February 13, 2019
Soul and Sound: Etoy Morgan Shares Her Story in Honor of Black History Month
In honor of Black History Month, Etoy shares her story and the influential figures who shaped her today, from an international musical artist to a woman seeking a better life for her children.
“Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright.”
When life feels overwhelming, Etoy thinks back to her grandmother’s advice.
“My grandmother said early in her life, she would stress so much she’d become physically ill,” said Etoy. “But realizing her physical health was more important, she learned to have faith and let go.”
Not that her grandmother didn’t have stress. With a third-grade education, she moved to the U.S. to work, saying goodbye to her eight children. Though this would be hard for any mother, she knew it was only for the moment. Once reaching the U.S., she worked, she saved, she bought a house, and in a life-changing moment for Etoy, she filed for family-based immigration for her children.
Etoy was only 3 years old when she moved from their hometown near Kingston, Jamaica, to Kansas City, Missouri. As an adult, she realizes the sacrifices her grandmother made to make this possible.
“I think of my grandmother every day,” said Etoy. “Things can be crazy, I have two children, a full-time career and a husband who is about to begin a 9-month deployment with the Army Reserves. When I feel the stress building, I pause, and remember my grandmother. If she could overcome, so can I.”
“Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.”
Etoy gained more from the women in her family than just this outlook on life. Through purposeful education, her mother taught her what it meant to be black in America.
“I consider myself Jamaican before anything else, but my mother taught me that’s not how everyone will see me,” said Etoy. “Jamaica avoided a lot of the post-slavery tensions that occurred in the U.S. However, my mother made sure we learned about segregation and Jim Crow, so we’d understand the sacrifices made by those who came before us.”
Thanks to her mother, Etoy grew up learning about the American civil rights movement, as well as cultural heroes from Jamaica. Through this, she gained exposure to key historical figures who helped shape her life, including Martin Luther King Jr., Marcus Garvey and, of course, Bob Marley. However, this unique perspective has also taught her about lesser known heroes.
“A Jamaican folk hero most Americans haven’t heard of is Nanny,” said Etoy. “She was brought to Jamaica through the slave trade. But once here, she escaped slavery, helped lead a rebellion and created a community for freed Africans.”
Through her personal and historical role models, Etoy has learned that worry doesn’t make progress, but rather action, work and faith.
“One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right.”
Etoy carries the tradition of learning black history close all year, but there is something special about February.
“Black History Month encourages us to take a deeper dive into the accomplishment of people of color,” said Etoy. “And not just Americans, but black men and women from all over the world.”
Among the best ways to connect to this history is to talk to those who’ve experienced it. Creating a human connection to history helps it become even more meaningful. Through those who experienced history, you’re able to learn not just what happened, but how it felt.
“It’s easy to feel removed from history, but it wasn’t that long ago,” said Etoy. “I talk to Jamaicans who moved to the U.S. in the 1960s and their experience was very different than mine in the ‘80s. It just shows we’re not that far separated from the past. When we realize this and draw on the experience of those who lived it, we can work together toward a future that’s better for all people.”