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Abner Louima Shares his Powerful Survivor’s Story from Police Brutality

Abner Louima

“God himself says that you have to forgive to be forgiven. I don’t forget what happened. But I do forgive.” 

A soft-spoken Haitian immigrant living in New York, Abner Louima was just 30 years old when, on August 9, 1997, police officer Justin Volpe falsely accused him of assault outside a nightclub. 

At the 70th precinct station in Brooklyn, Volpe and his fellow officers inflicted an hours-long attack on Abner Louima in one of the most shocking documented cases of police brutality in U.S. history. Louima sustained life-threatening internal, external and psychological injuries. Now, after 23 years, he credits faith, family, and the resilient spirit of Haiti and the Caribbean for making it this far. 

“We are survivors. We can overcome any adversity,” he said. 

His is a tale as old as time for African Americans. But for newer immigrants in the African diaspora, inherent targeting of Black people at the hands of rogue police officers is a newly familiar phenomenon. This diaspora, having left their homelands in search of the great American Dream, has come to learn that too often Black families in the United States are left mourning the death of targeted loved ones and wondering whether justice will ever be served. Louima recognizes that he’s one of only a few. 

Abner Louima

“I’m thankful because God wants me alive to speak about my own story. Most of the people that have been victimized really don’t have a chance to speak,” he said. Acknowledging his higher calling, he grants, “If God saved my life, he saved it for a reason.”

In a rare occurrence, Abner Louima’s perpetrators were tried and convicted. In a separate civil case, he was awarded the largest settlement in a police brutality case in New York City’s history — $8.7 million. His abusers were jailed; Volpe is still serving time in a 30-year sentence.

At the time of Volpe’s conviction, Louima became the icon of a movement. Black leaders, like Al Sharpton and Johnny Cochran, and advocates from around the world, rallied around him. An international campaign arose, much like the groundswell that followed the recent murder of George Floyd. Yet even now, a solution remains out of reach. 

“I didn’t think that I would be talking about [police brutality] 20 years later, but it seems like nothing will change,” Louima said.

Though faith and family have been his support, dealing with the trauma is an ongoing battle. 

“Each time there’s a case of police brutality or police misconduct, it brings back all the memories,” he said. But, “you have two choices. Either you let it affect you, or you deal with it. I have no choice but to deal with it.”

Today, living in South Florida, Louima is a real estate developer and philanthropist. Connecting with fellow survivors has become a central part of his healing process. He finds comfort offering them guidance and support as well as advocating for legal reform to deter future police abuse. 

In the immediate aftermath of his own ordeal, Louima said the support of the community, particularly from the Haitian diaspora, “gave me courage.”  Still, as long as the problem persists, so will he. 

“We have to keep fighting until we get systemic change,” he said. “They are not going to hand it to us. So we have to keep fighting.”

Get COVID-19 support in Miami-Dade County for locals

COVID-19 support in Miami-Dade County

From families to small businesses, all have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many have been left in financial uncertainty. In response, residents can get COVID-19 support in Miami-Dade County, offering pandemic assistance services particularly among the county’s Black, Indigenous and immigrant communities. With support from the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and other partners, the county is offering financial aid and social services for the people at its heart.

Family: For families, this includes programs addressing basic living expenses like food and housing. In collaboration with Feeding South Florida, the county hosts weekly drive-thru food pickups at more than 20 community distribution sites. On Saturdays, families can source fresh-picked, locally-grown produce at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. Those struggling with rent also may receive relief up to $5,000 over three months through Miami-Dade County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Military: Veterans and current U.S. military personnel also can access housing support if they need it. The Military and Veterans Housing Assistance Program helps cover past due rent or mortgage payments for up to three months, with a maximum of $5,000. Veterans may receive funds for other critical expenses like groceries, medical supplies and baby care products through the Basic Needs Program, which provides vouchers up to $1000 for individuals and $2,000 for families.

Small Business: Businesses in hospitality, transportation, and even arts and entertainment can apply for grants and loans provided through the county. Small business owners with 25 or fewer employees who operate in Miami-Dade are eligible for assistance through earmarked funding. This relief addresses financial needs including employee payroll, supply expenses, utilities and disruption or reopening costs. The Small Business Assistance Forgivable Loan Program, in particular, distributes loans of up to $25,000, with 0% interest and no origination fees.

“The pandemic has placed a shock on our families and businesses, but with these safety nets in place we can bounce back and hopefully come out and make innovations that will allow us to withstand future shocks,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Learn more about how the COVID-19 Pandemic Assistance Program in Miami-Dade county can suppoort at miamidade.gov/covidhelp.

What you need to know about traveling to the Caribbean during COVID-19

COVID-19 Caribbean travel
Ocean views at the amazing spa at Curtain Bluff Resort in Antigua.
Photo credit: Steve Bennett/UncommonCaribbean.com

Quarantine fatigue combined with the public’s increasing ability to cope with the constraints of post-COVID life have more people longing to escape to the warmth of the West Indies this winter. COVID-19 Caribbean travel at present, however, is anything but business as usual. Borders to many destinations remain closed. Entry protocols and quarantine requirements also vary throughout the region — as do restrictions on visitor activities in certain places.

So how best can you navigate the new normal of COVID-19 Caribbean travel while still enjoying the islands? Here’s a look at what to expect when exploring these select tropical shores. 


Photo Credit: Patrick Bennett/UncommonCaribbean.com

For a quick and breezy getaway, it’s hard to beat Belize right now. Recently relaxed entry requirements mean that visitors no longer need to quarantine upon arrival. No application is necessary to visit either. Assuming you arrive with proof of a negative COVID test, or test negative at the airport, then you’re free to roam — mostly.

This is because the government of Belize still advises travelers to use businesses that are part of their Tourism Gold Standard Program, which means they adhere to all health guidelines related to COVID-19. Such services include hotels and resorts, tour operators, attractions, rental car companies, taxis, restaurants and gift shops.

Visitors are strongly encouraged to limit their fun in Belize to businesses-certified operations under the Tourism Gold Standard Program. All are clearly listed in the convenient Belize Health App, which all visitors must download and initiate within 72 hours of arrival in the country.


View of the skyline along the Punda side of Curaçao’s capital city, Willemstad.

For added freedom of movement along your Caribbean travels, Curaçao is another great option right now. The guidelines here allow you to rent a car and experience the island as usual, assuming you wear a mask in public and maintain the same six feet of social distance we’re all advised to follow here in the United States. 

Before you can visit Curaçao though, U.S. travelers must complete some mandatory tasks. First, you need to complete an online digital immigration card and digital Passenger Locator Card, available at dicardcuracao.com. You will need to fill out these documents at least 48 hours prior to departure and carry a hard copy with you during your stay. Travelers are required to show printed proof of a negative result from a certified COVID-19 test upon arrival. Tests must be taken within 72 hours of travel, and results must remain on your person during the entirety of your stay. You’re also required to upload a copy of your negative test result to the website.

No visit to Curaçao is complete with a taste of local dishes like Karni Stobá.  Photo Credit: “Steve Bennett/UncommonCaribbean.com

To cover any health concerns, the Government of Curaçao requires visitors to be adequately insured for medical care, including possible quarantine extended stays. During this pandemic, however, travel health insurance is a smart decision no matter where you visit.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua’s luxury escape, Curtain Bluff Resort, which reopened Oct. 24. Photo credit: Steve Bennett/UncommonCaribbean.com

If a more extended Caribbean escape is what you have in mind, Antigua and Barbuda may be just what you’re looking for. The twin-island nation is offering a Nomad Digital Residence (NDR) visa program that lets visitors live and move freely within the country for up to two years.

Ideal for professionals and students with the flexibility to work or study remotely, the NDR program carries fees of $1,500 for single applicants, $2,000 for couples and $3,000 for families of three or more persons.

Hiking through the Bolans area of Antigua showcases that there’s much more to this special destination than its 365 beaches. Photo credit: Steve Bennett/UncommonCaribbean.com

All visitors to Antigua and Barbuda must have proof of a negative COVID test taken within seven days of arrival. The only exception applies to kids 12 and under, who are not required to be tested. At-home test results are not accepted, and travelers must complete a Traveler Accommodation form prior to travel.


Select guest rooms at the Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston have been converted into office suites to accommodate digital nomads. Photo credit: The Jamaica Pegasus

“Resilient Corridor” is the buzzword travelers must know when visiting Jamaica these days. There are actually two of them. One extends from Negril along the north coast to Portland. The other encompasses the New Kingston Business District. If you’re visiting Jamaica, that’s where you’ll be.

While roaming freely throughout the island is not currently an option, visitors can explore within the Resilient Corridors with limited restrictions. For instance, all taxi transportation must be with operators licensed under the Tourist Board Act. As well, visitors are required to stay at hotels that have received COVID-19 compliant certification. You’re not allowed to hop around to different hotels either—a policy that would help streamline contact tracing should the need arise.

As with Antigua, your length of stay can be quite extensive in Jamaica. Select hotels have launched “workation” packages to give digital nomads the unique opportunity to live, work and play in paradise. The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, for instance, offers a workation package for a 30-night minimum stay, with rates starting at just $3,499—a savings of more than 70%  off.

Check out these 10 amazing gift ideas from Caribbean brands

Caribbean gift ideas

More so now than ever, we need to show some love and support for our creators across the Caribbean diaspora. So, why not support unique Caribbean brands while treating that special someone in your life? With this in mind, we rounded up a handy guide of 10 amazing Caribbean gift ideas for the whole family. From hand-crafted rum to chic accessories, all these Caribbean gift ideas are available online for purchase.

A New Kind of Wild, Zara González Hoang

Inspired by her father’s experience moving from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, author and illustrator Zara González Hoang’s moving and colorful tale for children captured the spirit of the adage, “Home is where the heart is.” 

I am A Promise, by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

A retelling of Jamaican Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s uplifting journey to stardom, the charming picture book encourages young readers to stay steadfast with determination to achieve their dreams.

The Ebby Rane Friday Bag

Caribbean gift ideas

Fitted with sustainable cork and lined with faux leather, the Friday Bag is compact and water-resistant. Jamaican-born designer and founder Sonja M. Salmon created this completely vegan luxury carry-on for the avid globetrotter or weekender. 

Boukman Botanical Rhum 

Caribbean gift ideas

Bottled in Haiti and infused with fresh cane juice, barks, citrus peel, and seven botanicals, this dry craft rum makes a delicious addition to holiday festivities. Served best on the rocks with an orange peel, or stirred into classic cocktails. 

Touch By VLS Pendant Tear Drop

A part of the Urchin Collection, this pendant light by Jamaican ceramic artist Victoria Leigh Silvera makes a great addition to any home, featuring organic details inspired by Caribbean marine life.

Territory Six: Caribbean Vibes Madras Box Bag

Cop this cute tote handmade in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The design features a classic Caribbean madras print, velvet-lined interior, detachable chain strap, and subtle glass bead and gem embellishments.

Territory Six: Tropic Spiral Holographic Ankara Sandal

Made for the modern fashionista, add the Tropic Spiral Holographic ankara sandal to your shoe collection! This stylish wedge features a shiny holographic accent, ankara print and ankle-tied straps.

Herny’s Wood: Ligno Rose Wood Watch

Made from 100% reclaimed wood, this lightweight, fashionable and eco-friendly watch by the Jamaican brand features a stylish rosewood design that’s fitted with a stainless steel back case and buckle. 

Josanne Mark: Forever With You Ring

Eternalize your love with the Forever With You band ring by Trinidadian jewelry designer Josanne Mark. Permanently etched with your significant other’s fingerprints, this luxurious memento carries intimate sentiments. 

Haiti Design Co.: Slim Leather Card Holder

Haiti Design Co. is founded on the premise of community empowerment. Pieces such as this simple, but timeless and well-crafted, leather card holder is just part of the company’s mission to foster entrepreneurship among local artisans.

How Can Caribbean-American Small Businesses Survive COVID-19?

Caribbean-American Small Businesses

Act of God — these three words universally strike at the heart of every small business. In contracts and insurance policies, the dreaded phrase describes the unpredictable chaos that can be conjured by the forces of nature, laying waste to even the best-laid plans. Caribbean-American small businesses, particularly those in South Florida, are no strangers to weather catastrophes. The prolonged economic crisis caused by COVID-19, however, is unprecedented. “It’s brought a high level of uncertainty to the market, especially in areas that are common among Caribbean entrepreneurs such as hospitality, retail, and food and beverage,” says Kurt Dyer, a Jamaica-born business adviser and vice president of strategic operations at Fortune 500 construction firm, Lemartec.

Kurt Dyer

He argues that businesses can endure such trying times with a willingness to sacrifice and adapt. For Caribbean-American small businesses navigating this uncharted territory, Dyer breaks down the essential steps to regroup and reevaluate. “In a very real sense, business is like being at war,” he explains. “You have to be thoughtful, weighing the pros and cons of advancing or retreating. But if you don’t take these things into consideration, then you become a casualty.” 

Cut Overheads

Faced with reduced revenue, many Caribbean-American small businesses turn to emergency loans to continue forward. Dyer advises first curtailing operational costs before assuming debt. “You need to evaluate how you manage your business and look for efficiencies,” he says. 

For renters, he recommends calculating the potential benefits of breaking the lease. Removing such a major expense from the books may be worth paying the penalties for leaving early. But first, “know your terms,” he advises. “What are your exit clauses? Then do a cost-benefit analysis to understand what you are going to lose.”  In addition, “a great CPA (Certified Public Accountant) can help you find tax benefits from your losses.”

To reduce cash outflow, Dyer also advises that owners renegotiate with suppliers for payment flexibility. “If they normally give you a 90-day credit, ask if they can extend it to 120 days,” he suggests. “For them, it’s always better to have a paying customer than a non-paying one.” 

Perhaps the hardest cut — but the most necessary — is to personnel. Dyer acknowledges this is an emotional choice for tight-knit small businesses. However, furloughing employees now is better than losing the business forever. “You are doing them a disservice when you keep them and can’t afford them,” he notes. “You then won’t have a business to which they can return.” Instead, Dyer advises that owners focus on individuals that best serve their current needs. “You want to have someone in your shop that can help you navigate this storm.”

Adapt Your Business Model

With continued social distancing protocols, it’s far from business as usual for those who normally operate based on face-to-face interactions. “If you still hold the mindset that the fundamental tenets of your business remain the same after COVID-19, you’re going to fail,” advises Dyer. “Businesses that survive have to readjust their business model to meet the market.”

Many operations can find alternate revenue streams by using social media to market and sell to their customers. Others can pivot to more socially distant operations. For example, Dyer has seen businesses like restaurants successfully transition from on-site service to delivery and curbside pick-up. “They are now in a better position for the future because they had to adapt,” he says. They also may have expanded their possible customer base.

Reach Out for Advice

When looking for new ways to innovate, it’s important to connect with knowledgeable people for guidance. They could be more experienced entrepreneurs in the same field, or those with specialized skills — from building online sales platforms to applying for grants. “Because during a crisis, alliances matter,” says Dyer. “There’s wisdom through counsel.” Chambers of commerce are a fruitful resource, offering workshops where members exchange strategies. 

Risk-Proof for the Future

Dyer predicts that market instability will extend well into 2021 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Despite recent breakthroughs in vaccines, wide scale inoculation won’t be possible for at least a year. In response, businesses need to manage their risk exposure. 

In the short term, this means preparing for more closures. “If you’re in an environment where they’ve had shutdowns in the past, plan for a shutdown (again),” he notes. Preserve any operational adjustments made for social distancing, so you can reenact them quickly, as needed. 

This is a good time to reevaluate contracts for additional protections. “If you didn’t pay attention to your lease agreement before, you sure are going to pay attention now,” jokes Dyer, who recommends discussing business interruption clauses with landlords. He suggests examining how your business insurance specifically addresses losses due to a pandemic. It’s also a great time to seek better terms from vendors, like discounts for quicker payment cycles. 

Thinking about the big picture, Dyer sees the positive potential of reinventing in response to the pandemic; these current challenges could become opportunities in disguise. “It’s about taking the lessons we learned forward,” he said. “You’re always trying to get lighter and more agile during a time of crisis. But it’s also in these times when we become the most innovative.”

The Chutney Generation: Indo-Caribbean Artists Make Their Mark in America

Levi Ali. PHOTO: Matt Weston

 From the first descendants of indentureship who settled across Antillean islands, a rich community has emerged with a distinctive artistic expression all its own. This has become most pronounced in the realm of performance. Indo-Caribbean artists have hybridized and creolized traditional folk dance and music, fusing the Old World and new. Today, Indo-Caribbean artists living in America give voice to the diaspora, bringing visibility to their community and advancing Caribbean culture across the nation’s stages.

Denyse Baboolal

Indo-Caribbean artists
(L-R): Dancer Vedasha Roopnarine, founding director and choreographer Denyse Baboolal, and dancers Ilicia Dow and Rose Sahade.

Culture and community are intimately intertwined for Trinidadian native Denyse Baboolal, the proud founder and director of Jayadevi Arts Inc.—the first Indo-Caribbean arts nonprofit in the southern United States. Based in South Florida, Baboolal has become an essential advocate for nurturing Indo-Caribbean culture in America. For more than two decades, she has performed and choreographed both Indian and Indo-Caribbean dance forms across the country.

“We try to show them that India has Bollywood, but in the Caribbean, we have chutney,” Baboolal said of the unique Caribbean style informed by Latin and African influences. “At shows, we say, ‘This is our version of Bollywood,’ so they see the difference of where our roots started and where we are today.”

What differentiates Jayadevi Arts from other Indo-Caribbean cultural groups is their celebration of art forms from across the wider Caribbean diaspora. Every year at the Phagwah spring festival celebrations, also known as Holi, Baboolal said she showcases “not only Trinidad and Guyana, but also Jamaica, Suriname, and Belize. We represent Indians from all segments of the Caribbean.”

Jayadevi Arts also regularly performs at political events throughout South Florida. In addition to carrying the torch to the next generation, Baboolal hopes this visibility underscores the community as a distinct group with specific needs. “We want to be able to go into the political arena to say, ‘Hello, we’re Indo-Caribbean.’ When we tick on ‘Other’ and we write ‘Indo-Caribbean’ on the Census, this is who we are. And we need to be recognized.”

Mohamed A. Amin

Caribbean bacchanal and drag performance fuse to magical effect for pioneering New York-based dancer and choreographer, Mohamed A. Amin. Performing both under his stage name International Dancer Zaman and his drag persona Sundari, Indian Goddess, the proudly gay, Muslim and Indo-Guyanese star has become an icon of nightlife in Queens, N.Y., and the LGBTQ Caribbean community.

The drag persona Sundari is a regular star attraction during the city’s pride celebrations, dancing at the historic Stonewall Inn and the Queens Pride Parade and Multicultural Festival. In 2018, she made history becoming the first drag queen to perform on the main stage at the 30th Annual Queens Phagwah Parade, joining the acclaimed Tarang Dance Group. “It was a historic event for not only our LGBTQ community, but for the Indo-Caribbean diaspora as well,” Amin said about the landmark performance.

International Dancer Zaman. PHOTO: Aarti’s Photography

When dancing to Bollywood and soca hits as Sundari, Amin is usually bedecked in jewelry and lush traditional dress. Beyond the glitz and glam, however, this alter ego has a deeper purpose for Amin—proving that LGBTQ identities and Caribbean culture are not mutually exclusive and that they can be synergetic. “Our Indo-Caribbean community has a long history of LGBTQ identities infused in our culture,” Amin said. “Over the past 10 years, I have used my identity via dance to remind our community of this history that has been forgotten, that became socially and culturally unacceptable.”

He’s also a volunteer of the Queens-based Caribbean Equality Project, an LGBTQ advocacy group founded by his brother, Mohamed Q. The organization’s mission was inspired by Amin’s own survivor experience from LGBTQ violence. “Though LGBTQ artists’ visibility was once slim to none, setting a gender equality standard in my artistic practice has created a wave of transformation within our community in Queens.”

Artist performing as drag persona, Sundari, Indian Goddess. PHOTO: Padma Photography, Raj Singh.

Going on two decades as a performer, Amin remains committed to his art’s empowering impact. “Whether it’s at a senior home, rally, cultural community event or at a wedding, it’s a great blessing to share our rich Indo-Caribbean culture with others.”

Levi Ali

Connecticut-based drummer Levi Ali is on a mission. The Trinidadian-American percussionist, a master at Caribbean tassa and Indian-style tabla, is spreading the gospel of the drums. With a father who toured as a reggae bass player, music is in his blood.

Levi Ali. PHOTO: Matt Weston

Ali’s forays into drumming began with heavy metal and punk rock bands. He first became interested in the Arab hand drum, the doumbek, at a belly-dancing performance in his hometown of Tucson, Ariz. After moving to Boston, Mass., as an adult, he began to study the ubiquitous South Asian tabla drum. “My friend’s dad had to personally bring me the tablas from India,” recalled the musician, “because when he tried to mail them, the customs officers would cut them open.”

A 2008 trip to Trinidad and Tobago unlocked the power of tassa, the Caribbean Indian snare drum worn around the body. Along all his journeys, both geographical and artistic, tassa holds the most special place in his heart. “What’s cool about Trinis is that we took what we had from India to Trinidad, and that’s blossomed into its own unique art form that I would consider the pinnacle of drumming.”

Levi Ali. PHOTO: Bruce Mount

Across the Northeast, Ali now plays among a group of South Asian artists at local gigs and festivals. Outside of Caribbean-oriented events such as carnivals, Ali is generally the only Indo-Caribbean drummer. “It’s a whole culture that’s gone unnoticed,” Ali said. “The subcontinent could learn a lot from us about how to adapt and change culture to fit your new surroundings.”

HASSAN GHANNY is a writer and performer based in Boston. His writing has been featured in The Boston Globe and WBUR.


Karen Andre: How This Exceptional Haitian American is Helping Build a Coalition

Karen Andre for Island Origins Magazine
Karen Andre. Photo by David I. Muir

“Having gone through it, a presidential [campaign] is literally building the plane while you’re flying it at the same time. You never have all the resources you need when you need them. You have to be resourceful.”

Following the 2020 political season, Karen Andre is taking a well-deserved breath. She coordinated efforts in the Biden for President campaign as senior advisor for Florida and senior advisor for National Faith Outreach. Her next chapter begins in the new Biden-Harris administration with a role as special assistant to the president for presidential personnel.

The Haitian American born in New York and raised in Florida had been a state-level political operative in various roles since 2004. She was a senior adviser to Andrew Gillum leading up to his 2018 Democratic primary win for Florida governor. She was even a presidential appointee in the Obama White House. But after some time in private business and sitting out the 2016 race, she realized that the 2020 election might be the most consequential in her lifetime. Duty called her back to Florida. 

We spoke with Andre and some of her organizing allies about their 2020 campaign work in Florida, a convoluted state with a liberal-leaning south and conservative-rooted north. We discussed where Caribbean Americans fit into their efforts — as targets and leaders — as well as the experience of helping to shape a historic election.  

Karen Andre for Island Origins Magazine
Karen Andre. Photo by David I. Muir

Managing Power and Responsibility

Looking back, the disappointing result of the election in Florida wasn’t a surprise to Andre. There are lessons learned in each cycle that the Democratic party at large has not retained. Clearest among these for her is that outreach to Black and minority communities, the party’s most reliable base, seems like an afterthought each election season. If you only call when you need something, how strong can the relationship really become? 

“There are some in the state that still don’t get it in terms of investments that they need to make in our communities,” said Andre, who got into politics to positively influence lawmakers. “The local operatives [do], but when we’re on a presidential campaign, which is now a national entity, that’s like a mother with 50 children.”

With so many groups competing for attention, it can be difficult to be heard.

Given the duty of staffing the entire Florida operation, Andre handpicked cohorts for Caribbean voter outreach. Thamar Harrigan, Biden for America’s director of Haitian outreach in Florida, for example, fit snugly into her role connecting with her own community. Andre tasked Sophia Nelson, a Jamaican living in South Florida, with reaching Anglo-Caribbean voters.

Sophia Nelson - Caribbean American Outreach appointed by Karen Andre
Sophia Nelson – Caribbean American Outreach Director for the 2020 Biden of America campaign

It’s these well-connected warriors that made the best inroads. But they, too, recognized glaring strategic communication issues. In this cycle, Nelson said targeted minority outreach started just about a month before Election Day.

“Campaigns have to do better,” she said. “These communities want to be engaged but the engagement started too late.” 

While Andre agrees, her opinion mirrors her thoughts on general market communication. “It’s very much a two-way street.”

She points to people like Miami developer and policy advocate Barron Channer and Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Hazelle Rogers. They “win,” she said,  because they lead the charge. 

“The people who advocate the most effectively don’t wait for the campaign to come calling. They decide who they like [and] engage them.” 

Channer, CEO of Woodwater Group, a private investment firm with holdings in real estate and technology, is vocal about a proactive approach to politics. 

“Support [should] be focused on helping those that embrace your core agenda and can be trusted to do so after they have won,” he said. 

He advocates for establishing paths of least resistance into Caribbean communities. “Collective advocacy would bring more power to the individual agendas of those from Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and so on.”

Harrigan said optimistically that in this cycle she observed steps being taken in the right direction and saw that representation matters. 

“The Biden-Harris campaign built a team of staffers that looked like our communities,” she said. “The reason we saw commitments to the Haitian community, a first for any campaign — ever — was a direct reflection of the number of [Haitians] on the campaign.”

Black Girl Magic

Karen Andre for Island Origins Magazine
Karen Andre. Photo by David I. Muir

The 2020 election cycle placed Andre squarely in the midst of an epic convergence of feminine energy. The influence of women “was magic,” she reflected. 

“I’m a big history buff,” she said. “And it was thrilling to be at the intersection of these historic moments.”

Andre remembered the “thrill” of meeting Harris in person. But her first interaction with the vice presidential candidate was a surprise assignment from Harris’ chief of staff Karine Jean Pierre, a fellow Haitian American.

With only a few minutes notice, “I get a text from Karine one morning saying you’re about to get an invite to brief the senator — Excuse me?!” Andre shared, jokingly. 

Inside the campaign, she was energized. From Jamaican-Indian-American Kamala Harris being elected vice president and political powerhouse Jean Pierre being chosen to lead an all-female senior communications team for the White House to the women building campaign connections in Florida — Andre described a synergistic and supportive cadre. 

“People assume that women, or Black women, in power can’t get along, and when I tell you — it’s been nothing but a love fest.”

For Harrigan, Florida’s crew, in particular, comprised amazing women from the Caribbean community materially contributing to the broad conversation. And none from within that group was more well regarded than Andre herself. 

Thamar Harrigan and Karen Andre
Thamar Harrigan (left) – Haitian American Outreach Director for the 2020 Biden of America campaign – with Karen Andre

“She’s always everyone’s fiercest advocate,” Harrigan said. “She works hard, but still manages, in the midst of it all, to remember to bring others into the room. She is a teacher, mentor, sponsor and champion to many. Ask anyone in the civil engagement / political supply chain and they have their own Karen Andre story where she opened a door for them.”

Nelson agreed. 

“The political world is cutthroat, so teamwork, at times, is viewed more so as, ‘How does this benefit me?’” she said. “I am happy that was not the climate that Karen fostered. [She] was the needed voice, a champion and steady leader.”

A Mission Driven Life

The service-minded description of Andre by Harrigan and Nelson reflects her personal mission statement. 

Her motto is, “I am because we are.” 

“No matter how high I go, if it’s just me up there, it’s no fun,” Andre said. 

Even her entree into politics was mission-driven. 

“As an attorney who went off to law school with dreams of being a forceful advocate for social change, I realized — It’s these people that sit in these seats of power making these laws that may not always reflect the best decisions for us,” Andre said. “So I decided to help elect better lawmakers.”

The Democratic party became a natural home for Andre based on its stated values, including “protecting the rights of the least among us, the most marginalized, the voiceless.” They are ideals reflected in many Christian Caribbean homes. For Andre, they aligned with her personal faith and the values of her Haitian mother, a political activist in both Haiti and Haitian American communities. 

“There are parts of my Haitian Heritage that I think are universal to the African diaspora,” she said. “A fierce sense of pride and independence, feeling empowered to create my own destiny, a sense of devotion to uplifting for the better.” 

These qualities have served her well, both in her political and private career. 

Until her role in the new administration pulls her back to Washington from South Florida, Andre said, she’s enjoying low-key days, island-colored sundresses, comfortable sandals and the occasional rum punch.

Karen Andre for Island Origins Magazine
Karen Andre. Photo by David I. Muir

5 Simple Rules to Good Hydration

Hydration drink water

Take a moment to think about when you had your last sip of water.

If you find yourself randomly feeling tired, experiencing headaches, muscle soreness or difficulty concentrating, it could be due to dehydration. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a major public health threat, it’s more important than ever to stay hydrated, flush our bodies of toxins, and assist our immune systems in staying ready and robust. But what should you drink (and not drink), and how often? Here’s what you need to know about healthy hydration every day:

Stick to Water

Water is your best source of hydration. Other nutritionally valuable sources include fruits and vegetables, which also contain vitamins and minerals. Though you can get your daily intake of liquids through drinks like smoothies, juices, sports drinks and tea, these can be high in calories and contribute to unwanted weight gain. Liquids with caffeine (such as coffee and energy drinks) and items containing alcohol can be counterproductive, contributing to dehydration. So even if you get your liquid intake through fruits, veggies, sports drinks and other sources, it makes sense to add several glasses of plain old H2O to your daily routine.

Check Your Hydration Status 

To easily check whether you’re hydrated enough, check the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow like lemonade. If it’s dark yellow to orange (like apple juice), you are dehydrated. 

There’s a simple equation you can use to estimate your ideal water intake. Take your body weight in pounds and divide by two for the amount of water you should drink daily in ounces. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should consume 90 ounces of water (about 12 glasses or six 500 mL bottles). In general, waiting until you are thirsty means you are already dehydrated, so it’s important to drink water, enjoy fruit or hydrate other ways throughout the day. 

Hydration drink water

Active Lifestyle? Drink Early and Often

Hydration is always important, but you need to be especially vigilant when working out. It can take as little as 1% percent of body-weight loss in sweat to affect your performance. So replace what you have lost by hydrating early and often. If you weigh yourself before and after workouts, drink 16 ounces of fluid for every pound dropped.

If you engage in more than one hour of physical activity, sports drinks such as Gatorade can help provide fuel for the body and replace electrolytes (especially sodium) that are lost in sweat. For athletes, in particular, it’s important to keep hydrated before, during and after activities. Your performance can improve tremendously with adequate water intake, increasing speed, preventing injuries and reducing muscle soreness. 

When Hydrating, Think W.A.T.E.R

  • Water Bottle: To encourage regular hydration, bring a water bottle with you on the go. It’s a simple visual reminder because as the adage goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Try one with a straw attachment, which also makes it easy to drink in public without the need to fully remove your face mask. 
  • Apps: On your smartphone, try water intake apps that help keep track of your daily consumption. Try the friendly Plant Nanny app, which turns drinking into a fun, animated game.
  • Talk: Talk to your friends, family or co-workers about your hydration goals, and encourage them to join you as accountability partners.
  • Eat: Eat more fruits and vegetables. Try adding extra flavor to these with a squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of low-calorie sweeteners.
  • Reminders: Set reminders to drink water on your smartphone, or use a water bottle with printed reminders to reach your goals.

Dr. Naima Stennett is a board-certified family medicine physician and sports medicine fellow.

Essential Jerk Festival 2020 Activities to Know – October 25 LIVE

Jerk Festival 2020
Photo: IG @jajerkfestival

For almost 20 years, the date of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival has had a permanent thumbtack on the calendars of South Florida residents. It grew to over 15,000 attendees in recent years with visitors from around the world, and developed popular spinoffs in New York and Washington D.C.

This year, in observance of the health and safety of their fans, The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival will carry on 2020 style. The festivities move online on the inaugural National Jamaican Jerk Day, October 25, celebrating Jamaica’s unique way of seasoning and grilling foods nationally in the USA.

Jerk cuisine has evolved from simple local street food to gourmet status in first-rate restaurants worldwide and celebrated through numerous Jerk Festivals around the globe.

On the third Sunday in October, Jamaican Jerk Festival USA Inc., in collaboration with other Jerk Festival Promoters throughout the USA and Canada, is urging fans to fire up the grill or oven to prepare their favorite Jerk Dish at home, or to support a local restaurant, and celebrate the day. Jerk fans should also share their jerk creations on social media using the hashtags #JamaicanJerkDay #JerkDay2020 #NationalJerkDay2020. Follow Jamaican Jerk Festival on IG @jajerkfestival and comment on posts you like.

To join the virtual celebrations, tune in to the VP Records YouTube channel and watch the Best of Jerk Festivals from around the world featuring top reggae and soca acts, along with cultural presentations. The live stream premieres 7:00 pm on October 25.

Learn more at – www.JamaicanJerkDay.com

Event partners include Publix Supermarkets, Grace Foods, Western Union, Jamaican Tourist Board, Digicel and the City of Miramar and VP Records.

Where to Get Your Jerk

As part of National Jamaican Jerk Day activities, the promoters are encouraging jerk fans to support their local Jamaican restaurants. Here are some of their official restaurant partners in South Florida and the New York area.

South Florida Jerk Festival Partners

Donna’s Caribbean Restaurant – All Locations

Jerk Machine – 954.440.4556
4261 NW 12th Street, Lauderhill
317 SW 6th St, Ft Lauderdale

Montego Bay Grille & Cafe – 954.731.9224
4395 N State Road 7, Lauderdale Lakes

Golden Krust – Dade, Broward & Palm Beach Selected Locations

Cliff’s Caribbean Restaurant – 954.613.7244
2901 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood
10740 NW 7th Ave Miami

Kingston Delight – 305.957.7213
1340 Northeast 163rd Street, North Miami Beach

Dukunoo Jamaican Kitchen
316 NW 24th St, Miami, FL 33127

New York Jerk Festival Partners

Yah So Nyce – Queens – 646.603.8665
153-41 Rockaway Blvd, Rochdale, NY
204-19 Jamaica Avenue, Queens, NY

Elvis Caribbean Cuisine – 516.208.8395
50B S Main Street, Freeport, LI

Discover Caribbean attractions at the heart of Broward County, Florida

BBroward County Caribbean
Snapshots of tasty Caribbean bites from the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in Broward County, Florida

Broward County has always been a cultural melting pot. Within its diversity lies a heavy dose of the Caribbean, adding island flair to the city’s arts, entertainment, and nightlife. Caribbean people were among the founders of this South Florida destination in the 18th century. Over time, Broward County has become a wellspring of Caribbean cultural attractions, serving up flair and fun for all ages. This remains true, even in the new normal brought on by COVID-19 and age of social distancing. There’s still much to explore throughout Greater Fort Lauderdale while staying safe and healthy.

Esther Rolle Centennial Celebration

Discover Caribbean attractions

Actress Esther Rolle is most known as her iconic character Florida Evans on “Good Times,” but her Sunshine State connections aren’t in name only. The beloved star’s SoFlo roots run deep. She was born on November 8, 1920, in Pompano Beach to Bahamian parents. Though she passed away in 1998, her legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere.

In her honor, Broward will celebrate her centennial this year, and you’re invited! The festivities start September 14 at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, where guests can take a stroll down memory lane and relive the “Good Times” through their exhibit on Rolle’s life and career. They’ll also present an original play entitled, “Let the Good Times Rolle” in honor of the television legend.

Tuff Gong Reggae Boat Tour

Discover Caribbean attractions

Often dubbed the yachting capital of the world, your visit to Fort Lauderdale wouldn’t feel complete without a morning, midday, or nighttime cruise. Why not add a little island flair to your trip and enjoy the fresh air with Captain Tyler on his Tuff Gong Reggae Boat Tour? Here you can relax in the tropical vibes, jamming to sweet, sweet reggae music, or take a quick swim and snorkel in the clear shallow water. This is a great experience for the entire family, a girl’s trip, or a romantic escape. This four-hour lazy day tour offers tranquillity and modern comfort while exploring the beautiful Intracoastal waters. There will be no shortage of photo ops to update your favorite social media pages.

Grace Jerk Festival


Caribbean attractions

In place of their popular festivities held annually in Miramar, the hosts of the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival have created a series of smaller events to get you through the quarantine slump. On the last Sunday in October, celebrate the newly designated National Jerk Day—feting the unique way of seasoning and grilling foods created by the Maroons of Jamaica. Foodies fiending for jerk bites are encouraged to support restaurants serving up the speciality throughout Broward County. In the home city of Miramar, festival promoters are planning something special involving residents and elected officials on the major event day. Locations and dates of official events will be posted on the organization’s social media pages and held with social distancing measures and safety protocols in place.

Coquitos Bar & Grill in Hollywood

Caribbean attractions

Dancing the night away is more than a saying at Coquitos Bar & Grill in Hollywood. Here you can move your body to the intimate sounds of bachata, spin to the quick drums of salsa, or simply sit back, relax and enjoy the vibrations of Latin rhythms. Considered one of the city’s most attractive bars, this Caribbean-Latin fusion venue hosts live music almost every night, with dancing inside and outside. Make sure to visit this local favourite for their popular salsa and bachata block party events. If dancing isn’t your style, warm up your vocal cords and knock out the lyrics to your favourite song during their karaoke night. Karaoke gives everyone a chance to be a star, if only for the length of a song.