They’re some of the best around.
State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli honored several notable members of the city’s Caribbean-American community in Manhattan on June 16. The celebratory event at the Metropolitan College of New York in commemoration of Caribbean-American Heritage Month, acknowledged that immigrants and descendants from the region have people who have most impacted their community, said the comptroller.
“We are very pleased to be celebrating Caribbean Heritage Month and what we like to do is give recognition to individuals in the Caribbean community who have contributed so much to our city and our state,” said DiNapoli. “The five individuals we are honoring have done a great deal and give back to larger community.”
The honorees included Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, Bharati S. Kemraj, founder Bharati Dance Academy, and Felina Baker, assistant principal of Teachers Preparatory High School in Brooklyn. The comptroller also posthumously honored Detective Randolph Holder, the slain officer killed in Harlem in 2015, which was accepted by his father and fiancee.
DiNapoli said people like Holder and the other honorees devote their life to public service and uplifting their communities.
“Detective Holder certainly gave his life in the line of duty, and we have great elected officials in Congresswoman Clarke and Assemblymember Michaelle Solages,” he said. “Our other honorees also give back with work in community and working with children through education. The common theme is that we are celebrating individuals who exemplify that tradition of giving back, and certainly when we talk about the Caribbean Americans, many whom are immigrants, we are talking about people who are hardworking and entrepreneurial and these five individuals are certainly worthy of our celebration.”
Congresswoman Clarke, who is of Jamaican heritage, praised DiNapoli for celebrating Caribbean people because often credit to the contributions of Caribbean immigrants is often ignored, she said during her recipient speech.
“I believe there are Caribbean Americans at the founding of this nation, and we are the hidden figures and we’ve been hidden figures for generations,” she said.
She also recalled the stigma Caribbean-Americans experienced during the first wave of immigration from the region, particularly that of her mother and former councilwoman Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, who was also the first Caribbean-born woman elected to New York City Council. She said the reaction to her mother’s island pride was not initially received well, but should stand as a reminder of why all immigrants should be proud of their heritage.
“When she ran for office she said she was Caribbean-American and it rattled a lot of people when she said that,” said Clarke. “And it was just declaration of being — it was a declaration that we are not a monolithic people. When we look at myopically, we miss out on the richness, we miss out on depth of experiences and cultures, and values that people bring with them that make America so strong.”