(L- R) Chair Vedat Gash w/Hon. Victoria Tipp; Leg. Shanae Williams w/Effie Phillips & Chair Gashi

Westchester County Board of Legislators Celebrates Caribbean- American Heritage Month

Last month, the Board of Legislators hosted its annual Caribbean-American Heritage celebration, joined by an audience full of enthusiastic supporters.

Board Chair Vedat Gashi (D- New Castle, Ossining, Somers, Yorktown) welcomed guests in the Chamber and virtually saying, “This year marks the eighteenth celebration of June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month. The campaign was spearheaded by Dr. Claire Nelson, Founder and President of the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) and was signed into law in 2006. Through the commemoration of this month, we aim to reaffirm, as we do with all of our Heritage celebrations, that our County’s greatness is enriched by its diversity. With Caribbean immigrants from founding father Alexander Hamilton, to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, to our prominent residents here in Westchester – we recognize the many contributions of the Caribbean peoples to the culture and economy of our County and nation.”

“The honorees represent the wide diversity within the Caribbean community – Town of New Castle Supervisor Victoria Bayard Tipp, an emigre from Haiti, and Social Services Advocate, Effie Phillips, the proud daughter of a Jamaican mother and Cuban father. Each of these women have demonstrated incredible leadership throughout their careers. They have dedicated enormous time and effort to uplifting those in need in their communities and we are honored to recognize them.” 

The Chairman presented the first proclamation to Victoria Bayard Tipp, saying, “I am so pleased to present this proclamation to my constituent, Town of New Castle Supervisor Vicky Tipp, with whom I was inaugurated this year on January 11th. She has the distinction of being the first person of color and Caribbean descent to serve on the New Castle Town Board … Having myself fled a country in turmoil as a young child, I can relate to Vicky’s story. When Vicky and her mother attempted to leave the political unrest in Port au Prince to immigrate to the U.S., Haitian military police pointed guns at them. An American flight attendant stepped in and carried Vicky onto the plane as her mother followed, preventing the police from shooting them because an American was present.”

“Vicky’s experience as a non-English speaker in the American education system prior to ESL programs set the course for her lifetime dedication to educational advocacy for all. After a successful law career, Vicky dedicated her work to public service in the Chappaqua School District where she lives, and at beyond. Equity, diversity, and inclusion were and continue to be key issues. Her success and leadership in all her efforts led to her recent ascension to Supervisor for the Town of New Castle. Vicky’s personal attributes of collaboration, respect, and dedication have also been essential to furthering her mission – a mission that is challenging to say the least. She is a kind, compassionate person who people enjoy working with – and that’s half the battle.”

 Supervisor Tipp graciously accepted the award saying, “I am a proud Haitian American with a great appreciation and reverence for the rich cultural legacy passed down through generations of my ancestors. This heritage forms a crucial part of my identity, which is as diverse as the islands of the Caribbean themselves, a multicultural tapestry of histories, traditions, and struggles.”

“As we celebrate and reflect on the rich traditions and values that shape us, and as we honor the sacrifices and achievements of our forebears and contemporaries, we can take pride in embracing our diversity to inspire future generations, strengthen our communities, and enrich the world around us.”

The Board declared June 29th “Honorable Victoria Tipp Day” in Westchester County.

Legislator Shanae Williams (D – Yonkers) presented the second proclamation to Effie Phillips saying, “As a Caribbean American, I can firmly say that we are proud to have this special time of year to share our heritage, our vibrant and positive music, and our delicious spicy foods. Now, on this occasion of the Board of Legislators celebrating Caribbean American Heritage month, I’m here to speak about a very special person — Ms. Effie Phillips. I have known Effie for a number of years and learned that she is a product of a Jamaican family who established her connection with her Jamaican roots by sending her for frequent visits back home as a child.”

“Additionally, after seeing her in action in the City of Yonkers, donating her time and specific skills to help the community through all her volunteer work and activism, she always carries her Caribbean American heritage with her. She supports not just Black-owned but Caribbean-owned enterprises throughout Westchester. She cares deeply about the future of our community, which is why she ran for office just last year in Yonkers. It’s never easy giving so much of oneself for free, but when you care and want to make a difference in the lives of the people around you, it shows. I have seen this very spirit in Effie Phillips and it brings me joy.”

Ms. Phillips accepted the proclamation with an emotional statement saying, “I am extremely humbled by this recognition. Thank you for bestowing this honor upon me. Most people don’t even know that I’m even of Caribbean heritage, but I grew up in a traditional Jamaican household. I am the only one of my siblings born in the States.”

“When my husband and I decided to settle in Yonkers, I knew I wanted be a part of the community, so I joined the NAACP Yonkers Unit and National Council of Negro Women Hudson Valley Section, which I am now a Life Member of both. Who would have known it would have led me to so many networking opportunities like the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus and other civic organizations and serving on the boards of Youth Theater Interactives and the YWCA of Yonkers. More recently, I was appointed to Mayor Mike Spano’s African-American Advisory Board.”

“This journey is not possible without the love and support of my husband, family, friends and associates — some of whom are here, and others who are live streaming. I have to dedicate this to my mother, Iris, who followed her heart to the American dream and brought our family from Jamaica to the U.S. for a better life. My mother always knew that whatever I planned on doing with my career, I was going to be working with people in communities and populations of need.”

The Board declared July 7, 2024 “Effie Phillips Day” in Westchester County.