Nantucket Portraits

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Shantaw Bloise

Rob Smith

Can you tell us where you're from?

"I'm from Montego Bay, Jamaica."

What prompted you to move here?

"My dad went to college in Florida, and my aunt and uncle had a job up here on Nantucket through a work-visa program. They got their citizenship and decided to stay year-round. We would visit them in the summers. At one point, my mom decided it was time for me to go to America. In Jamaica, there isn't much opportunity for people to be able to advance. I think my mom recognized that I would get a lot more out of getting an education and living in America, so I went to go live with my dad in Florida. He had come to the states on an academic and athletic scholarship. I was there for three weeks and absolutely hated it! I loved Nantucket so much, so I begged and pleaded to come stay with my aunt and uncle. So I moved here back in 2005. I was 14, going on 15. It was the scariest experience of my life! I'd been coming here during the summer since I was younger, but moving here definitely was a huge culture shock. You know, it was my early teens; I was trying to figure out who the heck I was, and then being thrown into not just a different town, but a completely different country... that was a little overwhelming at first, but eventually I managed to adjust and get over it. I think I figured it out."

Can you explain a little bit more about that? About adjusting to a different culture?

When I came here, we had a fairly large Jamaican summer population. However, not many of them lived here year-round, so I think in the school there were maybe six Jamaican kids. And of course, we all stuck together. Because it's nice to have someone from your home country to identify with. But what was really challenging was learning that, no matter where you're from, people are going to judge you. Because in Jamaica we're very accepting. No matter where you're from, what you look like, your religion... we don't care. I learned coming here that there were the Jamaican Kids, the Bulgarian kids, the El Salvadorian kids, and the American kids. And that's all that mattered. And if you're American, you get split further down into sub-categories as well. So it was hard to learn that, despite the fact that I look at everyone else the same, other people aren't going to look at me and feel the same way. There was a lot of racism in high school."

What inspires you the most?

"I think the greatest inspiration of my life is my Grandma... everything that's good in this world, I've learned to see the good in people through her, because she was such a phenomenal person. She was the kindest, most loving person I've ever met. I always tell people, 'I wish you had known my Grandma.' She had so much wisdom... I feel like she left us way too early, and I get teary-eyed every time I talk about her. She had so much wisdom to share with the world."

Where do you see yourself in your future?

"Well, I can't say that I know where my life is going. I've always been a planner. I knew what I was gonna do fresh out of high school; what school I was going to, what I wanted to study, how long it was going to take me to finish... it took me 'till last year to finally sit down, and just having everything melt in front of me, and having to pick up the pieces, to realize that I planned things out so much that when something didn't go according to my plan, I didn't know how to handle it. So right now I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow, I don't even know what I'm doing in twenty minutes, and I'm fine with that! I think that fear of ambiguity is finally gone, and I'm enjoying it. If there's one thing I know that I'm definitely gonna do (and this hasn't changed since I was ten years old) is to open an orphanage in Jamaica. There are so many homeless kids in Jamaica who don't have a safe place to be, and I want to be able say, "If you're down and out, and you need somewhere to be, come to my place and you will be fed, clothed and loved like you belong in the family.""

Any advice you'd like to give to the readers?

"There's a quote by Maya Angelou, it was one of my grandma's favorites. 'Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.'"

Subject: Shantaw Bloise
Location: Downtown Nantucket
Date: January 16th, 2016

Humans of Nantucket, modeled after the famous Humans of New York, intends to portray various members of the island community who share with us their lives, dreams and hopes.

Robert Smith is a local landscape and portrait photographer. He will soon begin building a website to feature his work, and will also shortly provide links to his Flickr and Instagram accounts. He can be reached at 508-221-6926