Voices of the Floribbean Diaspora

What are the historic and cultural connections between Florida and the Caribbean? This was only one of the questions that Dr. Lillian Manzor and a group of Florida teachers considered during a seminar sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council on July 20-24, 2009, at the University of Miami.

Although it seems obvious, given the geographical proximity, this has been a question that has not received the serious critical inquiry that it deserves, and the seminar under the leadership of Ann Schoenacher also considered these issues:

What geographical, historical, economic, political, and cultural factors led to the formation of the Caribbean as a cultural space?

How do these factors connect the Caribbean to Florida?

What are the contemporary dynamics forging the Florida-Caribbean ties?

How do these play out in Miami specifically?

Is Florida the southernmost state of the United States or the northernmost space of the Caribbean?
The multi-disciplinary seminar engaged several scholars, including Dr. Heather Russell whose lecture, “Literature of the Caribbean Diaspora,” provided anexpansive overview of Caribbean Literature and focused on Caribbean themes such as “Great Time, the limbo imagination, magical realism, identity, race/ethnicity, language, colonialism/post-colonialism, feminism, and class/color paradigms,” which included a focused discussion of Florida Bound and Donna Aza Weir Soley's, First Rain in the context of the work of Derek Walcott, Antonio Benitez Rojo, Kamau Brathwaite, Earl Lovelace, and Edouard Glissant.

Dr. Russell guided the discussion of the Questions of the Day:

How are Caribbean identities expressed through literature?

What are the commonalities and differences within Caribbean literature of the diaspora?

How are gender roles portrayed in literature?

How are racial politics and racialization processes negotiated in Caribbean diasporic literature?

Is there a common Caribbean literary “language” that goes beyond the linguistic frontiers of the Caribbean?

Following a short break, Adrian Castro and I read from our work and we talked about how the “Floribbean diaspora creates a specifically unique cultural/linguistic/ethnic lens” through which we imagine and create our craft. In my work, I have sought to draw a distinction between the Windrush Generation and the Reggae Generation. There are some similarities between the two migratory movements, but geography, access to technology, and postcolonial consciousness have resulted in remarkable differences, which makes the Florida experience unique.

I began the discussion my reading “A Prayer for my Children,” that I’d written specifically for the seminar and livicated the poem to the teachers. I also read two selections from Who’s Your Daddy?: And Other Stories. Adrian read two poems from Cantos to Blood and Honey and Wise Fish, and then, we answered questions from the teachers. Based upon the feedback, it seems as if the workshop was a success and Dr. Russell, Adrian, and I were grateful to be a part of this seminar.

Give thanks to Dr. Manzor, Ann Schoenacher, Dr. Heather Russell, Adrian Castro, FHC, and especially the teachers whose questions and encouragement reminded me of the important work that we still have to do.

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For more photos, please follow this link: Florida Humanities Council--Caribbean Literature

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