‘In Response To’ is a series with commentary from our readers
As a Caribbean girl of African descent, the article, ‘Does being from the Caribbean make me ‘Of Africa’? immediately stood out to me. Having struggled with finding a community to identify with for some time now, I was stoked to see an article by a fellow Dutch Caribbean woman featured on a website for and by women Of Africa. Does this mean that I too am of Africa? And before I order my 100% authentic dashiki off Amazon, what exactly does that mean?
Stacey Mac Donald, the author of the article, mentioned that she usually gives a long description of her family background when asked where she’s from. I used to do this too. My version goes a little something like this: “My parents are from Aruba, but I was born and (mostly) raised in the Netherlands when my folks decided to stick around after having completed their studies there. When I was 11 the whole family moved back to Aruba and I’ve been living there ever since.” Growing up in the Netherlands as a kid, I would identify as Dutch. I would always add “but my parents are Aruban”. A few years after I moved to Aruba and I learned the native language of Papiamento, I felt fairly comfortable identifying as Aruban. Occasionally, someone would ask me “but where are you REALLY from?” This always bothered me. Could I not just self-identify as Dutch or Aruban without receiving looks of skepticism?
“By submitting an article to this platform am I intruding on a space for women who know their place in the diaspora?”
Eventually, I started to ask myself the same question; where am I really from? Aruba is my home, the Netherlands is a place I hold close to my heart because of my childhood, but where do my roots lie? Unlike Stacey, I don’t know much about my ancestry. I like to believe that I am a mix of all the good things the Caribbean has to offer, but how does someone like me find community? It has been difficult. Even writing this article for a website about African women feels a bit wrong. I know next to nothing about my ties to the continent, I just know I want to learn. By submitting an article to this platform am I intruding on a space for women who know their place in the diaspora?
I don’t have concrete answers to the questions posed above, but something that Stacey wrote resonates with me:
“How we feel, what we identify with is not just historical, genetic, emotional or experiential. It’s a relative combination of all of these factors. Most of all, it’s personal.”
This made me think. Instead of desperately trying to fit a mold in order to be part of something, perhaps people like me can be part of a community of the moldless. Reading Stacey’s words reminded me that many members of the African diaspora don’t fit a single ethnic mold and are parts of multiple communities. Perhaps we can use our mishmash of identities to bring people of Africa with diverse backgrounds closer together going forward.