In response to: Does being from the Caribbean make me ‘Of Africa’?3 minute read

‘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?

Me as a child in The Netherlands

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.

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Jennifer Jongema is an aspiring writer and digital illustrator from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. After having completed her BSc. in Tourism and International Business Management, she discovered her passion for creative writing. In order to combine her education and her interest, Jennifer writes about her experiences in Aruba to inform and entertain visitors.