Whatever island you are from in the Caribbean, young or old we know if you have big dreams and want to “make it out here” it’s to America you go. So over the years, one by one, or entire families too, Caribbean people migrate to America to make their dreams come true.
This is a story about a young Jamaican girl named Sabrina Barnes; she too left her island of sun, sea, and sand. Sabrina heard the song ringing clear in her ear “if you hope to be an actress someday, some year … there is one thing you must get done my dear …. ‘well come, well come to America’.”
And well, to America she went up, up and away. What Sabrina might have underestimated is the price that many Caribbean migrants often pay.
Our American Caribbean Diaspora is very active at varying levels, areas and arenas in America. We are quite a handful, though a minority group, and so within the areas where we abound, we have found ways to keep some aspects of our culture alive and well. Well known is The New York Caribbean Carnival or the West Indian American Labour Day Parade. For those of us who travel between our region and the ‘land of dreams’ we know all too well a popular question might be “will you be in the U.S. for Labour Day?”
The less well known is—“what is the journey really like”—when or if we like Sabrina, answer the songs of ‘well come, well come to America.’ It is this question that “Welcome to America: A Caribbean Musical” tries to answer. This play, which will be presented on October 28, 2017, at Cramton Auditorium @ Howard University, is not only providing, as one person in reviewing the play said, ‘tremendous fun and originality’, but it is now a part of our recorded Caribbean culture as it relates to our American diaspora. Though we, as a Caribbean people, know how to ‘do the do’, ‘get with it’ or ‘toughen up’ when need to, we would not want anyone to underestimate the struggle behind the success, the trials behind the trophy.
In the play, we meet Sabrina, talented and ambitious, with a bag full of dreams. Sabrina not only negotiates America, New York, but she wants to be a star, an actress. However, Sabrina learns the hard lonely truth; she is not the ‘All American Girl.’ She learns exactly what it means, not just for herself who wants to have her name in the ‘bright lights’, but for many Caribbean people who follow that dream ‘well come to America.’ While adopting the accent as some of us do ever so easily, we soon find that assimilating or blending into the culture is not that easy for we are alien in many ways. One way it showed so wittily in the play was when Sabrina was asked; “so you plan to make a living acting on a visitor’s visa?”
Within our Caribbean culture, there is a tendency that triumphs, and it is the tendency of thinking “where there is a will there is a way.” However, when one is “away” as we so fondly call it when in America, we as the ‘alien’, as the ‘outsider’, soon discover that the foundation of our will is quite a lightweight within the ‘Big Apple.’
Courtney Ffrench, the choreographer, described the dances as a ‘patois’, a mixture of dances coming together. This mimics the experience of Sabrina our prototype for the Caribbean person in America; it is a mixture of the bitter with the sweet. It is the discovery of the worm in the ‘Big Apple.’ The discovery that while the movies and the media dazzle us with the bright lights that many of us follow, it hides the whisper of Welcome to America …. Willingly Overcome Resistance Much (whisper). Welcome to America: A Caribbean Musical shares our story in the way we appreciate best with humour, song, and dance. It provides the opportunity for entertainment, understanding, and more importantly honest inspiration. So get your ticket today. Ticket info: (888) 200-7200 or visit www.caribbeanloyaltyrewards.com.
Say Hi to the play which allows for some moments that serves to keep us sober. Not just us but those yet to come who might become drunken with the American Dream without thought of the price. Could you imagine, our Caribbean people have been making waves for years as part of the American Diaspora, how much more and how much better might this happen if we really appreciate the process? Even if we think this not that important, is it not about time to share our story? Or, like our cultural inclination is, are we simply content to be the consumer and sing on cue to Alicia Keys’ “Let’s hear it for New York”.
This musical employs original songs, along with other selections from the Caribbean Diaspora. Award-winning singer, actor, and producer, Andrew Clarke plays Elijah, Sabrina’s friend from ‘long time’ and now potential romantic interest who, like Sabrina, must Willingly Overcome Resistance Much to achieve his ambitions. After all is said and done, do you hear the urgings … Welcome to America: A Caribbean Musical, October 28, 2017, at Cramton Auditorium @ Howard University.
By Kerriann Toby
Kerriann Toby holds a Master of Counselling and Bachelor of Psychology. She is a dynamic therapist, trained mediator; and educator since 2000. In addition to being a trained educator, mediator and therapist, she is a certified Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Professional. Kerriann has also trained in cybercounselling and holds clinical registration with Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) & Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).
In mid-October 2015 she initiated operations of KarryOn geared toward the provision of a variety of enhancement and developmental services for the individual, groups and the organization; e-Coaching/Counseling, Mediation, EAP Services and the creative presentation of psycho-social information. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.