Author Archive

fyah links- weed, reparations, genderbending & saying no

Regionally there are a couple big discussions go on that have somewhat piqued my interest.

  1. An increasing push towards decriminalising marijuana. The Prime Minister in St. Vincent has spoken in favour and so as the Chief Justice in Trinidad. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I’m less interested I think the CJ’s endorsement is particularlydecriminalise marijuana relevant when one thinks of the people* are put in jail for possession with intent to sell for what are typically quite small amounts. I fully support the decriminalisation of marijuana, jails do not need to be full of recreational users and those with addiction issues should be supported outside of a jail setting. I’m much less concerned about the marketing opportunities. But it took talking dollars and cents for the enslavement of Caribbean people to end, maybe if they can prove the region will make a lot of money from export governments will look more favourably upon the matter. So sad that quality of life, unnecessary imprisonment and mental health aren’t seen as great priorities.
  2. We now have a Caribbean Reparations Committee, “to seek compensation from Europe for native genocide reparationsand enslavement of Africans during colonisation”. I’m very curious to see how the process progresses. Hopefully as it moves forward ways to get involved and give input will be made available to the general public. If/ when that information becomes available I’ll definitely be posting it. The question for me as always, is what do we think reparations should look like? It’ll be interesting to see if there will be any women on the committee, any young people, any… I hope the committee will not be all be straight middle aged men of high academic standing from middle and upper middle class back grounds.

Have you seen this interacive genderbread person? This person is wonderful. It’s certainly not a cut and try formula on how to understand genderbreadgender and sex but it’s eye-opening when you consider how many manifestations of being there are for our various gendered performances. I highly recommend playing around with it!

Fatimah Best-Jackson breaks down the difficulty of saying no. And she’s not talking about sex or drugs.

I have always had a tendency to say yes. No matter how many responsibilities there were at work or how tired I felt, I would agree to that one extra thing someone asked me to do. Sometimes it resulted in staying up all night proofreading a friend’s essay or being at an event when I really would have rather been in bed. At keep calm and say nothe time, I thought it was worth it because I did something for someone else that made them happy, but I rarely stopped to think about how I felt.

Saying no is a real challenge for me but I try to make and effort to recognise the limits of my own boundaries. It is very easy to fall into the people-pleasing effort/ superwoman trap. But I will say, that I’ve been most inspired to say no when a friend tells me s/he can’t. It’s a reminder from someone who loves me, someone who cares that they can’t be there all the time. So be a friend… tell someone you can’t today. 🙂

*read: young, poor and working class men

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book idle- summer reading

What is one of the things I will miss most about Toronto?

toronto public library

So as I got ready to leave Toronto my mission was to read as many books as possible.

we need new namesNoviolet Bulawayo does something a little different with this novel. Each chapter could almost stand alone as a short shorty as we catch our protagonist at different, though chronological life stages. We meet her in Zimbabwe, and follow her in her migration to the US as a teenager. In Zimbabwe for me the most memorable “scene” is her describing her mother counting her money every night. She is still holding on to the paper that has been devalued so greatly that most other people’s money has turned to ash- literally, using it to keep fires going. In the US I remember being scared with each page turn  that our protagonist was going to be sexually assaulted by her aunt’s husband or his son whose home she’d migrated to. Fortunately it was not so, but it reminded me of the constant threat of sexual assault that many young women, especially newcomers are under when they arrive. 4/5.

I *really* want to love Nalo Hopkinson. I’ve seen her in person and loved her. She has a real nice vibe, her sister minepolitics seem on point, relaxed, fun, mischievous an personable. Her writing however makes me cringe.  As a full disclaimer I will state that science fiction/ speculative fiction/ magic realism is not really my genre. Her Caribbean infused science/speculative/magic genre does nothing to help. I enjoy the Caribbean-ness and Toronto-ness of it all but it never seems to fit for me. I enjoyed the sister dynamic explored in the book, and even the boundary pushing around sexuality, monogamy, time but I still can’t get behind it. Each page I turned I thought, why isn’t this the last page. That said, if Nalo had a reading tomorrow I’d go to it. 1/5

As I scoured the shelves I looked specifically for women of colour authors. Let me tell you if you’re on sal mal lanenot looking for advice on marriage or romance women authors are hard to come by, far less women of colour. How I found Ru Freeman I don’t  but I’m glad I did. This book was excellent, tragic and heart wrenching all in one. Set in Sri Lanka during the on-going civil war we see how neighbours so easily get pitted against each other. How family trauma carries. It’s class. It’s race. It’s ethnicity. It’s pain. I came close to tears a number of times. It may just be my middle class upbringing that made me identify so much with the protagonist family, but in that privilege comes great responsibility. Not to pity or condescend, but to share be generous, to be aware and be patient. There are always moments for us to show generousity, and we often lose that as we age, especially the teen years when our contemporaries need us most. 4/5

What did you read this summer?

makes the ppl come together- summer soca round up

A long overdue summer soca round up.

keep calm and love small island soca

I watched Antigua’s Soca Monarch competition after a semi-satisfying day masquerading in Toronto. Let me tell you that competition was SWEET. Wadadli doing big big things. I disagreed with the judges as I disagree with most judges in queen, calypso and soca shows. The man who brought real vibes to the competition- Hard Knaxx, and not just b/c he said, S”t. Kitts gyal like to party hard, party hard.” (@2:53)

Spice Mas… I really had every intention of going this year. But intentions are not plans, and even so, plans are not realities. I cannot miss what is supposed to be the region’s most glorious j’ouvert many more years. Mr. Killa, showing some love for the plus sized women. Interesting how showing love and objectifying often look familiar on stage…

After two Cropovers in a row this year I bid the festival adieu. I did not however turn my back on the music. This song had me CRACKING up. No one would ever ask me this question as my bottom is not big, broad or firm. But I love it, “girl, how you bumpa get so big and so broad and round and so firm?” But Alison answer priceless… “Caribbean girls was born with it”.

fyah spots- we’re back!

These posters are so hype. CARICAN i.e. CARICOM can take a stand against homophobia. Support the site b/c really, CARICOM can, and only canCARICOM flags if we ourselves take a stand.

This page is part of a collective response to recent mob-killings of gay and transgender Caribbean citizens in Haiti and Jamaica. Using Rosie the Riveter as a theme, the tagline “We Can Do It”, is an attempt to lobby CARICOM governments to take a clear position on homophobic and transphobic violence. Contributors are asked to wear their flags as a head tie and pump their muscles for peace.

catchafyah

This link kinda plugs us… but have you seen it? Top 10 Caribbean Feminist Blogs you should follow? If it were in order the blog that put out this list should be number one! Big up to all my Caribbean feminists out there, those who write, those who act, those who think, those who are slowly crossing over. Our fyah makes things that much sweeter in the region. I’ve even missed a few of these over the years. But if I had to pick my favourite favourite, I’d have to give it to Creative Commess, and you should definitely follow her on facebook.

Speaking of Caribbean feminists… Fatimah Jackson-Best has been representing Caribbean Muslim faithwomen over at aquila style superbly for the last few months. Check out her latest post on mental health and illness in Muslim communities. Her piece offers advice that is relevant to all communities religious or not. It’s crucial that we talk about mental health, support people when they seek help, and individually that we not see it as a weakness in our faith or sense of self.

skin care productsI’ve been sleeping on Black Girl in the Ring and I missed this great post on dealing with acne naturally. As I head into my 30s with this acne still following me I think (read: hope) that maybe this Wadadli (Antiguan) remedy for acne may be the answer.

In my hat tip and final good bye to Toronto, I remember Sammy Yatim who was killed seemingly senselessly by a Toronto police justice for Sammyofficer. I share the reflection of a friend of pieces2peace prompted by his witnessing of a protest for Sammy Yatim in downtown Toronto. I remember my own confusion when I heard to story, and increased confusion when I saw the video. I remember my own outrage that this young man had been killed. My own disappointment with myself for not showing up for the protests.

yoga matAnd because I’ve been gone for so long I’m giving you 6 links instead of 3. Here are 23 problems only yoga people understand. I related 100% to numbers 2, 7, 9, 13, 15, 22 and 23. I have a hard hard life.

makes the ppl come together- summer soca season part 1

svgIt’s the summer soca season. I know some people abhor the use of the word summer in Caribbean. I could easily be one of those people if I didn’t grow up calling July-August summer. So bite it! #thatsglobalisationforyou

First stop. Vincy mas! I’ve never been, but I’m thinking I’ll make it for 2014 or maybe 2015.

I haven’t always been a fan of Skinny Fabulous but I *love* this song. Maybe it’s b/c he sounds like Bunji, maybe it’s b/c it’s one the first new soca songs I’ve heard in awhile. Either way, I’m building stamina to go non-stop.

I’m always happy to see women get their songs out during carnival. Listening to Denyse, Destra and Fay-Ann it’s not an easy road. Here is Fya Empress. New soca… ah ketch it in truth… 🙂

Some songs make fete-ing sound a family affair. Calling everybody that’s around, we fete-ing when the sun goes down… If I had lots of disposable income I really would have a feting problem.

fyah fridays- feminist activism, children’s lit & pole dancing

Girls Globe writer Camaro West blogs from the Women Deliver conference in Malaysia reminding us of the power of social media in bringing about meaningful change. #WDlive and #WD2013 

feminist buttons“As a collective of individuals, organizations and governments gathering together at Women Deliver and mobilizing all of this non-traditional currency, we can work to ensure that when money is thrown at a problem, it is thrown in a direction that will best get at the root causes and lead to lasting changes.”

A friend introduced me to the beauty of children’s literature. Looking for a gift for a child in your life? Check out this book, by lgbt activit Sherlina Nageer out of Guyana.

“This story takes place in an Amerindian village by the majestic Kanuku Mountains of the Rupununi children's literatureregion of Guyana. A lonely little girl finds friendship in the unlikeliest of places. Showcasing daily life and culture of the indigenous people of Guyana, this story will be enjoyed by Guyanese and non-Guyanese of all ages.”

It’s getting to be summer time in Toronto and the fitness pressure is on. I’m constantly thinking to myself, I pole dancingshould exercise more, eat less rubbish and be healthier, bur really it’s only b/c I will now I fewer layers to hide under. This article on pole dancing reminded me of another fitness phase at another point in my life. The author says she took a class and liked it. I took a few classes and didn’t hate it. I liked working the pole, doing the twirls and marvelling at what I could do with body. What I couldn’t stand about it was the pressure to be sensual. Sensual and sexy don’t come natural to me. If you know me, you would not be surprised by this. But nothing made me feel less sexy than being in room with 8 other women who are also looking into a mirror as they work their pole/chair. I was pretty sure that if I put any effort into the sensuality I’d end up looking like Carrie:

All that to say, our bodies are capable of incredible things, we should treat them well.

americanah & me

Snapshot_20130524I never read the backs/ inside jacket covers of books before I read them. I typically trust the authors I have chosen to read* and/ or know what I’m getting into**. With movies, entering with that sort of freshness is hard what with trailers and movie reviews. With books, it is far easier; but with this book, it was far more difficult. So much press,  almost every day it made my newsfeed. I made it though, it was only as I read it I knew what it was a bout. Perhaps there was no more fitting time for to read this novel, as I like Ifemelu (the protagonist) am on my way home, to be received no doubt, like an Americanah, or JCB (just.come.back).

A very general review, just shy of 500 pages, like Half of a Yellow Sun I thought it was too long. It could easily have been three shorter novels, or five novellas. I could have done without the 2008 presidential election, the white boyfriend, and maybe even the Black American boyfriend. That’s largely unlike Ifemelu these things have never interested me and/or I have no such parallels in my life.

There are a million things I could expound upon in my reading of this novel- love, corruption, choices, dreams, class, race, sex. For the attention span of readers (some of which I’ve already lost I’m sure) I pick three. Blogging, returning and loving.

no one cares about your stupid blogBlogging. Would you believe Ifemelu’s a blogger? Blogging about race in America. Now for me the fantastical thing about this is that she seems to have made oodles of money off of this. As many a blogger well knows however that is a privilege afforded to few. I say privilege because meritocracy is not alive and well. For those of us who work, who go to school… it is incredibly hard to maintain blogs with quantity far less quality posts.* Though I’m not sure if intentionally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche was speaks to this directly by having her blog start up while she is dating an obscenely rich man who created an incredibly comfortable life for her. Thankfully, she continued working (at the job he got her) throughout the relationship. But I imagine writing must come more easily, when you’re whisked away to Paris for the weekend once a month. Shout out to blogging while brown and all the clever writers out there who don’t have time to hone their crafts.

Returning. In a few months I go home after a 12 year absence. I’ve visited throughout the years, so the return will not be eddie murphyshocking, but the adjustment is bound to take some time. One of the characters while at a dinner party in England is part of a conversation where white British people bemoan the woes of immigration. A clearly liberal participant says something to the effect of all people should be granted asylum, and be able to live free from terror, war etc. And my character thinks, what about fleeing the, “oppressive legarthy of choicelessness,” and being, “hungry for choice and certainty”.

Growing up middle-class in the Caribbean I have had many opportunities afforded to me. I did not have a nanny or a driver, but my parents have almost always employed a house-keeper. North America affords very few those forms of luxury. There is however the luxury in the certainty that electricity is unlikely to go out, that your car is not going to be damaged in a pot hole the size of a crater or that stores will open on time. That I think of as the luxury of being a middle-classed immigrant (with papers) in North America, that I know I will both be hungry for and miss.

The challenge in returning for me is to

  1. not immerse myself in a wining about how different things are for too long. I can live (and must remember have lived) without cheap restaurants with a variety of foods, libraries that allow me access to Americanah b/c I put my name on the waitlist early this year, not sweating for most of the year.
  2. not to become complicit in the corruption that appears to ease the adjustment of returning. The shadiness described in the novels appears in many forms in the characters lives both personal and professional. Sometimes it is engaged in out of desperation and need, other times simply out of want. I hope to be able to continually engage in the assessment of where on the continuum these things fall for me and not just pick the seemingly smoother route. A reminder, many things take time, and many more won’t ever come to fruition.

Loving. Ifemelu and Obinze have a love story that hurts. Ifemelu makes many choices in her life that I think I would never. She describes relationships young women have with rich man in Nigeria (and all over the world) to maintain a lifestyle they cannot themselves afford. A fixation on marriage, a desperation to impress, an absence of expectation of monogamy… These are the very things that make me so hesitant when it comes to romance and relationships in my own life. What we want and the couplewhat we expect are often so vastly different. To quote a character in the novel, “Many of us didn’t marry the women we truly loved. We married the woman that was around us when we were ready to marry.”

With all that surrounds us, for me, believing in the possibility of love is a challenge. I wish I could be that cold, jaded, unfeeling, calculated person who says, that love is construct, which in theory I very much know it is. But I have also known the joy of love, the agony of love, and construct or not those feelings have been very real; so real that I rooted for Ifemelu and Obinze, even when it was often too problematic for me to think it in their best interests. Love, I truly believe is lovely**, thank you Ms Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for that wonderful reminder.

All that to say buy it, I’m going to even after I’ve borrowed it from the library. 🙂

*check out our great list over at goodreads as well as up and coming fiction by writers of colour for 2013

**cheesy mystery novels, I may or may not have read every Spenser novel and picked up some Agatha Christie’s last week

*in case you haven’t noticed Monday Musings has all but dropped off

** and complicated and messy J

10 pts to anyone who gets the (super corny) 3rd picture reference

4th picture- I have a few favourite couples, who say cam^2; but these two people make up my favourite fictional couple.

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