The mission of the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. shall be to serve as a resource, a forum, and advocate for Garifuna issues and a united voice for the Garifuna community.
The Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization headquartered in the South Bronx. It was founded on May 9th, 1998 and incorporated on May 28, 1999. The mission of the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. is to advocate for the rights of Garifuna immigrants and strengthen civic participation within the community by nurturing local leadership through educational and cultural programs that bring together community members across racial and ethnic lines. It seeks to improve the social, economic, civic and cultural conditions of New York’s Garifuna Community.
The Garifuna Coalition USA (GCU)serves as a resource, forum, advocate and united voice for the Garifuna immigrant community. The Garifuna are an ethnic group of mixed ancestry - descendants of Carib, Arawak and African people living along the Caribbean Coast in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A seafaring people, they arrived in the United States as merchant marines during World War II. Today, New York City is home to the largest Garifuna population outside of Central America with an estimated 200,000 living in the South Bronx, Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn, and Harlem.
In March 2009, GCU opened the Garifuna Advocacy Center in the heart of the South Bronx on East 149th Street. The Center’s volunteers open doors six days a week to provide information, educational services, networking opportunities and cultural events for the Garifuna community. Most first-generation Garifuna immigrants work long hours in home health care, housekeeping and construction. Garifuna women work in factories and as home attendants. Like other working poor, Garifuna families have significant social service needs. Through an agreement with Phipps Community Development Corporation, a 35-year-old multi-service provider of educational, vocational and community development programs, the Garifuna Advocacy Center makes referrals and avails community members of English-as-a-Second Language and GED classes, and other critical services.
The GCU also supports smaller Garifuna organizations and has brought ten with specific youth and women constituencies into the coalition. GCU provides organizational capacity building workshops in topics ranging from fiscal management to media communications.
GCU’s voter registration campaign seeks to engage communities in the political process by registering and mobilizing new voters to the polls. The organization provides voter education and registration information at local areas where Garifuna gather, including parks, festivals, social events, and small organizations. GCU is also partnered with the U.S. Census to ensure an accurate Garifuna count in 2010.
The advocacy efforts helped uplift the Garifuna Community from obscurity to the pinnacle of recognition in New York City through accomplishments such as: Successfully petitioned New York City and State officials to declare Garifuna-American Heritage Month in New York, partnered with the US Census Bureau to raise awareness and participation by the Garifuna Community in the 2010 Census, organized a Legislative day in the New York State Capitol, as well as a Town Hall Meeting with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In addition, the Garifuna language is now included among the foreign language requirements to become a New York City Police Department Precinct Receptionist in the Bronx.
More recently it was selected by the Department of Youth and Community Development as an outreach partner to increase applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), in collaboration with the New York Immigration Coalition. To build organizing capacity, the has applied for membership to the NYIC. These achievements have laid a solid foundation for future generations to follow for their own social and economic mobility.