Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The West Indian Diaspora to the USA: Remittances and Development of the Homeland

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The West Indian Diaspora to the USA: Remittances and Development of the Homeland

Article excerpt

Introduction and the Concept of Home

It often is said that you can't go home again. Indeed, was it not Stuart Hall who said that "You can go home again, you just can't stay?" (1) Roy Bryce La Porte continues this argument by contending that because there exists a wide range of differences in the manner and condition in which Blacks have left their ancestral or native homelands in the process of being dispersed all over the world, some rather interesting dimensions have begun to develop among blacks in the diaspora with regard to these notions of "home". (2)

Hence the concept "home" or "homeland" for Blacks in the diaspora may refer to different places, real or imagined, in their treks across the continent and passages across the ocean to the city or locality of their present abode. (3) Further, for these diasporic Blacks, Bryce La Porte pointedly contends that "home" "may well be their official country of origin or birth, adopted country of resettlement or nationality, or their intermediate country of passage; for others it may be a spiritual or biblical reference." For those who seek to "return" it may well refer to a set of conditions or state of being, a condition or state to be striven for, emulated, or constructed, or a place of destination (not always coincident with their precise place of origin) to which they hope to (re)migrate, (re) settle, prosper and retire. (4)

Contextually, this debate rings true for many in the black diaspora of old. Initially torn from the motherland (Africa) by greed and profit, initialized by slavery and a new world plantation system, diasporic Blacks were forcibly transplanted to strange new homelands in Europe, minimally and maximally to the New World nations of Latin America; North, South, and Central America; and the Caribbean.

During slavery, emancipation and the end of slavery, these diasporic Blacks were so forcibly stripped of their culture that they had no realistic notion of "home"--namely Africa--or in some instances had a distorted, and anglicized or europeanized version of what "home" is (was). To be sure there were exceptions where diasporic Blacks returned to Africa Sierra Leone and Liberia for example--and became one again with their "sending" societies. And, yes, there were millenarian and nationalistic movements--Garveyism, Father Divine, Black Muslims, and the like--that focused on the glories of the "motherland" (Africa) and worked to spark the liberation of all dispossessed Blacks in the homeland and the diaspora. But, generally, "home" for diasporic Blacks was constituted by the societies to which their forefathers were dragged, subjugated, and resocialized--societies in Jamaica, Brazil, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba for example. This was the homeland for these dispersed peoples. In many of these societies, especially Latin and Central American ones, diasporic Blacks formed a minority; they were marginalized and their cultures amalgamated by massive European immigration or incorporation of Native American elements. This was, generally, not so for those blacks in the Anglo-Caribbean nations of Jamaica, Guyana (formerly British Guiana), Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti, in whose societies Blacks formed the numerical majority.

Initially ruled by colonial white minorities, these groups became acculturated Creoles, while others held on to remnants or residuals of African cultures largely nostalgic and symbolic--in societies in geographically-sited areas called the West Indies. Save for the original native Amerindian populations, the West Indies often have been described as migration--oriented societies, inasmuch as they have been brought into being, first by voluntary migrations, later by the process and effects of involuntary forced migrations, and later still by indentured servitude to other immigrants from Asia and Europe. With the abolition of slavery, the formal ending of colonialism, and the granting of political independence and nationhood, many nationals found that this new status did not drastically alter their economic relationship with their international metropolitan former masters in any meaningful way. …

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