It’s Black History Month
Be a positive part of our future black history. Whose history are you creating?
While we celebrate the strong Black women and men that paved the way, let us continue to build a positive future history beginning with ourselves. What history will you leave behind?
Would the positive intellectuals who spoke up for our freedom and rights be happy with the black woman or man you are currently? There is no time like the present. Pay homage by being a woman or man they fought for us to be.
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Very precious memories: The day I graduated from basic school (pre-school) on the left in Kingston, Jamaica . I received a copy of the story book, Little Red Riding Hood for being one of the top students with my graduation certificate. The day I graduated from grad school on the right in California, USA . I received a Phi Alpha Honor Society Cord and Medal for my GPA with my MSW degree. I remember both days very clearly. From humble beginnings. I was created to succeed. Never give up on your purpose in life.
I look back at my life and I am in awe. I spent the early years of my life living in what is known as a ghetto. It was far from the easiest of life and I understood early what it meant to be surrounded by hopelessness. What it felt like to be judged on where one resides. Classism at its finest. What it meant to be fearful of being robbed, raped or killed.
I sat at home for nearly a year at some point without going to school. My parents could not afford to send me to school. I started out attending a preparatory (prep) school. One of the top prep schools at the time in Jamaica. I was surrounded by children who lived in middle and upper class neighborhoods. I realized early on, that I was different. All the other children spoke a little different than I did and their parents dropped them off and picked them up in vehicles before and after school. I on the other hand was taken to school primarily by my father by the use of public transportation. A few times, when my late paternal grandmother felt like it, she would have someone pick me up. A few times this was on a motorbike.
My paternal grandmother at some point had my parents enroll me in this prep school. As I understand it, they could not afford it, so she paid most, if not all the school fees. My grandmother was one of those people who lived in one of those upper class neighborhoods (which Jamaicans call Uptown), with a live in household worker, which some Jamaicans call a helper. She had one child, which is my father. However, my father, my mother, myself and eventually all my siblings as they were born all lived in a tenement yard, in a 1 bedroom. Eventually we gained an additional bedroom. Fortunately for us, because of my grandmother’s connection to the yard, we had our own kitchen and bathroom. All the other people who lived in the yard, shared a common bathroom.
It will take me much longer to explain why my grandmother would drive to her uptown house every night, leaving her only son and grandchildren, in a ghetto, where at certain times were filled with the sounds of gunshots…..
Eventually for some reason I could no longer go to the prep school. I was told my grandmother would no longer help pay my tuition. I ended up at a primary school. Again, feeling I did not fit in. Everything was different from what I had learned at the prep school. I eventually readjusted. During my time at primary school I gained the love of some wonderful teachers. Ending up at this primary school in the heart of downtown Kingston was a blessing in disguise for me.
When it was time to attend high school, I took an exam which at the time was called Common Entrance, a requirement to determine the high school students would attend. To the surprise of my parents, teacher and myself, I did not pass for one of the top high schools, what Jamaicans call a “traditional” high school. I actually passed for a school that at the time was just officially being recognized as a high school, having reached its 5th year of gaining the status of high school from previously being a secondary school (this may be confusing to everyone else who do not understand this type of school system).
Nevertheless, I spent the next 5 years attending a high school that I never really fitted into. Luckily, again, I had a few teachers who really spoke into my life, who believed in me. I was an active student and had a few close friends, thankfully. However, many thought I was “stush” a term Jamaicans use to describe those who speak and carry themselves a certain way. Essentially, I was seen as an uptown girl. By this time I was living uptown. My mother had emigrated to the states and I along with my siblings were living with my grandmother, in her uptown house. Though, I was characterized this way prior to moving there. It was all very ironic to me. I was too uptown for the other students at school but too downtown for those who lived in the neighborhood where I lived with my grandmother. Prior to moving there, I was too uptown acting for those who lived in the neighborhood I lived in with my parents.
I left high school disappointed in my performance on the exams I took. Which at the time were the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Exams. Many didn’t know the difficult time I was having at home, my grandmother and I never had a good relationship. She died from cancer before I had to sit my exams. There were many unresolved feelings. I had a great weight on my shoulders, caring for my siblings, coping with her death and the changes it created in our lives and handling other home issues. These struggles showed up in my exam results. I moved to the United States sometime after, determined to work hard to achieve my goals.
Fast forward to December 2016, I received my Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree. In May of 2017, I was able to go to California and walk the stage of the University of Southern California, with a cord and medal around my neck for my overall GPA.
From a little Jamaican girl who began her life in one of the rough parts of Jamaica, who moved to uptown Jamaica, never feeling apart of either neighborhoods, to obtaining a Master’s Degree from a very respected university.
Although I felt in many instances I was dealt a bad hand in life, in addition to the feeling that I never fitted in anywhere, I always knew I belonged. I remembered even as a young child in the ghetto, surrounded by all that hopelessness, I knew I was going to make it out. I had hope.
Along the way those teachers who were always there, who encouraged me to be the best me, who told me I could and would be someone great, they kept me going. I remember the compassion and love I got from my 4th grade teacher. I try to keep in touch with her as much as I can. I still keep in close contact with my 6th grade teacher. She has been a continuous part of my journey. She impacted and still impacts my life greatly, with the faith she has in me to succeed in all I do. In high school, my social studies, accounts and cosmetology teachers were my biggest supporters and comfort. I still regularly speak with my cosmetology teacher, she too has remained in my life as a constant support.
I am the oldest child for my parents and they instilled in me that I had to set an example. I wanted to be a good example, a BIG sister my siblings would love and respectfully look up to.
As a black woman, it is my desire to live the life the black men and women before me, never got to live but fought for and believed in. To pay homage to them on this journey called life.
As a women, I want to live the life that women before me, black, white, hispanic, all women fought for. To have the rights they never had and to use those rights to elevate other women who are still fighting for such rights.
As a human being, apart of humankind, I want to be kind to all humans. I will continue to advocate for a world that is kind to all humans.
Live your life! Fulfill YOUR purpose! Don’t let circumstances dictate your life! Help create a positive history that will make you and others proud!