Sat | Feb 29, 2020

Amiyah clutches sweet success

Published:Sunday | September 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMRocheda Bartley

Whether you call her Amiyah or Prudence Barnes, she is certainly a woman who wears many hats.

You may know her as a songwriter, gospel singer, poet, and now she's an author. Yes, there's no doubt that she is successful. However, her road to greater heights is different from many. In fact, it was paved with economic hardship, great loses, and austere pain. Yet, like the dust carried by the wind, she rose resiliently to sit at the helm of success.

Wilderness Warrior, is the title of the book she recently penned to inspire others to live beyond their limitations. She manipulates her spiritual journey to share several life lessons. It's a story about coming from complete brokenness, material and spiritual poverty, abuse, and rejection, to experience healing and restoration.

She was born in Rose Town, St Andrew. For most of her early years, she was part of an extended family, where members lived to enjoy life for all it's worth. But there came an untimely change. It was the 1980 election, the bloodiest in Jamaica's history, and it brought a monster to their home, transforming their lives into a period of agony and fear. With tear-filled eyes, she reminisced on those days and told Outlook, "My innocence was shattered. As children, we used to run up and down, then suddenly, the violence started and I really did not understand what was happening. I saw criminals running through the yard in the middle of the day and we couldn't do anything, but hide."


Places of Safety


She recounts having to scramble with her parents and siblings to 'places of safety', like under their beds or unfinished buildings, hoping to have their lives spared for another day. Soon witnessing murders, her neighbours' houses being set ablaze, and frantic displays of her distraught mother who constantly worried about her father's security, eventually became the norm for young Barnes.

In no time, the political violence tore her family to pieces, scattering them everywhere. Her immediate family relocated to Tucker Avenue, off Red Hills Road.

"We left behind everything and started anew. It was a blissful time. I remember playing cricket and proudly telling my father that I hit the ball in the fence, they couldn't find it and so I ran 15 runs before they got the ball," she said with a glowing smile. She added with tears flowing from her eyes, "Once we went back to Rose Town to look at where we lived and I don't know why they would have brought a child there. The entire family place was now a heap of rubble. It was like I was seeing my life in shambles."

Compared to their previous address, their new location was like wonderland. But this happiness did not last for long. After a couple of years, they found themselves seeking refuge from financial instability in Hermitage, St Andrew.




Barnes was placed on an emotional rollercoaster with this new reality. At this time, she was a teenager and had never thought of living here. The violence returned and she continuously reflected on the negative aspects of the area. However, to her surprise, it became her salvation. The dumping of books at the Hermitage landfill, set her on track for success. It fuelled her interest in reading and her aspiration to become a lawyer.

Barnes asserts that she has always been driven by an urge to excel. According to her, the cruelty and inhumane behaviour that surrounded her, could not have blindsided her from her goal.

"I was considered as the saviour. My family thought that I would be the one to help everybody else. This was a tremendous burden because I couldn't do some of the things or go to some of the places where others went," she explained. At 15 years old, when things were changing for the better, she lost her mother to lung cancer. Her life went downhill again. She suffered from trauma and abuse, that forced her to leave home. In spite of her challenges, she was successful in her examinations and graduated from the Alpha Academy.

After high school, she started to work as an accounting clerk at the University of the West Indies (UWI). A year later, she enrolled at the UWI, where she pursued a bachelor of arts in literature and sociology. This was followed by a master's in communication.




She has worked in multiple areas, including media and government, both locally and regionally. These have all prepared her for writing her novel and expressing herself.

Barnes lived in the Cayman Islands for a few years. Alone in a country of strangers, she was also plagued with challenging circumstances. Still, it gave her an opportunity to evaluate herself and change her life.

In 2008, she got baptised, and soon after, she started to explore her creativity in music. Her songs are a mix of reggae and jazz. She acknowledges that she has made many bad choices. Her ultimate desire, however, is to learn from her mistakes.

"I feel like I am somebody rising out of the ashes, because when you are covered with shame, you are going to feel burnt. I want people to remember that it's not where you're from that matters, it's where you're going. People live in all sorts of circumstances who are of great value," she advised.