Category: Caribbean Voices

Caribbean Voices: Jhovi via St. Lucia/Maryland

caribbean voices jhovi

I recently met Jhovi while he was on vacation in St. Lucia and was instantly struck by something that holds true for all members of the Caribbean diaspora. No matter what our experiences are, we are united by a common heritage, a shared attitude towards the world and a love of having a good time. That’s one thing you can count on Caribbean people for!

I wanted to include his interview on this blog because I was sure he would have very different insights than I did about the experience of growing up as a St. Lucian man. Keep reading and you won’t be disappointed by his fresh perspective.

Jhovi Polius | 27 | St. Lucia (living in Maryland)

(more…)

Caribbean Voices: Jamal via St. Thomas, USVI

tumblr_messaging_octqicq71s1qahze1_1280Jamal is a blogger that I’ve known for years. His blog has opened me up to many issues about the U.S. Virgin Islands and how it’s similar or dissimilar to other islands in the Caribbean. As a St. Lucian, I always assumed that the U.S. Virgin Islands was a world away from St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean. Hopefully in this interview you’ll be able to see how similar the experience of US Virgin Islanders is to non-territories in the Caribbean and recognize that our similarities are much more important for you to focus on than our differences… 

Jamal | 25 | St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands)

What island(s) are you and your family from?

I’m from St. Thomas. My mom is from St. John, and my dad was born in Tortola, but moved to St. Thomas when he was a young child. A large part of my mom’s side of the family lives in St. John and a large part of my dad’s family lives in Antigua.

Tell me a little more about yourself? What do you currently “do” in your spare time? What are your interests?

I love to write, listen to music and dance. I have a B.A. in Communication Studies and I am currently working towards a Masters in Public Administration. I find myself intrigued by world politics, particularly in the United States and the Caribbean.

How would you describe your ethnic/racial background?

I would consider myself Afro-Caribbean. I have considered the term “West Indian” a bit too broad as it can refer to numerous people who are from the West Indies of are of any race. As far back as I can trace, my family includes people of Afro-Caribbean heritage.

I’m really interested in talking to you about what it’s like as a USVIslander. What are some common misconceptions other WI have about you?

There seems to be this idea that we cannot be “West Indian” and “American” simultaneously. The idea that we have to choose a side is utterly ridiculous. There are those that question our “West Indian-ness”, even though we are quite literally a group of islands located in the Caribbean.

How do you think USVI status as a US territory affects your identity (as an individual) and the identity of others in your country?

I would say that our relationship with the mainland United States can get awkward sometimes. There are times that we feel neglected by the mainland, and feel as if we are basically its side chick [for lack of a better term]. I lived in Charlotte for 7 years, and whenever anyone would ask about my background, I would say I was from the Virgin Islands. The accent is probably the first thing that gave myself away. Even though I am legally obligated to call myself “American”, I believe that calling myself a Virgin Islander much more accurately depicts my identity.

What ways do you think you are different from non-territory Caribbean islands? What do you think are the biggest similarities?

The biggest thing is that we are still attached to the mainland United States, and still depend on them for some critical things, even though we are largely self governing. I think that all Caribbean Islands have a shared sense of history due to our similar backgrounds.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why is your answer (yes or no) important to you?

Yes I do consider myself a feminist, and I believe this largely has to do with my upbringing. I remember for a period in elementary school, my mom had a more stable job than my dad did, and I don’t recall him being totally threatened by that. In fact, there were several times throughout my life where she made more money than he did, and he was not threatened. I also remember seeing them both eschew the “traditional” gender roles. They both cooked, and they both cleaned, so I believe that seeing that for myself helped shape my views.

Do you think there’s a difference between how boys and girls are raised in the Caribbean? What are some of those bigger differences?

I do think that there is a difference with how boys and girls are raised in the Caribbean. The Caribbean is this very traditionalist society at times, and I think that we are still bound to many of the traditional gender roles, though I believe that they are slowly being chipped away. I think boys are largely groomed to become the “head of household” , and to be dominant in society. Traditionally, we have not groomed girls to think the same way, but I do think that is changing with every generation.

Is being a feminist acceptable in your community?

I would say that it is definitely acceptable. There are times that I have seen the term thrown around disparagingly, but I do think that most of my community agrees with the basic tenets of feminism.

If Caribbean men could gather together and fix one cultural issue amongst themselves, which one do you think they should focus on? If you can’t pick just one, you can expand.

I think we have lost the family dynamic that existed for the entire island. We need to return to the concept of “It takes a village to raise a child”, where I believe everyone was looking out for you. I think we have lost that and we need to return to that.

If you had to raise a son in the Caribbean, what would you keep from your own upbringing and what would you change?

I had a very strong family background and felt like I could depend on my family for anything. I felt like I could call on any one of them and they would help as soon as possible. If I do have a son, I would like for him to have that same feeling.

I know you played mas for the first time recently and I’d like you just ask one last question about that experience… Was there anything that surprised you about the experience that you didn’t expect?

I think communication could have been a bit better. I actually didn’t get my costume until a few hours before parade day, and I was very frustrated by that. We did give them our contact information, and they could have easily sent a text or email informing the masses. We relied solely on a Facebook page, which wasn’t updated a few times. Besides that, I had a great time, and it was the fulfilling of a dream.

I really enjoyed this interview with Jamal, especially his background with his parents which is a common Caribbean reality that we don’t often hear about in the larger Caribbean narrative. If you enjoyed reading through this interview, I recommend reading my previous interview with Kerlea (from St. Lucia). 

 

Kerlea Joseph via St. Lucia

IMG_0978As a St. Lucian who works virtually, I’m always on the look out for people who work virtually, especially if they’re St. Lucian. One of my beliefs is that building a community of people who reside in St. Lucia but work virtually anywhere in the world will be important to the future of our economy — a real future, where we don’t rely on tourism for subsistence. Kerlea’s interest in returning to St. Lucia after a long time abroad mirrors my own experiences of spending 9.5 years in the U.S. and decided to return home… Reading this interview will give you great insight into some of the considerations that can be made about returning to the Caribbean after a long absence. 

Kerlea Joseph | 21 | St. Lucia (currently residing in Canada)

Follow Kerlea on Instagram! Here you can find black and white illustrations and in the near future, photos of gorgeous calligraphy.

IG: dynamodandridge

Tell me a little more about yourself? What do you currently “do” in your spare time? What are your interests?

I’m extremely interested in Illustration particularly Fashion Illustration as well as Calligraphy. While I’m not currently studying either at school I really hope I can make a career of it someday (at least part-time). A good chunk of my time is spent researching sources of visual inspiration to keep my drawing habit going. I’m also an avid reader so I invest a lot of time reading all kinds of books (I don’t have a particular genre or type of book I favour over another) because I am also a huge fan of storytelling.

How would you describe your ethnic/racial background?

Well racially I would describe myself simply as black. While I know there’s a high possibility of having indigenous blood from my dad’s side because of my paternal grandparents features, even if it was confirmed I probably still wouldn’t list it as part of my racial identity

You’re no longer living in Saint Lucia, do you plan to return? Why do you wish to return?

Yes to the 100th power. I’ve been living in Canada for what will be ten years as of next year, and while living in a first-world country comes with a lot of benefits and incredible amounts of access to things we’ll probably never be able to have in St. Lucia, it’s also been very hard in ways people back home will never understand and people overseas will rarely admit to.

First off, in terms of weather, no matter where you live in Canada, a full-blown Canadian winter is no joke, like that shit is relentless and overbearingly oppressive. Like as a person who has suffered from depression and general anxiety for as long as I can remember far back into my childhood and only had to deal with two seasons (both hot) before I moved here, I really could not anticipate the profound effect it would have on my mental health. Winter is ALWAYS the time I feel most close to going over the edge. I always feel trapped and suffocated, like life is trying to metaphorically and literally bury me. Even if I was sufficiently medicated, I really don’t see myself coping with weather like this for the rest of my life.

(null)Secondly, I live having the support system and sense of community that I just don’t have here. I feel like this is a big one people often take for granted back home because I know I did. Like I know for my family in particular, even though we’re not the most well off and a lot of times we have disagreements and don’t always like each other, we’re still there to support and help each other where we can. Even though I consider myself a highly independent person, not having that invisible support system has just made it 100% harder to navigate the minutiae of everyday life. Like yeah I have friends and realistically I can ask them for help with things, but with a lot of stuff I just feel more comfortable asking my family. Like if I’m hungry and totally out of food, I can’t just call up parents to drop some dasheen and green figs off for me, I’m just screwed. If I’m looking to buy a car or apartment, I have to manage it all on my own. There’s no one to say “Aye, I know somebody selling a car for this much” or “I know somebody renting an apartment for this much let’s go” which I would have back home have back home which is really hard.

Thirdly, I hate the general feeling of not belonging I have living here. I would probably feel a lot better about it if I did live in a community with a lot of black people, not even other St. Lucian/Caribbean in particular, just black people but it’s been very difficult for me to connect with or even find those types of communities. It’s incredibly tiring, always having to navigate mostly white spaces in a country that likes to pat itself on the back for “being more open minded and not as racist as America”. Canada has done a pretty good job of branding themselves as the polite, inoffensive middle power. Like racial anxiety is not a joke and I am 1000% over it. I’m looking forward to living in St. Lucia, where I won’t have to worry about how I express myself, at least racially anyway.

Lastly, I just really feel a lot of guilt at the thought of being one of those people that leaves home and never turns back but always has something shitty to say about St. Lucia. I want to be able to use what I’ve learned during my time overseas to help people at home in whatever way I can. Like building up the country so it’s a place where people feel like they have more opportunities than leaving.

How informed do you feel about last month’s election season? (If you feel informed, what were your perceptions of the election season activities?)

To be honest, I felt very disconnected from the whole thing in the sense that while I did have general news information about what was happening, I wasn’t able to listen in on radio discussions/debates which I know where a lot of the action traditionally happens. Obviously I would talk to my mom about it, but it’s very different when you’re on the ground and it’s all around you.

Flambeau, Labour or neither?

Even though my family is staunchly red all the way, personally I would say I’m not for either one.

Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself and your gender/sexuality in your family and/or your community?

This is a very interesting question because right now, I’m at a point in my life where my gender and sexuality are really in a state of flux where I’m really questioning whether I am a cishet woman or if I mostly identify this way because I’ve been forced to. But to answer your question, I definitely would not feel comfortable expressing my gender/sexuality if it deviated from the traditional cishet framework that my family is used. Even now I don’t always feel comfortable expressing even my sexuality because I think there’s too thin of a line of what counts as an acceptable display of heterosexual sexuality and what isn’t when it comes to being a woman in West Indian family and the youngest daughter at that. In that role of the good, ambitious hard-working youngest daughter, I feel like I have to present a decent interest in men but nothing overly sexual or lascivious. I can be cute but not too cute, I can wear short shorts and skirts but nothing where “my business would be hanging out for the dogs” (one of my mom’s favourites). But in the same token I can’t present asexual either because that would be equally as ostracizing.

So for me, most of the time, these subjects can be very frustrating and uncomfortable when it comes to my family because I often feel trapped by the narrow examples of sexuality presented to me.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why is feminism/womanism important to you?

I actually consider myself more of a womanist. Obviously I have a lot more researching and reading to do, but by what I’ve learned so far of womanism (feel free to correct me, I love learning more information), it sounds more focused on developing and nurturing a community wherein the focus is placed on black women outwards, as inorder to dismantle the global system of white supremacy the most oppressed individuals in society need to be cared for first.

In terms of feminism, while I do think of course agree with a lot of its ideals my biggest sticking point is seeing how it can be applicable to individuals living in third world countries like St. Lucia. I’ve also been really put off with some of the condescending attitudes of a lot feminists living in first-world western countries and the unrealistic solutions they have sometimes when trying to solve issues in third-world countries. I can’t think of any specific examples right now, but usually these “solutions” get thrown around without any real understanding of the local culture or social dynamics of our countries.

Are you fluent in creole/patois/patwa? If not, are you interested in learning?

This is such a sore spot for me because the thing is, while I can understand creole fine, my accent is horrible and I get the worse, the absolute worse anxiety when I try to speak it around my family (mainly from getting teased so badly about it as a child) that I don’t actually speak that much creole when I’m around family. I’ll toss around a few phrases but nothing too complex because I really don’t want to get roasted. If I do speak any creole, it’s usually around friends or people my age because, in that context I care a lot less about being judged and we’re on a more level field socially.

However, with all that said, I am really hopeful that one day I can overcome my creole anxiety around my family because right now, I feel like I’m not fully connecting with them. Especially with my grandparents that mostly speak creole and have a harder time speaking English, it’s hard for us to really know and connect meaningfully with each other because of the language barrier.

It’s really sad but everyday I do make an effort to practice saying some phrases out loud here and there. I’ve also find that incorporating creole into practicing calligraphy has really motivated me and gotten me to expand my vocabulary with words that I’ve found from the St. Lucian creole dictionary (which I found online) which I had never known about previously.

Is being a feminist acceptable in your community?

Within my community of friends yes because we’re young and more open-minded, but I find because my friend group in Canada is mostly white, feminism is mostly discussed from a mainstream perspective with a dash of intersectionality here and there. Most likely because that’s the most common narrative that is pushed when it comes to feminism, but fortunately when I do speak to my friends about more intersectional matters there hasn’t been any resistance to learning more information so that’s good

In terms of my family, while my mom in particular seems interested in learning more about some facets of feminism, overall I don’t think being a feminist is acceptable amongst them. I think it’s mainly because they have this stereotype of angry white lesbians with hairy armpits in their minds as being the “real” feminists and don’t really see how it connects with them or their lives as black people living in a majority black society. To my family being a feminist is being a white woman who hates men and spends the majority of her time complaining about how men have done her wrong.

What are the biggest priorities feminists in your country should have if they’re looking to change things?

Well in terms of everyday St. Lucian women concerned with enacting change from a feminist perspective, I think the top priority would be to stop worrying about displeasing men. Like it sounds very simple but it’s such a big part of St. Lucian society, the fear that women have of displeasing or offending the men in their lives that I think simply overcoming that , would set them on a really good path.

Did you have any brothers growing up? If so, did you notice any differences in how you were treated? What were some of those differences?

OMG, I’m so triggered right now lol. But really there were so many ways that being the only girl negatively impacted my childhood and in fact negatively impact me as person today that thinking about it a lot makes me extremely angry.

For a little background I have 3 brothers. 2 half (1 of which I only learned about as I was older and dont have a relationship with) and one by both of my parents who I mainly grew up with. As children, my brother was allowed to just do whatever while I had to stay home close to my mom. He was always allowed to climb trees and explore the neighbourhood, staying out til dark, while I had to chill around the house never out of sight. In the summers, when we would go down the coast and spend the time with our grandmother in Mon Repos my brother was the one taught how to use a cutlass, how to farm , how to take of animals while I always had to stay inside or at least out of the way and tidy.

The worst part of the whole thing was while I was not being actively taught how to do anything useful in an outdoorsy sense, every-one would tease and make fun of me for not knowing how to do those same things. I can’t tell you how many times my cousins laughed at me for knowing how to climb an ackee tree in the summer (even though no-one would teach me or even let me learn on my own). Or if my mom and grandmother were clearing some bush to farm and I would grab a cutlass to help, I’d get laughed out for not knowing how and sent back to the house.

As I got older, the differences were particularly noticeable with my parent’s double standards when it came to dating. My brothers were both allowed to pretty much “run” girls from like 13. I mean sure my mom disapproved and she would talk to my brother about it but neither she nor my dad actively tried to stop anything from happening. Meanwhile, my ass was basically under lock and key, particularly by my dad who would always freak out if any male figure even boys my age, looked in my direction. As a result, I never bothered to date in high school even when I did move to Canada because I just saw it as too much of a hassle (sneaking around always seemed like waaaaay too much effort for any high school crush).

Even now as 21, I still have never dated and I’m pretty averse to the whole thing while both my brothers had live-in girlfriends at my age.

If you had to raise a child in Saint Lucia, what would you keep from your own upbringing and what would you change?

Well in terms of things I’d keep, I think one major thing would be to replicate the emphasis on reading and in general, nurturing a passion for learning like my mom did for me. She always says I came out of the womb reading (she really really wanted me to be a literature professor) and I do think I came out a better, more empathetic and self-reflective person because of it. I also liked how my parents taught me the importance of always finding ways to help out family members, especially those who maybe struggling and are too proud to ask for help but at the token, to never be anybody’s doormat or “lavabo” as my mom says. I’d also take my kids to the beach ALL the time and just in general, take them around to see the different communities so they get that, just because St. Lucia is small doesn’t mean there isn’t any variety like my dad did with me (He always takes me places in St. Lucia that I’ve heard about before and I’m like how is it possible that I’ve never heard of this place before??)

However in terms of stuff that I’d change, that’s a loaded list. But mainly I’d want my kid to know that there’s no appropriate age to get mentally ill. That they don’t have to have stress from a wife and kids to be feeling terribly depressed, which was always a big sticking point I had with my parents. Like I said earlier, I’ve suffered from general anxiety and depression from as far back as I can remember but a lot of times as a kid, I remember feeling horribly guilty because I didn’t have a “reason” to feel the way I did and was just being a brat. I feel like if my parents had respected my mental illnesses as a child, I probably would’ve been farther along managing them than I am now. Secondly , especially if I had a little girl, I would do my very best to ensure that my child never for a second felt ashamed of their body because of perverted attention from older men. As a child, I grew very very quickly. I started going through puberty around 8 and I was 5″ 8ft by 10. As a result, I looked A LOT older than I actually was and disgustingly enough, I always attracted the attention of older men often times, leading me to feeling ashamed and confused about my body. I love my mom, and although she did do her very best to defend me from those types of men, I feel like if she had spoken directly to me about my body and made me understand that their negative attention had nothing to do with me, I probably wouldn’t have wasted all those years being ashamed and frightened by my body and had more of a jumpstart on accepting myself.

Thank you so much for reading through this interview! I’d like to remind you to check out Kerlea’s page on instagram: @dynamodandridge. For more interviews like this one, check out my interview with Veronique from St. Vincent & The Grenadines! 

Caribbean Voices: Jervis via Trinidad & Tobago

IMG_0164Jervis is a teacher in Trinidad and Tobago who I interviewed due to her experience in the education system. For privacy reasons, she asked me to refer to her by her last name so I’ll be referring to her as such! Here, I asked her to talk to me about her experience being a feminist & educator in TnT…

Jervis | 25 | Trinidad

Tell me a little more about yourself? What do you currently “do” in your spare time? What are your interests?

Hello I am a newly minted teacher (meaning I started officially teaching September of last year. ) I graduated from the University of Trinidad and Tobago with my B. Ed. in 2014.

My parents emigrated to the US when I was about eleven. Because of that I grew up with my maternal grandparents and still live with them.

I am an avid reader and I watch too many shows on Netflix. I did voice training as kid and I still sing a lot with some of my musical frineds and my churches youth’s choir as well.

In my spare time I have recently have been working on ideas for a Caribbean or really Trinbagonian children’s book series.

How would you describe your ethnic/racial background?

I am Afro Trinidadian. I also descend from the Merikins on my mothers side.

I understand through teaching, you’re involved in the education system. Tell me more about that.

Since i’ve started studying to become an educator I’ve been very conscious of how much the Trinidadian education system isn’t really made for us. At all level a lot of the books, programs and resources are made specifically for other countries; more often than not England.

This is coupled with the personal knowledge that my education system as well as the society I live in is extremely stifling. Most Trinidadians view education as means of gathering status. With most hoping to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers . Not that anything is wrong with these professions but they are placed above all others. A lot of the time people are chasing after a status symbol rather than a career. Most other jobs unless its running a business aren’t even considered except as a last resort. However this outlook is changing albeit very slowly.

These observations made me want to do two things in the near future. The first is to create content for Trinidad, from a Trinidadian perspective. My second goal is to try to help in the change Trinidadians views on Eduction. How? I’m not sure yet but I’m getting there.

Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself and your gender/sexuality in your family and/or your community?

I honestly identify as cis and straight so I honestly have no problems. However I KNOW for a fact that most communities in Trinidad and Tobago are homophobic and transphobic. Most Trinidadians’ views on LGBTA community are to pretend it doesn’t exist on the the island.

With my family its split down the middle there are some members who believe in LGBTA rights. And others who transphobic and homophobic to there core. So its a mixed bag.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why is being a feminist important to you?

I am a feminist. The role of feminist is important to me because there are so many things that women have to suffer, both internationally and specifically in my country that need to be addressed.

How does your identity regarding feminism impact your teaching?

My identity as a feminist definitely affects the way I teach. Right now I teach Infant I . So my students are just beginning primary school. Basically I try to get rid of negative behaviours such gendering the simplest games and activities. And I make sure that my girls and boys know that they can do anything and that being a fireman isn’t a “boy job” or a nurse a “girl job”. All the avenues of the world are open to all of them.

Are you fluent in creole/patois/patwa? If not, are you interested in learning?

My first language was Trinidadian Standard English because my grandmother was a teacher and she insisted my brother and I speak that way. But I do speak the most basic Trinidad creole. I know because of my upbringing that I am missing a lot of vocabulary though. I’ve been trying to improve it though . I even bought a “Cote Ci Cote La” Trinidad Dictionary recently.

Is being a feminist acceptable in your community?

To a point. Most people in Trinidad will laud you if you talk about the obvious and “easy” things. Like girls going to school or getting equal pay. But when you bring up things that take more effort and introspection in changing you get a different response.

These range from things like the catcalling that require people to think about why unsolicited interaction or commentary is hurtful to women. All the way to child marriages where people are forced to confront the fact that all traditional and/or religious beliefs are morally sound. People need to be more critical.

What are the biggest priorities feminists in your country should have if they’re looking to change things?

Safety. So many women and girls are falling prey to violence. Whether it be physical emotional or sexual. Most of these women are trapped by poverty, lack of education, social convention or religion.

We need to look after wellbeing of women and girls. Though there are several organizations hoping to better the lives of women in general our laws and judicial system need to be updated. And our police force needs to be able to offer more protection to women in these situations.

Until this happens many of the women in my country will really never be safe.

What do you think should change in the education system in your country?

The main thing I would change its rigidity. Trinidad and Tobago’s curriculum has very little space for flexibility . It doesn’t give much choice to students when it comes to subjects they can choose and the ways they are allowed to learn.

Besides that especially recently our system of education has gone through many changes. Many of them temporary, in the hopes of updating it the syllabus to be more effective in modern time. Many of these changes were short lived. Most of these changes being made by high up administrators and foreign sourced specialists. Hopefully we will be able to make effective improvement on what and how we get our children to learn.

If you had to raise a child in the Caribbean, what would you keep from your own upbringing and what would you change?

Its a lot. I wouldn’t keep:

The constant and grating high expectations and criticisms.

The idea that any and all mistakes you make will send you into a spiralling pit of failure.

My family’s idea that any pain , sorrow, frustration or negative feelings should be dealt with quietly and on your own.

A long list of phobias and isms. Generally, a toxic perfectionist outlook.

What I would keep:

The strong belief that helping others is always worthwhile.

That honesty at home, school and at the workplace is necessary.

That you should find something anything that you want to strive for and then do it.

 

Caribbean Voices: Veronique Bailey via St. Vincent & The Grenadines

veronique-headshotVeronique’s blog first caught my attention when she discussed her experiences as a half-Black/half-Indian West Indian woman. Finding out she was from a neighboring island, I had to get her take on feminism in the Caribbean and ask her more about her life. I found her perspective very interesting especially when juxtaposed to last week’s interview with Lana. Keep reading to find out more… 

Veronique Bailey | 27 | St. Vincent & The Grenadines

Tell me a little more about yourself? What do you currently “do” in your spare time? What are your interests?

Programming, museum visiting, people watching, and cognitive psychology

I wanted to talk to you about your ethnic/racial identity growing up in the Caribbean. How would you describe your ethnic/racial background?

I’m dougla

[Editor Note: For people who don’t understand, click this link to find out more about what this means [x]. Additionally note that dougla is not considered to be a slur in the Caribbean although it might be elsewhere.]

What’s one thing you wish people knew about your racial identity?

Within the Caribbean: I’m not from Trinidad. Outside of the Caribbean: It’s a racial identity, I don’t have to ‘choose a side’.

Are there any assumptions people make about you due to your race/ethnicity?

That I can cook the most bomb curry while whyning/ doing d tic toc.

Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself and your gender/sexuality in your family and/or your community?

To a certain extent, while I enjoy being female I don’t enjoy feeling like my body is up for consumption. Even though I’m straight, I don’t agree with the idea that being gay is a ‘white people thing’ or that it’s a sin. I definitely don’t agree with the idea that lesbian love is somehow less of a love than heterosexual love. Gender binaries are weird and in general binaries only make sense for computers.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why is your answer (yes or no) important to you?

Yes, but I consider myself an intersectional feminist. I’m still doing more research into womanist philosophy but until I feel completely comfortable within that theory, I feel most comfortable describing myself as intersectional. Identifying myself as an intersectional feminist is important to me as a UX designer/programmer as well as a member of society.

As a UX designer/programmer, one of things that studying design will teach you is that there is no such thing as one design that will fit for everyone; we should aim for inclusive design or design that takes into account the needs of various groups. If I as a designer am unaware of how my designs might contribute to the exclusion of a group of people, or if I am only designing with only one group in mind….am I truly a designer? Do I truly understand the needs of various user bases?

Are you fluent in creole?

hahahaha cho’, yo dunn ‘no! All ah we does talk in dialect (english creole)

Is being a feminist acceptable in your community?

Not particularly, it’s more often than not perceived as man hating. Feminism is also seen as only really being white feminism, where the feminist W.O.C. and their work is not given as much exposure.

What are the biggest priorities feminists in your country should have if they’re looking to change things?

Increase dialogue of west indian feminists, name the work already being done by women within the community as feminism.

What kind of misconceptions do people have about your racial/ethnic background?

I’m not sure. For the most part within the Caribbean it gets positive feedback, as in I have nice, mixed hair down to me back, and I’m a brownin’. The two things that people look for when racial miscegenation happens.

If you had to raise a child in the Caribbean, what would you keep from your own upbringing and what would you change?

Things I would change:

1. The idea that ‘nothing black nah good’

2. Getting darker is not a sin

3. Your hair doesn’t have to be straight. Let it take up it’s natural born space, feel free to cut it, dye it, and experiment with it. The length and texture of your hair are not all there is to your beauty.

4. Your ankle bracelets, toe rings and bracelets don’t make you a prostitute.

5. Indian food is not dirty, it’s ok to eat with your hands.

Things I would keep:

1. Anansi stories

2. The idea that knowing your community is part of knowing who you are

3. Always share

4. Nah bother watch people fu them things.

5. Take care of old people

6. Know all the old people sayings, because it connects you to something bigger than yourself.

7. Is there a word or phrase that can capture the smells, sights, and colours of the Caribbean?

I absolutely loved everything about this interview with Veronique, especially her final response which really resonated with me as a person who has often struggled to pinpoint the answer to the question, “What is culture?” Growing up as biracial or multiracial in the Caribbean, you can get a lot of different messages about where you fit within our culture. To me, Veronique isolated a lot of what’s important for everyone in the Caribbean to understand. If you’re interested in checking out another interview like this one, check back for my very first Caribbean Voices piece featuring Lana C. Marilyn.