Rosalind McLymont is an author, journalist, fitness instructor and a former teacher, but she is most proud of being a mother and a woman who helps others, especially young women, to have pride in themselves and celebrate who they are.
A mother of three McLymont, whose classmates in Guyana would have known her as Ivey Kilkenny, has worked as a teacher in two African countries. At that time, she wanted to contribute to the growth of African countries that had been colonized. While she does not regret the experience, she said she had a rude awakening seeing whites receiving more respect from the very people she wanted to help.
But the former journalist, who worked as with an economic magazine in the US for 13 years specializing in international business and international trade, said if she had to do it again she would not hesitate.
She describes herself as “first and foremost” a writer of fiction as well as nonfiction. At present, she is executive editor of The Network Journal, a business magazine that targets an audience of black professionals and business owners based in New York. She is also chief executive officer of an online publication called africastrictlybusiness.com.
The ‘other side of her’, as she puts it, has nothing to do with journalism; she teaches fitness – tai-chi and Zumba to older women.
McLymont was in Guyana recently and was one of the presenters at Thursday’s observance of International Women’s Day facilitated by Conversations With Selwyn (CWS – Connecting With Stories) which was held at Marian Academy. The event was hosted by Red Entertainment and was aimed at recognizing the importance of women in our society, the need to honour them and to inspire the younger generation.
Her presentation focused on the right to be and the right of self because, according to her, people must be able to recognise their innate value and affirm themselves.
“That self-affirmation is what gives you the energy to assert yourself in society as an asset and to collectively claim your social right to be safe, to be secure,” she told the Sunday Stabroek in a recent interview. She believes that lack of self-affirmation maybe a contributing factor to the high suicide rate in Guyana.
It is important, McLymont said, for people to set their own pace especially as they become older, she holds herself up as an example, since as an executive editor she now determines her own hours. She goes into the magazine on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and she teaches the fitness classes on the other days. She teaches classes at a senior centre funded by the city of New York and also at a private studio. She also holds a workshop for the women called ‘My Fabulous Me!’ which sees the women being celebrated and providing a space for them to share and listen.
According to her, it is about tapping into their innate strength and empowering themselves as they recognise their fabulous and special qualities.
“Women are women all over, does not matter where they came from, there are the universal experiences. I have learnt about how women go through in their traditional household, both younger women and older women. It is really beautiful, then they say a pledge to honour themselves,” she shared.
‘Not straight line’
McLymont described herself as not a “straight line person” but one who believes in exploiting all your talents.
She has had a passion for writing since she was ten years old as she loved to read and “my imagination will just go.”
So far. she has written three books and the first one, titled Middle Ground, was set in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the US; it is based on the premise that it is neither black or white but rather there is always a middle ground where compromise can be found.
The book is now in pre-production stage to become a movie.
The second book is a collection of essays she wrote about international trade and business and how Africa relates to the rest of the world, while the third book is fiction and was launched in Guyana last year and is available at Austin’s Book Store.
The book is called The Guyana Contract, and McLymont laughingly stated that it has nothing to do with the controversial ExxonMobil contract, but is about an air transport system from Georgetown to the interior that an American investor wants to install in Guyana.
According to her, the book has all the intrigue as it includes people trying to use the system to traffic in drugs. The contract has to be negotiated by a public relations firm that is working on behalf of the investor, and the executive within the firm is a young woman of Guyanese extraction, born in America.
“It has romance, side shows,” the author said adding that while it is fiction most books are based on an author’s experience and in the novel, they would basically pose the question that instead of it happening that way it happened this way.
She hopes that this book, which according to her has received wonderful feedback, will also be made into a film.
While writing is her deep-seated passion it took McLymont 25 years to complete her first book.
While McLymont left Guyana at the age of 14 for the US her world travels really began at the age of 21 when she went to Spain to spend a semester at the University of Madrid as she wanted to learn Spanish.
It was in that country she had stones thrown at her soon after she arrived in 1971, but where she also felt the support of women. And after that initial unpleasant experience, McLymont said she actually enjoyed the rest of her stay as during that short period she learnt a lot about herself.
Shortly after her time in Spain, McLymont and a friend decided to travel to Uganda; this was just after dictator Idi Amin had taken over the reins of power and another unpleasant experience greeted her on her arrival there.
As she told it, some Indian men who once lived in Uganda but had left were returning to the country at the same time they arrived, and they reportedly told the immigration officers that McLymont and her friend were their wives. It was said in the native language and McLymont and her friend were being guided to transportation provided by the men who also took over their luggage and even though they protested no one understood them.
However, soldiers who were nearby intervened and took them to the YWCA where they were initially refused accommodation as it was believed they were prostitutes; it was when they said they were Americans that they were welcomed with open arms.
Throughout her one year stay in that country she had to fight the prostitute image and fight to show the people that she had something to offer them and she actually wanted to help in their country’s development.
It was in Uganda that she met her husband and the father of her three children; they later moved to the Congo where she spent seven years as a teacher. In the Congo, she and her husband were held up by soldiers with guns and were only allowed to go when money was given.
“My experiences overseas as single black woman at a time when single black women were not walking around in Africa are still with me. When black people look at you as nothing and give the whites all the praises it really hurt, that happened more in the Congo than in Uganda. Idi Amin … had to be demonized, my experience was different. But I am not saying that there were not abuses and atrocities committed by the military,” McLymont clarified.
Her experiences helped her in corporate America where she said she was discriminated against until people saw her talent and she learnt to affirm herself.
“I never accepted mediocrity, never accepted I was inferior to someone because of my background and the colour of my skin,” she said, adding that she has self-love and is vain in the sense of how she looks and how she wants to see herself.
Over the years, she has held fast to her upbringing and still identifies as Guyanese. She shared that her fundamental outlook on life is based on her formative years in Guyana.
Her older brother, Louis Kilkenny, had actually returned to Guyana and worked for a number of years as head of the film centre, a government agency in the 70s.
Their father’s family came from Queenstown, Essequibo and their mother’s from Beterverwagting and travelling to those two villages has left a mark on her outlook and philosophy in life.
After her return to the US, as the Congo had become very unsafe, McLymont and her husband divorced, but she said she always ensured that her children spent time with their father who is now dead. They have not returned to the Congo, but they are in contact with some of his relatives.
It was at that point in her life that she returned to university to study journalism and she has never looked back since.