Did you know that many of the names on the streets of New York are named after influential individuals who made changes within the neighborhood or a significant change that changed many lives? Names such as Adam Clayton Powell, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Shirley Chisholm, Eugenio De Hostos, Julia De Burgos and Ramon Velez. These names represent a contribution to New Yorkers but more importantly they represent pride to the perspective communities they represent.
Enter Chief Joseph Chatoyer.
There is a current petition for a letter of support at planning board #2 in the Bronx to submit to the local council representative to rename Dawson Street Chief Joseph Chatoyer Way. To date, hundreds of signatures have been collected in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn. Organizations such as the National Garifuna Council from Belize, Garifuna Coalition USA, Garifuna Heritage Foundation and Grupo Waporu have publicly endorsed this initiative. And presently, signatures are being collected at community meetings in Los Angeles, Chicago and Dangriga, Belize. By September, we may be able to reach the 2,000 international effort to honor our Paramount Chief in Garifuna Village (Bronx), New York.
Over at Ferry Point Park, where the Garifuna soccer tournament is currently being held in the Bronx, players, musicians, vendors and Garifuna supporters all agreed that by naming a street for a Garifuna leader who fought to preserve our land and culture is the ultimate recognition his descendants in New York can give him.
"Joseph Chatoyer is like George Washington to us", says Frank Fernandez at Ferry Point while getting ready to play a game against Aguan's soccer team. "It will also give us an opportunity to revisit our history and learn more about those days."
On Dawson Street, the location of the street renaming, everyone are excited. A Puerto Rican woman sitting and enjoying the drum sound says that it was time the street becomes officially Garifuna.
"Nene pero ya es tiempo", said the woman smiling and enjoying the roots. "El Garifuna y el Taino somo primos asi que vamos a estar aqui el dia que cambien el nombre", she continued as the Gayusas (singers) continued to their chorus at the 9th annual Dawson Street Cookout.
So like the names mentioned above who have made enormous contributions to their communities and instilled pride to the many different people they represent, approving the letter of support will not only hang another important name in the street of New York among the giants, but it will give the Garifuna Community an identity of pride and cultural preservation for the next Century