Molissa and Gavin Smith remembering their courtship. Even then, race was never a question. (Picture by Nigel Browne)
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As part of the Nation Publishing Company’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations, the WEEKEND NATION team – through this series – This Is My Story – will be speaking to people who migrated to the island and visitors who have come and fallen in love with our shores. We invite you to share with us or point us in the direction of an interesting person we can feature each week.
MOLISSA AND GAVIN Smith do not see colour.
The mixed-race couple did not see it when they met more than a decade ago, they do not see it in their children and they still do not see it today.
At a time when some Barbadians are crying foul over a Caucasian-looking young woman winning Miss Barbados Universe, the pair maintains skin colour should never be something on which to judge someone.
“I’m sure when that girl entered the pageant, they did not say she could not enter it because she was Caucasian, so why should people quarrel when she won? She is Bajan! I’m sure all this started with one ignorant person and then spread from there,” said Molissa.
“As a family we have not really experienced a lot of discrimination. We don’t see colour in our house. We have travelled all around Europe and never came across discrimination. People were curious about Barbados and couldn’t understand why we left.”
The 33-year-old Vincentian-born has been living in Barbados since she moved here 20 years ago. She said she had a tough time at first and actually came across more discrimination as a child from locals than she did after meeting her husband.
“It was difficult for me at first. When growing up, I more got that sort of behaviour from my schoolmates while attending Unique High School, telling me things like ‘why don’t you go back to St Vincent on your banana boat?’ Why would they think that?”
Molissa and Gavin Smith watching their children Harry, 8 and Yasmin play with legos.
Some childhood memories stick, in particular the unpleasant ones, but Molissa, the managing director of Sapphire Private Home Management, has moved on although both she and Gavin, a director and principal shareholder of Dive High Tide Water Sports, admitted they still were not considered Barbadian.
“I’m still a foreigner and he is still a tourist – isn’t that funny?” she said.
This does not mean the couple are unhappy here. In fact, they both love Barbados and think it is an excellent place to live and raise a family.
Gavin, 53, came to Barbados from the United Kingdom 15 years ago after a devastating accident. He said he had to learn how to walk again and needed to know if he could continue doing what he loved.
“I had a motorbike accident and after I learned to walk again, I came back to Barbados – my second visit – to see if I could dive again. I booked two weeks of diving and after the first two days, I realised I could still do it. I started working here, moving from England, and eventually became the principal shareholder in Dive High Tide Water Sports,” he said.
The pair met while Molissa was a student working at a bar and restaurant where Gavin was a customer. He said he used to go in “barefoot and grimy” from work and immediately started to give Molissa trouble. It was a bit rocky at first as Molissa did not initially take him on but eventually he won her over. However, it was his big heart and cooking skills which sealed it.
“I actually wasn’t looking for a relationship but what really sealed the deal was when on one stormy September day I cooked her a barracuda dinner I caught myself and that was it,” said Gavin.
However, Molissa interjected it was actually the week before when they went turtle tagging for the Sea Turtle Project when she knew this was the man she wanted to spend the rest of the life with. The meal just made her even more certain.
“This man can cook,” she said.
All through their courtship, Molissa said she never saw colour, never crossing her mind but today they were prepared to deal with it for their children’s sake.
“Our daughter Yasmin is ten and is already a certified diver, actively involved in Clean up BIM while our son, Harry, is six. She never spoke to us about race but Harry point blank pointed it out so we have spoken to them about it. We teach them to be kind to their friends and that it doesn’t matter what the world sees them as, they have the benefits of both worlds. Besides, one day the whole world will be mixed,” said Molissa.
Gavin said they were both very punctual people and taught their children “please, thank you and punctuality”, knowing that punctuality was not always a priority in Barbados. They said they would not trade it for the world.
“This is home and we love it.” (CA)