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Essay: So You Want to be the first black [ fill in the blank]

You should definitely read this…seriously.


Everything about my country is rich. We don’t just have “blue skies.” We have our own atmosphere of the creamiest azure and cerulean stark against wisps of bright white clouds. The sky steals your gaze upward, forcing your eyes to the heavens—maybe this is why so many Bahamians believe in God. Our sky is so glorious that it must be a place for deities.

Your neck aches as you stare up at the sky on your weekly walk to the supermarket, but you don’t even care. And, yes, we walk to the supermarket. My arms still ache in memory at the thought of hauling groceries home on foot. Dust covers our feet and tennis shoes (sneakers) because fine grains of sand somehow leak into the “paved” downtown streets though the beach is miles away. Our salty waters, the temperatures of a soothing bath from the long arms of our sun are not just the color green. Green sounds so prosaic. The calm, clear seas are millions of molecules of emeralds, with as many facets as a thousand crown jewels. The deep breaths of trade wind hit the warm green water,  making waves dance and sway against this shore in an intoxicating rhythm of eddies on fine pink sand punctuated with alien-like seashells. The ocean tricks you into thinking it’s blue. I still laugh when tourists comment on how blue the water is. I visited Bermuda on an anolis (lizard) research trip (a story for another day) and there the waters are blue. A true vibrant blue. Almost too blue and too clear and too jewel like. That is how I know my country’s waters are green.  


Our foods are also rich. The chicken and goat curries are savory, deep greens and yellows that coat your tongue in satisfying embrace before burning with the heat of homegrown goat pepper. The rice is reddish brown, not because it grown from a stalk that way, but because an auntie or grammy or mummy had it soaking in tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, onions, peppers, salt, peppers and maybe even crabs, salt pork, salt beef and bacon. The rice is not even the main course. It is a side dish. Don’t get me started on deep yellow macaroni and cheese with its crust of satisfying crunchy crust of cheddar, or a creamy coleslaw that leaves hints on sweet, savory and sour on your palate on the way to your eager stomach. 


Our language is rich. When a Bahamian tells a story, you were there. Not in body, but in mind and soul. Our words swirl in pitch and rhythm taking you wherever we want. If we can’t find the right word to describe our tale (tall or otherwise) in the English lexicon, we will make it up. New words with fresh new syllables, accents and punctuations. Don’t worry. You will know what we mean by the rolls of our bodies, sway of our hands, raising and lowering of our volume, slapping of palms against your back and forearms and widening and narrowing of our eyes you will know precisely what we wish to say. Our language is rich. If we saw a fight downtown, you saw a fight downtown through our stories. If we saw our neighbor’s wife cheating, then you did, because we told you. And Bahamians tell stories well. 


Our bodies are rich. You don’t know loving, until you have laid next the warm brown skin of a Bahamian woman. Skin rich with the smell of perfumes and spices as if we never left the mighty continent of Africa. Flavor comes through our skin. We season the room as we walk, leaving bay leaves, bergamot, mango, plums, coriander, citrus, flaxseed, mint, juniper, lavender, hibiscus, Shepherd’s needle, pear leaves, aloe and roses. Our bodies curve boldly, thick lips, full hips, and large breasts casting the shapes of hour glasses on the sand. Our hair is dense and kinky, rich with the smell of coconut oils, aloes and shea butter. Thick, heavy, dense black braids sway above the hips of our women in summer barely grazing large round bottoms. Our men cut their hair low in Caesar cuts or wear long dreadlocks down their necks and backs. They darken their eyes with black shades, even at night to hide something. What? I don’t know. Their tongues are always sweet with compliments to the women, weather or sea, and rife with condemnation and suggestions for our government or their bossman.


My flag is aquamarine, gold, and black like my water, my sun and my people. My country is rich.