There is an unspoken code between island children. It was starkly different to the American kids we interacted with everyday. Although many of us were first generation “American,” the music, food and discipline we were fed ran deeper than our ancestry and island roots.
Who doesn’t remember the first time you heard the smooth croon of Beres Hammond? The first time you watched a float trample by and not feel the bass move your soul? It was the rhythm of our ancestors in that sound. No matter what island you represented that movement of the hips came from the Himba tribe of northern Namibia, its origin came from the Zulu people of South Africa who were brought to the shores of the West Indies. So that feeling you get when you hear a new Machel Montano riddim is a movement with purpose, a movement with tradition and history and a sense of uniqueness that is a part of being Caribbean children.
Every island had a distinct dish, with a distinct smell and a distinct taste. The taste came from the fingers of our mothers, aunts and grandmothers who passed on recipes and tradition for centuries. I still can’t decide if cream soda is better than kola champagne, but I do know that the spices in our food exposed us to different flavors at and early age. Natural foods that grew from the earth and didn’t rely on over processing and microwaving to perfection to be consumed. Enjoy that mango and fresh fruit over that number two at the drive thru. Savor that coconut water instead of that carbonated soda and cherish the home-cook food of our heritage that can’t be replicated by any fast food chain.
“Have manners,” “respect your elders” and “don’t speak until your spoken too” are basic instructions we were taught from young. Being hard-headed only got you closer to one thing – the belt. It wasn’t fear it was politeness. Something inherited form British rule over the West Indies before my time. I believe that discipline is what separated island children from the rest of society. A discipline that pushed people of Caribbean decent to lead Fortune 500 companies, become global musicians and blockbuster actors and actresses.
We are part of a distinguished line of people. Distinguished in our uniqueness and our endless ability to do amazing things. The music we create, the dishes we invent and the discipline we show in this changing environment comes from the warm climate and laid back heritage of the islands we originate from.