Photo above by Anthony Gebrehiwot.
By Melania Daniel
PRIDE Guest Writer
TORONTO, Ontario — Randell Adjei is a very wise and talented young man. He has a thriving arts education and performance organization, RISE Edutainment, which he founded in 2012.
Adjei studied Philosophy and Political Science at York University and is a much in demand motivational speaker. He also has a past in offences that led to encounters with the police and the inside of a jail cell.
Below, he shares — based on his life experiences and his wrong turns — valuable insights about the root causes of juvenile delinquency.
- Home life, migration and family fragmentation
Adeji was born in Canada to Ghanian parents, the youngest of four boys. His much older brothers remained in Ghana when his parents migrated to Canada.
He says: “I pretty much grew up as an only child. My brothers came over when I was 11. My parents were here together at first, but my dad moved back to Ghana when I was one. I went to Ghana when I was one and I came back just before I turned six. From six to eight years, I was with my mother and mainly the baby sitter. My mom was working two jobs, so I never really had a lot of time with her. My dad came back to Canada when I was eight and my mom’s attention was divided. I felt unhappy about that because of the attention I was no longer getting. The expectations I had of what a dad should be did not happen. We never had one-on-one time because he was either working, or too tired, or not able to. We did not get along. He never really understood me and I never really understood him. It was not until I got much older that I came to understand and appreciate him better. I can’t blame a man who wasn’t taught to be the father I wanted.”
- Cultural Insensitivity
Adjei says he slipped off the good path because, “I was in a sense running from my identity. When I told people I was from Ghana, people would have a reaction – not a positive reaction – about Africa. I was bullied and intimidated quite a lot. People keep telling me all the time that I look more like a Caribbean person; I do not look at all like an African. I remember my first move [to new housing]. I heard this voice from behind when I walked past a group of guys. ‘Look at this guy, he is an African bush monkey,’ one of them said. Being African was not very cool. Another time, I was going to church with my mom and we were in our traditional clothes. As we were exiting the building, there were some guys and they laughed at us to our faces. Even the mom of one of them joined in the jeering.”
- The sometimes nightmare of school
“When I was in grade six, my principal said, Randell you will never amount into anything,” goes a line from an Adjei poem. “In Grade one, I was getting student of the month pretty much every other month,” he says. “In Grade 2, they put me in ESL, only because of my accent. So my confidence shot down.”
- Environment, peer influence and absence of positive role models
“The reason I got into delinquency was…many, many reasons really,” says adjei. “Some of it was just the communities I grew up in. Most of the people I looked for I didn’t find. When I moved to Orton Park the people my age were trouble makers. They were mostly African and Caribbean kids and a couple of Asians. They were mainly the boys I was around and they had a very negative mindset. I was stealing stuff, getting into lots of fights – I did what they were doing. Based on what my parents were telling me, I knew that was not the best life, but I was about 11 to 12 years. At that age, I did not really see them as trouble. I saw them as cool and that was what I wanted to be.”