Shalisha Samuel: Greatness With Gratitude
  Sephra Alexander
FEATURES
July 2021

Shalisha Samuel sporting jewellery from the Centre for National Culture in Accra, Ghana. Licence to use photo granted by @bank.foto, Instagram.

As said by the creators of Salt in our Hair, of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport. Paradise Pulse now peeks into the passport of Shalisha Samuel, a well-travelled, highly accomplished gem of the Caribbean. If you aren’t filled with wanderlust by the end of this article, perhaps you need to be cured of an acute stay-at-home syndrome (and you can thank Covid-19 for that).  

Attorney at Law, One Young World Ambassador and actress, Shalisha Samuel. Photo taken by Himal Reece.

 

Shalisha is an Attorney at Law, One Young World Ambassador and actress who hails from the Land of the Blessed, so designated by the Kalinago indigenous to its terrain. Today, this land is known as St. Vincent and the Grenadines and its flag has been flown high—in one instance, literally—by this featured daughter of its soil in many territories including Ghana, South Africa, Switzerland, England and Barbados.  

Make no mistake: Shalisha Samuel is no overnight success. With each stratum of her mettle carefully laid and cemented to withstand the vagaries of life, she has proven, from a tender age, to be an adroit navigator of life’s only constant—change. At the age of seven, Shalisha, one of two siblings, migrated with her elder brother from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Barbados, where she finished her primary education. She began her secondary education in Barbados and was an avid track and field athlete but remained there for only one term before migrating again, this time embracing socialisation in the concrete jungle of New York City where she attended Junior High School and participated in its track and field activities. Shalisha subsequently attended the Erasmus Hall Campus for Humanities and Performing Arts, located in Brooklyn, New York. It was here that she would become involved in Drama, as well as discover her love for debate after finding a place on the School’s Policy Debate Team and as such, the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL). This opened wide vistas for her to travel around the United States of America for debate, even participating in summer debate camps at the University of Michigan and the University of Vermont. Ardent involvement in extra-curricular activities led to the honing of Shalisha’s leadership skills, which catapulted her to several international forums.

In 2013, Shalisha was selected to be a delegate for St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg, Africa. To get an idea of the amazing synergy at this international Summit, follow this link where Shalisha can be spotted at the 2:20 mark:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5VZsAkATEc

The year 2013 also saw Shalisha sojourning in Accra, Ghana under the aegis of Youth Challenge International. During this stint, Shalisha not only worked hard but also adventured hard, having visited the Boti Waterfalls and Tamale, as well as the Ashanti Kingdom that most of us only hear about in folktales.

In quite a memorable interview, Shalisha enumerated some striking similarities between Ghanaian/African and Trinidadian culture, beginning with our proclivity for animated expression. Yes! It’s possible to find in Ghana the neck-rolling, finger-snapping, satirical pouting and even steupsing so well known among Trinidadians. 

As you might have guessed, Ghanaians love blue food. Shalisha recounted:

“One evening when I first got there, the person that I stayed by had laid on the table yam, dasheen and plantains and she started naming them: “This is plantain, this is yam…” and I laughed because we eat those things in the Caribbean! This reminded me of when I visited a Kenyan friend while living in Geneva. She pointed to a container of Milo, told me what it was and proceeded to explain how to make tea with it. We have so much in common even across seas.”

In respect of African dance, Shalisha observed, “…In Africa, you get a lot more variety and skill. We [in the Caribbean]do a lot of waist movement and wining like the dance that is seen in Congo but in Ghana and Senegal, there are movements that would make your head just feel confused: you don’t know how they’re done.”

Although the soul-stirring beat of the African drum continues to reverberate in Shalisha’s heart, it endures alongside the serenity of romanticism where food and wine abound. Indeed, engraved on Shalisha’s heart are also her sublime experiences in Switzerland, where she worked as a Consultant to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) from 2010 to 2012. 

Shalisha Samuel dining at Le Comtoir in Geneva, Switzerland (2012).

 

More than seven years after Shalisha’s first visit to Geneva, she found herself returning to its borders. Describing Geneva, Switzerland as “a very special place”, she recounted regarding her most recent visit: 

“When the plane was landing, there were tears in my eyes. I was overwhelmed with peace, joy and excitement. Thinking about it now makes me happy.” 

(Of course, in Trinidad, we aptly describe this behaviour as resulting from a state of being called tootoolbay.)

Shalisha anticipates a return to Geneva to savour the tranquillity of the vast and beautiful lake, Lac De Genève, around which many indulge in wine, breads, cheeses and ice-cream among other delectable foods. Beyond Lac De Genève is fertile hinterland over which apple trees and other fruit-bearing flora flourish and where many of our imaginations have perhaps wandered before. 

Virtually on the heels of Shalisha’s stint at WIPO came her service to the High Commission of Canada in Barbados, where she functioned as Political and Public Affairs Officer. When posed with the question of what was her most valuable lesson from serving several international organisations, the enchanting Shalisha had this to say:

“I can. When I went to WIPO I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m in the United Nations; I’m in Switzerland!’...maybe a bit of an imposter syndrome. It felt really overwhelming and for the first time, I started to have anxiety and little panic attacks; like I couldn’t breathe because it was too overwhelming. I eventually gained my grounding and then stayed on as a Consultant; gained more confidence, felt more relaxed, felt more comfortable. When they had big forums and meetings, I would make contributions. From that experience and others, that’s the lesson…I can…You can do anything; it’s possible.”

Despite having ascended to such lofty heights, Shalisha has kept a firm grip on humility. Being nosy journalists, we got her recipe for humble-pie and found that it’s no conundrum: Shalisha remains mindful that she is human and resolves to be grateful rather than proud about her accomplishments. Her profound gratitude has even driven her to become a member of Rotary International through which she regularly participates in community service as a member of the Rotary Club of St. Augustine.  Expounding on the reason for her passion to serve, Shalisha explained, “I had the fortune of good mentors and good opportunities and that’s all you sometimes need to change the course of your life completely…I wanted to be that person that others have been for me.”

Shalisha’s humility is especially commendable as she belongs to what is described by one of its prominent members as the most egocentric profession of all—the legal profession. Following her completion of the University of Law’s Bar Professional Training Course in 2018, this One Young World Ambassador graced the shores of Trinidad and Tobago in 2019 in pursuit of her Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School. She obtained this qualification in 2020, allowing her to be admitted to practise as an Attorney at Law in the Courts of Trinidad and Tobago by October of that year. Having executed legal work in multiple territories, Shalisha retains quite a positive perspective on the legal fraternity in Trinidad and Tobago:

“I think the legal profession in Trinidad is moulded based on what kinds of work are available in Trinidad so I find that attorneys have more experience, not just in terms of the scope of work…I know of mid-junior counsels who have appeared before the Court of Appeal. Trinidadian attorneys are special. In fact, not too long after being called to the bar in Trinidad, I had the pleasure of preparing submissions on my senior’s behalf for the Court of Appeal in St. Vincent (all done virtually by the way) and we got a unanimous verdict in our client’s favour.”

Shalisha went on to remark that from her observations in other Caribbean territories, justice systems and their respective processes are not as efficient as those of Trinidad and Tobago resulting in backlog, even in countries where there are substantially smaller populations. She envisages ensconcing herself as a legal advisor in the sphere of activity undertaken by international ogranisations after gaining some more experience in private practice. 

For those of you who may not be aware, the life of a lawyer can be downright stressful! Yet, Shalisha maintains a youthful glow and overall appearance. What’s better is that she was liberal enough to illuminate the path to her fountain of youth: “I drink a lot of water and I mind my own business.” How’s that for a detox? (Still, most Trinbagonians might rather good ole Zebapik).

Nevertheless, Shalisha’s modus operandi is not all work and no play as she finds adequate time to enjoy parodies, “endless rabbit hole videos” and literature on diverse topics including the universe, dimensions, the power of the imagination and thought, time and space, healing through nature and crop cultivation.

Shalisha Samuel at the monumental Broken Chair opposite Place des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo taken by Chantal Forde.

 

Shalisha shares a close relationship with her mother, with whom she lived during her early childhood and all of her adolescence. She credits her mother not only for making investments into Disney DVDs that inspired her to venture into theatre and voice-over acting but also lovingly providing answers to questions such as, “Mommy, do actors really die in the movies?”

Intriguingly, it seems that her mom has a knack for raising stars: Shalisha’s elder brother has emerged as a prominent music artiste known as Fyah Furnace in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Having an appreciation for dancehall, this writer especially enjoyed his song entitled In This Life. Why not enjoy his music by following this link:  https://youtu.be/REH7z5BHlPk

Migrating ten times thus far has conveyed Shalisha from the Land of the Blessed to the Land of the Hummingbird, which she intends to make her home, at least for the foreseeable future. Of the latter she maintains, “The people are sweet, the food is great and I know I'll never grow old of the birds and mountains that mesmerize me."

Among those whom Shalisha has sought to emulate are bestselling authors, Marianne Williamson, Napoleon Hill and Eckhart Tolle as well as motivational speaker, Earl Shoaff and Barbadian born author, Neville Goddard. However, conceivably without noticing, our Caribbean gem has advanced into the realm of the emulated as her effervescent life inspires others to succeed.

 

By: Sephra Alexander | FEATURES | July 2021


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