I’m walking through Brick Lane towards one of my favourite shops, Dark sugars. They serve what I consider to be one of the best hot chocolates a person could ever drink. The shop is a haven for chocolate treats made with cocoa straight from Ghana. As I exchange greetings and indulge in a conversation about chocolate with one of the store owners, my heart starts to feel heavy. In a few moments, I will be talking with a young man who has experienced things I could not imagine.
As he walks towards me with a warm smile, my mood swiftly changes. This was far from what I envisioned of the feelings that our conversation would bring.
Joss Simmons has battled with depression, and he has made it his goal to try to give the love he wanted as a child to others.
Multi-talented Joss Simmons is the founder of Jossy Care, a childminding service. He is a DJ and is also a nursery teacher during the day for Islington Council. Joss has also made it his priority to give motivational talks on topics such as depression and acts to spread awareness on the issue of domestic violence and its potential long lasting effects.
Being a witness to his mother suffering at the hands of domestic violence has naturally had a profound effect on Joss. However, it is clear that he does not let those events define him. “I know people who have experienced similar situations to me or even worse. They are functioning but have turned to the roads, or use drugs, alcohol and even sex as a vice.” Dealing with domestic violence was an introspective process. In the early part of 2017, Joss gave his first public talk about his experiences. “I think I once used sex as a vice too. It was a slow process, and I had to analyse my flaws and converse with people who eventually helped me unearth the underlying issues that I needed to address.”
Being open and speaking with people, particularly women, has helped Joss deal with a lot of the issues he was going through, it also helped him to reconcile with his Father. “I came from an environment where I thought women and men could not be friends. Now, I make sure the people who are around me have good energy.” Seeing his mother overcome difficult challenges in her life, instilled in Joss, an overflowing amount of respect for women. “I have changed dramatically; I know the importance of having women as friends. When you are surrounded by women who have belief in themselves, who are following their passions and being great as a collective, it makes me want to become a better person.”
Being a Nanny
Joss has learnt a great deal through his friendships with women; he found that women tend to have an entirely different energy in comparison to men. This helped him to reconnect and express his innate nature to be nurturing because he felt he could truly express himself with women. “I am attuned to my emotions. I am naturally an open person, and I have always been in touch with my feelings. I had to learn to be this way because of my experiences.”
Joss is nurturing, caring and paternal; it was only natural that Joss became a nanny, which stereotypically is not a career young black men from Hackney would choose. Joss started ‘Jossy Care’ ten years ago as well as a nursery teacher for the past five years. “Kids need patience and nurturing. I have always reflected on what I felt I required as a child and try to apply that to what I do today.”
Following his passion ignited strong feelings in Joss to share and create a space for men to explore their natural parenting instincts. “I run father and baby groups where dads can come together and be open and express themselves. The response from the men has been overwhelming. I have been in raves, where fathers I don’t know but have heard about what I do have come up to me and shown nothing but love to me.”
“Our environment plays a significant role in how we develop, especially when you come from the ends as a black man.”
Let’s be honest, growing up in inner city areas which are predominantly black has its pros and cons. The negatives such as gang violence, hyper masculinity, poverty, racism, police profiling are just a few of the factors that black men have to navigate.
“We learn from each other; our environment breeds a certain mentality which manifests as soon as you leave the comfort of your home. I understand the thinking; I have lived in it. My message now is that I know that you feel you have to do your thing, but there comes a time where you have to grow and learn to position yourself better so that you don’t live your life in a way that is detrimental to your well-being.”
Joss firmly believes that if the men who grow up in these environments were more in touch with themselves, they would be able to achieve so much more and perhaps unearth talents and passions that they never knew existed. “I have friends who have turned over a new leaf from the roads. From personal trainers, theatre actors, professional boxers, chefs and motivational speakers, the list is endless. No dream is too big, and no dream is too small. Just go for it and be true to yourself.
“I am also a house DJ. I enjoy a lot of the stuff I do because it helps me to better myself.”
A substantial part of Joss realising the greatness within him was changing his mindset and attitude towards his environment. He had to look within and recognise his true self and ensure he could express it, especially with the people who surrounded him. “Be amongst people you can be free around. If you are in a relationship, be in one that allows you to be yourself.” Being in an environment that put limits on your personality is challenging and stressful. “Not every situation is for you, if you feel you have to hide constantly, then you know that’s not a place you should be in.”
Through his battles with depression, Joss has developed a mantra that helps him reconnect himself to here and now; being fully present and embracing each moment. “I am going back to being the Joss who Is over prepared for everything.” It is in Joss’s character to put his best in everything he does. Sometimes it might not be the result he wants; nevertheless, he feels accomplished. “I feel fulfilled because I know that I have done everything I could to complete the task.”
Joss understands that it is an ongoing process finding yourself and he feels it is something we all need to do.
“You can’t fake it to make it forever; it will get to a point you won’t be able to carry yourself.”
You can find out about Jossy Care – www.instagram.com/jossycare by following his Instagram page, and you can also follow his DJ journey via his Instagram page – www.instagram.com/djjosssimmons
Subject – Joss Simmons, DJ, Nanny and Nursery TEacher
Writer & Photographer – Kofi Dwaah