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Dec 09, 2004

The time has come for us to reclaim our heritage. Our culture should not be a theme for certain days of the year to celebrate. Our wardrobe should not be a costume that we pull out of the closet only on special occasions. Being Garifuna is an everyday duty. Garinagu are a well-mannered, respectful, proud and intelligent people. That is the kind of Garifuna that I was raised up to be, but I seldom see it nowadays around my community. I observe people who are embarrassed and ashamed to claim their Garifuna heritage. Yet other cultures do not shy away from representing and embracing who they are.

Learning about oneself begins at home from our language, food, history and proper upbringing, traditions and clothing. We hardly appreciate and cherish our rich and colorful heritage. Many of us still allow the negative, insulting and biased remarks to affect us today. Those who insult us only do so because they are jealous and prejudice of the fact that we still maintain and nurture our culture, language and traditions that was not forced upon us by the Europeans.

Our language is not being spoken at home. Our traditions are not being passed on. We are not teaching our children about our beliefs. People tell us all the time that we have to adapt and forget our back-home traditions and ways. I firmly believe that we can adapt into modern society and still preserve our culture and lifestyles. Other people like the Chinese, Indians and Samoans have been able to adapt and assimilate, yet they still maintain the sanctity of their culture. Garinagu can do the same: assimilate and adapt!

All of us need to speak our language and those of us who do not know how to speak it, must take the initiative to learn it and speak it. We must start in our own homes with our children. Speak, eat, dress and live like a Garifuna. For those of us who know how to speak Garifuna instead of ridiculing those who don’t know it, teach them and help them to embrace the Garifuna language. A message to the parents: instead of waiting for your kids to come and ask you about their heritage, educate them about everything that has to do with Garifuna.

There is no reason for us to hide and be ashamed of whom we are. We are no to be embarrassed about what we eat, the music we dance to and the clothes that we wear. We need to take every opportunity we have to represent our culture. The preservation of our culture is in our own hands. Don’t let others steal our heritage away from us and use it for economic reasons and for their own personal benefit. Let us take charge of our own destiny!

Any comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at: mamagapg@yahoo.com

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