A Time to Recognize our History: A Letter from the Editor
Written by Rebecca Dass
Sunday May 7, 2023
May marks Asian Heritage month in Canada, where it is a time to honour the diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Asians (and yes– that includes South Asians too)! What a better way to start the month than by sharing Indo-Caribbean stories? It is a history that is often overlooked and neglected in mainstream Canadian society. However, these stories are an integral part of the Asian Canadian narrative, and it is crucial to recognize and celebrate them.
This month also carries an important meaning for the descendants of Indentured Indians, with “Indian Arrival Day” being celebrated all throughout the Caribbean and Fiji during May. Friday May 5th is celebrated as Indian Arrival Day in Guyana. This date marks the first arrival of indentured labourers from India to British Guiana in 1838. Although I have personally never celebrated the day, it reminds me of my ancestors who crossed the kala pani and started a new life in the Caribbean. It allows me to reflect on what interested me about learning about my heritage in the first place, and why I joined ICCA in particular, hoping to honour the history of my ancestors.
It’s been many years since then, but Indo-Caribbean culture has since been established as something so special, and is now stronger than ever. This month we were able to work with remarkable individuals who proudly carry the legacy of being Indo-Caribbean.
On National Down Syndrome Day, Editor-in-Chief Felicia Gopi and I had the pleasure of sitting down with DJ Reyaz. Reyaz is a DJ whose passion for soca, calypso, and dancehall music reminds me of why our culture is so special. His piece showcases how he has broken down barriers, proving that having a disability does not have to limit your potential in following your dreams.
PhD student and photographer of both African and Indian lineage, Claire-Ania Virgile, shares incredible photographs about French Indo-Caribbean identity, an identity not showcased nearly enough in our community. She walks us through the history of Martinique commemorating Indian Arrival Day, and honoring the arrival of Indian indentured laborers to the French Caribbean.
Felicia wrote a compelling piece on colourism, a must-read covering a very important topic that affects the Indo-Caribbean community. While differentiating between skin “lightening” and “brightening”, she criticizes colonialism and the systems that were established to perpetuate colourism.
And finally, I also had the chance to chat with Vishal Sharma, a fellow volunteer of the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association. Vishal is an academic in Sanskrit Literary and Cultural History at the University of Oxford. In his interview, he talked about his studies in India, and how he navigated his identity in response to getting mixed reactions as an Indo-Caribbean.
I’m so proud of the work that went into this issue of Story. Huge thank you to Felicia, for her tremendous leadership in yet another successful issue! And of course, thank you to our readers, for being the core of why we do this work!
About the Author
Rebecca is a Toronto-based writer and digital marketer, currently working in book publishing. With a BA in Sociology and a minor in Caribbean Studies, she joined the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association to continue her interest in researching and writing content about Indo-Caribbean history and culture.