In Royal Wedding, 'I Saw My Blackness. I Saw My Jamaican-ness'

May 24, 2018

COMMENTARY:

I didn’t intend to watch the royal wedding this past weekend. While I’d kept up with the details of the impending fairy-tale nuptials occurring across the ocean, I planned to sleep through the live show.

Patrice Gopo, author
Credit Patrice Gopo

I thought I’d watch clips from the big event later. A frantic few weeks of travels and deadlines had left me longing for a lazy kind of Saturday morning - the kind of Saturday morning that includes sleeping well past 9 a.m.

However, the morning of the wedding, chirping birds startled me out of sleep just as the first signs of daylight forced their way through my closed blinds. I think the birds and the rising sun both knew something about the royal wedding that I couldn’t have imagined or predicted. They knew that if I watched that wedding ceremony, I would see affirmations of who I am.

Because that’s what ended up happening when I decided to get out of bed and join millions of other people watching a couple say, “I do.” In such an unlikely place, I saw elements of me.

A few months ago, 1stGens, a podcast about being a first-generation American, invited me to be a guest on their show. During my interview, one of the hosts asked me where I culturally and racially identify.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Credit Kensington Palace

“Black,” I said. “Black American. And the child of Jamaican immigrants. And a Jamaican-American too.” As I shared the cultural and racial categories I keep close, I thought to myself, This is me, this is part of my particular story of who I am.

This past Saturday, there in the space of a one-hour wedding ceremony - the time it took for a couple to commit their lives to each other - I saw pieces of my cultural and racial categories reflected back to me. I watched Bishop Michael Curry deliver passionate words about love and quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I swayed as the Kingdom Choir stunned the crowd with such a profound rendition of “Stand By Me” and I listened to Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, and could hear from the precise folds in her voice that she is originally from Jamaica.

I saw my blackness. I saw my Jamaican-ness. I saw the intersection of these heritages celebrated on the international stage.

What happened next was that I walked through the rest of the day with my shoulders straight, my head lifted high and a permanent sensation that it wasn’t just Bishop Michael Curry who stood at the front of the chapel. It wasn’t just the Kingdom Choir’s harmonies and melodies that flooded that room. It wasn’t just Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin who prayed. But it was also a bit of me up there as well.

Now, what I want to say to those chirping birds and those first streaks of morning light is thank you for waking me. Thank you for rousing me from sleep so I could experience the reality that a royal wedding could be about so much more.

Patrice Gopo is the author of All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way. She lives with her family in Charlotte.