227 years after the forced displacement that brought them to Central America, the Garífuna community in the U.S. asks Congress for visibility and dignity

April 25, 2024 – 227 years ago, the first Garifuna people arrived on the island of Roatan, Honduras. About two thousand Garifuna people survived banishment from the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, where they cohabited for thousands of years with another indigenous people, the Arawak. The British army and government expelled them, dispossessing them of their ancestral lands after years of resistance. Since then, the history of the Garifuna people has been marked by their struggle for survival and their fight to preserve their culture, live in dignity, and ensure a better future for the next generations. 

 

Garífuna people arrived in the United States more than 85 years ago, attracted by industrialization. That was the beginning of the Garifuna community in the diaspora, where they continue to struggle to preserve their cultural identity and recognition. Despite having deep roots in the United States, very few political, social, and cultural leaders know them. Therefore, they use advocacy to educate U.S. elected officials about their culture, realities, and needs. The goal is that they will influence the decisions of elected officials that impact their living conditions in the U.S. and their home countries.

 

On April 17th, Casa Yurumein and Hondurans Against AIDS mobilized 50 Garifuna, or in plural “Garinagu,” who traveled from Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to lead their National Garífuna Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. This is the second year for this activity, which is part of the activities to commemorate Garifuna Heritage Month

 

The Garífuna delegation held meetings with 16 congressional representatives and senators’ offices, where they presented concrete requests:

 

  1. The representatives should be part of the House Garifuna Caucus and co-sponsor HR 344, which seeks to establish April as National Garífuna Heritage Month in the United States.
  2. Representatives and Senators to help get the Biden-Harris administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guatemala and a TPS redesignation for Honduras because these are the countries from which thousands of Garífuna people have been forced to migrate over the past 20 years, driven by discrimination, poverty, organized crime, state violence, and government neglect.
  3. Provide federal funding to enable the Garífuna community to continue organizing and carrying out its work by expanding its impact in more states. Due to multiple systemic challenges, Central American Black communities living in the United States are unable to access sustainable funding sources for the implementation of their projects.

 

It is important to note that the delegation included a group of 10 girls and young leaders from the Miss Garífuna leadership program, where they learn about the origins of the Garífuna people and their cultural heritage and acquire skills to continue their work in grassroots organizing, advocacy, services and participate in multiple forums to raise their voice on behalf of their people. The presence of children and youth in advocacy is a hope for the Garífuna people.

We thank the offices that met with our members.

 

  • Representative RitchieTorres (D-NY-15)
  • Representative Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL-14)
  • Representative Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-9)
  • RepresentativeJoaquin Castro (D-TX-20)
  • Representative and Chair of the Hispanic Caucus Nannette Barragán (D-CA-44)
  • Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-8)
  • Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18)
  • Representative Cori Bush (D-MO-01)
  • Representative Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL-20)
  • Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14)
  • Representative Jamaal  Bowman (D-NY-16)
  • Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7)
  • Representative Troy A. Carter (D-LA-2)
  • Senate Leader Charles Schumer  (D-NY)
  • Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA)
  • Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

 

Four members of Congress personally received the delegation: Senate Leader Charles Schumer and Representatives Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL-14), and Joaquín Castro (D-TX-20).

 

Alianza Americas congratulates our member organizations that participated in the National Garifuna Advocacy Day: Casa Yurumein, CARECEN of Washington DC, Familias Unidas en Acción, Children of Livingston, Central America Black Organization (CABO), and Hondurans Against AIDS. As a national multi-ethnic network, we are proud that the only national advocacy day organized and led by Central American black communities is led by our member organizations. We pledge to continue to support the efforts and initiatives of our Garifuna membership to continue their efforts to preserve their culture, achieve a dignified life, and ensure a better future for the next generations. 

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