Thanks to my work family, I was featured in the December 9th issue of the Trinidad Guardian for my professional achievements.
My narrative is at least 20 years in the making with a myriad of lumps along the way and continuous assistance of family.
First, I am an immigrant. The process to become a “legal alien”, and ultimately a naturalized citizen was costly, protracted and at times dehumanizing.
I always had to carry a “green card” of evidence that I belonged.
In 1994 I immigrated to the USA to acquire an education. Education has continually been a family driving principle, and generations of my family have aspired, achieved and excelled academically in Trinidad and the USA. We have engineers, doctors, professors, artists, professionals and educators in our clan.
I struggled to earn my bachelors degree, graduating with a 2.6 GPA after six years. Continually having to work at least 20 hours per week: driving University of Maryland shuttle buses, cleaning labs in the Engineering Department and volunteering my time/body in the name of science to gain an additional dollar. Academics were secondary to surviving.
The United States made it possible for me to achieve my dreams. However, at a price that’s common for naturalized citizens and legal aliens.
For example, abbreviating my name to placate folks that didn’t care to or want to learn the proper pronunciation. One gets tired of being called Curtain or Cruton. Or being asked how to say a particular phrase in “my language.”My experience is not unique. Many immigrants Americanise their names to blend in and to be accepted.
Race/Ethnicity is the fundamental pillar of American society I learnt quickly. No longer a Trinidadian or a West Indian. Now, the appropriate box to check was Black or African American.
I’ve had my fair share of racial stereotypes and encounters. From being called nigger while selling books door to door in El Sobrante, California, a suburb outside of Richmond. Circulated and surrounded by white dudes in an open-top jeep waving the confederate flag in Nashville, Tennesse.
I was being invited into homes to sell books in poor Hispanic and Black communities where there was abject poverty. These places were literally on the other side of the railroad tracks, but the families I met had an immeasurable pride of wanting to provide for their kids. Many times I would barter my books to families in exchange for a meal or a hair cut.
As I start in my new role today as Chief Equity Officer, I am reminded that we all need to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Diversity of people and their perspectives
Equity in our policies, practice and external positions
Inclusion via a myriad of voices and organizational culture
Tusca-Ray Kirton Morris
Naturalized Legal Alien / Trini-In-Xisle