Finally felt that affinity with other African people when I was in Tobago. I looked out into the salt water I was frolicking in (cuz I can’t swim) and thought, “Look at all these beautiful, black people.” We were having a good time, making new friends, teaching our children how to swim, navigating boats and jet skis, educating tourists about the coral reef… All black people, everywhere. And I felt, “These are my people.”
I don’t have a lot of information on Tobago’s cultural heritage (our lecturer canceled on us that day), but I do know it has remained about 97% Black, that is people who are descendants of enslaved or liberated Africans. In contrast, Trinidad is about 35% people of East Indian heritage, and as I stated before, there are all sorts of other combinations. Going to Tobago (different island, same country) was kind of like walking around at an HBCU, a black Greek event, or a traditional African American church in the states, or African Night at UofL. And when I think about the body confidence I’ve displayed on this trip—wearing 2 bikinis in as many visits to the beach, and these are swimsuits I purchased 10 years ago, when I was smaller, but I never wore them—I think a part of my willingness to put myself on display has to be that a smaller-chested, thicker-hipped woman without a six-pack is more acceptable around a lot of African people than she would be on any beach in the U.S.
I felt beautiful over the weekend, and I also witnessed beauty in culture. The main point of Tobago wasn’t the beach; it was the Ole Time Wedding, in a little town called Moriah. The wedding is a reenactment of ceremonies that took place between black families in the 1800s. There’s a grand wedding procession and reception with ornate costuming, traditional dance and food. The reenactment, part of Tobago’s annual Heritage Festival, has become a program with officials welcoming people, and each speaker stressed, religion, ritual, family and continuity. They talked about passing the baton, preserving our heritage, and the potential for a career on the stage. One said the purpose of the reenactment is to better understand the family structure of yesterday and to apply it to our lives to better understand today. I was loving it.
Other quick observations:
- Black people married!
- It’s kind of unnerving to have a corporate sponsor (digicel was everywhere) for a heritage event, but because I don’t know anything about the company’s business practices, I can’t adequately analyze what that says about … anything.
- I’m a little bothered by all the virginity symbols and the bride clothes and the white sheet so she can prove her virginity.
- There are many generations in one wedding, and the emcee said repeatedly, “We are teaching our children.”
- My camera phone’s continuous shot feature is awesome! You hear me? AWESOME!
- Sorry we missed the ceremony at the church.
- We MUST have a makeup lecture to learn some of the dances performed at the reception.