Inspired by the recent #BlackLivesMatter protests, the Caribbean Racisms issue of online magazine PREE, examines the multifaceted nature of racial and ethnic identity in the Caribbean through the lens of a diverse group of writers.
HERE ARE SNIPPETS FROM SOME OF THE STORIES SHARED…
“I am mixed race – as a young person I had no idea how mixed
– but I was brought up white.”
Diana McCaulayREAD MORE
“You see, my grandfather knew that my mother, who was dark-skinned, needed to speak “perfect” English; needed to conduct herself — through her dress and behaviour — in ways that reassured those in the power structure. If he had any hopes of his children succeeding, then they would be ‘good’ black people.” –CAROL LEVY & ALISON IRVINE-SOBERS
“But what we seem to forget here is that the fight of black people in one land is also the fight of black people across the diaspora.”ISIS SEMAJ-HALL
“Because my mother is a black woman, it was easy for me to conceive of my blackness. It doesn’t matter that I am paler than her; I came out of her body. On the streets of Britain in the 70s I know people thought she was the nanny; that she stole me; we’ve had 50 years of people double-taking on us: ‘really?’”Leone Ross
“She wanted to know if only White people were allowed to go to America. Her nine-year-old antennae had picked up news of protests, and she was struggling to understand the rules that had been broken.”Gabrielle Jamela Hosein
We asked PREE's Editor-in-Chief about her goals around the Caribbean Racisms issue. She told us:
“In the wake of the George Floyd killing in the US and the vigorous and sustained protests that followed, both in the US and internationally, Kei Miller, one of Jamaica’s foremost writers, wrote a longish post on Facebook asking how, in this particular moment, Jamaicans could plan to show solidarity with African-Americans without doing the hard work of introspection right here, at home. His meditation took him back to lessons he had learnt during and after the publication of his groundbreaking 2018 essay, White Women and the Language of Bees, in PREE. Some of the issues he revealed there provoked a series of responses on Facebook, introspective examinations by a range of individuals about their particular backgrounds and heritage and how they fit into the charged racial landscape of the Caribbean.
“We at PREE decided that some of the more sustained responses deserved wider exposure, discussing as they do, the multifaceted nature of racial and ethnic identity in the Caribbean. Not every single text is a direct response to Miller’s post, but they are all inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter protests. As a commenter on one of Kei Miller’s posts on the subject correctly said, “Jamaica’s motto, ‘Out of Many, One People’ is our own version of ‘All Lives Matter’.”
“With Caribbean Racisms we aimed to initiate an honest and introspective discussion about race and racism in the Caribbean.”
What is PREE, and what is the purpose behind the publication?
“PREE is an open-access, born digital magazine of contemporary writing from, on and about the Caribbean. We interpret ‘writing’ broadly to include any form of creative expression that can be adapted to our format. Our aim is to be the one-stop shop for Caribbean creativity of a certain kind, a vehicle of undeniable substance and quality to convey Caribbean writing. The region’s musicians have done the groundwork, creating enormous cultural capital that isn’t being exploited as fully as it should be. At PREE we intend to turn that capital into valuable intellectual property, unique to the Caribbean, because we believe one day the region’s IP, if carefully nurtured and tended, can rival, even replace, the rapidly diminishing returns of the sun, sand and sea model of development.”
Why did you decide to launch PREE?
“We felt there was a gap in the literary ecosystem of the region. While countries like Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the Bahamas have produced many outstanding writers, nearly all of them have had to find their own way, cultivate their talent abroad and hope to be discovered by agents and publishers. While there are excellent literary festivals such as Calabash and Bocas these are geared towards authors of books, indeed such festivals are primarily book-centric. The problem with this is that by the time an author publishes a successful book they’re at the end of the production process so to speak. We want to be involved at a much earlier stage, providing emerging writers with a platform to showcase their work, giving them the critical feedback and support needed to develop their writing and making their work visible to publishers, agents and audiences well beyond the confines of the Caribbean.
“I should add that the principals involved in this project are themselves successful writers and critics with a wealth of knowledge and experience to impart. Everything in PREE is blind reviewed by at least two experienced writers. We also lasso some of the hugely successful writers from the Caribbean—Marlon James, Kei Miller, Ingrid Persaud just to name a handful—into the review process soliciting their critical feedback on the most promising work submitted to us. We work with writers as they go through the process of reworking and revising based on the suggestions made by our reviewers. All of this is provided free of cost, incidentally.”
Tell us about your latest issue.
“PREE 6 is themed the Rub-a-dub-dub issue because we wanted to publish writing centred in provocative and experimental ways on one of the most exciting and innovative musical artforms to have developed here—Dub. In this issue we are particularly proud of the fiction—four intricately developed, compelling narratives, set between them in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the British Virgin Islands and Jamaica. Saffy’s Song and Hummingbird Dub both feature young women with musical ambition; Riddim of my Life is a raucous, raunchy joyride through the annals of dancehall told in a vivid and unforgettable Vincy voice (St Vincent). Shedding, by the poet laureate of the British Virgin Islands, his first attempt at fiction, is an intriguing story weaving together traditions of noir and Caribbean gothic.
“Also in this issue is a painting and meditation by Che Lovelace (TnT) in which he imagines the celebrated writer and thinker, CLR James, in the streets of Trinidad along with other carnival revellers.
“One of the most interesting aspects of PREE is the range of writing in the vernaculars of the region. You literally are reading distinct Creole voices and accents, mesmerizing ones, from various Caribbean islands and locations both here and in the diaspora. This is something you won’t easily find anywhere else. Twice a year PREE brings you these voices, along with edgy, dynamic images and artworks.”
Check out the Rub-a-dub-dub issue of PREE here.
Visit PREE online at preelit.com.