It is said “you can take the girl out the island”, but can you take the island out the girl?
During the past week, I’ve had the privilege to connect with quite a few Antiguans I didn’t know were in Canada, and I know there are many more. The warmth of our island love was felt through the cold winter we are currently experiencing. This made me reflect on how important community is, even more so when in a new place. Community is not just the people that you know, or the people that you see. It can be people unknown who are connected to the people you know, and who are willing to extend a helping hand. The Antiguan community abroad has the potential to do amazingly great things to help each other. Common heritage provides an opportunity to build strong communities abroad rather than it being merely about who you know.
The recent announcement by Team Antigua Island Girls about their new venture to sail the Pacific starting in California over to Hawaii, reminded me of how the community of Antiguans both local and abroad gathered to showed overwhelming support of them from the inception to completion of their historic 3000 mile Atlantic Ocean journey three years ago. The timing could not be any better in illustrating the strength of the community of Antiguans. “No matter where we roam, Antigua will always be our home” - words by our soca artist Tizzy truly capture the essence of culture, community and camaraderie.
So what exactly is community to me?
- Looking for a place to live and being connected to a realtor who is Antiguan that came recommended by another Antiguan.
- It’s the random meeting of an Antiguan in the same university course that I am currently engaged in.
- It’s joining a Caribbean university online meeting and realizing that 80% of the persons on the call were Antiguans I had previously met in Antigua.
- It’s getting sent fruit cake during the Christmas season by an Antiguan because I can’t go home for the season.
- It’s being welcomed into a home to have a “home away from home” by an Antiguan I’ve never met before
- It’s getting calls and messages by Antiguans welcoming me to Canada
- It’s an Antiguan family driving to your city to bring a care package
- It’s Antigua students getting together to share an Antiguan meal to celebrate Independence Day
- It’s an Antiguan creating a ‘city guide’ for me because they learned you were moving to where they used to live
As our island people relocate to Canada and other countries abroad, I hope our Antiguan diaspora remains strong. It will help to keep us rooted in our traditions and ensure a smoother passage of adaptation for the many new arrivals. This will strengthen and grow communities not necessarily demarcated by geographic boundaries, but by origin and heritage which fosters a culture of support.