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Why I’m a Black Haitian and not an African American

Don’t get me wrong, I’m Black as hell. I’m just a first-gen.

Doing some homework on my ancestory, heritage and culture made me realize it was due time to update my background on LinkedIn. Would you mind connecting with me?

:pencil: by Jacky Alciné Jacky Alciné :book: an thoughts post :bookmark: thoughts, identity, heritage :clock7: written - revised :eyeglasses: about 3 minutes, 701 words :link: Comments - 0 Mention(s) - Permalink

I’ve decided to classify myself as a Black Afro-Haitian individual as opposed to being an African American. I initially challenged this idea early 2014 when I wanted to really understand what my background was but not necessarily who I am; more about the people that came before and right up my moment of existence. My parents and grandparents were all born in Haiti, with the exception of my mother’s mother being born in the Dominican Republic1. All of whom having a overwhelming amount of African and Native Hispaniola ancestry, dating back to colonial dates of Hispaniola (and prior)2.

The whole intent behind this self-identification is two-fold: to help me remember who brought me here and where I feel I should go to help advance things in the future for my people. The latter is more personal than I’d rather care to blog about but the former is something more important than most lead on. I think that for me, not having a sense of belonging to a place made me a bit of a unwilling nomad, travelling with some sort of an idea of where I should end up. Knowing and being able to reach out to people who I can not only identity with but also channel a shared heritage is powerful3. Of course, it’s not so cut-and-dry, some people prefer you to be a patriot to the cause - claiming your heritage via your name, clothing, food, ideologies, etc. This is something I’m still working on understanding where the line is drawn due to the effects of globalization and how cultures became the new commodity4.

Growing up, I knew things about Haiti via my parents and the photos they showed me. I heard of their hometowns and studied photos of extended family I’ve only met over video camera. I wanted to be a part of this but I was also exposed to other backgrounds, be it Trinidadian, Guyanese or other countries local to the Caribbean5. This knowledge left a tether that I feel I cannot find in other places. It might be the unique nature of sub-sectors of Brooklyn (or New York, in general) that exposed this facet of Afro-(Latinx,Caribbean) culture that I feel is important to acknowledge.

This isn’t a division call. This is more for my own rationalization on how to draw my family tree. If anything, this post is more for me to keep my journey public and in line so I can encourage others who can draw paths back to do so, to make the map for others more clear. This is one disadvantage or advantage6 that enslaved Africans had when it came to ancestry. There’s definitely the oral reciting that happened but with people who wanted to alienate those facets of their life, it became extremely difficult for the next generation to determine their roads home. I’m fortunate enough to be able to trace my family back at least five generations and I’d be taking advantage of this opportunity to see what else I can learn about my heritage and role in the world.

  1. According to my mom. I haven’t seen any documents, but I trust her. 

  2. I mention colonization by France and Spain since (AFAIK), West African people weren’t introduced until then. 

  3. One of the many reasons why adequate history and present education regarding the African American presence here and the history of prominent African nations aren’t core to public education, especially in regions where the student population tends to be predominantly Black. 

  4. See South Korea’s heavy exporting of food, music and media and the hyper consumption of it over here in the States. Also see Urban Outfitter’s constant appropriation and fashion runaways claiming Black hair care and fashion as “edgy” 

  5. I don’t like this name nor am I confident that this is the accurate term of this part of the world. 

  6. Depends how you look at it.