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Entering it’s twelfth year of existence, Caribbean American Heritage Month recognizes and celebrates the culture, history, natural beauty, and diversity of the nations connected to the Caribbean Sea (save the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Turks and Caicos Islands, which call the Atlantic Ocean home).  Today’s Caribbean nations, though shaped initially by the transatlantic slave trade and European colonialism intermingling with the native cultures, each have its own flair and significant historical contribution to what makes this region truly unique.  This year, I want to highlight some ways you can celebrate this heritage month with your class or as a family, learning loads of new information along the way.

Jigsaw.  This works great with a class or a family, and whether you have a country you want to learn about in particular or everyone has a different interest.  Pick a single country or one for each interested family member.  Find out common facts such as population, official or popular languages, date of independence if applicable, and national cuisine.  Divide the categories or countries and then share the research found with the rest of the group.

Take a trip.  Whether it’s virtual or physical, you can learn lots from visiting a country and immersing yourself in all it has to offer.  Technology has made learning about and visiting a new place easier than ever, and if you can hop on a plane, you will have a memorable experience that you’re sure never to forget.  Visit the naiton’s museums as well as places that are both well-known and off the beaten path.

Eat up.  Try some new cuisine by visiting an authentic restaurant or if you’re adventurous try making something of your own, such as roti, mofongo, or jerk chicken. You can learn a cultural dance, get into some music specific to the culture you’re interested in, and take time to learn about the lives of some notable celebrities with Caribbean heritage, which includes Marco Rubio, Rihanna, Colin Powell, Mia Love, and Tim Duncan.

Learn the lingo.  Many of these countries have languages that are not English.  Dedicate time and attention to learning a language common in the Caribbean.  In addition to the more commonly spoken languages such as English, Spanish, and French, explore a country’s Creole dialect as well as Yoruba, Hindustani, and Dutch.  All these languages are spoken in the region and learninga new language helps you in making new friends and expanding your ability to honor the culture.

Dig in.  Learn about the issues and concerns Caribbean Americans face here in the States as well as those with families that still live in the Caribbean.  Whether it’s political turmoil, poverty, humanitarian crisis, gaining independence/statehood, or government oppression, use the researching skills to become informed about these issues.  Write your representatives talking about your concerns and find out ways you can help increase awareness and bring about change in a respectful and meaningful way.

Talk about what ways you’re learning about Caribbean Americans below.

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