Updated: May 10
My name is Katina, and I am a daughter of an Indo-Trinidadian father and African American mother born and raised in the rural south of the United States.
My parents met while living in New York in the late ’60s. They both relocated to New York for better work opportunities. Individually, my parents shared with me that they met on a crowded bus one day after working at their respective jobs. My dad said my mother would start saving a seat for him; although, my mother never admitted to this (Southern women were known to be gracious and allow the man to pursue them).
While my dad thought my mom was being kind by saving a seat for him, one day, she struck up enough nerve to eventually ask, “So you aren’t going to ask for my number or anything?” He eventually wrote his number on a piece of paper and gave it to her. A month later, she invited him over for dinner on his birthday. She cooked so much food that he said he thought it was Christmas.
When my father found himself falling in love with her, he told his uncle (my great uncle) that he thought he had a problem, “falling for this woman.” My uncle asked what was wrong, and my dad informed him that my mom was Black. My uncle advised him to go for it, and my dad did just that. They were married in 1972 and eventually moved to her hometown.
After moving from New York, my dad started noticing the stares and asked my mother why people were staring at them while doing everyday things. She explained to him it was because she was Black, and he was “different.” Their union was unique because my dad “stuck out more” in the rural town and neighboring areas. There were no other known East Indians in our hometown, and there was extraordinarily little diversity at the time. However, people there were commonly respectful of my parents’ togetherness. Other than lengthier looks, there was no verbal or public display of hatred shown because he was Indian, and she was Black.
There were cultural differences and some personality clashes between my parents, which was expected. Yet, they stayed together, raised us six kids, and were pretty much inseparable for 49 years until my mom’s passing in 2018. My dad still visits and decorates my mom’s grave regularly, with flowers for every occasion they celebrated together.
He continues to live in her hometown, and it has become a second home to him. He accepted my mom, her life, her son and supported her Pentecostal religious background (She was affiliated with this denomination of faith as a daughter of a church bishop, while my dad had grown up in a Muslim family. )
At my mother’s funeral, my uncle shared the touching conversation he had with my dad about falling in love with her to the congregation. During their courtship, it was still not customary for Indians and Blacks to mix.
As I recently gained more insight from my uncle about my parents’ union for The Blindian Project, he freely shared additional details about his own experiences marrying a Black Trinidadian woman.
In 1957, he was a mailman in Trinidad and rode a bike to work. There was a Black woman who worked at a nearby hospital, and on his way to work, he started giving her a ride on his bike. He said people would stare as if, “What is this Indian man doing riding a Black woman on his bike?”
When his Indian father found out he was dating her, my grandfather told my uncle, “I do not want to see that woman around here again.” My uncle says that he braced himself for a more violent reaction from my grandfather. By the time my uncle and aunt were planning to get married in 1961, my grandfather realized a foreseeable racial shift that would take place within his family. When my uncle told him, he smiled but still did not offer any well-wishes.
This was the first time I heard about these issues involving my uncle and aunt. Naively, I had thought that even during those years, it might have been more accepted in Trinidad. I never imagined that anyone—especially my grandfather, who I had only known to be loving and accepting, initially had a problem with my uncle marrying my aunt.
After relocating to the United States, my uncle acquired employment at a bank. Things seemed to be going well until he was fired abruptly without explanation. This occurred following my aunt’s appearance at the bank for the first time.
My uncle and aunt were married until 2014, until her death. She was Catholic. It became increasingly clear to me why my father told my uncle first about my mom. He knew my uncle would understand and be supportive when my grandfather would find out his news years later. And now it makes better sense why my uncle shared the talk that he had with my dad at my mother’s funeral. He identified with their deep love for one another and honored my parents. By telling their truth, he was also telling his own.
It is essential to allow love to lead instead of prejudice. Today, our extended family consists of various races, nationalities, and denominations of Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.