Despite, being raised in Jamaica for the earlier parts of my childhood and spending most of my summer vacations there; my family labeled me a Yankee. By definition, the term Yankee is used to describe a person who is from the U.S. In my case, the term meant a few things 1)it was used poke fun at my American citizenship, 2) a reminder that despite being within proximity of the Jamaican culture and possessing the heritage I didn't quite meet the mark. It was my truth, I was born in Jamaica, Queens to Jamaican parents. As I child, I truly couldn’t conceptualize what it meant to be American besides having U.S. citizenship and American friends.
Before I was born, both of my parents moved from Jamaica to America in pursuit of a better life. As a kid, I couldn’t help but wonder if the better life was in Jamaica. The island’s charm could easily lure you into romanticizing a life of ease and relaxation. I didn't understand why my Jamaican friends and family idealized “foreign” (America). The hustle and bustle of NYC seemed overwhelming and the winters were too damn cold.
I define existing in more than one culture you don’t completely identify with as “cultural-limbo”. As a first-generation American, I did not feel fully accepted by the Jamaican culture. Though I spoke the vernacular, I wasn’t born there and I could barely conceptualize the quintessence of my birthplace because I was raised in the traditions and customs of a Caribbean family. For a while, I despised not belonging to a single culture and felt trapped between dual identities. Spiritually, it was as if I had no home to rest in.
As I evolved, my perspective began to shift. I saw the beauty in existing in a cultural-limbo. The American land afforded me access to ample resources and opportunities while the island of Jamaica humbled me by introducing me to a simpler and easier way of life. As a toddler, I lived in a small district named Winchester, Jamaica. There my grandparents raised me. The bathroom was an outhouse, and bath time meant turning on the hose in the front yard or going to the river to bathe. Even as a babe, I felt most at peace climbing mango trees and running barefooted through my grandparents’ district from sunup to sundown. I had an innate craving for liberation.
On the flip side, I had the privilege of growing up in NYC- the melting pot of cultural diversity. Where many of my peers and close friends were experiencing the pressure points of being first-generation Americans. Thus, having to define their identities within the cultural-limbo. Our collective experiences reminded us that we were unique and beneficiaries of cultural nuances. The most beautiful parts of ourselves were shared between more than one culture. This inadvertently granted us wisdom through experiencing multiple ways of life. Though we are a blend of cultures, a whole is equal to the sum of its parts. Meaning, learning to appreciate the intricacies of our dual identities was the first step to standing in our power.
As I connect the dots, it has become abundantly clear that the journey to liberation means journeying back home-- to me.
Stay tuned for more blog posts every Tuesday.
Peace and Love,