Homecoming: The Return of Cultural & Heritage

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Esther Clayton

This article is included in Issue 8 of Perspectives Quarterly titled The Future brought to you byThe Ones to Know, D1A’s initiative to change the way in which influencers and creators show up in the industry:

I’m cheering on the sidelines at the Boston Marathon, a BU tradition I’ve enjoyed for the past three years.

I’m walking across the stage at my graduation, beaming as I accept my diploma from Boston University, and days away from jet-setting to a graduation trip to London with friends.

I’m living in LA, in my 900 sq. ft apartment (lofty, I know), working my fast-paced day job at my first agency.

These were goals that I planned for 2020, and goals that I had no doubt I would achieve. Instead, just a short ten months later, I found myself living at home, sans siblings, alone with my traditional Jamaican parents. Culture can be a touchy subject for many first-generation Americans. A quick Google search will show a plethora of articles that detail the struggle of being first-gen in this country. The juxtaposition of an ethnic household, versus the Americanized personas that many choose to portray to the outside world results in an undoubtedly complicated relationship with one’s heritage. Personally, I used to feel pretty disconnected to my parents. After attending boarding school and then four years at a PWI (Predominately White Institution), it was safe to say that I had begun to assimilate into white culture rather well, and began to choose trips to Atlanta or Miami during school breaks over time with my family.

Despite the “major life setback” of moving back home, surprisingly, my creativity flourished. I picked up dance again, a hobby that I had neglected for years. I grew closer to my parents, and in doing so, began to delve deeper into my own culture and heritage. I finally stopped to listen to my parents’ experiences in Jamaica and England and hear their childhood tales. I took the time to learn how to properly take care of my natural hair, an aspect of myself that I’ve always thought of as a chore, when in actuality, it is a revolutionary act of self-care for Black women.

I watched this same transition happen with so many others, as people began to move back home, even just temporarily, in 2020. A good friend of mine launched a podcast series @lovexlightpodcast, focused on breaking generational curses, after returning home and witnessing certain behaviors within her community. Another friend began an Instagram cooking series @bonepidatsit, where she took on different iterations of traditional Haitian dishes, and added her own spin to each. Now more than ever, people are yearning to get in touch with a community, and many are turning to their own communities to do so.

At the top of the year, all of my goals were external: a new apartment, new job, new achievements. Now, along with these goals, I have some new priorities for my future: I want to make sure that my culture doesn’t disappear in my lineage; I want to be able to pass on my heritage to my children, so they know where they come from. I made sorrel for the first time with my grandmother this Christmas, and I hope to finally perfect the recipe in years to come. I aim to be selective of the brands that I patron. I’m sure many have noticed that just being a recognizable brand no longer is cutting it for consumers. I want to continue to view the brands that I support with a critical lens, and cheer on the ones that get it right.

I want to join my peers and continue to foster my creative side with my culture in mind. Whether it’s creating a dance to the newest Soca song, perfecting a new dish, or making therapy-session podcasts, one thing my generation will continue to do is be creative, scrappy and innovative in the face of the unknown.