WHEN a video went viral showing a St Thomas mother — nicknamed ‘machete mom’ — mercilessly slapping her 12-year-old daughter with a machete in 2016, the public backlash against the enraged mother was immediate… and brutal.
The common theme of the comments, some of which came from the farthest corners of the globe, was that the Bath, St Thomas woman was “a vicious, abusive and worthless person who had too many children and was taking out her frustration on her young child”.
But poring over the video in his rarified office as territory leader of world-renowned PricewaterhouseCoopers at Scotiabank Centre in Kingston, philanthropist Leighton “Fyah” McKnight saw two people in need of intervention.
“When I saw the video clip at first, I was totally outraged like most people. A little later on reflecting, I thought that both mother and daughter needed help, and there must be more to the video,” McKnight told the Jamaica Observer.
With the help of popular Kingston doctor Michael Abrahams, McKnight, who is well known as the man who mentors scores of children from indigent and broken homes, helping to nurture them into scholars, professionals, and all-round productive citizens, contacted the beleaguered mom Doreen Dyer and daughter, Shavuna Davis.
“They really needed assistance. Shavuna did not have her books and could not attend school regularly. There is also a twin brother. What I saw represented frustration and perhaps hopelessness. I decided to help,” said McKnight.
After only four months, the Kiwanian leader and Cornwall College old boy had the satisfaction of seeing the young girl move from 18th in her class to first place, and later complete high school. Now 17, she is getting ready to start nursing school.
McKnight is accustomed to receiving accolades for his philantrophy and volunteerism, but last Sunday (Father’s Day) in the glitzy setting of the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston, he was overcome as the pair surprised him.
At the Pegasus to receive recognition at the inaugural Eternal Father Awards presentation, McKnight was pleasantly surprised when the organisers ran a video recounting the machete-beating episode and his assistance to the family over the next five years.
What he did not in the least expect was the announcement from the master of ceremonies that the plaque for Honorary Awardee for Philanthropy was to be jointly presented to him by Dyer and Davis in the flesh.
“Sunday when both mother and daughter surprisingly appeared on stage to present my award I was simply stunned with fright and joy. My eyes welled up with tears and I was overcome with emotions. It is a moment that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am even more motivated now,” McKnight disclosed.
On video, a grateful Dyer said: “Missah McKnight change wi life. Mi now can help myself. If mi did have money I [would] scatter it at him foot.”
Her daughter was equally effusive in her gratitude: “Missa McKnight help me a lot. Him even teach me how to construct my sentences. We love him.”
The Eternal Father Award is the brainchild of Anna Smith who is best known as a co-host of Centrally Speaking, the award-winning television programme sponsored by the Bank of Jamaica where she works as talent and development officer.
Among other guests at the award ceremony were: Pearnel Charles Jr who represented the prime minister; Culture, Gender and Sports Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange; Mutabaruka, chief judge; Allie McNab, special advisor in the Ministry of Sport; Miss Universe Jamaica 2021 Daena Soares; Donovan Germain, reggae/dancehall producer; and Kamila McDonald, entrepreneur & lifestyle influencer.
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