Growing up in South Florida, sunshine, warmth, and saltwater surrounded me with it’s loving embrace. The sound of the waves lapping, the sun beating down onto my skin, the heat lingering in the air on a sweltering beach day, and the taste of sunscreen that ran down my face after splashing in the water are visceral memories that return me to my childhood. I recall being an agent of chaos to those around me all while anxiously awaiting to be around the people whom I loved the most – my family. We immersed ourselves in traditions and communed over food, dancing, and infectious laughter. Growing older, these are moments that I clung to when I needed to be reminded of where I came from.
Being raised in a West Indian family in the United States led me to feel in some ways intrinsically connected to my Caribbean heritage and in other ways as if I were on the outside looking in on the culture I so badly wanted to have a meaningful space within. It took me until I studied in college to further explore what it meant to be a woman raised by parents who emigrated from their native islands (Trinidad & Antigua) at a young age and in many ways had to assimilate themselves into a seemingly homogeneous, accentless, culture while still maintaining as much proximity to the lives they had back home. When the holiday callaloo was prepared, the cups of Milo or Ovaltine with saltines were left on the table for me when visiting Grammy & Boo, and the smell of stew chicken filling the house leaving me in a state of yearning – there have been so many ways in which my family held on ever so tightly to the dishes, stories, and traditions they shared when they lived on the same street as their entire family. How does one leave everything they know to start anew someplace else? How does one cope with the culture shock of it all? While these specific thoughts may or may not have passed through my family’s minds, they instilled in me a love for the culture they were raised in while allowing me to seek out what it means to have an entirely different relationship with our heritage.
Much of my family’s experience, traditions, and teachings have molded me into the artist that I decided to become; eternally searching for the rhythm of light. This is the rhythm of swaying hips by the stove, holiday parangs jamming to soca, and the dance of steam emanating off of freshly cooked food. Behind the lens, these rhythms follow me and remind me that no matter where I am; I will always belong.
I’m thankful for my cultural heritage and my parents’ push for me to determine the path that I wanted to be on – it led me to always be in search of the light that will inevitably illuminate my path forward.
I appreciate you reading & would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment down below.
Rachel Cassandra Gibbons