Central

'I could easily have been trafficked'

A journalist's story of triumph over adversity

Monday, September 11, 2017

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Born to a teen mother in a poor rural family and with no support from his father were early indications that life for Garfield Angus would be anything but easy.

The difficulties, he believes, resulted in him losing much of his childhood, but through persistence he is today a practicing journalist and, more recently, a published author.

“I lost my childhood to an extent. I spent most of the time by myself,” he told the Jamaica Observer Central.

In his book Triumphs, which was launched late June in Mandeville, Angus relates a series of short stories about personal struggles and victories which, he said, in many ways are a reflection of his own life.

He said that when his mother, who is from Kitson Town, St Catherine, gave birth to him, he was given to a “community mother” shortly after, as his young mother was sent away because of the embarrassment.

Angus said he later learnt and experienced that his biological father, who was of a “higher social class”, did not care to acknowledge his existence.

After his guardian passed on he said that he bounced around with different members of her family until his paternal grandmother, who accepted him as her “blood”, provided him with the stability of a home at about 15 years old.

Angus said that he quickly realised that though he now had a home, he was on the verge of the end of his education because his grandmother was not able to send him to school due to other responsibilities.

He said that he set out on his own seeking to continue his education, some days in school uniform that he had outgrown and other days in his limited 'going out' clothing, but not able to get beyond the school gate at Spanish Town Secondary.

“I tried to get into Spanish Town Secondary. I spent about two weeks at the gate trying to get in. A child should not be at a school gate as an intruder. [Thankfully], it is a right now that a child must go to school,” said Angus.

He said after the second week of being at the school gate the vendors eventually found out why he was there and started “almost a riot” on his behalf that resulted in him getting a chance to see the principal.

Angus said that his attempt to get into school at Spanish Town Secondary failed and also at Jonathan Grant Secondary. While he got late admission to the adult remedial centre, Operation Friendship, he said that chance ended prematurely because he could not afford to continue.

Still longing for an education, he said whenever possible he spent time at the Spanish Town Library, the National Library, the British Council Library, the United States Information Service, and watched parliamentary debates, all in an effort to learn all he could. Angus said that he also became involved in church.

While he had aspirations of becoming a lawyer, he said he knew that would prove difficult and enrolled in journalism training through correspondence. As he started working in the field, he acquired further training and received support through mentors to hone his craft.

“When I was going through my struggles human rights was not valued. I was left up to the mercy of evil. I could easily have been trafficked. My rescuing was God-ordained. There must have been some unseen force keeping me on the right path,” he said.

Angus said that particularly when he was in primary school, he became a target for bullying from older boys from his community and had the stigma of being 'dunce' attached because of the irregular attendance. He said that he felt a sense of confusion and sadness growing up because he eventually learnt who his biological father was and many community members knew. However, his father did not want any association with him.

A pleasant memory from his childhood, he said, is being able to eat at a dining table for the first time at the home of his grade one teacher.

Angus said that he wrote the collection of short stories as inspiration for others, and he is “committed to do all he can for the upliftment of the Kitson Town community in St Catherine”, to which he has returned.

He said that although he knows his mother was young and also lacked parental guidance because her mother died early, he would advise parents not be too hasty to give up their children, because they can never be sure what will happen to them.

Angus said that he also believes that community members can be agents and advocates for change, especially against men such as his father, who was deemed powerful and respected because of his material possessions, but allowed the suffering of his own child merely because his offspring's mother was considered to be of a lower social class.

He believes that kind of prejudiced thinking still exists in Jamaica.

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