Growing up in Jamaica in the early 1950s through the early 1960s I came to the realization that my family had preferred status. My mother was a teacher and my father, though a man of very little formal education possessed something that money could not buy. He was “high yellow”. A preferred color in the Afro Jamaican community. The class standing of my family afforded the perception of generosity and graciousness. The impoverished and poor of our small community often brought offerings to my mother to gain favor. Whither is was to watch television from the verandah, (that was as far as they were permitted to enter our home) or to get extra lessons for their children in preparation for the Common Entrance exams. The outward kindness of my parents, my mother in particular lead to children being given to them as live in helpers in return for room and board and schooling. Behind closed doors and at the “hands of help” many of the children were physically and mentally abused by both my parents. My mother was the primary abuser and my father the enabler. The children were threatened with being returned to a life of abject poverty if they dared to “tell lies” about their treatment, so they endured in silence. No one knew that rivers of blood spilled from their tiny nostrils from crushing blows to their heads or that there were whelps from leather straps hidden under their well pressed uniforms.
I remember being about eight years old when their screams for help seeped into my dreams, though all seemed well with the rest of my family. It was then I learned that abuse affects not only the individual targeted for abuse, but also those in the surrounding environment. I too as a child felt the tentacles of abuse as they reached beyond the intended victims and touched my soul. By the age of ten, I can remember plotting in my daydreams ways to help the children escape their prison, which I called home. In my conscious thoughts, by the age of eleven, I pledged that I would dedicate my life as an advocate for the safety, well being and education of children. All children. With this:
“ I believe that respect as the birthright of all children and is not contingent upon their station in life, the color of their being, the parents of their birth or those made available to them, or any other human made discriminatory factors. The dignity of children must drive us as a society to demonstrate that they (our children) are valued.”
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.