I began my life as a journalist by accident. When I left secondary school, I wanted to be an anthropologist. I imagined myself apprenticing to the great minds I admired, and wanted nothing more to sink into research and a search for greater understanding.
At age seventeen, in 1992, a child of a teacher, a single parent, I organised a concert to raise tuition funds. I secured bands, a venue, a DJ and other donated services. It is when I approached the Barbadian media house to promote the concert that my life changed forever.
Mr. Vic Fernandes, former president of the now-defunct Caribbean Broadcasting Union, and General Manager of what is now called Starcom Network, said to me, “You ought to think about working in the media. You have too much energy to become an anthropologist.”
He did support my efforts though, and he authorised radio spots for me to run for the two weeks prior to the event.
Later that week, Mr. Harold Hoyte, President of the Nation Publishing Co., echoed Mr. Fernandes and planted a seed in me that took hold and grew.
Within six months, although I didn’t raise enough money to go to college, Mr. Fernandes had arranged an internship for me in the radio station he managed. It would be my introduction to broadcast media. I was eighteen years old, and although I dabbled in the experience, working in each department of the station, even producing a panel discussion series with young people to discuss issues facing us, I didn’t really feel at home in radio.
My mother encouraged me to apply to the Mass Communications programme at the Barbados Community College. Shortly before I was accepted and entered the programme, Mr. Hoyte approved and I became a weekly columnist writing for the Nation Newspaper in Barbados.
The column, Wreck Shop, turned out to be popular, and I enjoyed the experience tremendously. As a young writer, to have an avenue for expression proved to be a developmental experience.
A year later, I left Barbados to take up residence in Trinidad and Tobago, the land of my birth. Mr. Hoyte formally introduced me to the Trinidad media houses, and I wrote my column dateline Port-of-Spain for another year. I freelanced with a few papers, before settling at the Trinidad Guardian in 1994.
This marked a period of intense growth for me as an individual and as a writer. I explored my homeland one story at a time, falling inlove with my land and my people, and made up for the years I grew up in Barbados. It was, in my experience, the moment when I really began to define myself as a writer; poetry and short stories began to flower in my daily life. In the two and a half years I worked as a ‘permanent freelancer’, producing almost two hundred stories and concurrently freelancing for the Barbados Advocate’s HYPE Magazine, Executive Time, a regionally distributed business magazine, and the BWIA in-flight magazine, BWEE Caribbean Beat. In 1995, I was nominated for a MATT Award for Best Feature for an article I wrote on controversial Caribbean entertainer, Eddy Grant.
In 1995, In 1995, sponsored by the U.S.I.S., the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), KFC, American Airlines and the Guardian, I attended the 6th Caribbean Women Writer’s Conference, held in Wellesley, Massachusetts. This was probably one of the most influential experiences a young writer like myself — a freshly minted twenty-one year-old at the time — could have had. I met with and interacted with a who’s who of an emerging Caribbean female voice, and they embraced and encouraged me. Patricia Powell, Edwidge Danticat, Julia Alvarez all offered me guidance and encouragement, and I believe their words are what continued to keep me writing.
In 1996, I started publishing Sunhead Magazine. The magazine is a platform for young Caribbean nationals and descendants of same to express their perspectives, often drowned out by traditional media. Sunhead, has created an online network of web sites, publishing the original content of young Caribbean people, and fostering discussion and communication between the same. Supported solely by the work I produce as a journalist, Sunhead struggles to establish itself and maintain its presence, but after eight years, it still exists and still publishes. It has even fostered a small but loyal and active online community, Tribe Life.
In 1999, three years after returning to live in Barbados, I was hired to edit HYPE Magazine, a weekly 20-page tabloid insert aimed at young people for the Barbados Advocate. This was perhaps a seminal experience for me as I was allowed almost complete creative control, a modest budget and I sat of the editorial board of the Advocate, and participated in the shaping of the paper.
This was my first official experience as an editor. I must give credit for the fostering of this development in my life and career to the support of Wayne Kirton, the interim CEO at the time. He gave me encouragement, and defended me and taught me a great deal during the time I was employed there. My working experience with Mr. Kirton was so influential, that although I left the Advocate in 2000, and went on to form Sunhead Publishing, I sought out Mr. Kirton and asked him to serve as a mentor, to which he has agreed, and a role he continues to play in my life.
I was accepted to the Barbados Investment Development Corporation’s Business Incubator project in August of 2000. However, due to under-capitalisation I never participated fully in the programme. In October of the same year, I spoke on the panel ‘Web Wise: If You Build It, Will They Come?’ at the 6th Annual Business Women’s Network International Global Leader’s Summit, in Washington DC. I also accepted a Global Entrepreneur of the Year Award there.
Sunhead has continued to evolve regardless of inadequate funding, and still has an avid and growing online following. Sunhead is purely from my conception and execution, and though I am yet to reap financial rewards from it, it has provided immense intellectual satisfaction.
Through Sunhead, I learned what I consider to be my ‘second trade’. I initially learned enough HTML to create a basic web site, but my interest and intellectually curiosity led me to discover programming languages such as PERL and PHP, databases such as mySQL, Interbase and others. I am now a CIW and Comptia certified web developer, and have eight years of experience with web site and original content development, for myself and other clients. In 2002, Sunhead Publishing was sent into suspension as a business entity, because the market in Barbados went very soft.
I was hired by the Trinidad Publishing Co., to work as an Associate Editor for their tabloid publication, The Wire. So I returned to live in Trinidad. The Wire was closed in January of 2003, and the staff absorbed into The Guardian newspaper. For me, I had come almost full circle.
In April of last year, I was asked to take over the helm of the Guardian’s Friday entertainment guide, the G Spot. I am also temporarily filling the position of Internet Editor for the newspaper.
Although I began as a print media and broadcast journalist, I have embraced online publishing because it is the most cost effective way I can provide a platform for the voices of my peers, often drowned out by traditional media. What’s more, being a web developer has made me a better writer. Writing code is so specific and logic oriented, it has forced me pay more attention to the structure of what I write, and to simple mechanics like punctuation and such.
I continue to seek my path in life.
Deciding to apply for this programme, while it was instantly made, it wasn’t without a certain amount of trepidation.
On a personal level, I have no doubt if accepted, I would do very well. Intellectually, I am ripe for a challenge. A programme like this would give me the kind of impetus to further develop my skills as an editor, and possibly lead me to an opportunity to develop my writing further.