Fiona Compton On Calling Out Colonial Narratives And Retelling Caribbean History
Photo Credit: FIONA LEAF

Photo Credit: FIONA LEAF

Fiona Compton On Calling Out Colonial Narratives And Retelling Caribbean History

BHM22 , Caribbean , St Lucia , London , United Kingdom
Amara Amaryah
Amara Amaryah Feb 7, 2022

Do you know much about hidden Caribbean history? ‘Know Your Caribbean’, the platform unapologetically dedicated to retelling and reclaiming Caribbean history, is here to change that.

As we continue in Black History Month, Fiona Compton, the great mind behind Know Your Caribbean shares her thoughts on Caribbean history, culture and badass moments that characterize the islands.

Could you introduce yourself for Travel Noire readers?

I’m Fiona Compton, a St. Lucian born and raised and a London based ‘artivist’ and historian. A fully fledged island gyal and as they say, you can take the girl out the island, but you can’t take the island out of the girl.
Ever since graduating from the University of the Arts, I made a conscious decision to dedicate my life to Caribbean History and Culture. Through my work as a photographer, filmmaker and Carnival Ambassador I have been on a constant search to find new ways to tell stories that make us feel seen and heard, and through that it was a natural progression into history as I traversed through dusty pages of our past, trying to undo how we see ourselves today.

How would you describe the 'Know Your Caribbean' platform?

Know Your Caribbean is a platform which aims to be the go-to for Caribbean history and culture, telling our stories that unpick colonial teaching and perspectives.

Colonialism has been hugely impactful in how we see ourselves (far less how we are seen by others) but it is a platform designed for us, a place to see ourselves, re-member ourselves, and re-connect ourselves. I do my best to balance our tough trauma of our past with digging deep to find that our joy always did and still exists today, and that the center of our survival is resistance.

What prompted you to create the platform?

I started KYC, thanks to my mother, who collected old postcards. Like many of our parents, years ago she wasn’t very tech-savvy, and kept asking me to bid on old postcards for her on Ebay. I was pulled into the beauty of our past, through these post cards, many of which were over 100+ year old portraits of our ancestors.
I was fascinated to see their faces, look at what they wore, and look into their eyes, if only for a moment. My curiosity led me to wanting to know more, whilst I explored my own ways of storytelling.
That was the beginnings of the rabbit hole that is our history. I would search for a story on a rebellion in a particular Caribbean country and I would end up finding out the meaning of a dance that I knew my whole life actually comes from Guinea, or a story of brave teenagers doing gangsta things we could only dream of, or how black women hid rice in their hair and in their children’s hair to survive the Middle passage.
Our history began filling my heart and my spirit in ways I never knew possible, and all I wanted to do was share that emotion with my people.

Do you think Caribbean history is well-preserved across the Diaspora and/or in the Caribbean?

Caribbean history in many ways is shaped by a Eurocentric perspective. Growing up, there was a lot of focus on what Europeans did here, and less focus on what Black and brown people did, outside of being oppressed and massacred.
So why would our community gravitate to knowing more? That perspective is the antithesis of empowerment, so it’s no wonder there is a collective disinterest, and why we hold on to Black American heroes, without knowing about our own.
I aim to change that, while building a bridge to our African American family, I want the names of our Caribbean heroes and heroines to be as commonplace as European Napoleons and American George Washingtons.

What kinds of topics can listeners expect on the Know Your Caribbean podcast?

All manner of things! I know what it’s like to be in a lecture, and I format the podcast not to feel that way. I throw in lesser known Caribbean music, and topics to shake things up, like our complicated relationship with Christianity, to finding out that Kalinago women (our indigenous people) were sharp shooting bad gyals who never missed a target.

I laugh, I curse (sometimes), I play devil’s advocate, but the number one goal is to leave you feeling empowered.

What are some of your favorite recent Caribbean historical/cultural wins?

That’s a tough one! But most recently in St. Lucia, an iconic beach that was sold off to golf developers, which is also a Kalinago sacred burial ground, was due to be converted into a golf course. The development was also designed to block off locals from being able to swim there.

This is an ongoing frustration for Caribbean people who are constantly losing their beaches and public spaces (like taking your kids to swim on a Sunday) to hotels who intimidate locals or block access entirely.

Thankfully due to cultural activism on the ground in Saint Lucia, we were able to convince the government to retract this development clause to allow permanent access to the beach for locals and to protect the ancestral burial ground.

This happened because we as a people rallied together,  and our voices became stronger than the multi-million dollar development that was going to destroy our legacy and deny us from enjoying our own home. It’s a huge community win in my eyes.

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