Personal Essay: The Things my Children Will Not Know

This part one of a four-part personal essay series on immigration and identity. This instalment was published by Prairie Fire literary magazine, and was recently submitted for a National Magazine Award.


 

I.

Dad paused the movie. “Can you believe that some people spend their whole lives trying to get to the sea?”

My mother and I looked at him. I raised my eyebrows. We were at my favourite part, where the main character finally fulfills his lifelong dream of visiting the ocean. I couldn’t understand why my father had chosen to such a critical moment to bring everything to a standstill.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Some people spend their whole lives trying to go on vacation,” Dad said. “They make it a mission to go to the sea. The sea, of all places.” My father shook his head and un-paused the movie.

My parents had grown up in Jamaica, mere steps away from the one thing that many Canadians yearn for. I opened my mouth, then closed it, because I didn’t know what to say. I felt jealousy bubble in my gut. For my parents, the sea was an old, familiar friend. For me, it was a mere acquaintance.

It is possible that my future children will spend their lives chasing the sea. One day, I may pause the television only to have them stare back at me blankly, able to conjure images of the sea only from movies, not from memory.

Continue reading Personal Essay: The Things my Children Will Not Know

Profile: Erin Spencer

This profile was written for my Art of the Profile Class at the Columbia Journalism School. The task was to write about someone – anyone – we thought was interesting. I chose Erin. 

Image Credits: nationalgeographic.org.


When Erin Spencer hunts lionfish in the Florida Keys, her weapon of choice is a fiberglass spear with a three-pronged steel tip. She has a dive knife tethered to her thigh, and a GoPro strapped to her forehead. Her wetsuit offers protection from the deepwater cold and the stinging barbs of her prey. Breathing steadily through her respirator, she takes aim.

Later, on deck, Spencer poses with her catch, holding one lionfish in each hand by its jaws. She beams, her face absent of apology. Lionfish are venomous, carnivorous, and invasive. She wants to correct the imbalance of the ocean, one fish at a time.

~

Spencer and I are speaking via Skype. She’s in Fort Lauderdale. White-hot sunlight streams through the windows of her apartment. I can see a television behind her, its screensaver an aquarium.

Spencer is new to Florida, having moved there only three months ago from Chapel Hill, North Carolina for her doctorate in shark physiology at Florida International University. She grew up in a small town north of Baltimore but inched closer and closer to the sea until, at 27, she had finally arrived at the southernmost tip of the U.S.

“Fieldwork is incredible and infuriating and complicated,” she says. “Being able to be close to your field site is just a huge advantage.”

Her blond hair is in a loose ponytail, her round face reddened from her time in the sun. She has just returned from the Bahamas, where she spent the week attaching accelerometers to hammerhead sharks. The devices are bright red and resemble sticks of dynamite. A clamp attaches to the dorsal fin. Comprised of water-soluble components, the float with the accelerometer will eventually pop off after 24 hours, and the clamp pops off after a week. Spencer then tracks down the shark and retrieves the device.

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Daily News: CITYarts Unveils Third and Final Mural in ‘Footsteps of Alexander Hamilton’ Series

This is a daily news piece written for my Reporting class at the Columbia School of Journalism. Image credit: CITYarts 


 

NEW YORK—This Monday, non-profit CITYarts unveiled a new mural in the Alexander Hamilton playground. It is part of a three-part series entitled “Following in the Footsteps of Alexander Hamilton,” which pays homage to the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton, American Founding Father and former resident of Harlem Heights, where the playground is located.

Based in New York City, CITYarts brings together youth and professional artists to plan and install colorful mosaics and murals. To date, CITYarts’ projects have engaged over 200,000 youth and 500,000 volunteers, who collaborate to beautify neglected community spaces in the city.

CITYarts is part of the growing trend of beautification within New York City. The completion of the mural comes just weeks after introduction of the 2019 Daffodil project, the largest beautification project in the history of the city. Residents of New York City will be provided with over 500,000 daffodil bulbs to be planted in memory of 9/11, and to contribute to continued city-wide beautification efforts.

Continue reading Daily News: CITYarts Unveils Third and Final Mural in ‘Footsteps of Alexander Hamilton’ Series