When people ask me where I’m from, I always seem to get a little tongue-tied. I’m Caribbean. But I wasn’t born in the Caribbean. I was born here, in the States. When people ask me where I’m from, I tell them I’m Caribbean, but part of me tends to feel guilty when I do. When I tell people this, I almost feel like I’m catching myself in a lie, but then again, I don’t know any other way to describe myself.
I grew up eating Pelau and Brown Stew Turkey or Stewed Oxtail on special occasions. Bull Foot Souse and Pig Snout in Braf at parties while dancing to Soca late into the night. Parties every weekend – whether it be at my house, a cousins’, or another one of our many family friends – while enjoying goat soup with a fresh cut habanero pepper in the mix.
When I tell others that I’m Caribbean I think of strong cultural ties, and how if we just state the last name “Dangleben” around someone of Caribbean descent, they can trace all the people they know to our own family. I think of Carnival, and the people of our island dancing in the street to the songs of the most famous Calypso songwriters we know. I think of telling others that we’re Dominican, and then having to correct them about the fact that the Dominican Republic and Dominica are two completely different places. About how many times our flag is left out of events meant to represent different nationalities, and the small number of people under our country’s title at the Olympics every 4 years. About how even the language we speak is derived from our ancestor’s best attempt at communication because of slavery on our island orchestrated by the French all those years ago.
When I am asked where I’m from – who I am – I think of all these things, and I almost feel unworthy. Unworthy because the question that usually follows is “Where were you born?”. Unworthy of telling them that “I’m Caribbean”, because, despite all of that, It’s not my birthplace. Then when someone asks where I’m from I must take the time to elaborate and explain how despite all of the culture that I have been surrounded with, I’m American. Born here, raised here, and am still living here.
But that’s all before I figured out something. Something that broke that weird, guilty, unworthy feeling, and that’s discovering not just my culture, but my definition. My Identity. The fact that I am not just “where I’m born”, but I am what I know.
I am at parties late into the night while dancing to Soca music, and Carnival down the streets, and telling others how the Dominican Republic and Dominica are two different places, and the beautiful broken-French language of Kreyol developed by my ancestors to form unity. To form culture. To form Identity.
So when I am asked, “Who are you?” or “Where are you from?” I say what I think – the food, the songs, the island – I am Caribbean.
ABOUT AZALIA JOY MORANCIE
Azalia is the daughter of Dale and Evarus Morancie of Castle Bruce and Grand Bay respectively, who along with Azaliah also share daughter Shekinah and son Chaika. She has an older sibling, Leanne ‘6Stalight’ Morancie. Azalia is a Junior (11th grade) at Kempner High School in Sugar Land, TX. Her favourite class at school is Public Service/Health and she enjoys crocheting, playing her cello, drawing and singing. When she makes her first visit to Dominica, she looks forward to meeting family, visiting beaches and eating local food.