US State Department to Open National Caribbean American Heritage Month 2020


Institute of Caribbean Studies

Release Date

Friday, May 29, 2020


The US State Department will open the National Caribbean American Heritage Month Celebrations with an opening ceremony on June 1st at 10:00 am. The event will be hosted virtually on the Zoom platform and will feature keynote speaker, Cynthia "Cindy" Kierscht, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Ms. Kiersch is a Senior Foreign Service officer, she is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Canada, Haiti and the Caribbean in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA). She previously served as the Director and the Deputy Director in WHA's Office of Canadian Affairs. She has been the recipient of several Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards and speaks Arabic, French and Spanish.

Other guest speakers include H.E. Ambassador Noel Lynch, Ambassador of Barbados to the United States of America, and Dr. Claire Nelson of the Institute of Caribbean Studies. A special live performance by Andrew Braata Clarke is also on the agenda to commemorate the occasion. Since 2006, June has been designated as National Caribbean American Heritage Month by Presidential Proclamation. Caribbean Americans have contributed to the development of the United States in extraordinary ways. Millions of people in the United States are connected to our Caribbean Neighbors.

"Our Shared History, Our Shared Future" is the theme for the June 2020 Caribbean Heritage Month, being celebrated across the United States in recognition of the contribution of the Caribbean Peoples to the culture and economy of the nation. The month of activities is being organized by the Institute for Caribbean Studies (ICS), a non-profit based in Washington DC. Other regional associations are co-ordinating activities in local burrows and communities with high levels of Caribbean American Nationals.

While these celebrations were traditionally held in local communities with high concentrations of Caribbean-American nationals, this year's activities will be held almost entirely virtually due to the Coronavirus pandemic. While the COVID-19 has presented some major challenges for the ICS, it has also created a corresponding number of opportunities.

"SMART Caribbean Gathering: A Futures BrainFest" is the intellectual component of the celebrations in which Caribbean-American people and knowledge area experts will come together on virtual platforms to discuss issues affecting the Caribbean Region and Caribbean Americans residing in the United States.

"This year's events reflect the growing consciousness of our community on the need to show up and show off especially in this a presidential election year" said Dr. Claire Nelson, ICS President & Founder, who was recently listed on Forbes as one of the top 50 female futurists in the world. "Since the beginning, ICS has worked together with our partners and stakeholders to successfully grow awareness of the commemoration; and more importantly signal a sea change in Caribbean immigrant relationships with the political and policy elite here in the US. This year we have reached out Caribbean people around the world as well as in the Caribbean region to join hands across the oceans. The onus is on us as Caribbean community leaders to be present in the room, and at the table, as the powers-that-be attempt to construct a path forward in the post COVID world. Our SMART CARIBBEAN GATHERING- A Futures Brainfest will serve as an idea and innovation mas camp for Caribbean joy makers and change artistes", Dr. Nelson added.

ICS, the architect of the Campaign to Celebrate June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month (NCAHM), and its partners will convene the first all virtual series of events beginning on JUNE 1st with the Opening Celebrations with the US State Department and continuing with Opening Celebrations in Boston, Atlanta and New York. Of special note is the SMART CARIBBEAN GATHERING-A Futures Brainfest, a series of five forums bringing together Caribbean thought-leaders and academics and advocates from around the world to explore the future of the Caribbean in a Post COVID World.

It is expected that members of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus administration officials, and national experts and scholars will participate in timely discussions of major policy issues affecting the Caribbean American community in Legislative Week, June 22-27th. National Caribbean American Heritage Month has been celebrated annually every June since 2006. This year, it represents an opportunity to bring together Caribbean peoples across the world to address common concerns; to allow Caribbean peoples everywhere to feel a sense of place in the public discourse on the post-COVID global future; and to strengthen the Caribbean Voice in the World, as ably demonstrated by the eminent Chair of CARICOM Heads of Government, the Hon. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados.

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