A Guide to Telling the Tale of Two Cities
By Kailah Trice
I’ve written a scholarship essay showing how I’d bring a diverse perspective to NYU. I’ve shared my experiences growing up in Jamaica and America, my love of sharing knowledge and my love of writing.
I first visited my mother’s homeland of Jamaica when I was six months old. Growing up, I returned every summer to stay with my grandmother in Kingston. I am a first-generation American, and my mother believed it was imperative that I experience my Jamaican heritage and even attend summer school on the island. There were many summers I spent under my school’s mango tree, practicing folk songs, singing, “The donkey wan wata, ole him Joe!” and “Daylight come an me wan go home” with classmates. I couldn’t wait to go to school each summer, and when the summer was over, I was even more thrilled to return to classes in the U.S. to share what I’d learned about my country.
I was never the only person at my grandmother’s house; she boarded students and immigrants from across the world. When I returned home from school, we would talk and eat together.
“How do you say ‘car’ in England?” I asked a law student, Jenna, “In Jamaica it’s ‘key-yar.’”
“‘Ca!’” she responded with. “How do you say it in Zimbabwe?” she asked another student.
The world was sitting at my dinner table, and from that young age, I learned to appreciate diversity and the culture I came from.
When I returned home to Atlanta, Georgia, I wanted to pass on what I’d learned to my friends and the best way I could think of, short of bringing them to Jamaica with me, was to read. But I found it difficult to locate books that spotlighted characters of color or immigrants. I struggled to find characters who were Black like me, not to mention characters who were Black first-generation children of immigrants.
Now, working in my current job as an after school counselor at a recreation center, serving majority Black students, I face the same problem. The center’s books don’t show a wide range of diversity, and most of them don’t even have Black main characters. This is one of the primary reasons I wish to pursue my graduate degree, to refine my skills, and write and publish poetry that Black people can see themselves in.
My love for education has also instilled in me a love for sharing knowledge, and the best way I can do this is to continue strengthening my voice in writing. I’m proud of my work, and I know that pursuing my graduate degree will better equip me to teach through my poems.
I plan to focus on children’s poetry and fictionalized poetry that borders on fantasy to spotlight the Caribbean diaspora and tackle issues in the U.S. and in Jamaica. I channel my heritage by writing some of my work with patois phrases, along with works fully in patois. This way, I find a happy medium to express both my American and Jamaican halves, and readers from either country can find themselves reflected in my work.
For my children’s works, I draw on experiences I had in Jamaica as a child, like having Sunday school under the mango tree and dodging falling mangos. Even though the poem may not be in patois, I’ve brought my whole self to it and exposed my readers to a culture they may have never experienced but can see themselves in.
Going to school in both Atlanta and Kingston showed me how diverse my own life is, and I have the power to share my perspective through poetry. My upbringing and my Jamaican/American culture have taught me to seek out diversity and appreciate it. As a Black female child of an immigrant, I shouldn’t have to search for myself in the media that I read; I should just be there. So, I’m strengthening my voice in poetry at NYU to add to the narrative of diversity. I hope that my work will encourage people to seek out different perspectives, learn from them and appreciate them.
NYU asked me to write a piece showing how I would use my skills in writing to contribute to diverse perspectives on their campus, so I decided to share the perspective I grew up with. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia but I have dual citizenship with Jamaica.
Almost every year of my childhood, I would travel to Jamaica to visit my grandmother for summer and some winter holidays. She would board students and travelers from across the world, and I would sit and talk with them. It was here that I fell in love with sharing and listening to stories, and I realized how important it was for everyone to be able to have their story heard.
This was the real inspiration for my piece, remembering nights sitting in the cool breeze, talking, or playing cards with people from Europe, Africa, Jamaica, and other parts of the Caribbean. I wish I had pictures to truly capture those moments, but for now the thoughts are etched in memory and in pieces like this scholarship consideration.
Kailah Trice is a Jamaican-American author from Atlanta, Georgia. She is a recent college graduate and plans to continue her education in pursuit of an MFA. She specializes in poetry and loves to write short stories. Kailah hopes to publish several books of poetry as well as children’s books. Right now, she is currently working on publishing her first book. One of her goals in life is to be on the New York Times bestselling authors list! In her free time, Kailah loves spending time with her twin brother, playing video games, playing piano and watching cartoons and anime.