Words by Nneka Samuel
It’s in the stories. And the food. My father’s soothing voice and grandmother’s reminder to put my trust in the Lord. Basement parties at my Aunt Val’s, soca bumping, walls sweating. Sou sou money in a time of need. It’s in the knowing that Grenada is in the West Indies, not Granada, Spain, and Aruba is much more than a country named in an old Beach Boys song.
Doesn’t everyone cook with curry?
It’s pronounced plan-tin, not plan-tane.
What do you mean you don’t know who The Mighty Sparrow is?
Close to my heart like my feet are to the ground, my Caribbean heritage goes past the places, sights and sounds a tourist might see. Deep the way trenches are dug; distinct; proud. Natural and rooted to my being, it simply is because I simply am.
Waking up as a child to the smell of cocoa tea. Stopping at that store on Flower Avenue after church ’cause it had the good plantain. Trance-like songs with demands to jump up and wave, wine, or any combination thereof. Trips to New York City, aka The Second Caribbean. Greeting family during birthdays and holidays with arms outstretched like divi divi trees. Red lips like mace. A vernacular and twang that’s often imitated but never duplicated. Drinking coconut water before coconut water was a fad. Being part of a social network when Facebook and Twitter were unheard of concepts. Getting me belly full off of curry goat roti. Elders that always ask about you and keep you in their prayers. Crisp, crystal clear waters that spoiled me from even dipping my toes in other oceans. The way Grandma throws in the words “ain’t so” at the end of a sentence to make sure I’m listening, like so much call and response. The banana tree that miraculously grew just to the side of my Aunt Myrtle’s porch on the east coast, as if knowing its owner and her green thumb hailed from the Caribbean. A beautiful mélange of here and there, this and that, my Caribbean is always with me.