Guest Post: My Experience as a Caribbean Latter-Day Saint in Utah
By Ramona Morris
I didn’t hear what I thought I heard.
I had to be hearing things
This didn’t make sense.
Even know as I write this article, two years after being called the “n” word for the first time, I still find myself making countless excuses for someone’s else ignorance and flat out racism.
In the fall of 2018, following the death of my grandmother, I packed up my life into two suitcases and flew to Idaho to be near to my adopted second mom (the mom of one of my first missionaries). As an avid traveler, I was pumped yet saddened for the adventure that lay ahead.
As a caretaker for my grandmother who suffered with dementia during my early twenties, this trip signaled more than just an unconventional grieving process, but also meant that for the first time in almost six years since dropping out of college, I was actually doing something for myself.
Still grieving heavily, I found it difficult to talk to those who loved me most. Despite this, I found Idaho refreshing. My mom Jolyn and I would spend our time going to Costco or to the temple. When I recognized early on that no one looked like me, we would play how many persons of color we saw that day.
A few days in, Jolyn and I drove to Utah and in the parking lot of a tiny Snowville gas station, my friend Anna and I hugged after reuniting for the first time she left the mission field in the Barbados Bridgetown mission.
I began to feel like a fish-out-of-water almost immediately. No less than ten minutes into our drive, Anna’s roommate began making fun of my accent. It might have seemed funny but as a proud island Barbadian girl who lived in the Caribbean who was proud of the person she was, I remember crying that night feeling judged and out-of-place.
Still, I painted a happy face on. I became an expert at this. I tried to smile when someone asked me if I came to Utah by boat. But what happened next surprised even me.
A few weeks in, my friend invited me to an event where a group of guys in passing referred to me as the “n”word. It felt like someone had poured cold water all over me. Not wanting to rock the boat, I tried but failed to plaster a smile onto my face so that my friend could enjoy the event.
What happened in the weeks following derailed my experiences in Utah. I began to question friendships. I began to tear myself apart and have massive panic attacks. I spoke even less to friends. When I saw a group chat describing the details of my trips from missionaries who had served where I lived, I wanted nothing more than to go home. Everyone had made Utah out to be the celestial kingdom and here I was feeling like gum under someone’s shoe.
Eventually, I found that friendship from those who stepped in when I was struggling most was all that mattered. I chose to move on from that difficult event to speak out more about the things that often get pushed under the rug.
The things those guys said don’t define me as a person. I am still me. I am still Ramona Morris. I am still Momo and even the Sassy Day Saint. That hateful word has no power over me.
Ramona Morris is a sassy-day saint from the small Caribbean island of Barbados. In her almost four years as a member, she’s dealt with the good, bad, and in-between of being a convert to the church. Her goal is to live the gospel as sassily as she can.