This island has been cracked open and will never be the same again.
Women broke every silence.
We spoke of street harassment: girl, yuh pussy fat!
Principals who made no room for comprehensive sexuality education but slut-shamed girls who were themselves sexually abused.
Rape by current and former partners.
Years of sexual abuse by fathers, step-fathers, uncles, cousins.
Stories of men who told us that they’re waiting for our four-year-old daughters to grow up.
Men who offered jobs or rides or food or protection only to demand sex. Only to split our bodies open when we refused.
Men who raped us because we are lesbian, because we are women, because we are girls, because they could.
We exploded every myth about how good girls and good women are protected from this violence. That good men will protect us. That all we have to do is call in our squad of brothers and and uncles and fathers. We asked, and who will women and girls call when our fathers and brothers and uncles assault them? We affirmed that asking men to protect us from male violence is not freedom. All men benefit from male privilege and unequal relations of gender which disadvantage and devalue women and girls. We demand autonomy not protection!
We split this island open for every woman and girl who has had her body split open.
We split this island open and let all the secrets fall out.
We put flesh and blood and tears to the bones of statistics like:
Every force-ripe gal, every slut, every walking cemetery, every girl sent to Summervale because she was difficult, delinquent, let wunna know wha wunna prefer to pretend not to know. Now you know. Girls that survive sexual abuse are more likely to get punishment than justice.
That hashtag #lifeinleggings has cost us family, friends, homes. Bajan women are not afraid to name names and nicknames and addresses. Families can’t deal. Won’t heal. Abusers can’t deal. Rapists are having a hard time. Men who would never yell, girl yuh pussy fat!, still feel that someone is looking to take a way a right from them that they would prefer to keep, thank you very much.
Who say Bajans passive never met a Bajan woman posting through tears on the #lifeinleggings hashtag? Deliberate and afraid of nothing.
Deliberate and afraid of nothing.
Deliberate and afraid of nothing.
The backlash has been swift and misogynist. Here’s how you can help. Read the #lifeinleggings hashtag on facebook and twitter. Feel free to share your stories if you can. Not everyone is in a place where they can and that’s OK. Encourage women and girls in your community to participate. Help us drown out the misogynist noise and raise women and girls’ voices higher and higher.
We will not be silenced.
Press for #lifeinleggings:
Further reading from CODE RED for gender justice!
Disaster time again, for our sisters and brothers in Haiti. Already the vultures circle, using this tragedy as another opportunity to take advantage or worse, to engage in the pornography of suffering black bodies.
Now is not the time for tears, hand-wringing, there are lots of organisations that are quietly doing good work in Haiti that does not line the pockets of multinational aid corporations, or continue to fatten the Port au Prince elite.
The following is a list I’ve compiled thanks to friends in Haiti and its diaspora. Please do your own research on the organisations listed below. I’ll keep updating it as more info emerges.
Donations in Trinidad
ITNAC Trinidad based organisation sending volunteers soon to Haiti asking for donations…
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Polish 800m runner, Joanna Jozwik is reported as saying she felt like a silver medalist even though she placed fifth:
The top three places in the 800m went to African women: South Africa’s Caster Semenya, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui.
By Jozwik’s logic these three African women are not women. The only women are white women which is why she states that she is proud to be the second white to cross the finish line.
The category “woman” is saturated with whiteness, with white femininity. Black women’s exclusion from this category also marks our exclusion from the human.
Radical black Caribbean intellectual, Sylvia Wynter argues that the project of Black Studies that emerged in the 1960s was NOT one of an ethnic studies a la multiculturalism but the undoing of the entire system of Western thought itself and the racist, ecological and anti-human violence which it supports.
That must be the goal of any feminism worth having. Not leaning in to an unsustainable lifestyle based on consumption on white, Western bourgeois terms.
Garinagu involvement in revolutionary movements in Honduras similarly identifies the confluence of white supremacy and global capitalist interests in ecological destruction, repressive violence against activists and threats to the livity of Indigenous and African peoples. As Miriam Miranda states:
We have to challenge this model of living, because it is a predatory one, a murderous one which dehumanises us.
Black feminisms ask:
How do we create a world where we value each other, all human and non-human animals and the environment of which we are a part?
How do we create a world where the most marginalized among us can learn to trust our own consciousness?
A world which recognises multiple ways of being and being human.
A world that makes rural living sustainable.
A world that recognises Black and Indigenous Peoples’ right to be.
A world without prisons, warfare, violence.
A world where gender is not a source of violence.
A world that is not disabling.
Black feminisms is not an ethnicized, separatist, compartmentalised standpoint. It is not a sedimented, essentialist, atavistic identity politics. (Don’t let the white supremacists nor the black nationalists fool you.)
Black feminisms and the solidarity communities we make with the sources of our strength, these are the feminisms and movements that we need now.
View the #blackfeminisms blog carnival entries here and submit your own stories.
Learn more about AWID’s Black Feminisms Forum here. CODE RED for gender justice is proud to be a Black Feminisms Forum content partner.
Radical Self-Care as Resistance by Fatimah Jackson-Best
In the last several months I’ve seen a number of articles and think-pieces about self-care from mainstream websites aimed at women, and sites that focus on Black women specifically. Many highlight self-care engaged in by the individual, which is sometimes made up of doing things for oneself like having a spa day, taking time off work, or buying something as a reward. While combing through those resources I found a beautiful quote from former Black Panther and Prison Abolitionist, Angela Davis on the topic of self-care. She said, “Self-care and healing and attention to the body and the spiritual dimension—all of this is now a part of radical social justice struggles.” (Angela Davis, 2016). I appreciated that she uses the word ‘now’. Maybe she is reflecting on how self-care was or wasn’t prioritized when she was a younger activist. In this quote Professor Davis is speaking about changes she’s seen to what is considered radical, the spiritual work that she’s engaged in now, and how this is reflected in her social justice work around prison abolition. She speaks of bridging our personal and social worlds so that we can become better activists, and I’ll add- better people. To her this kind of work is radical, and worthy of our personal and collective investment. And when someone like Angela Davis is impressing upon us the importance of integrating this into our lives and work then I know we have to listen.
Lately I have been speaking and thinking a lot about self-care beyond practices of buying or purchasing things (which I am not vilifying at all- I have and do engage in these kinds of practices myself). I started thinking about self-care and more recently radical methods of self-care at the end of my PhD when I was working hard to finish my dissertation, and having constant fears that I would be a failure. I had an idea that self-care was important, but I didn’t know of a clear way to pursue it or even the concrete reasons for why it was so critical. With some time and distance between that experience and now, and inspired by Audre Lorde and Angela Davis, I want to share methods of radical self-care that I hope each of can pursue where ever we are and with what ever means we have.
Grounding One’s Self is the act of acknowledging where you are right now, honouring what you are engaged in doing, and being present in your life as it is happening. Grounding one’s self is based on the belief that our actions should be framed by an awareness of where we are in this moment and what has led us to the space we are inhabiting, and the work we are doing.
We all know that person who is doing a lot and from the outside we don’t know how they are accomplishing it all. They are able to write amazing think pieces, have successful relationships, and fight the power all at the same time. And now think about if that this description, more or less, is of you? And it’s possible that even you don’t know how you are managing to do everything. Yet on most days you wake up to do a little more and push a little further.
If this kind of behaviour sounds familiar, that’s because it’s part of the ways that many of us seek legitimacy and acceptance by being exceptional. But we forget that exceptionalism has a process and a price. Sometimes that process and price looks like having to choose between being with your loved ones to attend a conference, or staying up all night to make sure your writing is done only to head to work to make sure your bills can be paid.
Grounding yourself requires you to be still and acknowledge where you are right now, in this current moment, and realize that your progress was not by accident or luck: it is the outcome of tremendous work and effort. Grounding yourself is the acknowledgement of where you are and giving it respect. In doing this work we become mindful and present so that we can truly experience everything that is going on around us and for us. Without doing this work we risk becoming numb and walking through life and our biggest accomplishments not knowing how they really felt.
Grounding one’s self will look different for each of us. But for me it looks like finding stillness and sitting with it. It looks like deep breathing to release my fears of failure and appreciate that every single one of my falls has allowed me to rise and try again. It is being mindful and intentional about everything I do. The everydayness of grounding oneself allows us to constantly work towards self-care, and by doing that work we endlessly invest and reinvest in ourselves.
The Work of Undoing was inspired by a friend who left the Caribbean at 18 years old to attend University in North America. In conversation we shared our experiences being Black women in Universities that had small populations of Black people, and how this forced us to learn to cope and manage with that reality which becomes work in itself. My friend called it the Work of Undoing and she said, “I wish someone had told me that my simple presence would be a contested space and helped me to understand what that meant”. For my friend, being a Black, non-American, queer woman made her the target of daily assaults and micro-aggressions that she wasn’t prepared for. She was constantly feeling like she didn’t belong in the places she had earned the right to be in, and every time she turned a corner or faced a difficult task another would crop up and this kept her feeling like everything in the world was conspiring against her to push her out.
Most of these the issues are systemic and deeply engrained in our Universities, institutions, and communities which is precisely why they are so successful in keeping us from feeling like we can really belong. But the Work of Undoing is about doing exactly what my friend and I did while talking about our similar experiences in academia: it’s about finding people who can identify with your experiences and frustrations, getting together because of this commonality, and unpacking and challenging it together. The Work of Undoing requires that when you get together you name and confront these things using whatever means available to you. This may look like talking to each other in open and honest ways about what is going on, journaling, or organizing formal or informal spaces for women of colour, people of colour, and LGBTQ people. It may be sharing stories and strategies for survival. It may look like developing a listserve, whatsapp, or Facebook groups to share resources and check in with one another. And it may look like finding that one person where ever you are and supporting each other throughout. The Work of Undoing is collective work, but the collective does not necessarily mean a mass of people- it can be just 2 of you, but it should not and cannot just be you.
The Actual Work of Care is totally dependent on what you envision it to be. But I want to be careful about falling into those narrow consumerist-driven techniques for caring for one’s self. I am cognizant and critical of the fact that telling women who may have constricted financial circumstances that the Work of Caring for themselves only looks like a spa-day, or buying something nice, or taking the day off work. We know that these kinds self-care techniques do not pay attention to class, access, and the privilege of being able to seek out care in these ways and that excludes many women.
That’s not say that The Actual Work of Care cannot involve those kinds of things, but I want to expand our understandings of what is underlying the Actual Work of Care, and that is the fundamental practice of putting yourself first and being unapologetic about it. To me that is what Audre Lorde meant when she said “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” (Lorde, 1988). She is speaking of investing passionately and radically into ourselves and our holistic wellness as much as we invest in our degrees, social justice causes, and advocacy. Doing this kind of radical self-care work is sometimes perceived as being selfish only because we have constructed our personal wellness as being somehow outside of the pursuit for justice. That false distinction is probably the biggest lie we can tell ourselves. We have to know that being well is a right, and not a privilege. And each of us has the right to what we need in order to feel our best and perform our best. This means that simple things like eating well, sleeping well, loving well, speaking well, thinking well, and living as well are all techniques for engaging in the Work of self-care, and it’s our right and responsibility to pursue them radically and unapologetically.
The column below from a couple of weeks ago about the need for a #poorlivesmatter campaign in Jamaica has been getting some attention. #Blacklivesmatter as a rallying call has little traction in Jamaica where if you’re black but middle class or upper class you’re–for all intents and purposes–an honorary white. Social blackness is reserved for those who are black and poor, not just those who may be dark-skinned, regardless of class.
I thought as much when I saw Fabian Thomas’s ‘Black Bodies’ almost a year ago–a play that aimed to “tell the stories and honour the memories of four Jamaicans (Vanessa Kirkland, Jhaneel Goulbourne, Michael Gayle, and Mario Deane) killed by the police or while in police custody” while attempting to draw a somewhat facile connection with the US’s #blacklivesmatter campaign which was then just beginning to gain momentum.
And in a move to rival the truth in strangeness, a…
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