Caribbean Matters: So much more than a place hurricanes pass over on the way to Florida or Louisiana

Caribbean Matters: So much more than a place hurricanes pass over on the way to Florida or Louisiana

When I see the Caribbean mentioned in U.S. headlines, it is most often brought up in passing in weather forecasts about storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean and heading towards the mainland U.S., or when there is a natural disaster, like the recent earthquake in Haiti, or last spring’s eruption of the La Soufriere volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Coverage is rarely in-depth and often fleeting as few major news organizations have expert journalists assigned to that beat; further, the stories those reporters file are rarely given prominence.

The one exception to that dearth of coverage is Cuba, given the long history of adversarial relationships between us, fueled by Republican politicians who use Cuba as a means to garner support and votes from the Cuban American exile community.

The nations and territories that make up the area dubbed “the Caribbean” are our nearest neighbors other than Canada and Mexico, and yet they may as well be on the other side of the globe for all we hear and learn about them on a regular basis, beyond their appeal as travel destinations for American tourists.

Reports on weather events all too frequently misname or mispronounce where storms are taking place.

Yeah and Barbuda is not Barbados

— Denise Oliver-Velez 💛 (@Deoliver47) September 21, 2017

And six months later:

Dear people: 1.) Guyana is not Ghana 2.) Barbados, Barbuda & Bermuda are three separate islands. 3.) Trinidad and Tobago is one country. 4.) Costa Rica is not a resort in Spain 5.) Grenada is not Granada. 6.) Tobago is pronounced Tuh-bay-go Thank you.

— Ri Fingal (@RiFingal) March 23, 2018

Recently, I posted this thread to Twitter. I decided that it was worth exploring this issue here at Daily Kos.

The Caribbean is not just a place hurricanes pass over on the way to the US mainland. In years of teaching I never had a non-Caribbean student who could name all or most of these island nations. Most of my college students could only identify 2 or 3.

— Denise Oliver-Velez 💛 (@Deoliver47) September 6, 2021

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since the August 14th earthquake in Haiti. Less than a month has passed, & the msm coverage is abysmal. However we shouldn’t only see disaster stories, or ads focused on tourism. Curious…what was the last book you read by a Caribbean author?

— Denise Oliver-Velez 💛 (@Deoliver47) September 6, 2021

Black Kos is currently the only Daily Kos Community group that regularly features stories that aren’t about disasters from the region. Yet Democrats with ties to the Caribbean aren’t hard to find.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ father is Jamaican, while Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s parents, like the parents of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are from Puerto Rico. Another New York House member, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, was born in the Dominican Republic, while Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s parents immigrated here from Jamaica. Non-voting U.S. Virgin Islands Del. Stacey Plaskett’s parents are from St. Croix—yet we frequently overlook the contributions of Caribbean Americans to our politics.

This short 2017 video from YouTuber Lyndsay Elizabeth lists 60 influential Caribbean Americans who made an impact on our history and culture … a list that originally had 20 more. From Marcus Garvey to Esther Rolle, Alexander Hamilton to Audre Lorde, the contributions of these five dozen people are undeniable and just the start.

Caribbean Matters is a new series I’ll be writing here. I’m hoping that those of you who have an interest in the Caribbean will take the poll below, and join the effort to cover our Caribbean neighbors here at Daily Kos.

Here’s one first step: While there are several excellent writers here covering weather and natural events that have occurred in the Caribbean, many of those stories do not have the #Caribbean tag, which makes them harder to find. If you see a post that you feel relates to the Caribbean I hope you will add that tag, and if you happen to have some spare time, help update past stories that aren’t tagged yet.

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