SEEN UP NORTH: She’s proud to be a ‘G2’
“Is Barbados in the house?”
It’s a greeting aimed at Bajans that never fails to trigger an eager and positive response from an audience in New York.
But even before the applause from Bajans and laughter from the hundreds of people in the crowded large church in Brooklyn faded into the background, New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, answered with a broad smile on her face.
“I’m a G2, second generation immigrant from Barbados,” said the wife of the City’s new chief executive, the dominant force at City Hall, Bill de Blasio, who has let it known that his wife of more than 20 years, is “the love of my life” and his chief confidante and adviser.
McCray’s grandparents and guiding hand came from Barbados, a heritage she proudly admits to and cherishes. She has told audiences that she has passed this down to the couple’s two children.
As a matter of fact, before she entered the Christian Cultural Center, one of New York City’s mega-churches led by Pastor A.R. Bernard, where thousands of people of all colours worship on Sundays, Chiara, the Mayor’s daughter, and Dante, the teenage son, appeared in a video proclaiming their Bajan background, much to the delight of the hundreds of people who had braved one of the coldest evenings of the winter to attend the launch of the G-Project, the Generation initiative which seeks to encourage all immigrants and their offspring to let the world know about their foreign roots.
“Everyone needs to know their history,” McCray said. “I am here for my parents and grandparents from Barbados.”
She described herself as a “G-2” meaning she is the granddaughter of Blacks who emigrated to the US early in the 20th century from the Caribbean and in a brief address before heading out through a side door, said that families and individuals and entire families should know their immigrant backgrounds and shouldn’t be reluctant to speak about those roots.
Her teenage children were equally vocal in linking themselves to the West Indies, insisting they were G-3s because of their Bajan great grandparents.
McCray complained that immigrant families were being ripped apart by Washington’s policy of deporting hundreds of thousands of foreign born residents of the United States, most of them for overstaying their allotted time in the country.
“We must push for immigration reform” by the US House of Representatives and the Senate,” McCray said.
The Mayor agrees. He urged the Republican-dominated House to approve changes in the nation’s convoluted immigration laws by passing the Senate-endorsed bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship.
Recently, in his “State of the City” address, de Blasio made it clear he wasn’t going to wait on Congress to act and to make life easier for immigrants who make the City their home away from home.
Specifically, he announced his plan to ask the City Council to approve a municipal identification card that could be used to open bank accounts adding that move would enable immigrants to use it for a range of things that require an ID.
De Blasio uses every opportunity to underscore his family’s West Indian community in general and Barbadians in particular.
When the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies held its annual fundraising gala in Manhattan, the Mayor sent a message in which he pointedly referred to his family’s immigrant background.
“Our West Indian community is such an important part of the diversity that defines New York, and I’m proud to share a special bond with West Indian New Yorkers through the Barbadian roots of my wife Chirlane and our children, Chiara and Dante.”
The Generation Project is the brain child of the Black Institute, an influential not-for-profit organisation in the city led by Bertha Lewis, the institute’s founder and chief executive officer.
Its goal: to focus city, state and national attention on the presence of millions of Black immigrants throughout the country and to remind both the House and the Senate that West Indians and Africans have a stake in immigration reform.