Caribbean City Officials on the Immigrant Experience

From left to right: Mark Chambers, director at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Jacques Jiha, commissioner of the Department of Finance, Gregg Bishop, commissioner of Small Business Services, Brooklyn state Sen. Roxanne Persaud, and moderator Brittny Saunders, deputy commissioner for strategic initiatives at the Human Rights Commission. (Photo via Caribbean Life)

NYC agency commissioners, and an elected official, spoke of their experiences as Black Caribbean-Americans at “Honoring Our Culture, Realizing Our Rights: A Celebration of Afro-Caribbean Communities,” a Medgar Evers College event on Sept. 20 co-organized with the NYC Human Rights Commission.

The speakers – state Sen. Roxanne Persaud, Department of Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha, Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop, and Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Director Mark Chambers – are of Guyanese, Haitian, Grenadian, and Jamaican background respectively, writes Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life. Brittny Saunders, deputy commissioner for strategic initiatives at the Human Rights Commission of Jamaican descent, moderated the panel.

The panelists discussed their journey as immigrants or children of immigrants, facing discrimination, and working their way up the ladders in their fields. And the institutions that provided opportunities that would play an assisting role in who they are, said Bishop.

“My mother overstayed her visa and was undocumented before she was a nanny for a while, putting herself through school at City Tech,” he said. “And when she graduated she ended up working at Downstate. So when we talk a lot about institutions, they are critical for changing generations because I would not be sitting on this stage right now if not for those institutions and her determination.”

Go to Caribbean Life to read more on the discrimination and anti-immigrant attitudes experienced by the speakers, as well as on the importance of knowing one’s rights and speaking out.

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