I am Keegan Simms and I was born and raised in Miami. I am proud of who I am, where I come from, and where I am going. When people ask me the famous question, “Where are you from?” I always anticipate the type of reaction that I will get. To answer that question, I respond with the fictitious word “Germaican.” “What?” they ask, “so you are German and Jamaican?” and I just give them a head nod and a smile.
Yes, my mix is not very common and it makes me very unique. My mother, Wanda, is German and my father, Robert, is Jamaican. It will forever throw people for a loop because even though I am biracial, people are under the impression that I am of Hispanic descent, because of my skin tone and other attributes.
For as long as I can remember, my dad would always tell me to learn Spanish and put myself out there because it would give me the advantage, and open doors I could only dream of. Miami, being the melting pot it is, allows me to practice my bilingual skills every day.
Neither of my parents were born in Miami, nor do they have any relatives that previously made historical ties to the great city of Miami. So why and how do I consider Miami my home?
My grandparents on my mother’s side were each born in Germany and moved to Iowa, U.S.A., while they were young. My mother was the third-oldest of seven children, who were all raised on a farm in a small town in northeast Iowa. My grandfather always took his kids on airplane rides, which intrigued my mother enough to join the traveling industry and become a flight attendant. Her job and training stationed her in Miami, where she would meet my dad.
My father is a pure-bred Jamaican who spent almost a fourth of his life on the small island in the Caribbean. After finishing up his education, he picked up a job with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line as a photographer. This allowed him to travel the world while he got paid to do what he loved. My dad had the opportunity to walk on American soil, through his job, and he enjoyed it enough to go through the naturalization process and become an American citizen. What city did he choose to settle in? None other than Miami. It was on one of his trips at sea that he met my mother.
An old United Airlines photograph embodies why Miami is my home. Neither of my parents had previous ties to Miami before they met each other and this picture, in a way, signifies how my parents met. My mother is depicted in the third row from the top and second flight attendant from the left. This is her inducted class of United Airlines flight attendants. The picture was taken by the attractive photographer from Jamaica, otherwise known as my father. All aspects of this picture tell a story about how Miami is my home today. Each of their individual passions led them to meet in one of the most diverse cities in the world.
It was not too long before my parents got married. My mother’s job required her to relocate every so often; before any of my siblings were born, my parents lived everywhere from New Jersey to Hawaii. When my mother was pregnant with my oldest brother, she wanted to settle down in their old stomping grounds and where it all started — Miami, Florida. They bought an abandoned house destroyed by Hurricane Andrew and solely by their hands and the hands of relatives they built the house I live in today. This house we live in is a product of the many generations of hands putting up drywall and perfecting piping systems.
Our family tree is rich in culture as my parents are from different parts of the world. One might think that our household is bursting with different languages and principles, but it is completely the opposite. From stories told to me by my parents, I know that the way my siblings and I were raised was drastically different from the way my parents were raised. I think American society had a strong influence on the way that we were raised. Now, as I evaluate our culture, I realize that we are blazing a new way of life as we take snippets of everyone’s culture and make it our own. Seldom do we do things exclusive to the Jamaican culture or the German heritage. The best way to describe our culture is just a spoon of the “Miami Melting Pot,” with a tad bit more jerk seasoning.
These stories and memories make Miami home. There is no other place I would rather spend my life. Miami is special to me and to the rest of my family. Maybe all it takes for one to call someplace home is just time spent there, but it is the untold stories of the city and the memories that you make while in that city that truly determines your roots.
Tell us your story
HistoryMiami invites you to share your Miami Story.
To submit: Submit your story and photo(s) at www.HistoryMiami.org. Your story may be posted at MiamiHerald.com/miamistories, published in Sunday’s Neighbors print edition and archived at HistoryMiami.org/miamistories.
About Miami Stories: This project is a partnership between HistoryMiami, Miami Herald Media Co., WLRN and Michael Weiser, chairman of the National Conference on Citizenship.