labay

A short tale of the Americanized Haitian.

In Caribbean American interest, Caribbean interest, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Personal, Trinidad on September 7, 2008 at 2:28 am

I’m apparently out of touch with island lingo or so that’s what I was recently told. I wasn’t offended or put off or anything but I found the comment quite interesting nonetheless. Comments like that always dredge up memories of being involuntarily flung into the “them” rather than “we” category.  Over the years, I’ve learned to deal or so – as I’ve come to realize – I thought.

I’m Haitian American. My upbringing took shape in Brooklyn amid blaring old school hip hop and dance hall when reggae artist like Garnett Silk belted out one classic hit after another.  Ah, those were the days.

I’m what some Caribbean folks deem an Americanized West Indian or plainly put, an American gal. There in lies the teeth gritting rub. It’s one of those unspoken divisions between some who emigrated to the “states” and those reared from the get-go in the U.S. of A.  I admit in the past I’ve jumped on the “You have a green card, na, na, na, na, naaaaaaaa” bandwagon. Those were the days of immaturity when cousins visiting from the island would scoff at my American accent as I made concerted efforts to communicate with them in Creole.

Their snickering would goad me into going all West Side Story on them. OK, perhaps my reaction wasn’t as dramatic as prancing about wielding a knife and snapping my fingers like the Sharks and Jets but I said some mean things to ease my bruised feelings.

After all, I was no less Caribbean than they even if I grew up in urban America.

I love Kompa and plantains just as much as any self-professed “straight up, no chaser” Haitian.

I may botch Creole here and there but at least I give it the college try.  Most importantly, no matter the company I keep,  I never  Never never Never forget my roots.  Sak passe! – MJ


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  1. Speak my sister! Haitian-Americans, like all hypenated descendants I suppose, straddle two worlds, and try to make the best of it without losing themselves. The struggle continues!

  2. A belated thanks, Haitiannoless. Love the name, by the way. There is a dichotomy that exist between Haitians/Haitian Americans that isn’t addressed, or for that matter Caribbean vs. Caribbean Americans. I suppose there are schisms in all ethnicities and cultures. There’s something sort of sad about that. But you’re right, the struggle continues.

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