Being Black in P.E.I.: Chavez Edgecombe on becoming a leader, while beating back hemophilia
'I hope to one day live in a world where I don't feel judged for my skin'
My story begins on a warm February night in Nassau, Bahamas. A bouncy baby boy, one would say.
I was born to an aspiring model/pageant contestant, Florence Fullerton, and the owner of a printing company, Elvis Edgecombe.
Life quickly became real when at the age of two I was diagnosed with hemophilia B. Hemophilia is a blood disorder that affects my ability to produce clotting factors in my blood. A normal person may bleed for three minutes whereas I may bleed for a half-hour.
It became even more real seeing that my diagnosis came after I fell on my face and acquired a beautiful black eye. Things were looking tough for my parents. They had their firstborn son, but how long would he have to live? Because the Bahamas lacked the medical care needed for such a disorder, doctors told my parents that I wouldn't make it past 12.
But here I am today, 25 years old (26 by the end of this week) going strong, chasing my dreams and living life to the absolute fullest.
A natural leader, with a side of trouble
As time went on, I found myself as a teenager, shoulders broadened, voice deepened, and I felt this natural urge to do great things. From Day 1, I knew I was a leader. In school I would always be the one to lead my friends on the right track and help them to realize their full potential.
My best friend in high school had the dream of being a music producer. He would make beats and show them off to people at our school, and even got a radio interview with one of the Bahamas' top radio stations.
After a while he became discouraged, not knowing what to do next. "I'm not good enough," he once told me. I pulled him aside and gave him some encouraging words. Soon after, he moved to Canada and became very well known in his community. He became so successful at what he did, he was able to pay his rent and live off of the salary of music production.
But like most leaders, I had my share of following. I got into trouble a few times, got into fights "just because." I stole things from my grandmother's convenience store. But after my second black eye in the sixth grade — this time it wasn't a fall, it was a fist — I realized that sort of following isn't something I should be doing.
After I graduated high school, the true pressures of life started to dawn on me. I had to get a job, which lasted only two weeks. How do you go from working in the family business your whole life to working for someone else? It just didn't fit for me — still doesn't.
A new page on life
The burning desire to want more is what led me to apply for college. I sent applications to three colleges in Canada. Holland College was the only one that responded. One would say it is destiny that I am here on the Island. I would agree with them.
I started my college career as a computer networking technology student in September 2017. My first semester was difficult, but I made it through. Things got even tougher when I started to feel a very sharp pain in my right knee.
After visiting the doctors in Moncton, N.B., I was told my knee was on the verge of collapse and I would need emergency knee replacement surgery. In March of 2018, I got just that. As I mentioned earlier, medical care in the Bahamas for hemophilia literally did not exist. I wasn't able to have solid treatment and had repeated injury, so that's what caused it to deteriorate. By the time I got to P.E.I., my knee was totalled. Physiotherapy was brutal, but I knew at the end of this tunnel was a new page on life.
Facing my fears has always been a goal of mine. Either it was the bully in the school yard, the monster under my bed, or this blood disorder — which at the time I thought was a curse, but as I got older I've grown to see its true blessing and calling to my life.
Facing my fears
Since moving to P.E.I. I have capitalized on many opportunities that improved my life — opportunities that weren't available to me in the Bahamas.
I started my own media company, founded a record label, became a DJ and music producer and co-founded a band. I cook my favourite meals from the Bahamas as a part of TenChef and sit on boards and steering committees of great organizations.
My network has broadened so vastly — I never thought I would be in the company of such people in all my life.
Now I am focused on this next chapter in my life. This chapter is all about truly finding myself and molding myself into the great man I always dreamed of being.
This Black History Month is very special to me. With all the negativity that arose last year with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others, it really put into perspective what it is to be Black in this world. It further motivated me to learn more about my heritage and to want to embrace myself for who I am.
Understand our story
Before moving to P.E.I., I honestly didn't know what racism was. I was aware of racism, but had no clue what it looked like. I was teased back home for being of a lighter complexion (by individuals of darker complexion) but I never saw it as racist; I just felt I was being teased. I now know that it comes in many forms.
There are biases: systemic, individual, institutional, generational teaching — the list goes on. In some cases, people just don't want to accept the fact that they are, indeed, racist.
Since moving to P.E.I., being shown racism has made me feel very left out. I felt there were a small number of BIPOC citizens here on the Island. But after the march held last June, I know just how strong we are. This Black History Month is about reflection for me — looking back at all the great movements and revolutions of the past and putting them into perspective for today. I feel like I am a part of history now by just being on that march.
I hope to one day live in a world where I don't feel judged for my skin, where I don't feel I have to give 1,008 per cent just because of my skin. And I hope to find a place where we are all equally, fairly and justly represented.
This Black History Month and beyond, please take the time just to understand our story.
From there you may find a change of heart.
Are you part of the Black community on P.E.I.? Do you want to share your story with us? Send us a short video at firstname.lastname@example.org or CBC Prince Edward Island on Facebook, or tag @cbcpei on Twitter or Instagram.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.