The Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition U.S.A, Inc. says it will honor Vincentian author Trish St. Hill with the Garifuna Heritage Award during its Second Annual Garifuna Heritage Awards and Cultural Night on Mar. 26 at the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in the Bronx.
“The Garifuna Coalition is proud to recognize Mrs. Trish St. Hill for her outstanding contributions to nurture and promote the Garifuna culture and identity,” the group said in a statement.
St. Hill, who was born in Troumaca on the leeward side of mainland St. Vincent, is the author of Beneath The Golden Mango Tree, in which she “masterfully tells a poignant tale of an under-explored and misunderstood immigrant group.
“She skillfully blends this West Indian assimilation tale with the true historic tragedy of the Garifuna people of Central America,” the coalition said.
It said Beneath The Golden Mango Tree is “a lesson in history that teaches through friendship, humor, tears, and resilience.”
St. Hill said she began writing the book in 1984, while pregnant with her daughter, Rashida. She the book has “overcome many trials and challenges.”
As an English-speaking West Indian immigrant attending college, St. Hill said she found that there was limited literature depicting the life and culture of English-speaking West Indians who settled in the United States.
“West Indians are still a misunderstood and silent immigrant group,” she said, stating that this primarily black immigrant group is still to this day not thought of as “true immigrants.”
St. Hill said that image is mainly reserved for European immigrants.
“West Indians, instead, are relegated to caricatures that they work six jobs, say ‘Ok, man’ and ‘yeah man’, and wear dreadlocks,” she said. “Sadly, this stereotype has not changed much over the years.”
The author said she wanted to “debunk the myths that surround the culture,” vowing to make a difference” by writing the book.
“However, life got in the way and it has taken her 25 years to publish it,” she said.
St. Hill said finding out about her Garifuna roots has also “sparked” her passion to write about the Garifuna culture.
That is why, she said, she has integrated the story of the Garifuna people of Central America in Beneath the Golden Mango Tree.
“Their ‘hell-o-cast’ and subsequent exile to Central America from their homeland of St.Vincent (Yurumein) is woven into the fabric of this immigrant tale,” she said, hoping that through “edutainment,” she would enlighten her readers about the tragedy that befell the Garifuna people.
St. Hill said the Garifuna side of the story in Beneath The Golden Mango Tree developed after she discovered that her maternal great-grandmother, “Nenen,” was descended from black Caribs or Garifuna.
She said that discovery initiated “an enthusiasm” to seek out the Garifuna people so she could understand that part of her heritage.
Last year, St. Hill received two citations and a medal for Beneath The Golden Mango Tree from the Nassau County executive, the mayor and people of Freeport, Long Island, and the Parks Department. The book was also designated “Book of the Month” by the Long Island Dispatch newspaper last August.
St. Hill holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s in social policy.
She can be reached at 347-488-4395 or 516-495-6426; or email [email protected].