Island Soul City Dreams

I love New York, but my heart has a Caribbean beat. It pulsates to the traditions of my people. Attuned to the rhythms of this City, I stay West Indian to the bone. I reflect. I analyze. I speak my mind. ~ I Keep it Irie ~

Archive for the tag “Caribbean”

To Me She Was Carolyn

Were she still alive, Barbadian calypsonian Carolyn “Tassa” Forde would have turned 44 today. I originally wrote the following tribute when she died in 2011. I am reposting now on the occasion of her birthday. Happy birthday Carolyn! Continue to sleep sweetly, my friend. You are sorely missed.


The late Barbadian calypsonian Carolyn “Tassa” Forde.

To me she was Carolyn. Not because we were bosom buddies or lifelong friends or even socialized often together. In fact, we were none of those things. Yet, to me, she was more than Tassa the entertainer: gifted singer, charismatic calypsonian. To me she was Carolyn because we shared a mutual admiration and respect for each other. So on a wintry Thursday when my mother called from Barbados to say, “I have some sad news; Tassa, the calypsonian died last night,” I screamed, “Oh no, not Carolyn!” I could not help it; I cried.

I stopped calling her Tassa, perhaps, within a few months after we met in the mid 1990’s. I’d only recently started working as a reporter at The Barbados Advocate and I was extensively covering the entertainment beat through which I met Tassa – as part of the line up of the House of Soca calypso tent. It was easy to be drawn to her dynamism on stage. Away from the crowd and the lights, her energy was even more magnetic. It was this presence: a gregarious nature; sharp intellect; delightful laugh; quick wit and compassionate spirit that drew me to Carolyn. Read more…

My Favorite High School Teacher – A Reunion

It’s with bittersweet feelings that I write this piece. As I type, I’m sitting in my “window seat” on a Jet Blue aircraft, which took off from the tropical shores of my beautiful homeland Barbados to return me to my adoptive home – exciting, but wintry New York City. Moments ago, as the blinding sun beamed through this tiny window, I squinted to get my final glimpses of paradise, clicking away on my iPhone camera to preserve each image for posterity. Even after almost a decade, every time I leave Barbados, I cry. Yet, I am always eager to embark on the new adventures the Big Apple has to offer.

This was my most emotional “home for the holidays” trip. Much of my time was spent with my immediate family, visiting relatives, dear friends and long-lost friends. Not that I don’t usually do so, but it featured more prominently on this occasion, with me limiting my usual attendance at countless social events. I reunited with people I had not seen in 10, 15 and in some cases almost 20 years. I met new additions to my family or friends’ families – children born since I moved to New York. I connected in person with Facebook friends who have now become friends, ran into former journalistic colleagues who’ve been promoted or have changed jobs, and saw folks that I’d almost forgotten.

Enjoying the view from Speightown boardwalk, Barbados.

Enjoying the view from Speightown boardwalk, Barbados.

I was warmly welcomed into the home of my first boyfriend’s parents; his mom still keeps a framed photo of me. One of my best friends and his wife took me out to an exclusive event, another drove me around the island showing me all the developments that have been taking place in my absence, others invited me over for lunch, dinner and even to stay over, and some took the trek to rural Barbados through potholes, sparsely lit streets, along cane fields and off the “main road” to my mom’s house just to see me.

There are many stories I can write about these “reunions” and over time I probably will, but the one I’ll share with you today is when for the first time in 15 years, I saw my favorite teacher from secondary school (high school). For each of us, I’m sure no memory of that pivotal period of our lives is complete without the thought of at least one teacher who in some way positively impacted our lives. As a student at Louis Lynch Secondary (formerly Roebuck Secondary School), there were a few teachers I admired, who helped mold me into the person I am today, but there’s one only one I called my favorite teacher. His name is Addison Cadogan. Mr. Cadogan was my Social Studies teacher. He taught me from first form – age 11 – until my graduation. I could go back to those early years and tell you why Mr. Cadogan holds such a special place in my heart, but I have a more recent memory that will show you why!

Read more…

Journey Beyond Paradise

As the holiday cheer heightens and the countdown to 2013 draws near, I find myself reflecting on my journey from Barbados to New York and the remarkable progress I’ve made over these past few years. I first wrote about the start to what has become an incredible chapter in my life during my Magazine Workshop – a capstone class in the master’s degree I earned at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The class was taught by editor extraordinaire of The New Yorker, John Bennet, who had assigned us to write personal essays. For me, sharing this particular slice of my life was somewhat cathartic. My classmates and I read to one another our respective stories – all of which portrayed some challenge we had to overcome. Almost every narrative evoked tears. Today, I’ll expand my audience beyond the classroom to include you. This piece is an excerpt from the book I have yet to complete on my life story. I’d love to hear your feedback.

At the start of 2005, my life seemed almost perfect. I was living in my native Barbados, the easternmost of Caribbean islands where rejuvenating breezes cascade off the Atlantic Ocean. All year the sun kisses us a brilliant good morning and bids adieu with even more radiance as it sinks beyond horizons of white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters. I was about to celebrate my 30th birthday on January 30 – a date shared with my younger sister who came screaming into this world the day I turned 4-years-old. She remains my best birthday gift ever. I was working as a reporter – the career I’d dreamt about from the age of 13 and I had an adoring boyfriend who’d lift me over a puddle of water into the car just so I wouldn’t soil my shoes. To top it off, every week, my mother baked my favorite treat – coconut bread – for which I’d travel for miles through narrow unpaved tracks in the lush, rural countryside of Barbados. It was looking like my best year yet. Read more…

Her Death Taught Me To Live

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” ― Rose Kennedy

This past April, I wrote the hardest piece I have ever had to write. It was my Uncle Moses’ eulogy. Moses was my favorite uncle and one of the dearest people to my heart. He succumbed to cancer of the liver at age 51, less than a month before his birthday. But his was not the first eulogy I wrote, nor was he the first loved one I lost. I have lost too many loved ones to count. Death is never an easy thing to handle, especially for someone as sentimental as me and as a person who loves HARD.

From my early 20’s to now, I have lost several loved ones ranging ages 14 to 72 (my grandfather included) to various types of cancer. When I was 26, I bade farewell to a close friend from childhood, Lemuel – the first person to teach me tolerance and an unconditional love for anyone regardless of their sexual orientation – to AIDS. A couple of years later, my beloved 14-year-old cousin Alex died of a heart attack – two weeks before Christmas. Yes, I have had many moments of donning black dresses, signing books of condolences and being in a funeral march. But the one that haunts me most is when I lost my best friend. At the time, we were giddy teenagers high on life.  She was three months my senior and to this day, I have not met another person with whom I’ve shared more in common. Read more…

Feels Like I’m Home Again

“Raga Beenie children fall in line.” – Anthony “Rebel” Bailey

I officially retired from the party scene in 2006 – after almost 20 years of partying and more than a decade of covering entertainment as a reporter. Considering my now ripe old mid 30’s age, some might say that I retired young. Those who knew me in my prime party days growing up in Barbados knew that I was in the dub (Reggae/Dancehall party) from as early as 14 years and in the Calypso tents and nightclubs from a couple years after. My “Uncle Mac” – Mac Fingall, one of the Caribbean’s top emcees, introduced me to the calypso tents and for many years took me to countless performances during our annual carnival known as Crop Over Festival. Even before then, I was already a fan of Calypso and its “offspring” Soca  music. Read more…

Proud of Our Caribbean Athletes: Deal Wid It

Jamaica’s World Record 4x100m relay team.

I am unapologetically patriotic to the Caribbean – the region where my grandparents, parents, most of my relatives, closest friends, and I were born. But I love this country in which I live and the opportunities it has afforded me, both to develop in every sphere of my life and to contribute to this nation. I am beyond grateful for the blessings that have flowed along my arduous journey since moving to New York almost a decade ago. It’s a place where I have no relatives, a destination I emigrated to from Barbados with nothing more than a dream to further my education and advance my career as a journalist. I began life anew in this big city with my last penny in my pocket and my haven, the only life I knew – thousands of miles away on a tiny island in the heart of the Caribbean Sea.

Having to stand on my own in a foreign country has made me stronger and more appreciative of the hurdles I have had to overcome to reap my current successes. This experience has also done something else. It has instilled in me a deep passion for this City and by extension country. Interestingly enough, more than ever it has also made me cherish my heritage – the background that honed the spirit, the character and warrior to stay grounded here. The more I embrace US culture, the harder I fight to cling to my Caribbean roots. So as the Games of the XXX Olympiad got underway, like most West Indians on and beyond Caribbean shores, my loyalty was to our athletes. Read more…

I Did It With Three Girls And Loved It

I was part of a foursome yesterday. It was by far one of the most fun-filled experiences I have had in months. Truth be told, this is not the first time I have done such a thing, but unlike previously where it was usually spontaneous, on this occasion it was all carefully planned. I have never been the one to initiate coming together like this; I’ve always been lured into joining two more and even as many as five other people in having this type of “a good time.” I last got down like that a year ago. Over the past week, however, I felt a strong desire to do it again. So for the first time ever, I decided to get my own party started. And I wanted it to be all females. Read more…

Why I Call Mine, ‘Bajan Brown Sugar’

The one thing I am most proud of is my Bajan Brown Sugar. If yours is as sweet as mine, you would boast too. Even as a little girl, I knew I was blessed with something special and over the years, many men and even women have lauded me on this priceless asset. Their actions alone indicate how they feel, but they further reassure me with words like “what you have is a true treasure.” It’s amazing the things they all do for me – just because of my Bajan Brown Sugar.

I have heard many people; especially men call theirs all kinds of names. After all, that’s their prized possession. Read more…

How I Learned To Keep It Tight

The first time I can recall doing it, I was 17 years old. In the beginning, it was because that was my job. Three days a week, after spending considerable time “dolling up” myself in the bathroom, I would leave school early and hurry through Bridgetown, to that special room to participate in the activity. A veteran in the industry had handpicked me. He was tall, authoritative, a big man with big hands and the most soothing voice that compelled any woman to heed to his every command. He made it seem like an art as he got down to business.  I thought to myself, “There’s no way I could handle this, I am too young, too inexperienced.” But I was also keen to learn and to become good, even great at it. Read more…

The Anniversary of My 25th Birthday – The Sequel

Ever since I turned 25 (about a decade or so ago), I have been in denial about aging. For sure, I am grateful for life and every year as January turns, I get excited about not just new beginnings, or the uncertainties that lie ahead, but about the celebration of my birthday at month-end. My birthday is made all the more special because I share it with my younger sister, Sancia. No other birthday gift has been able to surpass that beautiful bundle of joy my mom brought into my life the day I turned four. That was a long time ago. Still, because I don’t feel a day over 25, I started calling my annual birthday celebration, “The Anniversary of My 25th Birthday.” This year, I added to that “The Sequel.” But having recently watched an episode of The Dr. OZ Show where he said that it doesn’t matter how old a woman feels, her eggs are still getting older, I got into a slight state of panic. Here I am 10 years (or so) after my 25th birthday and I am still unmarried, still childless and still having a hard time accepting that I’m getting old. Read more…

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