Janelle Monae

I’m still in love with Janelle Monae. It’s an old quote but…

“When I started my musical career I was a maid, I used to clean houses. My parents—my mother was a proud janitor, my step-father who raised me like his very own worked at the post office and my father was a trash man. They all wore uniforms. And that’s why I stand here today in my black and white and I wear my uniform to honor them,” Monáe said, fighting back tears.

how can I not be madly in love with this woman’s energy?

Solange. I know I need to be on her team but I’ve never quite joined it. This video however.. someone please help me I have NO idea what is going on. I like the solo dancing, those who know me know I *love* a self-choreographed outburst. But, yeah, I can’t figure out the video that seems to have a strong 80s vibe to it. Maybe I’ll grow to like the song…

Hip hop’s not really my thing, I rarely process all they lyrics. I managed with this one h/t Colorlines. So there’s a lot going on in the video. The song, I’m not 100% matches the video concept. Re: the song I like the acknowledging and valuing of our crooked smiles. Re: the video, it’s definitely engaging, the war on drugs is clearly foolish and continues to hurts, kill and imprison people far more than it supports and/or changes things for the positive.

Now that I’m driving I’m hearing a lot more music that I wouldn’t normally come across… video has yet to kill the radio star. How did I miss this song? I’m not a super Kelly Rowland fan. I like her more than I like Beyonce which doesn’t say a whole lot, I don’t like Beyonce. There’s a goofy-ness to her that I relate to. As I’ve mentioned kisses down low aren’t a deal breaker for me but a little guidance never hurts…

Speed it up, heat it up, let it go, let it go, let it go
‘Til I get, get enough, you never know, never know, never know
I like that there, yeah that there,
A little more to the left (yeah right there)

Conversations – Repost

A few years ago, I heard about a man who had been stuck in an elevator in Manhattan for five days because he refused to call for help. He was an undocumented worker who chose to stay in a dark, dangling and dangerous elevator rather than use the emergency call button. It he very well could have died in that elevator, and it appeared that he was willing to die before being sent back. That story has stayed with me over the years.

It was on my mind recently when I spent a much longer time than I wanted to discussing cases of human trafficking that have been in the local media in the past year with a dear cousin who is chronically concerned about my feminist ways.

She rolled her eyes as I shared the stories of young women and girls lured with promises, flattery, gifts and glamorous lifestyles. I explained that these women are fed fantasies of the extreme and non-stop partying that they can be a part of if they come to Antigua to dance at a bar or restaurant.

What do they expect?”

“I would never leave my country under those circumstances.”

“They are already whores where they come from.”

When they get here, these women are in instant debt. The plane ticket that was once free, now costs $3,000. Rent must be paid for meagre shared accommodations at $500/week. Food must be bought from the club at $80/day. Clothing and shoes too, at $350/outfit. All owed to the club that brought them here.

The parties are indeed non-stop but you are the entertainment, you need to make money to pay your debts and of course you want to have some money for yourself. The going rate of $50 for a dance and $300-$500 for sex can only go so far. Additionally, your passport is confiscated by your no-longer-gracious host, so even if one of these women wanted to leave, where can you go in this strange new country?

”Well, I would never give anyone my passport.”

”I told you they are whores; they are accustomed to that.”

”How could anyone be that stupid?”

My mind goes back to the man in the elevator. Like him, these women often live in horrendous situations that lead them to make desperate and risky choices. Add someone who is able and willing to exploit that desperation and you have the perfect scenario for human trafficking- modern day slavery.

Are you still trying to convince me that they don’t know what they really come here for?”

Quite honestly, I don’t care.Whether or not she anticipates that she will be a sex worker when she gets here is of little consequence to the greater issue: that she is being deprived of choice, denied of freedom of movement, and criminally exploited in general. Like I said,modern day slavery. To over look this because we’re uneasy about sex work is pretty ridiculous to me.

I left that conversation feeling misunderstood and judged. I shudder to think about what is must be like to be a woman trying to escape a trafficking situation, who can she speak to that will understand? How long will she remain dangling dangerously in her own proverbial elevator?

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

Image

It’s quite a feat for an album to be more than bearable if forced to listen to it all the way through. Back to Black is one of those albums. It’s been on repeat for the morning commutes recently and I want to share some of my favorites.

1. Back to Black

2 Me and Mr. Jones

3. Love is a Losing Games

Happy Hump Day!

 

It’s just past the 2 year anniversary of my granny’s passing. In honour of that, I’m reposting a piece I shared last year to mark the anniversary.

granny helen is the grandparent i miss the most – she’s the one who i had the longest time with as an adult, and probably the one i’m most like (kind of prophetic of my parents to give me the middle name helen).  in honour of my granny, i’m sharing something i wrote the night she passed.

It’s 4am and I still can’t sleep. I’m sure if I told one of my more spiritual friends they’d tell me it’s because I’ve sensed her spirit leave or something.. I’m not quite as sensitive to other worldliness – even though now that I think about it, Granny kind of was (I always remember Mommy telling us about her smelling where someone had died in a room). It got even more acute when she was older, the last few years she’d been complaining about 


Granny was 92 and I’d never heard her talk about death. Despite health that hadn’t been great for the past 10 years and hadn’t been good for at least the past 4, I don’t think I’d heard my Granny talk about the possibility of dying. My sister and I joked that her childhood dream was to turn 100 and she was determined to fulfill it come hell or high water. I don’t know what was holding her with us, but I’m glad it held her this long.

all the people in the room even when it’s just me there. I always figured that washer 6th sense gaining another dimension. Maybe I’ll get that gift in old age.

Now I’m up and I know that people say you should celebrate a passing like this, better places and all that but I’m torn. Because I’m not sure that as unhappy as my Granny may have been, that she was the type to want us to celebrate her being gone. My Granny, like me in family spaces, loved the attention. So I’ll straddle a fairly thin line – I won’t celebrate her being “free”, I’ll celebrate her life. And I’ll miss her – I think Granny would love to be missed.

Celebrating my Granny means remembering how much she loved to laugh. I remember being young and showing her ridiculous gyrating dance moves and trying to get them to do them too just so I could make her laugh till she was unable to catch her breath for a few moments.

It means remembering her style. My Granny loved her red-haired updos, her red lipstick, brightly coloured clothes and her big necklaces. I will always remember whenever “company” came over she would demand that she be changed into a proper outfit, or dressing gown, put on her lipstick and a necklace so nobody could say she wasn’t stunning .

It means remembering that life doesn’t always go as we plan. Sometimes our bodies don’t work the way we want. Sometimes our mouths can’t say what our strong minds want them to. And so we have to take joy in things like random new food items we find at the supermarket, the scent of the perfume that someone gave us years ago, and the memories of an 80 year old granny trying to wuk up like her granddaughter when she can barely breathe through laughter.

in the words of derevolushunwidin “she was my granny and she was fierce”.

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?

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”.

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