Saturday, December 1, 2012

I see a Jumbie

True Story

Everything happens for a reason. So the saying goes. The above picture was taken about 2 weeks ago on Divali night at what was formerly known as Sky Bar. Some friends of mine are running a flim night (no spelling error there) at that location on Thursday night and I was 'helping' to set up the projector. The image was the result of some fun experimentation, along with video also using shadows on the wall. I captioned it "Jumbie on yuh back". 

This was phase 1

A week later I was at a market at UWI organized by one of the Guild Faculty members Wesley Kanhai who started telling me and my girlfriend Candace about several of the para normal experiences he has had over the years. My response was, "Thank God none of that stuff has ever happened to me, I would be totally freaked out!" Later on that night I went to see a dear friend of mine who's mom had just died and he told me he was having trouble sleeping. On the way home Candace explained that he might be dreaming of his mother which would be very un nerving since her passing. Since she also dreams (and remembers) I said both of you are more spiritually connected than I am  and she asked why and I said because you are connected to the unreal through dreams. 

A few minutes later while driving into my street at about 2:30 am I saw a dark figure (like a shadow almost) turning the corner and said, "What is someone doing walking the street at this hour?" I live in a residential area that is full of retirees and very quiet. My girlfriend said, "I hope it's not a jumbie and is still there when we turn the corner." 

[Turn Corner] NO ONE IS THERE - the figure has vanished into thin air. There was nowhere for 'him' to go.  No house, no alley VANISHED

Needless to say I was freaked to fuck out but at least I knew I was not crazy because we had both seen it. I asked Candace WHAT ON EARTH made you say that? She just shrugged and said she didn't know.

I think the spiritual realm was sending me a message. Letting me know that they do exist.

OK I believe now. Please leave me alone in future. I just had to share my story. Please feel free to leave yours.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Robert Williams: The Original Malcolm X

For several years now I have understood the importance of knowing who I am. A major part of that has been to be learned, truly learned on the character, struggles and achievements of my people. I am currently reading the autobiography of our very own Kwame Ture "Ready for Revolution" and though I have made only a small dent (on pg 245 of some 795 pgs) I have been moved to laughter and invaribaly tears and learnt much about the civil rights movement from its very beginning and all the major players on the frontline as well as behind the scenes. I have gone on to read about Diana Nash, Ella Baker, Paul Robeson, Bayard Rustin, Mike Thelwell, Courtland Cox (another Trinidadian brother), Sterling Brown and Robert Williams. Stokeley played particular attention to the details of his struggle and I understand now, why. Stokely struggled with the dominant non violent position of the elders in the movement from just about the onset of his serious participation, as a warm blooded youth (nineteen) who was no longer moved by the Christian sentiment which informed the overarching moral code.And this leads me to the title the Original Malcolm X. Robert Williams was the first and one of the most dynamic leaders in the struggle who advocated for force, or as he called it armed self defense. I think it is important to share his story, particularly because of the household name of Malcom X. Too often the struggle is branded by a face, usually a man's, a single narrative that never tells the full story or gives credit to those who deserve it. 

Paraphrased from "Ready for Revolution":

Robert Williams was the local NAACP leader in Monroe, Carolina. He would become a great inspiration to the SNCC as a symbolic and ideological leader to a number of radical groups across the spectrum of the black struggle. His reach was very broad ... here's how he converted two (devout) white pacifists. The Freedom Riders along with a small group of local youth had run a picket line in the center of Monroe in support of a range of community issues. It was a Saturday and downtown and a crowd started to gather which eventually turned into a mob. Verbal abuse turned into occasional blows as aggitators whipped up the crowd. What police were present did nothing to control or disperse the mob. In fact, the police were verbally hostile to the picketers.

Bill Mahoney (pacifist) recounts the scene, "I just knew we were dead. Man, we were completely surrounded by angry white folk. People started jumping out of the crowd to take a swing at us. Next to me, Paul was knocked dizzy by a vicious blow to his ear. While I was supporting Paul, someone slugged me over my eye. People on the line were bleeding. The threats got louder. It was clear that it was only a matter of time before they would swarm over us. I had been watching this old, old toothless man in overalls getting hysterical. His face was all red and convulsed. He kept screaming, 'Kill the niggahs. Goddamn, kill 'em. Go on, kill the niggahs.' Then I saw the old man's face suddenly change. He started pointing over my head. 'Gawddammit,' he cried. 'Them niggahs got guns. Them goddamn niggahs got guns.' 

[enter Robert Williamns' book title: Negroes with Guns ]

A number of black cars showed up on the scene, the doors swung open and the picketers taken to safety.

The next occasion I will share with you made me LOL because it reminded me of the unaplogetic delivery of public speeches by the late, great Che Guevara in International forums, which always left me with my mouth gaping open.

It was during the UN debate on the Bay of Pigs debacle where the US were engaged in a desperate exercise in diplomatic damage control. US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson piously announced that he deplored the betrayal of the Cuban revolution and reserved his government's right and affirmed its will to send assistance - military when necessary- to any people struggling anywhere for human rights and democratic freedoms.

At the end of this speech, Cuban Ambassador Raul Roa rose and read a letter he's just received and was asked to convey.

It read:

"Mr. Ambassador

Please convey the following appeal to Mr. Adlai Stevenson: Now that the United States has proclaimed military support for people willing to rebel against oppression, oppressed Negroes in the South urgently request tanks, artillery, bombs, money and the use of American airfields and white mercenaries to crush the racist tyrants who have betrayed the American Revolution and the Civil War.

We request the world's prayers for this noble undertaking."

Robert Williams, President, NAACP

Union County, Monroe, North Carolina

A similar tactic was used when the authorities began threatening Williams' community with 'urban renewal' plans. Shortly thereafter the President visited India and made pronouncements to the Prime Minister there that Asian people had the right to decent housing and adequate food. Immediately a telegram was sent out and the message was relayed to President Eisenhower by Prime Minister Nehru.

An African American man working in Housing was later given assurances that there would be no urban renewal in Monroe until the law was fully complied with.


"The only way into truth is through one's own annihilation; through dwelling a long time in a state of extreme and total humiliation." Simone Weil

What bravery, foresight and as Stokley said, audacity of Robert Williams to hold political leaders to their lofty pronouncemts made abroad. I myself have been using this tactic to create picture messages documenting Kamla Persad Bissessar's utterings with regard to gender equality and women's rights. It can prove to be very effective and should be used more often.

                      T&T PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the United Nation's 66th General Assembly,
 "Women's Political Participation: Making Gender Equality in Politics a Reality".

The last story I will share in fact leads me back to the first.

NAACP leadership was shared between Williams and a black physician Albert Perry, with whom the KKK took a special interest and was determined to kill. Because of this, the community rallied around their leader and 50 armed men stood watch outside his house every night on rotation. The Klan then adopted the habit of a nightly and noisy motorcade lead by a police cruiser with about eighty cars. On October 8 as the lead car passed the Perry home, the night erupted with a sudden and sustained rapid fire from over fifty guns. Some of the Klansmen had to escape on foot, while another carload turned into a dead-end street where they were cut off by Robert Williams and a detachment of armed men. They beg "Mr. Williams" for their lives and promised never to come into the black community again. His men were instructed not to kill unless absolutely unavoidable. 

The Klan suddenly became scrupulously law abiding after the city council belatedly passed an ordinance prohibiting late-night motorcades. Henceforth, travel within city limits after nightfall in groups more than three cars would require a permit.

(sounds similar to the permit they enforced during the Montgomery bus boycott of three persons per car which prevented the black community from efficiently carpooling)

News of the mob had spread - refer to paragraph 1 - which was well attended by rumour ... one of the Freedom Riders had been killed. There a large crowd around the Williams home and according to his account he took a white family into his home who had stumbled onto the scene for their safety. After about an hour they drove away. Later the couple claimed to have been detained by gunpoint. The government charged Williams for holding 'hostages" and he became a fugitive of the state.

Robert Williams and his wife Mabel were able to successfully seek asylum in Cuba (1961) and later in China. He returned to the US in 1970. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Today a headline brought me to tears

Crying is believed a healthy release but I received no comfort

Pregnant woman among 4 killed in St. James

Why should I expect a radio announcer to care

John Mayer was spotted with Katy Perry on Saturday and Tuesday night

I race to my room and play mantras for peace in a language I do not understand

Yet I feel more at home in that place, in that space than I ever could around my black brother

Brothers who kill our black children and mothers

God O God I cry out

While punchlines continue to follow headlines

War on Crime

War on Drugs

But tell me

Who will bring peace …

This piece is dedicated to Channelle Davis and her unborn baby.

Artwork by Candace Moses

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gender Testing: A Chronology

A few years ago I heard about a South African runner who the powers at be were not sure was a woman. I can't say that at the time I was very interested in the matter but a lot has changed since then. Not too long ago an article was posted in my facebook group womantra about the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) new gender testing policy and I was deeply disturbed. I decided to do some research about the Olympics and gender testing and was quite surprised at the volume of information that exists and how far back this story really goes. My post is primarily a compilation of the women, men and those that lay somewhere in between and how they have been treated by the sporting fraternity. I use the word fraternity deliberately because the Olympic Committee still seems to be governed by the heterosexist structures of old boys clubs. I will let the stories (which I have collected from various sources) speak for themselves with some commentary on my part. The years provided may represent the year that the athletes represented their country at the Olympics or it may represent the year that their gender status came into question. 


Zdenka Koubkova cisfemale

Zdenka Koubkova was a runner who set Czechoslovak women's records in the broad jump, high jump, a half-dozen sprint and middle-distance runs.

She broke the women’s world record for the 800-metre dash at the Women's World Games in London in 1934.

She was forced to undergo a genital examination which was inconclusive (hermaphrodite) and she was stripped of her award and banned from Olympic competitions.

Further to her humiliation, a nude photograph of her was published in a medical book without her permission and she began living as a man thereafter, having successfully undergone gender reassignment surgery. The Czechoslovakian government officially sanctioned Zdenek's transfer to masculinity.

Zdenek Koubek cismale

United States Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage requested that a system be established to examine female athletes after observing the performance of Zdenka and javelin thrower Mary Edith Louise Weston (Mark Weston) who also underwent a sex change in the 1930s and still holds Great Britain women's shot put record.


Dora Ratjen was a German athlete who competed for Germany in the women's high jump at the 1936 Summer Olympics at Berlin, finishing fourth, but was later discovered to be male.

The conductor of a train reported to the police at the station in Magdeburg that there was "a man dressed as a woman" in the train. Ratjen was ordered out of the train and questioned by the police. He showed his genuine documents which said he was a woman, but after some hesitation, admitted to being a man and told his story. A physician was summoned and after an examination pronounced Ratjen to be male. However, the physician described the genitalia as having a "coarse scarred stripe from the tip of the penis to the rear", and stated his opinion that with this organ sexual intercourse would be impossible. This seems to describe an appearance similar to the result of a mika operation by Australian aboriginals in which the male urethra is slit open along the penis. After birth a high degree of hypospadias on a micro-penis, plus cryptorchidism, may give a midwife the impression of a vulva with a long clitoris - and the error may continue for many years, especially if the intersexual escapes expert medical examination.

In 1938 Dora is quoted as saying, "My parents brought me up as a girl [and] I therefore wore girl's clothes all my childhood. But from the age of 10 or 11 I started to realize I wasn't female, but male.

The athlete was arrested, and sent to Hohenlychen sports sanatorium for further tests and criminal proceedings continued until 10 March 1939. Dora promised the authorities he would "cease engaging in sport with immediate effect". The athlete's father, Heinrich Ratjen, initially insisted that Dora should continue to be treated as female, but on 29 March 1939 wrote to the police chief of Bremen: "Following the change of the registry office entry regarding the child's sex, I would request you change the child's first name to Heinrich."

The gold medal won by Ratjen was returned and his name expunged from the records.

This case is also controversial in connection to the Nazi agenda of racial supremacy in the Olympic Games Berlin and Heinrich is quoted as "... tearfully confess[ing] that he had been forced by the Nazis to pose as a woman for the sake of the honor and glory of Germany -  TIME Magazine 1966.


The curious case of Stella Walsh and Helen Stephens

                    Stella Walsh (R) congratulates Helen Stephens at the women's 100  metres at the 1936 Olympics. 

Walsh from Poland was beaten to first place in the 100 metres at the 1936 games by her American rival Helen Stephens. At the Games, Stephens was accused of being a man (by an unknown source) and underwent the first at-event gender test which she passed through a physical exam. Irony at its best revealed forty-four years later when Stella Walsh was killed by a stray bullet during an armed robbery in an Ohio mall and her autopsy revealed "ambiguous" sexual features including male genitalia and male and female chromosomes.

At one point, Stella Walsh was the fastest woman in the world. She won gold in 1932 and silver in 1936 for the 100m sprint. During her career, she set more than 100 national and world records and was inducted into the American Track and Field Hall of Fame. She lived her entire life as a woman, and even had a short-lived marriage to an American man.
It is very curious that her gender was not 'tested'.            

  Nickname "Stella the Fella"


Mandatory Gender Testing

At the Olympics, testing was introduced at the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble. The first mandatory sex test issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF for women atheletes was in July 1950 in the month before the European Championship in Belgium. All athletes were tested in their own countries. Sex testing at the games began at the 1966 European Athletics Championships in response to suspicion that several of the best women athletes from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were actually men.

This new policy caused many top athletes to bow out of the games. They included...

Sin Kim Dan

Dan broke the women's records for the 400m and 800m in 1961/2. She was the first woman to run 400m in less than 52 seconds. Her record was not passed until 1969, and it still holds in Asia.

In 1963 in Moscow, other female sprinters refused to run against her because she looked like a man and a South Korean man claimed that she was his son who had disappeared during the war.

She was not in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as Northern Korea was not a memeber of the IAAF. Obligatory sex-testing for the international Athletics was introduced in 1966, and for whatever reason, Sin did not compete after that. 

Tamara & Irina Natanovna-Press 


Sisters Tamara and Irina Press won five track and field Olympic gold medals for the Soviet Union, and set 26 world records between them in 1960s.

Tamara excelled in shot put and discus throwing, winning gold and silver medals at the 1960 Rome Olympics and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Irina won a gold in hurdling in Rome and a gold in the Pentathlon at Tokyo.

Their careers suddenly ended at the time that gender verification was introduced. Critics have suggested that the Presses were actually male, hermaphrodites, or taking male hormones.

Iolanda Balas

After the introduction of compulsory testing of sex Romanian high jumper Iolanda Balas refused to compete in the Olympics. She suspiciously according to Romanian track officials sustained a right tendon calcification and has never competed since. Balas won the gold medal in the Games at Rome and Tokyo and is still considered one of the best jumpers of all time.


Ewa Klobukowska

Sadly in 1967 Polish athlete Ewa Klobukowska became the first athlete to fail a chromosome test. Ewa was raised as a girl and always thought of herself as a girl and competed as a woman at the Tokyo Games, winning gold in the 4x100m relay and a bronze in the 100m. The following year she set a world record for the 100m.

In 1966 she submitted to the sex test at the European Championships in Budapest and passed as a woman without question. She went on to win golds in the 100m and 4x100m relay plus silver in the 200m

The following year the I.A.A.F. ordered chromosome tests for competitors at the 1967 European Cup. Ewa readily provided the cell scrapings for the test. She was then hit by a bombshell when three Russian and three Hungarian doctors gave the fatal verdict: Ewa is not a woman because she has "one chromosome too many."

The nature of her chromosomal anomaly was never disclosed but she was banned from further competition.


Heidi Krieger

It is believed that as many as 10,000 East German athletes were caught up in a state-sponsored attempt to build a race of superhuman communist sports heroes and force-fed cocktails of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. One of them was Heidi Krieger, a shot putter. When she was 16, her coach put her on steroids and contraceptive pills and she gained weight, built muscle and started to develop body hair. By 1986, aged 20, she was European champion and an Olympic shotput gold medalist. In the mid-90s, Krieger underwent gender reassignment surgery and changed her name to Andreas.

Maria Jose Martinez Patino

~ Certificate of Femininity ~

Patiño was Spain’s best female hurdler. She competed at the 1983 World Track and Field Championships in Helsinki, where she passed the Barr Body test based on a buccal smear and was given a Certificate of Femininity.

In 1985, at the Kobe World University Games, she had forgotten her Certificate and was retested. This time she failed the Barr Body test. She was subjected to a complete karotype analysis which took two months to complete, and she was prevented from competing. The Spanish officials asked her to fake an injury, and she did so.

The karotype analysis showed that she was 46,XY, that she is a woman with  Androgen-Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS). For the January 1986 Spanish National Games, she was again told to feign an injury, but she insisted on competing, and she came first in the 60m hurdles. Her test result was revealed to the press, and she lost her medals, the running times were erased, she lost her scholarship, her fiancé and was ejected from the national team.

She was supported by Albert de la Chappelle, the Finnish geneticist, and Alison Carlson, the US coach and journalist. A Spanish professor presented the medical evidence to the Olympic Medical Commission at Seoul in 1988. She was reinstated on the grounds that her body could not use the extra testosterone, and thus she had no unfair advantage. She was given a new Certificate of Femininity that exempted her from further sex testing. However her momentum as an athlete was lost. She failed to qualify for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by hundredths of a second.


Edinanci Silva

Born with both male and female sex organs, the Brazilian judo player had surgery in the mid-90s so that she could live and compete as a woman. According to the IOC, this made her eligible to participate in the games and she competed in Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens in 2004. In Sydney, she beat the Australian judoka Natalie Jenkins, who raised the issue of Silva's gender in a press conference, constantly referring to her as "he". Silva was obliged to give a mouth swab to officials once again to prove she was female.


Santhi Soundarajan

One of the most tragic recent cases is yet to reach a conclusion. Soundarajan, a 27-year-old Indian athlete had to endure public humiliation after she was stripped of her silver medal for the 800m at the Asian games in 2006. Soundarajan, who has lived her entire life as a woman, failed a gender test, which usually includes examinations by a gynaecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist and a genetic expert. The precise results of the test have not been made public, but it has been reported that the likely cause is a condition called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, where a person has the physical characteristics of a woman but whose genetic make-up includes a male chromosome. The Canadian cyclist Kristen Worley, who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, is one of a number of people who are calling for Soundarajan's medal to be reinstated. "It should never have been handled in such a gross manner, amounting to public humiliation because of their ignorance of her condition," Worley has said. "The Olympic movement has been dealing with intersex people since the 1930s. You'd think they would have got the hang of it by now." The humiliation and prospect that her career may be over has taken its toll on Soundarajan. In September, Indian newspapers reported that she has survived a suicide attempt.


Caster Semanya

South Africa’s Caster Semenya became the world champion 800-meter runner in 2009 and her win has sparked much controversy around her gender. According to reports Semenya reached an agreement with the track and field’s world governing body to keep the gold medal and prize money she won at the world championships in August.

Most notably the South African sports ministry did not say whether Semenya would be allowed to continue to compete as a woman. Their statement also did not disclose the results of sex-verification tests she had undergone. “As such, there will be no public announcement of what the panel of scientists has found,” the sports ministry said. “We urge all South Africans and other people to respect this professional, ethical and moral way of doing things.”

Her coach, Michael Seme, said in a telephone interview from Pretoria that Semenya “is going to compete as a woman and will remain a woman until she dies.”

Semenya has gone on to compete in the Olympics 2012 as a woman and received a silver medal in the 800 m race.

academic resources: Intersex and the Olympic Games
                                   Testing sex and gender in sports; reinventing, reimagining and reconstructing histories

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Conversation with Asha Kambon on Leadership

I had the pleasure of spending just over an hour with Dr. Asha Kambon, a woman who I have known for almost 10 years but never had the opportunity to have such a personal discourse. I found that her ideology was quite like my own and that despite the generation gap we were soul sisters. Kambon explained to me that she does not feel comfortable with the term leader and instead prefers to describe herself as someone who struggles to set and example that others can, if they choose, follow. She spoke of coming of age in the early 60s in North America during the height of the civil rights movement and how those experiences of extreme injustice compelled her into social action. She says that social justice has yet to be achieved and so her work continues. Dr. Kambon gave 20 years of service to UN ECLAC, specializing in research training of technocrats and government officials. During her time there she prepared many people for international conferences including the Global Conference on Women, guiding them on how to interface with international bodies and make significant contributions. For Kambon it wasn’t just a job, she took pride in ensuring that certain development issues were on the agenda and that the Caribbean could set its own pace.  Kambon also remained grounded in the NGO sector, saying that this was critical in the struggle for social justice to work at the level of the people. Over the years she served in several organizations including NJAC, The Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women and the Emancipation Support Committee. Kambon took me through the decades, recalling her time at CUNY in 1968 and how she took several modes of transportation to get to Harlem 2 or 3 times a week to teach black adults how to read. She said that work must be done quietly and consistently, engaging directly with people to make a real impact on their life. She  affirms that life long commitment is necessary for advancing the process and you have to be in it for the long haul. She admits that in the early years of her return to Trinidad in the 1970s were difficult. She and her husband Khafra Kambon had given their whole lives to the movement and it was a slippery slope to avoid ending up on the streets themselves. After having 3 children she credits the encouragement of her husband in deciding to go back to school. She recalls that there were only 3 other women her age on the university campus at that time (UWI), and she was the only poor one. She said that the other women all came from rich families and that she must have seemed quite odd to them, sticking out like a sore thumb in all her home made clothes. The credits that Kambon received from CUNY 12 years earlier in anthropology were not accepted by UWI and she was told that her only option was to begin again. Kambon completed an economics degree in only 3 years, even though many of her peers didn’t believe that she could. During this time she also ran as an NJAC candidate, one of the only women to do so and returned to school the day after the party lost to prepare for final examinations.  She said that she never expected the party to win but that their aim was to put new ideas on the agenda.

I was given the heads up by Kambon’s son that I needed to interview his mom quickly, because she was leaving for Ethiopia in a few days. This opportunity was what Kambon described as one of her dreams; to share knowledge with the people who really need it on the Continent. She says that these opportunities are extremely enriching as fieldwork allows her to get to know people and their challenges in a real way. She also expressed the hope that the emancipation process is soon institutionalized, as currently the institution is poor. Her plan is to introduce strategies that can allow the organization to grow and develop itself within a 3 to 5 year period. Kambon says that now she has officially retired from the UN, she has more time and energy to dedicate to that process.

Kambon notes that her notions of gender were instrumental in helping to achieve her goals. She says, “It never dawned on me that there were things I should do that men shouldn’t [and vice versa].” She says that during the civil rights movement the dogs that were released on people did not discriminate. She affectionately recalls how her husband diligently took care of the children when she returned to university, taking them to the beach on Sunday mornings and kite flying in the afternoon to allow her the study time she needed.  She says that she and her partner of over 40 years spoke the language of equality and that all roles were shared, putting their ideals into practice. She pointed out that the board of directors of the Emancipation Support Committee are equally represented by men and women, each having a voice and participating fully. She also added with a deep sense of humility that it was she who developed the gender component of the assessment methodology of risk assessment used all around the world.  She says that she has tried to implement gendered principles at both a personal and professional level and while she admits that she didn’t always have the theory, she started with the notion of equality.

CIWIL: Advancing Transformational Leadership for Gender Justice in the Caribbean

Personal Reflection

A little over a week ago I got notice of my acceptance to the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership CIWIL’s very first regional project:  Advancing Transformational Leadership for Gender Justice in the Caribbean. Prior to this I’d attended one other region based workshop Gender and Media Advocacy Training which was hosted by Women’s Media Watch WMW in Jamaica and sponsored by the World Association for Christian Communication WACC. This experience however did not prepare me for the kind of work that is expected at this grounding, with an intense online component that requires completion of assignments almost every day, including both independent and collaborative work … this blog post included. Even though I am on vacation, holidaying in the beautiful isle of Sint Maarten, I am grateful for the opportunity to take part, as I feel confident that CIWIL is action driven and committed to creating a regional women’s movement and feminist community for which I have longed to be a part. It’s serendipitous even that I was chosen, having not been selected to attend Code Red’s Catch a Fyah grounding just a few weeks earlier also in Barbados. The stars aligned in my favour this time around, having only received my acceptance letter on the day the program began, due to all previous correspondence going directly to my junk mail.  Plug: Hotmail is lame!
Among the assignments completed was an interview with a ‘transformational’ woman leader and a country report on the status of women, using the gender policy recommendations and a cumulative assessment of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women CEDAW. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview component of having an opportunity to be on the inside of Dr. Asha Kambon’s life, a woman I have admired for many years and I look forward to meeting many more like mined womyn  that can help me …  help each other create a better world.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

April Fools

Part I

April turned out to be a far more eventful month than I’d expected and even now I am still confused as to who’s the fool …

One unsuspecting afternoon while visiting a friend, her step father came home earlier than expected and since we had not spoken up until that point, struck up a conversation. He asked what I was doing with myself and all the usual questions to which I responded in the usual way … school in September/Holland or England/gender, human rights, advocacy. The conversation ended up being a lot longer than I’d anticipated and John Doe a lot more eager to learn and know. We spoke of politics, various administrations, the constitution, norms, homosexual rights, the whole gender myriad and all its complexities. After a while I went outside for a smoke, my usual hemp cocktail and threw the end away just as he walked outside. He was going for a walk and I told him I used to take the same route in training with my football team. This seemed to him quite amusing.

Later on in the evening he returned and I was still there, helping his daughter do a school project or rather doing her school project for her. Doe then proceeded to call a family meeting, complete with mother and little sister. A more accurate description than a family meeting is probably an interrogation and even closer would be an opportunity for intimidation and accusation. He started off by letting me know that he didn’t appreciate the way that I “lounged off” on his sofa and he would appreciate it if I sat in an upright position. He then said that if I came to help Jane Doe with her homework that we should sit on the table and not the sofa. Then he said he knows FOR A FACT (an all of this is in brief summary) that I was smoking marijuana on his compound and I should desist from doing so. This was then followed by the motivating bomb of … “I am under the impression that you are a lesbian and as such I would appreciate if you did not spend time in my house with Jane D. unsupervised.” In an attempt to respond to all of this I was told that I did not have an opportunity to do so because he didn’t ask any questions. That’s right asshole. You didn’t.

Despite my valiant attempt to keep it all together and salvage whatever dignity I had left I broke … into tears no less. I thought to myself WOW this is what a bad coming out experience must feel like, except this dick was not my father and I was not a scared 16 year old.  Through the tears I felt empowered and grateful for having gone through the experience myself. Just a few days prior I was telling someone how different it is to sympathize with someone or an experience you have not had yourself versus the real deal. His response was of course, “You don’t have to feel bad.” I laughed while shaking my head, as even with understanding, I was still sorry I’d given him the satisfaction.

As the night wore on I started to reflect on the day’s events and how Jane warned me not to talk too much but I was confident that John D. was indeed responsive and not as closed minded as she’d thought. Had I dug my own hole … set myself up to be made a fool? It also occurred to me in that moment how calculated John D. had been in our earlier conversation, egging me on, asking questions, all a part of collecting ammunition to use on me later. I decided then that I was not a fool and that the only thing I had been manipulated into was being myself.  

In the end John D. was the only fool. The fool that discusses where and how guests are required to sit in his house and accuse them of using illegal substances, being their step-daughter’s lover and that homosexuals require supervision. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Making the Personal Political: Anti Street Harassment Week

Trinidad Submissions

Reblog from:

Editor’s Note: Today in Washington, DC, I’m co-curating an art exhibit on street harassment for International Anti-Street Harassment Week with the Deaf Abused Women’s Network. There are 35 pieces, including art work by high school students and from activists as far away as Yemen and Afghanistan. Tracey Chan and Stephanie Leitch each submitted work electronically for the exhibit. They guest wrote this post about their submissions.

My name is Tracey Chan and I’m a Trinidadian interdisciplinary visual artist and writer whose disciplines include drawing, illustration, and installation. I’m also involved in graphic design and art event management.

In 2011, I created an illustration as part of Simona Lee’s WomenSpeak project. I created an updated version called “Eyes” for this exhibition, which examines the daily challenges women face on the street and the negative feelings that arise with harassment incidents. It also represents my feelings of insecurity, and a stigma attached to simply walking around my own neighbourhood.

My latest project, with my art collective is an all women’s exhibition, Women Make Art: Home & Away (WOMA). WOMA 2011 celebrated International Women’s Day and was the first women’s art exhibition in Grenada. The current show, now in its second year, opens on 31st March in St. George’s, Grenada.

My name is Stephanie Leitch and I’m a social activist and conceptual artist. My work focuses on issues of gender equality both through performance and organizing. My 2011 International Women’s Day event evolved into an ongoing space for Caribbean feminist voices, WoMantra and the place where the collaboration for this project was hatched.

Even though I got word of this project only two or three days before the deadline, it hit way too close to home for me to ignore. I have been dealing with public harassment since I was 12 years old and still in my primary school uniform. I remember a friend telling me once that she would no longer walk in the street with me because of how much attention I would get all the time. This is not a point of pride or ego booster but a sick social practice that I have had to endure for more than half my life. It has affected me deeply in many ways, from valuing it in earlier years to despising it and as a response changing aspects of my aesthetic to detract male attention. Some of these methods have stayed with me, most noticeably my decision to never wear my hair down.

The collaborative series was created when Stephanie requested help to put several of her ideas and tags into visual format for the exhibition. Tracey then designed an image using one tag, “Encourage Women to Speak Out,” using bright colours and minimalist design to attract attention with the simple, powerful message. We will develop a series of posters from the remaining tags that may be used in future events or projects.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spring Water - Verse iTal

Check me out nah! Doe mine iz the last 2 minutes of the video and ah lip singing but big up to mah breadrin Verse. Check all the links below to download his music or visit his website. Love everytime <3

Buy the new album from trinitunes:

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cheap Ting iz Good Ting - Alternative Market IV

Reblog: Thank you Shaunelle for your very comprehensive post about our market!

Some days after my departure from the freezing pasta land Italia in mid-December and returned to my sweet warm Trinidad & Tobago, a friend referred me to an alternative market in Port-of-Spain. Having had religiously attended the Milan street markets on a weekly basis (evidently a market lover), it was definitely a pleasure to learn about and participate in the local Trini market scene.

The old expression “Good thing no cheap, cheap thing no good” is somewhat contradicted by this‘Cheap Ting iz Good Ting - Alternative Market’. It’s a relatively new initiative by Stephanie Leitch, as the 17thDecember 2011 market was the 4th  installment event. It’s a flea market that allows artists, artisans and the general public to make convenient resourceful and gainful exchange (cash | barter | negotiation) and most importantly things for sale are very affordable! The market aims to take place once every month, with the venue changing accordingly, allowing persons from various communities to participate. Vendors are not given any tables and are therefore not required to pay any fees for a vending space at the event. Artisans can simply contact the market committee to confirm their participation and show up with their goods and good vibes on the day!

So you don’t always need a large table spread setup to sell jewelry. I remembered seeing this little girl during my summer road trip in Callela, Spain selling her jewelry, so here was my mini vending display.
Jewelry Display

There were some other cool things I saw and got from other vendors selling at the market:
These playful sead-bead doll earrings immediately caught my attention, which Liz Steinberg the artisan, was wearing. She started jewelry as a therapeutic hobby and uses natural materials such as stones, juju beans, bamboo, leather in her pieces. Emal:

Doll Seed bead earrings made by Liz Steinberg 
This self-taught Bajan empress Micaela Walker, launched her homebased jewelry and accessories business over 1 year ago. This ‘I Love Afrika’ movement offers knitted bags, purses and her signature clay jewelry. She uses natural stones and handmade clay stones in her pieces. Placing emphasis on the beauty of natural life, her work is inspired by Africa, roots culture and rasta women. Even Bob Marley's granddaughter is a fan of ILA clay jewelry. 
 ILA Rasta Clutch purse $150TT  |  ILA Clay Earrings

This second hand shop on the move, is a group business venture involving Stephanie Leitch, Michelle Isava and Candace Moses.  Stephanie uses recycle jeans pants and makes hand bags and other hair accessories. She also makes some cool earring holders which would definitely help you manage your earring collection at home. Candace sells her Kandakejewelry and Michelle sells a variety of second hand clothing, shoes, books etc.
Jeans bag & Earring holder  |  Candace working on her Kadake Jewelry  |  Second hand items

Vice Versa
Jamilia Alexander and Sanian lewis launched their fashion company 1 year ago. They offer styling, image costultancy services along with design, restyling and customization of fashion accessorries. they both aim to bring the latest international fashion trends to Trinidad & Tobago. 
Vice Versa *Photos courtesy 8Point Images

Is an Afrocentric clothing line from designer Kindele Aixe. Based in New York, her line is described as a fashion movement drawing inspirations from nature and the struggles of African people worldwide. Her designs combine jersey, African prints, bright colours, bold images creating a look that is truly original. So if you want to join the movement check out her website.

Tuff Like Iron Designer Kindele Aixe

Jemima Charles graduated from UWI 2012 in Visual Arts and is now a fulltime artist with her own studio. Suede Molte Art Studio is a space for artistic development through fine arts, craft, workshops, artistic events and conversation. Feel free to visit her studio to view her glass print and drawing art work or see what’s buzzing in her workshop.  

Glass Prints by Jemima Charles