Hi! My name is Suzanna, I currently live in New York and I run a blog called “The Millennial Jamaican” through which I share the stories of Caribbean people (particularly millennials) with the world and boldly explore the idea of Caribbean Unity.
I’m originally from Kingston & St. Andrew, Jamaica and I semi-reluctantly migrated to America in 2011 with my mother and sister to join the rest of my family who was already living here, the matriarch of our family- my grandmother- filed for us and we got through with our papers after 9 years!
How often to do you return to the Caribbean?
Not often! In fact, I haven’t taken a vacation trip home since I’ve migrated. I just haven’t been able to afford it on my own and most of my family members are abroad so I cannot just go home to stay anywhere for free. Accommodations in Jamaica are not cheap and at first I was reluctant to stay at ‘any and any’ Air BnB back home based on the lamentations of my mother but now I just want TO GO HOME since I realize I might not be moving back permanently anytime soon.
Jamaica is big on tourism so it’s an expensive system created for white people who have money to just throw away, they don’t realize that returnees like myself are not abroad skipping on gold-lined streets and picking from money trees. I trust that I will be safe wherever I stay and I’ll do my best to be safe wherever I go, the worries just have stay on pause this year and beyond otherwise I’ll just continue feeling like I’m stuck here.
What is one thing you love about life in New York?
The abundance of opportunities: one thing about New York is you will never feel hopeless in pursuit of your chosen career- it’s the Mecca of hustle and grind. Everyone has the chance to do or try something, somebody is always hiring somebody. As much as I love this city it’s also a city of contradictions.
What is something you are still adjusting to?
The nasty cold, wet weather for the majority of the year is draining and I’m really not my usual self when I wake up to weather that causes me to wear 15 pieces of clothing and boots covered from head to toe to go trek through snow or icy rain.
The smelly, unclean streets and subway – I always feel like I’m about to catch something! The major homeless population that lives in the subway and on the streets, but New Yorkers have gotten so used to looking away and going on with their day while millionaires and billionaires have whole empty apartment buildings in said city.
What is one thing you’ve experienced abroad that you’d love to see people embrace back home?
Knowing that there is power among ourselves and that the future of our country is not completely out of our hands.
One thing I’ve noticed with Americans is that if they see wrong being done they will not be afraid to speak up against the government and the powers that be, they will organize protests and people show up in numbers regardless of the risk to show a united front and I’m not talking about rich powerful people – these are regular working-class Americans who know that if they stand up together there is no way the government can ignore them and the rest of the world will be a witness if there is any foul play!
I would love to see Jamaicans do this more, sometimes it’s like the “massa” has done his job, we have been conquered. We don’t have to riot to be heard and seen, it doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other. Our National Heroes have shown us examples of this, Paul Bogle led peaceful protests from Mobay to Spanish Town and the only way it got violent was because violence was been done unto them. Are going to let their legacy go to shame?
“We don’t have to riot to be heard and seen, it doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other.”
Has living abroad made you appreciate aspects of your Caribbean culture?
Definitely! I wish I appreciated just being blessed to have been born and raised there more.
A new Dancehall chune means much more to me now than it did when I was in the center of it all. Listening to Chronixx’s “Skankin Sweet” on some of my hardest days to or from work on the subway means so much more now because it’s familiar and reminds me of who I am when I can’t even remember. The progression, global growth, sharing and preservation of our music, language, history, food, cultural symbols and emblems and our stories mean so much more now than I ever realized when I was living in it.
I think all Caribbean people need this bird’s eye view to really put things into perspective. I also appreciate fundamental values and manners we are raised with as children, say “good morning” to your neighbours in New York and see how they look at you like an alien but those principles are ingrained in me and hope we never lose those fundamentals.
What’s one piece of advice you have for fellow Caribbean Millennials who want to move abroad but might be uncertain if it’s the right move for them?
Research, research, research and measure what it would mean if you left vs. if you stayed. I would say particularly when moving to America, many institutions don’t count a UWI (or Caribbean) degree as valid as an American one despite the fact that it’s just as good or even better! They might require you go back to school for four more years to get an American degree so consider that before moving here for work opportunities (if you have a prearranged one even better).
If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy these posts over at The Millennial Jamaican’s blog:
- U.S. of the Caribbean Series
- Samoya: The Struggle is Real in Both Jamaica and the U.S.
- Interview with Aneakaleigh, Content Director (The Caribbean Millennial)
… and don’t forget to connect with us and share this post on your favourite platform!