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Soca & Solo: Growing up Indo-Caribbean

Written by: Jenna (Freedom Pursuits)

It’s 8:43 a.m. on a Saturday. I’m sitting here typing away as Machel Montano play’s in the background and my mom is dancing around the kitchen frying up some shark and bake, a classic Trini breakfast. This is a typical weekend growing up in my home. A blissful Saturday filled with talk, laughter, and the tastes of back home. Sounds nice right? Well it did take some time to get to this point in my life where I felt at peace.

Growing up Canadian born but Indo-Caribbean raised has led me to be both open-minded and humble. Hearing the stories of my mom growing up in Trinidad and having to travel across the world to have a better life at the young age at 18 has made me appreciate the upbringing I had, yet still wanting to be connected to my ancestors.

Still in my early adult years I went through a period of identity crisis at the age of 18. Here I was a confident, spunky, go-getter starting her first part-time job while attending college. It was there that I met somewho who at the time I thought was a friend. We hung out and became close. Heck my mom even saw them as family too. But there was one thing this former friend would always tell me when the discussion of culture and upbringing came about—“I was not Indian enough” to call myself Indo-Caribbean. Long story short after a decade of unpleasant situations I decided to part ways with that person.

But the fact remained that through this experience with that person, I had several years of self-doubt about my identity as an Indo-Caribbean. I would stop myself from saying that word when the topic of my background was brought up in conversation. In some way I stopped seeing myself as Indo-Caribbean and instead identified as Canadian alone, but it still did not feel right. It got to the point where my mom sat me down and asked why I stopped asking for my favorite West Indian dishes such as dhal, roti, stew or curry. After some hesitation I spilled all my jumbled self-doubt thoughts and we ended up having a long talk about what it means to be Indo-Caribbean.

It was after that talk with my lovely mom that I took a stand to see myself as Indo-Caribbean again. I reached out to a therapist about my self-doubt and they suggested digging deep and learning more about my culture. So I started doing research about Trinidad learning all about my ancestors. I had talks with my family about what life was life back home. After some time I even started asking my mom for all my favorite West Indian dishes again. Honestly there is nothing more delicious than enjoying a plate of dhal, rice and stew chicken with watercress on the side and a bottle of Solo.

It took some time but I can now proudly say it is amazing to identify as Indo-Caribbean. Being surrounded by the sounds, stories, and tastes of Trinidad feels like home. That’s the best way I can describe finding myself again. I hope by others reading this, they to feel like home when the words Indo-Caribbean comes to mind.

On a side note, don’t let anyone ever make you feel self-doubt about yourself. If you ever feel troubled don’t hesitate to reach out to your family, friends, community or even a therapist. Mental health (emotional, psychological, and social) is important.

Feel free to connect and check me out on Instagram and Medium under the username Freedom Pursuits.

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