June 17, 2009

What Does It Mean to be Caribbean American?: Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Caribbean American Heritage Month

I was born in Chicago in the heart of December. This is a significant point for me because I’ve always hated the cold and am deeply attracted to anything tropical. Surrounded by a Midwestern bounty of apples, pears and berries, I preferred mangoes, coconuts and passion fruit. I never wear black, but dress in bright pinks, reds and purples. My favorite meal is ackee and saltfish with plantains and sorrel. Soca, ska, reggae and calypso fill most of my vast CD collection. People frequently ask me where my accent is from although I have never lived anywhere but in Chicago. Do these things make me Caribbean American? I don’t think so but they reveal where my heart is.

The first time I visited Jamaica, I felt a spiritual shift within. I traveled to Accompong and Nine Mile where I felt a connection that’s hard to explain. When I returned to Chicago, friends said they could sense a change in me. I believe that it was a spiritual recognition that I experienced.

A few years later, I married a man from Tobago. The eventual plan was to live part of the year in Tobago and the other in the U.S. The marriage didn’t survive, but it created a daughter with a Caribbean spirit so strong that she spoke in deep patois her first five years. Her father’s accent is not that deep and he’s not talkative, yet she speaks as if she were born in Tobago. She considers herself Caribbean American and I work hard to ensure that she knows and respects her heritage. She recognizes most Caribbean flags, eats curried goat and pillou and loves jelly coconuts. She also knows who Marcus Garvey, Maurice Bishop and Jamaica Kincaid are and why they are important to her heritage. To me, being Caribbean American means loving and respecting Caribbean culture and values while living in America.


Rosalind Cummings-YeatesRosalind Cummings-Yeates is a freelance journalist specializing in Caribbean and Latin American travel and culture as well as arts and lifestyle topics. Her blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, explores travel, culture and fashion and how they all connect.

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Fly Girl said...

Thanks so much for including me Geoffrey.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Yours is an important voice in the definition, Fly Girl. And especially since you have a young Caribbean American in your midst.