Our Stories

Marlyn Hoilette, immigrant from Jamaica and SEIU 1199 member

Marlyn, SEIU member

I am one of seven siblings. Three of us live in Florida and four in New York. Two of my brothers work in transportation in New York City, and two of my sisters are nurses, like me. The oldest of us is about to retire. My mom says she has no regrets; she can retire and live out a good life.

Growing up on the island of Jamaica, we didn’t have the opportunities available to folks here in America. Our parents raised us to always strive to better ourselves, and the importance of education was instilled upon us from a young age.

It was my aunt who left Jamaica first. She was the pioneer among us. She later petitioned for my mom and her siblings. I later immigrated as a teenager and have lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years.

I pursued my dreams. It makes me feel proud as a strong, Black woman. This is my 25th year as a registered nurse. As healthcare professionals, my coworkers and I were frontline heroes throughout the pandemic. I worked in the COVID unit under intense conditions. If not for us nurses, who would be there to care for sick folks? We had a job to do, and we had to do it.

I work with nurses from many ethnic backgrounds: from the islands, from the Philippines, African American, and Latinx nurses. We are united by a special bond. Most of us came to this country as teenagers, and it’s empowering to know that we’re paving the way for generations to come.

I was raised to reach for the top, and I brought up my own kids in the same fashion. My 28-year-old daughter is finishing up a second degree. My 17-year-old son just received a full scholarship to the University of Richmond, and he’ll be moving to another state soon. Because he is a 6’3”, 195-pound Black man, I have my own concerns for him, so I’m grateful that his generation speaks out against injustice. Like me and my children, I wish for the same opportunities for immigrants from different countries and islands. Kids, and really everyone, who arrives without proper immigration status should be given the chance to pursue their dreams, and laws need to change so that they, too, can become United States citizens who will fully contribute to this country.