Bev East receives Caribbean American Heritage Award
A proud recipient of the Forerunner Award has attributed her success to a strong lineage of entrepreneurial women in her family.
Forensic document examiner Beverley East, who was recently honoured by the Washington-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) for her expertise and work in document forensics, told The Gleaner she credits her grandmother, Leticia Johnson, for her business acumen.
With reference to the award, the graphologist said, "It still hasn't settled in yet. When I think that I received my award on the same night as famed singer Maxi Priest and former honourees like Cicely Tyson, Diane Abbott, Marcia Griffiths, Susan L. Taylor, and Eric Holder, I am humbled. It feels surreal. I look in the mirror and say, 'Bev, you are in the same category like those luminaries'.
"I feel very proud, especially because I know I am walking in the footsteps of my grandmother. I come from a high-achieving family, so there is no room for slackers.
"My grandmother, better known as Mother Patty, ran three business simultaneously although she couldn't read or write. She was amazing. My mother was one of the first Caribbean women to run a youth club for boys in East London. My sister was one of the first Caribbean women to perform on the West End Stage in Hair, along with Marsha Hunt. My niece, Captain Allen, is the first black female pilot in the United Kingdom. My cousin, Jean Tomlin, was the human resource director for the London Olympics 2012. The list goes on. Jamaican businesswomen have the power to change the world," East revealed.
Now in its 22nd year, ICS highlights the significant input of Caribbean-Americans to the building of American society, thus celebrating the calibre of individuals who claim Caribbean-American ancestry. The organisation provides a forum for honouring and recognising Caribbean Americans, and East was one of three Jamaicans among eight outstanding recipients. Singer Maxi Priest and graphic designer Michael Thompson were the others.
Referring to her toughest challenges, East, who is also a successful author, said, "My greatest challenge has always been people not taking me seriously in the work I do because I am a woman. They try to minimise my work. This is very common and I used to find it annoying, but now I say, 'Google me'."
Citing an example, she disclosed: "I was once taken off a case because the black female lawyer said she wanted a white male document examiner. It's been an upward battle in a male-dominated field. But I have learnt to filter out the naysayers who have consistently told me my business could not survive in this technology-driven economy."
An advocate for businesswomen, especially mothers who challenge the status quo, East says her son Diag is her inspiration and offered some advice to those wishing to follow their dreams in 2016:
"Be faithful to your dream. Often, we don't follow our dreams because fear clouds the way. Don't allow other people's expectation of you to become your reality. It's easy to listen to doubting Thomases. Many people told me that handwriting analysis was not a viable business and technology would take over, but it is technology that makes it easy to sell my services as most people 'Google' me before they call my office."
Commuting between Washing-ton, DC and Kingston, East concludes, "I am working on book number four. However, my second book has been optioned for a movie, so I am hoping to get that sorted out next year. I am also exploring the West African markets."