Thursday, May 29, 2008
"I didn't know I was Black Until I Came to America."
The heading on this post is a quote from a young woman I met in Jamaica this past weekend at the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, Jamaica.
The festival exceeded my wildest expectations. I met amazing authors like Lawrence Hill, Margaret Cezair-Thompson and Jackie Kay. I had a fabulous, though nerve-wracking, experience reading from my book, Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain in front of an audience of over 1000 people. And the weather cooperated with high temperatures, cool breezes and no rain (until the last day).
But what I enjoyed the most about my little visit to this little island was being surrounded by the most beautiful Black people in the world. What an experience for this chick raised up in the whitest, white Wisconsin, to be in a warm world of welcoming brown faces and kinky hair. I felt giddy to be in the real majority for once. I considered rushing back to America to scoop up my children and bringing them back to Jamaica to raise them in a place where their cute, little, brown, faces would transform to simply cute, little, faces, because the brown would be redundant.
After my reading this woman came up to me with her friend and told me she understood my struggle of trying to define Black in America, because it happened to her when she arrived here for college and was immediately informed by the race police that she must quickly join the Black race or else face the risk of not belonging. "Growing up in Jamaica," she told me, "I didn't even know I was Black." Suffice it to say, America's racial politics sent her right back home after she finished school.
So for now, I have no immediate plans to move to Jamaica, but it is a tempting thought. Although I must admit I would miss snow. After all, I am from Wisconsin.