Written by: Tiara Jade Chutkhan
These days, there are more resources and platforms than ever for Indo-Caribbeans to connect with one another and their culture. While we still have plenty of ways to go, we can utilize the tools available to us to create community, discover our identities and learn more about where we came from. There’s no room for us to feel disconnected or not proud of who we are in a time when diversity and culture is needed. In 2021, let’s all make it one of our goals to form a deeper connection with our culture and have fun while doing it.
Try Tracing Your Family Tree
Tracing family lines has become increasingly popular and easier to do. With different genealogy tests available to us, this can be a great place to begin and get a sense of what cultures are in our blood. As Caribbeans, we know many different races make up the populations of our islands and it can be difficult to know every detail of our past. We might be surprised to see Indigenous, Chinese, Caucasian or African in our bloodline. It’s important to note that some of the companies that run the tests don’t have data for all populations, so it’s possible that the outcome can be skewed or have unknown sections for diasporic communities. Take your time and research the different tests available and find the one you feel is best. These tests won’t provide all the answers, but they can certainly give us something to go on.
Read Caribbean Literature
For many of us, we didn’t grow up seeing Indo-Caribbean characters in our books— let alone entire books telling Indo-Caribbean stories. They weren’t in our libraries or our schools. Nowadays there are so many authors and books to choose from when we’re looking for voices and stories that are unique to us. When we read Indo-Caribbean literature, it’s a chance for us to learn and gain perspectives on our culture that we may not have witnessed before. We can read about older generations who experienced the Caribbean in a different time period. We can also read about newer generations like ourselves and see our own feelings mirrored. If you need a few names to start with, search Lakshmi Persaud, Shani Mootoo, Ramabai Espinet, Krystal Sital, Elizabeth Jaikaran, Frank Birbalsingh and Harold Sonny Ladoo.
Research Articles and Journals
It may be surprising, but there are a ton of articles and journals online that provide information on Indo-Caribbean culture and heritage. Depending on what you’re looking for you may need to comb through a few Google pages, but rest assured, the information is out there. Many times we have questions about things that are too far back for our parents and even grandparents to give us answers to. We wonder about what indenture ships were like, what life on the plantations were like and things along those lines. Through research we can create our own theories and speculations, filling in the holes in our family stories. Try looking for published University papers, checking local Caribbean newspaper sites and other journals that study the diaspora.
Spend Time With Family
Due to the circumstances of our world, many of us are home due to job and school changes. With more spare time on our hands, we can certainly make time to see or speak with our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles more often. Our family members have so many stories to share with us but we need to make the effort to ask and listen while they’re here. We can learn about what it was like when our grandparents went to school, what types of treats our parents used to like from the supermarket, the environment they grew up and what the islands we’re from were like long before we were born. We may even learn of the family members that came to the Caribbean from India through snippets of information passed down. Through these stories, we’ll be able to pass on family history and Indo-Caribbean history to the next generation.
Surround Yourself With More Indo-Caribbean Media
Depending on our environment, we may not be surrounded by many other Indo-Caribbean people aside from our families and some friends. The great thing is there are so many ways we can surround ourselves with more of our people and culture. We all spend plenty of time online and on social media, so connect with other Indo-Caribbeans! Instagram is a great place to start. There are many platforms creating content for Indo-Caribbeans and bloggers sharing things like food, art, make up, books and so much more. We can curate our online spaces to be places where we see ourselves represented and feel inspired and connected to one another. Youtube is another great place where many of us spend our time. Try looking up documentaries and short films. If you’re just in the mood for some fun, pull up your favourite Chutney and Soca tunes that never fail to bring good vibes.
Connecting with our roots can be a rich and exciting experience, helping us with our personal growth and identity. Many of us were born overseas in Canada, America and the UK or left the Caribbean very early in our lives. To reclaim and own our culture is a beautiful look especially as we hold such hyphenated identities. Let's continue to form deeper connections with our culture and one another and make 2021 a year where we continue to flourish and succeed as a people.