Island IdentityKaylyn Ling
Mar 30, 2018
“People always say, ‘Oh you’re Chinese Jamaican, that’s awesome,’ but no one ever breaks that surface,” said Luke Morris, a third-year political science major at the University of Florida.
The Asian Caribbean identity is one of the most complex and unique cultures in America. Beginning in the 20th century, many Asians migrated to the Caribbean islands where there has been a large diaspora of those with Asian heritage from the Caribbean islands outward. Generations of immigrants with roots in India, China and Japan have dispersed all across the U.S., creating a thoroughly underappreciated culture of Asian Caribbean American peoples.
Morris, whose parents were a part of the Caribbean diaspora, was born and raised in South Florida but has had a life colored by his Caribbean background.
“My parents were both born in Jamaica,” Morris said. “But, obviously, I look very Asian. My great-great-grandparents migrated to Jamaica around the time of World War II from China. They were trying to escape an exploitative environment created by communism.”
Like many Caribbean immigrants, Morris’ ancestors came to the Western Hemisphere to find security for their future. Security meant learning how to speak English and moving to America. Like other immigrants from Asia of that time, Morris’ predecessors held a strong belief that learning English was the way to succeed.
After many years spent in Jamaica, a large part of Morris’ family emigrated from Jamaica to the United States to live in South Florida. In the U.S., Morris grew up in a “nonconventional” household.
“I live with more than just my immediate family,” Morris said. “We also live with my cousins and my grandparents. It was very cool growing up. We had a lot of family support.”
That family support, Morris pointed out, is what he is most proud of when speaking about his heritage.
“I know a lot of families are close, but it’s just different for my family because we grew up living in the same space… we’re a very close family, and I think that comes from Jamaican hospitality,” Morris said.
This is an excerpt of a story that appeared in issue 14 of Sparks Magazine. You can read this issue on our Issues page.
Photo by Jessica Lim Liwag