Photo: Lee Bouse
A class of ‘99 graduate of Mount Holyoke College’s Frances Perkins Program (a program for women of non-traditional age returning to academia), Cheryl Gittens-Jones is a writer, poet, novice photographer, a wife and a stay-at-home mom. Born in Barbados, West Indies, she is a resident of USA.
Cheryl visited Senegal, West Africa on a research trip, in search of her true identity and sense of place. It was there that she came face to face with the horrible legacy of slavery when she stood in the "Door of No Return" on Goree Island where slaves were shackled, humiliated, imprisoned and then shipped off for the Americas and the Caribbean, never seeing their homeland again.
Her 32 year-old brother died of AIDS in 1997. On her return from Africa she was immediately compelled to fly home to his side in Barbados. Cheryl has experienced major setbacks and devastating loss; nevertheless, she has persevered. Her brother's passing deeply impacted her life and brought about tremendous positive and lasting change. She made the determination that she would pursue her dream of a writing career no matter what, and she has continued to develop and implement ideas and new concepts consistently.
Her writing is usually centered around the plight of the ‘other’, on exile, displacement and identity. So far she has used her voice in her work to tell her own story but she hopes to one day publish her children’s stories. She is author of the semi-autobiographical play Shaduhs Uh Voodoo as well as a book of performance poetry entitled “Muse Melodies” available on Amazon Kindle. She has completed a collection of personal essays titled “GAAJO” . This work is about her struggle to raise her daughter in the new and healthy reality that is now her life. Cheryl struggles everyday to live in awareness and to keep her violent and chaotic history separate from her daughter's rearing in order to give her a healthy future. Cheryl uses her near twenty year practice of Buddhism everyday as an umbilical cord to keep her tethered and grounded in the here and now.
She resided in Tokyo, Japan with her husband and their daughter from September 2004 to September 2006. In Japan she modeled for commercials and print advertisements during her spare time as a way to become more immersed in the culture and to learn about her surroundings.
She has gained recognition in Who's Who in American Colleges, USA Today’s All-USA College Academic Team 1996 and 1997, gained a Phi Beta Kappa award for her sculpture, a Mount Holyoke research grant to Senegal, West Africa, and a Word James Baldwin Playwriting prize for her playShaduhs Uh Voodoo, awarded by Faculty Five College Inc at Amherst Massachusetts. The play was presented to the Five College area as a result of the award in 1998. It had a previous reading in 1996. The work was produced at Mount Holyoke College as her final project for graduation March 1999.
She has done interviews in connection with Shaduhs Uh Voodoo on All Things Considered (NPR), in the Boston Globe, the Axis Online Hampshire Gazette and WMUA UMASS Radio in Massachusetts, the Sunday Sun newspaper in Barbados, and made a guest appearance on the talk show T. P Parked on CBC (the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation) in Barbados.
Cheryl finds time to write in the afternoons
or late at night. A devout Buddhist, she finds balance and centeredness
in her faith, which she tries to reflect in her daily life and in all of
her work. Cheryl blogs often about her views on society and politics
at various websites. She hopes to inspire reality-based dialogue
through all of her writings.
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