Samantha Campbell: On a quest to honour history and culture
She combines fine art forms with history and culture to create an ingenious mode of delivery, Samantha Campbell says she aspires to use creativity to break new ground, where she can analyse Jamaican culture and engage the public in an entertaining manner.
Her journey with the humanities taught her that these terms were not mutually exclusive. The heritage scholar hailed from the hills of Mocho, Clarendon, where she was raised by her single mother, who instilled important lessons and values in her, which gave birth to Samantha’s ambitions.
“I have the pleasure of being an only child for my mother who did an exceptional job at single parenting. Watching her struggle to make ends meet and persevering despite the limited external help has helped me to mature into the strong, independent woman I am today, and thus, I greatly revere my mother,” she stated proudly.
She further developed a passion for songwriting, poetry, and writing short stories. With these skills along with her academic interest in history, Samantha quickly realised that a degree in the Faculty of Humanities and Education was her next step.
“I chose history and heritage because of my passion for culture and the joy I felt when imparting knowledge on a valuable aspect of the past and Jamaica’s cultural heritage.”
STRONG SUPPORT SYSTEM
With her goals now actualised, Samantha then faced several trials. Before commencing her degree, she was met with disapproval.
“Prior to enrolling in the History and Heritage Studies programme, I did not anticipate much. I encountered a lot of discouragement as studying history was seen as a waste of time and money. However, my mother knew I was deeply in love with the culture and the study of the past, so she pushed me to do what I love. With her support and the thought that having a degree would put me in a position to get a decent-paying job, I started the journey. I just wanted to be in a position where I could enjoy myself while I earn.” With her mother’s support, she continued steadfastly at The University of the West Indies and the Department of History and Archaeology. However, once in the programme, a new set of dilemmas emerged.
“My academic journey at the tertiary level was very trying but worthwhile. I must say, God was with me right through. I started UWI solely on faith. Firstly, I did not believe my dream of attending university would come to fruition because the only person I could call on was my mother, and she was just a small farmer and higgler. Two years after sixth form. I decided to put God to the test, and I applied to study history, got accepted, and the Student’s Loan Bureau approved my loan for the entire duration of the degree. I had no idea where the money was coming from to pay the other fees, but it came. My friends and family supported me.”
She went on. “There were days when all I could afford for lunch was a sweet, days when I was so stressed out about where my rent was coming from that I could barely focus in class, but God provided, and I got through undergrad without failing any course.”
These difficulties were not for naught as she successfully completed her Bachelor of Arts in History and Heritage Studies with a minor in Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management in 2017 and quickly started her graduate studies.
Her challenges did not stopped with her undergraduate degree as she continued to face even greater obstacles.
“Grad school was a different kind of challenging. I lost my father, my health started deteriorating, and I was later diagnosed with a chronic ailment, but this did not stop me from being a straight-A student. Today, I am grateful for these hurdles because they have made me stronger, and I am far more confident in myself and what I can accomplish.”
IMPACT OF HUMANITIES
“Prior to completing my first degree, I only understood history as merely the reconstruction of the past – a ground for researching and documenting the past in order to analyse the state of the society and educate people on the past. However, after completing my master’s thesis, I realise the importance of history and the humanities in displacing hegemonic ideologies that impede the progression of societies and minority groups within the society,” she said.
“For instance, the interdisciplinary approach allowed in the humanities allows for research that can initiate changes in attitude towards sexuality and gender relations. Thus, the humanities is more than just a ground for research and documenting’. It’s a base for critical and analytical thinking that influences positive change and growth of societies.”
Her expectations for her future were further exceeded, which propelled her into pioneering new ways in which to engage Jamaican audiences with the use of arts and entertainment. After viewing what she described as a life-changing documentary, Samantha started setting her sights on the film industry. With the flexibility of her degree, she realised that the humanities equipped her with unlimited resources and skills at her disposal.
In the end, she agreed that her degree within the humanities has had an immense impact on her life inside and out of academia.
“History and Heritage Studies have no border. These programmes guarantee the knowledge on all aspects of the society, and for that reason, I am able to engage in discussions with individuals from various backgrounds on numerous topics. These degrees are not merely knowledge-based. They allow for the development of critical thinking and analytical skills, which are not only vital in the professional space, but are also very important to personal growth.”
Currently, Samantha Campbell is employed at The University of the West Indies Museum, where she is honing her skill set. She gave us a preview into her next chapter when she concluded: “Consider this stage the predawn of my career as I am working towards starting my PhD very soon. Upon completing that leg of my journey, I will be closer to accomplishing my dreams of becoming a professor of cultural history as well as a film-maker.”