Photo/Courtesy of Ajamu Crosby
Mechanical engineer and author Ajamu Crosby grew up in Beetham Estate Gardens, a rough neighborhood in Trinidad and Tobago rife with street gangs. Although he could have easily become a casualty of his surroundings, he had bigger dreams. Now, he is on a mission to inspire the youth in his community.
"I always wanted to look outside my environment and see what the world had to offer. In my community, I didn't see things like engineers, doctors, and lawyers, so that pushed me even more to be that change," said Crosby.
This was easier said than done. Growing up, Crosby's father was hardly ever around. His mother Julianna bore the primary responsibility of raising her four children. She did so with modest means, often living paycheck to paycheck.
Determination in the Face of Adversity
Despite their circumstances, Julianna wanted her children to have a good education. That meant sending Crosby to a secondary school 20 miles away in Tunapuna.
Attending a school outside his community opened Crosby's mind to the possibility of pursuing a career in a STEM field. However, it also came with challenges he knew he would have to navigate. Crosby was surrounded by individuals who had a negative perception of him because of the neighborhood in which he lived. Being the "Boy from Beetham" often came with much stigma.
With the support of his mother, Crosby strived for excellence in the face of adversity. And for him, that came in many forms - lack of resources and the constant loud noise from the neighborhood, which disturbed his studies. He recounts having to put toilet paper in his ear to block out the noise and not having the resources he needed in school. "I could not afford the extra lessons most students took. I had to borrow textbooks from the library, return them when they were due, and check them out again. I also had to go on YouTube to watch informative videos," Crosby told Unstoppable Yes You.
Although his experience was challenging, Crosby remained focused on his goals. At the time, his mother was also studying for her degree in psychology at the University of Southern Caribbean. She offered the encouragement he needed during those difficult times. After all, if she could do it while working and raising four children, so could he.
With ten distinctions in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), Crosby landed a National scholarship and completed his bachelor's degree with honors in mechanical engineering from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, in 2021. He went on to work as an engineer for the Ministry of Works and Transportation.
More recently, Crosby has turned his focus on inspiring young people in his community. His story was featured twice in a local newspaper in Trinidad and generated a positive response. Seeing his testimony's impact on others motivated Cosby to write his autobiography - JamsEffect – in which he shares his life experiences and hopes for the future.
The proud young man from Beetham Gardens wants young people to know that anything is possible with a positive mindset and hard work. JamsEffect is not only a memoir about his life's lessons but also so much more. In the book, Cosby explains principles like Newton's Theory of Gravity and Einstein's Theory of Relativity and how math and science can be applied to everyday life. He hopes this will help spark young readers' interest in these fields and shatter the mold of his community.
The book also touches on the theme of identity. Are you who you people say we are – or are you who you say you are? Ajamu Crosby understands that perception can become a person's reality – mainly due to outside influences. He was not viewed as someone with a lot of promise because he lived in an impoverished crime hot spot, but he refused to let the opinions of others put him in a box.
The way people in Beetham and other marginalized communities in Trinidad view themselves can significantly impact their potential. Crosby believes that one's circumstances should not dictate their future, and he was not going to live in a box of low expectations. He may have grown up poor and in one of the roughest neighborhoods, but he was rich with imagination and drive.
Ajamu Crosby hopes his memoir will help change the mindset of those in his and the surrounding communities. Only then will the youth in Beetham be given the opportunity to thrive on a broader scale. "The child bareback in the street in rubber slippers can one day be a man in a suit solving global warming or a woman solving world hunger," said Crosby.
As for the future, Crosby would like to do a TED Talk and continue to develop his skills as a motivational speaker. His lifelong dream is to create an academy that allows the youth in underserved communities in Trinidad & Tobago to get exposed to STEM and other subjects like game development and digital content creation. Crosby would also like to provide them access to mentors in career fields beyond what they are exposed to today.