Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
I have always had a passion for photography, and I had planned to make use of the Travel Enrichment Grant to conduct a comparative study between the West Indian communities in London and New York City. I specifically employ photography as the medium for my study and research in order to bring to light the peculiar identity form of West Indian culture and experience. New York and London are two cities wherein large populations of West Indian immigrants reside. And one of the goals of my research was to analyze West Indian immigrants, particularly young adults, form their communities in the two foreign cities and countries.
Initially, my project focused on photography, but as my time progressed in London I wanted to know and explore West Indian history in London and ways they preserve their culture. As a result, photography was no longer employed as medium for my study and instead I used interviews of West Indians living in London as way to find out how they have adapted and preserved their culture.
There was a lot I did not know, and I have learned that the life of a West Indian in Britain, as compared to a West Indian in New York City, follows different patterns of adaptation. Race strongly shapes every aspect of West Indians’ new American and British life. West Indians’ ethnic and cultural diversities are rendered invisible because race is their only noticeable characteristic. However, through dance and music such as Soca, Chutney and Calypso, West Indian immigrants were able to look past the colour of their skin to maintain their cultural identity in countries that can seem so strange.
This research was especially important to me because I am a West Indian immigrant. I was born in Guyana but when I migrated to America, I resided in Bedford-Stuyvesant/ Crown Heights, a community of the Borough of Brooklyn, consisting of immigrants from the Caribbean. Living in this neighborhood made my years in America an easy transition. That is because the position of African Americans as part of America allowed me to balance my ethnic and racial identities. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I stepped out of Brooklyn and attended St. Lawrence University that I became confused because I was confronted with my West Indian immigrant identity. However, the experience from doing this research in London I was able to gain more knowledge of my culture. I was able to highlight the power, beauty, strength and variety of the African Diaspora within my West Indian community and myself and I am proud to share it through my study abroad experience.
I would like to thank my donors along with Dr. Tom Green, Jeannine Wyman, Mr. Mark Norfolk, Mr. Jason Rose, Rev. Rosemarie Mallet, Pat Alden and the CIIS office.