But I consider myself, first and foremost, a person of Caribbean descent. I was born in Guyana (which is actually in South America but considered part of the Caribbean)
Growing up in England it was easy to submerge myself in the Caribbean culture. I could sample cuisine from a different part of the world every night of the week in London if I chose to. Strolling along any busy road in my old neighbourhood I’d be greeted with a variety of genres blaring from car speakers...reggae, soca (West Indian up-tempo music), bhangra (Indian dance music), afrobeat or highlife (African pop music). Hair products and cosmetics for women of ethnic origin could be found easily and in abundance.
So, to say that moving here was a ‘culture shock’ is a huge understatement.
Of course, big cities like New York, Atlanta and LA are cultural melting pots but in this suburban East coast town I
find myself starving for some cultural interaction.
My search for Caribbean seasonings and food has been abandoned - the pickings are too slim.
Funny though how everyone seems to know about St Patrick’s Day.
How did this Irish holiday become so widely embraced in America, yet events like Three Kings Day in January, Brazil and Trinidad carnivals in February or even the Welsh holiday St David’s Day, (which is also in March), hardly get a mention?
It’s obviously to do with the country’s strong Irish roots but it’s interesting how those who have no clue about the
holiday or are about as Irish as Oprah can’t wait to wear their green t-shirts and hats and start celebrating.
It’s a big seller on the commercial retail calendar. Any holiday with a strong emphasis on drinking and partying is going to be popular but I just wish such enthusiasm was placed on other cultural holidays too.
I’ve now chosen to actively seek out and dive into any cultural experience I can get my hands on here.
I love that I have made friends with women also from the Caribbean. I’ve found a local Zumba class. Yay! Just being able to hear music with reggae and African rhythms and dancing like I would have every weekend on some dance-floor in London (when I was still single, childless and a few years younger!) makes me happy. I've also found a steel-pan class nearby (and nearly fainted when I did!) and I'm thinking about having a carnival-themed party for my son's next birthday.
It’s my way of staying connected to where I came from and who I was and still am. It makes me feel less estranged from my old life. My culture is what makes me unique. I don’t want to lose that and blend into the scrap-booking, college t-shirt-wearing majority!
Of course that’s a sweeping generalization and I know there are lots of people in this county who embrace diversity but my wish is that everyone makes a little effort to add to more culture into their lives. Then we could all have a big party on February 14th! No, not for Valentine's Day, but for one of the least known holidays of all, Race Relations Day.