Written by Bethany Stewart, BAME Ambassador.
Picture a small island situated in the Caribbean Sea, beautiful beaches, sunrise, and tropical skies. When you compare it to other countries in the world, you will find that Jamaica is 895 times smaller than the USA and 22 times smaller than UK. Despite this, its culture, food, and music have made a tremendous impact across the globe. Whether it is jerk chicken, reggae and dancehall music, or specific words and dialect – Jamaica’s influence can be found even here in the UK whether you notice it or not.
It always amazes me how so much can come out of one little island. I say this and yet it shouldn’t be a surprise to me; Jamaicans have always had a motto that encapsulates this idea of being great:
It means that we may be small, but we are strong, we are mighty, and can do anything. It reminds me a little of the British saying ‘big things come in small packages.’ There’s a lot of truth in both statements. We likkle but we tallawah is something I carry through life to remind me that I can achieve anything.
I was born and raised here in the UK. Both of my parents are Jamaican, but they too were born here in the UK, so I have a hybrid of British and Jamaican culture. Growing up as a young, black girl, I was always told that I would need to work twice as hard as my peers to get to the same positions as them. This message was always reinforced with the fact that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to; always try your best and persevere when things get hard.
This idea permeated even the trivial things. I was eight and couldn’t hula hoop. Every day after school I would come home after school to practice and then conclude by throwing a strop. My Dad would encourage me by reminding me that I can do anything if I keep trying. Low and behold, I eventually picked up the skill of hula hooping. Not only that, but I also became very good! So much so that during our holiday in Jamaica, I won the hula hoop competition at our hotel. I managed to knock down my opponent’s hoop without causing my own to drop. A small victory, but it was a resultant effect of my perseverance.
Another trivial example would be during secondary school. I was short. I still am. It is not that I don’t grow – I just started smaller than everyone else. Netball was one of the many sports I played. I often played goal attack and therefore, I would be paired with extremely tall goal keepers and defence. I knew that they always underestimated me due to my height. But I could jump! They thought they could just pass the ball over my head and yet I would always manage to intercept.
What is the point of me saying all of this? Do not let anyone underestimate you. Whether that is because of your height, age, or character. Whatever it is, albeit your education, career, or passion, know that you can achieve anything. Even the little victories lead to something greater. Do not compare yourself to other people and lessen who you are. Know your value and persevere when things get hard. You may be likkle, but you are tallawah!