Ek’abo Ebi! (Welcome Family!)
You know, just as there should be diversity in our school curriculum, there should be diversity at home. Diversity is not just about race but also about broadening a child’s mind; introducing them to different cultures, foods, places and more. Helping them to understand that there is something beyond what they see and hear each day.
As a child of Jamaican parents, I learned early about cultural diversity. When I heard someone speak Patois (a Jamaican dialect), I always expected to see someone who looked like my parents when I turned around. I was nine years old when I discovered differently.
My mother took me to a Caribbean market to pick up some groceries. It was only in that type of market that you would find the ingredients popular to West Indian cuisine. My mother just put the last of her items on the counter, when I heard a man say: “Dat will be twenty dolla and change ma’am.” Imagine my shock when I looked up and saw the face of a Chinese man with a voice that sounded like my father’s. LOL! I had enough sense to wait until we left the market, before I blurted out my question. “Mommy! Mommy! Why dat Chinese man speakin’ Jamaican!?” (Being around my parents, I had a little accent of my own. J) She laughed and said, “Sher, Jamaican people come in all different shades and sizes. The man you saw in the store is what we call a Chinese Jamaican.”
A few years later during one of my trips to Jamaica, I met another fellow “yardie” who was white. I was still tickled by the fact that this person was also a part of Jamaica’s colorful tapestry.
As I was heavily immersed in everything Jamaican, I loved the country as if I was born there. I was exposed to all types of food. I had curried goat, oxtail, bammy (cassava), mango, soursop, peanut punch, sorrel you name it. I loved the music. (Reggae, Dance Hall, Calypso etc.) Most of the children I grew up with were from families of Caribbean descent as well. There were families from Trinidad, Aruba, St. Lucia, Montserrat and even Guyana. My church was a melting pot of Caribbean islands. Because of it, I had even more opportunities to be exposed to other cultures.
Now that I am a parent, it gives me great pleasure to share my culture with my children. I am no longer in New York and the Caribbean community in my state is not as vast as it is in the city. But it is my hope that my children will develop a greater appreciation for other cultures and a greater respect for the way others live their lives. Who knows, perhaps the young one in your life will be able to do the same.
Mari e laipe!
See you soon!