“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

10 shillings. 

That’s the amount of residual income my grandparents typically had to provide for their children. 

My mother would often walk to school along the dirt paths of the scenic Jamaican countryside with holes in her shoes and uncertain of her next meal. At night, she would take her rest in a single bedroom shared with her sister, three brothers and younger cousin. 

How beautiful it is to think that her pangs of physical hunger would serve as the perfect nourishment for a deeper hunger – a yearning for some nebulous “more.”  Through focused hustle and resourcefulness, she effectively pushed pause on our family’s cycle of intergenerational economic hardship.  She promoted us from poverty in Jamaica to working class life in New York City. 

Nestled in a neighborhood where the sounds of gunshots seemed to ring out from the local park more frequently than the sounds of children at play, I, too, decided to pursue more – for my family, for my community, for families and communities like mine. 

I want my life to honor my mother’s legacy of determination and grit. I want to help unlock all the potential that lies dormant in the proverbial one-bedroom apartment. I want to turn 10 shillings into gold.

— Kamoy Smalling