In answer to the Day 2 Question “How ____ Are You?”
You’re Not Black You’re Jamaican
It took years of building my identity and character (including the multiple flaws) to come to the realization of “I am what I am”…despite who is looking at me. I’m Jamaican, I’m Black, I’m a Woman…and the gay thing (I’m not quite ready to discuss).
I’ve always had a privileged sense of self. I purposely never over fed any of the aforementioned descriptions of my self…including being Black. Growing up in between The Bronx, NY and Montego Bay, Jamaica; having a balance was key. Then it came time for college. I mulled around for about a year in Jamaica and a couple of other islands after completing high school. I applied to one college and got in (Howard U). Talk about culture shock…naw, I loved it and embraced it. Even though my (Jamaican) grandparents thought and told everyone I was at Harvard U for about two years. When they realized where I was in fact matriculating they asked, “why would you purposely choose an environment that doesn’t represent the way the world really is (the lack of white folks). It was my first time experiencing where being Black came before my other self descriptors. It was a bit of a culture shock learning that it was the misdeeds of the white man that gave birth to the missteps of The Black man. Please don’t think of me as too naive or sheltered. After all, I attended public school in New York at sat through yearly, February screenings of The Eyes on The Prize Series from the 5th to the 7th grade. I was informed…just not angry enough. It was my freshman year in my Black Diaspora Class at Howard University. I vividly recall HIM, this other freshman student from Norfolk, Virginia publicly challenging my identity in front of faculty and student body. My view (on the particular subject matter…that I don’t quite recall) was being refuted, marginalized and down right dismissed…all because…wait for it…here it comes… “You’re not Black, you’re Jamaican. What? Just because we don’t agree on every issue pertaining to The Black Plight, doesn’t mean we are any less connected by race. It was in that very moment that I realized that I am Black and more. I am also Jamaican and a woman. My layers of identity and experiences make me who I am. Here I am umpteen years later can’t recall HIS name…but I so remember the feelings he evoked in me that day… as if to say being Jamaican meant that I was less Black. How dare HE? It’s 2012 and today I find myself dealing with another identity issue…my Jamaican grandmother is insisting that we are not African. Here we go again!