Abstract: A creative essay for Early African American Lit. Creative writing is something that I am strong in. For this assignment I had to create a character who was a well published person of color author. Their background story, and how they rose to fame in the world of literature. Also, I had to provide writing sample of my fictional characters work. Poetry being her specialty, I was able to create poems that my character could be believed to have write. What made this challenging was that my fictional character had to be friends with another famous person who could relate to them at that same period of time. Overall I enjoyed this challenge and received a high grade for it.
Essay:The Untold Story of R. Bea Truth
Exclusion in the land that one is new to can be unfortunately expected, but racism and exclusion in motherland that one is a child to can be traumatizing and heartbreaking. The words of Raquel Bea Truth are those that speak of this pain. Slavery was the business of the Caribbean for many years but its impact on the islands and their peoples will forever remain. Havana Cuba was one of the main trading ports for slaves. They would come from all parts of Africa, yet West Africa, mainly the area as to what is now known as Nigeria was a main source for slavers. The reason why there is an identification with “Afro” in the word Afro-Cuban is to acknowledge one’s African Heritage. Yet, for poor Raquel Bea Truth, Cuba was all she knew and Africa was only a land in which her ancestors came from. Yet, to African Americans, she was considered Cuban, and to Cubans she was African and not one of them, and to Americans, she definitely was not one of them. This is the background story of struggling to blend in with one’s culture when one’s skin tone is too off.
An Afro-Cuban immigrant to the United States, R. Bea Truth began her American citizenship in Miami in 1960, when she was twelve years old. Originally named Raquel Beatriz Talge, her father thought it was better for her to have an American name hence, Rachel Bea Truth. She was published though, as R. Bea Truth, the R as a form of neutrality. From Havana Cuba, her parents fled the island after Fidel Castro and his party had taken over the government. She was born on the island in 1948. While in Miami, she attended school with other Cuban immigrants, yet they did not fully view her as one of them. Truth was “too black” and was labeled “La Negra” which means the black one by her peers. She wrote a section in her
collection of poems book, “The Island I Miss But Cannot” about the feeling of this exclusion. Working hard in her studies, R. Bea Truth was able to attend the University of Florida in 1969 as an English major. And it was there, that with the help of her advisors she was able to publish, “The Island I Miss but cannot”. She was friends with, Ana Mendita, a performance artist, who also felt she was ripped from their homeland. “It was like leaving a neglectful mother that I had always loved. I want to return but I know that she will only ridicule me if I do.” (The Island I Miss But Cannot, page 1, line 1) Unfortunately, Truth’s life came to a sad ending when she died in a car accident in Miami in 1986, she was only thirty seven years old.
The collection of poems she created into a book, “The Island I Miss But Cannot” was published when she was in her senior year at Florida University in 1972. Talge always was vocal about how she felt she never truly belonged in either of her cultures. Her family had African
roots and in Cuba at the time, that was frowned upon because the people felt it had “tainted” their original native Cuban culture. While she tried to explain this to her African American friends, they still only viewed her as Afro-Cuban.
“Half and half, but not whole
My country men never saw me as such.
Was I even their country woman?
My family never knew that we would hurt this much.”
(“The Island I Miss But Cannot” page 5, lines 1-4)
Truth was inspired by writers like Maya Angelou to write her emotions and felt that she could be a writer like her. Talge’s advisers in the English department at the University of Florida found this to be striking work. That she was originally part of two worlds, and now as an immigrant she was part of three. “The Island I Miss But Cannot” has about one hundred pages explaining this cultural exclusion. In the book itself, there is a map of Cuba with a large “X” over Havana, where Truth’s family is from. There is a family picture with many people in it, smiling happily, taken from when she still lived in Cuba. However, there is a smaller picture as well, with fewer people and less smiles, this was taken in Miami when Truth first arrived. Truth’s book, “The Island I Miss But Cannot” was only ten dollars at the store, which was strange because it was a hardcover. The book is a great read, and if one has family ties to the Caribbean, it is a must read. Especially to those whose families are descendants of African slaves.
Those who were not classmates of R. Bea Truth also read her book. For it appealed to the Afro-Cuban community living in Miami at the time and to the Cuban refugee community as a whole. Truth specifically wanted this book to be published in both Spanish and English, so her community and those outside it could understand how she and others like her felt. R. Bea Truth published a collection of poems about leaving her homeland and people sympathized with that. It was written over time from when she was a teenager, the 1960’s a time when tensions with Cuba were high. Her famous friend, Ana Mendieta whom she met while on a trip to New York City, was also a Cuban refugee. They felt that together, they could express their pain of not belonging in their homeland and not in America. Together they collaborated a performance piece that Mendieta held in a private gallery showing in Miami. Mendieta performed by pouring out buckets of red paint while Truth read some of her poetry in Spanish. Truth even had a passage about her name being changed. Something very personal was literally “white washed” as she called it.
Ironic, now for what is my Truth?”
(The Island I Miss But Cannot, page 10 lines 1-7)
As for myself, finding this work was incredible. For R. Bea Truth could never fit into either the African community or the Cuban community fully, it would make sense that I could not find her in the “Oxford Companion to African American Literature”. It is unfortunate that she was not considered so with her roots. Research shows that Cuba was segregated while R. Bea Truth was growing up, that the people treated those with African heritage differently. Now, there is a pride to be had for being Afro-Cuban and I believe that Truth, while only a short lived writer, had a large influence to that.
The Caribbean community as a whole has African influence. Unfortunately these two cultures were forcefully brought together by slavery. A diverse island such as Cuba is a prime example of this. However, even after decades of abolished slavery Cuban people drew lines in terms of skin color. If someone, such as R. Bea Truth, was considered to be too dark or black, they were branded with Afro, African and non-indigenous. Light skin and tan skin were the skin tones that held no labels to them and were considered originally Cuban. Yet this labeling only separated the country more, and followed Truth to her new land. Her book brings a personal perspective to that labeling. One that many in the Caribbean can identify with if they have African roots. Truth’s, “The Island I Miss But Cannot” serves as a source of healing, to show others that share her roots that they are not alone. By reading it, one finds a source of comfort and pride in their heritage.