January 19, 2007

The 3 O’s of Overcoming

As I thought about what happened to me at Super Perros and Mikey Jiggs’ questions, and based on my readings of Marcus Garvey, I came to this conclusion: Alex exemplifies the 3 O’s for Overcoming: Optimism, Ownership, and Opportunity©.

  • Super Perros began as a dream/ intention which Alex has nurtured through his faith, and has now been brought to fruition.
  • Part of Alex’s optimism is drawn from the story of his life, his family, and culture which he has constructed and has drawn upon to make it through the rough/bleak times.
  • Alex is willing to tell his story which will become part of the story of Colombians/immigrants who have made it in America.
  • He is willing to share his story by using bumper stickers, T-shirts, marquee, and he's not afraid to use technology to tell his story.
  • Without his faith that he could rise from selling hotdogs to one day owning the pizza store, Alex would have given up a long time ago. If he had thought things would never change, they wouldn’t have.

  • Alex’s personal initiative is what drives all of his actions. If anything is to be done, it begins with Alex. He picks ups the garbage around his store.
  • Alex values his work and his place within his family and community. This is reciprocated by his family and community.
  • He values cultural icons.
  • By his will and imagination (fed by his culture), he has constructed an identity within his story and the story of his people which has manifested itself in everything that he says and does. This identity allows him to use the positive (growth-affirming) elements in his culture and to reject the false claims to his identity—drug dealer. Even the jokes about Calenos are used positively because he punctuates his story with, “Si, claro. Yo soy un Caleno”—“I am a Caleno.”
  • Alex has chosen a vocation about which he is passionate, and he has worked hard—sometimes impossible hours.
  • He has high expectations of himself which have been nurtured by his family, community, and culture.
  • With the support of his family and his community, who have invested time and money into his business, Alex has been able to grow and expand. He’s thinking of opening a Super Perros in Jacksonville, Florida. He fosters these strong relationships.
  • Alex believed that in America he had the opportunity to better himself economically. This is part of the American story that it is the “land of opportunity” –it is part of the American fabric. He made use of the banking system and credit to help him along the way.
I will never forget the story that one of my students told me about when he as in his country. An American kid had come to his school and after being in the class for only a month, the American kid decided that he was going to be the class president when they held the elections.

Everyone was shocked.

The nerve. These Americans. Everyone knew that Little so-and-so, who was the son of Mr. Big So-and-So, was going to be the class president, and no one dared to oppose him. Little so-and-so was ordained to be class president. 

Unfortunately, no one told the American kid.

Of course, the American kid lost.

But it taught my student something about Americans and about himself. All he had to do was dare. The world didn’t come crashing down. It was a lesson he never forgot.

  • What are the stories that we believe about Jamaica/the Caribbean?
  • Are these stories true?
  • How did these stories that we believe come about?
  • Who started them? When were they started? Why?
  • Why do we believe them? Were they ever true?
  • If the stories are not true, why do we continue to tell them?
  • If the stories are not true, what are the benefits for us to continue believing them?
  • How can we apply ownership, optimism, and opportunity to the situation in Jamaica and the Caribbean?
  • What other questions, Dear Reader, have I missed?

The next few posts will briefly recap how Caribbean storytellers have attempted to tell our story from the early fifties until now, and some of the difficulties and triumphs of this journey. Naturally, it will be a history that reveals my biases. Full disclosure (and not the Full Monty) next week.

Have a great weekend.
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