Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Queer Dancing at CWSDC (Revelations of a Sort)

October 14, 2017

West Indian Day Parade x Labor Day 2014

This year’s 2017 Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference (CWSDC) found me in Saint Lucia aboard the Black Pearl boat lulled by rum, dancing and working up a sweat despite the cool ocean breeze, and I have thinking a lot about it and in particular, about queering spaces and what that means and feels like. Before I launch into these observations, a few things: these are just a few thoughts I have mulling around; nothing claims to be empirical. Different people will have varying thoughts about these experiences from that night and that’s okay. And lastly, not all of these thoughts have been well wrung out. Some are still soaking and marinating.

This experience was really important for me because even though I reside in the states, the opportunity for experiencing queer Caribbean spaces in my city is non-existent. Collectives throwing queer dance parties specifically for people of colour like New York’s Papi Juice and Fake Accent or Toronto’s Yes Yes Y’all don’t occur in here. There are gay clubs, then there are Caribbean spots, and there isn’t overlap between the two. While I have enjoyed gay clubs, I really can’t take house music in my head all night long (not even trap all night, sorry), but I deal with it when I have to, whereas the West Indian parties, I can hear all my soca, old kaiso, Afrobeats, dancehall etc. but the space is not queer.

Most of my Caribbean local partying in Florida (and I have done a lot) has been inside heteronormative places (shout-out to Élysse for unpacking the term “heteronormative” at the conference). Like compulsory heterosexuality, social spaces can and are heteronormative because that’s the presumption and expectation: that men will only dance with women, that everyone who looks like a man is and everyone who looks like a woman is. Plus, people can be homophobic assholes and get angry when they feel “visibly” gay people are “pushing their lifestyle” in their faces when they are simply doing the exact same thing as straight people: going out, getting turnt and having a good time with each other.

Queerness as verb: people can and do identify as queer as in the noun and queer can also refer to a verb, the action of queering a space. Is that possible? Yes, I would say so. What does it take to actively queer a space?

Safety is a must. The Black Pearl was a safe space because it felt like a space where you could be safely queer in. I have no idea what the boat is like for other events, but for this party on this night, that’s what it felt like. This is supported by the interaction of other gay, trans* and queer individuals. Secondly, queer people of colour simply being in a space doesn’t make it queered though. The space is queered when the queer people inside are actively engaged with each other and using and interacting with the physical space: so yuh wining, can approach someone to dance, can navigate the space and not shirk who you are; you claim and take up space and and are unapologetic for it. If you are in a party and queer and you cannot freely take up space or wine on your preferred dance partner, and you have to stand up whole night for example, the space is not queered. You are just there existing. However, that’s understandable and happens. Sometimes we attend events because we really want to go, but the space is not safe to be queer in.

Ideally, a queered experience is interactive. So there was a Florida soca party I used to attend all the time and there was this one lesbian couple who would show up: a girl with a ras and her girlfriend.  I did not know either of them personally, but I knew through mutual connections that one of them was a Trini; the other girl may have been too. Anyway, so when they showed (which they did often), wining up on each other, being affectionate, very unambiguous about what was taking place and freely moving inside and participating in the party space, even dancing with other people: the space is queered a bit.

Having company in numbers helps with queering any space, and you really can’t do it alone. The other example that comes to mind is during last year’s CWSDC conference in St. Croix in the karaoke bar. That space was likely not normally a queer space by any stretch of the imagination but once we saturated the area with our presence, dancing and interactions — even shout-outs from the resident local lesbian DJ, we were actively queering the space; we also rolled deep. Of course, it is not always safe to do so, and it’s possible also that some people there did not like it either.

Likewise, at the street party in Gros Islet, wherever we were and engaging with the energy of the event and each other, that space was queered. At one point during the night as we walked by, a St. Lucian man addressed me and said, “You’re pretty.” He was polite enough and made no attempt to touch me or move closer, and I graciously told him thank-you. He then said to me, “If yuh was a flower, I woulda pick yuh” or something to that effect, and it is at the point that another woman at the conference who was walking in front of me, interjects, takes my hand and leads me away. With no semblance of possession, she strategically shuts the conversation down.

There were other similar occurrences; effectively, times when we queered a space for ourselves within the open street and the loud music, then men attempted to insert themselves to disrupt what we had created. Some men felt because they wanted to engage us, they were entitled to and they did. When our queerness bucks up against the presumed heteronormativity of a particular space, tension can be created. When men’s access is flagrantly denied by other femme and femme-presenting people, assumptions are challenged. This can also be dangerous in certain instances.

Navigating wines was interesting. As someone who has primarily feted in majority heteronormative party spaces, this was actually my first time like, deeply submerged in a whole queer dancing soca session (among other musical genres) with people I did not know well. Not counting a queer dance party in New York a couple years ago where level vintage reggae and some soca was played or being home earlier this year, and my friends taking me to a club around the corner from where my parents live in St. Augustine, but in both instances I only danced with really good friends of mine. On the Black Pearl, I really break away.

I also learnt that it’s different bracing to receive wines and I definitely have to work on that (ha!). I recognize that my understanding of wining dynamics is couched in the heteronormative, and in that context I am usually always “giving” the wine and throwing it back on someone. In a heteronormative dance space, cishet men pretty much receive the wines all the time which is to say, put ah woman in front and ah man behind is the general guideline. The differences are really subtle inside a queer dance space and I know this sounds like some quasi-essentialist ting: men wine this way vs. women — but at least I’m aware that it’s all constructed.

Really, it’s not so much the wining but the mechanisms of it, surrounding it and some of the assumptions that I am making depending on the “role” I am in, which I am not going to go into much detail at this time. Nevertheless, West Indian women (speaking from a lived Trini experience here) have an existing history of women wining up on each other (see blog pic and maybe your own personal experiences too), that is dancing that may have had nothing to do with anyone’s attractions and orientation/s and was sometimes used as a convenient tool to block nearby annoying dance partners and also, I think, simply as an expression of a kind of camaraderie and vibes among you and your crew.  All of this has given me a lot to think about while making me feel all the feels. There aren’t many things more beautiful than the resilience of queer Caribbean women dancing, thriving and living out loud. My life’s goals include experiencing so much more of that.


*I do not personally know the women in the blog pic or how they identify (but it’s a great pic). Photo credit: Demar Watson via Tumblr. Used under a creative commons license.

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Surrender, sometimes

May 15, 2017

Yesterday evening was the first time I ever did a cycle of very gentle yoga with the express intention of being just that: gentle with myself. It was the sweetest, tenderest unexpected gift. I moved where I felt called to, refrained from judging myself, doing only what felt good to myself; I thanked my body for her existence, for its healing one day at a time, my stomach lining for dutifully absorbing antibiotics. Of course it’s being sick that takes me here: restful and watchful with myself, listening to every bone whirr and creak and settle. After being fever-racked and falling into the body ache and sweat of it — it’s good to be climbing out on the other side. Existence is the frailest of things. I thought about some of my ancestors who didn’t have the luxury of taking time off from work to recover, of resting through their healing and being able to be gentle with themselves in all the ways they would have liked to.

I also found myself momentarily captivated by a photo of me I picked up sometime when I was home. It fell out of a book that slid off a stack. It’s me in Kiddies Carnival on one of the parade routes: St. James or maybe downtown. Not a little kid but not full-fledged young adult, that in-between stage. I look strangely self-possessed, one arm akimbo, a standard clenched strongly, shimmering. I confront the camera, my plaited bang, a long arc of glitter curved up the side of my cheek like warpaint: Who is this girl?

Evenings of cradling yourself are necessary, of listening to new Ishawna: a small wine to open hips (more on that in an upcoming post), of medicine and melancholy and knowing you are trying. That you are a thriving, slowly crumbling being.

Gathering Healing

November 23, 2016

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Several days before embarking for the 4th Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference in St. Croix, I was perched on my haunches around parts of my apartment sweet-talking to my pum pum; over bedroom carpet and bathroom floor, trying to coax a medium-sized yoni egg down. What would TSA think if their scanners picked up something dark and ominously egg-shaped tucked beyond my vaginal canal? This was more than a small worry. In perfect timing though, my yoni answers my breath and directives. Working with a yoni egg is (among other things) an exercise in patience, in tuning in, surrender and understanding your own fears.

Next thing is I leave and I reach. Two days into arrival, my waist beads break after the return from dipping them by hand into the ocean’s morning warmth. I take this as a sign they have probably completed the work they were meant to do, or I have worn them the hell out. Attempting to pick up small beads of mauve, rose and gunmental gray feel like a kind of penance. Conference agenda beckons, so with no time fuh dat, I abandon the goal. When I return to my hotel room, seeing the floor clear, the Ziploc bag on the bathroom counter top crowded with what I didn’t do — by the women who clean rooms, undoubtedly black or brown and Caribbean; I am grateful for their hands, their deft sweeping, their attentive eyes missing nothing. I miss my beads’ snug embrace above my hips though, the way the stones press into my skin beyond my belly’s jiggle.

Earlier this year, a wise Jamaican woman informed me that healing also happens on an energetic level and because energy flows, you can start small in one area of your life and this will invariably flow into other areas of your life. A crucial aspect of that is being mindful and intentional about what your energetic flow is like. What thoughts am I feeding myself with? Where are those instances where I can pivot from that energetic shift to another one that nourishes me better? Can I treat myself with compassion in these instances?

Meeting new people can test my projections: the things I ricochet internally and outward and back; the endlessly seeping wound. The conference gave me many opportunities to reflect on these. It goes without saying that though wonderful, this was hardly strictly utopia either; we were not all people who think the same way about everything. There were moments of dark antagonism, both real and perceived. But in there too, flashes of necessary illumination. I am still mastering how to take ownership of my projections and handle myself with the same care I allow for others.

What does healing look like to you? To me, it might look like three Caribbean women frankly talking desire and sex and consent, buffeted by sea breeze. It might look like another conversation, ripe with honesty about vulvas and revelation, the mush and the wet want of sex. Sexual conversation is a really good place to lay yourself bare with folks (pun intended). What better place to throw off the shackles of societal conventions around respectability and nuzzle down inside declarations of our own desires, and what better place than a pussy or an anus? Though Caribbean sex talk is plentiful in our societies: kaiso and picong and comedy sketch and dancehall and rum shop and street corner and “gyal, sit down like a lady,” whose sex is acceptable and whose isn’t?

How often do I get to freely indulge in  ribald expression with other women whom I have newly met? Not nearly often enough for me, apparently. I told a friend afterwards, “I have never had a discussion like that with women who aren’t all straight (or mostly straight).” I have never held community with diverse West Indian sexualities before to know how much I needed it. In resisting, or attempting to resist, the cultural narratives so many societies have thrust onto us as black and brown women, transmen, gender non-conforming folx and queer women, you make breathing room possible for someone else who is not there yet.

Of course, people’s lives are also much more than just the “issues” they represent and/or embody. It’s messy and beautiful and resilience and plenty more. Being a West Indian activist of the diaspora and living outside the home region means confronting issues of accessibility and privilege and above all, it means listening to those who live and fight and do the hard work on the ground in the region day in and out as the authority on their own lives. I am reminded that moving forward, I need to remember to ask how and in what ways I can be of service to the friends I’ve built connections with.

What do you need that I can assist with, either through mobilizing or emotional support? What are you crowdfunding, who needs clapback back-up, signal boosting or someone to bounce around some ideas with? I am reminded that the culture that grew me and I lovingly theorise on from afar is consistently growing and thriving (or regressing) in ways and I am not there to intimately know, but I need to make more time to engage with that through the regional people that I know and not just the articles that I read.

Twice at different airports, I became leaky, a certifiable basket case of tearful emotions with all of my raging, sensitive Cancer moon. How am I so moved by this gathering of activists, the photographic art and the poetry, space-making, knowledge sharing, the weirdness of being and feeling? In Puerto-Rico, I spill most of what I am carrying and another conference attendee helps me gather, hold space and honour what I am bumbling through with care and without judgement.

Knowing yuhself only gets messier the further you dig, but that isn’t always such a bad thing after all. Thank-you CWSDC 2016 for being a space to help me unearth more of who I am and who I am working towards being.

For other perspectives on the conference, please check out Freedom House and Arc International.

Big shout-outs to Earth & Alkemy for the body beads and for offering to fix them for me; I’ll be taking you up on that offer soon. Gave her a link if you want any; trust meh, they will change yuh life.

My conference Prezi probably makes way less sense without the talking points but feel free to get into it if anyone’s interested.

Dancehall Daggerings’ Patriarchy

May 16, 2016

dancehall

Several years ago for Trinidad Junction, I blogged a kind of weaving introspection about daggering, dancehall and sexuality, where among other things, I attempted then to lay bare the ways I saw how:

So many young men see their dancing skills as representative of their virility. This being representative of their skill, an extension of their sexual self even. Thus they think it’s really cute to pick up a girl and ram her like a human jackhammer in a circle of people.

If you’re a female in or near that kind of dance circle, prepare to have your body swamped and owned. And you’d better be malleable like the dough of a pretzel. The sexual aggro of dancehall dejays’ lyrics today and their accompanying dances are at an all time high. I’ve heard many people I know say with regard to this issue, that dancing cannot possibly get any dirtier. . . . What connections if any, can be drawn from young men who choose to wipe the floor with a female back for their dancing/pseudo sexual pleasure or those who think it’s cool to do so? What messages does this send to young women?

The blog quoted is dated and some of my frames for certain aspects of dancehall dancing and sexuality have widened, some have shrunk imperceptibly, some have morphed into other things. There was some exaggeration too, because evidently, dancehall DJs sexual aggro then couldn’t possibly be worse than it is now. And in hindsight, it didn’t really peak back then at all with “Ramping Shop”, now did it? But what does that mean for where we are now?

For discussion purposes, daggering is a singular dance move that also contains multitudes; and here I’ll use that term to involve a range of transition movements not limited to rhythmic pelvic thrusting on a batty, but inclusive of all of the other imposing moves used by male dancers leading up to, around and alongside the actual daggering: so picking up a woman and throwing her in the air before swinging her around, for example, counts, even though technically, this may be considered a precursor to a dagger and not actual daggering itself. Forcibly bending her over to receive daggering also counts.

Even if a woman is at a dance and dancing, the assumption cannot be made by all dancing men that her body is open to all manner of wrangling; her body can still resist if she chooses to, and she should be allowed to extricate herself  from any dancing scenario she does not enjoy. Mobay Marvin and crew’s viral video of them groping on and assaulting a party goer to force her to receive daggering and be on display for their benefit really reminded me of how it seems we have come full circle with some of my earlier questions. The sexual and physical violence of this clip and the near feeding-frenzy vibe of the male dancers’ insistence that she participates in their sport is very disturbing.

The extent of the violence enacted upon this fat, dark-skinned black woman’s body can be connected to representations of fat black women’s bodies in West Indian music culture. She is almost always used as a trope to test a man’s mettle in both soca and dancehall. There are countless examples of this taking place on stages even when women explicitly volunteer to participate in the dancing. This is somewhat different from Saucy Wow choosing and deciding after trying, that no, a man cannot handle her bumcee. Still, the idea persists culturally, that “a rolly polly” or a big fat bottom must be conquered and handled. When the large bottom vanquishes the man, the joke is on the fact that he couldn’t manage what he should be able to.

I am not saying that daggering is uniquely, inherently misogynistic or problematic, to be quite clear, but it’s absolutely functioning as an arm of patriarchal expression and has been for quite some time now. I think we can say that male dancehall dancers’ societal, personal and cultural constructs of masculinity, sex, gender, strength and ownership are imbued within and communicated through their dance moves: the ways they grab, violate, take claim of and presume access to female bodies. Every time we see the ante getting upped in some new clip, it’s just more of the same old, perhaps only in slightly different ways.

I regularly watch and subscribe to several Jamaican video entertainment brands on YouTube. There are young women in dance crews whose acrobatic feats of winery, head top balances, splits and reception of daggering are worthy of slow-claps and all the awards. There are women giving the men permission to frenetically pummel their pum pum to the beat. There are women who want to bruk off some cock and can puppy tail at a serious pace, and they do so quite well. Nothing is wrong with any of that. It’s a skill set like any other and West Indian party culture, again, by itself, divorced from context, is not some entirely awful expressive space as far as I am concerned.

The issue with daggering on display, specifically, and not just people wining or women choosing to get dagger, is the way it hinges upon decimation of female bodies through movement, or at least, it has come to a point where that is a large component of the male dancer’s exhibition of competence for the cameras. The male dancer’s perceived prowess, in fact, is directly proportional to the subjugation of dancing women’s bodies; and there is an undercurrent of female debasement in some daggering that is very troubling and at the same time, nothing new. The spectacle of dancehall daggering involves the actual or pantomime of climb or some other physical feat (and this might be across a woman’s back or speaker box for launching onto a woman); speed of thrusts; bravado of movement; surrender of the woman on her back or some other position (but most often on her back); if the woman attempts to leave, she is prevented from doing so; humiliation: extensions and wigs removed, or by physicality through bullying strength and not giving a woman the space to brace or situate herself the best way she can to participate fully in the dancing; and in the above mentioned video, covering her head with a bucket.

She is a prop against which the male dancers’ bodies are thrown and her concerns, needs and safety become irrelevant. Which isn’t too surprising a leap if you consider the culture of gender in the West Indies. Oftentimes, I know Jamaicans stereotypically get a bad rap for regional macho identity, but really, we all have to deal with it and we are all touched by the reach of its violence.

 

Photo credit: Acrobatic dance in Negril, Jamaica, by Pietro Carlino via Tumblr. Used under a creative commons license.

The Wine That Almost Broke the Internet

December 7, 2014

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I wouldn’t claim to be the biggest Bobby Shmurda fan out to be quite honest, but what I am a fan of is wining on a whole, and men wining. Always, always a fan of that for a range of reasons. Bobby Shmurda’s West Indian background has already been acknowledged, so I’m not surprised to see he can pelt some waist. Gwan Bobby. It’s always fascinating too how the masculinity enacted and projected in “Hot Nigga” (and even the dancing in there) seems interpreted as mutually exclusive with the dancing seen above. A lot of online commentary showed just how uncomfortable and displaced some folks are with reconciling the rapper of “Hot Nigga” with hip rolling. There was plenty of flabbergastation, shock, disgust, and head shaking to go around.

Meh. His wining is the least of my concerns.

Words of Divine: Sizzla, Identity and Black Supremacy

August 24, 2014

Kalonji

“Tell you about Black Man supremacy!”– Sizzla

Almost every Trini of my generation went through a serious Sizzla phase it feels like. Mine, never quite left. For some people, that meant locking up. Reggae sessions. Rasta dances up in St. James and elsewhere. An ites, gold and green phase. All Rasta sandals and Rasta belt and other trinkets, if not real Rastafari trodding. Sounds of Sizzla have stayed with me. Ises and powerful word vibrations. Before #black supremacy was a trending thing, before #black girl supremacy, before Tumblr and Twitter — there was Kalonji, hailing blackness and black womaness as supremely black, powerful and worthy of love, acknowledgement, and protection.

Actually, before Miguel Collins, there was Marcus Mosiah Garvey mobilising black folks for repatriation and heralding their collective power. Garvey, who is one of the spiritual forefathers of Bobo Shantis‘ call for self-reliance and self-actualization for black people. Bobos, whether touting nuts, ital elixirs or handmade brooms across the region, are not about your white supremacist capitalist bullshit. Of Bobo artistes, John Masouri wisely noted that “not since the days of James Brown’s Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud has black consciousness combined with popular music to such rallying effect.”

Eventually, as I became a teenager, the music of Sizzla was such a force in contributing to my black self awareness. Even for myself, and I was already growing up in a house where all my siblings and most of my cousins had African names, I read books with black characters like “Jambo Means Hello!”, and mainly played with black Barbies and other dolls. I know now, how important listening to Sizzla has been for my consciousness and it always will be for me. Heralding the supremacy of the black (man), however admittedly patriarchal and gendered that imagining was, was still very powerful. And no one else was doing so, quite in the same way. Bob Marley shared a Pan-African ethos that easily became multiversed for all kinds of people, the more widely the message spread. Rastafari is love, one love, and slightly decentered from blackness in some ways, but Bobos, via early Sizzla especially, were on a whole other tip.  Like Alice Walker said, I am “not a separatist, except periodically, for health” but damn if I don’t enjoy hanging out in musical spaces where blackness is treasured and exalted supreme.

And yes, it’s amazing how we never die.

Sizzla was talking about what black people are made off: truths and rights and African traditions among other things. Refuting evolution because black people couldn’t possibly be descended from lowly monkeys.* (What he’s also doing importantly is debunking scientific racism in one fell swoop). Sharing love for the ghetto youths dem. He’s also really good when he is reinscribing biblical stories and making quasi historical and political allegories. I enjoy slack Sizzla, pum pum singing Sizzla. The Sizzla embodying Whitman’s, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Here for it.

(more…)

Glitterlove

February 23, 2014

glitter

I kind of love glitter. Most Trinis probably have an ambivalent relationship with glitter. You love it sometimes or you hate it other times. But like plumage, feathers, sequins and all things great, sparkly and iridescent, it often evokes images of carnival. Glitter is to carnival as mud is to J’ouvert. I feel a similar way about gold or silver lamé fabric, its scratchiness and rustle taking me back to kiddies carnival and all of the attendant memories. Snow cones topped with condensed milk. Orchard juice boxes, popular soca blaring, and strapping on parts of your costume. And my mother, and all the (mainly) mothers chipping along the route, toting snacks and sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil and beverages that will not stay cold; fixing costumes, fastening safety pins and making sure hair styles stay in place.

Fantastical local lore or deep sea waves, I have been all of this and more. I have been a hooved La Diablesse, a bolt of lighting, Thumbelina, Blight, and one of the Israelites leaving Egypt, among others. There was always some glitter involved. Glitter is the ultimate tactile reminder, to me. Back in the day glitter was rough and made our tender skin itch. The pieces were bigger too, sharply squared and worn by the pound, layered on top of generous smears of petroleum jelly. Carnival meant glitter. Gold or silver, and there was always someone’s mummy or aunty or other mother figure with plenty to share liberally and sprinkle on everyone in the section.

In the 90s, glitter became in vogue again. Club kids and ravers wore glitter. It was always symbolic of revelry and good times — even outside of Trinidad, and a willingness to be celebratory. Glitter embodies a kind of spectacle of the body when worn. Glitter is otherworldy. The disco era worshiped at the high altar of glitter. They say no one would take you seriously wearing glitter but there it was, a kind of style again, outlasting many other trends: suddenly, glitter gels were everywhere, scented and non-scented alike, and rolls-ons. Perfumes and body sprays released shimmery editions. Of course, I wore and continue to wear my fair share, gravitating to the shimmer like a moth dancing towards flames. I was the girl slathering something glimmering on me, just because. I was the girl who rocked starry glitter pieces at the corners of my eyes.

Glitter is stupidly gendered. A friend once famously noted that “Badman doh wear glitter” when I offered to sprinkle some on him, but glitter doesn’t care. If you wine on me, you will get glitter on you anyway. Glitter is deliciously queer. And genderqueer. Glitter is femme. Ethereal. Our attempt at stardust on earth.  Glitter is a fabulously good time. Glitter is subversive on the bodies of men and masculine of center folks.

There was a popular meme passing around once observing how “glitter was the herpes of craft supplies” (no shade to those living with an STI) — but it’s true. Glitter doesn’t go away, not easily at any rate. It clings to your skin like a needy lover. You wore it and it wore you. You’d find remnants of glitter on you, days, maybe even weeks later, on a part of your scalp or in the soft crease of an elbow. A lone, reflective speckle could resurface when you least expected it.

The ground outside of my apartment is a testament to the glitter boots I made for Miami carnival last year. The glitter may never leave. Glitter has trouble letting go. It is the last person to leave the fete. Glitter is waiting for the next event, the next carnival and the next party. Glitter is adding vibes — to poster board or bodies. Glitter is here to stay, maybe for always. I am more than here for that.

Image by Amelia Fletcher via Glorieuse Désordre on Tumblr.

Updates: On life, living etc.

November 18, 2012

So, while I have missing from my corner of the blogosphere (if anyone noticed), I have been staying relatively busy on the Facebook page, linking and posting all manner of poetry, articles, images that inspire and incite and more, from various web sojourns. I suppose, overall, lots of stuff has been taking place — let’s see, I got a manuscript accepted. My forthcoming (and first!) poetry chapbook will come out in late 2013, published by the ethereal and immensely talented dancing girl press. It will be suffused with hibiscus, creaking spines, dark rum, blackness and blackgirl love.

Also, in the meantime, my heart has been aching for Palestine, I have kept peeping my favorite blogs (yeah, I see you all), I’ve been bonding more with Mama Oshun, snuggling regularly with a certain deliciously warm and wonderful brown body, I got involved with the Two Lips collective project where I’ll be trying to work all kinds of black-West Indian-femme-feminist-fierceness in partnership with Kayla from Sage (among others); I watched Sesame Street (random post coming on that soon); I got more in tune with my cosmic ish (take heed: Jupiter is in retrograde allyuh!); plus, I got thoroughly annoyed with the ever tiring myth of Indian exceptionalism being spewed by one of our country’s ambassadors (post might be coming on that soon) Grrrr.

All that taking place, then I saw this:

OK, to start with, I understand that “jokey soca” is supposed to be a genre onto itself (see some chunes by Crazy for example) which is separate from picong, though the traditions inform one another in some ways. This is also separate from the tradition of double entendre in soca and kaiso which, may or may not, be funny. Alright — now with that said, we can connect cultural notions of Trinbagonian picong too to similar diasporic manifestations like “playing the dozens” where insults and barbs are “New World” incarnations of African sociolinguistic expressions and the oral tradition carried within descendants of the earliest Africans.

We also cannot categorically consider this song anything close to picong because there is only one voice in the song and that is of Myron B’s. Picong involves an exchange of wits at least. The woman has no voice here. I’ve noted before how even inside supposedly “jokey” soca — there are always problematic elements of truthtelling about who we are as a people and who we decide to make fun of and in what ways.  In Anthurium, Andrea Shaw has observed how the fat black female body became this site for hypersexualisation in soca and dancehall, as well as humor.

Note the kind of big woman in this music video, note her shade, note her nod to Mammy — her simultaneous pseudo-sexualisation (from the first attraction) then the chronic, progressive desexualization throughout the song and video; this is key here: the fact that the “attraction” and whatever sexual attributes once there, (oh wait, it’s happening only because he never dated someone 300 lbs before) positively shrink throughout the song and the fat black woman is in fact, the central punchline by the end. The joke is on her actually, never him, even though they end up in a bed together and he ends up in bandages and he would like us to think the joke is on him (she dreams of ice-cream while next to him, remember?). And that’s a problem. The whole thing is a problem.

Image via: Buttah Love

The very premise of fat women and fat black women as voyeuristic challenges for a man to prove his manly mettle because of their size, is problematic all on its own and not just because real fatphobia exists and women who don’t fit in the dominant paradigm’s mandate of what an appropriate size should be end up having to deal with these same attitudes from too many people every damn day. It’s not okay because fat people are human beings and their feelings are valid just like anyone else’s. Their right to exist free from body shame, bullying and damaging parodies is valid, again, just like anyone else’s.

The Beauty Myth & An Open Letter to Some Trinbagonians

July 19, 2012

In case you missed the awfulness surrounding the 2012 Miss Trinidad and Tobago World 2012 representative: Athaliah Samuel; the awful missology thread headline proclaiming how ugly she is; the Jay Blessed weigh in; the Miss Trinidad and Tobago Fans page’s awkward, painful, cringe-inducing retraction and the numerous Trinbagonians online bemoaning her as choice — the fact that she is a “non traditional beauty”, from Laventille, dark skinned or “not your cup of tea” are all bullshit explications for the classism, colourism, elitisim, racism and just all around, meanness of spirit that has been shown to this girl in too many places.

Many of the people who would allege that their assessment of her features have absolutely nothing to do with colour are talking crap. Everyone is carrying around internalized beauty ideals and deeply entrenched racial ideals (especially simultaneously) — especially us. Contextualize your notions of symmetry or whatever stupid yard stick you are using for cover over internalized, cultural mind fucks. The diaspora has been officially and thoroughly fucked over in that regard. (I have come to that sad conclusion). Some of us resist (and are resisting), and some of us are unlearning and have done so. Some of us still don’t know that we need to. Harriet Tubman knew what the hell she was talking about. Athaliah’s beauty (the perceptions surrounding it), her colour and class status are all blessedly intertwined, make no mistake around that. People didn’t think Wendy Fitzwilliam was beautiful once upon a time, either. Remember that? Then lo, and behold…

I am a Trini, but the self absorption and levels of superficiality of some of you are disgusting, almost on the verge of nauseating. This whole fantastical narrative of ‘some of the most beautiful women in the world’ has gotten to your heads and I want you to check yourselves on that, please and thank you. If you think a globally commodified “beauty” competition is the best platform to exemplify some cultural estimation of “beauty” — and you are personally offended when said choice/s don’t meet your own personal standards, you need to open your mind some more and get over your fucking self. A beautiful people don’t move that way. And your clearly unexamined biases and perceptions of East Port of Spain communities, its people and your narrow constructs of beauty are showing. Even if you don’t agree, the audacity of being affronted by her looks — her physicality and phenotype, style choices and saying so in terrible terms is still disgusting. You and your words disgust me. All this to a daughter of the soil who is young and undoubtedly a work in progress at 24 (aren’t we all in some ways?), trying to achieve her goals.

Athaliah, sistren, my hope for you is that you know that you are beauty, whether you win or lose, that crown doesn’t define you. Pretty is conventional, often stereotypical, fleeting, falls slack off the bones and finite. Beauty is inside and out. It scares and enthralls. And is sometimes elusive to pin down in exact words. It’s still there when your back bends and skin is weighed down by the extent of life’s journeys. Third-eyes often espy it. And spirits know it is there when your spirit takes to somebody and vice versa. Beauty, like love — is deliberate. The people that see it, mean to see it and it is for them (and you) to savor in those realizations. Everyone knows a pretty girl when they see her but everyone isn’t going to see beauty in you.  Not everyone can. Fuck the naysayers. May your journey be splendid and filled with growth and new experiences.

The echoes and reverberations of some folks’ voices about all of this, will say more about how we view our collective cultural selves than any of the other people and things we rush to rally around the red, white and black for.  And right now, those colours eh looking too nice. Not at all.

For Women Who Are Difficult To Love

March 21, 2012

“You are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you . . .

you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.”

This feels like I’ve been looking for these words & knowing them almost all my life! Such beauty. Such achingly astute truth-telling.