Alysia is no stranger to the podcast, she was on episode COF 014 where we celebrated Caribbean Heritage Month.
On this episode Alysia returns to the show to help me discuss the topic: ” Being Unapologetically Caribbean-American, Why its Important and Why should you care?” The short answer is – because no one else understands your Caribbean heritage and culture like we do. We understand how your culture influences every aspect of your life.
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Personal, nuanced, and layered discussion of being Caribbean and Caribbean American. Love it!
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Alright for this episode of the podcast, I have a guest with me Alysia Christiani of the website, Rewind and Come Again. And Rewind and Come Again is one of my favorite Caribbean cultural blogs and Alysia is no stranger to the podcast. She was actually here back in June when we did an episode on Caribbean Heritage month. Alysia welcome to the show.
Alysia:Thank you for having me.
Kerry-Ann:It’s a pleasure. Now we’re doing the episode a little different because we had a little technical issue, so we’re using one mic. So we’re going to project and if Alysia ducks out a little bit, it’s because she is naturally soft spoken, but not to worry, the topic is going to be a great topic today. The topic of the show is Being Un-Apologetically Caribbean American; why it’s important and why you should care. And I wanted Alysia because she have a culture blog and we just love it, and she is one of the best people I could think of for having this conversation. Now why are we talking about this? As a background, a few weeks ago, someone asked me about the podcast and why I focus on Caribbean American and I’m like what do you mean by why? I’m Jamaican. I’m Jamaican; I was born there, I went to high school, I did all sorts of things there. I came to this country when I was 14 and I have very strong ties to my friends in Jamaica. And naturally as a Jamaican or a Caribbean person in New York– not just New York, but Brooklyn, you know our culture is a badge of honor, a strike, we wear that proud. And so, why wouldn’t I celebrate that pride on the podcast? So this is why this episode is into being. And Alysia is going to help me talk about why it’s just important, not just for me, but for other content creators, Caribbean girls who blog, Style & Vibes, Soca Mom, and all these other blogs with our awesome colleagues and collaborators why we focus on Caribbean culture. Right Alysia?
Kerry-Ann:Great, great, great. So Alysia, why do you think it’s important that this podcast, why the podcast focuses on Caribbean American entrepreneurs and just a Caribbean American career focus? Why is that important and why should anyone else care that the podcast, Rewind and Come Again focuses on the Caribbean American Diaspora or demographic?
Alysia:Well I think one, it makes you stand out from the crowd, because there are a million other blogs, websites, podcasts out there. And so, it’s important to cover a subject that is close to your, and dear to your heart. So if your culture, your heritage, where you come from is important to you and it’s a part of your life, why would you ignore it in the work that you do? Why would you ignore it even if your content is about finance, if it’s about career, if it’s about motherhood? If you culture informs that, why wouldn’t you address that? Also, Caribbean Americans are a force in America, in New York, and in Brooklyn in particular where a large audience with a lot of power, and the mainstream in general is not speaking to us.
Alysia:We have very specific needs, very specific issues and problems, and what you cover in entrepreneurship and business, they are very particular; things that you know, stereotypes or preconceived notions or how to navigate the business world that will be very specific to us, that other communities or the mainstream community might not focus and have an issue with. So it’s important that you’re doing a service that other people are not providing by focusing in on this population. And that’s why it’s important that you call it out
Kerry-Ann:Right, right. And part of that was also due to a lack of representation on the web. So you will not have a problem, and we said this in the last episode that you were here, you will not have a problem finding some website that celebrates carnival, dancehall, dancing or movies. Entertainment is covered. We have that covered. There’s a million and one–even podcasts, because there are podcasts with top tens, and there are lots of blogs that will cover that, but there won’t be a lot of platforms that will speak to a Caribbean American or a Caribbean person’s experience in the workplace. There won’t be too many platforms that focus on entrepreneurship or developing entrepreneurship specifically to Caribbean Americans. So it was important for me because that was what I was looking for and when I went to look for that, I didn’t find that. And that is why Carry on Friends focuses on entrepreneurship, career and we also celebrate culture. It’s where career, entrepreneurship and culture intersect because it’s part of us, we can’t separate culture, it is so in our blood, it goes through our veins so deeply, and it’s important that we give voice and we spotlight and celebrate other Caribbean Americans that are doing great things. I mean Paul C. Brunsen was on the show, he’s great.
Alysia:That was an amazing episode.
Kerry-Ann:Thank you. The woman the other day, I can’t remember her name, that was promoted for Home Depot, that was great. And it’s great and we celebrated because when I went to my Facebook, about 1 million people shared that article about this woman. I have to find her name, what’s her name?
Alysia:But I did also see some blow back where people were like, “Just ’cause she’s Jamaican, why is everyone going crazy?” Like so what?
Kerry-Ann:But this is it, we’re going crazy because we don’t see it very often. It’s like we want to celebrate it. So she’s doing good, it’s perfect example. You are going someplace or you’re– this happens to me all the time in Brooklyn, I’m talking to someone and you hear that little inflection of an accent. The minute you hear it, you switch, like what’s going on. It’s like this unspoken thing that oh…
Kerry-Ann:You recognize, like “You come from the islands. Alright cool.” So for us, we celebrate that, but we shouldn’t wait to celebrate someone only because they are internationally or nationally recognized. They had to come from someplace else, they had to work really hard to get there. So what Carry on Friends does, we will spotlight the Paul C. Brunsens and the Michael Lee Chin should he ever come on this show–that would be so awesome. But we also want to talk about the other entrepreneurs that are–they’re having challenges, because it’s not always going to be a success story. There has to be a story that conveys a challenge because if we keep telling success stories, then I’m doing a disservice and not managing your expectations, because it is not going to be successful out the gate. It’s especially hard–we’ll take on the challenge as Caribbean Americans because that’s what we do, being an entrepreneur is in our blood. But we also have to manage that we’re not trying to be an entrepreneur in the Caribbean selling what we can sell to get by, we’re competing in a global economy. And we have other people who are tech savvy, they are–they just know a lot of things. So you also need to be aware of the challenges. I’m looking forward to profiling a childhood friend of mine, David, who has a T-shirt line. He’s had this line for years and he’s had some challenges. The brand isn’t where he wants it to be. He’s had some challenges, but you can benefit from his story because now everyone has a T-shirt line, and you think now oh, I’m just going to come out with a T-shirt line and it sells money, it doesn’t work that way. You know there’s a lot of work that gets into having a successful T-shirt line, bag line– even the journal. I came out with a journal and it does well, but there’s still a lot of journals that need to be sold. Your expectations need to be managed, you need to understand there’s some things that I probably should have done differently, but…
Alysia:Also as an entrepreneur, you need to use every tool in your kit to get you where you–your next step, where you want to go right. So a lot of people do not see culture and heritage as a viable tool to be used, they don’t think of it that way. They think I’m Grenadian, I’m Bahamian–what does that have to do with me trying to sell X,Y, Z or produce this product. They can be a selling point. Depending on your industry and how you want to position yourself, you can use this to gain a whole new audience, you can use this to gain new vendors, position yourself apart from the pack of–if you’re developing apps, maybe your cultural heritage can inform that and get you a whole new audience. So a lot of times people, they don’t even think about it. They are whatever they are at home, but when they step out into their workplace or office or whatever, they leave it behind when it can be a valuable tool that can help differentiate them, get them a whole new audience, a whole new way of thinking. And I like that what you are doing is helping people to think that way.
Kerry-Ann:Thank you. And Paul said that at the end of his episode, I asked him about being an immigrant and from the Caribbean, and he said because you are from a smaller place, you are uniquely equipped to see things differently because of those restraints that we had. But we – most of us aren’t really using that like you said. You know I’m using as part of my culture, I work very hard and I get things done, but I’m not necessarily using that I’m Jamaican and people are like oh wow, you are from a small country and you are able to do this, you know tell me more. I literally watched a YouTube video with Carla A. Harris and she was talking about, she said she hated when people said, “Oh, this is Carla A. Harris and she’s a gospel singer. She has that…” She’s like I don’t want people to know that I’m a banker, I’m smart, I’m this, I’m quantitative – I don’t want to talk about that, but she recognized that when she went to certain clients, their eyes lit up because she’s a singer. They’re like “oh wow, my daughter is interested”. Our culture can be that conversation piece that allows other people like – how many times have I said oh I’m from Jamaica? I went to an interview and they said like “Yeah, I got married in Jamaica last year.” And I’m like which part? And you start going into these conversations.
Alysia:Icebreaker, foot in the door.
Kerry-Ann:Exactly. And it doesn’t work everywhere, you know that but it shouldn’t be something that we are – I don’t say, I don’t think we are ashamed of it, but we literally just treat it as, this is a part of ourselves that we just do not show to anyone and it stays at home. And sometimes that’s a disservice because when I used to manage a team of paralegals, I had college students come in from different schools, Baruch and John Jay. I remember this one young man, he came in and I asked a question about one of his weakness, and you know what he said to me his weakness was? His accent. He said his accent. And I got it because as immigrants, we have that accent and we try to speak the proper English, and then you are less focused on what you are saying, you are more focused on how you are saying it and then you start sounding weird. His insecurity or his weakness was his accent. And I said – I had to say to him, how long have you been in this country? It was probably not a good question to ask, but that was the opportunity for me as a Jamaican who came to this country a long time ago having that experience, but in high school. But in high school it was different because then everybody wanted to be Jamaican. And I said to him I have been in this country for a long time, you are concerned about your accent, you will work on that overtime, but I said do not ever say that’s your weakness, don’t ever say that is your weakness because then in essence you are saying you are weak because your culture is you, there’s nothing you could do about this, you were born into this culture. And a lot of the kids coming over, they are probably having the same thing when they go on interviews. They’re like oh you know, the little Trini accent…
Alysia:They want to fit in. They want to meld. They want to…
Kerry-Ann:Exactly, fitting in. And in this economy, in this world you cannot fit in, you have to stand out. And if your accent is going to let you stand out, then that’s what’s going to let you stand out. Your culture is going to let you stand out, that’s what’s going to let you stand out, but like Paul said, some people could just walk in and “beat chest”, “I’m Jamaican, gimmi the job.” Some people it doesn’t work like that, but you have to know how to do that and that’s what we try to do with Carry on Friends; provide you with the resources to help you figure out how you’re going to use who you are to your benefit. Again, Carla A. Harris, I should put that in the show notes, yes she is not Caribbean American, and I will clarify that in a minute. She said that’s your competitive advantage, no one else can be you so you just have to be you. And I think for so many years, we enjoy being us when it comes to Usain running, to Bob Marley, Sean – whoever sings, we are Jamaican, we are West Indian, we’re this when Labor Day comes and whatever, but in the workforce, we’ve just been cultured, socialized to blend in. Hold your head down and just go about your way.
Alysia:And that doesn’t do you any service at all, at all.
Alysia:And I think another side to that, is from where I am sitting, I’m not from Guyana right, my parents are, but I claim that heritage as mine.
Alysia:So there’s another piece to that puzzle where sometimes people are like well you are not really from or you know so how are you claiming – I had an aunt ask me why are you writing this Caribbean American blog, why are you writing about this, you are not Caribbean. I was like I’m of Caribbean heritage, that’s how I describe myself, I am of Guyanese heritage. I don’t think it’s right to call myself Guyanese, but I’m of the heritage and I am claiming it. But she was adamant that “You are not from here, you cannot claim it!” And I get the sanctity and the importance of the heritage, but if it’s in you, if it is part of you, if your mother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather came from there and you find some affinity, you find some – to me you don’t have to grow up there to be of the culture. And so to use it in your toolbox when you are providing whatever service or providing whatever product it is you do. So I may not – I will not come out and say I am Guyanese and I am writing about the Guyanese experience, I’m writing about the Caribbean American experience. And it is important for me though, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, I don’t walk around necessarily all day, every day “I’m a Guyanese”, “Ize a Guyanese”. I don’t walk around but it’s so imbued in me that I don’t even have to think about it. So I naturally start to get my little bit of accent when I’m around other West Indians or certain foods and cultural things come up, I just naturally identify with. So then even though if you are not from the islands or the country that’s in the Caribbean, but you have it in your family and you have recognized it as part of your identity, I think it is important not to hide that either and think that I’m not really a part of the culture so I can’t use it to my advantage.
Kerry-Ann:That’s an interesting point. Is this a Caribbean thing? Because the Latinos, I don’t think they have the problem because those kids are growing up bilingual. So you can’t tell them that okay maybe they were born in Brooklyn, but they speak Spanish fluently. So you can’t tell them that…
Alysia:They eat the food. They celebrate the holidays. I don’t see that it’s any different for us.
Kerry-Ann:Exactly. When I first came to this country, I tell you I went to George Wingate High School. It no longer exists.
Alysia:Oh my cousin went there.
Kerry-Ann:Oh my God, Wingate was the CARICOM of – like every country, Caribbean country was represented there. And I remember my first class, Garfield*, and I sat in that health class and I remember down to my outfit that day, and I sat in the class and he turned to me and he said, “Hi, I’m Jamaican. Do you know where Jamaica is?” And I just bust out laughing.
Alysia:Oh my gosh.
Kerry-Ann:Because I guess – you have to understand the culture at that time, everybody was from Jamaica, but when you asked them specifically where they came from, “oh from Kingston” or “Where in Kingston?” “Oh, I don’t remember.” So I kind of get where this whole you have to be from there and you want to represent that, but if I asked you where specifically you come from, it’s not to discredit that you are not from Jamaica. It’s because I want to know more, because maybe I know someone who lives in your neighborhood or wherever. But I think if your parents – I mean look at it from the very simplistic standpoint, your parents are American, you are born in Germany, you are American. It doesn’t matter. You are allowed to take your parents, wherever their country or citizenship is, you can take that. So Caribbean American, Caribbean, it’s also a way of life. It’s just how we do things. At work, I work in the most diverse company I’ve ever worked in my life. I was just telling Alysia before we started recording, it’s the place where Guyanese outnumber Jamaicans like…
Kerry-Ann:…2 to 12 literally. And a Trini person just started, so now we have like what, 2 Trini or 3 Trini people working there. Anyway, so I’m sitting in my – as a project manager, we are sitting in our side of the office and I’m like, “Mi han’ a scratch mi.” Somebody said, “Yuh ago get money!”
Alysia:Like not a thought.
Kerry-Ann:Not a thought, like oh you’re getting money. And my boss, he said what? I was like yeah, when your hand is scratching you, we think you’re going to get money. I called my other co-worker, “My hand is scratching me. What’s happening?” “Oh, you’re going to get money.” Like everyone knew that my hand is scratching, it doesn’t matter which hand at this point, it is scratching – money. So it’s just this way of life, these inherent, these built in things that we all can identify with.
Alysia:And that’s why I think when you have spaces online or in person that embrace and amplify this voice, this Caribbean American voice. It’s also important because if – I worked once, I worked once a long time ago at a law firm and one of the secretaries, I don’t know if she’s Haitian or Jamaican – she was from the West Indies, I’m not sure where, but I remember it was lunchtime and she had brought salt fish for lunch. So she went to heat it up.
Alysia:Me and her I think were like one of the only 2, maybe there were one or two other black people in the office period. And then so being black in an all-white office is one thing, but then to be Caribbean on top of that, like you are like a different kind of black but they didn’t quite understand. So she is heating up her food, not a thing to me, but it starts to get quite pungent.
Alysia:Everyone in there lost their minds, and they – I don’t know if this could happen now, but HR told her that she could not bring that in, she could not have salt fish for her lunch ever again. She could not have it in the office, it was too strong a smell. And beyond that, she felt humiliated because they were talking about it for weeks after. And I understood why, it is a strong smell, but aside from me, she didn’t have anyone to talk to about that, to confide in and to talk about how she felt. So it’s very helpful to find places and spaces where people understand your very specific need or whatever it is you’re going through because as Caribbeans, we’re going to have the things that we go through that no one else is really going to get.
Kerry-Ann:No one is going to get it. I had an experience too. As Caribbean Americans, we are either one of two things, and I also mentioned this in the episode with Paul C. Brunsen, we are there to work, we hold our head down, we’re not there to socialize. And how we socialize depends – has nothing to do with you personally, it’s usually to do with us. So if we don’t talk to you, it is because maybe we don’t like you but we’re still polite to you. We’re not, for the most part, I can’t speak for anyone else, I’m not the chatty type, if I’m chatty at my job now it’s because I really like the people. It’s such a multicultural workspace so there is always this conversation about culture. Almost every conversation we have, it’s about our culture because we are so different. I worked in a space where I was polite, I would say hello, I would say good morning, but I will not just get up and have a conversation with you. And I’m not going to lie, I didn’t like you because I spotted how – you can spot the people in the workspace that are going to do certain things. So you have one of two Caribbean Americans, you’re going to do like a Majah Hype and cuss them off, and we’re not going to do that or – I think what Majah Hype does as a sidebar is he does what we really want to do, but we can’t really do it.
Alysia:Right, that’s why he’s so funny.
Kerry-Ann:Yeah, because it’s like you really want to say that but you know you can’t. And so when I – when I do my work, when I say hello, I do the right amount of interaction, a) I know it’s not great for my career because it’s about power broking and networking within the office, but like we said in the Caribbean, “if mi spirit cya tek yuh, mi just not going to do it”. And I see how that’s affected my career and I’ve seen how people not understanding my type of black. And I’m very sensitive about it because no one sees the difference, you know they see me walking, I’m black. They do not know I’m Jamaican or they don’t know if I’m Afro – they don’t know anything about me, I’m just black. And it’s not their fault they don’t understand the different nuances about my culture which was why I needed to do Carry on Friends because we have to understand that they just see black, they don’t really care, no one cares, even another black person doesn’t know that oh she has an accent, but everyone with an accent is Jamaican. Everyone with an accent isn’t Jamaican. So going even further and drilling further down, no one really knows or really cares. So you have to then know how to react or communicate accordingly how you adjust because it’s not all the time we can expect them to accommodate, so we have to then adjust to their understanding because – is it worth the battle to fight. So again, it’s then using what this inside knowledge, that okay I can be this person, I could be that person and how I’m going to use this with the right person. It’s how you treat that person or have a conversation with that person because maybe that person isn’t ready to connect with part of the culture. It gets very complicated which is why I had to do this because it’s never clear cut, it’s never straightforward. It’s just so many different things that affect how – like I would love to talk to, what her name is? Ann-Marie* Campbell, to see how she navigated that corporate culture to get where she is, because I can tell you navigating as a person from the Caribbean or Caribbean American in a corporate culture, is not easy.
Alysia:Right. I’m sure she came across so much, not just your garden-variety racism or sexism as a woman, but then also once people – I’ve found a lot of times once people find out oh you are from where, your parents are from where? You get a little fetishized, “can you do that accent?”
Alysia:Now that’s a whole other thing you don’t learn in your average how to get along in the workplace or how to do business when you have people now treating you as some kind of exotic thing…
Alysia:And so now, that’s why spaces like this are important because where else are you going to have that conversation and get that advice.
Kerry-Ann:That’s true, all the time. I mean when I’m at work, I’ll tell you this – true story. So no one calls me at work from my family because we all have cell phones – you just text, but in 2007, 2008, smart phones weren’t really where they are now, you still call up, call at work. So I got a phone call and I answered the phone, I said, you know I announced myself blah blah blah. I heard the accent in the person’s voice and the person asked for me, this man asked for me. So in my head, I’m like is which Jamaican man calling asking for me, I don’t recognize who it was because it wasn’t my husband. And so I’m like “mi nuh owe no bill” so who is this calling me, and no one has – but these are the conversations that goes through your head really quickly. So I said, “This is Kerry-Ann” and then it was my brother-in-law and then he says, “My God, I can’t recognize your voice.” But it’s this code switching that we do and then when you build professional relationships, and a lot of us, we build professional relationships without seeing the other person for years or you have clients, you don’t really see them. And when they finally see you, they are like wow, you look nothing like how you sound on the phone, and somewhere in the conversation you are like, “Yeah, you know I’m from Jamaica.” They’re like Jamaica, Queens? I’m like no, Jamaica the island. They are like oh wow. It’s then this interest as to, “how do we live in the cold?” I’m like you know…
Alysia:Like you do with the jacket.
Kerry-Ann:I could say I don’t like it. My favorite saying is like I’m a Caribbean queen not meant to be an ice princess.
Alysia:I like that.
Kerry-Ann:It’s then this interest into how did you get here, why did you come here, you don’t sound Jamaican or you know like…
Alysia:It gets into a whole – I get a lot of, “Oh my nanny is from Guyana!” And I’m like great! One of my old jobs is people used to bring their nannies to work with them sometimes, like they bring the kid with them whatever, it’s like “Oh, did you know that her family is from Guyana too.” And I’m like – and we’re looking at each other like hey, like this is awkward, this is weird. So you know no one else is going to be able to…
Kerry-Ann:Understand that. You know I wanted to go back to something that I said. You know in terms of being a podcast, a blog that focuses on entrepreneurship and career for Caribbean Americans, I reference Carla A. Harris, I’ll reference other entrepreneurs who are not Caribbean American. It doesn’t mean that I’ll only focus on people who are from the Caribbean Americans. My guests on the show are probably going to be mostly Caribbean Americans, people who I spotlight will be mostly Caribbean Americans, but the difference here is these other successful entrepreneurs and public figures, the Carla A. Harris, you know the Steve Jobs, the Bill Gates, their wisdom is their wisdom. It is what it is. The difference between other platforms and this platform is the application. How does it apply to our cultural lenses? How from our cultural perspective are we seeing this? How can we apply this? Because everyone is doing the same thing, it’s just that we don’t know that. So what Carla A. Harris does is different, it’s going to be different from what Sheryl Sandberg does. It’s really, you have the race, culture and you have gender. And how do we apply what they have to say to our circumstances and that’s really the key difference. So yeah, I’ll put Carla A. Harris’ speech to take the lead because I think it is a really powerful speech and how are you then going to take that and apply, what’s your competitive advantage? How are you as a Caribbean, Caribbean descent, wherever you are in the Diaspora, how are you going to apply this to your circumstances? This is what we aim to do, help you take this knowledge that’s widely available on all these other platforms and apply it to your circumstances, because all application isn’t equal. Certain things will just not work for us, there are certain things that we just cannot do. So I think that’s important. We will spotlight, we showcase other Caribbean Americans and their experiences, and again, even within their experiences, how can we apply it to our experiences because – you know Michael Lee Chin started out in a different time that we are starting out. It is extremely competitive right now, because when you go out there, if you are a graphic artist or whoever, you are not just competing with the person in Brooklyn or New York City or New York State or in the Northeast, you are competing with the person in Vietnam, you are competing with the person in London. It’s how are you going to equip yourself to survive in this global economy, the global community is like shrinking, like literally Ghana is right next door. That’s just how we operate. And as a culture, our pride is just what makes us visible, but how are we going to use our competitive advantage of our culture to build stronger brands, businesses and a shameless plug for Caribbean digital divas which is coming out and that’s the panel discussion on brand-name for Caribbean American businesses, but these platforms are needed because in a world of so many other voices, it just seems like we’re just like literally quiet. That’s what it feels like to me, we are there, I hear it amongst other content creators, but I don’t – it’s not as loud as I think it should be and matches what I know is happening because everyone’s head down and, “bwoy mi just a try mek a hustle and mek tings gwaan”.
Alysia:Also, as we were talking about before we got on, what I find a lot of times is in the Caribbean community, Caribbean diaspora, people are lurkers; they don’t pop their head up but they are watching you, they are watching you. So if we didn’t have voices and spaces like this, you know people would still be floating around, picking what they can out of the mainstream areas and trying to make it work for them, but now, even though they may not be loud and proud as some of us are, they might not wear their heritage on their sleeves. You know they may be working at places, 20, 30 years and people not really know where they are from or what they are about, they are not beating their chest, but their culture still informs them and how they move up through their business. So when these spaces pop up, they are paying attention. They are going through the site, they’re listening to the podcast, they are gathering information and using other people’s experience to help them through their day as well. So there is a large silent majority that we are meeting their needs, and we may not know it, but we are meeting their needs, and we may help them get through a situation or how am I supposed to – I’m in Brooklyn and my vendors don’t really know I’m of Caribbean heritage, but maybe I can use it now to up my prices or offer something new or maybe this is an in into another new client that I always wanted to get to. So you never know who is paying attention just because we don’t know – I feel like most of the people I meet in Brooklyn, probably have some type of Caribbean heritage.
Alysia:If they are born and came here first, 2nd, 3rd generation, but a lot of times people don’t speak about it. So having these spaces is important to reach that audience as well.
Kerry-Ann:Thank you and it goes back to the other point. Because we are like the silent majority, you will not see or hear, because I sit on the board of my daughter’s high school, former high school. And it focuses on technology for students, and one of the questions someone asked, a new board member asked was, so one of the important things for any school especially a technical school is they have to get internships and where they are getting internships and why aren’t students following through on what they are learning in terms of technology when they go to college. And the reason why they are not following through, is their parents are traditional, see the traditional jobs as a better option because their parents, whether they are – and most of the kids in the school are from the Caribbean, they are black, they are Spanish, and so those parents understand that you could be a doctor, you could be a lawyer. They do not understand what this whole new technology revolution is about. So the parent is going to push the child for what the parents understands to be a safe and a good career. The challenge comes because the students need to be paired up with people who look like them who are doing great jobs or making money or are successful. So if you aren’t pairing up a student with a another black person who is an animator or someone multicultural, it’s going to be very hard for them to connect how they could make this a long term career. So I say that to say this, it applies to adults the same way. If you only see the Michael Lee Chins or the Usain Bolts or the – all these other people, there is a whole Caribbean Sea between them and us, like how do we get there. So you – the goal is to spotlight other people who, they are on their way they are, but you also need to see them where they are starting out. So you know what’s possible. It’s possible for you to start a podcast because I’m a year into it and if you are interested, I can tell you, we’ll figure out how that goes, but it’s to show you what’s possible because before this, I didn’t know that other people were doing a podcast, before this I didn’t know that Jullien Gordon, my teacher, his parents are from Trelawny, Jamaica, like really?!
Alysia:I did not know that.
Kerry-Ann:Girl, listen to that episode, his dad is from Trelawny. I’m like what?! But it’s in having these conversations, because you see what Jullien is –Jullien is popular, not just in a blog world, but that’s how we were initially introduced to him, but now you see the possibility. He’s not wearing it on his shirt, but because he – because it’s part of his culture, you are like wow you know this exists, we could do this.
Alysia:It’s an inspiration.
Kerry-Ann:It’s an inspiration, exactly. So there’s the inspirational aspect of that because you want to be able to see like wow that person looks like me. You see that in Karen Civil.
Alysia:I love that woman.
Kerry-Ann:You are like what?
Alysia:Oh my God.
Kerry-Ann:Exactly, right? She’s Haitian; she wears that like hmm strike.
Alysia:I went to an event she spoke at once. I was in the front row and like she’s just amazing. Is she Haitian or is she Haitian-American?
Kerry-Ann:She’s probably Haitian-American.
Alysia:That’s what I thought. So I was just blown away because what I often have a hard time with is balance when I’m writing and when I am presenting to my audience; how much is Caribbean and how much is American. And I’m like she does it effortlessly. She’s making moves in big spaces, but she is true to her heritage at the same time.
Kerry-Ann:Exactly. The reason why maybe for you is a challenge, it’s because you’re thinking about it, she’s not. She’s like this is just who I am. Every day my boss says the same thing, “Who are you talking to on the phone?” And I’m laughing like, “What are you talking about?” He is like, “I heard you went into that other voice.” And you know you could laugh about that, but I think for me, the great part of that story is them understanding that you are this multidimensional person and depending on your conversations, you have to switch and it doesn’t make you less of Kerry-Ann, it’s just who I am. So you just have these conversations and eventually people will just understand and appreciate that, you know what, this is Alysia and she will talk American and in a quick second, she will drop some “chirren”…
Kerry-Ann:You know or I’ll be at work, I go *hiss teeth*and you know like people get that. And in doing so, some people will appreciate it because then they are now exposed to this other part of the culture especially in New York City. I think for New York City, it is very easy because people are exposed to all these different cultures. So if you are in the Midwest or you are someplace else and you are doing something that someone doesn’t necessarily understand, it’s that opportunity to explain to them that you know what, this is just something that we do in the Caribbean. Not everyone is going to be comfortable, but at least you took an opportunity to educate someone and if they choose to not appreciate it, that’s not on you, that’s on them, you’re still being true to you. So yeah Karen is out there doing her thing, there’s so many people doing that and embracing that this is their culture, and you know what, my culture made me who I am. I remember when I first came to this country, there weren’t too many Haitian-Americans who were proud to say they were Haitian-Americans…
Alysia:No it was not cool to be Haitian back in the day.
Kerry-Ann:It was not cool. And it was just like – except for my next-door neighbor, I tell you, they were like yes I’m a Haitian and what? But you know for her, even further removed because she’s much younger, it’s like wow, celebrate that, really celebrate the culture and use that as your competitive advantage. And that’s really what Carry on Friends is about, being unapologetically who you are from the Caribbean, whether you are representing Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, wherever you…
Alysia:Born, raised, came when you were little, your grandmother or your mother or whatever, it’s part of you.
Kerry-Ann:It is and you can’t be anyone else but yourself and you just have to be yourself in a way that’s most authentic and for you and do the best you can. Like you know what not everyone is going to be a convert*, it will take them some time to catch up. But the minute you try to blend in, is the minute that you are replaceable at work.
Alysia:Yeah, we don’t live in that world anymore. We did. I distinctly remember my mother giving me very specific instructions, “When you are in this house, you can speak how you want, I don’t care. When you leave this house, when you are in school, when you are at work, you must speak proper English.” And when I would call her at work, “Mommy, we are home.” I didn’t know who it was. I was like mommy? Then she would dip in and…
Kerry-Ann:Which is like the brother-in-law story, like hello…
Alysia:So you know, you got to live your truth and if you are not there yet or if you don’t feel comfortable, I get it. Sometimes that’s not who you are, but understand that this is something that as you need, you can dip into your toolbox and pull this out in your journey to entrepreneurship or owning your own business or selling your products or services. This is definitely something that I believe you should not downplay.
Kerry-Ann:Right, you know and as we wrap up, your culture – you know I’ve heard a lot of stories where people talk about products or services or even cultural things like music video, the Justin Bieber video where you are taking the culture and someone else is making money from your culture. You can’t get upset with that if you don’t want to share or tell people that you know what, this is who I am, I love to sing – and there was a lively discussion on Rihanna’s work, Rihanna is a pop star. She didn’t come out as a Calypso star or a Soca star or a Dancehall star, she came out as a pop star, but when the opportunity happens on every album, there is a song that is a reflection of her culture.
Alysia:That’s a great example.
Kerry-Ann:Every album. So everyone’s talking about “Work”, before that “Man Down”, before that was “Rude Boy”. So everything has always been that. So I’m not saying everything should be oh Caribbean, but in Rihanna’s perfect example, there’s always something she uses to celebrate who she is or from the Caribbean. And sometimes it is not even in the music, it is sometimes publicly like “mi ago Crop Over”.
Alysia:Just a reminder in case you forgot.
Kerry-Ann:Crop over time a come, carnival outfit sort out and everything. It’s these little things that you do to celebrate your culture. And so when Justin Bieber and all a dem bout this tropical thing, like no, no, no don’t get it twisted. It’s Dancehall, it’s just straight Dancehall. And you look at Shrillex and Diplo, all of those people who, they go to Jamaica and they have big raves* and everything and they take what they learn and they bring it back and they capitalize on that. You cannot get upset that someone else is capitalizing on something that you have not tried to do or we are still in that space of blending in. So we also have to take our own culture, understand our cultural brand which is what we will be talking about at Style & Vibes presents Caribbean digital divas, March 24th, get your tickets caribbeandigitaldivas.com for more of these conversations and branding because it is needed especially now. It’s really needed so that is why Carry on Friends is unapologetically Caribbean American, I am unapologetically Jamaican and it is important because it is part of my identity, who I am and it is part of my competitive advantage, the way I will stand out in this world, not just in work, not only in business, but just the way I stand out. And even in a country with other Jamaicans, I’m just going to stand out because you know…
Alysia:And in this digital space especially, it’s so accessible now where as before, there were a lot more obstacles to getting into business and to doing business. Now you need a laptop…
Alysia:And you are good and so are 1 billion other people right. So what are you going to do to make yourself stand out from the crowd? Why would you sit on this valuable commodity of yours and because you don’t want the questions – why would you do that? Unapologetically Caribbean American.
Kerry-Ann:Unapologetically, yes. So I’m so glad that you came on the podcast.
Alysia:Thank you for having me.
Kerry-Ann:We are using the one mic because my little mixer, something was going on…
Alysia:It alright, it work, it work, it working.
Kerry-Ann:We sort it out. So thank you for listening. If you have not connected with us on any part of social media, please connect with me on Twitter and Instagram @carryonfriends Facebook, Carry on Friends Official and you could connect with Alysia at…
Alysia:rewindandcomeagain.com is the site, I’m on Instagram and Twitter @racablog and also on Facebook, Rewind and Come Again.
Kerry-Ann:So I hope you enjoyed this conversation and we would love to hear from you, tweet us, check out the website, leave a comment, if you lurk that’s great, but just give us a little one line so we know that you are there. Just say oye, hail, you know a little hail-bye is good, like hail, everything good. Alright, so until next time, walk good. Oh, before I finish that, so I say “walk good” because it’s a Caribbean – I can’t say Caribbean, it’s a Jamaican thing. So when I say walk good, it’s like you know be careful, have a safe journey, that’s really what it means. So until the next time you listen to me on the podcast, I hope that things work great for you, you are safe, your family is safe – whatever it is, just walk good.