Afro-Carribean Experiences

In 1999, Shelley Vidia Worrell founded a new organization in New York City, cariBBeing, whose mission is to build community through the lens of Caribbean cinema, culture and art. The organization was started because “Caribbean cinema has long been underrepresented in New York City despite having one of the largest Caribbean populations in the world.” After recently hearing about caribBeing, I thought about how Afro-Caribbean people are often underrepresented in conversations about Africa and the diaspora.

In discussions about Africa and the diaspora, they tend to be focused largely on African experiences and African-American experiences in the United States. When speaking about the African diaspora, most attention is focused on native U.S. Black Americans. But other Black experiences, such as Afro-Caribbean-Americans, are mostly left out or absorbed into native U.S. Black experiences, which frustrates me. It frustrates me because our specific cultural orientations and our influences on other black ethnicities are rarely put to the forefront. I hear conversations from people whose family is directly from African countries in which they say they have triple or quadruple consciousness, but I feel similarly as a Caribbean-American. I often easily forget that I am of Caribbean descent as I absorb the histories of black people in the United States, without questioning about Caribbean histories and histories of Caribbean people in the States.

For example, I remember watching Byron Hurt’s Soul Food Junkies, and while I was interested in watching it from the beginning, I had to remind myself that I eat different foods on a normal basis. Growing up, I ate such foods as rice and peas, jerk and curry chicken, roti, perlau (pilaf), souse, fishcake, bakes (fried dumpling), fried plantain, and cou cou and flying fish. I have had other experiences as well – going every year to the Caribbean Day Parade in Brooklyn, or listening regularly to reggae, soca and calypso artists on the radio as my father would drive, in addition to listening to r&b and soul music.

Some Americans often take Caribbean-American for granted or simply consider us as exactly the same as black people in the States. How many of us think about rappers whose families are from the Caribbean and how that influenced them, like Biggie (Jamaican), Busta Rhymes (Jamaican), Spliff Star (Trinidadian), Salt ‘n’ Pepa (Pepa is Jamaican), Q-Tip (His father is Montserratian), Nicki Minaj (Trinidadian), Fugees (Wyclef and Pras are Haitian), Foxy Brown (Trinidadian) and Amanda Seales (Grenadian). Or visual artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat (Hatian and Puerto Rican). Or figures important in political and educational history, like Stokley Carmichael (Kwame Ture – Trinidadian), Marcus Garvey (Jamaican), and Arturo Schomburg (Puerto Rican). Here is another interesting fact – minstrel star Bert Williams was from the island of Antigua; he was not from the United States. His Caribbean background, which includes carnival and playin’ mas, may have influenced his minstrelsy. Louis Chude-Sokei (born in Nigeria and raised in Jamaica) wrote a book about the need to complicate blackness in The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora. In his article, “Redefining ‘Black,’” Chude-Sokei raised how President Obama’s Kenyan ancestry and Colin L. Powell’s Jamaican ancestry had both shook the foundations of what is considered “black.”

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Afro-Carribean Experiences
In 1999, Shelley Vidia Worrell founded a new organization in New York City, cariBBeing, whose mission is to build community through the lens of Caribbean cinema, culture and art. The organization was started because “Caribbean cinema has long been underrepresented in New York City despite having one of the largest Caribbean populations in the world.” After recently hearing about caribBeing, I thought about how Afro-Caribbean people are often underrepresented in conversations about Africa and the diaspora.
In discussions about Africa and the diaspora, they tend to be focused largely on African experiences and African-American experiences in the United States. When speaking about the African diaspora, most attention is focused on native U.S. Black Americans. But other Black experiences, such as Afro-Caribbean-Americans, are mostly left out or absorbed into native U.S. Black experiences, which frustrates me. It frustrates me because our specific cultural orientations and our influences on other black ethnicities are rarely put to the forefront. I hear conversations from people whose family is directly from African countries in which they say they have triple or quadruple consciousness, but I feel similarly as a Caribbean-American. I often easily forget that I am of Caribbean descent as I absorb the histories of black people in the United States, without questioning about Caribbean histories and histories of Caribbean people in the States.
For example, I remember watching Byron Hurt’s Soul Food Junkies, and while I was interested in watching it from the beginning, I had to remind myself that I eat different foods on a normal basis. Growing up, I ate such foods as rice and peas, jerk and curry chicken, roti, perlau (pilaf), souse, fishcake, bakes (fried dumpling), fried plantain, and cou cou and flying fish. I have had other experiences as well – going every year to the Caribbean Day Parade in Brooklyn, or listening regularly to reggae, soca and calypso artists on the radio as my father would drive, in addition to listening to r&b and soul music.
Some Americans often take Caribbean-American for granted or simply consider us as exactly the same as black people in the States. How many of us think about rappers whose families are from the Caribbean and how that influenced them, like Biggie (Jamaican), Busta Rhymes (Jamaican), Spliff Star (Trinidadian), Salt ‘n’ Pepa (Pepa is Jamaican), Q-Tip (His father is Montserratian), Nicki Minaj (Trinidadian), Fugees (Wyclef and Pras are Haitian), Foxy Brown (Trinidadian) and Amanda Seales (Grenadian). Or visual artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat (Hatian and Puerto Rican). Or figures important in political and educational history, like Stokley Carmichael (Kwame Ture – Trinidadian), Marcus Garvey (Jamaican), and Arturo Schomburg (Puerto Rican). Here is another interesting fact – minstrel star Bert Williams was from the island of Antigua; he was not from the United States. His Caribbean background, which includes carnival and playin’ mas, may have influenced his minstrelsy. Louis Chude-Sokei (born in Nigeria and raised in Jamaica) wrote a book about the need to complicate blackness in The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora. In his article, “Redefining ‘Black,’” Chude-Sokei raised how President Obama’s Kenyan ancestry and Colin L. Powell’s Jamaican ancestry had both shook the foundations of what is considered “black.”
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