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The contribution of Caribbean people in the US and around the World

Updated on November 26, 2010

The Caribbean’s impact

 Caribbeans make up a significant segment of the population in England and Canada. In the US, they number over 22 million (Strategy Research Corporation). In New York City, they make up almost 25% of the population. And within the tri-state area - New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - they number close to five million.

In the United States, Caribbeans are more socio-economically mobile than African-Americans and Hispanics (New York's Newsday Newspaper Survey). Their penchant for entrepreneurship is quite evident in many parts of New York City (Richmond Hill, Flatbush, Hillside Avenue, South Bronx, Washington Heights, Crown Heights and other areas) as well as in other states such as Florida, Washington, Texas, California and elsewhere. Thus they represent not only very significant spending power (over one billion dollars annually), but they also generate jobs and contribute to the economic development of areas where they choose to reside - usually depressed and/or inner city areas.

The Caribbean impact in politics is quite evident in the tri-state area and other parts of the US, in the numbers of state and city legislators of Caribbean heritage, the increasing representation in Capitol Hill and the rush to court voters of Caribbean heritage during national elections. Note that the first African-American woman to sit in Congress and to run for the presidency was a Caribbean - Shirley Chisolm. The first non-white chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was a Caribbean - Colin Powell. The first Black to make it big in Hollywood was Caribbean ­ Sidney Poitier. And Caribbeans have been in the forefront of the civil rights movement - Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Stokley Carmichael, and the controversial Louis Farrakhan among others.

Elsewhere around the world Caribbeans are also quite impactful also. Sir Shridath Ramphal is a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Mohammed Shabudeen is a judge on the World Court. Rudy Narine was a pioneer of the civil rights movement in England; Sir Arthur Lewis (Nobel prize in economics), Dr. Bishnoodat Persaud (internationally recognized tourism expert), Avinash Persaud (prize winning financial analyst), Wendy Fitzwilliam, Shakira Caine and a host of others (international beauty pageants) are only a few of the legions.

Caribbean music, especially reggae, calypso, chutney and salsa have become international and have influenced the rhythms of many other genres. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Bob Marley, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Sundar Popo and Harry Belafonte lead a long and distinguished list of acclaimed musical greats. Carnival has become a major outdoor celebration with the Brooklyn Carnival (USA), Notting Hill Carnival (England) and Caribana (Canada) being the largest outdoor, televised activities in those countries - attracting millions of spectators and participants. In fact, Caribbean style carnivals are a feature of the landscape in Florida, Boston and other parts of the US as well as a number of other countries around the world.

Already a major force in American baseball, with an influx of great players from Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (Orlando Hernandez, Sammy Sosa and company) Caribbeans are beginning to impact in other sports as well - Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O'Neal, Felipe Lopez , Tim Duncan, Mario Ellie and a host of others in basketball; Felix Trinidad, Lennox Lewis and a long line of boxing luminaries; Ato Bolden, Merlin Ottey, Donovan Bailey, Deon Hemmings, Marion Jones, Marie Jose-Perec et al in athletics; Patrick Husbands, Emile Ramsammy and Shaun Bridgemohan in horse racing; chess grandmaster, Maurice Ashley; Dwight Yorke and an array of soccer stars, not to mention cricket and its impressive range of superstars from Sir Garfield Sobers to Ramnaresh Sarwan, Vivian Richards to Courtney Walsh. And the list goes on.

Caribbean cuisine (curry, beans and rice, jerk chicken) is increasingly making its way into the mainstream. In fact companies like Golden Krust, Caribbean Food Delights, Simeus Foods and Tower Isles Patties are million dollar concerns. And restaurants and catering halls like Nakisaki, Chateau Royale and Henry House are carving their own niches in a highly competitive marketplace.

Caribbean writers - V.S. Naipaul, Edwidge Danticat, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Marijse Conde, Junot Diaz, Jamaica Kincaid, Julia Alvarez, Judith Ortiz, Sasenarine Persaud, Samuel Selvon, Lakshmi Persaud etc. - are making a name for themselves. And slowly but surely Caribbeans are invading fashion and entertainment - Oscar de la Renta, Karl Kani, Vanessa Williams, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Gloria Estefan, Lynn Whitfield, Mike Robles, Naomi Campbell, Carlos Acosta, Sidney Poitier, Chita Riveria, Jennifer Lopez, Garcelle Beauvaix, Ricky Martin, Jose Feliciano et al.

In the employment sector, Caribbeans (in the US tri-state area) dominate parts of the health care industry (nursing and health aides) and the power service industry (Con Edison especially). They are significant in the media, construction, domestic service, sales and teaching. They are increasingly climbing the ladder of management - Eric Holder, Deputy US Attorney General; Roger Enrico, former Chairman of the Board and CEO, Pepsico; Paula Madison, Vice-President and News Director at WNBC TV; Aida Alvarez, head of the Small Business Administration; Angela King, deputy UN secretary-general to name a few. And they are increasingly launching out into the world of business and allied services - Ashook Ramsarran and RAMEX, the Hernandez Mets Supermarket empire, Goya Foods and so on.

More than anything else, Caribbeans' penchant for upward mobility ensure the revitalization of communities, the increasing tendency towards seeking higher education and the propensity for risk taking in search of their dreams - American, Canadian, English whatever.

Given their multicultural and multiethnic backgrounds, Caribbeans are not only a cementing force in the host societies, but they also add many strands to the fabric of the cultures. And, as a group, Caribbeans' rate of growth is faster than the national average. In effect, Caribbeans are now a very visible feature on the American, British, Canadian landscape especially, but elsewhere also. Indeed the Caribbean community has been a sleeping behemoth that is beginning to awaken.

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    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      This is an excellent hub. People of Caribbean descent have been major contributors to the cultural, economic, and intellectual spheres of this world. Many early activists in Harlem were of Caribbean descent. Afro-Caribbean culture is vastly different from Afro-American culture. Many Afro-Americans are subsconsciously apologetic for being Black whereas Afro-Caribbeans view Blackness as a positive feature and do not see Blackness as an obstacle to achieving greatness in society. Kudos to your wonderful hub.

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