Sam’s Jam Story
I’ve been asked to commit to paper how I came up with this idea around empowering young men and women of colour through a simple yet rarely used gesture, a smile.
The origins of this story began in a school hallway in west London. I was waiting for my grandmother and collect me. She was late which was uncharacteristic of her and Mrs Lewis was a woman of time and her being late was a sign. It must have been around 4pm and I sat waiting inside. The big hall was behind me. I noticed the late afternoon sunlight bursting through the windows, casting its shadows into the hallway. I was hopeful I’d get to play in it once my grandmother came to collect me.
I sat patiently waiting, something that didn’t come easy, not really thinking of anything except the possibility of playing out, when Ms Mallarkey my old year two teacher came up the hallway, she enquired whether it was my grandmother who was collecting me and I confirmed that it was, she then asked me how she was and I remember saying that she was fine, she then said “Sam, you’re such a joy, you’re so smiley, always smiling, always happy” and as she was saying that, the headmistress, Ms G Del Bravo was coming down the stairs and had overheard Ms Mallarkey’s comments.
Ms G Del Bravo agreed and said, “Yes Sam he’s always smiling” and referred to me as a pleasure. Mrs Mallarkey, turned back to me and bent down, smiled and asked, “would you like a jam sandwich?”. I said yes and sat waiting while her and Ms Del Bravo walked away in the direction of the teacher’s staff room.
I wonder how Ms Mallarkey was being, when she chose to make that jam sandwich. What I know for sure is that it came with certain thoughts, feelings, words and well this action on her part. The result of which was clear, a satisfied young boy with a jam sandwich (edges cut off) and a cup of something sweet.
What I realised many years later was that my way of being I.e. a happy, smiling boy had impact in my year two teacher's world that moved her to ask me this question. It provided an opportunity for her to take an uncommon action.
A smile isn’t just a smile, it's an opportunity to shape one’s world and create a possibility of being extraordinary in doing the ordinary and simple things.
Our mission is to transform the narrative of young men and women of the African diaspora, empowering them to create possibilities and improve their mental wellbeing by reinforcing positive mental images.
We are looking to start a project to empower the African Caribbean community. It will involve 100 portraits with each participant in the photo smiling with the caption “1000 Words”, as a picture paints a thousand words. We would like to run a piece on each participant expressing what lies behind their smiles I.e. their 1000 words and what being in a campaign like this means for them.
Project Smile will enable our community to connect with a positive state of mind, idea of being complete, to live a life full of freedom and self-expression.
Our organisation will look to build stronger community foundations by highlighting the importance of sharing and celebrating the positive impact and success stories from the African Caribbean community.
There is little acknowledgement of this phenomenon, highlighting disturbing lack of progress made in this area. If the narrative continues, we will continue to see more of the above impacts and a failure to capitalise on the benefits of a truly diverse and inclusive environment and fair representation.
Therefore, we are committed to promoting a positive and inclusive message within the UK. We aim to provide a counter argument that INSPIRES and MOVES, the narrative forward in a progressive manner.
Why Do We Need Project Smile?
According to Government Facts and Figures around Black Caribbean community;
People of African Caribbean heritage make up 1 – 2 percent of the United Kingdom’s population.
There are 18.1% of African Caribbean people living in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in England which is 2.4% more than White British people.
African Caribbean households had 17% of lone parents with dependent children, which is 10.3% more than the White British households.
African Caribbean pupils are almost three times as likely to be permanently excluded from Schools compared to White British pupils.
African Caribbean people are 9.6 times as likely to be stopped and searched as White British people (26 stop and search per 1000). With a high percentage leading to arrests.
37% of African Caribbean people were homeowners compared with 68% of White British and Indian Ethnic Groups.
The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) found that Black men were more likely to experience a psychotic disorder in the last year.
The risk of psychosis in African Caribbean groups is estimated to be nearly seven times higher than in the White population.
African Caribbean people had the highest rate of detention under Mental Health Act out of all ethnic groups, 254 detentions per 100,000.
Young African Caribbean people are more likely to suffer mental health problems at a young age because of the negative portrayal, systematic social injustice in society.
Suicide rates are higher among young men of African, African Caribbean origin, and among middle-aged African, African Caribbean and South Asian women than among their White British counterparts.
During the pandemic, 25% of African Caribbean people felt they had enough money which is 26% less compared to White British Households.
During the pandemic 1 in 20 from the African community have been hospitalised with the virus compared to 1 in 100 White British People.
There were 47% Black Caribbean people working outside their home during lockdown, due to the type of work.