Celebration Reconnects Local Caribbean American Community to Roots

Thelma Phillip-Browne, ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis, reads from the Book of Samuel during a June 3 event at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Northwest to celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month. (Jacqueline Fuller/The Washington Informer)
Thelma Phillip-Browne, ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis, reads from the Book of Samuel during a June 3 event at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Northwest to celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month. (Jacqueline Fuller/The Washington Informer)

The Institute for Caribbean Studies (ICS) recently partnered with the Church of the Holy Comforter, an Episcopal church in northwest D.C., to hold a Worship service in celebration of Caribbean American Heritage Month, giving Caribbean expats an opportunity to connect to their culture and faith.

The purpose of the June 3 service was to highlight people of Caribbean heritage, their work and successes in the United States.

The founder and president of ICS, Dr. Claire Nelson, wanted to have a faith-based celebration as part of the activities happening during the month. She said that it is important to let the public know that Caribbean people do things beyond carnivals and festivals.

Participants during the service included Thelma Phillip-Browne, ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis, who did a reading from the Book of Samuel. The guest preacher was the Rev. Dr. Bertram Melbourne from Howard University School of Divinity.

During the sermon, Melbourne encouraged the congregation to build bridges of hope and understanding and making a difference, talk about the contribution with others and use technology to keep the stories alive.

“If heritage is not talked about and celebrated, it will be forgotten,” Melbourne said.

Also in attendance was Michael Yates, chair of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Advisory Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs. On June 6, he received a proclamation from the mayor’s office in honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator.

Notable people of Caribbean ancestory include Alexander Hamiltion, the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury (Nevis), Colin Powell (Jamaica), Malcom X (Grenada), Beyonce (Bahamas), Usher (Haitian), Rhianna (Barbados) and Nia Long (Trinidad).

Recently, the ICS inducted journalist Joy-Ann Reid, whose mother is from Guyana, into its Wall of Fame.

The history of Caribbean American Heritage Month began when, according to the National Caribbean American Heritage Month website, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee. On Feb. 14, 2006, the resolution similarly passed the Senate. The Proclamation was issued by President George Bush on June 6, 2006, and has been issued each year since.

This year, the ICS is also celebrating its 25th anniversary. The organization was established in 1993 and is dedicated to education and advocate on issues that affect Caribbean Americans.

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