I want you to picture me as a seven-year-old child living on the island of Barbados. I was carefree, full of life, vitality, self-confidence and self worth. I spent summer vacations at the beach with my friends and family … my toes sinking in the sand, the hot sun beating down on my face and I could taste the saltiness of the Caribbean Sea on my lips. I also spent a great deal of time chasing butterflies.
Then, one summer, my grandmother told me that I was going to go to Canada and spend the summer with my mother. My immediate response was anger and I did not want to go and spend the summer with someone I did not know. I wanted to stay in Barbados with my friends and cousins. My grandmother (Ma) looked down at me and said in a soothing voice “It is going to be okay Fatima. You are going to have lots of fun and go on a lot of new adventures. You will come back at the end of the summer and tell me all about your trip”. I stopped fighting and resolved that I did like going on adventures and visiting new places.
So, off I went on my first plane ride to Canada to spend the summer with my mother. Canada did not disappoint. I went to the Canadian National Exhibition and went on many of the rides. I met family members that I had never seen before and spent time with them at Niagara Falls. I also went to Caribana where I enjoyed the beautiful costumes along with listening to Calypso music. When the summer came to an end, I was so excited to go back to Barbados, see my grandmother and share my Canadian adventures.
My mother had other plans for me and announced that I would not be going back to Barbados and instead staying in Canada with her. I was heartbroken and afraid. My mother reassured me that I would meet new people and make new friends when I went to school. Again, I gave up the fight and looked forward to going to school and making new friends.
During the second week of school, I started being bullied and I experienced racism for the first time. The other children made fun of the braids in my hair, the colour of my skin and my accent. With each act of bullying and taunting, I withdrew into myself. The final straw was when this boy spat in my face, called me a ‘nigger’, and told me to go back to where I came from. After that, I formed a hard shell around me and did not let anyone get close to me. I was in survival mode for the rest of my childhood and into my adult years.
It took me 33 years to discover my self-worth through personal growth and development.
I also became a self-help junkie. I read books by Joyce Meyers, Joel Osteen, Tony Robbins and I joined Toastmasters. I also started to attend church on a regular basis listening to the teachings of Bishop Canute Blake. I grew to love my skin colour, full lips and beautiful versatile hair. My confidence and self-worth has been restored.
I will use the word self worth to describe the woman that I am today:
S. Savoury, soft and beautiful like a sunrise
E. Essence of who I am is loving and compassionate
L. Leaving a legacy of hope for anyone at anytime and at any age.
F. Forgiving of those who abused and took away my self worth and Faith which brought me through those difficult times
W. Walking in the truth of who I am.
O. Overcoming the abuse behaviour of my oppressors
R. I am resilient
T. Today, I am thriving as a speaker, author and coach
H. Healing my broken heart from my lost childhood innocence.
Today I have self worth and am living a superfantanolous life.
My challenge is for every one of you to take a young person under their wing and help them develop their self confidence and self worth. We know that bullying is one of the leading causes of childhood suicide. It is up to us as adults to turn the narrative around and give kids a fighting chance to become their beautiful and best selves. Let’s make a new start for every child regardless of race or colour and show them a world filled with hope and love.