Stedroy is a professor of design at the Fashion Institute of Design in New York City, but his journey began far from the Big Apple. He was born in Saint Kitts, a small island in the Caribbean. His mother brought him to America when he was 5 years old. “I didn’t have a choice where I was going to go, but my mother, she was determined to bring her children to America because… she really fell in love with America and she saw that it would be a great life for a family...”
Sted, his older brother and mother first moved to Harlem and then later to Brooklyn, settling in East Flatbush in 1968.
Early on, Sted remembers trying to hide his accent so kids at school wouldn’t make fun of him, he even tried to correct his grandmother’s way of speaking.
“She would say listen boy…I’m older than you, I’ve been saying these [things] for so many years you know, blah, blah, blah. But looking back in retrospect that’s fine, I’m really glad she hang on to it.”
From a young age, he was observant and interested in the world around him. Those observations made their way into his art, drawing, illustrating, and eventually, creating graphic novels. Sted created stories and characters that highlighted the complex nature of social issues and the struggles of young Black men in East Flatbush. “You could have a guy who was flawed but he has a social conscious… as opposed to having black and white, you know, cut and dry.”
When Sted was preparing his college application to the School of Visual Art (SCVA), he learned he was undocumented.
“I have my diploma and that’s when everything hit the fan because I realized now this immigration stuff is going to stay with you. You have to get this done one way or the other. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy at all but if it wasn’t for the amnesty I wouldn’t know how it would happen, I really don’t know.”
Sted is one of the 2.7 million immigrants who received permanent residency through the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, also called amnesty, signed by President Reagan. The bill offered a path to citizenship for those who had entered the country before 1982 and had documentation to prove it.
Since getting his citizenship, Sted has felt a weight lifted off his shoulders. “…as an undocumented person you would feel you have this weight you have to carry and there’s also this secret that you really can’t tell anyone so you really can’t enjoy life to the fullest and being documented you feel like okay I’m free…”