Caribbean students talk immigration and life in America

TROPICAL LIVING Residents of the Carribeans, which include Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica live life based on a tropical setting due to living on an island. Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

By Joy Moton | Staff Writer

Every year, thousands of people leave the clear water and sandy beaches of the Caribbean islands to enter America.

Houston junior Darnelle DesVignes is from Trinidad and Tobago, an island off the coast of Venezuela. DesVignes said the Caribbean is just a melting pot of different cultures.

“Their festivals, food, clothes, music is all a collaboration of different cultures,” DesVignes said.

DesVignes described Trinidad and Tobago as a place where people are more focused on their similarities than their differences. Coming to America was a culture shock for her because America was described as a big melting pot and, coming from another melting pot, she said she thought it would be the same.

“In Trinidad, we have people who are Chinese, black, Spanish, French, Indian, and we don’t categorize ourselves into different categories-you are just Trinidadian,” DesVignes said. “In America, you are black or you’re white. There’s no mixing of different cultures-there’s just separation.”

New York junior Elissa Arthur, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, is a community leader in North Russell Hall. She said being a community leader at Baylor has good and bad to it. A downside has been dealing with people who do not understand what it means to be Trinidadian. She said it can be hard to explain a culture people have not been very exposed to.

“I’ve struggled so much with expressing my culture and struggling with making people understand who I am as a Trinidadian that I’ve kind of molded my events to show who I am,” Arthur said.

Last year, Arthur hosted events where she taught her residents how to cook jerk chicken and hosted a game where she spoke in an accent and residents had to figure out what she was saying.

“I think that allowed the other community leaders on my staff and residents to say, ‘Oh being Trinidadian is cool, I want to learn about Elissa’s culture.’ It also exposed them to who I was, so it made me easier to understand,” Arthur said.

Baylor Alumna and Miss Green and Gold 2017 Amanda Plummer is from Jamaica and appreciates the way people from the country are family oriented and respectful of each other. Although she has family that is still in Jamaica, she said she tries to view both sides of the spectrum where immigration is concerned.

“I understand the side of wanting to come here for freedom and having better opportunities than the country that you currently reside in, but I also understand the side of people coming illegally and all the negative things that happen with that,” Plummer said.

Plummer said there is nothing wrong with people wanting to emigrate to another country until they go about it the wrong way. Plummer believes that immigration is an issue because it is not being dealt with correctly.

“The issue is not that people are or that we need to get them out, it’s the process of how it’s done, and if we do want them to leave, that process needs to be correct too,” Plummer said.

Plummer said America is seen as land of the free, but people also do not realize the amount of chaos that comes with that freedom.

“When you have so many people without rules and so many people from different cultures coming to this place where they feel like they can do what they want, then it calls for this melting pot of craziness,” Plummer said.

DesVignes said immigration is a good thing because it has the power to unify and diversify a country at the same time. She said preventing it would take away the concept of America as the melting pot.

“There is no cookie cutter layout for what an American should look like, believe in or act upon. There is no blueprint of what America should look like. Immigration reform looks like removing the bans and walls that separate us from other countries so that we may hear and see their struggles and identify them as our own,” Desvignes said.