By Sam Bojarski
Caribbean flags of all colors filled the streets of Flatbush on the afternoon of June 14, as calls for racial justice were punctuated by the sounds of reggae music.
Marlyne Gaston was one of the protesters who marched up Flatbush Avenue, from Church Avenue to Grand Army Plaza, demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to racism and police brutality.
“I was hesitant to come out earlier in the protests because of COVID, but last night another black man was killed in America,” said Gaston, in reference to the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, which occurred late Friday night.
“I was vocal from my house, but now, I see I had to come out here,” added Gaston, a Haitian-American who lives in Flatbush.
Several hundred people, perhaps more than 1,000, attended the Caribbean Americans for Justice march, organized as a show of unity during Caribbean American Heritage Month. The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy, Mount Zion Church of God, Byways & Hedges Youth for Christ Ministry, Ride Along Live and Haitian American community leader Rose Guerrier, of International Cultures United, were among the organizers of the event.
Speakers and marchers called for black unity and solidarity among immigrants, and attendees marched peacefully through the streets, chanting the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Call-and-response slogans like “no justice, no peace,” were regular features of the march.
Jeff Paul, a Haitian American who was in attendance, noted the significance of the event, given Brooklyn’s large Caribbean community.
“I think it’s good for us to show unity with each other, we’re all from different islands and everything, but you know, when we all come together for a cause it’s a beautiful thing,” said Paul, who lives in Flatbush.
Haitians, in particular, have been settling in the U.S. in large numbers since the 1960s. According to Paul, the generation of Haitians who were born in the U.S. have become more in tune with the challenges faced by other black Americans.
“I think the generation that was born here, you know, we pretty much have been in black culture, and we know the different things in black society that affect us,” he told the Haitian Times.
Gaston acknowledged that the past has not always been free of conflict between the different Caribbean communities in Brooklyn. But she said the march represented an opportunity for all people of African descent to come together as one.
“When they said they (were) having a Caribbean protest, I was like, ‘oh yeah, that’s up my alley.’ African Americans, Caribbean Americans, we’re all one and the same,” she said.
The crowd gradually began to swell at around noon, as march attendees, most of them dressed in black, gathered on all four corners of Church and Flatbush avenues. Rev. Terry Lee of Byways & Hedges kicked things off with an electrifying prayer and speech. After acknowledging his own background as a Jamaican immigrant, he called for solidarity among all immigrants during the march.
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