Growing up as an African American of Caribbean descent, it was difficult for me to come to terms with my identity and to acknowledge where I come from because of the limited resources that were available to me. Since I came to St. Lawrence, I began to learn more about my own culture and began to develop my own identity. In my sophomore year, I decided to be a Global Studies major and an art minor because I have always had a passion for art and culture and how it shapes one’s identity.
During my semester in Trinidad, I began to do research on countries in the Caribbean such as Trinidad and the Dominican Republic and how art mediums can be used to spread awareness about racism, discrimination, and blackness. I compared the diverse cultures between these two countries and analyzed how Carnival can be used as a form of unity within various groups in society. Carnival is a festival that is celebrated all throughout the Caribbean, this includes aspects such as masquerade, music, and West African traditions. Carnival is an art form that celebrates the African heritage and gives a platform for those of African descent to have a voice in society. This festival is a crucial component in Trinidad because it symbolizes an act of resistance towards colonial powers. Although in the Dominican Republic, not all people of color are able to participate in Carnival because of their race, skin color, and other systems of power. In terms of Trinidad, Carnival is mainly Afrocentric, in that there is a larger presence of Afro-Trinidadians in Carnival. However, Carnival in the Dominican Republic is mainly Eurocentric in that Afro- Dominicans are not usually present in the celebration. The key to this project is analyzing the history of why Carnival in the Dominican Republic is monoethnic and how individuals can learn to embrace all cultures within their country.
From this research, I learned how race has become a long-term aspect that has affected how we live, how we perceive others, and how we perceive ourselves. Specifically, the ideology of race affects individuals of the African diaspora because it has had a negative effect on their culture. As an individual who is from the Dominican Republic and identifies as Afro-Latina, I felt very engaged with this project because I wanted to learn the history behind how race is defined in my own country. This has made me aware of my own identity and how I interact with the world. This experience helped me build the foundation for my SYE project, which would include components of the Dominican Republic and the African diaspora.
My semester abroad was a wonderful experience, I am very grateful for having been given the chance to research and deepen my understanding for how race and culture impacts various parts of the world.