Cultural diversity is what makes America great! As a native born and bred Miamian, who also happens to be a descendant of both Caribbean and American parents – I’m ‘Jamerican’ to be exact – cultural blending is my normal reality.

It wasn’t until I went to undergrad in Atlanta in January of 2000 that I realized just how unique a place South Florida is. A part of what makes it special is the diversity of people from island nations in the Caribbean who have chosen to settle and call it home.

Picture me back then running around metro Atlanta trying to find Jungle Punch and Garcia Sausages – or mentioning that I really want some conch and no one knowing what I was talking about. I’d come from a city where the majority of residents had some form of a Caribbean bloodline, and even if they didn’t, these things were commonplace. It was flabbergasting, but also enlightening about the magnificence that occurs when cultures blend – as well as the failure to transfer powerful knowledge when they do not.

So this month as we celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month, I’d like to say thank you!

Thank you to the men and women who left their native lands to come to my part of the world and make it a better place.

Thank you for your contributions to the overall American culture. What would not only South Florida, but the country be had you not graced us with your presence? You have given us delicious food, upbeat music, vibrant clothing and so much more! But most importantly you have taught us about resilience through your determined and unyielding spirit.

No matter what island you emigrated or descended from, America could not be who she is without you! I often tell people that I am beyond proud to have island blood running through my veins. I wear the badge of being a multi-cultural woman proudly and look forward to learning more and more about my island heritage daily.

Thank you for the lessons you have taught us and the ways you have brought us. Thank you for showing everyone how much better off the world is when cultures blend.

-Isheka N. Harrison