Meet Jody-Kay Tomlinson. She’s one of my ‘daughters’ — one of those young ladies I have met as I grow older who admire the life I have lived and show that RASpect by being as loving as a real-life daughter could be. As a RASTA, I have quite a few ‘daughters’ like Jody-Kay, most of them – but not all – RASTA.
Jody-Kay is a young RASTA woman. Petite, perky with an Energizer Bunny personality, always smiling and always positive. When we first met she told me she admired how I homeschooled my son and was now homeschooling her own son. She had even named him Makonnen at birth, before she ever met me! I gave her a copy of my book on homeschooling and every time we met after that, she would update me on her son’s growth and development.
This evening is no different. We are gathered, RASTA women sitting in the evening breeze at a popular Kingston entertainment spot waiting for the artists we came with to perform in a stage show for which patrons are slowly gathering. Jody-Kay tells me with pride that Makonnen is now 5, attending school daily and coming home speaking Spanish to her. She tells me that she knows when Makonnen has eaten some forbidden food at school because he gets sick later. She tells me that Makonnen’s father, who has another babymother with whom he lives, delivers a cooked lunch every day for Makonnen from the ital restaurant he operates and she prepares all his other food.
BUSINESS IS GOOD I asked her how her business is doing. I know Jody-Kay is a hairdresser of natural locks and hairstyles. She says her business is doing well. She says the landlady where she used to run her salon in Ocho Rios gave her notice or the option to purchase the shop for Four Million Dollars. Just as she was looking out the window wondering where she would find such money, she saw an empty shop in the plaza across the street. She is working from there now, less rental and a larger space more comfortable for her clients. Her shop (and Facebook Page) is Ishamekka Natural Hair& Nail Care.
So with Makonnen at school and more time of her own, Jody-Kay has expanded her business into natural hair care products. She buys pressed coconut oil and castor oil and blends her own special mix of herbs and spices to create a brand for which she already has produced labels, and she proudly shows me pictures of everything on her phone. She has two Facebook pages, one personal and one for her business and she plans to go to the Scientific Research Council to have her products tested and certified so she can aim for a larger and international market.
Jody-Kay tells me business is good, so she now rents a 2-bedroom apartment in the Exchange neighbourhood of Ocho Rios where she is happy Makonnen now has his own bedroom. She’s a little upset at how quickly he ‘mashed up’ the tablet she bought him, but plans to buy another.
ORPHAN AT 10 I am pleased and surprised at these developments. For the firsst time in the conversations we have had on the occasions we have met, I ask Jody-Kaye to tell me some more about herself. I learn for the first time that she lost her mother aged 10 and never knew her father. She is now in her late 20s. I ask who raised her after age 10. Jody-Kaye smiles a sideways smile and says: “Bwoy, so much people, I can’t begin to tell you. Is Jus’ JAH take care of me from then, when I check it.” I can see that Jody-Kaye’s smile hides a lot of pain.
She graduated from an All-Age school at 16 and since then has been her own caretaker and provider. “I found that JAH give me this skill with my hands, so I have been using this skill ever since then to survive,” Jody-Kay explains and her bright smile returns to her face. Her fingers groom the locks of both female and male clients, some of whom are well-known members of the reggae music industry. Her own waist-length locks are always immaculately set and polished, a walking advertisement for her talent.
YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR Listening to this young businesswoman and mother tell me joyously about her life, ever smiling and laughing,I am amazed and impressed by her achievements and her survival in an environment that rarely provides opportunities for single women like herself – let alone a single RASTA woman. As she tells me of the many steps she has had to take to be where she is today, I can’t help thinking that she should be a candidate for Young Entrepreneur of the Year, or that she should be winning one of the Branson awards, or the Youth Awards or even a Governor Generals Award.
“Take my picture, take my picture!” Jody-Kaye jumps up to stand and pose beside reggae star Agent Sasco (Assasin), who smiles indulgently at the pretty young woman. Feeling so proud of my ‘Daughter’ Jody-Kaye, I think about all the young women her age trying to find a way to support one or more children, miserable women with no means of earning a living, who were not as determined or self-confident or capable enough to do what she has done. I sit wishing I could hold Jody-Kaye up as an example for Jamaican women to inspire them to be as successful in a simple, small way as she has been. Her story deserves to be shared.
So I decided to write this article and introduce my ‘Daughter’ Jody-Kay Tomlinson.
Then we sat back and enjoyed the show!!!
N.R.G. – New Reggae Generation in action @ I-REVOLT