I’ve always considered myself to be African American. Never did I question the surveys or questionnaires that had that single bubble classifying a whole society into one large culture. I guess this is because I never really had long exposure to the pure form of the West Indian culture. It wasn’t until I visited family in the Virgin Islands that I started to see a difference in my culture and a difference within my sense of being.
â–º quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Last Christmas break, my family and I took a vacation to St. Thomas and St. Kitts for the 50th anniversary of my grandparents on my father’s side. In the week that I was in St. Kitts, I was deprived from my obsessive technology use. Since we were out of the U.S border, no cell phones worked and the only place my laptop worked was inside the hotel room. I remember being so excited when my parents even mentioned going back to the hotel for simple things like changing. It wasn’t until my parent forced me to lay off the computer and to go out with them that I realized this shadowed culture within my personal life would become a vibrant and unique part of me.
One night, my parents took me to a live Jam Fest that was being held in the hotel courtyard. The area was full of tourists and natives waiting anxiously. The reggae music could be felt throughout the hotel as a group was called Maco Jumbi waited to come out and perform. I was sure no one was getting sleep.
The music hyped up and everyone cheered as these men and women on long stilts that were 8 feet tall or more walked out and danced over the audience. They were stepping in between tables and doing mind blowing tricks. One man would bend all the way back till his body was parallel to the ground while the stilts were still up straight. They even played limbo underneath each others legs. Amazing, right? Never in my life had I experienced such freight and excitement.
Towards the end of the celebration, the performers had all the audience members come out and dance. We danced through the stilt walkers’ legs and jumped around moving to the pulsing beat of the bass and steel pan. Strangers became friends as we circled around the courtyard in a long winding snake dancing any way we felt. Nothing seemed to matter at that time. I didn’t care about computers or cell phones.
As my family walked back to the hotel, I hugged my dad and told him how amazing he was to be part of that culture. My dad smiled and responded, “You’re part of that culture, too. You have it in you.”
Never before had I actually stop to think about my heritage until after this trip. I know now that I don’t have to be able to climb up and down cliffs, or be able to create natural remedies, or even have to have an accent to be part of the West Indian culture. I’m not just African American; I am a half West Indian, half African American girl and I love it.
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