Happy Birthday, Steve! From Your Uncommon Caribbean Family
As Steve so eloquently mentioned less than a week ago on my birthday: Uncommon Caribbean is family. Yes, we are brothers. And though we may be divided by several years in age, our birthdays fall less than a week apart.
Growing up, our parents used to take the easy way out and combine our birthdays into one singular event. As the younger kid, this bothered me, but I imagine not as much as it bothered Steve. And yet, here we are many years later, connected more deeply than ever due to our combined love of our home region. Maybe our parents knew what they were doing.
Anyway, while Steve is off sailing today to celebrate his birthday, I’m pretty sure there are few things he would rather be doing than reveling in the rich cultural experience that is playing neg gwo siwo in Martinique‘s one-of-a-kind carnival. Of all the many, many exceptional celebrations Steve and I have immersed ourselves in across the West Indies, I have a sneaky suspicion that this ranks at the top of his list.
Slathered with cane syrup mixed with charcoal, the siwo of Martinique carnival represents the escaped slave. They have no set path, no set order to the procession, and can basically go anywhere and do anything. Carnival goers respond in a mix of joy, revulsion, hugs, tears, and hiding at your approach.
Playing siwo is at once freeing and sobering. It’s both a celebration and an education in history and the depths slavery cut into the psyche of Afro Caribbean people. It’s both the most fun we’ve ever had together and the most spiritual experience we’ve ever had together.
Today, while he may not be jumping up in the streets of Fort-de-France, I’m fairly certain he has a rhum in his hand right about now. So, join me in raising a glass to my brother, partner, and fellow lover of all things Caribbean: Steve.