We don't tell people how we feel
We don't tell people how we feel and why we feel that way. So, here goes:
I grew up in a below middle-class neighbourhood in Portmore, Jamaica. The situation growing up in a household where fully educated my mom, and my dad were not. Growing up was not the worst but was not the best, there were limitations on what they could do for us as children.
My mom left education when she was 13 when she became pregnant, and my dad left education at about the age of 11. My dad had to work to help his family out as he was the oldest boy.
Despite that crushing start in life, they both worked very hard and by the time I was born our family situation was a lot better. I grew up seeing my mom working as a machinist at a garment factory, and my dad working as a handyman at the local radio station, so I had a very humble beginning.
My parents saved enough to buy a small 2 bedroom house in South-borough, Portmore, Jamaica. I grew up with 1 brother and 3 sisters, we shared everything, and as a child I was happy. I was none the wiser, and I didn’t know I was poor until the age of 8 as I just made do with whatever I got.
I knew I was poor for the first time at the age of 8 when I visited a friend’s house whose parents were both successful. His mom was a leading scientist/dermatologist who owned her own cosmeceutical company, and his dad was a senior accountant at a financial institution.
He lived in a two-story house, 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and was an only child. It was just luck really that we were attending the same primary school in the area at the same time, that we became friends. What I learnt at the age of 8 is that my family was in a less desirable place because of the cards that you are dealt in life. Education or being an athlete was the only way to get out of this situation.
I would have to work hard with my limited resources.
I learnt, as well, that having other people to help, who help you along the way, would be more beneficial to uplift myself from my situation and progress to a more joyous life. People who already had this backing in place were already in an advantageous situation than me.
At high school, I did this by smartly pooling together money with friends and buying meals that we could share. Due to me being friends with older students, I was able to get their second-hand books at a reduced cost or for free. Still, though, the best I could do was to get to the university level, and then I was faced with the reality that I was just not the type of person that could afford University.
In Jamaica, only 3% of the entire country was able to get a university education.
Where I came from there was no one from my area that could attend if not awarded a scholarship because they were an athlete or stupidly intelligent, affluent people were not in my community.
So I went to work at age 18, working as an accounts payable clerk, at a public utility company in Jamaica, the National Water Commission where once again, I met people in higher positions who went to university and were highly sought after to work in prime positions due to them having Engineering degrees.
Frankly that could have been where my story ends, it was a job that paid enough, so you could pay the fare back to work and just enough for lunch, and a bit left to pay a household bill to help the family out.
Luckily,there were people who saw me and felt I could make more of myself if my situation was a bit better. I was wasting away in a job that was not going anywhere.
I saved up enough money for airfare and got enough money for a month’s school fee from my dad and took a leap of faith leaving the place I grew up at age 20 and coming to England. It was the kindness of strangers that helped me, people who weren’t family but provided me with a place to stay while I could go to college and work.
I was able to get by because of these people; the sums added up, barely. I made £500 a month from working in a call centre, as much as I could work, and stocking shelves at night. My college fees were £400 a month, and I had only £100 to buy food and necessities for the month.
These are my humble beginnings.
These were my reasons why, now let’s talk about the who, who this is for.
Most parents want their children to have a better life than they have had. My mom and dad would say that they achieved this, especially when looking at where I am now. Now being a parent I realise how difficult and hard life could become, and depending on what cards you are dealt, circumstances, faith and luck, determines if you will be successful at life.
Having great family support, having good friends, good education, money doesn’t guarantee anything.
Some would say starting with nothing and having to fight your way out of poverty is the best way of always wanting to do more and not being spoiled because you have been given everything.
Hold that thought…
It took me 18 years since I have been in England to get to where I am.
I have come to realise that there is only so far I can go without the support of others, and a good start and hard work. What I want is to support my family and kids, so they can make all their dreams and goals come through. I want to put them in the best place, so they have the advantage to do what they want to.
It’s that simple.
So back to the reasons why…
Being a black man there are certain prejudices that you face, some are blatant, and you can manoeuvre your way through these. But the silent prejudices or the institutionally ingrained one makes it hard to bypass. And yes, sometimes it stops you from progressing.
The chips do not stack up in a black man’s favour. The higher up we go, the tougher and lonelier the road is.
I feel like my children, Danté and André, will have to travel this road as well despite being half-white they won’t be considered as such and both of them will be thought of as black boys or mixed at best.
People have certain assumptions that grow from being on social media, depiction by the media and just not being educated enough or just because they feel threatened due to the area that you come from, the type of home you come from, or the way you came into this world.
I wanted to counter this by giving them a better start, wanting them better educated, having a better support network, having a better area to make friends that come from better situations than the ones surrounding us.
This leads on to the how, how can we do this.
Why try to do it all by myself when every aspect of my life has shown me that having people, who can help you progress removes so many of the barriers that I alone would have found it hard to get pass? I believe in this, so will live by it, “it takes a community to raise a child”.
More opportunities come from surrounding them with people and friends that come from homes that also have a more progressive mindset.
I know, no one, if they are being honest, would want to jump into the
unknown, we could all stay in the same situation and just deal with the
circumstances as best possible. But it’s against my nature, learning from the
past, leaving the family I grew up with after 20 years and venturing into the
unknown world has brought me here.