Jerrod Ridgway as...

// Montego's Boy
Born in Jamaica but raised in Baltimore, Jerrod tells his tale of, patience, perseverance, and perspective.

Volume 01 Issue 02
January 21st, 2019

Chapter 1: Montego Bay

Growing up in Jamaica truly shapes the way I see the world. I was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and lived there for about eight years before moving to Baltimore in 2002. Growing up in Jamaica prior to moving to the States serves as a constant reminder that there is a greater purpose to my life. It brings me back to Earth when my ego gets too large. It shows me that there is beauty in the struggle, and that it is possible to have true happiness without many of the materialistic things in the world. I have seen people with little to nothing in Jamaica be some of the most humble, brilliant, and happy people I have ever come across in my life.

When I moved here, my parents provided me with everything I needed to be successful - so what was my excuse to not make the best of my opportunity, seeing as there are plenty of other people who would love to be in the position I am so fortunate to be in? Growing up in two different environments has allowed me to have a unique perspective on life; it keeps me grounded and motivated to always take advantage of opportunities when presented to me.

I have many passions. I love science. I love finance. I love the idea of being an entrepreneur and building something that is my own. Family and friends are a passion. Education is a passion. Recently, my most important goal is marrying my passion with doing work that makes the lives of other people better. I think that matters the most. I can pile as much money as I can into my bank account. I can build the most profitable business in the world. However, I do not think any of that matters if I am not making life better for others in the process. This requires a perception change; it is easy to look at society and see that success is predominantly defined by monetary goals.

When I look at true visionaries and people I call true leaders (ex: Malcolm X, Dr. King, Elon Musk, Nelson Mandela), I see that they inspired movements that changed people’s lives and inspired generations of people. They did it because they were passionate about doing something for the betterment of humanity as a whole and not for monetary gain. They achieved greatness by creating something bigger than themselves.

Elon is one of my new favorite visionaries because he creates these ideas and shares them with the world simply because he believes it is necessary for the growth of the human race.

Advancements in solar energy, electric cars, and colonies on Mars are a few examples of projects he is working on. That to me is everything I want to do in life: creating for the advancement of my fellow people.

My ultimate goal in life is to be successful. My definition of success means being happy and living a life of purpose. I would love to join that life purpose by operating a business or non-profit organization. The method to success is still a work in progress, but the end goal remains the same. I believe everyone should look to achieve this because it creates a symbiotic relationship.

Doing something you are passionate that also makes the world better allows an individual to feel fulfilled. What could be better than that?

One lesson I am still learning is the lesson on practicing patience and having faith. We live in a day and age of instant gratification. We have the ability to open a laptop and see whatever we want when we want. And even more so, as young individuals, we are constantly bombarded with images of what we should be, what other people are accomplishing, and what we should consider own own success. It is hard.

No previous generation has ever had to experience it the way we do. Elon Musk made millions in his 20s after selling Zip2, and subsequently (predecessor to PayPal). Mark Zuckerberg is another example. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson all have two NBA championships, multi-million dollar contracts, and endorsements... all before 30! There are numerous examples of young individuals doing amazings things in fields such as sports, film, tech, you name it.

When we are constantly shown the success, we do not pay attention to the time taken to reach that level of success. Elon now owns SpaceX, Tesla, and has interests in other ventures. But a lot of people do not know that all those millions he made in his 20s, he nearly lost it banking on Tesla and SpaceX. Curry almost wasn’t drafted because he was listed as injury prone. Durant caught heat for not being able to bench 185 lbs (standard weight) at the NBA combine, while his peers could do multiple reps. In those moments of insecurity and doubt is where patience and faith in one’s abilities become the true keys to success. Without them, it is easy to give up because everything does not happen right away like Instagram makes it seem. It is a hard lesson I really had to learn and a lesson I continue to learn.

There is a saying that we are our own worst critic
and it is very true. Once after a terrible experience
after a “routine traffic stop” I was pretty shaken up...

Chapter II: Routine Stop

It shook me a little bit because I was thinking of instances where city cops plant contraband on black individuals. I thought a lot about black men being killed just for “reaching.” Philando Castile being the most prominent one who comes to mind. I thought about all the other experiences of being pulled over where one cop literally told me, “Are you aware that this is an area that experiences frequent crime and I’m pulling you over because you just looked suspicious to me?” as I’m taking exchange students to get groceries from the local Giant. Being asked why I am driving on this part of town when my address says I live somewhere else, or where I’m going, why am I’m driving at this time or night or asking “is this my car” and then proceeding to ask what I do for a living.

All questions from “routine traffic stops.” I could go on but I am sure most black males can relate. All those past experiences sort of came rushing back after. While it was not as bad as other altercations with the police, it was a moment where I truly felt my mortality. I felt like I actually could have died that night if I had said the wrong thing. I always thought of these things but it wasn’t until the seventh time when I actually felt afraid for my life.

It is worth saying that there are good cops out there who try to uphold the integrity of the badge. To those individuals, I salute them. However, the bad apples truly do spoil the bunch; remaining complicit and silent when you see your peers acting without integrity also makes you a bad apple.

I already had a therapist from a year before - as I was describing the event to her, she concluded our session by saying that there are a lot of negatives in the world, and that I do not need to add to that. Having belief in myself that I will accomplish my goals no matter how long it takes keeps me going. I try to be my own biggest fan; I am not always successful in doing so, but it really does help. And even if I need to modify or change my goals, I know that’s okay too because the core belief in myself is the foundation for anything I want to accomplish in the future.

Remembering who I am, where I came from, staying
true to my passions, and realizing the beauty in the struggle are all core to who I am,
and keys to living a life of purpose and meaning.
I will continue working to create something better for others.

Ikechukwu: I want to start off by saying how much I look up to you and your ambitious drive. You, Kev, Jan, Seth, Andrew, Amanda...all of y’all really molded me to be who I am my freshman year at Loyola Maryland. So this issue means a lot to me, because I get the chance to speak more with you, as well as learn from you.

Now, my eyes are tuned in to this new chapter of your life, as you navigate new terrain - could you key in the readers what’s going on in your life right now?

Jerrod: That means a lot man. You have always been humble and driven. I respect that about you. Always will. I’m happy that we could help you in any way. I recently got laid off due a company downsizing attributed to the tariff issues with the US and China. It really kind of hit me hard. I think I actually tweeted “From top 10 under 30 to laid off. What a life” haha… it was kind of my Icarus moment where I truly believed my ego had gotten too high and I needed to be reminded of what truly matters. Life is still good though.

And that’s when you picked up photography.

I took some time to think about what I liked doing and things that made me happy. I had always wanted to get better at photography and suddenly had the time to do so. I loved riding around the city and capturing images. I didn’t care if they sucked because I knew I would get better. I decided to do a Baltimore photo journal on Instagram, where I take a bunch of pictures I thought were iconic in Baltimore. I’ve learned a lot from the process, especially that patience thing again haha. Because there are times when I go out in the cold and, take a bunch of pictures and when I go to edit, they are out of focus or the composition sucks etc. But I also have some gems I’m really proud of, so it’s a give and take, but I definitely see the improvement.

How else are you spending this time?

I get to spend more time with family and friends. I get to spend more time with my dog Melo. The financial pressure is obviously still there and I’m excited for where my next opportunity will come from, but the chance to look inward and practice some discernment is invaluable. Truthfully I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much or even done if I was working. I realized how much of my life geared towards work. When I woke up. When I went to bed. Where I chose to live. The lease on my car. How I groomed myself. The clothes in my closet. What I spend my free time doing. My mental state. I could go on. Those aren’t necessarily bad thing because I think there are some sacrifices that have to be made when you want to work for a company. I just didn’t really think about the investments I was making for work compared to myself until now. Self care is something I had been trying to do more of anyway, so having the extra time really has helped.

What have you learned the most during this time?

I think I lost who I was and forgot to make time for things I truly enjoyed just because I was tired from work, anxious thinking about what was coming next at work, or anxious while I was at work. It’s important that I was able to have the time to remind myself that I am the most important and that I am the writer of my own destiny. No matter the awards and accolades, the money, the titles... at the end of the day none of it matters if I’m not truly happy with myself. I consider myself a hard worker, and I don't think that will ever change, but the most important thing I’ve learned is not to neglect myself in the process.

I would like to further explore your encounters with police officers.

While I am sure every black man has a unique experience living in America, we can relate on a certain level when it comes to how we are treating due to the color of our skin. Has those encounters personally changed how you see the world since then?

Absolutely. I guess naively I thought if I did the right things and wasn’t involved in any illicit activity, I would be fine. Sadly, that isn’t the case. I’ve been pulled over in a Benz. I’ve been pulled over in a Corolla. I’ve been pulled over while wearing a sweats, and while wearing a full on suit. I’ve been pulled over driving solo, and I’ve been pulled over with international students in my car. So to me it really dawned on me that it doesn’t matter what I do, if I’m going to be profiled, there is nothing I can do about it. It’s kind of a helpless situation because it feels like your are stripped of your autonomy of being a regular citizen.

Good point. Moving along - top five visionaries (dead or alive) you would like to meet/have had the chance to meet and why?

That’s a tough one. J. Cole would have to be up there. To see his growth as a person come through in his music is truly something special. Art imitates life. And if you can show your growth as a person through your art and it resonates with people time and time again, it’s inspiring to see and hear (quickly coming up on this list also is Snoh Aalegra. She is such a soulful, honest and talented artist). I think the more incredible part is that he’s so amazing but so humble at the same time.

I would love Bob Marley for obvious reasons. He inspired music and a movement that is timeless.

I would also love to meet W.E.B Du Buois. I read his book Souls of Black Folk in college (highly recommend). His characterization of the sociology of black and white people, in relation to the battle for civil rights, was impactful to me. And it’s crazy that even in today’s age we still see the same things that he wrote about a century ago. I admire that he was a strong advocate for literacy and education among black people of his time.

Casey Gerald! I would love to meet him. I watched his HBS speech after a friend recommended it to me. That kinda lead me to doing more research and listening to his TED Talks (most notably The Gospel of Doubt). He has goals when it comes to public speaking, but he’s another person who is honest about his growth. He’s got the accolades, but his desire to do things for the advancement of his community is inspiring.

My last would be Keller Rinaudo. He is one of the founders of Zipline, a drone company that delivers blood and other medical supplies in rural locations in Africa (prominently in Rwanda), where other forms of transportation are less accessible. It’s truly life saving advancements. It’s actually inspired an idea of mine that I would like to see to light in Baltimore. Given the opioid epidemic in Baltimore, I thought a similar drone system could deliver medicine to those experiencing fatal overdoses. Drone tech is something that’s very promising; given the right federal regulation, it can help in a myriad of different ways.

What about family is important to you?

I think the easy answer is that it’s free love haha. But in all seriousness, the unconditional love and energy that you feel being around family is irreplaceable. It recharges my batteries, inspires me, and simply just makes me happy. A saying I have come to live by is that without friends and family you have nothing. My family has been there for me regardless of anything. They love me if I’m up or down. Rich or poor. It’s a love that’s there through it all, and I don’t know where I would be without it.

Being that we are in a technological era where we are constantly pitted against one another’s success instead of celebrating success period, what advice do you give to this generation in terms of carving our own paths success?

Your first statement hit the nail on the head. It’s something that I’m still working on but the first point I would say is to focus on what drives and motivates you. I often find when truly enthralled with doing work that I enjoy, I’m not worried about what everyone else is doing. Also by focusing on yourself, you can actually enjoy what you have accomplished. Finally, I think it’s important to remind yourself that everyone has their own timeline. Patience and humility are key or else you might ruin your own blessing trying to rush things.

I see you have a lot of passions - science, finance, etc - where did all of these come from?

Growing up in Jamaica, I was surrounded by so much beautiful nature. So many different plants and trees. So many amazing animals. And it’s effortless to find - you just have to open your eyes. Jamaica is such a beautiful place both on land and in the seas. It developed the curiosity that my parents nurture. My parents were really big on education, and pushed me to research things I found interesting. My dad bought me seventeen different encyclopedias and three World Atlas’  when I was growing up. This time it was a combination of nature and nurture that fostered my curiosity for science. The finance piece came a little later but for similar reasons. I enjoy finding solutions to problems and using my analytical mind to do it, and that’s a common thread between science and finance.

Special shoutouts to people and places in Montego Bay?

Definitely shout out to all my family and friends back in Jamaica. Also Juci Beef Patties. If you go to Jamaica, you have to get a beef or chicken patty from that place, it’ll change your life.

Always a pleasure and honor speaking with you J. Best of luck with the business consulting firm, we are all rooting for your success.

Always a pleasure my man. You are an amazing, driven, and talented person. I look forward to great things you will do in the future. I’m blessed to have met you brother and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your work.


Update #1
March 4th , 2020

DC Fashion Week: February 20th-Febraury 23rd

Photography - Jerrod Ridgway