TU students taking the interdisciplinary class “The Roots of Hamilton: Relics of Resistance in the Black Atlantic World” had the chance to travel to St. Croix. They were able to visit Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood home and see different sites of enslavement and freedom in the Caribbean. Media studies junior Alexander Denard reflects on his travels in St. Croix.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what is a life-changing experience worth? At least 2000 words? So how do you describe such an experience with fewer words than that? I think it’s best done with the highlights. To pick and choose from everything we did is like trying to pick the best live lobster at a restaurant; they’re all delicious and amazing.
So I guess let’s start with the major one: Maroon Ridge. This place is special for a few reasons: Firstly, it’s where my ancestors went to escape enslavement. This shows resistance in one of the most obvious ways, the denial of your labor for free. Our class was built around how the enslaved resisted, and escaping was one of the main ways. However, it goes a large step further: Maroon Ridge was where runaways could choose to end their own lives rather than get recaptured. If you think you can understand what it is to stand in that same spot, you are wrong. This spot is life-changing. I felt my ancestors and their pain on that Ridge.
The second best thing about the trip was the food. Holy God was this food amazing! It makes no sense that American food is so unsatisfactory in comparison. How do they charge cheaper prices for not only more, but better quality food?! It’s pretty upsetting. But even the food options were better than they were here in Tulsa. We ordered a pretty big variety of food at every meal, and we got to try a little of everyone’s which was good: stewed conch, fried kingfish, roasted chicken and more chicken.
It was pretty funny to see that chickens ran wild on the island, and there was always chicken on every menu. I really wanted to see a little chicken shop that advertised, “Freshest chicken on the island!” I really wonder if these chickens know how in danger they really are? But seriously, I don’t understand how there aren’t more overweight people on the island with the kind of food they offered. It’s all delicious, and the portions were huge.
The third most memorable aspect of the trip was the people. They were literally the nicest people I have ever met in my entire life, including my hometown of Houston, Texas. Everyone stops to say “hello” or “good morning” or whatever the appropriate greeting is for the time of day. And they expect you to say something back! It’s considered very rude to not acknowledge people. This daily recognition is again rooted in the history.
The ancestors went through such dehumanizing treatment and horrors that now they treat each and every person with the respect that all humans deserve.
I also cannot help but wonder if the island itself has something to do with this positive attitude. It is very hard to be mean when you’re living in paradise. I mean seriously. How do you wake up angry when you can go down to the beach and enjoy the day? These people were so nice to our group, to the point that cars would slow down so the driver could talk to us about our experiences and wish us a good day. It is not an exaggeration to say that the whole island knew we were there and was curious to see us. All in all this trip was an amazing cultural experience and opened my eyes to a whole different culture, one that is closely related to mine. It was an awakening process, a fun journey, and a delicious taste of the Caribbean. I cannot wait to go back to paradise.