In March, I had the best experience a person could ever have- I went home to Jamaica for the first time. You see, growing up in the United States, I always knew that my “roots” were in Jamaica and that I wanted to go home, not only to see family or for a vacation, but I also wanted to have a visual image, a picture, of who I am. I wanted to bridge the gap between the dominant culture that I had grown up with, in the United States, and the place that my heart yearned for- Yard! I had found that it wasn’t enough to go to the local Jamaican events here in Minneapolis, or even in the states for that matter, I needed more.
This past November, a couple of friends and I decided that we would save our money and go to Jamaica. I’m sure that they were tired of hearing me whine about how much I wanted to go and how the small Jamaican community in Minneapolis was not enough for me; that I needed more. So we saved money, resisted going shopping for three months and FINALLY we were on the plane to Montego Bay, Jamaica, staying in Negril. I was elated! I was finally getting what I had been waiting for throughout my teenage years. Now, at 23, I was finally goin’ dung a yard!
I can never desribe how it felt to step off of the plane. The smell of Jamaica filled my lungs and my stomach bubbled with excitement. I could immediately feel the gap closing. (The gap that stayed nestled in my heart for many years). I was feeling complete! After much hassle of going through immigration, money exchanges, and actually getting on the shuttle, I sat back and took notice of the beautiful countryside, the sea, and everything in between, as we hastily made our way to Negril.
I planned to do as much as I could in the 7 days we were set to stay in Jamaica. And those seven days went by- quickly! I had done all I could in that short amount of time; hung out on the beach, ate some Jamaican food that would give Granny a run fi her money (big up Juicy J’s), partied, called my uncle in Sav-La-Mar (where I’m originally from) and decided to go there, nearly died as the bus caught on fire from Sav-La-Mar to Mandeville, visited Mandeville, stayed in Kingston long enough to see one of my favorite performers, Lady Saw, and then went back to Negril to spend my last day. I was exhausted yet satisfied. Not only had I accomplished my goal of REALLY seeing Jamaica but I had put my patois into practice and met some wonderful people.
As the end of my last day in Jamaica came to an end, a strange sadness enveloped me. I did not want to go back to the States. I wanted to stay in Jamaica where I felt much more welcomed and much more at home. Yet, I knew that I had to go back. And the only thing that seemed to comfort me as I sat on the plane, with tears in my eyes, was the fact that I would return. I had to.
Shahidah – Minneapolis, Minnesota