Humans of Poughkeepsie is an ongoing project seeking to highlight members of the Poughkeepsie community. Below, Nadia Bennett shares her story. Bennett is the founder of C. Brook Amber’s Salon, a hair salon at 784 Main Street. She has been in business for five years.
I didn’t even want to do hair. My oldest sister tricked me. I worked at a bank for about six years. My sister said, “You’re pretty good at doing hair, why don’t you try to get your [cosmetology] license?” I told her I was quite comfortable being at the bank and wasn’t looking into getting into hair. There’s too many stylists out there right now. She was a stylist in Jamaica before we came here and she said, “If you go [to cosmetology school], I’ll go with you so you feel comfortable. I know you’re pretty good and I’d love to see you expand and do your own thing. Be an entrepreneur. Start your own business.” So, we went to a school and signed up to get my cosmetology license and she signed up as well. We spoke with the teachers and set up a date to start. When I [start-ed], everything was taken care of for me to start, but everything wasn’t taken care of for my sister. When I found that out I asked her, “Hey, what’s going on? I thought you were starting today too?” And she looked at me and said, “I never had any intention of starting. I just want-ed you to start because it’s so important that you do something you love. Because I know you love doing hair. I know you drive by every one of these stylists, but you go to the stylists that you like. So, don’t worry about all the other stylists that you see. Just do what you like to do.” So, that was it.
Growing up in Jamaica was amazing. Being a kid, there was so much to do. All the kids my age in my neighborhood used to play and go outside. We used to play in the rain, play hopscotch, batten ball and pick fruits because we had a lot of fruit trees around. We used to go to our neighbor’s field and pick mangoes and berries. It was just a great childhood. I can’t think of anything negative that impacted my life. It was all positive. And my mom made sure of that. I didn’t grow up with my dad, it was just my mom. My dad was [in America], so he wasn’t around. But I think she did a good job raising us, so I think that instilled all my beliefs—to make sure you take care of your kids because they didn’t choose to be here, you chose them. I wasn’t sad when I left because I knew it was for a better future. I cherish my memories, but I wouldn’t change anything.
I’ve been living in Poughkeepsie for 17 years. I haven’t seen it change very much. Things are very similar to how they were. I don’t like it here. I really don’t. I like the fact that my salon is here, I have a house here, my family is here and my husband has a job here. Everything I do revolves around [my kids]. But, personally, I don’t like it here. I wish I could move, but it’s like my feet are planted. I have roots here. I just have to make it work. It’s too slow here. It’s not really moving; it’s a little stagnant. I don’t really see anything going up. It’s just staying. It’s like a body of water that’s not moving. It’s not rising and it’s not falling. It’s just there.
I have five daughters with very different personalities and very different ages. It seems like it’s difficult for someone looking from the outside in, especially because we’re young parents. We have three teenagers and two babies pretty much. But you just have to have a basic foundation where the older ones can set an example for the younger ones, because they’ll emulate them. We try to set daily goals and patterns for them to follow so that when they get older they’ll have more of a structure of how a family should be. I try my best to lead them in a way I think will make them successful human beings, not necessarily successful as in being rich but successful as in rich with love and family values.