EDITORIAL: The State of our Community

Miami Dade Commission Chairman Jean Monestime , addresses the audience at the “State of Black Miami” forum at Florida Memorial University last week.

Caribbean-Americans need forum to address our progress and concerns

Recently, officials and community advocates across Miami-Dade County, led by county Commission Chairman Jean Monestime, held the much-needed “State of Black Miami” forum at Florida Memorial University. There, individuals at the frontline of the community discussed ways to improve the quality of life of the county’s black community with emphasis on youth empowerment, economic prosperity, community development and stemming the scourge of violence. The forum was long overdue, shedding a light on the wide variety of unresolved issues impacting the black community, not only in Miami-Dade County, but throughout South Florida.

The forum recommended some potent solutions, and hopefully ongoing discussions and planning will see these recommendations develop. This forum’s productivity, however, highlights the need for a similar platform for the Caribbean-American community, where leaders can brainstorm with residents over shared issues. Although the Caribbean-American community is an integral part of the region’s black community, it has its specific challenges and concerns that need to be urgently addressed.

Because of our immigrant past, as individuals, Caribbean-Americans historically faced different social and economic challenges. Yet the problems that need to be addressed don’t pertain to individuals, but those of the wider community. One glaring issue is the economic viability of the Caribbean-American businesses. Many of our small businesses are located in South Florida, but their survival rates are limited due to difficulty raising financial capital to fund past the start-up phase. Over the past two decades, millions of dollars have been wasted and jobs lost because of the lack of efficient business planning, and sustained funding. Our community cannot evolve into a formidable social force if it doesn’t have a strong business base.

A forum would help form strategies to deal with these limitations. We may require, as was suggested at the “State of Black Miami” forum, the pooling of investment resources to create a reliable source of available capital for businesses. The more successful long-term businesses we can develop and sustain, the more jobs we can provide for our community. Moreover, the growth of jobs will enhance the overall viability of our community.

Our community tends to focus on individualistic growth rather than our growth as a group as a whole. This could be for various reasons – that we were mostly economic immigrants – seeking better job and education opportunities for ourselves and our families, rather that escaping a shared oppressive regime that would unify us all under a single, traumatic experience. However, even individualistic Caribbean-Americans are missing out on opportunities created from a strong, clearly identified Caribbean-American community. A forum would bring us together, training us on how to think of social issues collectively.

There are too many issues pertinent to the Caribbean-Americans that are discussed without our representation. We need a structured platform to provide the broadest contribution to those solutions. Caribbean Americans haves the potential to be a strong, distinctive community, but we need to come together to make this a reality.

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