Bridges to Memory
I write to discover myself.....
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While people of color have had a long history of oral tradition, our written history is quite young. That is one reason why it is important to find the time to write and struggle through the barriers to be published. Especially for women like me, we must rise above the guilt we often experience in taking time for ourselves and use writing to expand our lives and discard the anxieties that stifle our voices. Writing is a power beyond our physical presence.  It is a metaphor for the cultural heritage that reinforces our sense of who we are today.  It is part of the struggle to leave a lasting mark on this earth.

 

 

 

Living away from the seat of your ancestral culture, how does one celebrate one’s heritage and at the same time participate meaningfully in the culture of one’s adopted community?

 

 

Myth making & the forging of identify

Since our journey on the Middle Passage to various locations in the Americas our survival has rested on the power of memory keeping. We have used language to evoke the memories and shared inheritance of our culture. These remembrances played a pivotal role in the survival of our African ancestors during the horrendous four hundred years of slavery. Today, these stories are vital to us, the memory keepers, who have a special responsibility to continue to weave the patterns in the tapestry that tells of our struggle to carve out a destiny of independence.

In Sorrow’s Kitchen, Zora Neale Hurston emphasizes the central role mythmaking and storytelling plays in the spiritual legacy of black people. Myths, like other forms of storytelling were developed to explain a people’s world, how they came to be, and their place in the universe. Indeed, a country’s stories and myths provide a striking confirmation of the essence of its vision of itself and of the world, and especially the future of its young. Through memory keeping and storytelling we are able to counter the discontinuity of our history and traditions that Eurocentrism has sought to impose on us. These have proven to be effective strategies to bring the generations together and perpetuate our culture. Our stories allow us to travel through many directions, through metaphors and symbols and to connect with a world beyond the narrow confines of geography and man made boundaries.

 

 

School Days

The study of West Indian history at Excelsior High School, Jamaica, strengthened my conceptualization of the world as a site of struggle. At the 6th form level, we journeyed into critical analysis of our history, the meaning and impact of colonization, and the forging of the New World and our place in it. At the University of the West Indies, I responded to the ardent admonitions of scholars like Professor Rex Nettleford and Maureen Warner-Lewis who urged us to be critical thinkers, remaining habitually critical of  the society. I came of age in an era of the Civil Rights Movement, the liberation of island colonies, and the debilitating impact of the International Monetary Fund. Our teachers guided us in applying strategies of critical analysis to the changes taking place in the world and their impact on my island home, Jamaica. They urged us to problematize the way the external media influenced and shaped our society. They reminded us of the imperative to consistently and purposefully forge a Caribbean cultural identity. This is the foundation on which I constructed the world, the lenses through which I viewed and continue to view life. 

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Students at Oracabessa Primary School

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Students at Oracabessa Primary School

 
 
R i v e r s

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I continuously seek the presence of rivers. When I am physically unable to go by a river, I conjure one up imaginatively: the river on my family’s property on Coxland, St. Mary; the Rio Nuevo River, nestled between Tower Isle and St. Mary in Jamaica. River is both physical and metaphoric. I associate it with ultimate beauty and goodness. It is also force and destruction.

For many in Jamaica, it is the life force from which families are fed and nurtured. At Jack’s River in Jamaica, women go on certain days to wash their family’s clothes. There, they spend the entire day by the river. They set up fire, cook, wash, swim, play games, and recite stories. When my children were younger, I would take them there while we were on vacation in Jamaica. They would swim in and out of the deep caverns, try to catch fish and collect rocks. We would spend the day there moving with the natural rhythms of the day.   What a wonderful act of celebration, what an awesome manifestation of the holiness of the universe!  

 

 

 

The Work of our Mothers’ Hands

 

Your love, dreams, and experiences

have swirled and knitted us together,

centuries colliding into the embroidered

tapestry of our life’s history.

 

 

From faith healer to midwife, to teacher, washer woman and nurse, a mother held a position of reverence in the Jamaican community of my childhood. Today, our mothers continue to grow, surpassing barriers, leaving a legacy for generations to come. They continue to strengthen, motivate, educate and comfort us, making it possible to survive and grow beyond the external circumstances of our physical boundaries. Mothers become grandmothers, women who are the transmitters of our heritage, the custodians of family history. Through their storytelling, proverbs, and remembrances, a reservoir of family history and community  heritage is passed down from generation to generation.

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Dezrene Wade - The author's mother

 

Oracabessa Bay: A Bridge to Memory and Identity. 

 

Oracabessa is a small fishing village nestled between Ocho Rios, St. Ann and Port Maria, St. Mary, Jamaica. Development has not quite reached this small town, overlooked by politicians who concentrate on more strategic locations where the vote reigns. But Oracabessa is where my heart lies. For me, Oracabessa is an important link to childhood days, providing a bridge between past and present, a sea of treasures I can share with my own children living away from the seat of their ancestral culture, precariously perched on the cusp of two worlds they must somehow find the creative energy to merge and claim as their own. Oracabessa is a long way from Miami, where I live, yet it remains an important step in this dance that is my life. Each hip swaying, limbo, soca-calypso, hip hop move that I make, recalls Oracabessa, that persona that shadows everything that I do.

 

 

 

 

 

Reggae Music-Shouting it Out Loud!

 

We listen to the music and it soothes us, giving us comfort in the satisfaction that it is ours, part of the indelible experience of people of color. Rap, Reggae, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Soca, and Calypso are all part of the communication between people of African ancestry and the rest of the world. Reggae music is a revolution of sounds that has evolved from this co-mingling of cultures. It is music that spans more than four hundred years of history. It is our spokesperson, a representative of our collective history forged in the crucible of our African ancestry and the New World experience. It conveys the outpourings of our creative imagination, our ability to come to terms with the New World order, our place in it, and our relationship to each other.

Bridges to Memory is published by Caribbean American Commentary Newspaper 

  Single Copy $12.00. To purchase a copy call

954-551-7275, 954-822-4878,  or 305-249-0946

Email requests to marvamclean@bellsouth.net

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