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Wednesday 22 January 2020
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Jeanelle Frontin: ‘We are Markmakers’

Winner of the 2019 CODE Burt Award, Jeanelle Frontin -
Winner of the 2019 CODE Burt Award, Jeanelle Frontin -

Winner of the 2019 Code Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature for her book The Unmarked Girl Jeanelle Frontin is passionate about being a mark maker. This want to make a positive impact has resulted in the soon-to-be-launched lifestyle brand We Are Markmakers. The e-commerce store will sell and or license the work of a selected number of creative professionals online. It will also include workshops and seminars to support networking within the creative industry.

The writer, former general manager of MusicTT and founder of Mark Made Group Publishing Ltd who refers to herself as a south girl said she lives by a mantra: "The one thing I am not, is one thing. As simple as it sounds, it is profound in meaning because it represents a time when I finally gave myself permission to explore all the passions of my life."

Frontin said it is easy to believe the present life created by the past will inevitably affect the future. She said, "We see people who stay in jobs, relationships and other pursuits which would not have been the situation if they thought they had a choice. But we can debunk that myth of keeping the hand you have been dealt."

The holder of a degree in electrical and computer engineering and who has worked in the construction industry before doing a masters in project management said she wanted to explore her curiosity – believing this would add greatly to the quality of her life.

"Years ago I stumbled upon a quote which said, 'Someone once told me the definition of hell. Your last day on earth, the person you could have become will meet the person you became.'"

Frontin said she remembers having cringed after reading it because she knew, based on her personality, "such a scenario would be torture to see who I could have become if I had pushed harder and learned more." She has, as a result, become passionate about what she calls a mark maker.

"In essence, that is someone who makes their mark, and doing that doesn't mean I have to do the greatest things, but instead to become the greatest version of who I am. I, therefore, live my life with an insatiable pursuit of that person – the person I need to become." She believes this will only happen through learning life lessons only learnt through facing fears and confronting self.

Wanting to help inspire people to make a unique mark on whatever space they take up in the world, she said, "It can be scary to start something new from scratch especially if you feel like you have already paid your dues in some other area. But that is the price of manifesting all we truly are – and the cost is always worth it. We are multifaceted, multidimensional, multi-talented human beings."

What is your favourite thing about your life?

"Narrowing it down for the purposes of this conversation I'll say, 'Not having to stay in my lane' when it comes to my dreams." Frontin said she fiercely encourages those around her to adopt that mentality which has allowed her to have experiences she would have never had otherwise.

"We have a way of perceiving territory and creating obstacles where they do not exist. Every field and form of passion is open for anyone to explore. So don't limit yourself because you feel like it is not your field."

Are you a mom and what’s your favourite part of being a mom?

"I am a mother and what makes it special is because I have the honour of being the mother of Alyxander, the great. The 'y' in his name was deliberate – because he is my why." She said her son, 11, has the tenacity to negotiate complex matters.

"We might try to make these 'deals,' whether in exchange for good behaviour or high grades, in hopes that it adds a bit of motivation and fire to the mix. With my kid, however, that method went out the window a few years back when he began calling me out on anything I tried. He’d want 'X' and I’d say 'okay, maybe if you do Y.'" Frontin said he would them call her out on attempting to manipulate him.

"He’d say, 'I can see your strategy a mile away!'"

It is heartwarming to see him grow. I don't think when I was his age I was able to hold my own the way he does. It fills me with awe! I must mention the support of my parents when it comes to him. Growing up in a household which promoted profound conversations and spiritual grounding as a way of life, and my son experiencing this is the greatest gift they have ever given me."

What realistic expectations should women have of men?

"I irked at this question, then I asked myself why. I dug deeper and what came up is, 'What expectations should people have of each other and themselves?'" She believes this is the source of all explicit views.

"The day I expected myself to nurture the very best within me, was the day I think I acknowledged it must be extended to, and include others." She said while people with varying value systems can co-exist well if each person puts the best version of themselves forward.

"If I have certain expectations of myself such as integrity and honesty, should I not expect the same of friends or a partner?" She said expectations are generally attached to how well people understand themselves – and it is through being honest with self that people can truly decide on what is a fair expectation of another person.

What do you find most admirable in men and what would you see as him setting a positive example? In terms of romantic relationships, family members and friends.

"What I do find most admirable in people, in general, is principle. We don't have to agree on the same set of principles but there is something truly admirable about people who get to a point of knowing why they stand by their principles. If some is not sure of why they hold certain positions, they should keep asking why until they face themselves in the deepest mirror, in the darkest corner of their very existence to find what motivates what they believe in."

What do you hope women should see within themselves?

"The feminist movement is alive and women are working toward the long-overdue acknowledgement of our value. But there are some women who truly don't want the things that others have fought for. Woman, I want you to see you, and only you. Not what men say you should be, or what other women say you should want. Not what society believes are your obligations – or what the cards you've been dealt seem to imply. I want you to see you – someone with the purpose of being born. It does not matter how big or small it may seem. Whether raising your children at home or pounding down the doors once closed to you because of your status, race, gender, sexual orientation of anything. If you were to live up to and seek to accomplish the dreams you are too embarrassed to share or the desires that may drive your choices every day, who would you be?"

What expectations do you have of your fellow women?

Frontin wants women, and men alike, to get acquainted with why they do what they do and what objectives truly motivate them. The path to self-discovery, she said, will have an impact on how one may have the most positive impact on the world around them.

"If you were looking for a sign, this is it! This is the permission you did not need to go after the things that make you feel more alive and purposeful than anything else ever could."

What do you ultimately want for yourself?

"I want to climb the mountains I was born to climb. I want to embody the greatest manifestation of myself as I seek to continue the path of a mark maker."

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