Diaspora

Caribbean Matters: Celebrating Black Caribbean Americans in the U.S. while combating xenophobia – Daily Kos

Growing up in New York City, I was exposed early on to the richness and diversity of Caribbean American communities, which was more than likely not the experience of folks from many other parts of the states. There was a patchwork quilt of Blackness in New York City that had many accents, amazing food, music, and history. 
I was no stranger to Black Latinos, whether from Puerto Rico, Cuba, or the Dominican Republic, and I knew the difference between “Bajans” (folks from Barbados) and those from Trinidad and Tobago or St. Lucia. My best friend growing up, who was like a sister, lived in East Harlem and had parents from Panama and Barbados. When my family moved from New York’s borough of Brooklyn to Queens, we had Haitian neighbors. As an adult I also spent time in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I made visits to Barbados. 
Like many non-Caribbean folks in NYC, when I got older I made an annual pilgrimage to the big West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn, which is taking place this year on Sept. 5, and regularly attended lectures and events at the Caribbean Cultural Center, which was founded by Dr. Marta Moreno Vega. I say all of this because I’m disturbed by a very loud and vocal right-wing Black American minority who are spending their time on social media attacking Caribbean Black folks—whether Creole-, Spanish-, or English-speaking—as “not Black.” These are people who openly embrace anti-immigrant policies that are rabidly MAGA, and they need to be called out by all of us.

Caribbean Matters is a weekly series from Daily Kos. If you are unfamiliar with the region, check out Caribbean Matters: Getting to know the countries of the Caribbean.
First, let’s look at some data. Pew Research Center published this report in January 2022 that looks at an increase in immigration from African countries.
Jamaica and Haiti remain top countries of origin for Black immigrants
Though there have been some shifts in the top countries of origin for Black immigrants to the U.S., Jamaica and Haiti have been the top two countries, respectively, in both 2000 and 2019. In 2000, those two Caribbean nations accounted for almost four-in-ten (39%) Black immigrants, but in 2019, their collective share had decreased to 31%, indicating a greater diversity of Black immigrants to the U.S. Nigeria and Ethiopia were the top birthplaces for Black African immigrants to the U.S. in 2019, with roughly 390,000 and 260,000 immigrants, respectively.
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) published this detailed report by Jane Lorenzi and Jeanne Batalova in July 2022:
Approximately 4.5 million Caribbean immigrants resided in the United States in 2019, representing 10 percent of the nation’s 44.9 million total foreign-born population. Close to 90 percent of immigrants in the United States from the 13 Caribbean countries and 17 dependent territories come from one of four countries: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Haiti.
The Caribbean is the most common region of birth for the 4.5 million Black immigrants in the United States, accounting for 46 percent of the total. Jamaica (16 percent) and Haiti (15 percent) are the two largest origin countries for Black immigrants. There have been distinct push and pull factors for nationals of the Caribbean, given that the United States previously exercised direct political control over most Caribbean nations, with the notable exception of Jamaica.
Voluntary, large-scale migration from the Caribbean to the United States began in the first half of the 20th century, following the end of the Spanish-American War, when a defeated Spain renounced its claims to Cuba and, among other acts, ceded Puerto Rico to the United States. In the early 1900s, U.S. firms employed Caribbean workers to help build the Panama Canal, and many of these migrants later settled in New York. A high demand for labor among U.S. fruit harvesting industries drew additional labor migrants, particularly to Florida. After World War II, U.S. companies heavily recruited thousands of English-speaking “W2” contract workers from the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Barbados to fill critical jobs in health care and agriculture. Around the same time, political instability in Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic fueled emigration from the region. Following the 1959 Cuban Revolution, an estimated 1.4 million people fled to the United States. Whereas the first major migration of immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other Caribbean nations was comprised mostly of the members of the elite and skilled professionals, the subsequent flows consisted chiefly of their family members and working-class individuals.
So, Caribbean Black folks are here. Historically many Caribbean Black folks were the ancestors of many, many Black Americans since enslaved people caught up in the Transatlantic Triangle Trade  were “seasoned” in the Caribbean before being sold to the United States. For example, you can take a look at the Midlo-Hall database, which documents enslaved persons brought to Louisiana during the period of 1719-1820. 
However, as I mentioned in the opening of this story, there are those who are vocally and abusively opposed to Black immigrants, even denying they are “real Black Americans.” I addressed this issue in May 2019 when the group creating the most negative noise was ADOS, an acronym for “American Descendants of Slavery.” You can also read a detailed takedown by Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor.
Many of the online attacks against our now-Vice President Kamala Harris, who is Jamaican American and Indian American—and Black—were generated by ADOS, which was covered in this 2019 article in Slate by Rachelle Hampton:
Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism and intelligence consultant for the U.S. government, warned on Twitter that “For 5 months a small group of black cyber security experts have been watching a bunch of black Trumpers using #ADOS & warning it was the leading edge of a racist Russian cyber attack on @KamalaHarris. Many bots. Some trolls.” Indeed, there’s evidence purveyors of misinformation are more than happy to use #ADOS as a weapon in their meme arsenal. On a 4chan /pol/ thread that asks for dirt on Harris, one user wrote, “Highlight the fact that most Americans blacks (#ADOS) hate her from posing as one of them, when in fact she’s a descendant of Caribbean slave owners and high-class street-shitters. She does not speak for African Americans.” Another wrote, “I have a bunch of Tw@tter accounts for the sole purpose of astroturfing reparations. It will splinter the Democrat Party. #ADOS #FuckYouPayMe.” Yet another said in January, “Make sure we let them know Kamala is Jamaican/Indian mix and she’s not an ADOS American descendant of slaves.”
Part of the ADOS movement has now morphed into “Foundational Black Americans (FBA),” which was founded by Tariq Nasheed, a filmmaker and author of books glorifying pimping who also has a very large YouTube following. IMDB has a short bio. (I’m not linking to his website or video channel.) 
Shannon Dawson recently wrote a story for NewsOne explaining the FBA movement:
Over the last year, you may have seen the phrase Foundational Black American (FBA) tossed around the internet thanks to the “World’s #1 Race Baiter,” Tariq Nasheed. In January, during a Twitter Spaces discussion, the controversial media personality sent the buzzword trending when he argued that Black Americans were the originators of the United States. Since then, the polarizing author and documentarian’s belief has attracted millions of supporters from the Black community, many of whom claim they too identify as a Foundational Black American. But what does the term mean exactly?
According to the Official FBA website, Foundational Black Americans are descendants of Black slaves who built the United States from scratch. Followers of the ideology, however, believe that the origins and history of Foundational Black Americans did not begin at the start of slavery in the early 1600s. They strongly believe that FBA’s settled in North America in 1526, when they were allegedly brought over from the Caribbean by a “colonizer” named Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón. […]
FBA’s don’t believe in the concept of pan-Africanism. They believe they are a unique ethnic group with complex cultural and societal ideologies different from Africans and other Black immigrants.  Community members often call those who do not identify with the culture “non-FBAs.”
This fairly innocuous piece was roundly trolled by Nasheed’s followers. 
Why is all of this important? As we are locked in a life and death struggle with MAGA insurrectionists and a Republican Party that has morphed into MAGA white supremacists spewing hate at our most vulnerable citizens, many not-Black Democrats who don’t regularly pay attention to Black social media may be completely unaware of the divisive forces seeking to fracture the Black community that has been the staunchest supporter of the Democratic Party. Our Caribbean communities need more attention from the rest of us, not less. Black Lives Matter no matter where they, or their ancestors, were birthed.    
I take this personally as well. I’ve been attacked on social media as “not-Black” and told I should shut up if I am talking about Black issues. All because of the “Velez” in my name (my husband’s surname), and because I was a member of the Young Lords Party in the past, which was engaged in major activism in the Puerto Rican community in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  
My pinned tweet was selected for a reason:
I’m black.
Black is my culture; black is my “racial identity” here in the United States, even with all its negative baggage; and, much more importantly (to me), black is beauty. https://t.co/kh873H2sxS
My husband is Black. His family is Puerto Rican. Many of my religious family members and friends from across the Caribbean and from Brazil are Black. 
Any group of people attempting to push an agenda of denial of our shared history and culture is dangerous and needs to be condemned. This weekly series was birthed out of what I felt was a need to introduce more readers to Caribbean culture and politics, both in the Caribbean and here in the U.S. I hope it achieves that.
Join me in the comments section below for the weekly Caribbean news roundup. I hope those of you who live in or near Caribbean communities get a chance to attend upcoming festivities.

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