I proudly declare that You Tube helped me find myself.
As a teen, I spent many late nights on the Internet watching performance poetry by Latin@s, searching for merengue videos that were deemed Dominican classics, and watching comedy channels dedicated to recreating the dynamics of my culture. I had visited my parents’ home country enough to feel as though it were my own, but I understood I was a hyphenated Dominican. I was dedicated to doing the homework mostly to share in my uncle’s enthusiasm for the music and jokes because he was my favorite person and I was much more than the “American” one of the family.
I became fascinated with the ways people used the internet space to creatively express the cultural pride and dilemma as a “hyphen.” These were the people who understood me most and they had a lot of fun with it. I decided I would be noted as a writer in this phenomenon and I joined a creative network online where I posted poems and short stories of how I imagined my mother’s life on the island and compared it to my life here. I shaped my identity very much around this hyphen through this medium and I continue to embrace understanding myself as such in adulthood.
Reading Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff’s Chapter “Diasporas, Identity, and Information Technology,” was an exciting experience, as it encompassed every aspect necessary to understand the formation of diasporan identities. From the beginning she is clear about the complexity of identifying one’s self with diasporic movement, as it has become a term used loosely. To be clear, my family voluntarily moved to the U.S. without knowledge of the language/culture and with hopes of returning to the Dominican Republic for retirement. Retaining our “real” culture was very important, but I wanted to do so in a way that was most conducive to understanding myself as an American person. Brinkerhoff explains the internet as a space that enables this conscious-ridden identity to exist and be celebrated. She writes,
“Within diaspora communities, members continuously negotiate their hybrid identities through storytelling, promoting consensus on shared understandings, and sense making. With respect to their identity and associated behaviors, they test the boundaries of shared identity, providing affirmation and correction as needed to sustain a collective bond…Particularly among youth, the Internet may support the self-conscious selection of cultural artifacts. These may include experimentation with and adoption of liberal values” (Brinkerhoff, 52 – 53).
I consider Brinkerhoff’s piece incredibly important to understanding the modern day outcome of Diaspora. There are now popular social media pages dedicated to promoting and maintaining specific Caribbean cultures by creatively documenting the cultural markers for all to interact with. I went on to the Facebook page, I am a Jamaican, as the assertive nature of the name stood out to me. I immediately added the 2014 Soca playlist and watched the comedic video “A Jamaican Home in Farrin”. Most of the comments were from people who identified as Jamaican and it was enjoyable to witness them feel at home in this space regardless of where they resided. They laughed at jokes and wrote in dialect. This page was created as a celebration of cultural identity and is filled with positive posts that allow people to comfortably feel proud of where they come from and where they are going. These spaces serve as reminders that culture travels with you through multiple places and generations.
Watch Poetry Performance: Staceyann Chin – Jamaican in New York