This is the second of a two-part post about women I am grateful for in 2016. Some I have met in person, and others I have connected with through articles and interviews about them. Some are old friends, and some are new friends. All are wonderful, in my book.
Shan, Shan-Shan, Shankipooh. She is a talented graphics and web designer based in the USA, and my best friend. We became friends while in grade 8 at St. Hilda’s. In high school, we received much scolding from our parents, because they could not understand how we could have spent the whole day at school together, and still head straight for the phone to talk to each other when we got home. That behaviour, always talking, has continued into our adulthood. She has shared in the joy of my successes and the pain of anything that has caused me to hurt. She has been a voice of reason and a listening ear. Importantly too, she has been a source of riotous laughter. In my eyes, Shanelle is one of the most selfless persons in the world. She can be kind, to a fault. See, this is one person who knows me well. She best understands how multifaceted I am. I am grateful for the friendship that we have, as it has withstood the tests of distance and time. I am grateful to have the safe space of our friendship to just… be. I am proud of the strength and resilience that she continues to show, and that her heart is a big as ever. Friendship should be cherished.
Deidre and I met at 6 years old, in first grade at St. Ann’s Bay Primary. She was a ball of energy and even very mouthy back in the day! Thanks to Facebook, although she now lives in a different country, Deidre and I have been able to keep in touch. She is a Christian and uses her Facebook page to spread the message of God’s love. In addition to that, she is known to past students of St. Hilda’s, as one of the persons who cheers on everyone and genuinely celebrates their success. In 2016, Deidre continued her trend of praying for me, and always trying to motivate me. We can always use that extra push at some point in our lives. For being a true cheerleader, I am grateful for Deidre.
Contestants in the Miss St. Ann Festival Queen competition often leave feeling like they have joined a new family. This was my experience too. Mrs Pansy Osbourne is a longstanding member of the JCDC St. Ann Festival Queen Committee. She was like a mother to me during the competition and has pretty much become like a grandaunt now. Some people bring light to the world with just their warm spirit and kindness. Miss Ozzy, as I call her, is one of these people. I see her as an example of a quiet community builder, as she is active in her service club’s projects, church outreach and much more. Now that I am studying abroad for a year, Miss Ozzy has not left me. Every so often she calls me on Whatsapp to check-in, or she comments on my Facebook posts with a congratulatory or encouraging word. Added to that, she often calls my mother to check that she is doing well and managing without me. Undoubtedly, I am grateful for her kindness and support; from 2012 until today.
Kamala McWhinney is CEO of White Lotus Bridal Boutique and Design House, she is a clinical psychologist and a lecturer. She’s also my cousin, fierce fashionista and she is a breast cancer survivor. Yeah, a real superstar. I am happy about how my relationship with Kamala has evolved. Last year, she was such a pillar of support for me. I don’t think she even realised it. Kamala was the first to help me identify anxiety as something I faced. She was kind and caring through all of it. I recall too that on my birthday, which would have otherwise been spent alone, she was the one who said, “Let’s go out for a drink!” Why does that matter? My partner was travelling, and I am the biggest lover of birthdays! So, that little act of mindful kindness, the laughter and great conversation, are things that I cherished. Her calm spirit, mindfulness and resilient spirit should be packaged and shared with the world! I am proud of all she has done and achieved. Importantly too, I am grateful that she was a pillar of support for me in a particularly challenging time. Added to that, I am grateful that she provides my brother opportunities to express his creativity in the behind the scenes work at White Lotus designs.
There are so many reasons I admire Michelle Obama. Her intelligence, passion for the causes she supports, grace, eloquence and strong family values are just a few of those reasons. In 2016, she made her exit from the White House, along with husband, Barack Obama. Michelle has never been lost in his shadow. She is a force on her own, will be recognised for her contributions on her own too. Notwithstanding that, I admire Michelle for being a supportive wife and protective mother. All the accounts I have read share that she has always given Barack her frank opinion on matters, and has never wavered in her commitment to her daughters. When Michelle went on the campaign platform to stand in support of Hillary Clinton in 2016, the world just got a glimpse of another angle of Michelle’s power. She was an amazing, emotive, eloquent speaker. I will miss seeing her that active in public life, but I look forward to reading more about her. I will also keep my hopes alive of meeting her one day. Michelle Obama is an inspiration to me. If there is any woman I could choose to be like today, it would be her; outstanding on her own professionally, a great wife, mother and inspiration to many.
Elaine Thompson is a Jamaican sprinter, who won gold in both the 100M and 200M races at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Elaine is also a June girl, like me, with her birthday being just six days after mine. Elaine, and of course the entire Jamaican team, made me feel so proud to be Jamaican. As a girl from rural Manchester, Elaine made her community proud! It was a joy to watch the ecstatic comments from persons in her community when she won. Elaine is on this list because I vividly recall just feeling proud of her. I recall feeling excited for her family and community. She brought pride to all of us. I expect more great things from her at the 2017 World Championships.
Growing up, there were certain programmes my mother never allowed my brother and me to miss. One was Profile with Ian Boyne. The other was Heroes’ Day Parade at King’s House. As far back as I can remember, the voice doing the live broadcasts was Fae Ellington’s. Fae Ellington is a veteran journalist in Jamaica. She is an actress as well, and a true lover of Jamaican culture. I doubt there is anyone more excited than her at festival time in Jamaica. In 2016, I received much encouragement from Fae Ellington. I am always grateful when people, who always seemed larger than life when I was a child, take the time to share their wisdom and encouragement with me. Fae Ellington remains a respected voice in Jamaica. Her infectious laughter and passion for our history and culture are unmatched. For all the things she taught me, online and in person, I have to recognise Fae Ellington.
Miss J. That’s the term most Rexans use for Ms Donna-Mae Jackson. I call her my second mother; I doubt she knows I hold her in such high regard. I first met Miss J when I was doing my undergraduate degree at the University of the West Indies. She is still the Student Services & Development Manager of Rex Nettleford Hall. While on hall, there were many occasions where Ms Jackson extended her kindness to me. Having graduated university and moved off hall, her kindness and wise counsel have not ceased. Some people come into your life and make such a huge impact that you want them to stay there. Ms Jackson is one of those people, for me. She has added so much kindness and value. I could list so many examples of her supporting me in surprising and meaningful ways. She is a queen in so many ways, and I am grateful for her.
Our lives are touched by people in many ways. When the impact is positive, we should always express our gratitude. We also have a responsibility to pass the kindness, inspiration and support along. Be your best self, and be a light for someone else. Your inspiration, encouragement or small acts of kindness, can have a more profound impact than you could ever imagine. Do good, always.