My name is Jeffrey
I was born and raised in New Providence, Nassau, Bahamas, and have seven siblings (three brothers and four sisters). Growing up, I did not get into trouble, unless you count the times I stayed out too late – this is why my mother kept a few switches above the ledge. My family is a very close nit family, and although we did not have much, I enjoyed my childhood and friends.
Our home in the Bahamas did not have electricity. So, we used oil lamps and cooked outside using wood. All of our food was fresh from the farm, including chickens and goats. In the Bahamas, the nights would get pitch black, and when outside, you were surrounded by darkness. The washroom was located outside and was a far walk from the house. I was horrified of the dark. At night, we had to walk in the darkness to use the bathroom, and as a child, I always felt like someone was always right behind me. Some nights, I would beg my brother, who shared a room with me, to walk with me to the washroom, but he would not go every time.
When I was younger, I remember seeing the silhouette of strange human objects in our house – some would call it a ghost. The silhouette was that of a statue and looked like the image from the book of Daniel in the Bible. After a while, the image would disappear, so I am not sure if it was just our imagination or a real spirit. We told our parents, and they immediately began to pray – reassuring us that everything would be okay.
My family has always been a praying family. In fact, my parents have always been active in the church. My dad was an elder, and as an elder in the church, they were responsible for praying over the members. One day, all the elders met at our house to pray over this beautiful lady. I remember the elders praying a very fervent prayer and petitioning God’s throne on her behalf – they claimed she was possessed with seven demons. As I walked closer to the door, I could hear her speaking in different languages, and one of the demons kept saying, “the others are mean, and I don’t want to possess you.” The voices kept switching back and forth – speaking through the woman. As the prayers continued to go up, the woman began foaming at the mouth, and it took all four elders, including my dad, to hold her down. That night the elders prayed and called on the name of Jesus through scriptures. It was at that moment that I realized that the devil was real and the true power of God. I saw the power of God to remove the demons from this woman’s life, immediately. A few years later, our paths crossed with the woman again, and God had blessed her with a husband and two kids. Through that, I realized that God can do anything as long as we believe.
Although I had the fear of God within me, I would often push the envelope as a teenager. I remember the first time my brother and I skipped school – we decided to hang out at this church. As fate would have it, my mother just so happened to be on the jitney (a Bahamian bus) heading home from the grocery store. While on the bus, she glanced out the window only to see us sitting outside the church when we should have been in school. Our hearts stopped when we saw her get off the bus – we knew we were in trouble. Immediately, she walked us back to school and made us go in front of the school assembly and whooped us in front of all our friends. This was the most embarrassing moment in our lives. But it did not stop there when we got home, we got whooped again. Needless to say, we never skipped school again.
Now, I am 46 years old and have my own family. God has blessed me with an amazing woman to whom I have been married to for 24 years. She is truly my best friend, and together we have an amazing daughter. After all these years, I am finally pursuing my dreams and overcoming my fears. I have always been a visionary and growing up, I always envisioned writing a book, but I never felt smart or well-spoken. Although Creole is my native language, I also learned to speak French and English at an early age. As a child, I remember the kids would make fun of my accent and reading ability. Some called me dumb, and admittedly, it did hurt. The shame and hurt followed me for a long time and kept me from using my voice and sharing my story.
I have since realized the magnitude and the power of my voice and doubting myself is a hurdle that I no longer want in my life. I want to prove that I am capable, worthy, and deserving of sharing my voice and my story with others. One of the toughest decisions to this day has been writing this book, but one of the most important things in my life has been my legacy. For the past six years, I have asked myself, what is my purpose, and what legacy do I want to leave for future generations? I realize that now is the time to leave a legacy of self-worth – believing in myself and showing others that they should believe in themselves.
A few years back, I was chosen by my pastor to join this group called “Joshua’s Men.” My initial thought was to say no because I remember the insecurities from my childhood, but he saw something in me that I did not. After much prayer, I decided that it was time to face my internal fears, and I decided to join the group in hopes of discovering why I was so afraid of communicating. Joshua’s Men is a 12-month program that requires you to read twelve books per year and then discuss what you have read amongst your peers in the group. At the end of your discussion, others in the group would grade you on your overall presentation. Through this process, I realized that my fear came from not reading much and a lack of confidence, which I believe began in the school system. I am glad I decided to join Joshua’s Men because, with the help of God and those men, I now have the courage to write this book and pursue my divine assignment. My decision to join the group was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
God has been so good to me, and it is true that everything in life indeed happens for a reason.
Book Written By Jeff & ShaVonne LaDonis
My Name is ShaVonne
I grew up in Savannah, GA, on the south side, in a mostly white neighborhood. My parents were both teachers; I have one younger sister, and we’re 4.5 years apart. We were a lovely middle-class black family, living in a very prejudice city in the South in the mid-70s and 80s. My joy came mostly when I went to church and school, which was a small private school, other than the short amount of time I spent in public school. It was there that I got to hang around my black friends, all of who were from the west side of town. We would hang out as much as we could, we were like family.
One summer, the summer of 86, I remember my dad saying the golden words that I’d prayed for, “We’re moving to Atlanta!” Those words were, and to this day, are still the greatest blessing that could have ever happened to me. So, in 1986, my family moved from Savannah to Atlanta, the Black Mecca of the South. I was amazed; we had never seen so many Black people with so much power, prestige, and affluence.
We had a Black mayor, the colleges were black, the businesses were black, and for miles upon end, it looked like everyone was well off. My parents taught in the city of Atlanta, and even though we lived way up in Cobb County, Kennesaw to be exact, we chose to go to school in Atlanta. This decision was right for me because I got to be around my church friends and socialize with people who were black.
Yes, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I love being black. Don’t misunderstand me; I have friends from all over the world and all races. To me, there is something undeniably special and fills me with pride when I’m around my people. I can’t explain it; it feels empowering and uplifting.
I went to private schools in Atlanta until I was in high school, where I went to public school for my Junior and Senior years. It was fun and gave me a sense of the real world. I like all things artistic and creative, and you would think that I’d end up going to an art school, but I didn’t. I ended up graduating from Georgia State with a BS in Psychology. Twenty years and several layoffs later, I went back to school, this time to pursue my true calling, Interior Design at SCAD. The skill and gift of interior design go without saying, it is my true passion. It is the fiber of my creativity that links my innermost thoughts with the world.
Interior design, in one word, is my soul’s work! I’m not a teacher, I’m not a mechanic, I’m not a pilot, nor am I a surgeon, but when given the ability to design, I become the source of their creativity; I become the link to their craft, I become their vision to their world, to their sanctuary.
Being an African American, I can’t help but feel kindred to the mother continent of Africa. However, growing up in the South, the influence of the low Georgian country and the urban sprawl of Atlanta heavily influenced my views on interior design as well. The various textures, design patterns, and colors burst into my head as I unite the warmth of the days with the cool of the night. I am an Interior Designer, it is my natural gift, and the beauty of my African culture adds soul and emotion to the scheme of my designs. Whenever I design, I am inspired by the natural beauty that lies within the patterns of animal prints that take its roots from Africa. I’m equally inspired by the quaint beauty that lies within Southern charm. The moss that hangs from the oak tree that canopies the neighborhood streets of my hometown, Savannah, Georgia, will always be one of the most romantic sights.
On the other hand, one of my favorite patterns is that of the zebra that is native to Africa. To me, the zebra is a mysterious animal that holds its boldness in its natural beauty. Its bold gaze and cautious stance complement the simplicity of its black and white stripes; it’s where boldness meets elegance. When designing, I consider who and what I am designing for. My goal is to create a sanctuary where style meets personality.
As an African American woman, I am also aware of the shortage of black women who are professionally certified and accredited in the field of Interior Design. Many black women are gifted with the ability to decorate. My goal is not to be a decorator; my goal is to become an authentic Interior Designer, in my professional, certified field of study. It is one thing to be able to pull from just one source, but as a designer, I see African influence throughout the world of architecture and design.
When I look out at the world of design, I see animal prints, tribal patterns, and shapes of carved wood. The African influence is a dominant staple in the field of Interior Design. The marriage of various cultures that mix with the exotic enticement of African design and Southern charm are a constant reminder of who I am, and where I came from. I chose the Savannah School of Art and Design because I want the best. To consider anywhere else would discredit myself, my intellect, and my ability to soar as a designer…