Before June wraps, we want to bring attention to Caribbean Heritage Month. While it doesn’t receive the fanfare of other June-based celebrations like Pride, it’s important to acknowledge in a city where an estimated 20% of the population is of Caribbean descent. We also acknowledge that there is just one day of June left. We were late to the game on this one, but wanted to make sure to share what we learned.
Observed nationally since 2006, Caribbean Heritage Month celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Caribbean Americans. The islands haven’t just blessed us with stars like Rihanna, but civil rights activists like Marcus Garvey and political figures such as Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to be elected to Congress and the first woman to run for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination.
“If you look in any field you will find Caribbean Americans at the helm,” said Shelley Worrell, founder of whose parents hail from Trinidad. “Caribbean people have had a tremendous impact and influence on several sectors just like all other immigrant groups. There’s women’s history month, there’s Black history month, there are all of the other narratives that are centered and I think we are equally as important.”
It was this lack of representation that inspired her to create CaribBeing, a Prospect Park-based mobile art, cultural and market space representative of Brooklyn’s Caribbean diaspora. It will be reopening for the season soon; keep an eye out on its website for upcoming tours and events.
Worrell, a lifelong Flatbush resident, also spearheaded the 2017 movement to designate part of Brooklyn’s neighborhood — which is home to the most diverse Caribbean-American-LatinX community outside of the West Indies — as “Little Caribbean.”
And it’s not just Brooklyn that boasts a large Caribbean population – there are enclaves throughout the city like Little Guyana in Queens and Little Dominican Republic in Washington Heights.
Want to learn more? Start eating.
“I think that food is a great way to immerse yourself into something new,” Worrell said.
Her go-to meal is a roti — a sort of buttery flatbread particularly popular in Trinidad — stuffed with curried goat, pumpkin and pepper sauce from De Hot Pot in Flatbush.
Worrell has created several food-centric guides for “island hopping” between the different Caribbean communities in NYC: