I’m a Caribbean American woman. It’s something that I don’t wear on my sleeve but, you hear it on my tongue when I speak. It’s the thing that makes me stick out even when I may want to blend in. It’s my card of difference. I’m part of a special club that not everyone understands.
I’m a Caribbean woman. I’m also a naturalized American citizen. In honor of National Caribbean American Month, I’m going to share with you a little of what’s it’s like to be a Caribbean woman that grew up in the Caribbean, but lives in America.
Almost Everyone Thinks You’re Jamaican
Meh luv Jamaica mon! Shoot…my sister in law is Jamaican. But guess what? I’m not Jamaican. There are actually 28 island nations in the Caribbean and thousands of islands. None of the islands of which I’ve had my start include Jamaica. Things got weird earlier this year when an acquaintance called me and asked for my help to assist her with an adoption in Jamaica. I did what I could to help…but I had to break the news to her too. I’m not Jamaican! Big ups to my Jamaican crew.
You Want to Know Why I Left
Besides being mistaken for Jamaican, the second biggest question that I get as a Caribbean American is, “Why did you leave?” It’s a natural curiosity about how someone can leave paradise and move miles away from their family.
At the age of three, my parents moved from Dominica, West Indies to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands so that we could have a better life. So, moving away from family is not foreign to me. America is a nation of immigrants and even the people who have lived in America for generations…move from state to state, sometimes from country to country. People move for education, jobs, access to diversity, changes of scenery. People move.
An Assumption that I Only Cook Caribbean Food
I can cook Caribbean food. But, I only cook what I really like and mostly non-inflammatory favorites. This gal has to stay healthy. So feel free to get recipes for ginger beer, coconut curry shrimp and Virgin Islands coleslaw and this slimmed down recipe for potato stuffing.
But, you’ll also find recipes for sauteed kale with lemon, homemade grain free cereal and strawberry barbecue chicken too. So, if you were thinking about making my house your Caribbean pit stop, you may have to think again. They’re restaurants for that.
Winter is Overrated
I’ll take one snow day for the Instagram but, after that I’m out. During the fall and winter I’m thinking about spring and summer. I believe that something was specifically coded into my DNA during birth and it’s here to stay. It’s called the Caribbean factor.
Not Big on Road Trips
For me, road trips are just not my jam. That may have something to do with the fact that I grew up on an island 13 miles wide and 4 miles long and driving too long would mean I’d be off of a hill in the Caribbean Sea or Atlantic Ocean. Now, that doesn’t mean that road trips are totally out but, usually, we’re talking about a 4 hour cut off and after that it’s time to find a nearby hotel.
I Don’t Know Every Other Caribbean Person that Exists
I know you mean well but, I actually don’t know other Caribbean people just based on the fact that they’re from the Caribbean. So dropping their names could make for an uncomfortable conversation between us. And If I say, that “I don’t know them”, no amount of adjectives you use is going to change the fact that I just don’t know them.
Do you realize how crazy it would sound if you asked everyone from the South if they knew each other just based on the fact that they lived in the same region? Crazy right?!?
I’m a Born Beach Snob
Here’s the thing…when you were born and raised in a place where you can see your feet in the water you swim in, there’s no turning back. I’ve walked some beaches in California and other states and even wiggled my toes in the sand but, that’s about all I’ll do. I know my Caribbean and island folks can hear me with this one. If I can’t see my feet, I’m not getting in the water. Period.
The Caribbean is Where I Plug In
I get an electrical charge when I step foot on a Caribbean island. I just can’t explain it. It’s definitely physiological. So, a trip 1-2 times a year is a mental and medical necessity. I can prove it! You know like how you have to plug in your phone to the outlet after some time for it to perform optimally. Yep…same here. I’ll have to work on getting my medical insurance to cover the trip.
I have a lot more to say, but this is getting long. I’ll save it for a book.
Edited to add, now I have a book. You can buy it here.
By the way, if you’re headed to the beach this summer, be sure to check out my beach playlist. There are definitely some beach tunes that will keep you jamming.
And, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram so see what I’m up to on the daily.
If you’ve read this far…you feel my vibes.
Your Caribbean American Friend
By the way, you can purchase my new book below.
June 28, 2018. Original (Updated June 6, 2020, June 18, 2023)