Leisure Recreation and the Arts

West Indians in both the United States and the Caribbean enjoy varying amounts of leisure time, partially based on class and gender. In their countries of birth, working-class and poor women enjoy less leisure time than men of all classes and than middle- and upper-class women. Middle- and upper-class women in the Caribbean have more leisure time than their working-class peers because they can afford to pay others to perform childcare and other domestic duties. After migrating to the United States, immigrants of varying class backgrounds often find that they have to work long hours at jobs that are low paid by American standards. West Indian women find that they have considerably less leisure time than men because they are expected to work outside the home and to be responsible for most domestic duties.

Whereas in the Caribbean women might have spent most of their leisure time socializing with an extended network of kin, in the United States leisure time tends to be more diversified. Since immigrants often move to the same neighborhoods as relatives (in many cases living in the same apartment buildings), leisure time can still be spent gaffing (chatting), as the Guyanese put it, with nearby kin. West Indian immigrant women in the

United States and in London lament that their husbands tend to waste their wages at rum shops and pubs (Foner, 1986). Jamaican immigrant women have reported feeling excluded from pub life both prior to and after migrating abroad (Foner, 1986). In this sense, the sexes are segregated during certain leisure activities. However, West Indian women have reported that, for the most part, life abroad means that they have more privileges and that, since they work full time, their husbands are more likely to help with housework (something husbands never did back home).

Leisure time for women in Brooklyn's West Indian neighborhoods includes shopping, watching television, and attending community gatherings at churches. A leisure activity specific to Brooklyn's West Indian population is the time that many women and men spend preparing for the annual West Indian Day Parade, which takes place during Labor Day weekend and is New York City's largest parade. Other activities specific to this group include eating at Brooklyn's numerous West Indian restaurants and attending local performances by West Indian musical artists.

The leisure activities with which West Indian immigrant youth might occupy themselves are also very similar to those of their American peers: they listen to music, attend cheerleading practice, play video games, attend after-school programs, and "hang out" on the streets of their neighborhoods. However, there are some differences. The lack of movie theaters in Brooklyn's Flatbush, East Flatbush, and Crown Heights sections prohibits adolescents from frequent trips to the cinema. Another difference is the tendency of young West Indian immigrants to assert Caribbean identities by keeping themselves abreast of the latest West Indian musical artists. These youths and the musical artists to whom they listen have contributed to the Caribbeanization of New York City, in that American youths now also enjoy West Indian cultural products.

West Indian adolescents of both genders participate in after-school leisure activities at neighborhood organizations, churches, and ethnic clubs. Activities at these organizations are sometimes gendered, such as the predominantly male activity of basketball and the exclusively female activity of cheerleading. However, boys and girls come together in activities such as learning and performing dances to Jamaican dancehall and hip-hop music. Girls participate in more school-planned activities than boys (Waters, 2001, p. 201).

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