Christopher Lewis holding the Jamacian flag

Major: Economics and psychology
Before Amherst, lived in: Boston and Jamaica
Music playing at photo shoot: Unsure

On the idea of belonging:

I think the first thing that I think of when I think of the word belong (and I’m not sure if this is a biased perception, but not being a citizen of this country) is: I want to feel like I belong somewhere. I think this project, this initiative, is one that hits home for me because I know that me leaving my family and trying to find a family in this country was difficult. And I think I’ve accomplished it through friends, and teachers, and peers who I can honestly call my family now.

But I think belonging, from an outsider perspective, is about going into a new world and just trying to identify with things that you would back home and make a home for yourself. When you come to a place like Amherst, such a diverse place, I think we tend to be much more wary of our identities and our race, sexuality and gender. With this community being so diverse, it’s kind of hard to find a belonging balance. Although we are very diverse, and although you will meet many different people within your time here, we all share some sort of similarity.

I work in the Multicultural Resource Center, so I have a lot of conversations about social justice and identity. I work closely with the WGC and the QRC as well. And one common thing that we all get back to is that we all bleed red. Like, we are all human beings, and no matter what God you believe in or what God you don’t believe in, we came on this earth for a purpose and it’s all connected in some way. If you sit down and talk to someone you thought you have nothing in common with, in two minutes you’ll find a similarity. 

What does belonging mean to me in terms of being an athlete? Oh, my goodness. I live and breathe athletics. I just love competition, but my father instilled that in me for sure, because he played field hockey for Jamaica. And I have done every sport under the sun except for field hockey, which is a little joke we have. But I identify strongly with sports. I just love it. If I don’t know about a sport or I don’t know the rules of a sport, give me, like, a week, and I’ll be able to tell you everything about it.

So what kind of a soccer player am I? Probably a utility soccer player. I think that I can adapt to many different systems. I can be a brute enforcer when I need to, but I can also read the game really well and I use my soccer IQ to not have to exert much force.

Am I adaptive in life too? Yes, but the hard part is to stay true to yourself when you’re being so adaptive. I remember there was a time in my life where I felt I had too many masks that I had to put on in order to fit in. It can be difficult to key in to who you are, and stay very straightforward with that.    

I think The Belong Project is important. I think that this country, the world, is in a state. I think it’s very divided, and I think it’s much easier to associate with negatives than positive nowadays. This campaign is just one step forward in letting people know it’s a fight that we’re in together whether we want to be in it or not. But, as opposed to keying into negatives and keying into differences, why don’t we just pay attention to what makes us the same? 

On the experience of being photographed:

I’ve never been to a photo shoot. But I think it’s a dream of everyone to be in one. To be the main person. I expected it to be a bit awkward. I really didn’t know how I was going to pose, or what the premise of the pictures was going to be. It just was a pretty open-ended book, so to speak.

So when Maria asked me what I’d be interested in portraying in the picture, the first thing I said was “I’m Jamaican, and I play soccer.” And she was like, “Do you have a flag and/or ball?” I said, “I have both.” And she said “absolutely perfect,” and asked me to bring both. So now we know what we’re going to do.

So the plan became for me to do some soccer tricks while they photographed me. But when I got there, the soccer plans kind of went out the window. And it just turned out I was posing with the flag and dancing because Maria was playing music in the background. 

Funny enough, I would never consider myself a dancer, although I have danced in the past. It just became fun. And I didn’t really remember that I was being photographed. It’s impressive because I didn’t think it was going to happen that quickly, but I took about five minutes. And then I was just being really silly, and posing and waving, and so it was surprisingly much more relaxed than I thought it was going to be.

It’s funny: when I speak about who I am or what I enjoy doing, I usually talk about my Jamaican identity and the fact that I love sports. So, born in Jamaica, of two Jamaican loving parents. I have two sisters, older and younger, so I’m the middle child. I do get a lot more love than middle children should. ’Cause I’m the only boy, so I’m “the ham in the sandwich”— that’s what my mom says.

I came to the States when I was 16 to go to high school in Boston. Leaving was a big thing for me, but I just strongly identify with my Jamaican culture. I came to the states to play soccer and hopefully play in college one day.

What does the flag mean to me? From a historical perspective, I could go into the context of the colors and what they represent. But for me, the flag means family. I think you hear this from a lot of Jamaicans: we’re a very familial country. We prioritize family over just about anything else. And every time I see the flag, I just think about flashback memories of me with my parents and my sisters just doing really silly, funny things. So I think the first thing that jumps out to me is my family, which is not what a lot of people would say about a flag.

So we’re a very proud country. There’s a saying I used to hear when I was younger: “What’s the similarity between the U.S. and Jamaica?” Because we are so different—but the similarity is that you will always find someone with a flag on them. A Jamaican will always have a flag somewhere, and, I mean, you see the U.S. flags hung up outside houses and buildings. But probably we’re the two proudest countries in the world, according to Jamaicans.

If you look at a Jamaican, I’m confident they’d have some sort of Jamaican handkerchief in their back pocket. You see Jamaican towels and Jamaican beads. You see flags on car windshields. So we’re a very, very, very proud country. And, fun fact: there are only three countries in the world that don’t have any American colors on the flag—no red, white or blue. So we’re very proud of that as well. We love our black, gold and green.