wearingmyidentity

I had no idea I was Black until I was twenty-one on safari in Kenya. My father abandoned me when I was five and my extended family lives in the Virgin Islands and Jamaica so I had to create my own understanding of self.​

When my mother gave me away at eleven I went to a boarding school for financially needy and orphaned children and was raised by  several sets of White houseparents and a set of Black houseparents. There were few outside forces limiting my interests. As a result, I was the young Black girl who hiked, fished, played basketball, acted in plays, analyzed literature, threw discus, and played the french horn; I defied stereotypes.  Most of my interests led my peers and some members of the Black community to refer to me as a “sell-out.”​

I went on to college and pursued an unconventional course of study, theatre.  I never wanted to pursue acting professionally, but assumed that theatre was my only passion and I needed to spend the rest of my life onstage. I have since realized that my love wasn’t solely for theatre.  The dramatic arts are a facet of my true passion; experiential education.

My current interests are race, power, privilege, gender, and class in Outdoor, Environmental, Arts, and Adventure education.  I do theatre for social justice youth work, and hold workshop for adults as well. I want to continue my work on adolescent racialized identity development and academic achievement, theatre for healing and reflection, and the intersection of experiential adventure education and theatre arts curriculum. I also blog about my life, my passions, and my work

11 thoughts on “wearingmyidentity

  1. One of the days I was on safari we stopped at a market. My peers — all of whom were White– and I were walking around. A woman approached me and started talking to me in KiSwahili. I just stared at her with this blank expression. She repeated what she said. I just shook my head, shrugged my shoulders, and offered up an “I can’t understand what you’re saying.” She said, “Oh, Black American…?” I nodded my head and she walked away. It wasn’t that she named me as a Black American. It’s that I’d lived in this world where I thought that color didn’t matter and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized other people see me first as Black and woman before anything else.

  2. hey. thats quite an experience you had in the mathaland. You know how we tend to speak our language to anyone who looks like we do….but that must have been an eye opener….being raised around white folk and then thrown in a continent full of black folk can do some damage on your identity and conscience. I had a similar experience, though opposite…born and raised in the mathaland and then got a chance to do an exchange program in a US college….twas crazy coz there were so few black folk that you’d think we were an extint species-lol. But I think you get to think in a way you never thought before. I never considered myself black until I landed in America….I was born and raised kenyan; I remember filling in those airport forms and I had to tick my race…there was white, latino, native american, Island, black, and other…so I ticked other and wrote Afrikan in brackets; when I thought of the term black, it was always those black folk in america…of course I came to realize otherwise when I automatically found maself shoved in that category; now I am a black african. However, I think the term black really does damage on our self pride and dignity since the history of ‘blacks’ starts with slavery and the use of the word ‘negro’ or ‘ethiop’…however, when you say african, you surmon and entire glorious history that predates anything european by thousands of centuries…..africa is not only a place, but a culture and history and lifestyle. Thats why I choose to use african than black…

    what about you…do you consider yourself caribbean, afro-caribbean, islander?!…

  3. I’ve been thinking a lot about your story since you wrote this comment. In fact, it was the catalyst for my “Blackness isn’t real” post. It’s kinda like America is this filter. We only allow entrance to that which we understand and fits into our paradigms. Living here is a wonderful, and being a citizen is a gift. I often wonder about the impact of what we give up to live the lives we lead. Our capitalism plagues us, our democracy dilutes us, and our races define us in unhelpful ways.

    How do I define myself? Well, it depends on the situation. For the most part, I refer to myself as West Indian. I react pretty strongly when I’m referred to as African American. Not because of the association, but rather the assumption and blanket generalization. I haven’t stopped calling myself “Black” — yet, but I will. It’s just hard for some people to understand and sometimes I don’t have the time, desire, or capacity to explain race relations.

    Thanks so much for reading. I respect and appreciate your thoughts.

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