A report by Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life.
A Brooklyn theater actress is going to her ancestral home of Jamaica on a Fulbright scholarship. Stage performer Abigail Ramsay is heading to her parents place of birth for a 10-month teaching program at the Edna Manley School of Performing Arts, located in the country’s capital of Kingston. The nearly year-long stay will be the first time in years that a thrilled Ramsay returns to the island, but this time around she is exploring an educational avenue she hopes will be stimulating.
“It is truly and hugely exciting for me on all levels,” she said. “I get to spend time in Jamaica, and it’ll the most time I’ll spend there longer than a month, and I’ll also get to see the ways it has changed since the last time.”
She felt honored the Fulrbight committee accepted her application, and said she was thankful they saw the importance of her mission statement.
“This dream realized would not have been possible without their selecting my project for this generous scholarship, and for this I am humbled and grateful,” she said.
She applied for the state department scholarship last year after concluding a similar trip in Trinidad and Tobago. The experience strengthened her love for the drama profession, and inspired Ramsay to research into how she could continue the learning adventure in a culture she had a familiar connection to.
“The trip reminded me of the power of theater and the power of issues unique to different cultures, and it felt like the right thing for me to look into this,” she said. “And since my family is from Jamaica, I wanted to have the same experience there because I believe in the saying, ‘You don’t really do it, until you do it at home.’”
Growing up, Ramsay frequently took trips to the island nation during summers. But as she got older, those travels stopped but remained a top destination for her to visit in the future.
Throughout the duration of her Fulbright scholarship, Ramsay will be teaching two subject areas to drama students at the institution’s School of Drama — social justice and familial storytelling. She said her goal was to familiarize students with the ways people can create community building with performance, and her own personal experiences and knowledge with the workings of intergenerational storytelling.
“It’s all exciting and interesting to me, and I’m fascinated with investigating into this and reconciling with history,” she said.
And one of the highlights will be the examination of the Windrush generation. Born in the U.K., Ramsay’s parents are part of thousands of Caribbean immigrants invited to the United Kingdom between the 40s and 70s. And being a product of it, gives her a unique perspective.
“The history of the Windrush generation speaks to so many people in terms of immigration, and I’ll be using the tools of theater for the basis of educating people on it,” said Ramsay.
Currently in the final stages of finishing her coursework and upon completing her Fulbright, Ramsay said she wants to return with some newfound knowledge. But most importantly, she hopes to grow a stronger appreciation of her Jamaican heritage.
“There’s something really important about leaving your normal life and opening up to another culture, but there’s even more of a going luxury to do this with a place you already identify with,” said Ramsay.