Caribbean Connections: Moving North Sparks Student Stories

By Jorge Cordoba

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At the Free Minds, Free People conference in Baltimore this summer, I stopped by the Teaching for Change table. They graciously donated copies of the book Caribbean Connections: Moving North for my high school ESOL students.

This group of students, ranging in age from 14 to 20 years old, attend a large suburban high school in Gambrills, Maryland. They come from many different countries including Thailand, El Salvador, Nigeria, Guatemala, Vietnam, Guinea Bissau, China, Cameroon, the Philippines, and Honduras.

The students have read many of the poems and essays in Caribbean Connections: Moving North. The essays show a reality close to that of my students. They tell the story of migration and the hardships that it represents.

Julio Morales, in his essay “A Question of Identity” wonders: “Who am I? What am I? I have learned to accept myself. Have you? Would I like to be someone else?” These questions became a class assignment for my students. To the question, “Do you accept yourself?”

Minnie from Thailand responded:

“Yes, I have learned to accept myself because my life is important.”

Jaime from Guinea Bissau answered the same question this way:

“Yes, I have learned to accept myself because it doesn’t matter how people look at me or classify me. I always accept myself the way I am, and I am proud of it.”

Truc from Vietnam answered the question about being someone else by saying:

“I don’t want to be someone else because I am satisfied with my life. Also, I can’t choose my parents, and I love my parents.”

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By reading the book as a class, we were able to develop a profound understanding of our shared human nature and the similarities that every migrant faces wherever they come from.

To further this discussion, we read two more essays from the book, “Attitudes toward Immigration” and “Black Hispanics: The Ties That Bind” by Vivian Brady. The students worked in groups to present these topics to their classmates and had a discussion.

Beny from Nigeria summarized our conversations by saying:

“We should never forget our culture because that was where we came from and that is who we are.”

Mengning from China said:

“I will try my best to understand the culture where I live, respect it and accept it, still remembering my country’s culture. The most important thing is not to forget my culture. By being in the U.S., we met a new culture, and we must struggle to be bicultural.”

By reading the book as a class, we were able to develop a profound understanding of our shared human nature and the similarities that every migrant faces wherever they come from.

To further this discussion, we read two more essays from the book, “Attitudes toward Immigration” and “Black Hispanics: The Ties That Bind” by Vivian Brady. The students worked in groups to present these topics to their classmates and had a discussion.

Beny from Nigeria summarized our conversations by saying:

“We should never forget our culture because that was where we came from and that is who we are.”

Mengning from China said:

“I will try my best to understand the culture where I live, respect it and accept it, still remembering my country’s culture. The most important thing is not to forget my culture. By being in the U.S., we met a new culture, and we must struggle to be bicultural.”

 

Mykella Palmer