- From my elders it was brought to my attention that my paternal ancestry can be traced back simply by my last name Pennant. There is a community called Pennants in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, West Indies. It is a Welsh name and no one in my family is believed to have any of the DNA that comes from the Baron Penrhyn nobility from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The name as it applies to me and my ancestors derives from a forced adoption/abduction by a Richard Pennant. Pennant is held in high esteem and is historically known in the UK as the developers of Port Penryhn and the Penryhn Quarry which was the leading export site for the slate industry back in the 19th century. In Jamaica, however, not so much held in high esteem there. As an integral aspect of British colonization the Welsh family owned and held over 6 sugar plantations (plantations were otherwise known as pens too which means enclosure or coop, confine, or immure) in Jamaica for nearly 300 years, beginning around 1655. The red and blue circles are actually where my family hails from in Clarendon parish.
Although well aware of the controversies surrounding the slave trade, Richard Pennant rejected the abolitionists’ arguments. Instead, he used his position to become an outspoken champion of slavery, arguing that the banning of the traffic of Africans would be an economic disaster.
The continuous flow of money from Jamaica allowed Pennant’s heir to built a magnificent home in Wales. Penrhyn was an ostentatious show of wealth, spread over more than 300 rooms, which the family mostly used to entertain guests.
The fortune gained from the slave plantations in Jamaica was never less than crucial to his developments in North Wales. The trade was the spur to create the North West Wales that exists today.¹
How do I feel about this? It is an unfortunate link in the chain of my ancestral heritage back to Africa. The last name is one of those lasting vestiges of colonialism that I can’t feel dignified or say I am proud of. However, it does imbue a persistence to my existence. The number of enslaved humans that the Pennants owned as property was over 250 per plantation when the country’s average slave owners held just 150 enslaved persons over those years, so that made the Pennants a major player in the slave trade and other human abuses.
Under the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 the Pennants received compensation from the British government to free their enslaved persons which at the time were said to be 764 people for a total remuneration of around ￡1,562,000 (pound sterling) today.
My mother’s and father’s family are still primarily located in the parish of Jamaica and in the town of May Pen where we still have our family homes all within 25 mile radius. My mother’s surname is Morgan and her family is replete with indentured servants from India and Syrian lineage.
2. During my high school years in Brooklyn, NY, I used to be a reggae artist and performed at many venues. When my mother received a call one morning from Columbia Records wanting to sign me I knew that that dream would be over. She ripped into the exec with all kinds of Jamaican patois that I haven’t heard her speak before. She didn’t want the 4th of her 5 children around any ganja smoking derelicts, nor did she want her son to some reggae artist. So there goes my music career Jason Stelzner 🌹🍁.
3. My passion in high school was architecture and I was accepted to Virginia Tech University because I wanted to be an architect like by grandfather, my mother’s father in Jamaica. Back then they used to call him a draftsman and builder. He built many houses and shops that still stands today in and around the Content and Lionel Town area in Clarendon Jamaica. My grandfather should be wealthy on paper, however he had 23 children with several women and so…yeah not rich at all I suppose, just left enough property for a few of his older male children. He died of a heart attack in 1978 — go figure.
During my summer internship I was the only Black kid in these offices with no relative who happened to work there. I was paid no attention, its as if I was invisible. I was unable to go to UV and I ended up going to SUNY Farmingdale College out in Long Island. In my first semester I was told by my professor who is apparently racist stated that my designs were good and my work ethic was great but you won’ t make it being an architect stick to construction. I ignored him but the grades that I was getting meant that he was intent on making sure that I would be discouraged from becoming an architect.
4. I worked on Wall Street and was complicit with these bankers in bringing down the financial system. Well, basically I was just doing what I was told, and paid to do, to earn a paycheck. I handled derivatives as a trust officer for some CDOs. I wasn’t just any other drone like those around me who were unaware of the damage that these securitizations could have on the economy. I was a drone who was a minority and anything I say could be used against me. You are only suppose to look and be smart on paper, you are not to actually be smarter or act with smarts around them when they call the shots. They will find an absurd reason to just fire you.
When you work on Wall Street you see and experience some things that make you cringe at how debased unfettered capitalism is. I have seen the most privileged of white men walk down the street as if they owned it. I have seen many luxury sports cars without roofs with cigar smoke puffing out of them like it was a parade rumbling down those cobbled streets. I have also seen the many sullen faces of ancillary workers like myself suffer day in and day out to make these guys richer and richer. I have also seen the carnage when the police and ambulances cordon of areas where people have jumped out of windows to their death after losing millions of dollars from pensions or losing other people’s money.
5. I do read a lot. I just don’t read fiction. And I just don’t read about what’s going on in America. I enjoy reading what’s happening in other parts of the world. I also write a lot but haven’t published most of the stuff I do write. I don’t know what I am waiting for. Maybe there is a book in my future.
6. After I decided on not wanting to become an architect and face these hurdles I really wanted to be a gynecologist/obstetrician. I was fascinated by how the female body reproduces and how wonderfully magnificient it all worked. That and I loved watching Dr. T & the Women with Richard Gere.
Dr. T & the Women (2000)
Directed by Robert Altman. With Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern. A wealthy gynecologist's ideal…
7. I have two sisters and two brothers and we all have college degrees and we all bought into the American dream, yet we are still poor, or just lower middle class. We surprisingly have a healthy sibling relationship. My sister and I are the youngest and have no children. I am very good with children and many women have told me that I would make a great father some day. My significant other now for the past three years says if she could she would have children for me right now (she has two boys, one in his last year in college and one in his 2nd year in high school from her previous marriage, she is happily divorced for three years) without my permission, whether I was ready for them or not. 🤔
8. I am patient but probably too careful when it comes to a number of things. Not enough to stop whatever it is that I am doing but I overly rely on the wait and see approach. That’s probably why I don’t have children.
9. I used to LOVE Florida, but now, meh, I guess its okay if you can tolerate the political and social nonsense that comes with it. I loved living in California but I don’t see myself ever going back to live there. I want to travel, yet i don’t really want to travel. Does that make any sense? I am curious, but not that curious. I am willing to experience the joys of traveling so that I could write, but it ain’t that serious. I think its because of my acute wariness of other human beings and my luck.
10. While on the topic of Florida, I had a near death experience in Jacksonville. Ten years ago I was swimming at one of the beaches there. It was like driving out to a peninsula along the coast line. And it was the third to last stop on my east coast beach tour that summer. I was swimming with a friend of a friend who was in the Navy and we swam out to the sandbar off in the distance. For me this was unusual to see and the waters were pretty calm that early afternoon. But suddenly, the sandbar gave way and a rush of water like a river’s stream pushed us both out fast and far out into the Atlantic Ocean. When I turned around I could see gigantic container ships off in the short distance. I heard the Navy guy yell out for help not too far from me and I told him to grab on to me and stay calm we can swim our way back. He panicked and I was pushed and kicked under.
I was underwater and was coughing up saltwater when I got back to the surface. I saw him fade away back to shore in the distance. I tried unsuccessfully to swim back parallel to the shore because I could barely see it anymore. I had no strength left. I was tired and I knew I would drown if I kept on going. I stopped. It got really quiet. I then began to hear just trickling sounds of waves like the sounds you hear in that loop recording of water sounds to help you go to sleep at night. I was in for a long sleep here. I began to think aloud, my mother is going to be really angry at me for having to come down here and identify my body. I thought about how unlucky I was to be in this situation. How unlucky I was to have it all end this way. I don’t smoke nor do I drink. I have never used drugs I have never committed a crime. How did I end up here? What happened to being careful, huh?!
I began to tire from treading water now instead of should high I was chin deep into the water and spitting out the saltiness. I tried to float on my back and just look at the clear light blue sky. It had nary a cloud in it from this vantage point. I was preparing for my death. I hoped that it wouldn’t be painful, just quick like a fade to black unconsciousness — like going under anesthesia in the dentist chair, when the water eventually plunges into my lungs and pull me under. It seemed like I was out there for hours.
I was told it took nearly 20 minutes to find me disoriented as the man on the boogie board came out and saved me. I looked up and I remember him from the beach with his two daughter and his wife. I was so grateful. I told this white man that I loved him. I asked him about his daughters and that you should not have come out, now we are both going to die out here. He assured me that we weren’t going to die out here and that his daughters were just fine on the beach. They and their mother went to get the life guards because they saw what happened to you and I told them that I would get on board to find you.
I was hanging on to that board for dear life until the life guards came. I was thankful to them as well and expressed my gratitude and love for them also. What?!? I was delirious from all the saltwater I took in. When I got to the beach I saw my fiancé at the time bawling and then I passed out and woke up in the hospital.
The beach tour was officially and abruptly over. I remember driving back to New York and being so angry. Not angry at the Navy guy that should have rescued me. Hey, What’s up with that though? Aren’t you guys well-trained for this stuff? I was more so upset about not getting to thank the man who came out and saved me. I wanted to thank his family as well. To this day I live with this regret and I wish I could have expressed my gratitude. He didn’t have to come and save me, but he did.
Lecia Michelle 📃, Sherry Kappel, Marley K., Dusty Craig, Caleb Ramsby, Jack Herlocker, Ré Harris, Terijo, onurlft42, Clay Rivers, thecoolintellectual, Mike Meyer, Derek Womble, Sam McKenzie Jr., Violet DeTorres, Troy....jungle nomad 🥃🤷🏽♂️, Kerry Kuhn, Glenn Rocess, veganelder,
I would love to read some jusicy insights to those I have tagged and have forgotten to tag. My apologies in advance for those I forgot to tag.