My time in Barbados with my “Women and Slavery in the Black Atlantic” class was a truly transformative experience that I would have never had the opportunity to have without the work of Dr. Dennie and the grant money received from The Commission on Race and Slavery. Being able to travel outside of the country for the first time allowed me to gain important skills not only academically, but socially as well. The mere experience of leaving America to immerse myself in a culture outside of our own provided so many opportunities in itself. While I definitely learned a lot about myself in terms of independence and growth, I want to spend some time talking about the academic growth I had during this trip.
I think the biggest academic struggle I have had (and have continued to grow from in this class) has been the idea of reconceptualizing history and culture without inputting my own personal Western bias on various situations. Being able to see the different ways that history was presented through different encounters such as the Sunbury Plantation in juxtaposition with guided tours by historians, we were able to see that regardless of what we had learned in class, history my contingent upon how it was presented. This was hard for many of us who already had a perception of what Bejan history should be, since we assumed, we had so much knowledge from our class. But, even when we toured various places such as Newton Plantation, the Rum Distillery, or the oldest church in Barbados, the information presented to us was not information readily taught in Bejan education, so we had no right to impose how it would be taught to people since only a select few people knew. Even our driver had not heard of and been educated regarding some of the spots we went to. For this reason, it felt like such a privilege to learn so much about presented history in not even a week in Barbados.
The most eye-opening and reflective experience while I was in Barbados was definitely visiting the Newton Plantation, which had continuously come up in our class readings. Having read about slavery, one knows the pain and struggle that it brought upon enslaved people who were my ancestors. Reading about it is much different than being on the same grounds were slaves labored for the success of their country. When we stepped out of the van and into the sugar cane field (as it is now a working plantation), I immediately felt overwhelmed to be in that space. To be able to see the sheer magnitude of the sugar canes two times my size and know that our ancestors labored in these fields’ day in and day out, was something you could not read about in a book. Since plantations in Barbados are still working plantations, it was an experience I could not have had in America, as most of our plantation tours do not give us the opportunity to see where enslaved people labored and rather show off how white people lived during that period. Being on the same grounds and same fields of enslaved people really brought purpose to the generic readings about slavery I have been doing since middle school.
This trip allowed me to grow both intellectually and socially. After going to Barbados, I realized just how sheltered my understanding of the world is and that there is so much more to be learned outside of America. Whether that is culture, scenery, or economics, there is always something different about a new country. This opportunity has been the start of my abroad experience as I will now travel to England, Spain, and Amsterdam over the next 7 months and now know how to efficiently interact with non-American people and leave my own bias as the door.
Thank you so much to Dr. Dennie for organizing this trip. We could not have had this opportunity without her!