Sat | Apr 4, 2020

A profound lesson in filial piety

Published:Sunday | December 22, 2019 | 1:05 AM

Book: I am a Promise

Author: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce with Ashley Rousseau

Illustration: Rachel Moss

Critic: Glenville Ashby, PhD

‘I am Promise’ pivots to children or so it appears. The language is seemingly pedestrian, the illustrations starkly innocent, but for all its winsome appearance, there is wisdom, timeless and pressingly relevant today, more than ever. Surely, there is depth in simplicity.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s work centres on existentialism and the phenomenology of fate. Pryce, who earned her fame as an illustrious athlete before putting pen to paper, remains an influential voice for young men and women the world over.

Her material upbringing is one of poverty, abject poverty, but amid wrenching circumstances, there is love, camaraderie, and a binding communal spirit. Moreover, there is shared discernment, a knowing among common folk that Pryce is gifted. This gut feeling, this credulity transcends hope. Fraser is willed to success from without. A community rallies around her. This is the crux of filial piety embedded in Buddhist and Taoist ethics. Therein is individual and collective responsibility, reverence for parents, the ancestors, and the community – a nexus between individual and environment that is never broken. Pryce thrives on this collective responsibility. She lives the promise entrusted to her.

Her natural talent and indefatigable character seed an alchemical reaction tailored for success.

Pryce’s Herculean accomplishments are universally recognised. Among her many accolades, she was awarded the IAAF World Female Athlete of the Year after becoming the first woman to be a triple World Sprint champion, winning the 100m, 200m, and 4x100 m at the World Championships in Athletics.

“As tiny as I was,” she recalls, “I was also very fast and I loved to run … I ran to the shop, I ran like a rocket, I ran to be free. I ran everywhere because that was me.”

Her grandmother pays attention: “Child, do you know that you are a promise?”

When probed, the elder responds, “Don’t worry, child. One day you will see.”

But Pryce faced a daunting challenge.

Hope never fades

Pryce pens: “There were times when we went to bed hungry. My mother often wondered how she would manage to take care of us all.”

Amid this burden, hope never fades.

“Young lady, you have a great promise. We believe in you, we will help you,” is echoed by the community.

And her coach at a big event follows suit, “You represent the promise of your country. Go and show the world what this promise is.”

Pryce ably responds.

“I readied myself for the start. I thought of all my family and friends who had said that I was a promise.”

She seized the moment.

The rest is history. Literally.

In 2008, Pryce received the prime minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Sport, and in 2014, was conferred the title of Ambassador at Large for Jamaica.

Poet William Shakespeare once said: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

In the case of Pryce, greatness was seeded by Providence, nurtured by her environment, and propelled by her sheer grit. A combination that knows no bounds.

I am a Promise by Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce with Ashley Rousseau

© 2020 Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce

ISBN: 978-1-61775-764-8

Publisher: Akashic Books, Brooklyn, New York, USA

Available in February 2020 at Amazon

Ratings: Recommended

Feedback: glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby