I hope all of you find Chantelle’s words as profound as I do. I admire her bravery in sharing them. Follow this project at @BeforeYouBook
I Am Brave
by: Chantelle Edwards
Wow. That’s something I never thought I would hear myself say. For some reason it doesn’t seem humble, and indeed insignificant. When I place that title on the people that I hold high on my list of role models: Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King; who am I?
Then I read one of my best friends projects where she mentioned the little things that no one knows that you’ve done, that just might change a course of action and inspire someone else. These people took those actions without knowing the outcome and that is the bravery. Yet still I have a problem with that statement, it’s slightly self boasting. As a mother how do I inspire my children to be brave without truly verbalising and showing them what that means? So I write this to my Son and my Daughter, and someday you will read and comprehend that if you are ever deterred on a course of action that is the right path; be brave. Hopefully I am physically there, but even if not, somewhere up there your Mummy is looking down on you, holding your hand through what you know is the right thing to do. It is not about what we think the outcome will be, but who you truly are inside.
Define who you are
You may both go through times at school where you will be teased and or bullied. I hope not. I remember spending some lunch times in the toilets. I remember the taunts I had for the size of my bust. By the way they will be an asset later on in life. I remember feeling so different I tried to rub off the colour of my skin. It was red raw and the irony was the scar that was left was darker than my skin. In these years you are going to truly discover yourself, embrace yourself and be brave to love you; for who you are. The true beauty will be who you are inside and what you do. My first act of bravery was to accept this, my second act was to step in when another girl was being bullied and save her from a fate that I had experienced before. Stand up for yourself and others.
Define how you act in injustice
I really hope the issues your Daddy and I have faced will not exist; however, at the current pace there will likely still be prejudice due to your ethnicity and for you my daughter your gender. To my son remember you have a mother, sister and hopefully one day maybe even a daughter. Treat every woman with respect and equality. Now back to the bravery point. There have been times when I haven’t got what I needed, wanted or probably deserved because of the colour of my skin or my gender.
Funny episode number one was sending my CV via a friend to a company who apparently loved my CV, but “could I just attach a picture?” This was not necessary in England, but is in Switzerland, and suddenly my CV was no good. When I did have a role being told women are paid less was a big morale breaker. Lesson one: you can choose to react negatively or choose your battles. Your Papa (Granddad) told me “you will have to work harder than everyone else, you may be more educated but you still may not get the job, but keep on going because one day things will change.” He was unfortunately right. Lesson two make sure you get your education it will stand you in good stead and remember generation after generation things change.
Funny episode two was the unemployment office telling me I was nothing in Switzerland and was obviously no good. I persevered week after week retrained to work in a new skill, and learned a new language (you already speak four). Moral of this story (lesson three): is that some people may want to put you down, be brave, focus on positive energy and action to change the situation. Know that you are the content of your character, and don’t let someone else’s judgement of your skin colour affect you, do not give them the power. Lesson four, you may need to be flexible and adapt to life and the circumstances: retrain, reskill, move location but you can do anything you put your mind to trust me; I know and see it in the both of you. By the way your Daddy wouldn’t marry me just to get a Visa. He wanted to do it in his own time. So this was a very stressful time. I managed to stay in Switzerland on my own accord and your Daddy asked me to marry him after I got my Visa. Your Daddy is amazing and we married for love. Lesson five make: sure that you marry for love.
Funny or actually not so funny episode 3. As part of my reskilling I trained to teach yoga. Well you’ve probably heard your Daddy complain about my sweaty yoga pants; so this isn’t new. But a long time ago I taught a style called Bikram back in 2013 a number of cases were brought against Bikram which alleged harassment and rape as well as settled out of court cases on racism. There were several accusations where corruption, bullying and unethical behaviour took place. I remember being in a lecture at Teacher Training where the content was that gay people deserve to die from aids, all fat people should be put on one island to starve and a number of degrading comments to women. One: your Mummy stood up in a very cult environment and gave feedback on the quality of the training and unethical content (my heart did race). Two: when the allegations then started to come out I was not silent, despite losing the ability to teach at the studio, and the abuse in the community. I moved on and taught for your aunty Susanne which was bliss and kept my integrity. Lesson six: integrity is everything. There are times where the impact may be negative, but it goes to the very core of who you are, that doing nothing would let injustice prevail. Stand up for what you believe in. Your heart may race but Mummy is there.
Funny Episode 4. In Switzerland to get an apartment you have to put you nationality, what car you drive, religion and actually this may seem normal for you as this is where you were born. Trust me in England this is not the case it is based on can you pay and your previous references. You should see the places where we have lived, but purely because that was all we could get. I would visit places where there were over a 100 people at the viewing and make an effort to speak to the people in German, but they would look at me with disgust. I was not Swiss and black. Just before you were born my daughter, we actually almost had nowhere to live. We stayed at your aunty Jas’s while I urgently looked for a place to live. I had to write to the prospective landlord and explain that we were going to be like Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus on the street. The phone never rang so quick; suddenly we had a flat! It used to be the ex-drug lord’s apartment, and even though we both had upper class incomes for Switzerland we were lucky we could get that given my skin colour. After that we bought. I never wanted to go through that again. Lesson number seven: if you ever need anything please obviously come to me, but aunty Jas will also be there for you. Lesson number eight: have good friends just like aunty Jas they are worth their weight in gold. Lesson number nine: try and establish empathy. Okay comparing yourself to Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus is extreme but I was 7 months pregnant and it got into the Swiss psyche. Even if you know the way that they are treating you is unfair, be brave start to get them to think about you as a person, and know you beyond a stereotype. When your Papa (granddad) first came to England they used to have signs “no dogs, not blacks and no Irishmen,” so this was a big leap forward. Bravery is sometimes about the long game and things will change. There are moments where you need to take big steps of bravery, and moment’s small seemingly silent ones that change people’s hearts and minds.
Funny episodes 5 to 15+. Well I have lost the number of times that I have been asked at interview if I’m pregnant? Am I planning to get pregnant? Why I want to work if I have kids and indeed not to work because I have kids! There are not enough fingers and toes for these questions, hence the number of episodes. I choose to work. I choose to use my mind that I had educated, worked on and to make a difference. I hope that you never felt left out. I visited your day care before I made the choice to go back to work, and make sure that it was a place where you would have fun: sledging, building fires in the woods, free play, making friends and learning how to be social. I got up at 5 am in the morning so that I could be there when you come home and wrap my arms around you for cuddles, play puzzles, draw, count, do your ABC’s, bake, play in the paddling pool in the summer, build snowmen in the winter, bath time, read the 5 + books you demand at night with my rapping of verse, Gruffalo voice and Jamaican accent that your aunty makes me put on over Skype for Mama God and Papa God a Caribbean tale. That said bravery is sometimes doing what is the right choice for you and your family even if it is against what society expects. I may be paid less because I am a working Mummy, but just somewhere out there, may be, I give someone hope. I also hope I role model to you my daughter that you have a choice. You can stay at home or work it is up to you both are hard work, and to my son you are ½ Scandinavian you support strong women to have that choice. Lesson number ten: don’t put anyone down for their choice there is too much in fighting about how people should live their lives, every family is different and they do what is right for their family. Lesson number eleven: do what is right for your family period!
Live to Make a Difference
I guess this is the essence of brave. My whole life has orientated to this point. I am just now about to lead a huge program that affects childhood development globally and start a new business which will make such a difference to people’s lives, giving them more time on the things they love with the people that they love. I am hoping by the time you are reading this I have put in place a legacy that benefits future generations It’s funny even when you were both in my womb I think it was you that taught me to be brave. Somehow you have given me more strength then before. How can I make the world better for you? Every decision is about you and our family. The time we spend together and the happiness we have. So bravery lesson number twelve: whatever your dreams are – go do it, be happy, don’t be afraid and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.
So in a way ‘I am Brave’ but somehow we started to have this dialogue before you were even born and you taught me the true meaning of brave.