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Dominic Christopher, the Jamaican-born president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Restaurant Association (CARA) has described as “super excited” his organization’s hosting of the first ever, in-person National Caribbean American Restaurant Week.
The historical event was launched on Sunday at the popular Suede Restaurant in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Christopher said CARA also organized participating restaurants in over 17 states and 30 cities across the US in honor of National Caribbean American Restaurant Week.
“As we also celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month, let us all remember to do all we can to patronize our restaurants not only here in New York City but also across the US,” Christopher told Caribbean Life.
“Our restaurants experienced the brunt of COVID-19 business closures, so CARA will stay focused on our mission of fully supporting our members,” he added.
Christopher said National Caribbean American Restaurant Week featured “exceptional Caribbean foods, top-shelf mixtures of Caribbean drinks, and a unique experience for our important invited guests and patrons alike.”
He said Sunday’s celebration kick-started extended Restaurant Week, “which is helping as many restaurants as possible to recover and restore the financial health of their business due to the devastating losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Christopher said one of the objectives of the National Caribbean American Restaurant Week is to help generate local support for restaurants impacted by the pandemic in New York City and around the country.
Sunday’s launch was also hosted by Oliver Samuels, the legendary Jamaican actor, performer, comedian, director and producer, who recently celebrated his 50th year in cultural entertainment.
“Whenever Jamaican and Caribbean people gather, I’m very proud to be part of the gathering,” Samuels told Caribbean Life during the event. “It is believed that we’re the most fragmented people, and this is a manifestation that this is not the case. The idea of this event is a brilliant one.
“I feel very honored and very special to be here,” added Samuels, who came from Jamaica specially for the event. “What I would like is that it gets bigger and bigger. And I hope Caribbean peoples will support and give it the support, so it’ll become an annual event to be part of our heritage.”
Chaka Bomani, the St. Lucian-born co-owner of Suede Restaurant, said the restaurant was “proud to host the first ever National Caribbean American Restaurant Week.
“As a sponsor and a proven community partner, we are happy to do our part in bringing awareness to such a critical endeavor,” he told Caribbean Life. “COVID-19 devastated many of our restaurants. So, doing our part is essential.
“We are looking forward to next year, and the next year after that, to assist in making it even bigger,” he added.
The inaugural ever National Caribbean American Restaurant Week had the blessings of New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, who traces her roots to Barbados and St. Lucia.
“I am proud of my Caribbean heritage and. along with thousands of New Yorkers, I am thrilled to support the first-ever National Caribbean American Restaurant Week.
“Caribbean restaurants are the heart and soul of neighborhoods across New York City and across the nation,” she added. “They bring the warmth of a culture that celebrates family and community with tantalizing traditional dishes and the familiar flavors of home.
“Like so many other small businesses – especially in communities of color – our Caribbean restaurants were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” McCray continued. “Now, as we focus on a fair, inclusive recovery, it is up to all of us to support these businesses as they recover.”
Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke said that, “as a Jamaican-American woman, I take great pride in my heritage and understand the illustrious legacy of how Black and Caribbean culture contributed and continues to contribute to this country’s culinary identity.
“Our people took scraps and the undesired, and created delicacies,” said the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “We created art from ugly and cultivated nourishment from deprivation. That is why weeks like this are so important.
“We must not only support our Caribbean restaurants but also preserve the rich cultural legacy that is our food,” Clarke added. “Happy Caribbean American Heritage Month, and Happy Caribbean Restaurant Week.”