COMMENTARY: Caribbean Identity

Azalia Joy Morancie

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.

From left: Shekinah, Azalia, Evarus, Dale-Marie and Chaika

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22 Comments

  1. AB
    September 1, 2022

    And then when Americans tell them they not American, they get vex.

  2. Pipo
    August 31, 2022

    We should not mistake ethnicity for nationality. Individuals have no choice in which country they are born. That is up to their parents or circumstances and no blame or credit attaches to that and even so not every country automatically grant citizenship, even if you’re born within its borders. Ethnicity is something else, possibly intertwined with nationality but not necessarily so. Most of us who are born in the Caribbean basin, have such a diversity of ethnicity that we represent a bouillon, multiple strands of origin, difficult to unravel at best but worthy of celebration.The U.S.A. is a prime example of this in which the colour of one’s skin should only be an incidental factor. As for me, I am happy to be a Dominican, as confirmed by my passport but as for ethnicity, I welcome human diversity and hang my hat wherever I feel at home embracing the local culture. You are what you are and who you are. No need to be confused or categorised. We are one world of humans. Enjoy it.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
  3. MAGWA CA
    August 30, 2022

    young lady YOU ARE AMERICAN when you accept what you are and stop trying to appropriate our nationality as urs then you can be content with who you are .

    you know that YOU ARE AMERICAN so you sneakily saying that you are caribbean. woman NOBODY is caribbean,

    u from NO caribbean island so you dont belong to the caribbean. you are AMERICAN , and your precursors came from DOMINICA. typical american to jump on a band wagon when it suits them

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 12
  4. I'm West Indian
    August 30, 2022

    First sign that you’re only West Indian by heritage, we never refer to ourselves as ‘Caribbean’.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 15
    • Juanita
      August 30, 2022

      …..we never refer to ourselves as ‘Caribbean’.

      I beg to defer. Yes we do! And yes I do!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6
    • Zandoli
      August 30, 2022

      At least she is embracing her West Indian/Caribbean heritage. I think you are splitting hairs here. The young lady has not even visited the land of her parents’ birth yet. Cut her some slack.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5
  5. Lin clown
    August 30, 2022

    I did not know ZANDOLI was a Dominican-American.I thought he was American- Dominican.I am proud of this lady,that is a fantastic piece.I have met a number of born and raised Dominicans in NewYork who try to speak likeJamaicans.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 16
    • Landon
      August 30, 2022

      Clown we need a novena to clean you. Why are you so ……. and ignorant? Why? You probably had a very bad childhood including being bullied. Now you are taking it out on everyone and everyone by hiding behind a computer screen. And you are most likely living a very bad, lonely and money less life today. Same goes to your brother Ds.

      Offering prayers.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
  6. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    August 29, 2022

    You see this here: ” I’m Caribbean. But I wasn’t born in the Caribbean. I was born here, in the States. ”
    That is total baloney!
    The fact that people may have asked you where are you from is perhaps there is something strange about you, how can you be Caribbean when you were not born on any island in the Caribbean?

    If your claim is true perhaps you were born to parents from the Caribbean I don’t know; but in America unless one has some sort of foreign accent, it is not common for someone to ask anybody where are they from!
    If you were born in America, it is expected that you would have an American accent based on the State where you are born; since all Americans do not have the same accent.
    I am Dominican, all my Children are born Antiguan’s, all of my Grandchildren are born in California; however, not one of my grandchildren a have a Dominica, nor Antigua accent.
    Their grandmother, was also born on the island of Antigua, if they had Dominica/Antigua accent; might be…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 22
    • Zandoli
      August 30, 2022

      Francisco, that is absolutely not true. My sister was born here, her husband is White. The brother-in-law’s White friend asked my sister where she was from. She told him. He insisted in asking where was she “really” from. She repeated the answer. Then he asked her “where are your parents from?”
      As far as he was concerned, she must have been from somewhere else because she was Black.

      • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
        August 31, 2022

        Zandoli, I don’t know, but as far as I am concerned an ascent is something people are born with, based on the place of their birth.
        Again if a child was taken to a country at a very young age, let’s say prior to two years old, learn to speak, attend school, then indeed they will have the accent of the environment in which they grow up!
        However, it is difficult for me to believe that someone born in America, to a foreign parent, grew up in America and with the inheritance of a God given accent of the place of their birth; could loose it automatically.
        You know my youngest daughter Ushi, came here when she was two years old, out of Antigua, went to kindergarten, elementary, high School and college and university, she is in her early 40″s and still have her Antigua accent oui!
        As for you that little cockroach Wesley to some bone, mind your business, you not only a cockroach, you smell like one; I might spray you with Raid ant and roach killer!
        Not talking about her writing…

        • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
          August 31, 2022

          A person’s accent is a distinctive mode of pronunciation of a specific language, most likely one associated with a particular nation, locality.
          It is a distinct emphasis; given to a syllable or word in speech, by stress or pitch!
          I am born in Wesley, left when I was about 15, or 17 somewhere there, lived in Antigua, England, and Germany, not forgetting America, after all of these years my accent is distinctly Wesley, if would ever try to talk like let’s a person as Zandoli I believe is from the South of Dominica, Zandoli may laugh at my accent.
          But I know you that cockroach say you from Wesley right now think you have an American accent you know!
          The last time I was in Wesley three of them near Amon the late house crowed me talking, hoping to hear me talk like American, they talking American you know.
          So, I pointed up on Hunt Road and said: ayou see up-da mear son fu ma John, ayar me ban!
          Then I met them at the late Rockson rum shop and fill their belly with rum.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8
    • WESLEY TO THE BONES
      August 30, 2022

      Stop attacking the youth man. OLD DUCK…This was well written. GO JUMP IN THE Lake old Legion.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4
      • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
        August 31, 2022

        Cockroach, who is complain about this lady’s writing abilities, and skills; and who is attacking her?
        I was born in Wesley, my early education I obtained in the old building at four-corners between the road leading to the Roman Catholic Church and the road leading to the now broken down Methodist Church; in the old building two different operated grocery shops at different times.
        I left and finished my elementary, and secondary education in Antigua before going to England, where my college and accdemic education began in Essex. Its been a struggle, but I finally finished my college and university education in America.
        So, think whatever you wish; but be informed I am not an idiot; okay!
        You don’t know the meaning of the word attack, and the difference in analyzing an issue.
        The school that was built near Chapel as we term it was destroyed by hurricane; Evance Dods (Dodds) and others revitalized it for other use, it was again destroyed by recent hurricanes.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8
  7. KayL
    August 29, 2022

    This is beautiful. I know your parents and think that they met through me hahaha I am so proud that they have kept the Dominica heritage/culture alive with the kids and I hope to do the same for my kids as well no matter where they are born. I hope you get to visit Dominica more frequently going forward cause you mentioned it may be your first visit. Great job parents and great job young lady!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1
  8. If we knew better
    August 29, 2022

    ” I’m Caribbean. But I wasn’t born in the Caribbean. I was born here, in the States.”

    So… really you ARE AMERICAN! YOU ARE AN AMERICAN CITIZEN WHO WAS BORN IN AMERICA. you have Caribbean ancestry. You are not from the Caribbean. Hate when these Americans try to look for some kind of identity other than what they are. Embrace your heritage from your parents fine and cool, but call it like it is. Stop making it difficult to explain where you from. Put simply, you are American with Caribbean roots/ancestry/heritage.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 13
  9. Juanita
    August 29, 2022

    This is a very beautiful, insightful and well-written commentary. Recently, I attended a very lively virtual discussion on Caribbean identity that centered on some of those issues. Your personal identity is the concept you develop about yourself that evolves over the course of your life. We now see men identifying as women and vice versa. In Western societies we see signs posted outside bathrooms stating that individuals are free to use the bathroom of whichever gender they identify with.

    Philosophers distinguish between both numerical and qualitative identity. The latter would seek to answer the question, who or what is Caribbean. Geopolitically, the Caribbean is regarded a a region of North America. Ms. Morancie, you are Caribbean if you choose. And by the way, Dominica accepts citizenship by descent, so you are automatically Dominican.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2
  10. Bwa-Banday
    August 29, 2022

    WOW! Lovely piece there I must say.

    Well done Dal-Marie and Morancie. It seems like the children remain grounded in the Dca life style despite not being born here. Thats what I call “sticking to your roots no matter what!’. Some of them leave to go study and when asked where are they from they hesitate or say say St. Thomas or St.Croix. I once met a young lady in Miami who told me she was from St. Croix only to visit her parents later and there she was…smh. Actually she was born and raised a-terre-St. Joe.

    Don’t know which Dangleben side (Lapointe, Grand Bay, Pte Soufriere?) you are connected to but I am assuming its Pte. Soufriere because the two younger kids have that red (fair skin) complexion those Dangleben’s from that area have.
    Lovely family indeed. To Azalia, keep your head up and thanks for promoting our country. Yes I say ours because it also belongs to you because your roots (Wasseen as Grand Bay people would say) is right here. Bless up!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3
    • DM
      August 30, 2022

      Dangleben from Petite Soufriere (grand daughter of late Luke Dangleben). Mother from Castle Bruce and father from GrandBay!

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  11. Asaka
    August 29, 2022

    Young lady, Be Proud of who you are!!!!
    You are an American Born young woman with roots from the islands – no one can take that away from you. When you describe your roots, feel honored to educate the world of the difference between DA versus DR. Most of all, keep your parents guidance alive and make them proud. Be kind to others and everything else around you will fall in place. DA massive will always be part of you and that’s all that matters.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 2
  12. Zandoli
    August 29, 2022

    Good for you Azalia to identify with your roots.
    But I had a good chuckle when I read this because I know these women who came here well after they finished high school and barely 10 years later were speaking amount themselves with a foreign accent. I found the whole exercise hilarious.

    I have been here over 40 years and you will not hear me putting on a foreign accent while talking to my Caribbean people.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 10
    • Channel 1
      August 29, 2022

      @Zandoli – Barely 10 years later? I find you well late. :lol: :lol: :lol:

      What about some Dominicans who as soon as they board the plane to take a little trip to the USA, you hear them trying to talk with an American accent.

      Even worse, what about those children that have never left Dominica to go anywhere but have more American accent than even natural-born Americans. There is a certain school in Dominica………..i’ve always wondered why students that go to that school seem to come out talking with what sounds like some version of American accentuated speech.

      Ever noticed locally some Dominicans who automatically switch their accent to an Americanized version when they encounter an American/foreigner…

      Someone who is thinking about pursuing a PhD in the field of Psychology or Dialectology or Sociolinguistics should examine this accent-transformation phenomenon among some Dominicans especially when it comes to the rapid adoption/mimicking of the US accent.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

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