A glimpse at some Caribbean People in Politics, Sports, and Music in the USA and beyond
Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island after Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti combined) and Cuba, respectively. Understandably, Cuba, with its political orientation and Hispaniola which is geographically and culturally fragmented, have not made as many strides as Jamaica. Thus, given Jamaica’s proximity to the USA, its size, population, and its cultural homogeneity, it’s little wonder that this island has led the way in terms of making the Caribbean known to the international community. In fact, many could attest to the time when declaring one was from the Caribbean was welcomed with the response, “oh Jamaica!”
Jamaicans have led the way by making strides in the music industry and politics among other spheres. Musically, Jamaica has produced superstars Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Sean Paul, and Shaggy; politically, there is the impactful presence of Harry Belafonte, Sheila Jackson Lee, Kamala Harris, Una Clarke, and Yvette Clarke.
Jamaican-Americans’ contributions to the political sphere have also been noteworthy with at least nine persons with Jamaican heritage running for the 2018 U.S. Congress in Georgia, New York, Florida, Maryland, and California, However, despite this remarkable Jamaican presence, there are Caribbean-heritage persons in the political sphere from other islands.
In terms of women in politics, the Caribbean can boast of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, whose maternal grandparents were Bahamian, she represents Florida’s 24th Congressional District. Wilson has been hailed as improving education, safeguarding Medicare and Social Security as well as strengthening ties with Haiti and the Caribbean. There is also Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett with St. Croix connections who represents the United States Virgin Islands’ at-large Congressional District. Plaskett has been an advocate for poverty reduction and is skilled in Caribbean economic development and public-private partnering.
The Caribbean descendants in this article are not the only boast that the Caribbean can now make. After years of Jamaican-Caribbean leading the way among Caribbean-Americans, in 2005 Congresswoman Barbara Lee sponsored and supported the realization of June as Caribbean American Heritage Month in the United States. It is the month to celebrate the Caribbean immigrants’ legacy in the U.S. Finally on June 6, 2006, the first National Caribbean American Heritage Month was declared by President George Bush.
Indeed, the USA has witnessed an increase in the Caribbean Diaspora beyond Jamaica for some years. Wyclef Jean, Mia Love, Tatyana Ali, Rihanna, Gloria Estefan with their Haitian, Indo-Trinidadian and Cuban heritage providing some evidence. Now, with each isle taking time to celebrate its unique culture, there is a further strengthening of that collective Caribbean presence.
While the USA has remained the choice of many, the Caribbean presence is being made known internationally. Again leading the way in sports, in 1998, the Jamaican national football team, Reggae Boyz qualified for the FIFA World Cup held in France. They were the first English-speaking team from the Caribbean to qualify. Some twenty years later, again Jamaica leads the way with its women’s football team, Reggae Girlz, being the first female football team from the Caribbean to qualify for a World Cup.
Unfortunately, as often is the case with some of our regional athletes, funding faltered. Interestingly enough, it was the daughter of internationally renowned Jamaican artiste, the late Bob Marley, Cedella Marley, who kept the team viable—by providing the necessary funding.
Even as Reggae Girlz have marked their X, in their spot for World Cup 2019 in France, another Caribbean national is striving to create an international presence in the UK on the X Factor. Soca artiste, Olatunji Yearwood, hailing from Trinidad and Tobago entered the finals with his soca song “Ola”. Ten days prior to the finals showing his skill and versatility, Yearwood penned “Jiggle It” which he performed at the 2018 Finals in the UK.
As we continue to forge forward not only as Caribbean-Americans but as the Caribbean Diaspora, we acknowledge our Jamaica-Caribbean cohort for leading the way in many ways. As Jane Kim, a candidate in the 2018 San Francisco mayoral election said, “it’s about creating strength in numbers, finding common ground and supporting each other.”
Therefore, in 2018 and beyond, surely we are ready and positioned to move from Jamaican-Caribbean to increasing our collective Caribbean international presence, be it in politics, music, sports or positive aspects of life.
By Kerriann Toby
Kerriann Toby holds a Master of Counselling and Bachelor of Psychology. She is a dynamic therapist, trained mediator, and educator since 2000. In addition to being a trained educator, mediator, and therapist, she is a certified Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Professional. Kerriann has also trained in cyber counseling and holds clinical registration with Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) & Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).
In mid-October 2015 she initiated operations of KarryOn geared toward the provision of a variety of enhancement and developmental services for the individual, groups and the organization; e-Coaching/Counseling, Mediation, EAP Services and the creative presentation of psycho-social information. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.