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…says great things emerge from places we underestimate
By Gabriella Chapman
People from impoverished communities are oftentimes subjected to profiling. A large cross section of society would be guilty of most times having little to no good expectations from people emerging from these areas.
However, time and time again, this has proven to be a societal defect, since there are many hidden treasures in these very underestimated communities, who just need a window of opportunity to see beyond their circumstances.
One such case is that of 31-year-old Jovan Wilson, a Guyanese Journalist making waves in the British Virgin Island (BVI) Media fraternity.
Wilson shared her inspiring story with Village Voice News, in which she explained how her life went from being the girl who was bullied because she resided in a squatting area, to now being a prominent Journalist, championing causes for global change.
The young woman said she was born in Georgetown, but grew up in Angoy’s Avenue, which made her a target for bullies during her childhood and adolescent years.
“The area I grew up in was subjected to lots of stigma. We didn’t have paved roads until after I graduated from high school, nor was there running water. Cows roamed daily and the area was well-known for squatters. I was teased a lot about where I lived growing up. During the rainy season, I’d have to walk half a mile bare feet on muddied streets before getting to a paved road and begging someone in the area for water to wash off my feet and put on my school shoes. That too would be challenging at times, since not everyone felt compelled to help, so I’d often get to school with the stench of mud on my skin,” she said.
In the face of the challenges, young Wilson always knew that she had to remain resilient, for she believed that she was destined for greatness.
“I would have later realised how molding and humbling that experience was, but ultimately, how great things can emerge from spaces we underestimate… It was a growing pain, but a great inspiration; I knew there was more to life and I was determined to get there… Though circumstances weren’t ideal, matter of fact it was far from it, I always knew that education could be my passport to a better life. It was the one thing I was sure about in my uncertainty as a child and I held on to it for dear life,” she posited.
Despite the adversities, Wilson said she was blessed to grow up in an extended family with her aunt, uncle and countless cousins, while her parents migrated overseas for better employment opportunities. And that extension, she said, was really an umbrella of love and shared experiences.
How her life changed
Wilson said focus was the main ingredient that got her to where she is today, because regardless of the constant teasing she received in school, she remained focused on her future.
“Then in 2007 my community hosted its first Village Day and Pageant. It was the beginning of a beautiful thing but an experience that would change the course of my life. I competed and won the pageant, which catapulted into a world I never knew existed. Eventually I participated in eight pageants, copping three crowns and four 1st-runner ups. Pageantry gave me a platform to use my voice and advocate for changes I’d like to see. But first I had to become it and that helped me to blossom into who I am today,” the young woman said.
The opportunities rolled in one after the other after the pageant’s exposure. She hosted the Guyana Today Morning Show and the Guyana Lottery Games. She also launched her radio talk show.
But certainly, she did not envision becoming a media personality. “As a child, I was caught between two options; becoming a lawyer or flight attendant which was always fueled by my curious nature to travel, experience new people and explore the world, but God would eventually present an opportunity in news that I couldn’t resist. I was secretly worried about whether I’d be able to blend in with no prior experience but once I applied myself, the rest is history… I was always excited about the media but wanted more out of it. My life’s journey has been a continuous quest for truth and with Journalism, everyday is a classroom. I love that I get to expand my knowledge daily and share that with the people that need it most,” Wilson disclosed.
Challenges in the media
Even as she is living a surreal life, overcoming her barriers and relishing in the rewards of her determination to succeed, the young woman said there is still bitterness to the sweet.
“Despite the fact that news is such an essential product, it is an industry that doesn’t reap the respect it deserves. My experience as a woman doesn’t make it much easier either. I have dealt with many situations where persons of stature would deal with me in a sexist manner as compared to male counterparts. Even within the industry, there are many challenges with gender equity. I’ve been in positions where I was grossly underpaid for doing twice the work of a male colleague in the same role. It was twice as hard for me as black woman who fully embraces culture. We continue to face insidious institutionalised racism and interrelated oppression. Additionally, the media and society have painted beauty with a very broad brush that says only eurocentric looks are appropriate. Why should my kinks and coils determine my worth or lack thereof? I’m grateful that my current company embraces diversity and trusts me to show up in my understanding of what’s appropriate,” she passionately expressed.
From an early age Wilson said she realised she had a strong spirit of justice within. She reminisced how boldly she would speak out against injustices, even if it meant lashes on the lip. And that has stuck with her throughout her life.
“My sense of justice is at the core of my passions. I’m especially immersed in fighting for equality for women and girls who continue to face great disparities in the world. The structures and conventional conditioning of society continues to work against us. And this is one of the core reasons I show up daily, even when I’m tired. As we continue to take up and take back our rightful spaces, it opens an appetite in our girls to dream bigger and be more of themselves in a world that encourages them to be less. I’m also passionate about using my platform as a media personality to educate, liberate and inspire persons to live their best lives. It’s the reason behind many of the risky stories I report on or the hard questions posed during my interviews. The goal is always to determine what the facts are, and that often requires digging deep. With facts we can all make more informed decisions for ourselves and communities,” she opined.
Wilson is also a prominent poet, who uses her pieces to evoke the changes she is passionate about.
She told this publication that she intends to become a leading Journalist in the Caribbean region, truly capitalising on the strengths of who they are as a people and share that conversation with the world.