Sometimes in life we experience some self doubt. We catch ourselves not knowing where we fit in. We find ourselves trying to measure up to other people’s expectations. How do we identify ourselves in society? A number of Garinagu ponder these same questions on a daily basis. They feel that not being able to speak the Garifuna language and not knowing all of the traditions make them less of a Garifuna. I want to reassure you that this is not true.
Many people complained about not being accepted by other Garinagu in their social environments. They have encountered rejection from some of the more well-to-do or the more educated Garinagu in their communities. They tell of stories about people not being welcomed into a particular organization because of their inability to speak or know the language. I have witnessed Garinagu insulting others who they believe do not understand the Garifuna language. I feel that this shameful behavior needs to be addressed. It is always commendable when a person pursues and strives to acquire a higher education or achieves better economic status. That is everybody’s goal. But in obtaining that degree of success, does it make you more superior than the non-educated or less fortunate? What makes us Garifuna? Is it our language? Although I believe that it is vital for us to know how to speak our language, it should not make you feel less of a Garifuna if you do not know it. Simple things like these continue to divide our people. This ridiculous nonsense that keeps us apart is astonishing. We continue to separate ourselves by our educational background, economic standing or by territory. How will we be able to continue to strengthen our community and culture with this separatism?
When we were detached in Saint Vincent from our families, it was by force. The separation we impose on ourselves nowadays is by choice. I persist in stressing the point that our commonality lies in the fact that we are Garifuna first. I am a Garifuna woman who is proud of her heritage. I am also proud to acknowledge that I am a Garifuna from head to toe. The heart that beats inside of me and the blood that flows in my veins is that of a Garifuna. Nobody can take that away from me or make me feel less inferior on what I know or do not know about my culture, the Garifuna culture.
In learning about my Garifuna heritage, it has only enhanced the love that I have for my people. We need to learn to embrace each other’s differences. We have so much to learn from one another if we would only open our eyes and see beyond what meets the eye before it is too late. One person’s weakness could be another’s strength. Our culture cannot continue to strive without the power of our collective efforts. We need each other in order to preserve all that is important to our people.
It is always important to realize that it is not what someone else feels or thinks about you, what matters, is how you feel about yourself. You do not need anybody to justify or to validate you as a Garifuna, you just know in your heart that you are one. To my fellow Garinagu who choose to walk alone on that self-righteous path, I encourage you to remember your own humble beginnings.
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