Southern Identity

By Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson

Some may find me difficult to categorize. In most ways the typical islander, a classic “Trini to de bone.” But placed within a foot of some collard greens and I suddenly appear to be something else. Apart from my stubbornly robust accent, I’ve been told I might otherwise easily pass for an American southerner.

I have a well documented love and appreciation for the history, culture and culinary traditions of the Southern United States (the South). I shocked a gentleman the other day, his great grandfather having served with the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. He couldn’t remember the name of a certain US senator credited with saving Madison, Georgia from Sherman’s March……….Joshua Hill by the way. My response and evident Civil War knowledge base prompted him to ask what part of Georgia I was from.


That’s just the thing, I’m not from here but I sure act like it; but does that make me Southern, Caribbean or both?

(funny because I’m Southern Caribbean, owing to Trinbago’s geographical location, but not Southern Trinidadian which often (but not always) implies a whole different ethnic group).

The answer should be clear, I am Trinbagonian, but more and more lately, that no longer seems clear.

One’s environment tends to govern one’s behaviour, speech and mannerisms, even the way one thinks. For twelve years, Atlanta has been my environment and something about this place has had an effect on me.

Most of us Caribbean island expatriates obviously wouldn’t pass for American, but folks at home would have little difficulty in identifying any one of us as foreign.

Permanent Residents

We expats tend to live a dual life, carry two passports, can switch accents on the fly and seem very much at home watching American Football as we might be watching cricket and who will gladly down a funnel cake or a corn dog with the same sort of zeal normally reserved for bake an buljol.

Island-born, island-raised, curry loving, catfish eating, chicken jerking, grits making individuals living happily (mostly) in the United States. Trinbagonians in particular should be intimately familiar with this concept, it is the foundation upon which our own society is built; disparate foreign elements displaced from various places of origin, living together harmoniously in one single place, forming a unified culture all their own.

Our East Indian forefathers (yes I said our) had no idea that their descendants would go on to create doubles, saheena or aloo pie; our African forebears knew nothing of the pelau and oil down that would soon come to pass. But through the passage of time, we went on to create something distinctly different from our own ancestors.

What then will be our legacy? What will those American-born descendants of island parents go on to create? I’m not entirely sure but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll at least involve some type of curry shrimp and grits.

Dwayne Southern Identity


 For more from Dwayne -Check out his blog



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