Tag Archives: Culture

Allegiance – the European edition

I’m sitting here, nestled between the mountains of central Europe, wondering, ‘wha de rasss I doin hay??’ (Sorry mom, but really – that’s what went through my head and I’m just trying to be honest with the people.) I’m now on the tail-end of what has been a life-changing month of traveling in Europe. The original intent was to attend a Drama Education workshop, plant a flower on the patch of Paddington where Dad’s navel-string is buried,  knock around good old London for a bit, visit a friend in Paris, and come home with the glow of newness, re-energized for life and ready to take on Crop-Over. The actual experience, though, has transcended intent and revealed another dimension to life entirely. Whilst an open mind is a solid foundation for happy travels, some amazing things happen when you travel with an open heart…

  1. You make friends. Real ones.
    It’s not always easy being a creative person – in thought, expression and perspective – especially in a conservative community.Barbados is my paradise home but it doesn’t always ‘get’ me. Bajans are beautiful people but I’ve learned to accept that even as a beautiful Bajan myself, I’m different from a lot of them. I love to reach out and connect with people, but we don’t always speak the same language. It gets tiring sometimes to have to constantly ‘translate’ and I long for moments of understanding, true and common understanding. On this trip, I found that. I made human connections that defied age, race, ethnicity, language, background, class, status, experience and culture. I renewed one golden friendship and made a couple new ones – the kind of friendships that you instinctively know will last always, in one way or another.
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  2. You find affirmation.

    I’m crazy. I’m spontaneous. I’m too ‘spur of the moment’. I’m irresponsible. I’m different. I’m bold. I’m mad. I’m weird. I’m quirky. All these things I’ve been told. As fun as it can be to be me, I sometimes wonder if I’m really going to turn out alright. Kind of ironic that most of the time on this trip, I’ve been the ‘other’, yet it’s affirmed many things about myself that are sometimes problematic. A lot of the time, I’ve been the only West Indian, the only black person, I’ve been the youngest, I’ve been the only English-speaker, the only musician. Perhaps it’s the contrast effect – you know how blue is bluest next to orange? I’m reminded that it’s not just ‘ok’ to be me – it’s a cause for celebration.*
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  3. You find out where your heart is.
    “Home is where the heart is,” it’s said. They also say that “you can never go home again.” I suppose I’ve found that both are true at various times. It’s certainly true that ‘home’ for anyone is defined much more by what is inside you than by what is around you. When you step outside for a moment – outside of your country, outside of your usual mindset, outside of your comfort zone – and the only comforts lay inside you, your core is suddenly and surprisingly distinguishable from all the externals, the people and perspectives that have the most influence on you. The crowd noises are too far away to be heard and your own whispers become shouts and screams. The desires you sacrifice to maintain ‘balance’ are no longer ignorable. The restraints others and you yourself impose aren’t there anymore – you begin to think and act as you truly feel and believe. It can be scary, it often feels unsafe, yet there is no doubt that you are at your freest when your heart is truest ;-).
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  4. You discover that the only bridge between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ is courage.
    Many things are new and you start to exercise your bravery, more out of necessity than anything else. There’s no macaroni pie on the menu, so sure – I’ll have the Erdäpfell-spinat-schafkäseroulade. What do you know – turns out I love sheep cheese. And quiche with goat-cheese. And mountains, and swimming in fresh-water lakes, and dancing to Francophone techno, and a host of other things which required suspension of expectations and activation of courage. After a few days of exercising your courage muscles in everything, down to meals even, you start to become courageous in thought. You think about situations, relationships, dreams and goals, and anxieties. You think about them in ways you never have before. New alley-ways of perspective are suddenly open – you didn’t even realize that fear had rendered them inaccessible. When I get back home, when the familiar is the default, I’m going to challenge myself to choose the option labeled ‘courage required’ a little more often, whether that option is apparent or not. Heck, I’ll invent it when necessary. Extraordinary is well within reach.
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  5. Wine is fabulous.I’m serious.If ever there was a doubt, Alcaeus is verified – in vino veritas. The Europeans are really onto something. I’ve always liked wine, and Bajans bust it out at the special occasions – the artsy-fartsy events, recitals, parties, proper dinners. Some like to have a glass while everyone else is having rum, to distinguish themselves as ‘cultured’ or whatever. In my house, the standard liquid requirement is mauby. Ya caan not got mauby in de cubburd. When tings tight, might not got nuh soft-drinks nor nuh Tampico nor even nuh pine-hill juice tuh offuh, but if you come at me ya know ya cud at least get lil sweet an dandy. And that’s how these folks are about wine. Any and every day, any and every occasion – from sun-bathing on the lake to lazing in the hotel room, dinner, dancing, driving, whatever. You share a glass or two (or bottle or two…) and you’re so relaxed – the guard is down and all company is free to communicate honestly and simply. And honesty and simplicity are key.*
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About 36 hours left ‘til I leave Europe, and I can’t wait to keep living. With these new lessons in the bag, I’m certain that life will be spectacular.


By the Rivers of Babylon

HAPPY ERROL BARROW DAY!

Well people, we back wid a vengeance! (so to speak). We want to keep this unique line of communication and resource that is PledgeAllegiance available to you.

It’s a fine day to be Bajan (as is everyday) and a better day for a relaunch!

On to business…

Every year, Barbados, like other Caribbean islands and lesser-developed nations, exports what is a most valuable commodity. We export young people (and the young at heart) whose goal is to further their education. Brilliant minds!

Many of you reading this belong to this group (after all, the mission of this blog is to keep you connected in our own way) & that is great.

But now you “are” an emigrant, a foreigner, different, a minority, African-American or Black (as opposed to Caribbean or Barbadian). Some people find it hard to wrap their head around the fact that the distinct intonation that is your unique accent is actually real, whether you are of African descent or not. I say that you “are” these things because, let’s face it; the society you’ll be trying to navigate will label you this way. This is how they will initially perceive you. For some, they will hold tight to that perception just to be comfortable. You don’t have to accept these labels, but it can be shock being thrust into a storm of cultural relations.

And so, one inevitably struggles with how to maintain aspects of oneself that are culturally related; and constantly presented with situations that, aware of it or not, are in fact markers along one’s journey to a well-assimilated individual or an individual experiencing difficulty defining oneself in a new culture. However, assimilation (the process of absorbing the culture and mores of another population or group) does not have to be synonymous with discarding/forgetting one’s past.

How do you navigate what is now a new reality, so to speak?

I asked my Facebook friends to weigh in on the topic by sharing any advice that they would give to foreign students coming to the US (read: any other country).

  • Be prepared to work hard.

Jah will bring forth milk & honey, yes. But it will only happen as long as you are aware that contrary to popular belief, The Land of Milk & Honey only exists where one is willing to raise the cows and milk them yourself; and become a beekeeper and bear some stings. Nothing will be given to you. Chances are because you are “different” you may have to work a little harder than every one else (sometimes just based off the fact that no one understands a word you are saying because of your accent). It is definitely a case of action speaking louder than words. If you put in the work and stay prepared, when the opportunities arise, they will allllways be yours.

  • “Us Americans can be rude, sometimes closed-minded, but don’t take it  personal. Most of us are good people.” – from an American friend

It is within the nature of a human being to fear what he or she does not understand… or at least avoid it. Just be yourself and make some friends. It is important to develop a social network. A strong supportive one doesn’t have to be large, but should be effective in adding to your experience positively while you are far away from home.

I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention the phenomenon that occurs when you are the only person, on campus or in your new locale that is of your origin. People automatically come to see you as the Representative of your culture, nationality, country; and you automatically become the archetype of what a(n) >insert your nationality here< is, & how a whole nationality behaves. Certainly there is a level of ignorance that must exist to comfortably place that burden on an individual. But the fact of the matter is that it happens. I am not telling you not to live your life the way you see fit and are happy to do. I am saying that like it or not you become the unofficial ambassador of a country, so choose an aspect of your life that you will be glad to accept the responsibility and act accordingly; whether that be academics, professional relationships, social interactions, athletics, etc.

  • Try not to get mix up in Babylon system!

As a former Resident Assistant, I have seen the effects irresponsibility has on many a foreign/international student career. There are rules at university (who knew???) and if you get caught breaking them you will suffer the consequences. In some cases offenses, alone or when repeated enough times, will land you a suspension or expulsion. Not being in school when on a student visa is a no-no, and the fastest way to find yourself back home before you even get a chance to make Dean’s List.

Beyond the penalties your college imposes, if your offense breaks the law, you will end up out of school. Do not pass go; do not collect your degree. You will be deported.

So I guess my advice would be… Don’t. Get. Caught. Juuust Kidding! Actually a major problem for us coming from countries where for example the drinking age is 16/17, is dealing with the alcohol laws in countries like the US (21???  Who does that??). In MY opinion (and not necessarily the opinion of anyone else who is associated with this blog), don’t get caught. I am saying that based on the assumption that telling you not to drink will be a waste of (internet)breath and you will do it anyway. Seriously though, be smart about the choices you make. And if you are breaking a rule, don’t earn the award for the idiot who posts the pictures on facebook or jeers at the security camera. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

  • Kiss the right person’s ass.

Ok so maybe these words are a bit harsh, so to be politically correct, in the words of Ms. D. Lashley herself, “Make strategic alliances – get personal and friendly with the staff in the bursar’s office and student affairs.”

This is valuable advice for life. Period. Find some one you like to interact with in each office that isn’t a hard ass (He/she doesn’t need to be your bff) and forge a genuine relationship with that person. On days when the money dad wired is coming via a sloth and you can’t make a payment, or your flight got cancelled and you can’t move out by the deadline, or you absolutely need to get into that class because it is a requirement, having a friendship with a bursar, a Residence life hall director, or a registrar is extremely helpful.

And last but not least, and of the most importance it seems,

  • Stay connected to your culture

This was the most offered piece of advice. It is also, in my opinion, the most valuable. This is how you stay grounded. This is how you do not forget who you are, where you came from, where you’re going and what it takes to get there. This is how assimilation, though not always smooth, becomes less of a stressor.

–       Communicate often with relatives and friends from back home. Sometimes all you need is to hear a familiar voice.

–       Join a group or an organization that relates to your culture. It’s a great way to meet people who share similar beliefs and have a similar background. Yes, I know, the point of college is to diversify, expand, and appreciate differences, & build new relationships. If you don’t join a group or you are not on a campus with a high population of Caribbean students, making connections with other international students is a good idea.

You will miss home. If you don’t miss home in its entirety you will miss aspects of it. The food, the music, the people, the language, the customs… at a minimum you will learn to appreciate all the thing that came together for you to have the absolutely unique and fantastic experience of a Bajan/Caribbean upbringing.


As it is INDEPENDENCE…

It would be a great disservice to my bajan heritage not to say a few words on this most auspicious occasion!

43 and we gine strong! We have come a looong way from Bussa, 4 hip roofs, “dese days is funny nights”, and Redifusion (cause spelling it differently would just be wrong). I ain really come to write nuh whole lotta sentimental tings (not at this hour anyway) cause I want to get back to gourmandizing  muh conkies… But any how I was sittin down tinkin bout tings dat I would love to see happen in Bim… and some tings dat I would love to stop gine on too, some tings dat I hopin for and some tings dat does bother my soul. So in de hopes dat somebody actually reading dis ting, hear wha gine on:


  • Bajans should aim to maintain control of  bajan strongholds, for example, hypothetically speaking of course, it would look kinda bad for something like the Barbados central bank to be owned by Trinidad. Hence
  • Barbados should aim to counteract the the triple-ization process of the the republic of trinidad and tobago. no offense my trini bredren
  • Shontelle, Hal Linton, Livvi Franc and all my undiscovered bajan artistes are gonna knock this world off their musical behinds. They have already started by the way.
  • Significant improvements need to be made to the health system, particularly in the area of mental health. It is not enough that everybody has access to healthcare – there is always room for improvement.
  • I hope Bajans get serious about our health: We have a very high rate of obesity, especially among women. this means that we probably also have a high rate of obesity related diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and an increased risk for getting these and other deadly diseases.
  • Bajans STILL need to stop being so malicious… and I mean malicious in both the bajan and the dictionary way.
  • We need to wise up and let go of the stigma we have attached as a culture to HIV/AIDS. Knowledge is power. Get tested. Protect yaself.
  • I hope that the Arts is never removed from the education system in Barbados. It plays an integral role in learning and cultivating well rounded individuals who don’t grow up to feel trapped inside the box of the droid.
  • That said I hope we never remove religion from schools either, because contrary to popular belief, it helps contribute to the forming of ^that well rounded individual^.
  • I can get eclipse biscuits at my local rite aid pharmacy cheaper than I can in Barbados . . .    (something is inherently wrong with that)
  • I want de ministry of education to rethink the system they have set up which mandates scholars etc to repay their debt to the government in one specific way. Diversifying options might curb the exportation of the talent and genius we cultivate.
  • Pinehill need to revisit wha it is dat went wrong wid de peanut punch!!! FIX IT!!!
  • And of most importance to me: Bajans need to be very concerned about the fact that Barbados is categorized as a water scarce country. We need to be more aware of the integral role that water plays in us being who we are as a people, a nation, a culture, and a marketable commodity/product. With ground water supplies at a significant low that means that finding water for us to drink, wash and cook with, and use for irrigation is becoming increasingly difficult for the BWA, so much so that there are talks of buliding a reverse osmosis plant to bottle water? It may just be me but for an economy so heavily based in the beauty of our environment we can be pretty clueless about what is going on around us because of us. (in depth blogpost coming soon). The Minstry for the Environment etc. needs to do a little bit more to educate the public.
  • Why the BWA website look so meager??? and given the above this is an absoloute atrocity!!!
  • Why nobody ain save the Swamp/Bird Sanctuary in Graeme Hall??? chuh man ya spoil um
  • With this swine flu epidemic wunna really need to take advantage and consume ridiculous amounts of bajan cherry and shots of bush tea bitters! (contact your local grandparent for more bushtea info)

Happy Independence my Beautiful people!!!


Break the silence – Take back the power

Guys I promise that the world (and Allegiance) is going to stop talking about the Chrihanna situation…

That said, we cannot however, stop talking about domestic violence. Silence gives power to societal and cultural maladaptations. Soooo ironically, I cannot even begin to tell you how disturbed I was to stumble across a video while satisfying my celeb juice craving… you know what I’m talking about. That dirty little place that you go to fill up your dirty little desire for all things celebrity (I hope that you are adequately feeling the guilt that one should feel for indulging in the fodder). But I digress…

I want you to access the video so that you can see what I saw. (Hopefully the video is still there when you click… but, on second thought, hopefully not). I don’t want to misrepresent or violate the ideals that PledgeAllegiance upholds. I don’t want to objectify and dehumanize the seriousness of the situation, because these are real people in this video. Do not feel compelled at all to watch the video as it is something that I, as a Caribbean woman, found very difficult to watch. . . but I did anyway for pseudo-journalistic purposes.

For those of you who would rather not contribute to the trivialization of the domestic violence issue, I will summarize-ish and get thru the meat so that we can pick this bone. This video disturbed me because:

  • It was 8 minutes and 3 seconds of domestic violence
  • It was 8 minutes too long of domestic violence being documented
  • It was 8 minutes too long of domestic violence being documented by a third party and witnessed by others who chose not to intervene … until the last 45 seconds(like bad reality tv)
  • It was 8 minutes too long of Caribbean stereotypes, double standards, and no one choosing to rise above the social norms that are “culture”
  • It was 8 minutes too long of a woman making me feel disappointed to share the same woman parts/reproductive organs
  • Simply put it was 8 minutes too long of a man getting his ass beat.

But there is nothing simple about the complexities evolving in the video. A woman beating a man outside a night club (that was my real summary :- S) in Trinidad (insert any other C’bean island name there). Lets pause on that for a while. If you didn’t watch, picture it. There is nothing simple about the psychological and social phenomena occurring in this video: Why noone intervenes; Why this man responds in the way that he does. Why this woman is acting this way. why the police .. . well we already know about them……

But the fact that it can even be entertaining is disturbing. It obviously was for the camera man. I am ashamed to admit that I couldn’t stop watching . But it was like a fatal accident, I couldn’t look away. And I found myself doing that laugh thing…you know the one you do when you really don’t know how to process or react to what you’re seeing. I call it the Comfort-zone-denied laugh. Because there is nothing comfortable about watching another human being abuse another(outside a ring?). But when you grow up in a male dominant culture . . . in a very “traditional” Caribbean society based on certain unspoken precepts, watching a woman abuse a man and “get away with it” almost defies the laws of “existence”. For some very strongly rooted in certain beliefs it is the equivalent of getting away with talking back to your mother- – – should never happen!!! For some, victim does not equal man – not at the hands of a woman. . . Actually victim does not equal man who lives to speak about it.

But the only good thing if at all about this video, is that it makes reverse abuse real to those who don’t believe in its existence. The truth is that it has to break the prototypes, stereotypes and preconceived notions that one has about domestic violence and abuse.  And that is just about the saddest statement I have made in a while. Because to say that would imply that the only way that it can exist is if it is seen, and that sets a dangerous precedent when dealing with all the other ills that are debilitating our society and have been doing so for a long time.

But I want to know how it makes you feel.

What would be different if the roles were reversed?

What about the spectators? Can we really ignore their role in this problem?

How do you think the situation would have played out if the Police had actually showed up.

Transplant the situation to a non-caribbean nation… does anything really change?

Because I’ll tell you what didn’t change – what was the saddest thing that could have happened . . . At the 8 minute mark he hopped right in the car and went home . . . with her.

Our Silence takes Our Power


Eff ya gine lime, Lime in Luxury!!

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“Don’t just strive for perfection cause that sounds like your patronising yourself. You have to go one step further and believe perfection if you really want to do your best.”

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been following the fashion line Luxury Limin over the past year or two. I’m so glad that the evolution of Bajan fashion seems to be keeping up with the island’s new generation of foward-thinkers and movers. (Imagine if, in our quest to display pride and connect with our motherland, all we had to turn to were those tourist shirts, a la Mall 34!! Bajans, you know wha I talkin bout.) So I am watching Luxury Limin just as one watches a wave some distance of the shore building, and cresting…waiting anxiously for when it’s readily available here in the US!! Online would be great. But I bet Foerver 21 would sell them too!

Meanwhile, thanks to Facebook again, I managed to make a connection this week with one of the visionaries behind the movement, John Aymes…randy-plain-polo1

Who is John Aymes: in 5 words!
John Aymes is “never tired-bored; always thinking”

When and how was 3 Points Fashion founded?
3 Points fashion was founded in 2006 but the name symbolises the shared vision of three like-minded individuals who met two years prior to the company being formed. Fashion is one facet of that shared vision but at the heart of it, it’s creating, innovating and challenging limits, inspiring and entertaining people, especially Caribbean people, wherein our passion lies.

How has the company grown since its inception? What successes and challenges have you met?
The company is just us three, at the core, in our varying capacities, so the company grows as we grow and gain experience. I think because of the way we approach things we are always growing, never satisfied always agitating, re-questioning, exploring new avenues to improve and get better, which benefits us, others around us, win-win. But Luxury Limin specifically, I can say we started out from the beginning doing more than regular crew cut tees. We had this sheer scoop top in our first fashion show with ‘Bussa’ on it that everyone loved. Since then we have added hats, polos, jackets, hoodies. We used to deliver exclusively, that was the only way you we could get the clothes to our customers in the beginning. That is how we developed a relationship with our clientele early on and got a feel for what people wanted. Now, in addition to having it delivered, you can buy our styles from dB Boutique on Fontabelle.

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The name suggests that the Luxury Limin line embodies a marriage of culture and high standard apparel. Why the focus on such culture-specific designs as opposed to a more generic line?
There is nothing generic about what 3 Points or Luxury Limin wants to accomplish so whatever we put out there is intentionally specific and targeted. Here is an alternative to wearing American flags and symbols and slang.
A brand that rivals any brand in the world for quality, style and relevance to Barbadian people.
That’s as close to perfection as you can get in the context, no? I’m not saying we’re perfect but that’s what we aim for, anyone should aim for: don’t just strive for perfection cause that sounds like your patronising yourself. You have to go one step further and

believe perfection if you really want to do your best. That being said we are always working on improving quality and keeping it at a high level. I wouldn’t sell anything that I wouldn’t wear personally. I’m a little skinnier, well maybe more than a little, skinnier than I was when we started the line in ’06 but the fit of the tees is still flattering and that’s what I like, that I can wear my own clothes willingly and really set off an outfit.

Are there any plans for expanding distribution across the region, to the US, or to the UK? When will Luxury Limin be available online?

Actually thats our mantra this year: EXPANSION. Exploring some opportunities at the moment but we’ll let you know

for sure when we’ll be a fully functioning e-tail business and or where to look for us next on the map. I should be able to confirm that next time you interview me. *wink* The long term plan includes a regional, international direction most definitely. The question should be where don’t we want to take the brand, some uninhabitable places on the planet, we’ll set up shop there after we’re everywhere else.

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