Hero of a dad who deserves recognition
MONTEGO BAY, St James – In the eyes of youth leader Christina Williams, her father, Conroy, is a hero who deserves to be acknowledged.
And she is doing so by dedicating her upcoming Ignite Caribbean 30 under 30 Award to the man who she said has played a tremendous role in her development as a social advocate and leader.
The award is given yearly to 30 emerging leaders of Caribbean heritage, aged 30 and under, for their commitment and active engagement professionally, academically, or personally.
Williams told the Jamaica Observer that though her father did not receive formal schooling, he poured deeply into her education. As a single father, Conroy did not give the impression that anything was ever too good for his two children, Williams added.
“He challenged me to read and to read widely, and he would always ask me questions to get my feedback. We would have conversations about social issues and he would always ask me what I would do to solve a particular issue. So he was always pushing me to expand my mind beyond what you’d expect from a child growing up in a very rural community, a child who was being raised by somebody who wasn’t formally schooled,” she told the Sunday Observer.
Williams’ involvement in community service and advocacy started at the age of nine, and while her father did not quite understand what his little girl was getting into, he stood by the sidelines cheering her on. Though he was very protective of her, Williams said that her father would not miss the opportunity to follow her to the bus stop in their Portland community whenever she needed to journey to Kingston for engagements.
She said that this continued into her secondary years at Titchfield High School.
“He would carry me to the bus stop at 4:30 in the morning to go to Kingston and after my meetings finish at 5:00 I’ll get a bus back. So I am getting home at sometimes 10 o’clock in the night and he would be there at the bus stop waiting on me to walk me back home,” Williams explained.
“That is how my father is. No matter how he didn’t understand what I was trying to pursue, in terms of my advocacy or how sometimes it was a strain on financial resources, he always supported me,” said the grateful daughter.
The passion for advocacy and youth leadership followed Williams into her pursuit of tertiary education at The University of West Indies, Mona (UWI), where she got involved with the Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students (JUTS) and served as the youngest president of The UWI Guild of Students.
However, Williams said that none of this would have been possible without the outpouring of love and support from her father, who travelled on the farm work programme to Canada yearly to provide for his family.
“Despite the toll the cold [weather] took on his knees, he consistently enrolled in the farm work programme in one of the coldest areas in Canada, and for over 10 years only saw his family for a few months in the year to ensure that he could provide. Even in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he braved to travel on the programme, noting that [I] was a finalising student,” Christina said proudly of her father.
As she grew into her role as an advocate and started to branch off into different spaces, Williams told the Sunday Observer that Conroy watched admirably from the sidelines and did his best to throw his support behind her. This was his way of not stifling her passion and dreams, she said.
“He embodied the traditional expectations of a man as protector and provider but was also equally progressive as he played the maternal role to a motherless child and allowed [me] to pursue my own interests without placing limits on me based on gendered expectations,” Williams said.
Recounting her first international trip to speak at a United Nations meeting in 2015, Williams said that her father, despite his anxiety around the Paris bombings, allowed her to embark on a three-day journey alone. That was one of the many times Conroy gave his daughter space to blossom.
To young Williams, this meant the world, and dedicating the award is her way of honouring the role her father continues to play in her life.
“I am dedicating this award to my father because the award is being given for my social work, but my love of advocacy and my experiences thus far are because of the dedication of my father and the sacrifices he has made,” she stated.
“All the impacts that they’re awarding me for are all because my father believed in me and he gave me a sense of confidence in self. He always believed that my voice was important, he always challenged me to use my voice, and I think that is unique, because I grew up in a traditional setting where children should be seen and not heard,” Williams told the Sunday Observer.
With a voice filled with pride, Williams said that this Sunday Observer article was her way of breaking the news of her dedication of the award to her father. She will collect the award later this month during a ceremony in Washington DC at the Inter-American Development Bank.
“I think he will be very happy. But my daddy is someone who is so humble and he never takes credit. You will never hear my father say, ‘It is because of me that my daughter is like this.’ But I think he is going to be very pleased, and I just want him to get his kudos because he deserves it,” Williams said.