Are You From Jamaica?

For so many of us it’s not uncommon to not know where you come from. In fact I strongly believe that until you know where you come from you truly don’t know who you are.

Relocating to Florida.

My family and I relocated from the Midwest to the sunshine state a year and a half ago. We can’t get enough of what South Florida has to offer. The countless beaches, a melting pot of culture and the art scene is fantastic. We even survived Hurricane Irma last year. Yet, to consider us Floridians would be pushing it. I can’t seem to shake the intense craving that could only be satisfied by consuming a St. Paul (St. Louisians know what this is),  a BBQ soaked pulled pork sandwich from SugarFire Smoke House and my Aunt Paulette’s delicious made from scratch rolls. Yes, I really do miss the food back home.

Where are you from?

Even though I haven’t been a Florida resident for long, I like to think I fit in a decent amount. More often  than not I get asked, “What island are you from?” a few times I’ve been asked, “Are you from Jamaica?” When asked this question by the young lady that checked me out at Walmart a few weeks back, out of curiosity I replied, “Why do you ask?” I wondered if my hair had anything to do with her particular question. She simply replied, “It’s the way you speak.” This was the first time anyone has ever said this to me. Something so innocent and yet it stuck with me.

On another, yet similar occasion while passing  by one of my neighbors, who happened to be blasting  Reggae music through his portable speaker, without skipping a beat he asked, “Are you from Jamaica?” Now I did give him the head nod as to say I “Not bad” regarding his music choice. I stopped and asked, “Is it because of my hair you think I’m from Jamaica?” he replied, “No, your bag has Jamaica written all over it.” I was immediately stumped. I replied, “Oh!” I went on to explain that I am not from Jamaica, but my bag is.

B856486D-7849-4308-AA7C-769A9B431C39Now, the bag my neighbor is referring to was purchased in Jamaica. It’s yellow and it has Jamaica written all over it. It’s yellow with green and black  writing with black straps. You will rarely see me without it. it’s accompanied me on several trips to the beach and even to the library. It has sentimental value and it’s managed to survive 9 years of wear and tear and a move across the country.

The most recent interaction surrounding the question “Are you from Jamaica?” came yesterday while I was heading into the library. Upon entering I greeted the security guard. This time I didn’t have my favorite bag (the bag with Jamaica written all over it) and without any hesitation the security guard asked, “Are you from Jamaica?” And before I could respond with, “Why do you ask?” she said, “I asked because of the bag you normally have.”

Jamaica circa 2009

I went on to explain that the bag was purchased in Jamaica and that I wasn’t from Jamaica. I explained that my husband and I were married in Jamaica and how much I really enjoyed it. While talking about my time there it brought back the memories that my husband and I made there. We decided on having a destination wedding and Jamaica seemed like the perfect place to seal the deal so to speak.

The take away.

It’s not that being asked if I’m Jamaican bothers me. However it poses the question of “Is there more to me that I don’t know?” Growing up in the Midwest (St. Louis, Mo) you don’t get asked, “What island are you from?” or “Are you from Jamaica?” or in my husband and son’s case, “Are you from Haiti?” In the Midwest you’re just black or depending on the atmosphere African American. I do recall a time when a stranger (older black woman) asked me, “Where are your people from?” I replied, “We’re from St. Louis.” her response was, “No, before that?” I didn’t have an answer. I simply didn’t know where my family originated from before arriving in St. Louis, Mo.

I have no doubt that upon learning where my family originated will aid me in learning not only where I come from but who I am. Let me clear, I don’t  have a problem with being mistaken as Jamaican. I believe no matter your heritage, whether it be Jamaican, Haitian, African no matter what land you call home we all should be celebrated. I mean, how liberating it must be to know where you come from, to know where your ancestors originated.

Going forward I’ve decided to not only continue to sport my favorite get- around bag, but to research my family history. I only hate that it took relocating to the sunshine state to have my eyes opened to wanting to know the unknown.