As my mother placed me next to the window seat on the plane, I started losing myself in my thoughts on this life-changing flight from Jamaica to the United States of America. I was an immigrant ready to navigate the murky waters that were about to anchor my American Dream. Upon arrival, I felt welcomed with half-opened arms. A warm embrace with some hesitation but still welcoming. My eyes were wide open to an American Dream that was delayed for 250 years while my ancestors negotiated their freedom. Decades later, after a brutal standoff, I was free to dream of a brighter future, partially.
At times I felt like raw dough on the American soul, treading in self-rising flour, mixed and battered with the hands of my kinfolks. Their dry, brittle hands mixed all their hopes and dreams in the pursuit of whipping up a bowl of possibilities and hope. Leaving behind scraps of peace within the storm. My skin color allows me to blend in with other melanated souls, but around the edges, there are traces of an island girl, lost but not hopeless, excited but not cautious, sitting in a crowd, yet alone.
I did my fair share of reminding folks that I’m not here to take anyone’s place but rather stand in my rightful place as your soul sister, helping to bring about a brighter future for all our children, carving out my rightful piece of the American pie.
There have been times I had to reach behind my back to grab the brave version of myself to stand in my truth without watering down my existence for the comfort of others. I was subconsciously asking for permission to share an open space, standing off to the side or waiting for my turn where there was no visible line. And over time, my existence dismantled the notion that I was second class to the land keepers.
My feet are now firmly planted on the ground that has been seeded with melanin juice that quenches my thirst when I’m saturated in fear, feelings of unworthiness, and thoughts of being inadequate to my calling. Coming to America has allowed me to add my complexion to the melting pot of great possibilities. Immigration is a sensitive topic for most; it’s my life, story, and window of opportunities. Jamaica birthed me, but America grew me. So, for that, let me bow my head in gratitude, love, and honor to a country that welcomed me as I am.
Laura Kandewen, Richmond Hill