|Ramon D Gordon
With a seemingly innate ability to wield authority and command respect, few would believe
the woeful tales which form the complex reality belonging to twenty three (23) year old Asheki Spooner.
An accomplished academic, Spooner left Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in 2017 after achieving the unthinkable. She had attained not one, but two advanced tertiary degrees in a span of six years, asserting not only her scholastic prowess, but also her ability to challenge and surpass what is expected.
Spooner admits, however, that her pursuit of these goals was not for the reasons it may appear. “It kept me busy. It kept me out of the world and gave me something to love.”
Love is a concept that has been for a long time lost on Asheki. Though presenting as an emphatic doer, she hid secrets so painful that when forced to confront them she all but broke – reveling the depth of her vulnerability.
Asheki’s childhood, though not unlike most in Jamaica’s context, was rife with bouts of paternal infidelity, which compounded feelings of inadequacy. She admits that after learning of her father’s promiscuity things went downhill.
“For me during that time (of promiscuity) my father and I never connected. We were very violent towards each other, both verbally and emotionally because I felt wronged. This should not have been happening to me – this should not have been happening to my mother. It made me lose respect for the whole idea of family and the whole idea of fatherhood.”
Spooner shared that she suffered a psychological breakdown, believing she was not longer deserving of love – she refused to believe she could even be – loved.
Unkind school yard jests did very little to remedy this. For as long as she can remember, Spooner has had issues with her weight, a truth, hilariously attributes to her mother’s prayer for a “little bit extra”.
“My mother prayed for a fat baby and I love food! I have always been the fat kid who couldn’t run without falling. For primary school you had to walk to and from for a couple miles. That made it even more evident that I was different.”
Spooner recounted instances where even her teacher used said difference to chide her before her peers, setting an awful precedent, which would be referenced time and time again. “I remember one day in grade 2-3- I’m not sure what prompted the teachers to, but I think we were doing something about measurement and numbers and everyone else’s weight was like 30- 50 lbs.
I didn’t want to weigh because I knew I was bigger, but eventually I did (weigh myself). I came in at a whopping 90lbs and you could hear the gaps around the entire class. I think that was when I really realized just how different I was. It is one thing to know that you are different, but to see by just how much. That was a new field for me.”
Asheki quickly became the butt of all jokes, even in spaces she thought to be safe. She eventually just allowed it, dismissing it only as misplaced humor. She admits however, this reasoning was an ineffective curb on the harrowing pain she was really experiencing. “It was a cycle of playing off hurtful things as jokes. People kept me in the social circles only to make fun of me. I’d have to be faking laughs during the days, only to cry myself to sleep at nights”.
Those tears continued, and ran an pervasive course following a gruesome sexual attack in fall of 2017. With wounds still open, she described her feelings after the assault with the only word she knows how – numb.
She recalls being thrust into a space as dark as the feelings she had subdued for so long. She felt lost and without hope, yet still, she clung to the essence of what she knew had the potential to make her whole.
“I take my strength from the select few who always seek to empower me. I take comfort in knowing that my mother loves me. That keeps me strong.”
She admits that the effects of her harrowing tales have been long lasting, saying she no longer wishes to relive past trauma. However, the truth is, she continues to contend with the effects of those realities every day.
“Don’t let the shell fool you; the impacts are still lasting. Whether you want to believe it or not, it (the pain) has been so entrenched that even when you think you have surpassed it, you realize that it shapes your very actions – Going into a taxi only to see people make up them face, Not going out because you don’t want to eat in public. Not ever feeling capable of love, but it is life and you deal with it as you go along.”
She has dealt with it, in the best way she knows how. Asheki used everything – her pain, her resentment, her indomitable spirit – EVERYTHING to pioneer a movement dedicated to mentoring, and inspiring those without fathers, for she says she understands all too well the ramification of abandonment and feelings of inadequacy.
Advocate for Change Jamaica (AFCJ) was conceptualized by Spooner in 2016 to “eradicate father absenteeism and the prevalent and devastating effects it has on health, economy, psychology and security, through strategic advocative efforts, and the offering of support thus lessening the effects of father absenteeism and bridging the gaps in creating a sustainable environment for Jamaican citizens.”
Asheki believes that everyone deserves a shot at happiness and she vows to help others find just that while she searches for hers.
“I keep going because I have found something to keep me going – to challenge me – Advocate for
Asheki asks us to be the best we can be despite our reality; she asks us not to fall prey to bad
experiences, for it is only through action that growth can achieved.