Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Firm Foundations

54 Years of LoveShirley and McKenon met at a friend’s house in Dieppe Bay, St. Kitts, West Indies in the early 1950’s.  Shortly thereafter, in 1955, McKenon or Kenon (as he is affectionately known), immigrated to England to look for work.  As the seventh of eleven children and the eldest son, it was expected that he would strike out on his own by traveling overseas, finding a job and provide for the family back home.  It was during a time when droves of West Indians were heading to England to help rebuild the country from World War II.  They always say war brings people closer together.

Kenon wrote to Shirley relatively often.  Almost once a week they became intrigued by each other through a sort of love letter correspondence from St. Kitts to England that they had created.  Each week they would read, write and learn more and more about each other.  It would seem that Kenon couldn’t do without his leading lady and within three years he proposed marriage and sent for her to come to England to be with him.  Shirley was honored and ready to be his wife.  They were married on July 19, 1958 in Birmingham, England.

Life during the 1950’s and 1960’s were difficult for Black West Indians and Africans living and working in the Commonwealth of England.  Finding housing and jobs seemed near to impossible.  The British were very unwelcoming to the immigrants for fear that they would steal all the jobs and take over the country.  Children born of immigrant parents were even being threatened at one point.  Eventually the concern over that was overturned and it was announced that countries and their respective citizens belonging to the Commonwealth of England were considered British Subjects (citizens).

Shirley and Kenon managed to get through the difficult times of racial discrimination.  Through it all they remained faithful and took it all to the Lord in prayer.  Kenon eventually found work with a company where he drove trucks or “lorries” as they called them back in those days.  They managed to move out of a two room walk up that they shared with about six other people.  They were able to get a rather large home, slightly run down, the style was of the Charles Dickens era.  They were large homes with lots of potential but not practical for West Indians with little money who are used to the warmth of the sun.  There was a huge marble fireplace which was the sole option for heating the entire house.  There was no central heating system.   The fireplace was heated with coal from the outside shed.  In order to get electricity, you had to put a penny in the meter for about a couple of hours.

The couple persevered through all their difficulties and was blessed with three children, Avalin, Shaun and Sharene.  Avalin was the first born.  She was born in 1959 at Dudley Road Hospital in Birmingham.  Shaun, born 1962 and Sharene born 1966 were delivered by midwife at their home in Handsworth, Birmingham. 

A few years after Sharene was born, Kenon and Shirley decided that it was time for a change.  By that time, Kenon and Shirley’s siblings had all immigrated to the United States from St. Kitts.  Their relatives had settled in Brooklyn, NY.   They wanted to be closer to their families.  Also, Kenon wanted a better life and more opportunities for their children.  Although the British education system was excellent, Kenon feared that his children wouldn’t have an equal chance at it with the way racism was still in blatant existence.  He figured that his children would have more of a chance at colleges and universities in the United States.  So the family immigrated to the United States on November 16, 1968.  Kenon and Shirley were reunited with their siblings along with a host of nieces and nephews.  It was a pleasure for Kenon to be able to converse face to face with his siblings and spend quality family time with them and their children.  It was an opportunity for them to reminisce on their childhood and life in the West Indies.  Family was very important to them. 

54 Years of LoveOnce settled in New York, Kenon and Shirley were both able to find stable jobs in the banking industry and worked as Research Clerks for almost twenty years.  They eventually bought a house in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn.  The children did well because they had all these newly found cousins, aunts and uncles to interact with.  In regards to education, so said, so done!  Kenon and Shirley made sure each child got a college education.  Avalin received a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Media and Business, Shaun a Degree in Computer Technology and Sharene a Master's Degree in Business Administration.  The children grew up in a loving home with God as a firm foundation especially going to church on Sundays.

Kenon and Shirley have been blessed with five grandchildren, Thalia Ann, Gervase, Tianna, Rachel and Christian.  Kenon and Shirley are a loving couple and are active in their churches. Kenon is a part of his men's group at the church and loves to sing in the men's choir.  Shirley is a lay speaker at the church and also loves to sing in the gospel choir.  This is what they love to do, serving and praising the Lord which is why they are so BLESSED.

Their advice to the newly married, newly engaged and to young families is to establish and maintain the channels of communication.  Have respect for one another which includes love and trust.  Their other important secret is to laugh often.  As the saying goes, "Laughter is cheap medicine"!

Kenon is from Groves Village, St. Paul's, St. Kitts West Indies.  Shirley is from Dieppe Bay, St. Kitts but was raised in Basseterre, St. Kitts.  They are retired and reside in Brooklyn, New York.

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