Grace Kennedy Business Conference
I can never truly express how much the Grace Kennedy Money services sponsorship helped me attain my goals. I can however give a close anecdote. As Maya Angelou said “I’ve leant that people will forget what you say, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Imagine walking around a pool, and feeling no association or camaraderie to anyone. Imagine not seeing a face like yours; and being all alone, in the competition, in the stadium, and possible in the country. Imagine being in a place you were born to be in and feeling as if you have stepped into a forbidden area. Imagine being told that this sport is not for the likes of you, whether it may be your body is different, or your shape will not be effective in the water as others would be. Imagine people looking at you constantly as if they are saying “What are you doing here? Don’t you know you’re black?”
Needless to say, growing up in a sport where the odds are against you, makes you re-think your decision about exactly what you are doing in this sport. Numerous times I wanted to retire, and say “That was good enough, my story can end here.” But there was always something pushing me to the pool, pushing me to train harder.”
I can explain it in the simplest words: ………………I’m stubborn, and I never gave up. I also realized I must not be afraid to dream bigger, even if others laughed, or were cynical. Even if they were no others like me that had done it before, even if the road was bumpy and dark, I had to believe in myself, and what I was trying accomplish.
I knew what my goals were, and stopping short of them would be a disgrace to everything I had worked so hard to accomplish; even if all the people that had believed in me, and supported me through my journey would not have been disappointed, I would have still been disappointed with myself, because I knew my goals, were in my reach, if I just tried a little harder. I had to continue, because there were people in this world that believed in the myth that blacks can’t swim. They were people that believed I couldn’t do it, and we can’t have that.
I continue to swim to show them all that I am a myth buster and I have found their myth false. I am here to make them face facts; and the fact is, I am on top, and I am a Black, Jamaican swimmer. Jamaican’s are exceptional for many things, but mostly for the fact that so many talented individuals come from this small Caribbean Island.
None of this, however, would have been capable without my support team. No individual can succeed on their own and the Grace Kennedy team helped me by joining my support team. Alongside my family, and swimming affiliated staff, Grace Kennedy joined my team as my first corporate sponsor. They gave me a special gift when I became a part of the team that day. I became their brands ambassador for Grace Kennedy Money services, but I got something way more essential for my line of work.
Many of my competitions are international meets all over the world. Qatar, Dubai, Russia, China, Japan, Germany, to name a few, and for the most part I am by myself. No team, no manager and no coach. For a while it was scary being on my own, but then you get use to it. I started to believe this is the best I could do for myself. This is as far as I can reach on my own. I told myself “You did great by yourself Alia. You made it to an Olympic final with no financial aid, or corporate related aid. So maybe this is as far are you go.” But I always had that feeling of, what if?”
What if someone took the chance on me? What if, a corporation believed in me so much that they were willing to help? I’ll tell you what happened. A month after I signed with GKMS, I broke a meet record, 3 months later I had the world leading time, 7 months later I broke the Commonwealth record, 11 months and 2 days later I got on the blocks to win my first World title and 11 months, 2 days, 1 minute and 2.36 seconds later, I got my World Record.
Grace Kennedy’s courage and belief in me was priceless; because confidence in a sport is necessary, and confidence in life is essential. GKMS gave me the extra push I needed to reach to new heights. Now I have enough confidence to go to any arena, any city and any country in the world and break down the barriers of people of colour in swimming.
Taking the road less travelled isn’t always easy, but the rewards, one of which is being “The first Black swimmer to hold a world record and world title” are unique.
After everything I have done, and all the meets I have ventured to, I now realize all I needed was the confidence and belief to do amazing things. No matter who believes in me; my team is always in my corner. I now continue to swim to help other people of colour to have a less bumpy road to follow.
Grace Kennedy has been breaking barriers for decades and has paved a steady road of success for the company, but with every great feat we have to think back and remember how we got there. We have to remember the bad times and how we fought to get back up. We have to remember the countless hours of work and sweat we put in to achieving each goal, and we have to remember the daily strife, competitiveness, and humility, it takes to be a part of an inevitable World leading company such as Grace Kennedy.
The Dalai Lama said: “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow.”
There is only one day that truly matters and its today. We can’t hope that it will be done tomorrow; we can’t try and change the things done yesterday. All we can count on is today. Each day, work as if you had given it everything, being mentally and physically drained. My world record wasn’t done by luck, it wasn’t something that I hoped I could do one day, and it was something strived for each and every day. Each “TODAY” I made the best and I worked to accumulate tons of great ‘Today’s’ and eventually the yesterdays dwindled and the tomorrows, well they never came. If we can give all we have each and every day, in work, love, friendships or anything we do, we would feel fulfilled each day, and one ‘today’ closer to success.
Grace Kennedy legacy now and in the future states that “our strengths lies in our team, without whom we could never have tasted success. As such we listen to our employees and treat them fairly and with respect.”
Honesty, Integrity and trust goes a long way, from Jamaica, to the UK, to the Americas and now Africa, Grace Kennedy is indeed legendary and will indeed strive to break many barriers in the decades to come.
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to speak to you all. I hope my story can encourage you all and give you the little extra push of confidence to do great things.