Abstract

Damien McCreath, born on September 13, 1978, grew up in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx. He and his mother, Naomi McCreath, resided in Jamie Towers. His mother, originally from Montego Bay, Jamaica, was a nurse and an OR technician. Aspects of McCreath’s Jamaican heritage were a part of his upbringing and he identified as West Indian. However, Naomi McCreath was insistent that her son be exposed to as many places and cultures as possible. From a young age, Damien traveled within and outside the United States. McCreath explains that his mother was strict. He had a curfew, and she instilled a respect in him, which made him consider how his actions might affect her. His mother sent him to Catholic schools, believing that he would receive a more solid education at these institutions.

McCreath attended Saint John Vianney School and Mount Saint Michael Academy for elementary and high school respectively. The neighborhood of Saint John Vianney was predominantly Latino and African American. Many more West Indians resided in the Northeast Bronx community surrounding Mount Saint Michael. Starting in first grade, cultural differences were noticeable. He was often mistaken as Latino, and welcomed into Latino circles, but then rejected because he did not speak Spanish. He had similar difficulties associating with African Americans. Despite cultural differences, McCreath had Latino and African American friends. Attending Mount Saint Michael, McCreath maintained friendships in Castle Hill through basketball.

Following Mount Saint Michael, McCreath attended the Air Force Academy with the goal of becoming a fighter pilot. While at the Academy in Colorado he felt like minority for the first time. He realized the falsity of the stereotype that all white people were racist. He encountered those who had never met a black person before, and found them to be more curious than racist. McCreath left the Academy after one year and went on to Dowling College in Long Island to continue pursuing a career as a pilot. He then transferred to Stony Brook, and obtained his bachelor’s in sociology. Having difficulty finding a job after September 11th, he returned to school to obtain his bachelor’s in business. He now works for Citigroup.

McCreath explains that many males from his community do not share similar positive stories. He believes that the crack epidemic was very damaging. Both friends and parents of friends were affected by drugs in the community. An increase in young parents was also problematic. At McCreath’s high school, guidance counselors were not responsive to African American students and many were left behind. McCreath attributes his successful path to the efforts of his mother, who constantly worked to expose him to life outside his Bronx community.

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