Meet Makeda Bawn, 20 yrs old.
I am the old aged girl without wrinkles and this is my story. I remember holding my mother’s hand in the hospital as I struggled to breathe; I felt like I was drowning in air. My lungs felt small and my chest tightened. Darkness separated us after I closed my eyes. I was nineteen years old when I experienced severe chronic attack. It creeped on me like a thief in the night, and I felt a part of me died. My mother cried for days; she had already lost four sons and she was not ready to lose her only daughter. I am determined to be somebody inspirational before I take my last breath. I was born a premature baby and suffered severe asthma attacks while growing up, I weighed 1lb 6oz on the 8th of April 1996 at the Spanish Town hospital in St Catherine.
I was diagnosed with Lumbar Lordosis at 14 years of age in 2010 after my parents and I were involved in a car accident. A mini pick-up truck slammed into the back of my father’s car and I took a flight that would affect me later on in life. I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease in 2015. Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition where the discs lose their water content, they lose their height, bringing the vertebrae closer together. As a result, the nerve openings in the spine become narrower therefore the disc does not absorb the shocks as well especially when you are walking or doing any other physical activity. Persons who have been diagnosed with this condition are normally in their senior years. For this reason, I feel like an old aged girl without wrinkles. On occasions, I feel like a 140 pound baby is sitting on my chest and the bones in my spines are breaking continuously while I am awake and my body starving me from happiness.
My ailments made me scared especially knowing that I need surgery to save me, I am confused and doubtful because I never felt normal. Pain made me numb and I often had nightmares of being buried in a hospital gown with amputated legs; the image of not being able to walk tormented me for 365 days and counting. My world ceased and I became this child in a womb of despair clothed in a placenta of thorns. Depression consumed me and I endure so much. My back, legs, and neck pained me every day, and I had headaches and episodes of vomiting. Everything hurt so much. Simple things such as walking, talking, sleeping is difficult for me. I lost friends because they did not want to be around a “sick person”. Every day I wanted to rip the hair on my head out. This illness brings back memories of primary school where I went through a period of bullying from my peers for years. Standing out at the time in primary school seemed like something queer. DDD is my bully and I have to face it every minute. But, being a child from a home with two unemployed parents, the struggles made me hungrier for success because nobody knew when we were starving and I wanted my mom and dad to enjoy a luxurious life.
Throughout my time in high school, I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. I was President of the Speech and Drama club; Vice President for Photography Club; a Youth Mentor; a member of the Inter-school Christian Fellowship and Debate club. I inspired the establishment of a writing club at my high school for students with creative minds. My literature teacher, Miss Edwards, was impressed with my eccentric way of words and she grew extremely fond of my poems. I was encouraged to showcase my talent by submitting my poetic pieces to the Jamaica gleaner. I was successful and the gleaner published three of my poems. My favorite piece was “Hidden Truth”.
My poetry speaks to the heart and encompasses ideologies of socialist feminism. I became a fan of photography and developed a love for advocacy. I gained experience in advocating through photography for positive changes after enrolling in the Jamaica National Resolution project. The Jamaica National Resolution Project was established to teach youth in rural high schools about the Art of Photography. It was a great platform to portray my world through the lens of a camera.
In 2014, I was awarded for Best Body Image for my photograph entitled; “Pure, Her Most Prominent Possession”. My photographs were on exhibition in the Departure Pier in both Norman Manley and Sangsters International airport. My photographs were also on exhibition at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre in London, United Kingdom. I also got the opportunity to cover events such as: the annual Rebel Salute in Jamaica. This project had a profound impact on my life.
After graduating from high school my life changed for the better and worst. I took part in a videography workshop hosted by one of Jamaica’s well known full- service television and multi-media production company called Phase 3 Production. I developed skills for the film industry and after graduating from the program, I was given the opportunity to write, direct and produce a short film entitled, Forgotten Voices. In 2016, I was featured in the Social Impact section of the Jamaica Gleaner Blogs, in an article entitled; “A Conversation on the Move: Talking Media and Ackee Walk with Makeda Bawn.
In university, I became doubtful about my career path; no one would want to employ a sick person that have to get help going to the bathroom. School life is a real struggle especially when I have to go through all of this not to mention the financial issues. However; I am sure that whatever I chose to become I would motivate and inspire persons from all walks of life. I love children and even though doctors recommend me not to give birth, I will help children in need. It makes me sad because I will never know what it feels like to give birth naturally to a beautiful miracle. I always wanted to be a pediatrician, to help children in the health care sector. But, I could never fall in love with science but physics was always a mystery to me and I appreciated the knowledge. I became an actress in Jamaica’s first puppet series called Ackee Walk. This television series was established to teach children about their rights and responsibilities. Although I was not wearing a white doctor coat on set, it’s a joy to me to know that I am helping to educate children.
What makes me keep going? Is a question I have often been asked from persons who have met me. I keep going because I cannot go a day without thinking about inspiring my family, friends and strangers. And I believe that I was born for a purpose. My success dreams cannot happen out of the blue, I have to work for it. Legends are not super humans, they are normal beings who never gave up and no one will remember someone who never tried in life. I have to keep balance on my bicycle because I have to keep moving. Time is precious and short, for my time to be valuable on earth I have to believe that I can survive. Everything that I have accomplished so far has been a rugged journey for me. I suffer from illnesses but I am determined to make the best out of life. I pledge to use my skills and expertise to the best of my abilities to escape poverty. My personal and professional experiences have equipped me with passion, commitment and competency to succeed after my tertiary education.
I SPEAK LIFE BECAUSE IT HAS TAUGHT ME MANY WORDS
Listen to 24 year old Anthony 'Vokal' Richards
Who am I? Countless times I would be found staring into the mirror asking my reflection, just who are you? then finally after years of silence I became a voice, I became Anthony Vokal Richards. I am an ambitious, generous and passionate individual. I believe in its entirety that God should be at the forefront of my thoughts, plan and actions.
I am a dub poet, chef, song writer /singer motivated by my love for capturing life in the essence of words and music. This is because as a child poetry and music were my only sources of comfort when my closest companions were loneliness and poverty. I was forced to adapt to my conditions by making my past someone's hope!. To reassure persons that I have made it despite not having a dad who cared , with a mom who worked tirelessly so I could survive. Despite my struggles I did not resort to violence even when I was caught in the middle of a cross fire. I became a victim of gang violence when I was shot in my community at age twenty one (21), having a bullet lodged inside of me for six months. Having to watch all that I invested in pass me by because I was hospitalized. I then became a beacon for my community to stop violence and promote peace as I could have been but a memory rather than leaving a legacy.
Talk up yout gave me a platform to stand, to echo my voice with my talent, to be bold and speak life, the lessons and defeats it has taught me. Even though I was born in a life where education was my only way out and even after achieving the education needed to function, Talk Up Yout allowed me to market myself in a environment where finding space was a challenge for established individuals yet alone a new comer. It gave me a new found confidence and opportunity to bring added purpose to my life.
I have a vision for Jamaica! Where a child does not have to wonder if he/ she has to sit down years before finding a job when they are qualified. A Jamaica where children who can't find or have lost their biological parents will know and feel the warmth of a country who cares for them. A country where a man will be a man and stand by his call of duty, his responsibilities as a father and his calling as a human being. A Jamaica where we cherish our past while pushing for the future. A country where address does not define you or determine what job is available to you or the tone or your skin. A country where violence will no longer make monsters of our youths, a place where we remember we all may look different but are one. We are Jamaicans first and all else come after.
Youth, ages 14 - 26, from all over the world, talking up. #TalkUpYout