Archive for the ‘blog carnival’ Category

How Ishawna Encourages Us to Be Sexy, Brilliant and Free

August 25, 2016

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It’s been a long time since I was last a schoolgirl, rolling up the waist of my dark blue, A-line skirt to make it shorter, scraping my hair into a ridiculously tight bun with the aid of copious amounts of hair grease and water. There were at least a couple desks bearing futile attempts at immorality and infamy through etchings noting that I was here once, and naturally, my form class was the best and baddest. Now, secondary school and its accompanying experiences almost seems like a whirl. The schoolgirl though, forever occupies a significant space within the Caribbean.

She is still ever watched over and lectured to, and her comportment and decorum in the streets — particularly in uniform — are still lamented over. We always hear more about the ills of schoolgirls than the schoolboys. Under a video shared on Facebook of a line of teens, seemingly on the balcony of a school getting wined up on, the caption considered whether this is what young girls are being sent to school for. Nothing is said though to the young men receiving those wines.

Education is one of the pillars of West Indian cultural identity; it’s a social marker in our respective islands and a vehicle for possible socioeconomic class movement and in migration, it’s wielded as a veritable cultural staple of who are as a people: people who utilize the benefits of and understand the need to “beat book.” Many West Indians abroad are beneficiaries of post independence educational offerings like government scholarships which allowed our parents to study and helped some of us to be the second ones in our families to go away for university. We project a lot onto schoolgirls through the ways we revere education and its possibilities, with the hopes and dreams of generations getting stuffed into their book bags and saddled onto their backs. And because they are little women in training, everything expected and demanded about good womanhood is also heaped upon them early as well.

The schoolgirl fighting videos, which are plentiful and nearly endless: a flurry of hair pulling and shouting and cuss-outs and blouses askew and fists and legs flying, feed into the public’s haranguing over them. The fights are problematic for true, but are the boys not fighting as much, or are the girls just showing out more? At times, it seems we’re so captivated by being voyeurs of messy schoolgirl violence that no one stops to enquire what else is behind what’s taking place. No doubt a plethora of factors contribute to the filmed altercations, but the path of decent womanhood means containing anger. Women with broughtupcy aren’t supposed to thrash about and rage.

I can only make assumptions about why it appears as though that girls fight more these days, and they fight for an audience, and they fight to assert themselves and eke out an identity that is against what society, for a long time now, expects school girls to be. Though school-aged boys do occasionally appear in parent shaming videos, school-aged girls are far more prominent. They are shamed and violently berated and hit for twerking and being sexual among other reasons.  A schoolgirl got peed on by R. Kelly once. Some schoolgirls ceremoniously pledge their virginity to their fathers assuring the sanctity of their hymens. This shows the sexual violence, dangers and sexual gate-keeping afflicting all kinds of school girls.

In dancehall and reggae, the schoolgirl intermittently appears and nine out of ten times, she is a kind of cautionary tale and invariably, in need of guidance of some sort. Sometimes, it’s already too late, and although Vybz Kartel gallantly decides to stand by her side, in nearly no way, shape or form is schoolgirl pregnancy considered acceptable by most religiously informed West Indian societies.  When not directly prefaced by “school,” she is a girl, no doubt of school age, who is referenced in song  who will “never stay at home”, and has “been with many men since she was only ten.”

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Why I Love to Love and Hate to Love West Indian Men

June 4, 2015

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Every now and then, an article or two makes the rounds touting the pros of dating “a Caribbean man”, primarily for the elucidation of women outside of the region and our cultures. Sometimes, a few women and men friends of mine post these on Facebook with either an eye-roll, a pointed ‘no comment’ or as comment bait, but more often than not, they often go ignored by most of the folks I know personally. It’s almost like once you’ve been living with it all your life, like sunshine and warm oceans, it’s not that special — The Caribbean Man — and certainly not warranting all that list attention. Plus, we like to try to not feed the machine (cough, egos). Furthermore, not all of us may agree. According to a Trini sistren I know, “Trini man is de worst!” But unfortunately, guess who holds her heart right now? Yes, a Trini man. Cue the sound of sighs. Love dem too bad and hate to love dem.

But what is it with West Indian men? Living abroad, dating West Indian men can be like comfort food. I like hearing my own accent and dialect tumbling in my ear. I like the worn familiar feeling of an old and obscure-to-nearly-everyone-but-Trinbagonians Machel song. I like how they love me — for the most part. I like how they freely wine or stoically rather not. How we fight. How I challenge their worldview as a queer black feminist. Or, watch them leave me, walking away with a headshake saying, “Nah. We are too different.”

I love West Indian men’s carriage and swagger, their walk and heteropatriarchal expressions of protection and care. I love how they hail up one another and embrace, give each other bounces and touch thumbs. I love some of the many things they share all up and down the archipelago, not just Trinidad and Tobago. There is plenty that I don’t love about West Indian masculinity too, by the way. But right now, for the time being, I just want to sit on the verandah and watch them gallery deyself.

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In the Castle of Our Skins: Who Am I?

March 2, 2012

I’m really, really thrilled to have Luis Vasquez La Roche join the conversations inside the castle of our skins. His work surrounding questions of identity, nationhood, and the self is exciting and it interrogates what it means to “be” in ways that offer no one pathway or one single reckoning but a beautiful and interesting examination of the complexities inside these various spaces that I think we can all relate to. According to his statement:

My project came through my recent body of work called the search, in which I deal with identity, cultural and some other issues pertaining to belonging within a certain space. I started using teeth because it is a way in which a person can be definitively recognized, apart from DNA, or finger prints. So when I use the word “recognize”,  I don’t only refer to your identity by name. Because names, at the end of the day, are just names. Just like everything else has a name to be recognized. What I really was trying to do was consider whether I can pin point who I really was in essence, which I found difficult because I am not one thing but many.

All this came about as I got to Trinidad and all these issues of identity came about.  My race was questioned (I was no longer considered black, which for years, I thought I was),  so I started looking for something inside of me that I can feel comfortable with using to claim and identify who I am.  In having conversations with another artist called Nikolai Noel, he explained to me that in a certain way, everyone has a way how they see themselves and is not necessarily related to race or gender; they use many other ways to describe themselves: personality, career, emotions, nationality, religion — whatever makes everyone comfortable and at ease.

The answer always comes with the context you’re in. So, what if there is no context (there will always be one), what then, will your answer will be? What is that thing that will describe you? So I drew probably 15 or more dentures (same type of denture, different surroundings) and made people take one and tell me what one thing they think they are.

In the Castle of Our Skins Blog Carnival posts

November 1, 2011

We wanted to start a conversation about Caribbean people, about West Indian people, about our contemporary experiences; about the variegation and the connections that “thread archipelagos”, ranging through race & identity to culture, mental health to constructs of beauty and more. There’s no one, easy answer to what it means to be a West Indian, a Caribbean person — or any one way in which that identity shapes the person holding it dear to them.

These posts are a sampling from across that spectrum:

Who Am I?, by Luis Vasquez La Roche

Black Power’s Inheritance, by Mariamma Kambon

Brown Gurl Envy, by Linisa aka Awkward Adult

Continental, Colonial or Creole, by David

Milk in its coffee, by derevolushunwidin

Untitled, by Kim

Being the Fat Friend, by Linisa aka Awkward Adult

Call me crazy, by pieces2peace

Darkies, Brownings and Red Woman: Female Desirability and Skin Color in the Caribbean, by soyluv

Artwork, by Tanya Marie Williams

Thanks for the interwebs link love from:

The hosts at Lati-Negros

The Bad Dominicana

This blog carnival will be continuously updated for the rest of the year so please check back to see what’s new. If you’d like to join in the conversation: email creativecommess [at] gmail [dot] com with a blog link, submission/s or questions. Otherwise, do support the participating bloggers and their links: read, comment, share!

The title of this blog carnival comes from George Lamming’s seminal novel, In the Castle of my Skin.

In the Castle of Our Skins: The Darker the Candy The Sweeter the Syrup

November 1, 2011

By: Tanya Marie Williams

In the Castle of Our Skins: Darkies, Brownings and Red Woman

November 1, 2011

By: Tanya Marie WilliamsDarkies, Brownings and Red Woman: Female Desirability and Skin Color in the Caribbean

By: soyluv (Soyini Ayanna)

The proliferation of “darkie” to describe women of a dark skin tone in Trinidad and Tobago is a fascinating and complicated space within which to explore. Though “darkie” and its popular conflation with “sweet” may exist as catcalls alongside a sout [1], frequently proclaimed by men to dark-skinned women out in the street or elsewhere, this term is not solely reserved for females. Men can and are categorically defined as “sweet darkies” too. Most importantly, darkie is understood to be reserved for those of a specific skin shade and ethnic group simultaneously.

In Trinidad, where “darkie” takes root and flourishes in the local parlance with t-shirts available by a local designer proclaiming, “I love my Trini darkie,” (as well as “my Trini reds” and “my Trini browning”), the term functions as an important reaffirmation of Afro-descendant beauty, by calling attention to a certain skin tone in all its chocolate splendor. Its contemporary usage in Trinbagonian society is also markedly different from the American term “darky” (or other cultural uses, with or without a “y”) which is an old termed racial slur, rooted in the era of blackface, epitomizing the negative stereotypes of all dark-skinned people.

This is a country where “madras” refers to a dark-skinned East Indian person and a “dougla” (any person of mixed African and East Indian descent), may fall within a range of skin tones from fair to dark. Darkie functions in a slightly different way, where it serves to singularly encompass an Afro-Trinidadian aesthetic of perceived attractiveness. It certainly can be used as purely descriptive, along the lines of a general physical trait, but darkie is usually understood to be nuanced in a way that makes it different from the terms mentioned above. Darkie is flexible, in that it may solely be attributed to implied attractiveness or one’s skin tone and usually, the context involves an understood interconnection of the two. Far from simply objectifying the individual, darkie is a celebratory, verbal sound-kiss against ebony skin and represents a reimagining of who can be declared attractive.

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In the Castle of Our Skins: Untitled

October 31, 2011

By: Tanya Marie Williams

Untitled

by Kim

Everyone called him Massa, my father says nonchalantly to me with eyes narrowing on the tight turn ahead of us,
he is talking about his father, my grandfather
the white plantation owner who raped my grandmother, a strong-jawed woman from Dominica.
This is how my history is transmitted to me, in fragments that ambush me every time I return to the land I call home,
mi abuela es de Venezuela, taken as a child by her father to become the property of his new family. My grandfather, son of indentured workers, a proud man, with a penchant for stoic silences.

I am from a stock that wields irons like hand grenades
mouths that unleash and inflict, leaving rings of fire that keep love away,
but make lovers stay. Yielding forgiveness, needing to nurture, heavy from field, house, hard, heartwork.
Scotch bonnet peppered speech, rich smells of island flowers reach and tug
and swing so gently from your heartstrings. We can see it now, you are falling in lust with us.

I am from a stock of full-bodied women, hips wise, eyes deep, young smiles
that belie the centuries that we live in each everlasting moment. Young smiles, playful and wild that belie the effortlessness with which we lie.
Lies that come far too easily, rolling off tongues, slipping into ears, coming hot
and hard, weightless, rocking like fucking on swings, like fingers intertwining.
Truth remaining only as whispers humming, as feelings lingering fading memories, like walking, waking, dreaming.

It is heartbreaking, that granny, my aunty, my mama, my women, heart first lept in, and then left him, heart withdrawn after time too long of hoping that tragedy don’t win, that penises stuffed in don’t just end up producing girl after girl destined to love unrequited.

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Body Lovin’

October 19, 2011

A couple days ago, I did this physiological word puzzle below (click to enlarge) seen floating around online. I got “beautiful, broken, fat.” Then I took a moment to scribble the words in my notebook and sit quietly the finding.


Today is Love your Body Day. It’s the only one we’ve got — might as well, right? And if it wasn’t for the blogosphere and facebook, I’d probably never  have remembered. One year the FSA (Feminist Student Alliance) had this wonderful event where we celebrated various body types and made stickers and posters to share all around the campus. I was certainly smaller in size back then and in retrospect, it was easier (slightly) to be happy with who I was then. As for how I feel about my body currently, overall? Could be better for sure. And I frequently think about Stephanie  Quilao’s examination of culture and body image where she talks about family members making impertinent observations on her body size and weight. I told a good white American girl-friend of mine, that reading Stephanie’s blog post was so much like my experiences within my own West Indian cultural background. My friend was so appalled.

“But you’re not fat,” she told me. “And people have no right trying to make you feel that way.” I don’t know that it’s a goal necessarily, but I get what she is saying — I think people just don’t always think about the impact of their words. I had a close relative say to me this year, “What happened? You used to be so nice and skinny!” One of my aunts, who I haven’t seen in a while, between her new found bible beating (and directing me towards specific soul-saving scriptures *insert eye-roll*) found time to exclaim about how big and fat I was. And I just had no words to reply. None. Because it feels like I’m in the twilight zone and I still wear a single digit size in shorts and pants. I don’t feel exceedingly large. (I also don’t think anything is inherently wrong with being fat or claiming fatness as a body-positive self identifier for yourself  and/or being okay with it used by others in a myriad of ways that are not degrading or insulting, but I do have issues with people declaring how they read and categorically define my body changes just because I haven’t seen them in a while. And I especially have problems when it’s counter to how I see myself). It makes me uncomfortable and I don’t appreciate it — being made to feel uncomfortable in my own self when it’s been such a damn hard painful journey as it is.

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In the Castle of Our Skins

September 20, 2011

“The needles of their masts /  That thread archipelagoes. . . ” –Derek Walcott

A call to submit to:

“In the Castle of Our Skins”: A blog carnival series focused on voices exploring the range of contemporary Caribbean/West Indian heritage, background, culture and where these intersect with race & identity.

Contributors and bloggers are encouraged to ponder their own range of issues and intersectionality such as: What concerns do you have if any about your race and national identity? Do these function in tandem at all for you and in what ways? Are they separate or intertwined; in what ways? Is it complicated, this business of how you see yourself and your collective cultural identity? What about where your gender intersects with any of these ideas?–Your sexuality? How you look at the world? How has this skin that you’re in impacted your worldview? Do these outlooks/concerns/ideas change when you’re outside the Caribbean versus inside? In what ways?

What about skin tone? Socio-economics? Crime, perceptions of crime or political agenda narratives? Constructs of beauty, attractiveness, virility and the like? Body image? Your sexuality? You’re a straight, black West Indian man or a gay Caribbean man, or a queer, ‘mix-up’ Caribbean femme? How do you negotiate these variant identities — and in what ways?  What’s everyday survival like and everyday living? What bothers you about these conversations? What would you like to see changed or hear more of? And anything else you want to say!

We’re a small collective of Caribbean and West Indian bloggers, feminists, writers, creative thinkers & artists who think the conversations in this blog carnival are both vital and necessary.

Talk yuh talk — join us and be part of the conversation!

We’re hoping to broaden this conversation with a specific focus on Indo-Trinbagonian identity, womanhood, personhood and what these variant identities mean for the people embodying these spaces. How do these multiple spaces function inside of contemporary West Indian/Caribbean identity? And in what ways? (This call for examination too, is a work in progress—but doh study it, it’ll come together somehow).

Pieces can be any length, any style. Be unflinching if you need to be — or not. Previously written posts and essays are welcome. Send questions, thoughts, suggestions, concerns, essays or submissions links to creativecommess [at] gmail [dot] com.