Posts Tagged ‘island life’

Trinidad James and Cultural Respectability Politics

February 27, 2014

Untitled

Full disclosure: this post was started a long-ass time ago and has been languishing on my WordPress dash since forever. I just never bothered to finish it earlier for no particular reason; I also got sidetracked by other projects along the way. The last draft was dated quite April 2013. I figured I might as well go ahead and post it anyway — finally.

If a beauty queen from a small Caribbean island appears in a rap video, does she cause a ruckus at the behest of respectability politics? Apparently, yes. And if said video includes shots in a low income community on the island, are some folks crowing in unparalleled indignation? Also, yes. On Facebook, folks lamented among other things, that “she’s in Trinidad James’ music video about being a hoe. So not becoming of her” and Metro Magazine (among others) had long running threads on Facebook dedicated to whether it was “beneath her and unbecoming for her to be in a video for a song that calls women hoes.” All this after Trinidad James visited the land of his birth before Carnival and shot this video for “Females Welcomed.” Look, what Athaliah decides to do with her own self is her own decision and how we can make the leap from appearance in a rap video to “hoe” is beyond me. Just stereotyping on top of stereotyping.

I disagree with the notion that by wearing the Miss World Trinidad and Tobago crown, this means that her autonomy becomes null and void. She also doesn’t become a slave to national respectability politics either. Especially not after a slew of us were disparaging her looks and her background. Oh, no, you don’t. (Google search Athaliah Samuels — go ahead do it. See what Google asks you.) A beauty queen is not an emblem of a living, throbbing West Indian culture and its diaspora and she doesn’t have to lug around the weight of your expectations and unending demands of respectability on her back. She’s just a beautiful young lady, probably doing the best she can, that is all. To quote Trudy from Gradient Lair, “I am NEVER gonna be here for respectability politics meant to intraracially police BW who are already intraracially policed.” Furthermore,

Now some will argue that if someone is beautiful (or “ugly”), famous and/or in a field where their sexuality is a part of their image, they no longer deserve respect from Whites or anyone else. They lose their right to discern who may touch them. I’m fully aware of how the politics of respectability and Eurocentric beauty myths manifest for Black people, especially Black women. However, I don’t agree with this. I will NEVER accept the faulty logic that if anyone perceives someone as “not respecting themselves,” everyone else has the “right” to disrespect them as well.”

I eh here for that either. Athaliah herself, would eventually have to take to Facebook in the form of an open letter to nicely read the widespread hypocrisy of Trinidadians for utter filth and claim her space to negotiate her own future and decision making. Enter Trini Trent‘s rant about respectability, Trinidad James, and most of all, the representation of the country, which of course, is rooted deep inside cultural respectability politics.

About that, first off, a Trini living in Trinidad vexedly lamenting all the national symbol waving by folks no longer living in Trinidad is really a pointless harangue. Yes, we all love the country, but of course, people who migrate go a bit extra with that. Understandably so, they left or their parents left with them. Some of it is all psychological really: I will rep this place so damn hard because I don’t want to ever lose sight of the fact that this culture is a part of who I am; even though, I am not physically living there anymore and may never be. How and why is Trent’s use of the “Trini” moniker more legitimate than James’ usage and claim of “Trinidad?”

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Pinky and Emigrante

July 30, 2012

Pinky and Emigrante. Get on it.

In the Castle of Our Skins Blog Carnival posts

November 1, 2011

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

These posts are a sampling from across that spectrum:

Who Am I?, by Luis Vasquez La Roche

Black Power’s Inheritance, by Mariamma Kambon

Brown Gurl Envy, by Linisa aka Awkward Adult

Continental, Colonial or Creole, by David

Milk in its coffee, by derevolushunwidin

Untitled, by Kim

Being the Fat Friend, by Linisa aka Awkward Adult

Call me crazy, by pieces2peace

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

Artwork, by Tanya Marie Williams

Thanks for the interwebs link love from:

The hosts at Lati-Negros

The Bad Dominicana

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

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

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

November 1, 2011

By: Tanya Marie Williams

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.”

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In the Castle of Our Skins

September 20, 2011

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

A call to submit to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hashtag SOE

September 15, 2011

i purposefully hadn’t bothered to comment on the trinidad and tobago government’s state of emergency all this time because i think it’s a load of crock and save for that, i really didn’t have anything constructive to employ in the conversation initially. who goes pulling states of emergencies all willy-nilly from out their backside like it’s nobody’s business? & sorry, but i also don’t trust the average local officer to not exploit the SOE — i feel like some might be gorging themselves on power, beating the pavement like giddy overlords drunk on the high of tossing alleged miscreants into the backs of pick-up trucks with no recourse. the whole thing just doesn’t sit well.

also, i’ve mused on crime & race before on here and though jack warner doth protest too much — images do tell a perspective, a slant, that is all. the whole discourse in parliament and outside is often full of fail. first of all, coming from the presupposition that black males in trinidad are posited, innately, as The Criminal — that in and of itself is a flickin’ problem! all the hand-wringing is coming from these problematic, patronising places from atop a moral high ground that makes some of us feel good about ourselves and meanwhile, root issues and inequity aren’t being solved. the kinds of insensitivities being spewed also makes me shiver to my core: “lock dem up” — “all ah dem” and things of that nature, when you don’t even know the hows and whys. bet your talk change when they come for you or someone you love though.

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Two Parts Hard Wine, One part Guinness

August 15, 2011

Passing time on The Island, drinking lots of Hard Wine, musing on love, daily julie mangoes and being pleasantly surprised by the grace of corbeaux.

(Try the recipe-title for “hard bull”: I hear it will real lash. Once again, you can thank me later).

The Girl I was: or Me, Revisited

March 10, 2010
Diary

My dusty old diary and its rusty key!

Yesterday, late last night and just into the early morn, I went looking for, unearthed, deep in my closet— then perused an old diary of mine. I recall that I didn’t leave it in Trinidad for fear of it falling into the wrong hands—whoever that may be! Hey, you never know. To be safe, I packed it with me as I set off for university. It covers my thoughts and life, during the years, ages 13-15. I haven’t peeped in it in many, many years but I knew it was here somewhere. It is this rainbow-and-neon hued Lisa Frank diary.

It was as though I sat down to catch an inner glimpse into my teenaged self from my older self’s vantage point. I eventually christen the diary “Lisa-Anne” after Anne Frank and Lisa Frank, the namesake of the Stuart Hall Co.’s then uber-popular stationery line. My entries start as “Dear Lisa” then morph into “Dear Lisa-Anne.” I had read the Diary of Anne Frank and enjoyed and loved it tremendously as a girl. Admittedly, without any sense of irony at all, this—my diary—without a doubt, is one of the most compelling things—out of anything—that I have read in a long time. What a strange, brooding, angsty teen I was. Good Lord.

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