Everyday Acts of Solidarity and Mutual Support

What stands out for me are the everyday acts of solidarity and mutual support.  Support networks are crucial as in Haiti there is always a crisis but just the energy needed to live and work through the week is tremendous and sometimes overwhelming. The violence of poverty is overwhelming – we of the privileged speak about it, write about it, and stare at it through tinted or even open windows but really we don’t know.

Check out this interview with Nigerian writer Sokari Ekine who is currently living in Haiti.  We’re happy to have this interview as part of our #dearCaribbean blog carnival.

Read all the blog carnival entries here!

It’s not too late to participate!  Blogs, vlogs or phlogs welcome.

#ICYMI This week’s RED Reads

Five things you MUST read this week:

We heed the lesson of Esu and forgive what we thought we saw the first time round.  All around me are black men so full of love and tenderness for their children that I’m often on the edge of weeping for joy when I see us on the street, give dap to us when we get together.  We can let statistics that want to tell one story ‘prove’ one thing to us, but we must watch what is actually happening and seek out stories on the ground; walk to the other side of the mountain to find out the real truth.

1. Trinidadian writer and father, Roger Bonair-Agard, pens the must-read piece on black fatherhood.

There is a difference though, between mere survival and a good life. It’s the difference between having bread in your belly but fear in your head. There are a lot of frightened people in Guyana. They can seem to be in the majority, drowning out all signs of hope. But as long as there are people standing on the street corner, in the rain, holding soggy placards, I know we have still some humanity left. And as long as we have that, we have a chance. Join us. Be the change you want to see.

2. Feminist organisation, Red Thread, along with other progressive movements and people in Guyana, took to the streets in the pouring rain to seek justice for 23-year-old Colwyn Harding. Colwyn alleges that he was raped by police officers and treatment of his extensive injuries was delayed. In this letter, Red Thread outlines what keeps them going amidst the apathy and fear.

I remember the gentle sing-song sound of her Hausa float off the tip of her tongue (a tongue I knew too well and for more than just its words).

3. The passage of Nigeria’s anti-gay marriage bill signals deepening homophobia across the continent as well as criminalisation, not just of same-sex relationships, but of LGBT organisations and persons working with and for these organisations.  This tenderly written, playfully erotic story of love and friendship between two Nigerian girls is a timely reminder that queer relationships are part of human desires for connection and community. Enjoy 😉

4. Reports out of St. Lucia are that cases of sexual violence made up more than 30 of the 80 cases on the docket on January 16.  These cases included a man charged with the rape of three nine-year-old boys, multiple cases of rape and sex with a minor committed against girls and a man charged with two counts of incest against his daughter. 

Activists from St. Lucia are part of CatchAFyah’s Eye2Eye project which seeks to raise awareness about violence against women and girls.  Please stay with us for updates about this project and information on how you can get involved.

5. A diverse group of Jouvayists from Haiti, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and the diaspora have responded to the #dearCaribbean Blog Carnival call with words, images and lots of love.  Check out their stories and don’t forget that you too can share your own with us!

6.  A Belizean 19-year-old trans girl was murdered this month.  While her family reports that she was killed because of her gender identity expression other reports suggest that the killer’s intentions were to rape her and they murdered her after discovering that she was a trans woman.  This most recent murder recalls the murders of trans women in Guyana and Jamaica last year.

I remember Aisha

Guest post by African Wanderlust

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

The intense blackness from the Kohl that lit up the lids of her big brown eyes, her lashes long and curled that pulled me in deeper every time she blinked.

Her soft brown henna’d hands that innocently touched mine as we walked together along dusty Kaduna roads.

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

Walking home together after school – harmattan heat, wetness, dripping… (from our foreheads of course!)

The smell of our sweat permeating the air.

We’d stop and she’d buy chewing gum. Robot bubble gum – one for me and one for her. I remember I would smile as I’d quickly pop the sickly sweet pink sugar stick in my mouth – soft for a minute then the next hard as rock.

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

How she would greet the megadi (gate man) as we walked into her house.

I remember the gentle sing-song sound of her Hausa float off the tip of her tongue (a tongue I knew too well and for more than just its words).

 

I remember the ease at which we laughed at nothing in particular as we sat together eating indomie from a cooler slurping one noodle at a time.

I remember the big performance as she’d announce to the housegirl and anyone that was listening that she was very tired and needed to lie down.

I remember the glint in her eye that meant I should follow…

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

The way she’d cover her hair and pin it tightly on the side…

I remember how I would smile because unlike the rest of the world I knew the tightness of each afro curl hidden beneath…

I knew because I had fingered each plait, I had run my own chubby fingers down each part rubbing her scalp with coconut oil sniffing at every chance and holding her scent in my nostrils for as long as I could.

 

And I remember the way my own hairs would raise on the back of my neck.

I remember laying on her bed flipping through books and magazines

I remember I’d close my eyes and imagine what it would feel like…if she just…

 

I remember I’d look around nervously unable to keep her gaze and how she would giggle innocently and say: “Don’t worry Bints the door is locked.” I liked when she called me that ‘Bints’ – short for Bintu. I would relax.

“Walai” she’d say, “you worry too much bints. You need to RELAX.”

I remember I’d close my eyes and imagine what it would feel like…if she would just…

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

How she’d lie down next to me.

As she would just….

Begin to cup each of my breasts – delicately though as if they were her own.

soft, gentle strokes. How she would finger each of my nipples…

How she would laugh softly and run her fingers through my hair.

“you need to RELAX bints I will do it for you. Don’t worry” she would say.

It would occur to me then she meant my hair – I needed to ‘relax my hair’ – yes. I needed to relax.

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

How my eyes would close again and how I’d feel her stroking my thighs and I’d feel her begin to descend…

“you need to relax bints. Please allow me remove your underwear.”

This post was originally published by Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.  Please go over there and show them some love. It is re-published here with permission. You can read the original entry here.

 

Best of the 2013 Caribbean Feminist Blogosphere

Travel across the islands and territories of the Caribbean and its diaspora and sample some of the best feminist blogging out there. 

What have Caribbean feminist women and men written about in 2013? Love, fashion, motherhood, being mixed-race, surviving child sexual abuse, healing from sexual assault, racist anti-Haitian citizenship policies in the Dominican Republic and so much more… Have a look!

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Elmer, 22 year old Belizean youth that comes from a humble yet hard working family. Today it is important for me to share my story with you.

Young Caribbean man breaks the silence on sexual abuse of boys in the region. (Belize)

So, when a man sets his girlfriend on fire, rapes his niece, or gouges out his ex-wife genitals, it is not simply because he cannot control his emotions or resolve conflict well. There are deeply embedded ideas about who owns and who is to be owned, who is in control and who is to be controlled, what makes a ‘real man’, and a woman’s rightful role to shape these encounters. To ignore this is to miss the mark.

Patrice Daniel is back again with more fyah! This time she writes about why the Caribbean is getting it wrong on violence against women. (Barbados)

“Can you live with knowing that you will never have answers about what happened? Is that something you can manage?”

Healing through words: Part one in a series on surviving sexual assault. (Diaspora)

So like my feminism, my politics of adornment are a critical part of how my race, class, gender and sexuality intersect. My feminism is about having the personal freedom to choose how I represent myself. My ability to express myself on my own terms is my attempt to return ‘the gaze,’ to push back, to style myself for myself. As I seek to own and affirmatively claim my identity, my body, my creativity… and ultimately my ‘self’, I feel incredibly powerful and beautiful and free.

Feminism, Fashion and the Politics of Adornment by Amina Doherty. (Nigeria/Antigua & Barbuda)

It’s possible to let your energy, love and time be wasted by those who are not clear what they want for you or those who are trapped in their own games. Such lost investment will only distract you from giving all to what you can most achieve in your path, your heart and your life’s work. Focus on those who most matter and know well why they do.

Forget new year’s resolutions.  What’s on your heart list, life list, fantasy list & balance list? (Trinidad & Tobago)

But it is also true that Caribbean women are not at equal risk of being made to strip, squat, bend over, finger-raped and humiliated at regional border points. We have seen little critical examination of the class and gender dimensions of this case. We might well ask whether there is an unspoken investment in gendered respectability in our rush to celebrate Shanique Myrie as a Caribbean Rosa Parks. As a not insignificant aside, consider the difference between the dominant idea of Rosa Parks we are familiar with, as the diminutive mother of the Civil Rights movement, and the Rosa Parks who was a highly active member of the NAACP and attended meetings of the Communist Party. And fewer of us have heard of Claudette Colvin, told to give up her seat on a bus nine months before Rosa Parks. We should pause to consider whether the fact that Colvin was an unmarried pregnant teenager has anything to do with her story not being widely told.

Alissa Trotz’s Inescapable Entanglements: Notes on Caribbean Feminist Engagement delivered at the 20th anniversary conference of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies. (Guyana)

In her pain, she was not allowed to belong anywhere. How could she belong when the halves of her were at war? When she was attacked by both sides? It is one thing to be condemned to a particular side because of your skin colour, but it is an entirely different thing to be a refugee in your own country because you do not truly belong to any side.

Sarah Bharrat of Guyana writes about what she calls “The Dougla Defect“, being mixed race in a racially polarised society. (Guyana)

“You said I remind you of the best parts of home. Like a lot of guys, you want to be nurtured but can’t nurture anyone because you barely know how.”

Writing about love from Creative Commess (Trinidad & Tobago)

“Growing up in Barbados, getting pregnant was the worst thing you could do. Not just as a teenager, but anytime before you had secured your place as a DoctorLawyerBankmanager. I’m serious. The Worst Thing.”

Mar the Mongoose blogs about the politics of motherhood. (Barbados)

Similar to the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas also deports Haitian migrants regularly and grants very few work permits and rarely (if ever) asylum status, while depending upon the everyday labour of Haitian undocumented migrants. The Bahamas — somewhat like the DR’s new ruling — also denies rights to the children of migrants, the difference being that children of migrants do have access to birth citizenship rights, which they have to apply for at 18. However, this process can take years, especially if one does not have access to legal assistance.

Angelique Nixon, writing for Groundation Grenada, looks at human rights, migration and the future of Dominican@s of Haitian descent. (The Bahamas)

Happy New Year!

Leave us a comment with your fav feminist blogs! Let’s grow this list!

See also “Top 10 Must-read Caribbean Feminist Blog posts“, “Caribbean Digital Feminist Activism in a Post-Feminist Age“, “Social Media Strategies for Caribbean Activists“,  and “We’re excited about Online Caribbean Feminist Media.”

Media Responsibility & The Sexual Exploitation of Children

WILL THE REAL JOURNALISTS PLEASE STAND UP?

Journalistic Integrity and the Protection of Children

by Rashad Brathwaite

The Nation Newspaper, on Saturday October 26, 2013 posted an article detailing in excruciating fashion, a sexual encounter between two minors or in the alternative, two individuals who fall under the category of adolescents. From a reading of the Article, it appears that the author, and the Nation Editorial Team considered it of extreme importance that every detail of the incident in a most voyeuristic fashion be described as a rolling film which is in and of itself reprehensible. Further and worse yet, the Nation felt it necessary in the public interest and in exercising its role to keep the public up to date on what it considers to this most pressing and critical matter, that a visual still-shot, albeit with blurred faces of these adolescents, be attached.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable, majority is attained earlier” (article 1). Consequently, adolescents up to eighteen years old are holders of all the rights enshrined in the Convention; they are entitled to special protection measures and, according to their evolving capacities, they can progressively exercise their rights (article 5).

Even where an individual, if one presumes these 2 adolescents have passed the age of sexual consent, being presumably under 18, there is still a heightened responsibility on the part of the Nation Newspaper to ensure stronger protections for individuals up to the age of 18 in its reporting.

The UN defines Child pornography as any representation, by whatever means, of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes. The raison d’être of the Article on the part of the journalist, need not have been primarily or for sexual purposes at all for this conduct to be viewed as worthy of the highest levels of scorn. The complicity in sharing a representation, both visual and written, of a child engaged in real explicit sexual activity which may have emanated from a primarily sexual purpose is sufficient to attract this level of opprobrium.

The merely descriptive article, in no way acts as protective of the best interests of the child. The question which must therefore be asked of the Nation is, “What journalistic purpose was achieved by this article?” Regardless of what one thinks of the conduct detailed in the video; whether immoral, unwise, and/or careless, the article serves only to further expose these children/adolescents within the public sphere. The article is not merely reaching the public which has viewed it but further propagates it. Even if the article was only reaching citizens who had viewed it, addressing what is viewed as the public’s right to hear about an issue about and involving children has to be balanced with the need to respect children’s dignity, right to privacy which is an ethical issue. Journalists should never be complicit in this type of exploitative harmful behavior. The question to be asked and answered is ‘Does my conduct[article] have the potential to negatively affect this vulnerable group? If yes, do not pass go, do not write your article.

The Nation’s ability to reach extremely wide concentrations of Barbadians and other audiences in the digital and print form, ostensibly creates a duty to be both circumspect and vigilant in its reporting of matters which affect children and adolescents as a vulnerable Group. The best interest of each child must be the dominant consideration, including over advocacy for children’s issues and the promotion of child rights more broadly. That is to say, even if this was intended, which it was not, to be some introductory foray into a larger, meaningful conversation, this particular type of narrative is never appropriate. This article is itself a form of violence. The Article without descending into the depths of voyeurism, which it did, could have been something more. A two-line factoid without visualization, and without the rolling narrative of the incident could have set the context for a necessary conversation.

But it did not.

It was not a springboard for a serious and engaged conversation about ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services and information to this group, because clearly sexual encounters are occurring; neither was it about making schools safe environments; nor questioning when the Mandatory Reporting Protocol would be passed into Legislation?; nor when the age of sexual consent and the age of medical consent will be equalized? ; nor why it has taken so long given that this a policy which could be changed without extreme legal gymnastics being required by the State?

The article reaches the very lowest, the nadir of journalistic expression and purpose. It is disgustingly unabashed in engaging in voyeuristic tendencies and the further exploitation of young people in order to maintain/attract higher levels of readership and or viewership. In this era, we simply must demand and expect more of our Journalists. Will the real journalists please stand up? Will they please stand up at least to protect children? Nation Newspaper, Do Better.

A link to the Nation News article has been removed. Neither Rashad nor CODE RED wishes to be associated with the exploitative journalism of the article. 

Rashad Brathwaite is a 22-year-old youth activist from Barbados and a graduate of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.  He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in International Development Law and Human Rights.