African-Caribbean Links: Is it just about skin colour?
I came across an interesting forum discussion a while ago where the theme of the discussion was a university students’ social group that was supposed to bring together African and Caribbean students. One commentator started a fierce debate by suggesting that any link between Africans and Afro-Caribbean was based on race and skin colour only.
He then elaborated that 400 years of separation means that the two groups have grown apart so much that they have very little in common left culturally. That got me really thinking and I have since then sought the opinion of my African and Caribbean friends.
First of all, whether anyone likes it or not, the prefix African-Caribbean seem to have come to stay be it book clubs or social/business groups. Is it based on skin colour only? Well, to some extent yes, but what is wrong with that?
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Skin colour is probably the most prominent human feature and definitely the most noticeable. People are immediately classed or described on that feature alone before we get to know them better. Judgements are made on that alone before any other differentiation can be found.
Being classed together also means that people face common challenges that they need to overcome such as, for example, the high level of unemployment among young black men in the UK. In this case, the fact that such groups often get together is a support network that should be encouraged.
I am sure someone must have done some research on the impact of 400 years since Africans were forcefully moved to America and the impact it has had on the interaction between the two groups. I hope so, at least, and would be happy to be enlightened on this. Growing up in Nigeria, I didn’t get the impression that this was much talked about in schools or other circles, and that probably boils down to lack of information.
One area that have been prominent though is music, especially reggae music. Legends like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Yellowman, have been very popular in the continent, and the content of their music so much focused on the link with Africa. They even imagined an African messiah in the person of Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in the Rastafari movement.
I am pretty sure that there have been people before these legends who put so much effort to establish these cultural links before technology simplified communication, transportation, and recording of information. Apart from music though, I am wondering if there have been much exchange in other areas of art such as literature, visual art, poetry, etc. exploring such links.
On the academic front, I have seen a lot of academics talk about some words in African languages that have been retained in the Caribbean over the centuries, and some cultural practices. This is in no way surprising. Languages and cultural practices build up one centuries, and most of the European languages we know of today have their roots in each other.
The question however is whether those historical cultural links have the basis for university social groups such as African-Caribbean one. Hard to say. I suppose it may be compared to the close links that Brits feel towards Australians despite the distance and years of separation.
It is true that naturally a lot of differences have emerged between Africans and Caribbeans, but I do not think it is very different from the differences you can observe between various African nations in the continent. You can easily contrast West African food, dressing, and traditions with those of East African. In addition, both have also been under external influences such as religion and colonialism. In any case, I believe that even exploring any historic and cultural links are enough basis for good association.
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