The Joy of Being Caribbean Peoples
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
"Helping to celebrate our culture and educate people beyond Bob Marley and beaches is incredible. It’s a responsibility and I love it. It’s what keeps me going even when I’m exhausted."
Alysia Christiani is a producer and content creator dedicated to the elevation and exploration of the Caribbean-American experience. She is a co-founder and project manager behind the Timehri Film Festival, a Guyanese and Caribbean film festival which is premiering online June 4th. Alysia also explores the #hypenlife of Caribbean American culture on her platform, Rewind & Come Again.
WRBP: What led you to create Rewind & Come Again? What was your experience in growing up Guyanese and Caribbean American in Brooklyn?
Alysia: In high school during the day I was just Alysia. There were no cultural markers necessarily. When I came home, my family my neighborhood was very Caribbean American. We were active in a church that was very Caribbean American. My mother forced us to join the youth group. We were all Caribbean American kids. We put on talent shows and we did dances and it was all surrounding Caribbean American culture.
Through that experience and through my family what I slowly began to realize is that there was this divide between native born Caribbean people and Caribbean Americans. It was always a feature of my life. Honestly, it pissed me off. I was the Yankee in the family. They would tell jokes and say you don’t get it. You don’t eat that? It was a thing and I grew resentful of it.
I loved to write and I always had journals. Then blogging along and I was blogging for myself initially. I had these thoughts and feelings and I had to get it out and share it. It all surrounded the intersection of Caribbean American culture and life. That’s where Rewind and Come Again was born.
WRBP: How do you think your experience growing up in New York City was different from your parents' experience as immigrants?
Alysia: Theirs was a typical immigrant experience. I didn’t have those struggles. My mom worked at the United Nations for 30 years. So she was in a bit of an international space but at the same time she was..she gave me lessons on how to speak. I distinctly remember that.
When I would call her at work, she could never get rid of her accent completely, but it changed significantly when she was around her work friends versus when she came home. Their experience was very much assimilation, trying to fit in, trying to make the best of it.
In giving us those values, my brother and I took that and our experience growing up in America mashed them together and realized we don’t have to assimilate. We are from here and we can chose to be different and embrace parts of the culture. And not just embrace, but celebrate and show parts of the culture that you maybe didn’t feel comfortable because you were trying to fit in.
WRBP: What kinds of stories and images of Caribbean culture would you like to see more of?
Alysia: I would like to see more authenticity and diversity. People think because you include a Jamaican character you’re being diverse. There’s not a lot of information about the Caribbean beyond Black, Beach, Bob Marley. We are Indian, Chinese, Syrian, Amerindian. People don’t understand we are a huge melting pot. I would love to see that more. And authentic stories. I love She’s Gotta Have It but there are things they could have tweaked. The accents were kinda terrible.
WRBP: You work full time as a marketing executive, and you produce the film festival, what keeps you going?
Alysia: I love our people, I love our culture. I want people to know what we’re about.
I work to eat. I work to pay my bills and to feed my children. But when I get up in the day what gets me through is that I’m going be able to share someone whose been in their village in Guyana, and picked up a cellphone and made this incredible short film and get it out to the world.
To know that I am part of uplifting our culture and giving a voice to people, a platform to people who didn’t have access before. Helping to celebrate our culture and educate people beyond Bob Marley and beaches is incredible. It’s a responsibility and I love it. It’s what keeps me going even when I’m exhausted.
The 2020 Timehri Film Festival, which will feature stories from the Caribbean diaspora including Environmental and LGBTQIA films, will be available on Facebook and YouTube. The festival schedule and guide is available here.
I am looking forward to viewing Jerk, directed by Raine Allen-Miller.
Winston arrived in London from Jamaica back when the streets were paved with promise. A lifetime later, he’s become the smiling face around the neighborhood that everyone knows—the friendly local jerk chicken shop owner. Today, the mask is beginning to slip.
Alysia also recommends checking out the works of these Caribbean filmmakers.
Maya Cozier, Damian Marcano, Kojo McPherson, Raine Allen-Miller.
Here is the full interview with Alysia, which covers everything from BeenieManBelly, parenting while Caribbean and the best Guyanese spots in Brooklyn.