Crowning a cultural enclave: Officials formally designate Little Caribbean district

Crowning a cultural enclave: Officials formally designate Little Caribbean district
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

It may be little, but it’s a big deal.

Members of the Caribbean community cheered local officials as they formally designated the borough’s cultural district in honor of the region at a Thursday ceremony at Flatbush and Nostrand avenues. Little Caribbean, which spans parts of Flatbush, East Flatbush, and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, is the first enclave of its kind in the world, thrilling many residents who hope it will encourage deeper camaraderie among Kings County’s Caribbean Diaspora.

“It’s an excellent execution of an idea,” said Marie Campbell, a 40-year Flatbush resident. “This is a great way to pull Caribbean people together, because so many of our people have contributed to local businesses, education, politics, religion, and culture, of course.”

The local praised the woman behind the quarter’s creation, cultural advocate Shelley Worrell, who proposed forming the district as a tribute to the fast-gentrifying neighborhoods’ Caribbean immigrants, ensuring their contributions to its history and culture will not be forgotten.

“For her to initiate this and see it through is a great way to recognize Caribbean heritage,” Campbell said. “Our culture has always been present in Flatbush, dating back to the 1960s and earlier.”

Residents not of Caribbean descent also applauded the quarter, calling it a fitting salute to a community that has made important contributions to the area.

“I’ve been here a long time, and I’m not of Caribbean background, but I live here and I see the influence,” said Janetta Lee, a 25-year Flatbush denizen. “We need to keep what we have in this area because there’s so much that’s happening.”

Brooklyn boasts the most significant Caribbean population in the entire country, according to Borough President Adams, who said the district is a thrilling addition to the county of Kings.

“This is the most important area of the country when it comes to our Caribbean population,” he said. “This announcement is really empowering … this is extremely exciting and it’s a great opportunity to promote what we do best.”

But other elected officials, including a local assemblywoman, boycotted the ceremony because the enclave was established without consulting enough community members from the region, specifically those from Haiti, according to the pol.

“We were taken aback by the lack of engagement that has been shown to many of the elected officials and key stakeholders within the Haitian community throughout the overall process,” said Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D–Flatbush), who is Haitian.

Bichotte fired off a letter to Mayor DeBlasio on Wednesday, co-signed by several Haitian organizations, that demanded the formal designation be postponed, arguing that Haitians deserve an enclave of their own after being ostracized from the larger Caribbean community for decades.

“We the undersigned propose that the official designation of ‘Little Caribbean’ be put on hold,” it read. “Our support for the designation of ‘Little Caribbean’ will be based on the support and designation of ‘Little Haiti’ preceding the designation of ‘Little Caribbean.’ ”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.