by Ambassador Linda Taglialatela, U.S. Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS.
On a rainy Monday just over a month ago, Congresswomen Barbara Lee from Oakland, California and Robin Kelly of Chicago, Illinois visited Vauxhall Primary School. The school was the first educational institution Shirley Chisholm attended nearly 100 years ago. Chisholm was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and the first woman and African American to seek a major party’s nomination for president of the United States 50 years ago this year. Though born in the United States, Chisholm grew up in Christ Church on her grandmother’s farm, and she always credited the education she received here as the foundation upon which she built her future success. Congresswoman Lee got her start on Shirley Chisholm’s staff. Chisholm encouraged her to run for Congress, which she did successfully in 1998, and as a member, Representative Lee sponsored the bill that created Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
It is relationships like these that we celebrate this month. Caribbean cultures, traditions, and values strengthen the United States and add new chapters to our common story. Vice President Harris with her own Jamaican roots stands on the shoulders of women like Shirley Chisholm. Young artists and entrepreneurs from Brooklyn to Bridgetown are inspired by Barbados’ newest National Hero, Rihanna. The hundreds of thousands of visitors that flow between Barbados and the United States are a testament to our close ties and friendship among our people.
Our countries share the hemisphere’s oldest roots of democracy and representative government. Those shared values of the rule of law and democratic governance, which with time and sacrifice have guided both our countries to become more inclusive and just, continue to safeguard our human rights.
This coming week, President Biden will welcome Prime Minister Mottley and the leaders of the Western Hemisphere to Los Angeles for the Ninth Summit of the Americas. The President has a simple but ambitious goal: help the entire hemisphere realize its potential as a region where democracy delivers for everyone and people can realize their aspirations no matter where they live.
The Summit focuses on the bedrock of all our societies: our people. COVID-19 has claimed more than 2.7 million lives in our hemisphere and inflicted massive economic harm – job losses, declining income, rising poverty. The economic crisis hit marginalized communities hardest. Job losses have been especially high for women, younger workers, and those who work in the informal sector. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised the price of essential goods, from fertilizer to wheat to gasoline. We have all felt these effects. The United States remains inextricably linked with the peoples and the economies of the Caribbean and the wider hemisphere.
Through the Summit, we must commit to a green and equitable economic recovery, resilience in our health systems, and revitalized democracies. The COVID-19 pandemic showed gaps in our public health systems we must work together to overcome. We must bolster transparent and accountable governance and promote and protect human rights, social inclusion, and gender, racial, and ethnic equity. We can generate inclusive prosperity by building a digital economy to bring more people into formal jobs, so we must commit to promoting interoperable, resilient, secure, and reliable telecommunications networks and to facilitating affordable, universal broadband Internet access. Harnessing the hemisphere’s tremendous clean energy potential can serve as a driver for economic development and address the climate crisis, so we must commit to promoting the use of efficient and energy-saving technologies to achieve net zero emissions; cooperating to increase wind, solar, bioenergy, and hydroelectricity; and setting goals to scale-up renewable energy. Our work together to improve institutions and build resilient communities will contribute to a growing economy, enhance regional safety, and increase opportunities for the people of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
I invite you to join me in celebrating Caribbean-American Heritage Month 2022. We have a unique opportunity to meet the health, climate, and economic challenges before us. The Summit of the Americas offers us the chance to chart that course together.