At 18, Jamie Alleyne Morris said farewell to Trinidad, jumped on a plane and headed to the United States. She’d never been there before, had only US$75 in her pocket and had no idea where she was going once she got there. She only knew that the US was where her destiny lay and had “supercrazyfaith” that everything would turn out right. Turns out, Morris’ gut instinct was on point. Today, the 27-year-old operates one of the most popular entertainment websites focused on all things Caribbean and aims to become one of the leading experts on the Caribbean in the US. Morris founded JayBlessed.com one year ago and has successfully built it into a site that could rival any of the dominant entertainment sites in the US, except that her content is 100 percent focused on the Caribbean. “This blog is the beginning of a global Caribbean brand,” she told WomanWise via phone from Atlanta, where she and her husband of two years were taking a much-needed mini-vacation.
Morris’ aim is to push the Caribbean into mainstream consciousness in the US. “The American media call black celebs Afro-Americans and don’t acknowledge their Caribbean roots and so many of them have Caribbean roots. They love hip hop not knowing it started with a Jamaican. They give green cards to the best of our brilliant minds. I want to create awareness of our achievements and contributions,” she said. JayBlessed.com has certainly filled a void. Crossing the one millionth visitor mark in March, JayBlessed.com is not a website that simply pulls content from other sites. The site also has original content that Morris diligently researches and writes and she has broken many stories, among them Allyson Hennessy’s death, the Caribbean Airlines crash in Guyana and Kes the Band’s appearance on Fox Five News, among others. “I am beyond dedicated to this blog. After the second month of doing it, I resigned from my job. You have to have a vision. I would like to be a leading authority in all things in Caribbean entertainment. I might be a key source or an analyst or something. If BET, CNN or VH1 had a panel talking about Caribbean entertainment, who will they call on?”
To push her brand further, she recently hired a publicity company, Prolifik Vision, to expose JayBlessed.com to the mainstream media. “The objective is to sell Caribbean content to people who don’t know about it,” she explained. A happily-married mother of one, Morris blogs every day, juggling household chores and taking care of her daughter while building her media empire. In addition to the blog, the former underground radio host has a web-based radio show called Straight Talk, No Chaser, where she and co-host Courtney K Williams dish up entertaining discussions on relationships and music as well as conduct interviews with notable Caribbean personalities. Looking back, it seems the Laventille Road, San Juan girl who landed at JFK with no place to go, refused by those she thought would help her (her boyfriend surprised her by saying his girlfriend wouldn’t approve, a relative told her she could only stay one night), is certainly blessed. The name of her website is testament to the many blessings that is allowing her to live her passion today.
But there is something more behind Morris and it’s fearless determination and drive. In 2002, when she decided she didn’t want to be one of the many sad people working the same job for 30 years in the local public sector, she packed her suitcase and declared she was going to the United States. She had no money and no ticket. “I did real praying. I didn’t know where I was going or how I would get there. I didn’t get my ticket until two days before I left. My mum bought my ticket for me. She didn’t come to the airport but when I was about to board, I heard my name calling and it was my mother. She told me she was proud of me and to keep safe. I needed her blessings,” recalled Morris, who credits her mother for her drive.
Her mother, Shairoon, had Morris when she was 15 and another daughter at 17. She dropped out of school and worked tirelessly to ensure her daughters were taken care of, even paying for Morris’ broadcasting courses with Eddison Carr with her meagre resources. “She is a strong woman. She was always there for her children, she always encouraged us; she never said no even if she couldn’t afford it. My drive, that survival spirit within me is from my mum. I come from a lineage of strong, strong women. She even inspires me to go back to school,” said Morris. Her mother, a nurse by profession, is finishing up her degree. Drawing inspiration from her mother, Morris is passionate about creating her own path. Her advice to other women wanting to follow their own dreams and are afraid, is to just start. “Don’t talk yourself out of doing it and whatever you choose, learn your craft. You also have to pray. I pray. I really believe my life is a blessing.”