Posts Tagged ‘free yuhself!’

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 whir 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

img_20161007_080437

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.

Let’s Talk About Race, Trinidad

September 15, 2015

In the aftermath of the elections 2015 outcome, there has been plenty talk about race and racism in Trinidad and Tobago. This piece is an attempt to add to those much needed on-going conversations considering what we can do collectively to improve race relations in Trinidad and Tobago.

The difference between prejudice and racism is the latter means having the institutional power to enact the former upon others. For Trinidadian purposes of discussion, I am really not making strict distinctions between the two. Because if you freely indulge in the categorization of black people as sub human on social media, and given some of the degrees of separation on the island or the connections you might be able to influence, then the power to employ that thinking in some tangible way, is highly plausible.

The state — the island’s governance — even when filled with black and brown faces can act in collusion with global systems of  black and brown oppression and violence. Colonized people can pass on some screwed up thinking about people who look exactly like themselves or are a few shades off of their own. Internalized race and skin shade messiness doesn’t go anywhere but into wider society or another generation if it was never dealt with seriously at all. And that’s not even touching on the white and white-by-proxy (not incumbent on a particular ethnicity) social elites who exist outside of and away from machinations of the state in some ways, but are there, at the same time.

Diversity doesn’t always equal tolerance or true love and acceptance of people who look or live differently than you. While it’s common to hear some Trinis say it’s the older generation promoting racism, lots of those people posting racist opinions and epithets weren’t looking a day over 30, most of them. Children can be immersed in a racially and ethnically diverse cultural environment on paper, from small, and still grow up to be racists.

(more…)

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.

The Color of Justice

March 20, 2012

In a white supremacist society, white people are the victims EVEN WHEN they are the perpetrators. #TrayvonMartin via Son of Baldwin

So, so much fuckery happening in the state that I currently reside it, I can barely process it all. A young boy leaves to get a snack and ends up dead — probably the most tragic juxtaposition of doing anything to ‘taste the rainbow’ ever. Firstly, Florida’s awful stand your ground law is truly the stuff nightmares are made of. Please consider yourself informed if you plan on ever coming here. Everyone is in some danger, but brown and black bodies are especially unsafe here which each passing year of this madness.

Secondly, I’ve found some of best sense-making, calm-after-the-infernal-storm-inducing and people of color rage on some tumblr and facebook interwebs and wanted to share some powerful contextualizations; for their grief, their rage, their solidarity, overstanding, love and fierce truth-telling, when I couldn’t even find the words to myself. If, as Dr. West has said, “justice is what love looks like in public” — then how much do we love slain children of color? Not a whole bloody lot, it seems like.

“Whiteness is White people telling a person of color that not all White people are bad and saying so would hurt their feelings when they are expressing their pain over one of their babies being killed.” – theoceanandthesky via Son of Baldwin

Save Your Tears (For the Day when our Pain is Far Behind)

“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.” —Mahatma Gandhi

White people, this is for you. And only you.

For a long while, during discourses about racism, race relations, and human rights in general, I have watched you and your interject your opinions time and again, derail the discussion, and center it on yourself and your feelings. And I have watched—and participated in—the attempts to either shut you up or make you realize that these issues are not about you; these discourses are not a personal attack on you. You aren’t even welcomed in those discussions most of the time.

This one is. This one is yours. Feel free to interject, but don’t cry when we barbecue you. You’re the one who came with a thin coat of BBQ sauce on your ass.

Recently, if you have kept tabs on the POC on here like you are so wont to do at the wrong time, you may have caught wind of the cold-blooded murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin (TW: violence). I will condense the story for the convenience of those who haven’t heard it, and to keep you focused on this thread.

George Zimmerman, the self-appointed Neighborhood Watch President for a gated, mostly-white community in Florida, stalked Trayvon Martin in the middle of the night, and shot him; not once, but twice. The police tell Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon and to let them handle it. Zimmerman claims that Trayvon looked suspicious. It was raining, Trayvon was on his way home from from the store with candy for himself and his brother, and he had on a hood.

Before you ghost your fingers over the keyboard to bang out some indignant defense, ask yourself this: had Trayvon been a white kid, would Zimmerman have stalked and shot him?

Had Trayvon’s screams for mercy and begging for his life been that of a white woman, would Zimmerman be able to walk freely? Would the police be trying so ardently to cover this up and chalk it up to an honest mistake?

He shot the boy twice. Not once, twice. Once to silence his screams, and second to finish him off. That’s what we call an execution…a double-tap. That’s an execution if ever there was one. If I didn’t think Zimmerman was just another racist white person, I’d be demanding to look in to see if it was a sanctioned hit.

It was not someone trying to protect his neighbors. It was someone looking for a reason to kill someone, and all the better that the person happened to be Black. Why?

Because in this society, we are conditioned to believe that Black lives hold little to no value in comparison to white lives. In this society we’re conditioned to believe that Black boys are destined for prison and one less Black boy in the world is one less Black boy in the prison system that your tax dollars clothe and feed. In this society, we are taught that Black people are expendable and interchangeable, incapable of anything more than lawlessness and decadence.

It’s 2012, and Black people aren’t safe in their own neighborhoods. In white neighborhoods, where some of us go to escape REAL dangers of everyday life in the city. And here we are, being taught that the no where is safe for us. We’re in danger from real criminals in the city, and we’re in danger from our white neighbors in the suburbs. And what did Trayvon’s fellow neighbors do? What did they do?

They defended Zimmerman.

How can they look Trayvon’s parents in the face, now? People who live in the same neighborhood as them who are burying their firstborn son because one of their neighbors EXECUTED HIM?

We’re angry. All of us. Every last one of us are angry, and you all should consider yourselves lucky that we don’t rise up and take every last one of you out, now for this. Because this demands more than that. This demands justice. This demands vengeance.

Zimmerman should not be rotting behind bars. He should be executed, as he executed an unarmed, Black boy—his own neighbor, on the grounds that he looked suspicious. When he came up to Trayvon, how come he did not immediately recognize him as his neighbor’s son? As someone he has probably seen everyday going to school and coming home? How come as Trayvon begged and screamed for his life, Zimmerman didn’t back off?

Where was the compassion of the man who claimed he was protecting his neighbors? Compassion does not dwell in the hearts of those who have decided to kill. A true self-proclaimed protector would exercise reason, would retreat, would stop themselves from doing something that could possibly bring harm to another.

But Zimmerman is not a protector. He is a cold-blooded murderer, and he went through with the execution because he knew—even if it was a subconscious knowing—that the law would always be on his side because he is a white, cisgendered male, and Trayvon is what society will write off as just another nameless Black boy who was probably never going to amount to anything.

That’s what Whiteness does to you. That’s what Whiteness does to us.

But I’m not going to let this pass into memory. We’re not going to let this be swept under the rug until there’s justice meted out, or until Zimmerman’s blood soaks the streets.

Either way, we’re not going to be silent about it.

Now, if you want to interject, feel free, but it would be in your best interest to utilize reading comprehension before you do…because I am not fucking with you people anymore. No GIFs, no image macros. This is not a joke. (via thegoddamazon)

(more…)

How to not be a Hoe

March 14, 2012

In the same week that I discovered Nicki Minaj’s new song and watched the video online, I became privy to a blog purporting to showcase a selection of “hoes” from Trinidad. I wanted to think quietly about what all of this meant: this naming and shaming of young women on the internet, ignited by the quick spread of social media.

This coupled with the earlier cacophony of Nicki’s staccato rhymes, verbal whirls, snarls and tics; a slick, kaleidoscope of a diss-rap whose power and futuristic imaginings my third eye surely had to get hip to. And it did, atop and around the sting and caress of the word connecting the two episodes, “hoe.” Although the word makes me uncomfortable and the song makes me hella uncomfortable, for mainly that reason, it was insightful for me to consider why the discomfort was there and acknowledge it.

The title of this blog post is ironic. There is no real way to not be a hoe.  Also, context matters and can be relative. And as bell hooks has noted, “any black female risks being labeled a whore whether she is sexually active or not, by sexist black men if she does not conform to their expectations of desirable femininity (178).”

For the West Indian girls featured on the now defunct “Trini Hoes” blog site, there was no requiem or celebration — only retribution it seems. The operative word in the byline was “exposed” which lets us know that the central aim was shame, which leads me to further conclude that with intentions like this, there’s no way to not be a hoe.  You could be one; I could be one. Girlchildren are endlessly inundated with the important lessons of everything from comportment to good womanness. Who among us, cisgender, or other female identified women, does not know a litany of:

. . .this is how to sew on a button; this is how to make a buttonhole for the button you have just sewed on; this is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming down and so to prevent yourself from looking like the slut you are so bent on becoming.

Caribbean girlhood, like those of a myriad of girls in many places is full of these reminders:

this is how you set  a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming. . .

How exactly does one do that? Not become a slut, an “ol’ hoe,” a skettel? And how do you do so easily in a small place? A small place that sufficiently worked to trounce the jamette enough to slink into the shadows? Yet, remains indignant and scandalized every time she reappears, like a phoenix. Furthermore, if it came to it, who can vouch for your sexual history anyway? How?

(more…)

Sexualities: Caribbean Men Internet Survey

November 16, 2011

Gay Caribbean Men! Please have your say in the CARIMIS (The Caribbean Men’s Internet Survey) below:

Learn more about the survey’s aim here.

Take survey

Please share, reblog on various platforms and forward as you wish! Thank-you!

Call Me by My Name

October 27, 2011

OK, here is the image that sparks the Facebook thread partially copied below and this very post. A person I know personally responded to this image, including the poster who I sort of know from around, so all names have been scrubbed to protect identities, including the folks I don’t know personally.  An attempt has been made to show where the same person posted again on the thread. The person who posted this image of PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar‘s Divali greetings captioned the image (quote): “kamla where the black children.”

(more…)

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.

(more…)