Posts Tagged ‘trini’

Who’s Laughing? (and Why?): Race and Identity in Trini slap chop

February 3, 2011

OK, the problem with “Buhwamoder” isn’t that  he’s not funny, allegedly, to many people — it’s what makes him  funny that’s interesting to unpack. (And for the record, I personally don’t think Buhwamoder is all that hilarious — must be my off sense of humour — but clearly, hordes of people do think so).

“Buhwamoder Latchmanerpersadsingh” is a hugely popular alternate persona enacted by a one, Dominique Elias hailing from out of Trinidad. Rocking his get-up of ultra-dark shades, (“ah darkers”) and a wig that’s often perched low onto his head — sometimes a link chain slung around the neck  — completes the final look.

The wig, a cross between “janx” (aka starter locks) and small box-plaits or partially done twists, morphs Elias into “Buhwamoder” — a fast-talking, self-professed lover of “shit” (talk, that is); Trini slang dropping, jokey-catch-phrase-making-entity who easily climbed to the highest heights of internet and local notoriety with his now infamous slap chop parody video. Then came the Jamaican answer. Then came the video where the two (the Jamaican and the Trini) negotiate a mock war of sorts, over the rights to claim best originality for their respective vids — which further propelled the internet cult following of their videos.  (Inciting a real cyber war in the comments section meanwhile, but oh wait — it’s Youtube, West Indians inter-argue on there all the damn time just for so. Re: ‘my island better, no, MY island better!’)

In the midst of all this are two white West Indians spoofing race at the same time that they grow more (in)famous and race is a huge component of the way in which their “humour” hits the mark in many, many ways. In fact, in the “Jamaica Trini war” video, Buhwamoder specifically (and ironically) calls “madwhiteJamaican” out as a Jamaican who is “ah white boy” who doesn’t even “smoke weed”. In the original videos, race is the unspoken subtext — the underlying context underscoring not only some of the “punchlines” but acting as a main ingredient in their presentation of (alternate)self and identity and this is revealed as soon as their identities almost simultaneously became increasingly public.


Things We Say

January 22, 2011

“I bongo with my lingo / Beat it like a wing yo!”– M.I.A.

Being in the company of West Indian guys liming is always interesting for a variety of reasons: the picong and ole talk being just two, and because language, local language and its usage is fascinating to me: listening to how they talk, especially listening for those specific gendered codes of expression that are distinct from how “all ah we” talk, is always intruiging. Plus, I can go for spells without hearing it sometimes, so their talk is kinda like an oasis in the desert sometimes. How we all talk encompasses those more generalised terms and expressions that are cross generational and cross-gender. The ubiquitous “partner” would be one of those terms, in a kind of way—as in “he/she is meh real good partner,” which you can hear from out of the mouth of someone in my parents’ generation down to mine and youth of the generation after me.

(Incidentally, someone told me an anecdote, I don’t remember who exactly, about how their work collegues in America thought that he was gay for the longest while because he frequently referred to a range of men as his various “partners”—the listeners, meanwhile, not understanding that in Trinbagonian parlance and other parts of the region: ‘partner’ in effect means very good friend, yuh bosom body, yuh macomère.) Women can and do use partner too (kinda like how macomère can function though many people outside certain generations rarely use this term anymore) but partner is overwhelmingly a more common male expression of friendship, in my observation.


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.


The Girl I was: or Me, Revisited

March 10, 2010

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.


on why palancing is [probably] good for your soulcase

February 15, 2010

Like many Trinbagonians not home for this year’s Carnival season, I watched (tried to anyway, on that god awful feed) and listened to the 2010 soca monarch feed online on carnival Friday. At the end, when the results were called, I wasn’t sure how I felt about “Palance” coming out on top. I really wasn’t.

Then I tried to break down why that was so. Mainly because initially, I didn’t think that “Palance” was an exceptionally crafted song—lyrically or otherwise—and for my personal musical aesthetic, that matters, to me. The hook was timely for sure, ridiculously catchy and infectious. Clearly, I am not a soca monarch judge either, and at the end of the day that is neither here nor there in the end picture.  Nevertheless! It is interesting to think about. Smidge of an occasional soca snob? Perhaps I am. Especially while sober. [Ok, usually while sober].  (more…)

on catching vampires…

January 23, 2010

Andy, the agent of Diana Laurence was kind enough to offer to send me a copy of How to Catch and keep a Vampire late last year to review, upon discovering my previous vampire musings and I’ve finally got around to posting on it. First off, let me say that I plowed through this book while easily engaged and came out on the other end with a bevy of handy knowledge that I can now use to my advantage, should I happen to encounter one of the dead and presumably dreamy kind.

Here, I also have to tip my invisible hat to Ms. Laurence for taking the reader on a journey into the minds and hearts of some of her most entertaining vampire friends. With the contemporary relationship wit of say, He’s Just Not that Into You (minus copious snark), the hetereo-chick-lit insight of Bridget Jones’s Diary and the Gothic overtures of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, comes Lawrence’s text. (For the record, I do love me some chick lit and while still majorly problematic, I do think it does some valuable things well–good chick lit that is, but that is a whole other story). (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.

Michael and Me

June 26, 2009

I really felt compelled to write something on the advent of Michael Jackson’s passing. Which really hit me. In my life, when I think about Michael — I think about my big brother and the two are inextricably connected for me in a multitude of ways. He is one of the biggest MJ fans I know. While everything I learnt about American and British 80s pop culture, its music and icons — I learnt from my big sis, hearing her play the music when I was little and watching her dress in the fashions of the day.

Everything I learnt about Michael Jackson, his music and that of others from the 90s, before and beyond in pop, rock, rap, conscious, dancehall, calyso, soca and soul — as well as show business and how to recognize the consummate performer — I learnt from my brother. From listening to the “Bad” or “We are the World” LP to watching marathon sessions of “Moonwalker” and “Thriller” on vhs. Or “Michael Jackson Live in Bucharest” from the Dangerous tour. Before it fell apart in tatters, the poster of Michael Jackson on the door of the bedroom that I grew up in — I’d received from my brother.

I had forgotten all about video tapes until a friend of mine from undergrad, who grew up in Ghana, posted his own memory on facebook of seeing “Thriller” for the first time there on video, “through a mosquito net” and I laughed and was reminded of my own childhood. I’ve read “Moonwalk” and probably seen “Smooth Criminal” too many times to count. I had to eat my words as I watched my brother moonwalk across the carpet of our house in Trinidad after doubting that he could. In socks! On carpet! Guess all that practice and attention to detail paid off after all.

I used to cringe when my friends were educated in the artistry of Michael by my brother sometimes, when they came over but I grew to love Michael Jackson because, I grew up with him, about as much as I grew up with my brother. My friends in turn, learnt a lot about Michael, whether they wanted to or not. So, Michael Jackson reminds me of childhood and the reach and span of American pop culture around the world. He and other symbols of American music and culture embody so much of  what I love about pop culture and reminds me why I like to write about it, read about it and learn about it so much. Both the good and the bad aspects of it.

Any one who knows my brother can attest that he is one of the biggest Michael fans in Trinidad. Also a serious movie and music buff. One of the coolest people I know, a sometimes quiet, thoughtful fella — who always looks out for those he loves. No one brought my brother out of his shell growing-up, like Michael Jackson’s music and talking about the talent that he was. As a lover of great music across genres, I was (and still am) a little sister, basking in the recommendation of anything by my big brother. I am as big a Michael fan that I am today, largely due to him. So I was contemplating various angles to undertake when I thought about writing this.

Obviously I’ve been contesting with all the MJ naysayers in the facebook world and I wanted to talk about that, what that means, if anything. Secretly pleased to see how many people I know are as touched by his passing as I was. Legitimized that I am not an anomaly. Legitimized that some of the most negative people I know of, [NOT friends of mine but acquaintances] have the worst things to say about someone, on the eve of their death, via online communities, as though they know nothing about speaking ill of the dead.  These are the kinds of people who wear negative vibes like a shroud around them, so much so, that Michael Jackson is the least of their concern — not that much outside their realm is. Who you are sensitive toward in your life that you know personally, doesn’t impress me much (that’s okay though), it’s who you are compassionate toward that you don’t know, now that’s most telling.

Thanks to many branches of American media, to be part of a community of persons who love and appreciate Michael’s art was equated with some kind of freakishness. The man and his genius became nothing more than a caricature to some people. Some people from a certain generation —  their only understanding of the man’s legacy? Through a Katt Williams routine. If I never hear “wacko jacko” again, it’ll be one of the things making me happy. So will a certain someone’s spirit, resting easily now, rejoice too with happiness in this knowing, I am sure.

Now, on to the naysayers who probably shouldn’t be reading this anyway. About the extortion-plots, the child abuse charges — I’ve been a one-woman rallying cry amongst some of the people that I know personally, pointing them toward articles, encouraging them to get more information and alternate insight into the story. Before anyone starts, no I was not there — neither were you. But I do know that the media bias, the cultural witch-hunt and the mob rampaging after Michael Jackson, never went to any great lengths to paint an accurate portrayal of the extortion angle in the Michael Jackson case, the dubious characteristics of the accuser/s and their parents and their shady past — even though evidence for all this exists.

It was much, much easier to tie someone’s supposed eccentricities to alleged criminal behavior. Not that I think that Michael Jackson is any kind of weirdo at all, though pop cultural discourse loves to paint him that way. Some of the weirdest things — thoughts and habits, go on inside the heads and lives of all of us. All. People like you and me. What’s weird? Wanting to stay a child? I’ve felt that way sometimes. Loving the company of children? I have — at times. Ill-behaved brats, not so much. Not liking what you see in the mirror? Been there, done that. Wanting a cool pet chimp? Ok, maybe not. Monkeys kind of creep me out but I do want a baby pig! And what’s weird anyway? Think about that. Weird I say, not criminal. Not problematic. It’s not all the same thing either. People would police Michael Jackson’s behavior so much that the inane became “weird,” code in MJ-related speak for normal for him — but not us! Everything therefore, was always weird when it came to him. He became a spectacle for the media especially, as though any of the rest of us are fucking normal. Whatever that even means.

Like the boy who cried wolf! The ploy only worked because since actual wolves existed, the fear of a wolf existed and people knew that it was entirely possible for one to eventually appear one day — and it did. But people also lie about awful things all the time. People do. And people also forge all kinds of terrible allegations for money or in the hopes that money (gobs and gobs of it) will be forthcoming, all the time. Child abuse — not unlike wolf! is one of those cries where the fear of such a crime, manifests itself in the awfulness behind even just an implication and the implication alone becomes enough. The mere fact that it was even made in the first place.

We might need to see a wolf first but some things in life require just a hint, a whisper, a creepy consternation in the mind of one or two bad-minded persons. An imagination of the awful takes root in a masquerade of truth. Why was that even said to begin with? — some people say in retaliation. It must be true, they contest. I mean, why is anything ever said? Depends on who’s doing the saying and why. And about what. If we understand more about the boy who cried wolf! (that’s a metaphor folks!) then perhaps we’d understand more about why he said what he said in the first place. And for that story, you have to go look for it and really want to unearth it. That story will not be brought to you by the people who have drawn the “weirdo” line in the sand and are pointing and laughing at the person on the other side from theirs.

Some of the least informed people are the people holding these things to be true most vehemently. Likewise, they tend to be those people who least appreciate Michael Jackson — but love to think that they know more than his supporters who actually got informed about various aspects of the allegations. I started embarking on this piece by looking for an article that I read in Vibe magazine — one of the best articulations that I’d read at the time about Michael, through a lens of deconstructing race.  Got me to thinking too — that piece, saying some of the things that people don’t want to hear. Or think about. Got me thinking about how some black people were upset that he became so-called “white” [not that it’s even possible] — like some of them never wanted to themselves and white people were upset that he had the gall to try.

What do black people really see when they look at him? Do you look past the external? Is the outside, in this case, at all relevant to your view? And what do you think about, if you’re white and you look — really look, at the face of Michael, through that kind of critical-thinking lens: that he’s trying to be you, look like you? That he just hated his nose? Or do you see “a freak?”  Do you try to reconcile this with your sense of self — your people’s history of white dominant values and constructions of beauty? Or do you dare not tread there, just detach yourself and talk about how fucked up he must be? Just him. That man over there with the tweaked nose — The Fucked Up One?

What about you reading this? Have you thought about what you think about Michael Jackson? And why you think what you think?

I was originally tempted to do a retrospective about what his transformation — said about race and identity [topics that concern me].  Then I thought, that maybe now wasn’t the best time to do so. But when is ever a good time really? Seems like never. So here I am, just going with the flow instead, doing a kind of retrospective on the man, his music, race, color, what it means for me in my life — however the heck it flows. And it’s flowing. Here I had been, hopefully waiting for the announcement of US tour dates after Europe [I knew they HAD to be coming] and had told my brother that we would be going, no matter where in the States they were — I’d get us tickets. He’d fly up and we’d go. Might be his last tour. The man’s no spring chicken I thought, never ever expecting this. Thought he’d just kick back in Neverland, enjoying watching his kids grow  up. So much for that. *Inward sad sigh*

Earlier today,  I got a call from a dear primary school friend in Trinidad and we talked about the news, the music, the memories, the sadness. She also reminded me that some people under a certain age just will NOT get any of this at all.  Plus we both understand that some people in the world, just feel like they have to loathe Michael Jackson for whatever reason — any reason or no reason. So we’ll just ignore them and all the folks like them. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the man, the music, the legend, humanitarian, father, brother, son, the memories, the innovator — the icon.

Disclaimer: So as not to field any comments (emails) and feedback from people getting all defensive and shit. Of course, child-abuse is a serious charge and crime; whenever, wherever it occurs. And whomever commits it. I am not contesting that. If you think I am, then you’ve clearly missed the whole point entirely.  

Things to check out:

Please read Mary Fischer’s “Was Michael Jackson Framed: The Untold Story” below, for added perspective that you probably don’t have. You don’t have to be Nancy Drew to connect the dots between the first extortion case and the 2003 charges leading up to the 2005 trial.

The article I referenced above in my blog was “Black Skin, White Mask” by Karen R. Good from the March 2002 issue of Vibe Magazine. Read the article here at The Michael Jackson fanclub. Short but lovely piece taking on the intricacies of skin color, race and identity—and Michael.

One of the best blogs I’ve surfed onto about Michael Jackson and race, performativity, identity, pop culture, prescribed gender roles, the media–among other things. Do check it out below:

Pan on the Net Radio does a stellar show dedicated to Michael’s memory through sweet pan! Click  above link to take a listen.

I also liked these celebrity responses found at yahoo! in response to Michael Jackson’s death.

John Mayer: “A major strand of our cultural DNA has left us.”

And ?uestlove from The Roots, whose original tweet/post [whatever it was] this morning, when I read it said:  “I just hope that he will get due justice in all the press memorials and whatnot. I know he was mired in controversy the last decade of his life but I think it’s time we let him rest in peace and learn to separate the ART and the ARTIST. That is the MJ I will forever remember. Elvis got revisionist media treatment. I expect the friggin same for my hero.” The version on yahoo! now has the Elvis bit edited out. Interesting.

Poignant and telling MJ quotes from the interview on Oprah in 1993:

About the press: “The press has made up so much…God…awful, horrifying stories…it has made me realize the more often you hear a lie, I mean, you begin to believe it.”

On performing: “Well, on stage for me was home. I was most comfortable on stage but once I got off stage, I was like, very sad.”

On his physical appearance: “No, I’m never pleased with myself. No, I try not to look in the mirror.”

Elizabeth Taylor on the misunderstanding of Michael Jackson: “He is the least weird man I have ever known. He is highly intelligent, shrewd, intuitive, understanding, sympathetic, generous – to almost a fault, of himself.”

Click to read the rest.

The 2005, inteview with Jesse Jackson: “…But what I like to do is help other children who are less fortunate than I am. You know kids who are terminally ill, kids who have diseases, poor children from the inner cities, you know the ghettos, to let them see the mountains, or to let see or go on the rides, or to watch a movie or to have some ice cream or something.”

From the 1999 interview in Britain’s Daily Mirror: “I’d slit my wrists rather than hurt a child. I could never do that.”

Lyrics from “Childhood,” written and composed by Michael Jackson, from the HIStory album, [disk 2] 1995:–

“Have you seen my Childhood?
I’m searching for the world that I
Come from
‘Cause I’ve been looking around
In the lost and found of my heart

No one understands me
They view it as such strange eccentricities
‘Cause I keep kidding around
Like a child, but pardon me

People say I’m not okay
‘Cause I love such elementary things.
It’s been my fate to compensate,
for the Childhood
I’ve never known

Have you seen my Childhood?
I’m searching for that wonder in my youth
Like pirates in adventurous dreams,
Of conquest and kings on the throne

Before you judge me, try hard to love me,
Look within your heart then ask,
Have you seen my Childhood?”


John Mayer (el douche) pays tribute.


Retrospective clip from Moonwalker.

Man in the Mirror.

Montage of Michael to the fabulous sounds of Phase II Pan Groove doing “Billy Jean.”


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.]