Blush pink and bright yellow flowers framing the Hibiscus Brew Cafe, located on Lincoln Road and Flatbush Ave., made for a striking and bustling background on Thursday, June 17, as crowds and elected officials gathered around the coffee shop to celebrate the opening of the Little Caribbean district in Brooklyn.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Assemblymember Diana Richardson (D-Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Garden), State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights), Councilmember Farah Louis (D-Flatbush, Crown Heights) and many other elected officials and candidates currently running for offices proudly joined the celebration and ribbon cutting in honor of Caribbean Heritage Month.
The event was dubbed “One Love, Little Caribbean Day,” an appropriate moniker for the sheer amount of steel pan music, laughter, and jubilation spilling out onto the crowded sidewalk in front of the cafe. The ‘one love’ symbolized the many Caribbean islands represented in the Flatbush and Crown Heights districts coming together as one people.
“There are a lot of people invested in division,” said Myrie, whose parents are from Costa Rica. “There are people that benefit from us not being one Caribbean, and what we are celebrating today is unity. Because we are, in fact, one. Look how diverse our African diaspora is.”
Some repped Jamaica.
Others jumped for Trinidad or Haiti.
And at one point Richardson took her time to call out every single island in the Caribbean and parts of Central America by name to ensure that no one felt excluded.
“For a long, long, long time, immigrants have come and settled here in central Brooklyn from all over the Caribbean diaspora. They were our parents, our grandparents, who traveled the seas and airwaves to come here to New York, to Brooklyn, to sow their seeds of a dream,” said Richardson, who hails from Aruba and Saint Martin.
“I’m honored that I’m able to be here and be a small part of putting Little Caribbean together,” said Williams, characteristically shouting every chance he could on behalf of his island, Grenada.
“A lot of nations, a lot of cultures have a little something in their neighborhood, and what it does is it brings pride to that community, it brings money to that community, it brings people to that community,” said Williams, “We get to celebrate our heritage, our food, our spirit, and we know our spirit is love and sometimes that doesn’t come across on the media.”
The well-known local organization CaribBeing, founded and run by Shelley Worrell, partnered with Prospect Park Alliance, Yelp, Lyft, Doordash, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, NYC Small Business Services and NYC & Company to make Little Caribbean official in hopes of increasing traffic within its business corridors and serving one of the largest and most diverse concentrations of Caribbean American and Latinx communities outside of the West Indies.
Black business owners in the Flatbush district were hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown last year, which saw many restaurants and shops shuttered as well as pileups of trash and debris along its corridors.
However, businesses like Hibiscus Brew, which opened last September, have thrived. Cafe owner Allison Dunn, who is of Jamaican background, said that she always wanted to bring her culture into the limelight and open a store. When she saw that the previous cafe at the 546 Flatbush Avenue location had vacated, she seized the opportunity.
“At our agency in the State Comptroller’s office,” said Danielle Jones, spokesperson for State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, “We do so much to advance minority and women-owned businesses (M/WBES) and today that is the focus for us. The comptroller continues to reinvest $27 billion in M/WBES. I’m proud to be representing my country and to be a part of this organization. It reaches communities that need it.”
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