on Friday August 23, to kick off the Caribbean Labor Day festivities, at 125 Barclay Street. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. For more information, please email President@Local-420.org or call 646-302-9551.