I was born at Kingston Public Hospital on December 30, 1956, in Kingston Jamaica. I am one of seven children shared by both the late Lillian and Ebenezer Daley. I grew up in Whitfield Town in Saint Andrew, which is west of Kingston, and I attended Whitfield Primary School where my educational journey began. The demographic makeup of the school population consisted mostly of children from the inner cities of Kingston, including myself. Going to school was a challenge at an early age because I was bullied and often forced by the “bad boys” to empty my pockets of whatever money my parents gave me. I remember it was always difficult trying to hide my money. They usually knew where on me to find it and other times I was forced to hand it over, i ended up drinking water for lunch thinking that a full stomach is all i needed. It was hard enough that I had to deal with these “thugs” at schools, but I did not expect that some of my teachers would make my educational experience difficult.
Whitfield Primary School exposed myself and other students to teachers of many different stripes, from the strict disciplinarians to the nurturers, Then, there were the ones that were racist. Jamaica has always had an undertone of racial bias that is predicated upon the color of one’s skin; what we call colorism today. With so many ethnic groups settled in Jamaica, multiracial Jamaicans make up the largest portion of the population. However, there is a separation of those with lighter-skinned from those that are darker-skinned. Those with darker skin, like myself, were considered to be at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. I was about eleven years old when I had my first experience with colorism. I was at a gift sharing event with other students awaiting our common entrance results. During the gift sharing, my name was picked by a girl with a lighter hue. The gift was immediately taken away from me by my teacher, with no explanation. It was hard for me to comprehend at the time. To make matters worse, I was told to go to St Andrew Technical to check on my exam results. I found out that I was the only one who passed the exam. Instead of celebrating, I was dismayed because my results were questioned by a teacher who sent me back to (who or where) to get verification. On my way, I was robbed and beaten by vagrants hiding out in an abandoned car. The results were verified and I was prepared to take the next step into my arduous educational journey at St. Andrew Technical High School.
St. Andrew Technical High School had a very rigid discipline structure and was led by the infamous principal, Sir Isaac Henry. My first encounter with him occurred one day at dismissal while leaving school without my epaulet. I heard a stern, loud voice, echoing my name to stop. I did and received harsh consequences for my non-compliance with the uniform code. My next meeting with Mr. Henry, I was accompanied by my father. Upon entering his office, I was very nervous and unsure of the reason for the meeting. I thought I was in trouble again. However, the meeting was about transferring me to a liberal arts school, because I was excelling in science and art subjects. I was on my way to Kingston College to join a childhood friend and to meet new challenges.
Kingston College, KC as we call it, is an all-male school with a rich history and has a very different climate and culture from my previous school. At KC, I fell into a depression because I was placed in the lowest tiered class, 4E. I was determined that I would not let that define me, but overcoming that barrier was easily said than done. I quickly became aware of the distinction in social class and the attitudes and behaviors associated with it. There was a distinction between those that lived uptown and those that lived downtown or in the “ghetto”. I tried hard to escape the stigma placed on myself and those living around me, that we will not amount to anything. I also had to deal with occasional stops and frisks by police. So, I often masked my reality by concealing where I lived. The will to overcome the barriers of an unfair system and the pledge to my mother that I will take care of her, gave me the motivation to persevere. Or so I thought.
Shortly after enrolling in KC, my world was turned upside down and it seemed like I would never recover. Living in the ghetto and being at the bottom of the social ladder, was an everyday struggle for myself and my family. So, when my mother broke the news that she would be moving to the United States to help break our family away from the bondage of poverty, I know I should have been happy, but I was traumatized. Her absence from home led me into a dark place and took me into a downward spiral, negatively impacting my grades. I found comfort in marijuana, thinking it could ease my pain, but it only became a destructive habit that resulted in more smoking, not eating, retreating to Cable and Wireless sport compound after school and wishing the return of my mother to ease the pain. Despite my social-emotional struggles, my passion for math and science in school never subsided. I was passionate about Math and loved challenging courses like Chemistry and Physics, which became a part of the trio of subjects that would help to ease some of the pain of not having one of my parents around. In my mother’s absence, my father worked very hard and did the best he could to ensure that all seven of us would never go hungry or naked. My father had a job at National Water Commission and he hustled on the side, selling peanuts to make ends meet. With my mother gone and my father working so hard, I tried to overcome my personal obstacles, but not much was changing for me at home or school. My math teacher became concerned about the sudden plummet in my grades and decided to visit my home to see if my living condition was the cause of my poor grades. She would then follow up with my mother. This was the character of some teachers at my school, who cared for and love students! This helped to revive my motivation about the school, but as soon as I was back on track, my life took another turn downhill.
My father eventually migrated to join my mother in the United States, leaving a caretaker guardianship of me and my six siblings. This only compounded my pain and the issues I was already struggling with because now I had no parents around. I was spiraling out of control. It felt like the weight of the world was crushing me. What happened next would be my turning point and a defining moment in my life. Apparently, I must have been found unconscious, because I woke up in the doctor’s office with him trying to resuscitate me and I had no recollection of how I got there. The last thing I remembered was smoking marijuana and then becoming conscious of sugared water being poured into my nostrils to revive me. After that episode came much reflection and I questioned myself about my purpose and why the hardships of my journey. While I was waiting for the universe to answer those questions, I began to buy the London University GCE past exam papers and practice them for fun. Things started to look up once more. The stars were beginning to align in my favor. My mother returned.
It was as if God heard my prayers. The return of my mother was like an angel sent from heaven. She came home and surprised us. No one knew of her plans to visit, but I figured it came from the urging of my teacher. My mom stayed with us for almost a year and brought back all the joy and happiness we were missing in our lives. I knew she was proud when I was chosen to sit the GCE London Math exam in the fourth form and did so successfully. My mother’s presence was just what I needed to renew my motivation, but she would have to leave again. This time she promised us that she would not leave us behind. My mother and father begin the filing process for migrating us to the United States. Not long after, I left my beloved country and arrived in the United States, land of the free, on January 13th, 1976. We settled in the Washington DC/Maryland area, with big hopes of pursuing the American dream, like so many before us.
In the United States, we became a united family again, but that was still not without challenges. Back home in Jamaica, colorism was only predicated upon those who were in the lowest socio-economic groups; but what I witnessed in my father’s church would cause much dissension between him and I. My father was a member of a Seventh Day Adventist Church. On Saturday, while attending church with him, I experienced something that immediately sent shock waves down my spine. In the church, the black people were sitting on one side in the pews and the white people on the other side. I could not bear the thought of such blatant racism and separation of people. That was my last visit. This angered my father and the tension between us escalated at home. My father could not understand my choice and thought that I was disrespecting his religious practices. He finally gave ear to my perspective and we came to the understanding that his choices should not have to be mine and we must both respect each other’s decision.
As if things could not get worse, I was forced to contend with issues of racism once more; something I was not prepared for. The fantasy that I was sold about the United States on television, I am now learning was just that, a fantasy. Being here was feeling like a nightmare. A few police officers visited our home and implicated me as being a suspect in a murder. I was targeted because I was seen that night walking home from work. They wanted to take me into the police station, but I opposed knowing I did nothing wrong. However, my father insisted I go with them and I acquiesced. At the office, I was interrogated by different faces trying to break my spirit and confuse me. The resilience within me would not let them succeed and eventually, they let me go. This made me become very cautious, but apparently, caution was not on my side not long after when my brother and I were walking in a shopping area on Saturday, we were surrounded by police and forced to the ground face down. We were then accused of robbing a bank. Upon checking our background and realizing it was mistaken identity, all they had to say was we looked just like the robbers. This infuriated me more than ever, I was convinced that everything I thought I knew about the United States was a lie. These close racial experiences impelled my desire to attend college to accomplish my goal of acquiring a degree in chemistry. Howard University became the beginning of a new chapter in my life that I began to write.
At Howard, I was exposed to a new world of international students, including fellow Jamaicans. This was also the beginning of a new political experience that enabled me to understand the world we occupy. I joined the Caribbean Student Association and looked forward to its weekly meetings and parties. It gave me a sense of belonging to a home away from home. It was at these gatherings that I began to meet great friends. A few standouts, to whom I owe much my gratitude and wished they were around to erase the pain of their absence, are the late Eric Macko Mcneish, Leonne Traille, Paul Minott, and George Mullings. We were a dynamic group that took pride in highlighting our cultural and political heritage through plays, speakers, and functions. We also formed a study group to educate ourselves on political economy. Even while completing our studies, we had a Nobel Prize economist lecturing us on world economics and politics.
My first political experience on Howard University campus was being a part of the group that invited former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Honorable Michael Manley to speak at the University. It was at this event I got a better understanding of the social and divisive structure of our society and I stood firmly with the vision of the late Prime Minister had for our country. Our small group began to gain recognition on Campus with the invitation of Cheddie Jagan, Maurice Bishop, Samora Machel, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Wailing Souls, and many others. We organized many cultural events to bring a taste of home to our community, such as plays, Jackie Bell soccer tournament, DJ championship, and work with community organizations to assist inner-city youths. We also had the opportunity to work with the late Marion Barry on a community youth work program. While I was on campus tragedy struck. when my dear friend, George Mullings passed; it hurt! But we continued our work and I got closer to Macko, looking to him at the time as a father figure. I admired the love he had for his country, Jamaica, and those of the poorer class. He had a selfless, caring nature about him. He was also a humanitarian and an avid reader of world affairs, especially African history. I needed to know more about the world so I figure I was in the right company. Macko eventually went back to Jamaica. When our friend George went through the toughest phase of his life, Macko was devastated. He was regretful because he thought if he did not leave, he could have saved his friend. Tragedy struck again. This time it was Leonne, another brilliant Jamaican patriot; gone too soon. All these unexpected tragedies made me reflect with sadness on how we all could not accomplish our dreams together.
Being in college seemed like taking a long road that would never end, but we finally crossed that stage. That was a proud moment for those of us who survived the trials of student life. It was as if we were literally given wings to fly. Our group got smaller as some members migrated back to Jamaica and the few that remained, were still saddened by the loss of George and Leonne, our extended family. Our friendship was so powerful that the pain of their absence still lingers even today.
I began to immerse myself in business and continued education pursuits as a way of dealing with the loneliness and hurt that emanated from the loss of my friends. Macko became my solace before he too passed on. On maturing politically, I came to see why the late Eric “Macko” McNish was regarded as a humanitarian and a believer in the philosophy of Scientific Socialism. He was very compassionate and cared deeply about human welfare and their suffering, but most importantly, how to alleviate their suffering through human development. I was inspired by his philosophy and so I decided to educate myself about the origin of Scientific Socialism and its global application and implementation. The world became my university and I became its passionate student. I still owe a great deal of gratitude to Macko for introducing me to the habit of reading and studying, which led me to the work and teachings of one of Jamaica’s most transformative and fearless leaders, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. I relied on Macko's wise words for inspiration…” If you come off the field you will never score goals”; “No knowledge gain is ever wasted”; “The only weapon a black man has is knowledge”; “A people united can never be defeated”; “Reggae is the black gold”; and “Never abandon the poor of Jamaica.” These words became etched into my being and ignited a fire in me to prove that this past student of Whitfield Primary and resident of Waltham Park would attempt to resurrect the dreams of our country’s heroes that did not get a chance to materialize. My hunger and quest for knowledge brought me to the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, and Harvard University. I became a cultural ambassador and began to promote my country through its music and food throughout the North Eastern United States. I made a solemn promise to defend and protect the poor and working-class citizens of my beloved country, and I stand ready to offer my service and experience in pursuit of the empowerment and freedom of its people. Even though I left Jamaica as a child, its pledge remained in my heart. I never forgot my strong heritage. My heart still salutes Jamaica, triumphant, proud and yet to be free!