In a country where roads are paved with tar instead of gold and trees are covered in leaves instead of money, struggle and sacrifice continue beyond the Caribbean Sea. Jamaican immigrant and junior broadcast journalism major Darrel Creary shares his story.
Creary was born to working class parents and raised alongside his younger brother in St. Catherine Parish, Jamaica. His mother worked as a cosmetologist and his father worked at Guantanamo Bay, the infamous military detention camp in Cuba.
The family eventually moved to Florida in 2018. Though immigrants dream of leaving behind an unsafe environment or seeking greater career opportunities, what happens when you finally make it?
For Creary’s mother, the move allowed her to become a pharmaceutical technician, a difficult feat to achieve in Jamaica.
The brother of a sibling living with autism, Creary’s sense of responsibility to his family initially led him to pursue biochemistry with hopes of becoming a neurosurgeon.
“Autism as a whole doesn’t need to be fixed, it just needs to be understood by the public,” Creary said. “Being a journalist gives me the avenue to report on that.”
Immigrant families often encourage their children to pursue traditionally-reliable careers in medicine, law or engineering. Creary strayed from that path.
“Watching breaking stories always interested me, but I didn’t know how to verbalize that,” he said. “I realized journalism clicked for me for my happiness and not just my brother’s. It was complicated to talk to my mom about that — she obviously wasn’t happy.”
Transitioning to the U.S. from Jamaica was difficult for the young Creary.
“It was complicated trying to learn the race dynamic in the United States,” he said. “[After] learning about my own space as an immigrant, it became important to me to build those community ties instead of just being focused on meeting other Jamaicans.”
From being one of four Black students on his freshman dorm floor to seeing a lack of diversity in clubs like UMTV, Creary’s first instinct was to stick to himself. He soon realized that to find his community, he had to leave his comfort zone.
Embracing the entire Black community meant learning African American Vernacular English (AAVE), a dialect Creary was unfamiliar with. Although embracing American customs was exciting, the Jamaican-born student sacrificed some of the connection with his home country.
“Your understanding of culture stays frozen while you’re here,” Creary said. “Being able to portray myself with my heritage on the news is important for me, despite the fact that I [am] reporting American news.”
Creary’s latest project is reporting on “Work and Wealth,” a podcast with communication professor Sanjeev Chatterjee and creative writing professor Jaswinder Bolina that centers the U.S. immigrant perspective. The pair discuss topics like the realities of immigrant work life.
The podcast will soon be released on PRX, a leading podcast publisher that partners with organizations like TED and Smithsonian.
Leaving some words of advice, Creary urges students to immerse themselves in student life and join clubs, Greek organizations and Student Government.
“Don’t be intimidated,” Creary said. “Find people in those spaces who you can relate to. Find those relationships that are needed to survive [and] communicate with your professors.”