When It’s Make or Break

When It’s Make or Break by Sade Marriott

For Sade Marriott, Podcast Host at Banana Island Living  it was either make or break.

According to Sade, ” It was either break down and cry.  I was the only Black woman in my village.  It was lonely.  I had a little baby, so I volunteered, I reached out, I made connections and I cared for other people.  I genuinely felt most people were positive because I am determined to find positivity wherever.   I became part of my village community.     Providing solutions rather than problems is key.  If there’s anything I’ve learned is humility.   When I did my PGCE my mentor who was younger than me, marked me down for interaction with the other staff. My daughter who was home from school at that time saw I was really having a hard time said, “mommy you’re too well dressed. Honestly you’re going to this school and you’re dressed like this? You have to fit in.”

 Once I took my mentor on board, I began making her cups of tea, I began rolling in baggy pants. I became sloppy and her new best friend.  It worked.  I did what I needed to do! In light of the Black Lives Matter conversations that we needed to have.   I realised the importance of making other people comfortable and being more aware and better prepared to be inclusive and supportive.  It is a fine line between being aware and making excuses. 

I believe it is critical to treat everybody as you would want them to treat you no exclusions, everybody. “Having a multi-racial child, I have had conversations with my husband. Do we talk to them about this? Or do we just leave them and let them get their experience? The jury’s still out.”   

Sade offers more practical tips “When I was younger, I would want to win an argument for the intellectual rigour involved.  But now I just let it slide. What does it cost me to let that person win they argument and let them feel better about themselves? Even if I know the facts, and I know they’re positively wrong in what they’re saying (after all Google is my friend), for that time, they feel happy. It doesn’t cost me anything, it’s not great skin off my nose if I just let it slide. And I am building on my relationship”.    

Everything you do is a choice.   Every person you meet is a beginning of a relationship.   Attitudes and outlooks matter.  I choose life and positivity. 


Paula: 00:00:00 Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share hear and tell your stories and experiences. You will hear from top experts and thought leaders strategies, tips and techniques they have found useful in navigating a diverse range of challenges, difficulties and dilemmas as well as how you can create and shape these opportunities. Our guest today is Sade Marriott and we will be talking to her about her personal story through the lens of inclusion. Sade Marriott started out studying modern European languages, but changed to studying law. After qualifying and practicing as a barrister in Nigeria and as a solicitor in the UK. She obtained an MBA and then she changed to education and studied for a P G C E. She has served as a magistrate, volunteered in her community and has a passion for helping children to enjoy reading. Welcome to “TesseLeads” Sade.

Sade: 00:01:31 Thank you, thank you for inviting me.

Tesse: 00:01:35 Hi Sade welcome, I’m so delighted that you can join us on the show. You know through the years that we have spent knowing each other. I think since you were 16, 17, so many years. I have really been struck by how you find a way of building an inclusive environment around you and how you are able to galvanize that bonding that participation to build different communities. Well, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and what works in blending communities.

Sade: 00:02:09 I’m not sure what works, I can only talk of what worked for me or what I’m trying to make work for me. I’m in a particularly interesting blended community. I live in Nigeria part of the time I also live in the UK. I married in a multi racial marriage where I lived in a village in the UK. I live in Nigeria as well. I’m in education I also do a podcast and yeah I just. I think wherever I am, the important thing is to just to get into the community, get to know the people. Like when I first moved to the village, when I moved to the UK, It was a particularly difficult time. My husband was traveling quite a lot. He was, he’s an international lawyer. And I was left in the village with small children, I didn’t know a soul. I was probably the only black person in the village. And that was interesting that was my thing. Oh, I’m the only black of the village, I wonder if another person will come. But I mean this is not what you’d expect, but I found everybody quite welcoming. Maybe cause I wasn’t expecting them not to be welcoming. I was naive maybe in a way that works, I don’t know. But I found most people welcoming. And the first thing I did was to say, look. This was during the foot and mouth disease. So we lived on a farm and they couldn’t even deliver oil. It was Jolly cold. I was miserable. And I thought this is sink or swim time. So I went to the church and I said, look I’m going to volunteer. So I started volunteering to deliver the village magazine, so that way I’d knock on doors. I volunteered to take old people to the surgery. I did the open garden scheme. I, when they were raising a roof for the church, we organized it. The only thing I didn’t do was join the amateur dramatics society. And if you remember I used to do university acting. I drew a line at that. But it was either that or just break down and cry. And when it came to the local faith, I went with some friends and they said, you know more people here than we do and we have lived here forever. I said, well it’s not difficult because I’m easy to pick out so everybody wants to say hello to me. But to be honest, I genuinely felt most people were positive because I was determined to find positivity wherever I am.

Tesse: 00:04:46 Wow , that’s really interesting that you were determined to find positivity wherever you were. And people looked at you saw your inclusive feel and responded positively to that. Paula curious?

Paula: 00:05:04 Yeah, such an interesting story. But I like what you decided to find positivity. I can’t remember the exact phrase I never do. But the long unsheltered that you decided that this is where I am and I’m going to make the best of it. Listening to you, as you said you’ve come from a unique blended community or you now live in a uniquely blended community. How has that been? I know you took a stand and said, I’m going to be part of this and I’m going to make the most of it. But are there any other stories?

Sade: 00:05:36 I think when you’re putting one foot in front of the other, you don’t really think of it as a story. It’s just that now 20 something years for the down the line you think, oh gosh, that was a journey. But it’s like being on a treadmill you don’t really see, you don’t feel any reaction while you’re on it you’re just going through the motions. It’s when you get off that treadmill that you said, oh gosh how did I do that? I didn’t. So maybe looking back there were difficulties and it wasn’t terribly easy. I had to learn to cope with an auger for crying out loud, that’s character building. I had young children to look after and meeting parents. The school gate has its own particular mafia, especially when you’re the only black woman there. Unfortunately, I didn’t even see myself as a black woman. I was just there getting a job done. And then I was determined to keep up my career as well. So they had to navigate the au-pair and doing my law commuting, rushing back, leaving the house sometimes at quarter to six to catch the  drive to the station, cause we live in a village. From the station you catch the train then from the train you take the bus and go into the city and then do the same thing over again. And halfway through they’ll call you that your daughter is ill. And then oh my goodness what do I do? Now it’s not that it’s insurmountable but it just added an extra layer. And in Nigeria with all its problems, one thing you do have is help, you know? You always have help. And that’s why it’s helpful to have that to look at. Because career-wise if you’re not careful living in the UK. There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife if that’s what you choose. But if it’s not what you choose, it’s so difficult for you to keep your career going and keep a family. Make sure the children, you know the homework is done, they’re doing their. I always try to be at all the matches. My daughter was running for arraps. All of that. I wanted be a touchdown mom. At the same time I didn’t pay all that money for an education to sit at home. It was just, I just felt guilty that how can my parents and my mother pay all that money. I did an MBA, I did this. I remember I had this conversation when I was trying to re qualify as a solicitor here. My husband said, oh why are you putting yourself through all this stress? Why don’t you just take a simple job around the corner? There’s nothing wrong with just working a few hours in the shop. And I said, I have every respect for people working in our shop, but in my family if you’re not a lawyer you’re a doctor, if you’re not a doctor. My uncle is a judge. How can I opened my mouth. I mean I have what I call MCH minimum criteria for happiness. You have to identify what your MCH is. And my minimum criteria for happiness is to use my education. So, and so we came to an understanding and he supported me through my conversion course, working in the city, getting an au pair .Until I decided I don tire, let me do something else. So I decided what I really enjoy. I was a terrible lawyer, but I was just so focused on not wasting that education. I wanted to do everything because he was a lawyer too you know? I thought his education is not better than mine, but I was better educated than him. There’s no way I’m going to be anything less than a lawyer. I had to come to that realization that, that’s not it. What do you enjoy doing? And my passion was always to teach children to read. So I went back and that’s when my friend said another career cul de sac. You’re going to do it in PGCE, and I said “shut up jor”, I’m doing it. Shangri as they say in Nigeria. I did that I did my PGCE, I had to do my placements in schools. I mean from somebody who was used to employing people. To now go to where I’m going to be talked down to. You have to just calm down find some humility and just take it from there. I’ll tell you one funny story. I was having a particularly hard time at one of my placements and I knew they couldn’t fault me on my work. But this lady marked me down, my mentor who was younger than me, marked me down for interaction with the other staff.And my daughter who was home from school that time when I was really having that hard time. She said, mommy you’re too well dressed, I said what? She said, honestly you’re going to this school and you’re dressed like this, you have to fit in. And I thought out of the mouth of babes, you know? I’m used to being a professional and you have to bring your A game every time, coordinating to shoes you know. But you have to have some self respect. And I come from a private school background where the teachers have to look the part and my mentor was rolling into school with leggings and sometimes with a baggy shirt. Hey, once I took it on board, I was making her cups of tea, I was rolling in baggy pants I didn’t sweat all. I didn’t do all that stress for some baby snapper to come and fail me at the last minute. So yeah, who I became sloppy, I became her new best friend. I  got my papers and they never saw me again. And they were offering me a job after I said, oh you know I’m a bit old I think I’m just going to take my time and I should fight my battles somewhere else. And I think that’s one thing I tell young people just pick your battles. There are somethings that are not worth the pain. I could have made a spang, I could have reported her, I could said she was unprofessional. And where does that leave me. I do another 6 months. I did Naija for them. I was making them cups of tea I was, oh would you like me to organize your desk for you? At the end of the day she was happy I was happy and I just ticked her off my box. That’s one number I’m never gonna call again you know. What did it cost me a little bit of pride. I was disappointed in myself that I didn’t see it, that it was my daughter that saw it for a 12 year old to tell me, mommy you’re too well dressed. So you have to read to the room. Sometimes you have to forget your own ego and try and make other people comfortable. I may have been intimidating. Maybe as someone said, how can you be black and blue eyed? You know, you’re too self confident. And that can come across in a certain way. So wherever I am, I retained my Nigerianess, I retained my authenticity. But I also think it’s important to make other people comfortable. And it’s like going into a room and saying, you’re shy. What about the people who are talking to you? What makes you think that they’re not shy? Put yourself in their shoes and make them comfortable. So, if there’s anything I’ve learned is humility.

Tesse: 00:13:24 That is so beautiful. I keep laughing at what you’re saying. The lessons that I’m taking away from that is read your situation. Situational awareness, read through the eyes of young people, through the eyes of young people you can see things you know. Different things, the emperor with no clothes and the child that sees them, that makes a difference. Something else comes to mind Sade and that’s the whole thing about inclusion. I’m building inclusive environment you know, with Hamilton and Hamilton is one of my favorite plays of all time. They say, be in the room when it happens, come back to the room when it happens you know. Oh, I love rapping not well, but in the room when it happens in the room when it happens, I love it. And I like to be in the room when it happens and what you’re saying, those kinds of practices of being humble and doing what it takes you are in the room. So I welcome your thoughts around the black lives matter movement with the now everyone’s invited movement or with the me too movement. These are all about building inclusive environments where people are seen, heard and felt. What are your thoughts in relation to inclusion?

Sade: 00:14:30 Oh I mean, I’m totally up to being woke. Good Lord. I think especially those of us coming from Nigeria. We were so unwoke, I mean I speak to some of my friends and I’m like my eyebrows and my hairline there to the right of Attila the hun. Really they really are not as woke or. I hate that word because it has been so bastardized. But they’re not as inclusive as they like to think they are. I demand when that Black Lives Matter situation happened. As you know I’m involved with a school and we had a discussion. And what stories do we tell our children? How do we get children to discuss this with them? And these are young children, the oldest would be about 10 or 11. We want to make children positive. I don’t want children to have a hangup and say, is it because I’m black that this has happened? No, that should not be your default position. But at the same time you know, you want them to be aware and be prepared. So it’s that fine line of being aware, but not making excuses for themselves. The only mantra that I sort of gave to them is treat everybody as you would want them to treat you no exclusions, everybody. And that includes your househelp, your cleaners. So what I’m asking somebody at work who sees you as black or not good enough or whatever, are you giving that same worthiness to the person cleaning your room? That is just respect and worthiness. So if you see everybody as worthy and start from a position of, am I treating this person the way I want them to treat me? And no exceptions then yeah, like I said, I may be a bit Pollyannaish. I totally support the Black Lives Matter, but I also don’t. A part of me did not want really to lead with that with the children, if you see what I mean. Having a multi racial child, this was a conversation that my husband and I have had. Do we talk to them about this? Or do we just leave them and let them experience? The jury’s still out. We’ll let you know what the argument was and what came through. I can’t tell you that we got it right I can tell you we got it wrong, but she’s happy enough.

Tesse: 00:16:56 Yeah, she sounds from what you tell me about her. I’m looking forward to meeting her, she sounds really awesome that just like her mom and I’m not biased.

Sade: 00:17:05 She warned me never to talk about her on the podcast so scratch that bit.

Tesse: 00:17:11 You know I am, I hear from what you’re saying that a lot of this is about respect and dignity and love. And I think that my thoughts in hearing what you’re saying, which aligns to mine. Is that thing about embracing ourselves as human beings and respecting our differences and being aware of our similarity. Because as human beings we are more similar than we are different. Sometimes that’s not a message that is spoken about our similarities and our humanity. So I’ll take that inclusion, loving, caring, respecting empathy, compassion. And also tolerating the fact that we are different and celebrating that as well. Paula, over to you.

Paula: 00:17:55 Yeah to follow up on that. I know most of us were taught to treat others as we would like to be treated. But what I learned recently within the last year or so was also treat people the way they want to be treated. You know that’s a big part and I wasn’t brought up to think in fact until my daughter pointed out to me that mom, you got to look at that, read the room and see how people want to be treated. And then, because you like things a certain way doesn’t mean that they want to be treated the way you want to be treated. So you know, turn it around too, so how do they want to be treated? And treat them that way. And I found that has been very helpful in me becoming woke like you Sade.

Sade: 00:18:38 Yeah, well, I mean the thing is when I was younger, I would want to win an argument for the intellectual rigor involved in that. But now I just let it slide. What does it cost me to let that person win they argument and let them feel better about themselves. Even if I know the facts, I know they’re positively wrong in what they’re saying. Because Google is my friend, as they say. But for that time, you know they feel happy. It doesn’t cost me anything,it’s not great skin off my nose. I just let it slide.

Paula: 00:19:12 Well as usual talking with Sade is always so invigorating, but all good things have to come to an end. So before we wrap this up Sade are there any thoughts, any last thoughts for our listening audience?

Sade: 00:19:26 Oh, be happy, choose happiness.

Paula: 00:19:33 Is there a song we can sing for that?

Tesse: 00:19:35 Don’t worry, be happy.

Paula: 00:19:41 There’s another one. I’m be happy happy. I don’t know, I don’t know

Sade: 00:19:46 The one I seen with the babies is if you’re happy  and you know, clap your hands

Paula: 00:19:51 Clap clap or we all know that.

Sade: 00:19:54 Yes we do, yeah.

Paula: 00:19:56 Wow oh, right. This is always so interesting hate, to go, hate to go. But where can our listeners find you online? Because you’re such an incredibly interesting woman. Your stories never cease to bowl us over and have us leaning in. So for our listeners who want to find you, where can they find you online?

Sade: 00:20:20 Well, they can listen to my podcasts. I’ve only done a few episodes, but I like to think they’ll get a flavor of me and of my life and the people I come across. Banana island living podcast, you can get it wherever you get your podcasts. And on the website, “bananaliving.com” on Instagram, you can slide into my DMs, “@banana island living” and on Twitter, “banana island living”. So yeah, I look forward to hearing from you. And hey whatever you do, make sure you subscribe and tell a friend.

Paula: 00:20:55 That’s it people, that’s it, that’s it. And so to our listeners as usual, your precious stories matter and your lives matter. Please share them with us. We support many, we encourage many and we nurture many. So always remember you’re never alone. And just as importantly, please make sure you head over to Apple podcast, Google podcast, spotify, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. If you find “TesseLeads” helpful, please let us know in your reviews. And if you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, send us a note. If you’d like to be a guest on the show, “TesseLeads”, please head over to “www. Tesseakpeki.com/tesseleads” to apply.