Written by Miranda Alexander, Founder and President, Caribbean Community in Philadelphia
I consider Philadelphia as my second birthplace. Long before I became a US citizen, I felt a connection to this city, which I now permanently call home —I cannot believe that 22 years have passed!
I left Trinidad and Tobago at age 23 and went to Antigua and Barbuda, but resettling here was a rebirth.
I would say, after the collapse of my marriage, the separation, the dissolving of the typical American Dream, I found myself digging deeper through the trenches of my pain to discover what makes me live, breathe and come alive. This is the service to God and man; as a Christian, Human Rights Advocate, a Black Lives Matter Advocate, an Immigrant Rights Advocate, and a Pan-Africanist.
My journey to Philadelphia
I came to the United States as the wife of an international student, but we never desired to remain in America. In addition, I was the wife of a pastor, so ministry and service to God’s people was the substance of my life.
My sense of belonging took roots when I identified with the Philadelphia story of struggle, the Rev. Leon Sullivan story, and the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters story. Even though these great men and women struggled during the civil rights era, I saw the love for their people imprinted on their hearts. I felt the joy and comfort of being with my family away from my original family.
My Country of Origin: Trinidad and Tobago
I came from a large family who lived in a small fishing village of Carenage. A community encircled and embraced me as Cynthia’s daughter, Mr. Norman, and Ms. Shunnie’s granddaughter. I was loved by my aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins. All of them mostly live back home in Trinidad.
My grandmother taught me entrepreneurship, and our family’s home was an open community home, where friends and community members often meet. Our family owned two businesses, a shop (storefront) and a nightclub.
All roads led to Philadelphia
My civic duty of serving and becoming a social entrepreneur met on a familiar path as a Christian. Service expanded my boundaries and capacities to love humanity, and volunteerism became my rule of thumb. I developed camps, community programs, and tours in the city.
I served my way to understanding peoples, cultures, and the geopolitical mapping of Philly. I also introduced my son, Jonathon, to volunteerism.
A Proud Philadelphian
I sometimes think I’m more Philadelphian than American. That’s how much this city has grown on me. I’ve not only seen the dark side of Philly. I’ve seen the full potential of this city. I had the opportunity to participate as a community leader in rebranding Philadelphia. I’ve served in many organizations, and currently, I serve as one of many leaders on the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs.
My own organization, Caribbean Community in Philadelphia, was established in 2013. It provides warm, welcoming arms to immigrants with its 8-part programming. Our social mission statement is “Positively reframe the narrative about and for our Caribbean People.” Similarly, our vision is “Creating community with innovative programming and providing real-life solutions.”
This and every year, we celebrate Welcoming Week with the City of Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs because they have found unique ways to make local government accessible to immigrants like myself.
At our recent event co-sponsored by OIA, “Back to School COVID-19 Vaccination Resource Fair,” we were intentional about being inclusive to multilingual and multicultural community members. My proudest moments were seeing our flyers being completed in multiple languages, reflecting the immigrant community and population served in the Olney area. In addition, it was a joy seeing families coming in for PHL Municipal City ID cards, being vaccinated, and given school supplies.
Philadelphia is a Welcoming City
In many ways, Philadelphia reminds me of my first birth country: Trinidad and Tobago. We’re a melting pot, a mix of global ethnicities, “where every creed and race find an equal place” — a line taken from our Trinidad and Tobago national anthem.
For immigrants, welcoming places are spaces made possible by open-minded people and leaders. I’ve felt welcomed from the state capital to the city. Welcoming programs and open-door policies sway the pendulum in favor of Philadelphia, my first and only World Heritage City.