In March 2009, GCU opened the Garifuna Advocacy Center in the heart of the South Bronx on East 149th Street.
The Center’s volunteers open doors six days a week to provide information, educational services, networking opportunities and cultural events for the Garifuna community. Most first-generation Garifuna immigrants work long hours in home health care, housekeeping and construction. Garifuna women work in factories and as home attendants. Like other working poor, Garifuna families have significant social service needs. Through an agreement with Phipps Community Development Corporation, a 35-year-old multi-service provider of educational, vocational and community development programs, the Garifuna Advocacy Center makes referrals and avails community members of English-as-a-Second Language and GED classes, and other critical services.
The GCU also supports smaller Garifuna organizations and has brought ten with specific youth and women constituencies into the coalition. GCU provides organizational capacity building workshops in topics ranging from fiscal management to media communications.
GCU’s voter registration campaign seeks to engage communities in the political process by registering and mobilizing new voters to the polls. The organization provides voter education and registration information at local areas where Garifuna gather, including parks, festivals, social events, and small organizations. GCU is also partnering with the U.S. Census to ensure an accurate Garifuna count in 2010.
In 2009, GCU successfully petitioned the Bronx Borough President to proclaim March 11th through April 12th as Garifuna Heritage Month to recognize the contributions of Garifuna Americans to the fabric of New York and pay tribute to the common culture and friendship bonds that connect the United States and Garifuna countries of origin.
The Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. serves as an advocate for Garifuna issues and a united voice for the Garifuna community in New York City. It promotes the self-determination and unification of the New York Garifuna community through grassroots organizing and community development.
The Happy Land Social Club tragedy, the killing of a fellow countryman by a New York City Policeman are considered as turning points for the Garífuna Immigrant Community – a time to pause and assess the meaning of over 70 years of struggle and development in this great city, while looking forward to a future brimming with promise and hope. But for most of the past seven decades, Garifunas have not experienced reflection and renewal. Instead, they have witnessed shocking images of a community in crisis.
In answer to these alarming conditions that beset their society, “Garifuna Pride, Our Voice – Our Vision” stands as a voice for the Garifuna Immigrant Community to bear on all facets of the New York society. Conveying a clear message from the Garifuna people:
We are all Citizens and Garifunas want a healthy and prosperous city. The travails of our city affect Garifunas as much as other citizens, sometimes with even greater severity. In turn, the concerns and needs of the Garifuna community bear on all facets the New York society.
Garifunas want to be part of the solution. For many years, the local media and citizens have portrayed Garifunas as a disorganized immigrant group in The Bronx. But Garifunas have made many outstanding contributions to New York and the Bronx and these contributions have been ignored or forgotten.
The vitality, talent and commitment of the Garifunas constitute a tremendous resource for our city. Recognizing that Garifunas’ issues are New York’s issues, we stand ready to work as full partners with all segments of The Bronx’s society to address our current ordeals and fulfill the promise of a bright future.