Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Kaiso Feminisms

August 23, 2010

“If yuh waist could talk, gyul—it woulda cry—” David Rudder

Last year, I had a paper accepted for reading at the University Carlos III of Madrid’s first International Conference on the Caribbean: “The Myth of the Caribbean woman.” While I couldn’t make it to Spain, my paper, a labor of love topic from my undergrad days—became reworked and will be included in the upcoming conference publication later this year. In the paper, I focused on a selection of women in soca and the ways in which these women articulate, celebrate and claim ownership of their bodies in song and wining (which Ayanna on facebook the other day, in quoting the smart & eloquent Atillah Springer, rightly declares “wining is a revolutionary act.”) Yuh damn well right it is, Ms. Springer. So, because my paper was centred on the women–I didn’t (for that paper) take the time to seek out men who sang (if any) feminist or women-centered calypso.

Not those songs that simply feature women through the gaze of the male calypsonian or male soca star mesmerized by her bumper and wining skills (of which there are plenty songs), but songs that articulate (like some of the women): a woman’s autonomy that is critical of social and gender norms and serious about interrogating them; songs that locate the woman as agent of this and her own sexuality, and complicates the woman’s positionality in Trinidadian society. David Rudder’s “Carnival Ooman” (1992) from the album Frenzy does this very well. I happened to listen to it recently on disc two of my Gilded Collection (of which, disc one is on heavy steady rotation inside my car).


Truth is stranger than everything else

May 18, 2010

The Bluest Eye by Dan Ramey

Yesterday on facebook, a girl I know posted a status update about watching the first part of the premier of Anderson Cooper’s pilot study revisiting the “doll test,” showing how young children (black and white) start to internalize racialized identities and negative ideas about others of different races (or their very own). A mini convo follows on girl’s facebook page with a few other folks chiming in about also watching said special.  

Then this black guy who I do not know comments, pondering on whether the black and white children’s negative assumptions about people of color–especially the linkages of black people–to crime and fear were in fact justified. He then proceeds to link this outta timing* theory to slavery because since we as black people HAD to be rebellious to become free, maybe it is kind of socially and genetically encoded in us and that’s why black people tend to be criminals, therefore people will assume as much.

Buh wha’ de jail is dis I hearin’? 


Is that Who I think it is?: Passing Porn & Notes on Life in a Small Place

March 12, 2010

“I say the whole worl’ is only a dam’ little morsel of a place. Besides Trinidad is a smaller place even. It all close up on itself, an’ you have to look out fo’ that with the bigges’ eyes you have.”– Old Boss, The Humming Bird Tree (1969)

One of the things I aimed to do in the new year was to write more about things I had wanted to  talk about before—but hadn’t had the time or gumption to do before. A prime example of that would be the Anya Ayoung-Chee episode and so, here I go, talking about it now. Now, when Anya’s porn tape/s got “leaked”–one of the most fascinating aspects of the whole debacle to me, were the ways in which certain people immediately closed ranks around the issue (and her) and grew a moral spinal cord, refusing to pass on the footage.

Sometimes, the same people who were passing Sampson Nanton footage left, right and center (for anyone who remembers that episode, for anyone who hasn’t the foggiest idea—ask a Trinbagonian) not to mention, other sundry videos/stills. So I couldn’t figure out if some of the Trinbagonians I knew, on a whole, had just evolved to the point where the moral high ground on which they stood just got loftier and markedly higher, or what the heck was going on. Or whether Nanton, being a man, made it easier for folks to engage in the passage of pornographic footage of him. Either way, both are/were relatively public Trinbagonian figures whose sexual interludes ended up, being unfortunately broadcast for the public through the medium of the internet.


d.i.y. recession proof magic

November 12, 2009

what you need: any hoop earrings that you want to breathe new life into, fabric that you like, glue.

what to do: cut a piece into a wide enough strip to cover the circumference of the earring, wrap the fabric all the way around earring tightly any way that you want, glue ends. wait to dry and there you have new reconstructed earrings! if you’re an earring-aholic like me, then you’ll probably have oodles of fun using all the earring frames that you have lying around. 

forgot to add: for an easy way to tuck in the ends, use the stem of the hoop that goes into your ear to punch through close to the end of the fabric strip—when you wrap, tuck that loose end under. on the other end—tuck and glue on the side that is not facing out when you wear the earring so it stays hidden.

these are the ones i made from old hoops that once were worn by my mummy [these days she says that she is not able with wearing anything so big. ] and some faux-african print fabric from one of the cloth stores at home. wadada!

do-it-yourself earrings


Chomping at the Bit Wondering: Where have All the Black Vampires Gone?

August 23, 2009

I have been watching True Blood since it premiered, unlike some of the legions of never-see-come-sees out there and while I have never read a single Charlaine Harris book yet—surprisingly. I have skimmed them in a book store and I do think that I would enjoy them very much. About as much or even more than I enjoy the shows which are very entertaining. I also watched and enjoyed all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so go figure that I would jump at the creation of a new vampire show.

I may not be at all Gothic and stuff but I do love imaginative story-lines and great characters. Ok, and I might be slightly, admittedly emo too. I’ve come to that realization. In a way that a quirky black West Indian feminist with a bit too much internal angst can be—without the requisite Hot Topic staples, dark clothes and strangulated countenance. Alas, but I do love me some black eyeliner. I know I have too much boobies and ass to be emo, swivel too much when I walk apparently and have an affinity for most variations of hot pink. But the whole emotionality thing? So got that. (more…) blah blah blah…

July 29, 2009

This is an addendum to Hot Wuk in the Dancehall: What’s Sex Got to do with it? that’s been lurking around the place for me to finish and post. So a certain male, um, friend of mine, who likes to complain that I unfairly bash men all the time (so not true!), responded to my blog in person a while ago, by telling me that his beef with what I had to say was that “the women singing the same thing too!” I don’t know if I agree with that entirely or that it makes much of a difference to my stance in the original piece. Mainly because female performers like Tanya Stephens and Lady Saw still complicate their sexual experience(s) in ways that male djs hardly (n)ever do today.  (more…)

of nostalgia and whatnot. and random places you meet island folk.

July 16, 2009

so i’m currently in new england, in a state that has a “1.0 % black” population [according to the U.S. census bureau] as well as according to my eyes, or as far as my eyes can see. and surprise, surprise — i run into a west-indian. from st. kitts! a real one! with an accent and everything! i was like, so floored. a caribbean person? here? who would have guessed. people who measure levels of authenticity [no one does that, right…] will be pleased to know that i pointed her in the right direction of where to find up to date soca online to download [legally and otherwise] to tune in live, as well as where to randomly listen to soca playlists. the poor girl was out of the proverbial soca/all and anything west-indian loop for quite a while.

i felt so bad for her that i wanted to hug her because i couldn’t imagine settling in a place where i was so far removed culturally from my culture or access to it. sure, you can go online but you still need to know where to go and you still have to possess a connected-to-culture impetus with which to do so. but then again, that is just me, projecting my rendering on what i interpret — that is not necessarily hers  nor what she must be feeling. i cannot claim to speak for everyone’s experience but i do know that that is how i would feel. anyway she ended up here, by way of boston [which makes slightly more sense] and she goes to school here. it was all so refreshing though. and slightly mind-boggling too. i really never expected that. she spoke about a proposed sean-paul concert up here, which didn’t exactly quite materialize in the way that patrons expected it to, for some reason [which was also mind-boggling, speaking of where people end up] but other than that, no one west-indian comes to perform here. or anything. yikes.

on a further positive and equally random note, today i bought cookies and lemonade from two lovely, brown-haired little white girls with a lemonade stand, in a nice middle-class neighborhood filled with well kept flowers, oak, pine, fir and acorn trees; painted fake-shutters on the side of the windows  [or probably real] which i have only seen on the fisher-price toy-houses of my childhood and it struck me as a very American scene within which i had stepped into. and there i was — this trini, this black west-indian — having the best home-made chocolate chip cookies i’ve had in eons [and really, oatmeal and raisin is usually my thing] and drinking lemonade after a game of softball at a neighborhood field , no less [i spectated. did not play]. now i wish i had bought a stack of them. they were only a quarter. finally i can mark that off on my checklist of things to do in life: i’ve officially purchased from a lemonade stand! with a sign and everything!

afterwards, a friend that i’ve made in the program, asked me if there were lemonade stands in trinidad? and i was like um, no. then i described the neighborhood scene there to her: the wrought-iron gates, bad dogs and long driveways of the neighborhood that i live in, in east trinidad. the ridiculously loud green amazon parrots squawking at dusk and the early morning, the various fruit trees, the bats swooping in when the sun sets to attack the ripe sapodillas — and that we don’t make lemonade, lime juice, yes, sometimes. despite some of my issues with the states sometimes — i was thinking of the juxtaposition: of this sweet slice of Americana that i am experiencing, that you sometimes have to see, in order to know that it’s really there. this, layered with the scenes of my own homeland and the exquisite beauty existing within both. 

sometimes, certain people get so hyped when they hear that you are from an island up here. it must be soooo beautiful, they often proclaim. and it is. but so too is this country and i sometimes forget that. alot. but never while i am here in this state, as i am taking in the endless stretch of pine trees, wild flowers of every shade, lavender flowers blooming in an open field. it’s like everything i’ve read about in an enid blyton book or looked at in any compilation of what’s quintessentially American. not to mention, the fresh butter and bread, all local. lush organic gardens and their produce. maple syrup from trees grown here. sheep and lambs on a farm — some of the cutest creatures ever, by the way. a deer at the edge of the forest. a sad but gorgeous grey-brown horse. a wild turkey strutting across the winding, country road, like a trini with an attitude saying, “bounce meh nah!”  all this i’ve seen and more. sure, it’s no maracas look-out — but then again, no where else on earth is. so i’m taking it all in and reluctantly admitting that it’s places like these, that make me feel like i could fall in love with America, if i wasn’t already married to somewhere else.

yea i know this is not a hair blog, but…

May 31, 2009

“small ting” as we say in trini.

i’m soooo excited about how moisturized and black and scrumptious my hair looks in this random pic that i espied in a friend’s photo album. [post-slight-fiasco-on-virgin-hair and several packs of braids later. so yes, all things considered, i’m frickin’ excited about it].

black girl hair :-)

also, when i go to work,  i love how some of the little black girls in our program, who are still sporting their natural afro-coils and plenty baubles and barrettes, play in my hair. their little hands idly grasping some sections, fake-stylin’ telling me what i should do with it—put a pink band with a bow on it here or there. hmmm….you know what?  i’m so thinking about that too.

in trinidad, when i was in primary school, we were fascinated with hair, among other things. older girls played with younger girls’ hair whom they knew and friends played in [or tried to play in] other friends’ hair. i remember little girls would tell other little girls that “letting somebody play in yuh hair” would “make yuh hair fall out,” kind of like what jet beads are supposed to ward off. it was the nascent covetousness and all that supposedly came along with it that was supposedly dangerous to a young girl’s flowing mane. so this was highly discouraged. wisdom passing down from the mouths of mummies, mum-figures and other appointed gate keepers of little girls.

still, some of this inevitably fell on a few harden ears, as we un-braided and re-braided somebody’s plait at one time or the other, re-fashioned a woolie or a selection of hair-clips. somebody’s mummy was bound to be displeased when they got home. fun hair to style, was never hair like mine. it was something silky. something long.  something closer to what we styled on our barbies’ heads at home. even, ahem—all my black barbies. nary a kinky coil in sight on any of them.

and so i never swat a kid’s hand away from my hair—i smile at their excitement and i  try to hang around at least a little bit, to endure some random texture feels and impromptu hair fixing. like i am some giant dolly gone askew [without the requisite dimensions, painted on face and the like]. i know i’m no where as cool as these kids sometimes seem to think i am. my hair isn’t even that cool–or that special. but it’s extremely nice to see young black girls interested and excited in the potential of their own kind of natural hair.

trust me, you don’t see that happening a whole lot these days so when it does—it’s significant to me and quite refreshing to see. plus the little girls with relaxed tresses, while interested in me, in the capacity that i function in, they are decidedly less impressed with my hair, one even voicing loud disapproval after my last braids-with-extensions removal. interesting stuff. working with kids and the way in which they reflect society in their own kiddie ways. 

yes, i am not my hair and blah, blah, blah and all that stuff but in many ways—i am and that’s a-ok with me. for more adventures in black girl hair, google “natural hair blogs,” “black girl with long hair,” or peep the link below:

granted there are many excellent hair blogs out there; all good in a variety of ways. and i am by no stretch of imagination, a connoisseur of the entire range of them. this is just one that of late, i visit frequently and enjoy. this link really serves as a kind of validation and is really either for a) anyone who doubts the issues of black girl hair or questions the relevance of this post in relation to that or b) my own issues with staking a claim that there are black girl hair issues and putting it out there. again.

cause i kind of have before —– here,

gotta love the complexities of life y’all. and some days, i truly do.

wide open spaces—

May 22, 2009

are these big patches of _________.  [literal or not]. they are those open spaces waiting to be filled while you develop a consciousness about some thing.

so these past few days, i have been re-reading their eyes were watching god and wide sargasso sea concurrently [which have nothing to do with school but anyhoo…] both bring me to a kind of consciouness, where there was a void, in different ways and for seemingly different things but i am starting to see threads, barely connecting the two in some places. there’s janie: self identifying black no-longer-tragic-mulatto-my-ass protagonist and there’s antoinette, a white creole west indian. 

i am often struck at the ways in which the voice of the “white creole” in “wide sargasso sea” brings me to a kind of  “seeing” each time that i read it.  i cannot escape that voice, that distinctly white west-indian voice even as i submerge myself in the text as a black west-indian. it’s personal too. in a weird way. perhaps this is all a result of what kamau brathwaite, [in relation to a reading of this very text] describes as a realization that in engaging the text, “one’s sympathies became engaged, one’s cultural orientations were involved.”  which ultimately affects one’s reading of it.

this post is a kind of rambling, i know. it’s what i do. [some days in a more structurally fashioned way than others.]

so basically, if there has been a reckoning between me and the notion of white creole identity, in any way—it happens inside this text each time that i delve into it. significant because there are so few times for me that i locate white trinis/other west indians inside our cultural landscape in a tangible way. sure, they are there. i know that. i can look at some of my friends and see that but inside this book—-i feel and see their cultural narrative in a way that i don’t see it [or hear it] often anywhere else. 

in my first caribbean literature class in my undergrad, i remember my professor having us read kamau brathwaite’s often quoted passage, “white creoles in the english and french west indies have separated themselves by too wide a gulf and have contributed too little culturally, as a group, to give credence to the notion that they can, given the present structure, meaningfully identify, or be identified, with the spiritual world on this side of the sargasso sea.” [from contradictory omens]. so then, in regards to this whole notion of identity, nationhood, race and class and culture; to quote an equally apt michele cliff, “it is a complicated business.” [my emphasis not hers.]


still i feel a reckoning in me. anyhoo,

so, the other day, i was on a friend’s fb page and there was a link to alicia milne’s page and i peeped it randomly and immediately thought it wasn’t a coincidence that i did so and this happened this way. while i’m reading sargasso sea and coming to these open places where i am left considering, why is there nothing there?  why now to ponder these things? recently, i have come across several blogs/online postings about black feminist thought, activism, community and inclusivity. i’ve been pondering what inclusivity means for the way in which i [a black west indian female] imagines a community of west indian writers and by extension: west indian culture and west indian-ness through literature, poetry and other kinds of art. who is included? who do i usually, tend to omit? and why?

alicia’s art and musings, located within a white trini identity, while trying to define and decipher what that means, claim it, engage in it, make art about it—really made an impression on me. her narrative “de whitie talks” asks and notes, “The story of my nation does not include me. Where do I fit in, I often wonder? Are my narratives unpopular or inconvenient? I think so. How then do I make my narrative part of the national narrative?” and i wondered about it myself.  how do we make spaces—the rest of us, for her and others like her, to become engaged. in a post-colonial black majority place, the dynamics of that are fascinating to contemplate.  might mean some serious permutations for some of us. even me. 

furthermore, her realization that “I feel that many, myself included, have a deep sense of non-belonging, an unwelcome-ness emanating from this space”–there a literal trinidad, reminded me of my own spaces that i actively wanted to engage and fill. not to mention, my own discomfort elsewhere. HERspace was MYspace—but in different trajectories. why white west indian creole indentity? because of the ways in which it is interwined with black west indian identity, historically and otherwise. and it makes me uncomfortable in a lot of ways. i have this article from a class, that i cannot find to cite. it’s about feminist standpoint, community and discomfort and how sometimes discomfort is sometimes a necessary point for self-transformation and/or actualization.

so what does that mean for my concept of west indian community? and what the heck does that even mean? at first, when i think about it, community—i know, that they are not there.  but they are. i cannot be concerned with inclusivity and claim to be a product and beneficiary of  feminist thought and not at least think about this.


i think i will.

quietly and with words.

i think i will continue to try and build connections and fill empty spaces with new considerations, new imaginations and expand the limitation of how i choose to define my people, my identity, our art and our culture. inclusively. with or without anyone’s permission. go into those places that make me uncomfortable: like when i want to steups to myself and think, why i fighting to include anybody? but there was once a time—somewhere else perhaps [and even there], when people looking like me, were not included. collective memories about exclusion should remind people that to be inclusive with true understanding, compassion and love is never really a bad thing to aim for. 

plus i think i might have found a potential thesis project! or at least the beginnings of an option. since it has to do with the genre of poetry, maybe something converging the white creole west indian voice in poetry, my self, my reading of that voice, as well as my culture—or something along those lines. we’ll see.

related references: kamau brathwaite, contradictory omens: cultural diversity and integration in the caribbean.

michelle cliff, essay, “a journey into speech” from the land of look behind.

alicia milne, “de whitie talks.”

alicia milne, her art and blog,

learn more about alicia’s art, vision and more, in this interview on sexypink here

[on a clarifying side-note: not implying that brathwaite is advocating anti-inclusivity (which is not his agenda, nor his concern i think, in the least) but rather i am saying that people can and do read their own prejudices into anything. i know because i have and do.]