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Abstract

People have an endless fascination with character information since it helps us to predict the behavior of those we interact with (King, Rumbaugh, and Savage-Rumbaugh 1999). Stories or narratives serve as an extension of this fascination. They help us make better decisions even without supplying immediate information. When we each talk about the past, our stories not only disclose currently relevant social particulars, but also provide tools for reasoning about action—our own and others’. In many instances, the stories we tell offer explanations of an outcome that resulted when we acted upon something—or serve as indirect memories of a place or a past event that guides our decisions today. Alternatively, the stories we tell can merely introduce us to a range of behaviors and experiences so that we have a richer context for understanding when we encounter something new.

We tell stories because they appeal to our social intelligence. Storytelling arises out of our capacity to understand one another and direct others’ attention to real events. In the narrative process, the storyteller is a problem-solver, an individual with the capacity and preference to make strategic choices within particular situations, making different kinds of appeals to the cognitive preference and expectation of the listener. In doing so, the storyteller points to the challenges faced, choices made, and outcomes learned that could, ultimately, inspire the listener and move him or her toward some action. For those of us especially interested or engaged in community building, stories give expression to the histories and lives of people across our communities. Listening to and understanding these stories provide us the opportunity to explain why the people we listen to do what they do, and the impact their behaviors and experiences have in the overall vitality of our community. Put simply, to be an “understander” of the world is also to be an explainer of the world—and stories help us do this.

So, why are stories of second-generation black Caribbean immigrants important? What do these stories tell us? Moreover, what do these stories mean to local racial-ethnic communities as a whole? The immigrant story is one that is deeply intertwined with our broader community story.

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