Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture

Caribbean Footprints: Tracing Jamaican Influence in American Culture through the Life of Martha Gayle with Damion R. Evans

December 13, 2023 Alexandria Miller Episode 73
Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
Caribbean Footprints: Tracing Jamaican Influence in American Culture through the Life of Martha Gayle with Damion R. Evans
Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and +
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The Caribbean influence in the United States is undeniable, especially in states like New York. In this episode, guest Damion R. Evans helps illuminate this story through the engrossing life story of Ms. Martha Gayle, a Jamaican immigrant who journeyed to the US almost a century ago. He'll also be sharing his experiences of discovering Gayle's remarkable collection compiled by Jamaican Demar Ludford, and enlighten us about the impact of Caribbean immigrants on the American society and culture.

You'll learn about Gayle, who braved her way through the early twentieth century U.S. and found her footing in the domestic workforce, eventually evolving into a landlady in Bed-Stuy. You'll also hear about the effects of World Wars and Civil Rights Movement on Gayle's mindset, and how she turned struggles into triumphs. Our conversation with Damion not only probes into Gayle's personal life, but also expands to the broader perspective of Caribbean migration. Finally, we urge listeners to understand the significance of Caribbean history and the need for its better representation in mainstream media. This episode is not just a conversation; it's a revelation that uncovers the resilience and influence of Jamaican immigrants in shaping the US.

Damion R. Evans is a doctoral candidate in World History at St. John’s University in New York City. Damion is originally from Jamaica and is now a soldier with 20 years of experience in the US Army. Throughout his military career, he has had multiple deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Europe. His research interest includes West Indian Immigration, as well as the region’s cultural and colonial history. Currently, his doctoral dissertation analyzes how the life of Martha Gayle exemplifies the Jamaican immigrant experience which furthers the conversation on the perceptions of black identity and culture in the United States.

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Produced by Breadfruit Media

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture, hosted by me, alexandra Miller. Strictly Facts teaches the history, politics and activism of the Caribbean and connects these themes to contemporary music and popular culture. Waghwan, everyone, welcome back to another episode of Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture, your favorite Caribbean history podcast with me, your host, alexandra Miller. One of my favorite things about history, and really probably one of the reasons why I not only love history but I've chosen to make it something that is an academic passion of mine, is because really and truly, history is all around us, whether we see it for what it is or not, right, I think it can be found, or rather recovered, sometimes in some of the most interesting of places, and this is certainly the premise of today's episode, through which I'm joined by Damien R Evans, phd candidate of history at St John's University, whose emerging dissertation focuses on the life of Miss Martha Gale and making born, immigrant to New York during the early 1920s, who truly led a remarkable life, one that many of us, you know, sometimes just go overlooked in the master narrative of histories, but one that I'm sure Damien is really excited to join us and sharing with us today. So, before getting too much into it, which I will let Damien share with us a bit in a minute. Thank you so much, damien, for being guest on the podcast. Why don't you begin with telling us a bit about yourself? Where, of course, is your connection to the region and what inspired your passion for Caribbean history?

Speaker 2:

Sure. Alexandra, thank you for giving us opportunity to tell the story of Martha Gale. I'm a Mexican who is not among the most famous of names that you've heard, and I only came across her story by chance. As you mentioned earlier, I'm a PhD candidate in World History of St John's in New York City. I was born in Kingston, but I grew up in St Thomas, Jamaica. I came to the United States as a teenager, where I finished high school in New York. I'm also a soldier, with 20 years of experience in US Army. Throughout my military career, I've been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, amongst other places. Currently, my dissertation analyzes how the life of Martha Gale, a relatively unknown immigrant, epitomizes the Jamaican immigrant experience in New York. Stories like Gale, I think, helped shed light on how that came to be and also further the conversation on black diversity and culture in the United States. What inspired my scholarship on Caribbean history is it stems from my lack of knowledge in the field. I've always been an history enthusiast. It was my favorite subject growing up. However, I did my undergrad and my master's in international relations with a concentration in European studies. During my travels with the military, I chose to major international relations when the opportunity came for me to enroll in a PhD program, I naturally returned to history. Everything I've learned up until the time I completed my master was mostly Eurocentric. It's always dawned on me like, why are there so many Jamaicans in New York? And you know. I decided that I wanted to investigate that question and, given my lack of knowledge on the West Indies and Jamaican history, I felt that this was not only an opportunity for me to educate myself on the matter, but also to partake in that story.

Speaker 1:

Well, first and foremost, damien, I want to thank you for your service. I think you know that's something that obviously goes without mention, but particularly the influence and participation of Caribbean folk in our military services abroad is a longer history, one that in itself deserves its own episode, but definitely wanted to give you a shout out for serving in our armed forces and then also being able to use some of what you've experienced as inspiration to start your degree. Just, you know, in us talking a bit about your project. I know a little bit, but I think the story of even how you've come to you know Miss Gale's papers in a sense, is one that definitely deserves to highlight. You mentioned stumbling upon it by chance, but much of what is known, you know, is really a result of letters that were like mailed back and forth between her and family back home in Jamaica and these sort of, you know, familial exchanges, of course. So what has been the archival process been like for her collection? How did you even navigate, you know, getting into Miss Gale's papers and ultimately writing your dissertation on her?

Speaker 2:

So the archival process is quite a tale to tell. I came across Martin Gale collection during my third year of the PhD program while gathering information for my proposal and I kid you not I basically did a Google search for Jamaican immigration, and that is how I came across Martin Gale. I reached out to the Brooklyn Center for History, where her collection is stored, to reference the collection. As I was speaking with the staff, I learned that the young man who put together the collection, demar Lutford, is also a fellow Jamaican who was interned at the archives from the University of West Indies. Moana Demar, I think, now works at a national library in Kingston. I met him on one of my travels to Jamaica and he told me that at the time when he came for him to do his internship, he had to choose between Brooklyn and somewhere else in the States. He defaulted to Brooklyn since he already had family there. He composed Gale's collection in a chronological and thematic order. This made it very easy to reference the material. He spoke a little bit about his discoveries and he was able to give me information that I did not discover in the archives. He was a source within himself. Another part of the story that's worth telling is how I met some of Gale's family. Gale has several pictures in her collection and I remember one came from Winifred Miller, who they called June. That picture was dated 1980. Miller was in her school uniform and, from my rough man, she had to be in her early 60s. The letter came from a Clarendon address. So I asked one of my tenants, who was from Clarendon, if she knew the school. She replied it was Bustamante Secondary School in Lionel Town. I asked her mother if she knew June was, given that they would have been around the same age group and she was also from the Lionel Town area. To my surprise, she said yes and she would get me a number. You know, I thought what are the chances that really happened and, lowen Behold, she did get me a number. I was so excited I booked a ticket to Jamaica. I know, yeah, that was the time when I met DeMar. I drove to Lionel Town, met Gale's grand-nephew. He told me he didn't remember much about Gale other than a few times. He met her when she came to visit Jamaica. So he gave me the address where his sister, who he believed could better help me. She lived in another town, in Clarendon. Again, to my luck. The person in my company was quite familiar with the area, so we were able to find her without much issues. However, she stated also that she vaguely remember Gale, other than the few encounters she had with her when she visited. But she has a sister who know her better from their encounters in New York. So I asked her where in New York does your sister live? And she said Queens. Now imagine that I flew all the way to Jamaica to find a living relative from Articale only to find out there was one living 20 minutes away from me in Queens. Yeah, so the archival process really is a story within itself. But in terms of what they have and the collection in Brooklyn, Gale was a hoarder, and that's to my benefit. She kept everything from her birth certificate, her passport, tax return, insurance policies, the deeds for her properties, receipts from tenants, everything. It's such a rich source to work with.

Speaker 1:

And I think to my own sort of searches on it, it was sort of happenstance even the collection coming about, it was just located, I believe, in one of her old buildings, although I'm getting a bit ahead of this story, and so I bring that up more so just to say that I think oftentimes when we think of our relatives, especially our older relatives and the stuff that they have accumulated over their lives, there is a wealth really of resources there in their stories, in their belongings, that can tell us not only about their lives and the lives that they've experienced, but really help color and shape the picture of the times that they lived through and survived through and hopefully thrived through. So sort of saying that for all of us you know thinking and being amongst our family members and thinking about you know how to really continue on sharing stories and even just gaining the knowledge and wealth of resources from our more senior relatives and our families. I do want to jump into talking about Ms Gale's life a little bit, given where you sort of pointed us to she really had an amazing career trajectory right, one that you know, upon her migration to the US just, I think, catapults in terms of just some of the stories we hear about migration, but I do definitely want to set the scene a little bit prior to that. So what is known about her early life in Jamaica? Maybe you can share some of the more like bibliographic information with us and what prompted her immigration off the island.

Speaker 2:

Sure. So unfortunately, gale has left me to fill in the blanks about her life in Jamaica prior to immigration. However, here I would rely on historical records to paint the picture. What I know is that she grew up in a small rural district called Lewistown, that's roughly seven kilometers from Black River in St Elizabeth. She was an educated woman, which was unusual for rural women in 1920s Jamaica. I draw this conclusion from the composition in her writing dating back to the 1920s. One can clearly see how she articulated herself, that she understand the power of words in her writing. One can only imagine to that rural Jamaica offered little, if any, opportunity for an educated girl with ambition, and it is not surprising that she embarked on a solar trip aboard SS Allegria to New York in 1924. The fact that she never married nor had any children only further compounds the notion that she was not do what others are doing personality. She had an older sister who was living in Brooklyn. This sister most likely influenced our decision to leave, since she came to live with her in the States. She also had an uncle who migrated to Costa Rica to work on the United Fruit Company estate in the early 1900s, though I have not yet come across any concrete evidence, it is likely that this individual played an hand in her migration to New York. If you follow the history of Jamaican immigration, you will notice that many of those who went to Central America either directly or indirectly financed the passage for those who came to New York shortly thereafter.

Speaker 1:

That, I think, really brings up an interesting point just in our familial ties. I think of my own family's migrations to the US and other family members who went to Canada, to the UK etc. In the past. Many of us have gone in pockets. Maybe one person went first but then kind of sent for the rest of us. We have sort of amassed together in a sense that maybe one person has gone first but we continue our trajectories and really build a sort of family unit abroad. I think that's not just solely to the Jamaican migration experience but really to the Caribbean experience and, of course, other communities outside of the Caribbean as well. You brought up some interesting points in terms of women's experiences in Jamaica during the time. But shifting to talking about her migration to the US, there are always many layers and reasons for migration, as you point to, especially for Caribbean women at the time. What did the early years of her migration to New York look like?

Speaker 2:

Sure. So I would say again here Gail has left me to fill in the blanks a bit because, though she had came to the States in the 1920s, her story truly came to life in the 1940s, when she arrived in New York. The plan was for her to earn enough money so that she could help her family back home. It is noteworthy that she came to Brooklyn, not Harlem. Today, brooklyn is the mecca of the West Indian identity in New York, but back in her time, the small, growing population of Jamaican in Brooklyn is seldom mentioned in the literature on West Indian migration to New York. The attention was focused squarely on Harlem. Gail came from a predominantly black society where black identity was celebrated rather than doomed. Hence it is likely that she had a discorduous awakening to American racism, taking into consideration that Gail came to New York at a time when the city experienced a massive influx of black migrants, not only from the West Indies but also from the Jim Crow South. Unlike Jamaicans, african Americans were well versed in racial codes and norms. For many, being in the North was liberating enough. Jamaican women, however, were more vociferous and likely to challenge racism at all whenever they encountered it, as West Indian Immigration scholar Nancy Foner pointed out in her book Islands in the City West Indian Migration to New York. It took the overconfident Jamaicans and West Indians to agitate change, particularly in the garment industry, a space that was reserved for Italian women. For Gail, her early years in New York must have also been empowering. So her first job in the US was a domestic helper, which was quite common for many Jamaican women of the time. And also noteworthy is that in her passport that's what her occupation was documented. But it best wonder if she was a domestic when she left Jamaica. But it's highly unlikely, given that she came from rural Jamaica rather than Kingston, perse or Montego Bay.

Speaker 1:

I think one of the sort of most interesting points of where you are in this project, especially given what we can piece together really through letters and things, is the fact that we do have to sort of fill in the blanks, right. But I think, as you're coloring the story of her life and possibly piecing together places that she's been and things that she's experienced, as you noted, in terms of, like Jim Crow, great migration to the north northern part of the US, rather, I think it's really critical to mention that she arrives in New York during a time that is Not just for the US but really for the world, really, you know, a pinnacle moment. She arrives, of course, prior to Jamaican independence, in the 20s, between the world wars, of course prior to the height of the civil rights movement. You know the list of things can go on. Was there anything that you really were able to Conceive in her letters about her politics, her beliefs in terms of the world or just views on you know, everything that was going on at the time.

Speaker 2:

Yeah sure. So based on her writings and evidence that have gathered from her source, gail was a staunch Democrat and a huge Kennedy fan. In her Collection there are newspaper clip ins of speeches from Kennedy and parties position on immigration. Therefore it is tempting to say her democratic leaning was due in part to the parties position on immigration. There are a few correspondence that mentioned the parties position and immigration before the Arsola Act was passed. The Arsola Act, if you know you're not familiar perhaps was the 1965 immigration reform bill that opened up immigration from the Caribbean from 100 person per country per annum to 20,000 person per country per year. From the bills, namesake senator Philip hard and congressman Emmanuel Seller were both Democrats. Though Gail had never met congressman seller, he was also a fellow Brooklynite. Given that Gail was a huge Kennedy fan, of course she must have been saddened by his assassination. Her collection include news of the assassination and programs for a planned ceremony in New York City. It is important to note here too that Jamaicans on the island were well invested in American politics, particularly its immigration policy. For instance, jamaican premier Alexander Buster Mementi Lovied Kennedy on numerous occasions to live Jamaica's coda before the island gained independence because he knew an Independent Jamaica needed the support of diaspora dollars to build its economy in. In several letters written by Gales nephew Clifford Lewis, who they call cliff, he explained the view on the ground in Jamaica, and one of his letters in the 70s he stated that Jamaicans were delighted that Lyndon B Johnson had won the election because they viewed his triumph as a victory for immigration reform. Accordingly, it was Johnson who signed the Arsola bill into law at the foot of Thatcher liberty in New York City. It is worth highlighting too that many Jamaicans felt Connected to the civil rights movement as it unfolded in the United States. In a lot of letter written by Cliff, he stated that Jamaicans were staging their own protests in support of the movement. Interestingly, the civil rights leaders did not advocated for immigration reform. They were mainly concerned with black Empowerment and improvement in the United States. Yet it was an Extenduation of the civil rights movement because the hard-seller bill advocates used civil rights rhetoric to Implement immigration reform. Therefore, it was on the coattails of the civil rights movement that the Arsola bill became law. Can't remember his name now it pays me, but basically he was the Secretary of State for the United States back in his 60s and he was explaining to the president Johnson that then that is vitally important for the US to have a last immigration reform policy, because these countries will see Ipricritism in what the United States is doing. You know how can you say that you are our allies when you borrow it's from entering your country, for example. So not only was it a great civil rights I would say Political agenda, it was also Used as a foreign policy tool. Okay, so you also mentioned the two world wars, and prejudice word highlight in here too, how world war two impact the Jamaican women, migrants like gale. Gale was employed as a domestic helper, as I've said before, for many years, and it was in the 1940s where her life story really came to life. It was in the 1940s, too, when a lot of American women began to leave the home in search of employment, perhaps because the men were all fighting. That created a vacuum for domestic help at home, to care for children and the elderly. Here the Anglophone Jamaican women became an easy fit. In fact, after the art seller bill was passed, jamaican migrant women outnumbered Jamaican men within guest collection. There are flyers from recruitment agencies that promised to place women in jobs with phone and code nice families upon arrival. Of course, gale passed on this information to her family members back in Jamaica. However, it is unknown how many of them were successful in this pursuit. Her records show that she sponsored her niece, david Parnell, who lived with her until her death in 2000. Gale was born on October 22, 1902 and and she died in October 2000, so she lived to be 98 years old. She also sponsored our nephew Winston, his wife and children, who live in New York temporarily, and I think they moved on to Florida. I believe affection also Document political atmosphere in Jamaica in the 1970s. This came chiefly true letters from Cliff, who actually worked for the government but was free enough to explain that the administration of the sound news was failing its people, though he also lamented that this was the result of external forces interfering in Jamaica.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I I truly find this to be an interesting story and one that you know Helps to connect a lot of sometimes Unconnected points of our history right, especially in terms of migration, of women's stories and histories and their experiences. I do definitely want to highlight one of the, I think, probably the pinnacles of her journey in that Understanding that she migrates to the US and becomes a domestic worker, which to me obviously also signaled various other parts, or, you know, interesting parts, of our diasporic journeys. Right, we have the West Indian domestic scheme in Canada. Actually, gail's experience is a couple decades earlier perhaps than the domestic scheme, or you know the point that it's really renowned for, but I definitely wanted to point to the fact that she transitions from being a domestic worker to having several investments. She becomes a landlady in Bed-Stuy. How did any of this happen really? And you know what can we stand to learn from her self-employment the fact that you know, I feel like, as Caribbean people, anyway we go, it's a lot of work. Right, the significance of you know Caribbean people in New York, of course, especially given some of the things that you pointed to the increasing levels of gentrification even more presently, and just the impact that the people from the Caribbean have had in New York, particularly.

Speaker 2:

Well, what can I say? Jamaicans are usless man. You know, there's this famous Jamaican proverb that goes Willa Kabao with Hullawa, which translates to you can either look at it as where it's small, but we have a large impact. And I guess you can say Gail epitomized that notion as well. You know, interestingly, her route from a domestic helper to a landlady came to her employer, nancy Falls, who she worked for for many years. I remember in one of the following I think this was in the following for Daisy Parnell in which she had to provide evidence of employment to the US Embassy, and Nancy Falls wrote her letter recommendation that she worked for her and she can continue working for her for the longer she feels fit. So how Gail came by Nancy Falls, brownstone, at one point of the city's Maradona, is when Black started to migrate out of Harlem in search of better housing stock in Brooklyn and Bronx. This created a white flight, and so Nancy Falls. She relocated to Port Washington on.

Speaker 1:

Long.

Speaker 2:

Island and I remember reading one of the letters and she stated that the Brownstone, at one point before Madonna, is worth $10,500. However, since Gail was interested in it, she would sell it to her for $9,500. In a period Gail had a bit of difficulty securing the loan because one of Falls' letters stated she would have to sell it to an agency since Gail could not acquire the funds. Gail eventually secured the funds through the diocese of Long Island. They had an office at 170 Remston Street in Brooklyn and, as is the case with most Jamaican hustlers, myself included, one property leads to another. Basically, after owning one for a few years, she used equity from that one to purchase another or secured a loan and another, and then she repeat that process. In my quest to find out why there are so many Jamaicans in New York, I discovered that many immigrants like Gail were the foundation for the West Indian diaspora in New York. In other words, without the lives of Gail, who provided migrants a place to stay, work and navigate the nuances of American racism, brooklyn would not be what it is today for the Caribbean community. New York, with its large concentration of Jamaicans, is a result of the art sell bill that was passed. However, we have to take consideration about those who were already there in place. If you're like me, you'll probably wonder why New York and not Florida, for example, that share the same climate as Jamaica. While New York's cosmopolitan structure meant it naturally created a wealth of robot employment opportunities, this magnetically drew the first wave of Jamaican migrants to the city, and the first wave drew the second wave to a place where there were people who they could easily identify with. It is important to note, too, that Gail was not only a landlord for Jamaican. She housed other West Indians as well as veterans. Her collection of letters include a thank you letter from a Trinidadian family who stayed one of her brownstone and moved on to California, and also there was a letter from a gentleman who was in the Navy thanking her for her hospitality while he stayed at one of her brownstones in Brooklyn. As it appeared, gail rented individual rooms rather than all units. My assumption is probably she made more money doing it this way, or because it gives people flexibility. Either way, it seems to be something that worked out for both her and their tenant. It is interesting that you brought up the topic of gentrification too. While condensing my research, I visited the Sillouin Presbyterian Church. I'm not even sure I pronounced it, but this was a church, presbyterian church that Gail attended in Brooklyn. It's on Jefferson Street. While there, the custodian told me that 164 Madonna, which is our main resident, was not far from where the church is. So he gave me the direction and how to get there and, you know, I walked over there. And when I walked over there I noticed there's a poor sales line on the property. I thought to myself wouldn't it be cool to buy this property and keep the Jamaica story going? There was a gentleman sitting next door and I asked him if he knew how much the property was being sold for and he said well, probably two mill. You're not going to find anything in this neighborhood for one mill anymore. And I thought to myself again I can't even afford one mill at a little two mill. So you know, when I got home I looked up the property, it was being sold for 3.1 million and I thought to myself that is just astounding. She bought this property for 9,500 in 1946. And today it's being sold for 3.1 million.

Speaker 1:

I don't even know where to go off that. The fact that she buys for her initial property for 9,500 dollars a little bit over right and then now to see it worth today over 3 million, I think is not only staggering when we think of numbers and money right, but I think other things like family, like intergenerational wealth, the fact that when migrants move, wherever they move, they are for the most part starting over, and the fact that she was able to do this and be self-sustaining. She was self-employed and was able to more or less live out the rest of her days being a very successful landlady. Could you share with us sort of what happens in this aftermath or the later years of her life?

Speaker 2:

Sure. So towards the latter years I leaned on the information I gathered from her family members. Unfortunately, she became ill in the late 1990s and she ended up living in a nursing home somewhere around 1999 and this was one of the best nursing homes in New York City. She was paying somewhere around like $600 per week to stay in a nursing home because she could afford it. She really did well for herself. Man Beth can sum that up yeah, but the problem is that you know, unfortunately, in guest situation, when you don't have any ears to your empire, so to speak, it becomes tricky and who's going to take over the reins when we come towards the end of her life? And she ended up in a hospice towards the year 2000. And while there, unfortunately, she signed a dream into sell her property for less than it was actually worth. And one can only imagine, if she had ears, you know, perhaps things would have turned out differently, perhaps dome was still be owned by some Jamaicans even now, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. You know, I mentioned earlier, she wasn't married, she didn't have children, so she died alone in the hospice. And you know, you take into consideration that people will actually pray on the elderly in these certain situation, especially gill situation, when she was suffering from dementia, not necessarily fully aware of what's going on. And again, there I can advocate for the child and advocate for a situation where you had ears, who would be in your best interest or, at the very least, take over the property for you. She owned these buildings outright. She didn't own any mortgage on it, and that's evidence in the payoff receipt that's within her collection at the Brooklyn Archives. So it's unfortunate how the story ended for her, but nonetheless it's a remarkable story in and of itself. Oh, she came to the United States as a domestic helper and, you know, transitioned from there to a self-employed landlord who was well to do, not only here in the United States but also in Jamaica. She literally had two households that she maintained, the one here in New York and the one there in the center of Elizabeth, jamaica. And it's a story that resonated with many Caribbean immigrants even today.

Speaker 1:

Definitely I'd be remiss as a fellow PhD kid navigating what it's like to be doing archival research and just the intricacies of you know. You never know what you're going to find in the archives. You never know who you're going to stumble into. All of these things right? What has it been like for you to read, to learn, you know, to be working on your dissertation on a fellow Jamaican who may have otherwise gone unknown more or less in the story of our history in diaspora?

Speaker 2:

Yes, this is why I truly like about history is the investigative piece of it is literally like going on a scavenger hunt. You know you start off thinking that, OK, this is what I'm going to do, and then, on that path leading to find whatever this is, you discovered something completely different. You know, when I did my dissertation proposal, it was trying to find the answer of why there were so many Jamaicans in one place in New York New York is called. Why don't you, you know, why did it not in Florida, for example? Right, and going down that rabbit hole, I discovered Martha Gale and had the gentleman who purchased the brownstone and found her documents in the basement decide, like you know, many of us, oh, this process in the trash. We never heard the story right and now I feel like I'm destined to tell the story because I just found it by chance. But then the twists and the turn, the fact that my tenants knew the grandkids, the fact that there was a grandkids living right there in Queens, the fact that Damar is also a student from Yui who came here to the States to compile this, archives together it really is a fascinating story and I am really, I feel really blessed to have found it and I am glad that I have the opportunity to tell this story.

Speaker 1:

Beautifully said, truly, and I know we're all rooting for you as we're nearing I certainly am trying to near the finish line of graduation. So pulling, definitely pulling for you as you are working on your dissertation and you know we'll hopefully publish this into a book one day. You know I definitely have to ask my favorite question. Our listeners know what are some of your favorite examples of how this history of Caribbean migration, especially to the US, shows up in popular culture of and around? You know Miss Gale's story.

Speaker 2:

So, as I think about it, how it relates to Gale's story, I really have to think about it. Jamaican migration, not only to New York but specifically to Brooklyn, and then how it shows up in public culture. You know, you think about the likes of Shaggy, biggie Small, I don't know Buster Rimes, all of these. Well, in the case of Biggie Small, buster Rimes, who are born here in the States but nonetheless, you know, their parents were migrants from Jamaica who, you know, more or less created that black culture in Brooklyn, and these individuals strongly identify with Jamaica, right? So, yeah, you know, you look at all of the calibration of Jamaican artists with American artists and you can't help but think that this is only made possible through the strong connection of transnationalism with the Jamaicans who live in New York and those who live on the island.

Speaker 1:

Definitely. I'm sure there are plenty of songs I could think of where I'm like. Oh, look at the crossover right. Or even, just you know, the birth of hip-hop in itself and its roots to Jamaica.

Speaker 2:

Of course, dj Cool Erg.

Speaker 1:

Right. Miss Gale's story, really, though, is one that I think is monumental right in terms of global migration histories, and particularly the global migration crisis you know the world has been facing of late, particular, but you know one that has continued on for some time, where Caribbean people have been you know, of course, part of this for centuries. How can we use stories like Miss Gale's to change the narrative of migration?

Speaker 2:

Sure. So one of the things I've discovered in my research is that most Jamaicans are labor migrants and they're willing to go wherever work is available, right. And that is because, you know, the island has limited resources and therefore lacks opportunities for its young population. And in the case of Gale, for example, I realized that the brain drain effect is not a recent phenomenon. This is something that's probably centuries old. Because, you know, gale was an educated woman who had to leave Jamaica to create her own opportunities overseas. Why? Again, because there weren't any opportunities available for her at home. When you think about, for example, the American interest in the region and this is another thing too I discovered through my research whenever Britain withdrew its investment in Caribbean, the Americans were never too far behind. For example, during post-emancipation, you know, sure, britain gave the enslaved people their freedom, but what came after that? There was no investment in these people, right? Well, unfortunately, the Americans started to invest in the area, in terms of the United Fruit Company, for example, the Atmos Canal construction company, you know that created employment opportunities. And once these opportunities dried up in those regions, the migrants naturally went to the source of the world. I mean, they would like to come back to Jamaica, but again, there was no opportunities there. So they have to go where the opportunities lie, right. We see similar trends today with African migration to Europe. You know, the region has ever controversial relationship with European powers who would go there and exploit the resources, right. So now these Africans are forced to have to go to Europe to create their opportunities. And I think what can change the narrative is really how we invest in these developing countries. I don't think most Jamaicans want to emigrate, or at least they don't want to emigrate to stay, but they are forced to emigrate, right. I take my mom, for example. She's been in the States for decades. She still. I didn't fly as Jamaicans, right. I came here as a teenager and went to high school here, went to college here, I fought in three wars for the United States and I still identify as Jamaican. And, as you know, you may know, there are many lavish mansions on the island that are built by people in the diaspora, all with the intention of returning home at some point. So that gives you the sense that their orientation is with Jamaica, right. But if the opportunities existed there, I think the outcome would be different. So you know, sure we have businesses that invest in these places, but unfortunately what happened is they take the profit with them out of the country and I think if you redistribute the resources there and develop the island or develop developing countries, we'll have a different outcome.

Speaker 1:

I agree, I definitely think you know there is a way for hopefully just for us to, I think, through this story. Ultimately, one thing that is a takeaway for me is the fact that the stories of our successes are sometimes not told right, the fact that, you know, I think there is a sort of unfortunate narrative sometimes of migration or people who migrate and, first off, not all stories are the exact same. But also, like Miss Gale, many people go and migrate to wherever they end up and really make a very intricate, beautiful life for themselves, help support their families and generations to come. So, again, you know, echoing your sentiments as well, right there, hopefully can continue to be ways that, especially having some of the biggest diasporas in the world, we as Jamaicans and, you know, as Caribbean people worldwide, can really give back and support and, you know, help develop our places, our islands, our nations, to be stronger, to be better for each other. So with that, damien, I thank you for sharing a little bit with me for the podcast. I hope our Strictly Facts family really enjoyed this episode and thank you so much for, you know, the work that you're doing in bringing Miss Gale's story to light and I truly, for one, definitely look forward to reading it when it comes out, especially as a fellow Centigra myself.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, I'll just end it. I want to say thank you for the word that you're doing. I really do appreciate it because it's really repression to hear our own stories being told. I want to just mention how I came by a Strictly Facts. I was at work one day and you know I like to listen to podcasts and get through my day and I mostly listen to sports podcasts, but I also listen to history podcasts because I love history. But you know, I got tired of listening about King Charles and Abbergs and the Saxons and I'm thinking to myself what's happening in the Caribbean? Like why isn't anybody talking about Caribbean history? So I just searched it and there it was Strictly Facts and I'm really glad I came across it and I've learned so many stories about Haiti, the Dominican Republic and all of these other Caribbean islands that I like knowledge.

Speaker 1:

So I really appreciate the work that you're doing thank you so much, damien, and thank you as well for you know, I guess we're all playing our part in changing these narratives and expanding our history. So thank you so much and again, we hope you enjoyed this episode little more everyone. Thanks for tuning in this Strictly Facts. Visit Strictly Facts podcastcom for more information from each episode. Follow us at Strictly Facts pod on Instagram and Facebook and at Strictly Facts PD on Twitter.

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