Today is the 47th anniversary of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique’s independence from the United Kingdom. When people ask me where I’m from, they don’t mean “Where in the United States are you from?” or “Where in Brooklyn are you from?” They usually mean, “Which caribbean island are you from?” or “Are you Spanish?”
My response is usually: my family is from Grenada. If they inquire more, or if I want them to know about my heritage, I give a little more: my family is from Carriacou, a small island that’s “part of Grenada”. In other words, Grenada consists of the main island, and two smaller islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
This past year, I was encouraged and inspired to think deeper about my typical response to people asking where I’m from. In my experience, when Kayaks (people from Carriacou) say “I’m from Grenada”, it’s an easy reply rooted in avoidance, and in the idea that all three islands are one in the same, when in reality they have distinct histories, traditions and different experiences when it comes to development, receiving and utilizing resources.
Growing up, I thought spending a few years in Carriacou as a child meant something. My family often visited the “isle of spice” around the holidays – a vacation destination. It was “home”, but not my home. I didn’t know much about the history, traditions like boat building, the political atmosphere, exports, how people made a living. One of my favorite things in the world is chocolate, and I never knew that Grenada was one of the largest producers and exporters of cocoa products until I was older. My knowledge of Grenadian/Kayak history was slim to none, and when I visited, I mostly stayed in Windward, Carriacou, the small village where my family is from.
During high school, my best friend’s grandmother (who is Jamaican) learned that my family is “from Grenada”. The next time I visited, she handed me a large book on the history of the tri-island country of Grenada. It was my first time reading about native Carriacouians. Later on, as an adult, I did an Ancestry DNA test and learned that my ancestors are primarily from Sierra Leone, Ghana and Britain, which led me to discover the origins of the Big Drum tradition, one of the well-known traditions in Carriacou. (This dissertation, while long, is pretty interesting so far. It explores “the extent to which Black girls (from Carriacou) assert, memorialize, celebrate, and accept their African heritage in the face of the overall Western demand to deny, ignore, and disparage that heritage.” Big Drum is one of the ways African heritage manifests within the community.)
Last year, I learned that Audre Lorde, a leader of the LGBTQ+ movement and famous writer, has roots in Carriacou; her mother Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde was a Kayak. It dawned on me that while I’m not a famous writer like Lorde, sharing my experiences, where I come from, matters. Representation matters. This tiny island of about 10,000 people, is not what it could or should be due to host of reasons, including the lack of acknowledgement, failure to develop and failure to properly preserve and uplift traditions. The power I have is minuscule, but at the very least, I’m going to tell people where I really come from going forward.