Archive for the ‘carnival’ Category

Water, My Love

April 7, 2020

In this trying time, I’ve been missing water. According to my astrological chart, I am mostly water influenced, predominated by the subaltern intensity of Scorpio (by element and modality) and peppered with air (found in both my sun and rising), two earth and two fire elements. My moon, too, lies in Cancer with all its putative intuitive, watery resonances. For a long time pre-COVID-19, I’d foregone driving to the beach and sinking into the warm Gulf Coast waters because I couldn’t trust that the water wouldn’t infect somehow, wouldn’t meld into a small, open nick somewhere, festering and ultimately eating me alive. Too many horror stories of flesh-eating bacteria abounded in the news. Oh, to submerge myself in some saltwater now.

People’s perceptions of someone “from the islands” not knowing how to swim, are fascinating and strange. I’m countering stereotypes on two fronts: blackness and Caribbean; not that others’ assumptions should matter that much, but peeling away stereotype shows how systemic racism in the U.S. (including redlining and environmental racism) is one contributing factor, but also not every island is pocket-handkerchief-sized with the ocean mere footsteps away, as I’ve had to inform people — even another Caribbean (coughs: Bahamanian) person. The easy geographic access that so many folk presume is a given for a person from the Caribbean, isn’t always there.

In Trinidad, non-coastal living meant we drove well over 45 minutes to get to a beach which you needed a car or other vehicle for, and the mythos of being thrown into the ocean to learn the ways of water was unheard of to me. My father who grew up in landlocked Tunapuna can swim but my mother from Georgetown, Guyana, cannot swim. Mummy says we went to the beach loads and down de islands when my siblings and I were small, but I have no recollection and I grew into an adult unsure and unsavvy in the ocean. Schoolmates and I hiked from Lopinot to Blanchisseuse in primary school, and I of course, doused myself in the river which in hindsight was quite dangerous because I could hardly save myself if a strong pull came for me.

I knew, like one person with a swimming pool who was a family friend, then one other that I met at camp during July-August vacation. Her father was a doctor and being invited to her birthday pool lime as a teenager was one of the coolest events I’d experienced at that time. I couldn’t swim but still I went in, splashing about, drenching my plaits and playing Marco Polo with the others. I did attend a few swimming classes at the Y in Port of Spain when I was small, but I never continued, never acquired skills. During the hosting of an exchange student from Martinique, we frequently went with the program to a hotel pool around the Savannah and she tried to teach me to float, assuring me it was easy, but I was unable to master it, sinking anytime she removed her guiding palms.

One could also say that access to professional swimming lessons in many parts of the West Indies has an element of class privilege as well, honestly. But that doesn’t preclude West Indians from being water-people and enjoying river baths and sea excursions replete with food, music and drinks. West Indians being in and around water are never actual indicators of their swimming capabilities.

To counteract some of the aforementioned, plus realising that I need to be in water, added to the fact that I definitely miss out on stuff when I can’t get in (such as a friend’s birthday party sailing from Chaguaramas when nearly everyone jumps in the ocean, but not one to place trust in life jackets out in the deep, I remained, waving sheepishly from the bow) — consequently, I’ve been learning to swim for a few years now. Nowadays, I desperately miss the heated pool, the challenge of coordinating (sometimes with flailing) my body’s movements in weekly lessons. Life sometimes gets me anxious and harried and water helps to soothe that.

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Don’t Tell Women to Wine on Other Men to Make an Abusive Man Jealous

June 11, 2018

These were some thoughts below that I shared on Facebook about the “X” song after I first saw the video on there, and I’ve been seeing the video trending around the place again which reminded me that the song still low-key (re: high-key) bothers me despite everyone being amused by the animation. And while the animation waist throwing is mildly entertaining, the song’s directive makes me want to scream. Please, do not wine on other men to bun’ your abusive and violent man. Please don’t. The lived realities of rampant gender-based violence across the region and in the West Indian diaspora abroad means the song cannot and does not exist outside of that context. Walking Into Walls horrifically aggregates much of it (women choppings, stabbings, killed by gun, burnings, sexual violence — you name it) and these happen weekly, sometimes daily in communities all throughout the Caribbean.

Considering the levels of IPV across the region and femicide, this song had me reeling. I mean. Where to start, yes.

1. Is how a woman man cuff her in the eye in song…like?

2. I don’t know how else to explain to some people that healthy relationships and love are NOT about control, possession and ownership — even if it’s seemingly mutual. That’s not love and the many ways wining gets overlaid with ownership and possession culturally can be dangerous, actually literally dangerous in situations like this. Given how much fights, beatings and buss-head have or nearly will break out all over for reasons exactly like this.

Now, granted, two grown people can have a mutual wining contract of sorts related to boundaries, respect and other factors, but it’s really unhealthy when it’s primarily rooted in (dis)possession and notions of ownership and it only functions from that space. Culturally, that’s not the message or socialisation we often get and that kind of thinking has to be unlearnt for many people and it takes work (speaking from experience).

3. This song sets up a false dichotomy whereby the man described in this song is sufficiently “burnt” by a wine. He’s actually boxing someone in the eye (and cheating, textbook abuser stuff nah), but somehow a wine reinscribes controlling power differentials, so the woman can gi’ him as bad as he gives her by wining on other men — except that is not what’s needed at all.

4. Men like the man in this song do exist and all wining on other men does to a man like the one in this song is to piss them off MORE. It’s not cute or a path to be taken lightly despite the stick man raging amusingly. Men like the man in this song are already wont to attribute blame on the woman for all manner of perceived transgressions and “disrespect”, and many times the rationalisation is shoddy or even non-existent, ever-changing and its sole purpose is to feed the man’s bouts of rage and reframe accountability so she is incessantly at fault for his violence and rage.

5. I wish this song had a different arc altogether because even with the domestic violence message at the end, and the supposed wining as a liberatory path, it feels really painfully off too. Why is the woman “liberated” from violence by wining on other men but only for the benefit of smiting the abusive ex? Why is the abusive boyfriend crying at the end because she is blissfully wining? What does that imply? Like, whyyyyy to all of it?

Carnival of Commercialisation

February 24, 2011

This post was written in 2008 and originally appeared on the first incarnation of the “Caribbean Axis” website. As we await the reign of the Merry Monarch — I decided it would be an apt piece to revisit.

Carnival in TnT is so special to all ah we, like we need blood in we veins–that’s how we feel about Port-of-Spain–” Destra Garcia.

This piece is really borne from a place of anxiety as well as one of love. I love Carnival but I get increasingly ambivalent about what it is becoming reduced to with each passing year. I’m anxious too about what “people” will say because you know, people get real vex any time you criticize Carnival and its commercialization.  I guess it’s kind of like hearing Sat Maharaj berate chutney music for the ten millionth time, after a while, people just get exasperated and say, “well yuh doh hadda listen to it nah!”

Which is kind of along the lines of the same thing that people will tell you when you critique Carnival culture.  In true Trini fashion, you will hear, “well doh participate nah!” Or, something or the other to that effect. True, makes sense. But what happens if you really do love Carnival, you know that Lord Kitchener’s “Carnival Baby” is about you; it’s almost like that song pulses in your veins. You cannot let it go — even when it’s over. You love it for its historical context, its social implications, its freeness, its energy.  You see how Carnival is really like a kind of  “thing” too, throbbing with its own lifeline while simultaneously existing deep within all of us true Carnival babies.  You almost can see it too and you can watch something or someone and say, “yuh see dat right there.  Now THAT is Carnival.” (more…)