Caribbean voting bloc encouraged to hit polls in new campaign

Voting time: A new Caribbean-themed voting campaign is encouraging voters of Caribbean descent to hit the polls this November with culturally specific terms to politically motivate.

This campaign ah culturally relevant.

A new social media campaign is aiming to get more Caribbean voters to the polls this November. The Caribbean-themed campaign uses terms like “Hot Gyal a Vote” and “Jab Jab to the Polls” as a means of using popular Caribbean words and terms as cultural specific lobbying. The idea — spearheaded by creator Felicia J. Persaud — was inspired by seeing a small interest and conversation about elections from within the West Indian community and it was time for change, she said.

“I’ve been really and very critical of the Caribbean community, in many terms, not being more active in voting,” said Persaud, who is of Guyanese descent.

She said after the West Indian American carnival, she felt somewhat discouraged to see a lack of mobilization for voting, and wanted to counter that by appealing to her community with slogans many would respond and relate to.

“As we were coming out of carnival, I did not see any social messages and it was all about the party and no push to get voters to register and do something,” said Persaud. “This is my last effort to tie-in carnival, and since Miami carnival is coming through this weekend as well, I hope that this is something people will share.”

The campaign officially launched on National Voters Registration Day, and it targets Caribbean-Americans using social media platforms like FaceBook and Twitter, according to Persaud. Most of the messages are in Caribbean English, and one is a Haitian proverb for Haitian Creole-speaking voters.

She says midterm elections showed that certain issues are very vital and integral to the improvement of the Caribbean American community. One of those is immigration specifically with the growing threat of displacement.

“This midterm election is a very critical time and we need to find ourselves at the table because immigration is something many of us have to be concerned with,” said Persaud. “We are facing deportation, Haitians with Temporary Protective Status are specifically facing this, and there’s a range of issues we have to be aware before there’s a rollback of all our rights in this country.”

As a voting bloc, Persaud says many Caribbean-Americans underestimate their influence as a voting group, but need to be more conscious than ever because the overall community has grown a lot, and more than half of that number incudes naturalized citizens — many who probably don’t know they can vote, or do not vote, she said.

She also says that she knows the number of Caribbean people living in the states is severely under-counted and those with voting power should be utilize it to be the voice for those who are not.

“We really have to step up our game and try to make a difference in our corner, not just the Caribbean community but the wider immigrant community,” she said.

Persaud hopes if more Caribbean voters are very active in local and national elections, that would not only help improve candidates that advocate for issues pertaining to the betterment of the community, but also increase the interest in people of Caribbean descent in seeking political aspirations and a seat in a public office.

“As a bloc we have to be more socially and politically active, and not just be on the sidelines, because the number of politicians with Caribbean roots is really small,” she said. “Once we stand up and are counted, they’ll take us seriously and regain the political powers we had in the 70s and 80s.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.

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