I express my identity through poetry.
Who I am and who I hope to one day be
Bleeds through the tip of my pen
In a rush of eloquence,
My stream of consciousness.
Who I am as a woman, who I am as an American citizen, who I am as the daughter of immigrants…
I’m still searching for the answer.
Growing up, as one day became another day,
I was always reminded that part of me didn’t belong to the USA:
It wasn’t just my skin that told me that my kin were of elsewhere,
Nor the kinky and curly tresses of my hair
Because, you know, I see
People who look like me
Everyday in this diverse country --
People with the brown skin, majestic melanin, round hips, full lips --
You see them in the clips on TV
All the men and women of ambiguous nationality,
But, see, what sets me apart cannot be seen from my exterior, it’s in my heart.
And, let me be clear, it does not make me any more superior
To my peers.
In fact, I once viewed it as a thing that made me weak:
Being split between two cultures didn’t always have its mystique.
For example, no one at my school could relate
To the types of food that my family ate.
“Hey Samara, do you want some collards and cornbread?”
“No, but I’ll take pholourie and tamarind, instead…”
I said in my head
Cuz, if I said it out loud, my face would turn red.
No one understood that what I knew was chutney, cook-up, and roti from di tawa,
Mi knew salfish, dahl, channa, and salara,
So I hid that part of myself,
Even while around my family,
Because I was inundated by a sense of insecurity, obscurity
I was unsure of whether my identity
Belonged more to the land where I was born or the culture that raised me.
I was born here in this melting pot,
Full of cultures and religions and peoples that are not
All originally from here,
Immigrants who carry their customs over their shoulders like boulders,
They start to shrink under the weight
As they enter the United States
And try to preserve the practices that are most innate
To their homeland, knowing that, once they pass that gate,
American society will subtly attempt to mutate them
By coaxing the people to just assimilate,
To adapt to the American Way.
It is as if you must be willing to let go of a part of you
In order to earn the right to wave around the red, white, and blue…
But I wave the red, yellow, and green, too!
Three triangles pointing forward toward progress
That, in the face of oppression, continue to scream YES;
This is year 51 of Guyana’s independence,
So, no, my Guyanese heritage will not be sentenced
To a future of being forgotten,
Not by you, and not by me.
See, I cannot be ashamed of how when di soca beat does come,
Mi haht staht fi lick like di tassa drum
And di riddim run tru meh like di rapids of di Demerara
And cyan’t stop because this is me!
Fifty percent of me came from China to the South American-West Indian country
Of Guyana as a slave all the same
As my African ancestors to America came!
I am di jungle and di watafalls,
I am di heat and all di animals,
I am di Bird of Paradise
Because, for me, “American” does not suffice --
I must continue on my journey of simply being and loving me,
Half American, half Guyananee-Chinee
And praise to the God that be
Who bestowed upon me
The blessing, the ability
To use the words of my poetry
To open my heart and set free
Of being Guyanese-American,
Where the hyphen is the bridge to belonging I build everyday.
I pray that I will soon be able to say
With confidence that I am no longer conflicted
By these beautiful halves of me,
For, together, they construct my unique reality,
And without one, who would I be?