While people of color have had a long history of oral tradition, our written history is quite young. That is one reason
why it is important to find the time to write and struggle through the barriers to be published. Especially for women like
me, we must rise above the guilt we often experience in taking time for ourselves and use writing to expand our lives and
discard the anxieties that stifle our voices. Writing is a power beyond our physical presence.
It is a metaphor for the cultural heritage that reinforces our sense of who we are today. It is part of the struggle
to leave a lasting mark on this earth.
Living away from the seat of your ancestral culture, how does one celebrate one’s heritage and at the same time
participate meaningfully in the culture of one’s adopted community?
Myth making & the forging of identify
our journey on the Middle Passage to various locations in the Americas our survival has rested on
the power of memory keeping. We have used language to evoke the memories and shared inheritance of our culture. These remembrances
played a pivotal role in the survival of our African ancestors during the horrendous four hundred years of slavery. Today,
these stories are vital to us, the memory keepers, who have a special responsibility to continue to weave the patterns in
the tapestry that tells of our struggle to carve out a destiny of independence.
Kitchen, Zora Neale Hurston emphasizes the central role mythmaking and storytelling plays in the spiritual legacy of
black people. Myths, like other forms of storytelling were developed to explain a people’s world, how they came to be,
and their place in the universe. Indeed, a country’s stories and myths provide a striking confirmation of the essence
of its vision of itself and of the world, and especially the future of its young. Through memory keeping and storytelling
we are able to counter the discontinuity of our history and traditions that Eurocentrism has sought to impose on us. These
have proven to be effective strategies to bring the generations together and perpetuate our culture. Our stories allow us
to travel through many directions, through metaphors and symbols and to connect with a world beyond the narrow confines of
geography and man made boundaries.
study of West Indian history at Excelsior High School, Jamaica, strengthened my conceptualization of the world as a site of struggle.
At the 6th form level, we journeyed into critical analysis of our history, the meaning and impact of colonization,
and the forging of the New World and our place in it. At the University of the West Indies, I responded to the ardent admonitions of scholars like Professor Rex Nettleford and Maureen
Warner-Lewis who urged us to be critical thinkers, remaining habitually critical of
the society. I came of age in an era of the Civil Rights Movement, the liberation of island colonies, and the debilitating
impact of the International Monetary Fund. Our teachers guided us in applying strategies of critical analysis to the changes
taking place in the world and their impact on my island home, Jamaica.
They urged us to problematize the way the external media influenced and shaped our society. They reminded us of the imperative
to consistently and purposefully forge a Caribbean cultural identity. This is the foundation
on which I constructed the world, the lenses through which I viewed and continue to view life.
|Students at Oracabessa Primary School
|Students at Oracabessa Primary School
R i v e
continuously seek the presence of rivers. When I am physically unable to go by a river, I conjure one up imaginatively: the
river on my family’s property on Coxland, St. Mary; the Rio Nuevo River, nestled between Tower Isle and St. Mary in Jamaica. River is both physical and metaphoric. I associate it with ultimate beauty
and goodness. It is also force and destruction.
many in Jamaica, it is the life force
from which families are fed and nurtured. At Jack’s River in Jamaica,
women go on certain days to wash their family’s clothes. There, they spend the entire day by the river. They set up
fire, cook, wash, swim, play games, and recite stories. When my children were younger, I would take them there while we were
on vacation in Jamaica. They would swim
in and out of the deep caverns, try to catch fish and collect rocks. We would spend the day there moving with the natural
rhythms of the day. What a wonderful act of celebration, what an awesome
manifestation of the holiness of the universe!
The Work of our Mothers’ Hands
Your love, dreams, and experiences
have swirled and knitted us together,
centuries colliding into the embroidered
tapestry of our life’s history.
faith healer to midwife, to teacher, washer woman and nurse, a mother held a position of reverence in the Jamaican community
of my childhood. Today, our mothers continue to grow, surpassing barriers, leaving a legacy for generations to come. They
continue to strengthen, motivate, educate and comfort us, making it possible to survive and grow beyond the external circumstances
of our physical boundaries. Mothers become grandmothers, women who are the transmitters of our heritage, the custodians of
family history. Through their storytelling, proverbs, and remembrances, a reservoir of family history and community heritage is passed down from generation to generation.
|Dezrene Wade - The author's mother
A Bridge to Memory and Identity.
Oracabessa is a small fishing village nestled between Ocho Rios, St. Ann and Port Maria,
St. Mary, Jamaica.
Development has not quite reached this small town, overlooked by politicians who concentrate on more strategic locations where
the vote reigns. But Oracabessa is where my heart lies. For me, Oracabessa is an important link to childhood days, providing
a bridge between past and present, a sea of treasures I can share with my own children living away from the seat of their
ancestral culture, precariously perched on the cusp of two worlds they must somehow find the creative energy to merge and
claim as their own. Oracabessa is a long way from Miami, where
I live, yet it remains an important step in this dance that is my life. Each hip swaying, limbo, soca-calypso, hip hop move
that I make, recalls Oracabessa, that persona that shadows everything that I do.
Music-Shouting it Out Loud!
listen to the music and it soothes us, giving us comfort in the satisfaction that it is ours, part of the indelible experience
of people of color. Rap, Reggae, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Soca, and Calypso are all part of the communication between people
of African ancestry and the rest of the world. Reggae music is a revolution of sounds that has evolved from this co-mingling
of cultures. It is music that spans more than four hundred years of history. It is our spokesperson, a representative of our
collective history forged in the crucible of our African ancestry and the New World experience.
It conveys the outpourings of our creative imagination, our ability to come to terms with the New World
order, our place in it, and our relationship to each other.