Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Time






















Maya and i arrive just in time for Christmas in the Village. We waltzed into the holiday vibe moving to the beat of our “just return” rhythms and the festive spirit of a holiday season loved and celebrated. This year we were blessed with the arrival of our farm family from Ohio Valley, Antigonish. This is the first time family from the Otherside have arrived for Christmas and most importantly Maya's birthday. An element of specialness was added to the season. Gemma and Bara arrived two days before Christmas and spent their first day on the island baking local chocolate delights while wiping the sweat from their faces and taking short breezy veranda breaks. Yearly we have a Village gathering to celebrate Maya's birth! Maya was born nine years ago in this little board house, arrived just in time before neighbours showed up for gifts of sorrel, ginger beer and cake. No one from the Village knew i was having a home birth; a natural practice that has been swallowed whole here in Grenada by the medical profession just as it has in Canada. Christmas day neighbours arrived to their Village Sistren, magically high, rocking on the veranda with one hour Maya snuggled into the warmth of new beginnings.
“What girl you give birth home? Eh eh you real brave!”
“What i didn't know white women could be so strong minded”;
“Girl you real have belly oui!”
Various comments decorated the air full of love and surprise.

This year the air was full of kids. Kids in the yard, the house, the veranda, the skin up tree, the driveway, the bench across the road. “Kids for real!”. Music shook up the house while we laughed; shared holiday traditions; took photos; passed around xiona (the baby of the gathering); played dominoes; sheltered the rain; gave jokes; laughed and laughed some more; ate cake, cookies, popcorn, sweets; drank sorrel, ginger beer, malt, carib and black wine. By the end of the night, 12 year old Etson was beating the drum and the kids were dancing up a small tropical sun shower, squished into our tiny birthing home.

Another celebration remembered and cherished.

One Love
and Glorious blessings for the New Year!








Sunday, December 19, 2010

Transitions: Crossing over
























I pulled this quote from a bundle of old love letters i found just before heading to the airport, just before crossing over the bridge....

"nobody can live on a bridge but its fine for comings and goings, meetings and partings, or long views to some place where you may, in the crazy weathers of struggle, now and again want to be".

An appropriate quote as i stumbled around for the past month reflecting on both worlds. A whirlwind of thoughts spiraling; confusion and clarity dancing cheek to cheek. I sit now on the other side of the bridge early morning dawn slowly turning, fishing boats moving out to sea, birds awakening, roosters chorusing, night turning into day and I look back and feel the nostalgia of a world left behind. I move into my writer self and commit once again to recording and sharing the rhythms of my heart.

Crossing Over

Crossing over we move through the airport loaded down with books, clothes, art supplies, gifts of various sizes and a new sacred drum. We get on the plane regardless of the weight, regardless of the drum that won't fit underneath the seat or the overhead; regardless that we forgot in our hand luggage a small jar of bear fat, a gift of healing and strength from our First Nation Elders. We get on and we are crossing, we are crossing over;

Crossing over we meet Guyanese rapper taxi man who recognizes our Caribbeaness through the way we bounce up to his language and music. He shares with us his cd, a mixture of rap, calypso and parang. We buzz through downtown Toronto bouncing to the rythms of the island;

Crossing over we stay at a Toronto airport hotel. We are on the bridge crossing over but still deeply immersed to the side we are leaving. Maya begging for cable tv and i longing for deeper connectedness through emails from the side we are leaving;

Crossing over we are on the plane to Trinidad. Elder Trinidadian (Trini) woman comments on a young mother who in frustration and tiredness tells her young daughter to “hush her freakn self!” Elder lady comments “freakn is a dog's name not a child's name”. Young mother begins to curse the elder lady telling her to mind her own freakn business! Crossing over we are moving into a land where people still hold on to their beliefs of villages raising children;

Crossing over we are surrounded by Trinis going home for the holidays. Young Rasta man looks our way and hails us with a closed fist to the heart. I nod in respect and love.

Crossing over we are in Trinidad airport waiting for our last flight. Music begins to settle throughout the waiting area; a blend of Richie Spice and other Jamaican rhythms. Hips start to sway, bodies moving natural and free. Two flight attendants break into dance while walking to their gate.

Crossing over Maya shouts, “mommy look!” Grenada swings into sight with a splatter of lights covering the hills and valleys. We are landing on the other side of the bridge. We are crossing, but I am also the one glancing back to the other side of the bridge already feeling the tugs of longing, a longing for the familiarity of the land i was born to. Crossing over i am also fully aware of these precious gifts of crossing and living two diverse and distinct worlds; transitioning, transforming, one foot on each side confused yet clear at the same time.

Crossing over we are Home again.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Part Four: Expanding the World





Part Four: Alison’s Journey/My Memories

For a short time Alison immersed herself in various religions, cultures, races, and rural and urban worlds;

The Peace and Friendship Gathering was an opportunity for Alison to witness the different ways people choose to honor the spiritual; whether it was through praising Grandmother moon, greeting the sun, gift giving ceremonies or through recognizing simple acts of kindness as a form of religion. Alison sat in circle during the four days and heard native and non native people speak from the heart as they spoke of sacredness, love and forgiveness, honoring and praising Mother Earth, and a deep respect for one self and others who share the same planet. She expereinced her Uncle Theo honored and respected for what he believed in and given the space and time to speak of his beliefs. She witnessed others respecting Rastafarianism and honoring this religion as one that speaks from the heart, the earth and the psalms. She witnessed her Uncle as a man to be respected for his beliefs; beliefs that are too often scoffed and belittled by European religions in Grenada. On the last evening Alison was wearing a bright unguarded smile while singing and dancing around the fire. I breathed deeply her open heart.

Another powerful experience and opportunity I believed enlarged Alison’s world view was her participation at the Tatamagouche Social Justice Youth Camp held yearly at the Centre. The camp began the day the Gathering ended and so we left Alison behind and imagined her being swept into another kind of gathering; a gathering of youths from various cultures, religions and race who shared five days together learning how to make a difference in the world. It was here that Alison made and wore with pride “YOUTH REVOLUTION BEGINS HERE” on the back of a tshirt.

For five days youth (ages 14 to 19) came together to practice strategies against racism, use arts against injustice, discuss gender relations and cultural contexts, build alliances, and have a whole lot of fun! The camp was facilitated by a diverse team of young adults from the region who actively live their lives working for social change. Alison met other youths like herself from different parts of the world Guatemala, India, Africa, Canada. She was the only youth from the Caribbean and the only youth who did not live full time in Canada and so she was able to bring a unique perspective to the group and share this uniqueness through leading and facilitating an activity about Grenada.

I can still see Alison on the last day of camp hugging her new friends, calling one another pet names, giving each other soft sliding quick moving special hand shakes, “you better write me girl” exchanged as others moved in and out of going home. Alison giggling in the back of the car sharing stories and gifts from the youth camp. “I going to miss those people for real. I can’t even begin to tell you all that I learned. It was intense! You feel those girls easy, they real sweet and genuine”.

Alison flew home to Grenada, home to Harford Village a day later.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PartThree: Kids are Kids Everywhere















I move back into memories of Alison’s trip imagining and hoping the teachings of travel outside her own culture transforms into meaningful ways of seeing the world and that this spreads infectiously to others who do not have the same opportunities.

Alison, Maya, and I took part in a summer peace camp for a week in Halifax held by Peaceful Schools International (PSI), a non profit, charitable organization that provides support to schools around the world that commit to creating and maintaining cultures of peace within and outside school settings. The organization was birthed by Hetty Van Grup, a warrior mother who turned tragedy into hope after her 14 year old son was killed in a bullying incident at his school over ten years ago. I shared this story with Harford Village Peace Leaders as I was inspired by Hetty’s commitment to peace and her strength and courage to turn tragedy into hope. I too share her belief that teaching peace building skills to kids is a crucial element missing from schools and communities. Alison met Hetty the first day of camp and was able to put a face to a story. I remember Alison saying after the first day of camp “That lady a real hero oui!” and further reflecting on the violence in her own school and community and recognizing the value to the activities we facilitated weekly with the Village kids.


During the week Alison and I volunteered our time to assist in helping the facilitators while Maya was one of the peace kids. Throughout the week the kids were engaged in learning gardening skills, making traditional aboriginal talking sticks, role playing various conflicts and peace building solutions, making peace banners and playing peace games and other activities. The kids sang with legendary Nova Scotian folk singer Terry Kelly, met a famous book illustrator, and danced to the soulful beats of various visitors. They talked through skype with kids from Pakistan and Sierra Leone who are also involved in PIS.

Alison met a variety of kids throughout the week: biracial kids like Maya; physically challenged kids who were treated like everyone else and who contributed equally to the scene; outspoken kids and shy kids; kids who came with very little to eat for lunch and those who had enough to share for everyone. There was unlimited art supplies and unlimited time to talk, be heard, and listened to. Alison recorded various activities, games and ideas throughout the week so we could use them with the kids in our community. On most evenings Alison arrived home exhausted from kid’s unbridled energy. She said one night “Those kids not easy man, I didn’t know Canadian kids can be so unruly and crazified just like Grenada kids. Eh eh I thought it was village kids alone who could get on so!” She learned kids globally have energy "for real" and if this energy is not channeled creatively and with purpose then it has the potential to burst into confusion, chaos and sometimes violent directions.

Part Four is in the making!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Part 2: Youth Revolution Starts Here



I can still feel the ear to ear grins, the yelps of excitement as our extended family lept over the coastal waves on our way to placing ourselves on the path of the pilot whales off the coast of Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton; magical moments floating in the midst of prehistoric creatures rolling in and out of the sea, blessing us with their existence.

The meeting of the whales was part of our trip to Cape Breton on the first weekend of Alison’s arrival. Theo, Maya, Alison and our friend Nancy drove to Pleasant Bay where we dived into a weekend of meeting new friends, visiting spiritual places and inhaling the natural beauty of Cape Breton. Our trip was organized with the help of Joel Burton, a past participant of the Grenada Service Learning trip. Joel traveled to Grenada with a group of students from St. Francis Xavier University to take part in a cross cultural immersion program a few years ago. Upon hearing about Alison’s trip to Canada, Joel jumped head first into raising funds for Alison’s trip. Joel’s mom, spear headed a community fund raising initiative within their community of St. Margaret’s Village, Cape Breton and raised over $300 for Alison’s journey. Joel and his family also organized our weekend agenda and we found ourselves meeting grass roots “salt of the earth” people in the form of Joel’s extended family. This included mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and his past high school teacher who introduced us to his ninety year old father who was in Grenada during the Revolution in the early 80’s. There were many stories remembered and shared of revolutionary times both in the Caribbean and Latin America. We departed our new friends with a renewed sense of global community.

That weekend we also inhaled the gentle mindful air of the Gappo Abbey; the Shambhala Buddhist Monastary that sits on the northern cliffs of Cape Breton. We visited the Abbey and walked amongst the wild cliffs of Atlantic coast, inhaled the silent stillness and walked to the Stupa of enlightenment laying down our gifts of stones and flowers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Youth Revolution Starts Here







Youth Revolution Starts Here

Alison is now back home, back into Village life, back into her own reference point of family, community, culture, religion. I frequently wonder what sort of reflection she is moving through in relation to her Canadian journey. I dream about being a mosquito resting buzzlessly on her shoulder while she tells her friends and family about her time in Nova Scotia, Canada. I imagine Alison saying “Whaaaat if you see Shopping Malls. Whole place full of things to buy oui!, and cheap as what! They joking when it comes to cheap things in Canada!”

I reflect on my own memories of Alison’s journey, the ones highlighted in my mind that speak of change through stepping out of comfort zones and expanding our minds to include a colorful spectrum of perspectives; ways of seeing the world that may or may not be our own; stretching into possibilities of new light by questioning old world views, old points of reference, widening, changing perspective becoming more inclusive, multi dimensional, forgiving, accepting, loving ….

Our week in Halifax surfaces to the forefront as I write about stepping out and into new perspectives. On our first evening in the big city Maya, Alison and I walked to the wharf. I felt Ali’s heart pumping fast as we moved into her first big city scene. We watched the madness of people everywhere on the docks taking in the last day of the Buskers Festival on a warm breezy Sunday eve. We bumped up with a group of black Nova Scotian youth doing what Grenadian youth do; hang out, make noise, move into their own collective rhythms. We watched while this same group found themselves in trouble with a white security guard for taking up space in the ferry terminal. We watched the security guard stumble in his conditioned fears of youths; most likely of black youths. He comes on too strong and stumbles in his power role to get them out of the terminal. I couldn’t help wonder how he would react if the group were a group of white kids, would they too be asked to leave? Words were exchanged, defiancy displayed before the youths sauntered out. Alison blurts out “I bet you would never see white kids getting on like that, that only happens with my colour skin!” I took a deep breathe. I responded by saying perhaps it wasn’t about race at all but about youths in general, perhaps it was about respect and how we as a society respect our youths, or perhaps it was about race and learning about our own selves and our own reactions to people who are different from us. Perhaps the security guard was afraid of his own fear of black youths and wanted them out of the terminal before they turned into the gangster images pop culture feeds him night after night as he sits to escape life through hours of tv watching. Alison and I then reflected on how race and class are intimately related and I couldn’t help think of the comment recently heard on a phone-in program on CBC radio where Nova Scotia was described as a Northern Mississipi.

Alison, Maya and I talked a bit more about youths in general and the differences not only of skin colour but of opportunity. How some youths may not grow up with the opportunities that others grow up with and therefore life is much harder for them. They may act out through being rebellious to authority or by stealing something they see so easily accessible to everyone else or they may lash out and get into fights out of years of frustration at home. I then wondered out loud why we were only seeing white youths smoking cigarettes, dressed in worn out clothes, hands outstretched for change. Why weren’t the black kids begging for money? Why weren’t the black kids walking solitary around in a haze looking for change? Perhaps it was simply that day. I guess I wanted Alison to see that it wasn’t only youths that look like her who get in trouble, that the layers are complicated and that through traveling I hoped she would be able to open her heart and mind to those layers.

Memories start to tumble out one after the other and I am left with an assortment of moments to share and sort out. I go slow so I can capture and do justice to my own memories soon to compare them with Alison’s once we return. I will continue to unfold memories of potential change in the preceding blogs for now here is the first.
One Love
One Youths!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Relations Right Relations: Know Your History

We must challenge our Selves because it is each of us who must struggle with our consciousness. We are ultimately responsible for our actions and inactions; and, we are, each, accountable to the Earth, our Ancestors, Creator, our Children and the Unborn.

_gkisedtanamoogk


The world will be balanced when we are balanced.

thrthang tulku



May compassion arise within your heart and may you see all beings as your relatives in this dream of life.

Dhyani ywahoo



Last week our family (Alison Maya Theo and I) found ourselves at the Tatamagouche Centre taking part in the 7th Annual Peace and Friendship Gathering; a gathering of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people committed to truth and reconciliation; a building of right relations with First Relations, Mother Earth and her First People.

An invite was extended to us after sharing with Canadian friends the violence and suffering experienced over the years within our own community in Grenada and the deep wounds violence, poverty, and oppression continue to cause in our family, friends and community.

We came to the gathering recognizing not only our need to understand and recognize more fully the historical context to the violence and oppressive structures that prevail today in the Caribbean and in particular our community; but also our need to witness and experience how other historically and present day oppressed people move through violent pasts into the present and still continue to embrace, respect, and honor the sacredness of life and ceremony. How these same people continue to pledge alliance to Mother Earth; commit to social, environmental, personal and political activism; and recognize the crucial need to build relationships with one another. We heard and felt painful stories from First Nations who gathered to generously teach us and other non native people the way back to sacred ceremony, the way back to relationships with one another and the earth, and the way back to speaking and listening from our hearts. The past four days taught me how little I know of Canada’s Aboriginal people, my own Canadian history, and how much there is to learn from my Grenadian husband, family, friends and community.

I can’t help reflect upon the invisibility of Aboriginal people and culture in my own life while growing up; the racist stereotypes learned and woven into my own limited worldview. How, so many of us were swallowed whole by the dominant imperialist Eurocentric worldview; how I and many like myself were born seeped in ignorance drowning others in our own false sense of entitlement. How, many of us when we do begin to shed the ignorance from our eyes and begin to see the unjust system; and how we have benefited from this system, feel the need to leave our materially rich and privileged lives to seek understanding and repentance by traveling across the seas. Many of us jump into other countries and cultures without first understanding our own history; a Canadian history of colonialism, oppression, and violence that continues to affect our Aboriginal brothers and sisters today as well as other marginalized people of Canada.

Bob Marley wrote, “If you know your history, then you would know where you are coming from, then you wouldn’t have to ask me, who the hell do you think I am.”
These lines speak loudly to me of the responsibility we all hold in understanding our histories, our stories, which I believe inevitably lead us to understanding more fully who we are in this world, why we believe what we believe and how do these believes affect our actions or non actions in the world. As one of the wise and compassionate Elders, gkisedtanamoogk shares, “We must challenge our Selves because it is each of us who must struggle with our consciousness. We are ultimately responsible for our actions and inactions; and, we are, each, accountable to the Earth, our Ancestors, Creator, our Children and the Unborn.” I believe once we tackle the decolonization of our own minds then the decolonization of the systems that perpetuate the killing of our Mother Earth and the division of her people will soon follow.

For four days we sat together wrapped around the sacred fire; watched over by a cathedral of elder oak trees. We moved into life giving forces through sacred ceremonies and spirited council; all of us moving bravely to the beat of our own fears while embraced by love and compassion in reconciling our pasts and recommitting our commitment to healthier relations with the Earth and with One Another. The four days renewed my commitment to the sacred, to ceremony, to new friendships, to understanding my own history and how this history is intimately connected to other’s history, to becoming more balanced in an unbalanced world, and to strengthening my place in the world not through a sense of entitlement but through a sense of responsibility and love.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Paintings for Peace






Free flowing figures continue to move across the canvas illuminating and celebrating life and in return, birthing and strengthening youth peace programs in Harford Village, Grenada, West Indies.

Original paintings, giclee prints, and note cards continue to sell throughout Grenada, Caribbean and World wide and in return I continue to work on community and youth building projects.

For the past six months The Harford Village Peace Leaders have been busy organizing and facilitating various community youth programs such as an after school peace program; a sharing of cultures with Canadian youth visitors; a village hike with hiking expert Telfore Bedeau; a community drum session with national drum troupe, Tivoli Drummers; a community Fun Day in Victoria Park; a poster making session to celebrate Earth Day; a children’s exercise session; an after school chess club and various other creative activities that reach out to Village kids ages 4 to 16 years.

A young women’s Program called INSPIRE began in March 2010. This girl-friendly youth empowerment program was literally inspired by a young women’s empowerment program from the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre, Nova Scotia! Seven young village women from high risk – low income families gathered every Wednesday evening. The girls explored, discovered, and exercised their talents, potential and voiced needs in a safe, positive and non judgmental environment. The program was held in my small studio; a space I had dreamed about turning into a Peace Studio/Workshop and hosting various small group youth programs. The dream is alive!!!

In July youth leaders once again coordinated and facilitated a children’s peace camp. The camp provided kids with a safe, creative and fun space to learn and engage in a variety of educational and creative activities, games and field trips. This year the Peace Camp was sponsored by local NGO, Grenada Save the Children (GRENSAVE).


Allison Harris is the first Village youth to travel to Canada and take part in Grenada Youth Exchange and is presently here in Antigonish, Nova Scotia with Theo, Maya and I. Alison has been busy opening her heart and mind to the many cross cultural learning opportunities presenting themselves within the first week of her stay. Allison will also volunteer at a children’s peace camp, take part in the Tatamagouche Social Justice Youth Camp, work on an organic farm and be a part of our extended Antigonish family. This will give Allison the opportunity to strengthen her leadership, facilitation and social justice skills; meet new friends; and share her experiences, skills and knowledge with Grenadian family friends and community upon her return.

I continue to fund raise for various components of village peace projects and youth initiatives through sales of my artwork. If you would like to continue supporting peace programs in Harford Village through purchasing original art by Maureen St. Clair visit my website and glance through 2010 paintings and prints for peace. I also paint commissioned pieces specific to your needs. 10 % of all sales goes towards village youth programs and initiatives.

Visit my website: www.maureenstclair.com to view!

Email me at mayamado@hotmailcom.com!

One Love
One Family
One Earth
Maureen St. Clair

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wise Warrior Gentle Women



Maya and I find ourselves in the company of three wise women; three lovely gentle blooming blossomed story wise women!

We finally take the invite that has been blown our way for the past few years and find ourselves in Bath, Ontario for 28 hours basked in early morning loons rising with the purple hazed horizon; extended families of ducks visiting from the shoreline; a colorful array of flowers, vegetables, finches and chickadees; a bold swift and pudgy cheeked chipmunk scampering to our sides for offerings of dried corn; twin rainbows back bending across lake Ontario; and Women, wise,warrior, wide open arm Women! Three of them!

We dived into lives past and present, books enjoyed and books put down, creative projects and passions; other people’s courageous stories, our own courageous stories; oppression of women worldwide; travels to Laos, Vietnam, Israel and Turkey; grandkids and kids; who we are at 42, who we are at 71, and who we are here and now; stories from Grenada and Jamaica; Jimmy Cliff and other reggae artists we love to groove to; connections that naturally take root and flourish into stories painful yet fruitful; and an array of sharing that women friends do when they find themselves together without a whole lot of interruption….

I give thanks to these three wise gentle women friends that move into our lives and grace us with gifts of love and friendship providing paths to take that lead to the centre of life taken!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

do we want to hear? do we have the time?

Yesterday I bounced up with Jamaica roots rasta friend at farmers market. He sells his organically and humbly grown greens and spicy Johnny bakes every Sunday at inner city market here in Ottawa. This week Rasta and I’s talk moved immediately into the world of Grenada. Ras asked me how Grenada was holding up? And I responded with “times are hard for the holding.” He replied, “What do you mean hard?” but before I could respond with a simplified answer to a complicated question Ras says “Times aren’t hard man, people make it hard.” I usually take a long pause when confronted with this sort of opinion, and in that pause I am usually asked the question again., “ok so why are times hard?”

Where does one begin to answer such a multi layered, complicated question and from what angle does one begin the discussion? historically, socially, economically, politically, spiritually? And do people with the “times aren’t hard, people make it hard” attitude want to hear the stories behind the stories; the social, economic, historical, political, religious contexts that many kids worldwide are born into, contexts that leave very little room to walk through open doors to a softer more pliable flexible life; do people want to hear the brutal histories that continue to deny so many of our children, women and men the opportunities to move forward and therefore make it in this so called “not so hard life”; do people want to hear about the politics of one small island that has such a deep hold of people’s psyches, that works to divide neighbors causing confusion, chaos, a constant flow of lateral violence such as gossip and party colored politics making people’s lives just that much harder to love thy neighbor and thyself; do people want to hear about the violence that fills up peoples lives, not because they ask for it but because that is how it has always been; do people want to hear about a global economic system that caters to a small section of the world’s population making it difficult for many hard working people to move forward in a work force that is either non existent, limited or provides work at slave wages; do people want to hear why people don’t want to go back to the land, the deeply rooted disgust of what many people consider slave work, a marching back into a history of sweat and toil, of long torturous days swinging the machete in the hot sun while the Boss Man swings his whip over heads and bodies; do people want to hear or even try to understand the deeply rutted grooves in a child’s psyche that is exposed from birth to a constant diet of violence, poverty and oppression that leads to a perpetual cycle within oneself, affecting ones choices and access to opportunities; do people want to hear about their own country’s past and present oppressive structures that gave birth to residential schools, public government apologies that mean nothing to the first nations youths committing suicide daily in our northern Canadian communities.

And where do these discussions take place? Do they take place amongst the rolling hills of greens and fruits cultivated and harvested weekly, sold to an affluent world of Sunday morning market buyers and browsers, of people like myself who stroll freely from stall to stall paying fair prices to eat in ways that enhance and encourage a life of fullness and choice. Is there room here to talk openly and freely? Is there time for people to read this blog, to immerse themselves for a few minutes in realities that are far from their own or close to their own however distant because they are the few who have pushed through the hard soil and have made it through and can now share their testimonies and say without hesitation, “times not hard, people make them hard” ? Is there time now also to talk about the courage, resilience, power and hope that people who endure such contexts and histories portray daily in their everyday lives of overcoming, of conquering each moment, each breathe inhaled and exhaled and do we people want to hear? Do we people have the time?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Confusion, Curiosity and Delight



Moving temporarily into a world of red maple leafs, urban gardens, long summer days, cardinals and blue jays, oversized cats with insatiable appetites, skunks and raccoons, weather chatting neighbors, music festivals and inner city park yoga. A world where people go about their business without noticing the faces of one another, without the familiar nods of island connectedness; until a smile meets their passing gaze and I become not just a body in a city full of other bodies but a person with strange hair wrapped in colorful cloth.

In Grenada I am Rasta, Ras, Sistren, Dread, Empress, however here I am watched with confusion, curiosity, and delight. Within the first day of planting ourselves onto Canadian soil a new friend commented excitedly, “birds could build nests in your hair!” I laughed and thought of diamond headed satin green Grenada hummingbirds landing and nesting. Two days ago an elder woman crossed the road as I was getting into the van and with surety and regret said, “if I had my life to live over I would have hair just like yours”. Last night while walking to the Blues Festival, to dance the night away to Gypsy Kings and Steele Pulse,a lady bravely asked if she could feel my hair. She waited patiently for me to offer up my head. Some comments are not so positive such as the time I walked into my doctors office and was greeted with, “I pray my daughter never comes home with hair like that” and last summer when a jacket and tie man laughed boldly in my direction “does it come with operating instructions” glaring at my head and chuckling with other white collar suits. However, these comments are few and in between the light, breezy curiosity of the many Ottawa dwellers who glance over and see mother and daughter wearing their cross cultural hair proudly and freely.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Good News: Taking Care of One Another


JJ and his mother, Hermione have arrived home after three months in Richmond, Virginia. JJ underwent heart surgery to replace two severely damaged heart valves related to rheumatic fever that was misdiagnosed last year. JJ was sponsord by the Grenada Heart Foundation and after many months of waiting to see if a hospital overseas would sponsor the operation; he and his mother have returned from a succesful operation and many soulful stories of hope, loss and unity to share. And in the same breathe of a blog i want to shout out more good news with the arrival of Alison's canadian visa a few days ago!!!

Alison is JJ's younger sister and one of the youth leaders in the Village Peace Programs. We have been fund raising for a Alison's journey to Canada so she can take part in cultural immersion program in Nova Scotia. Alison will be involved in a Social Justice Youth Camp in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia; a Youth Leadership Camp in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and spending time on a community oriented, organic farm in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Donations continue to flow in support of this youth empowerment initiative! We are hoping this will be an on-going program that will provide other Grenadian youths like Alison the opportunity to travel, meet new people, build leadership skills, and empower themselves to work for personal and social change upon their return!
Thanks and Praise to everyone for their many blessings, generous donations and global belief in taking care of one another world-wide.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010








Possibilities Exist


I watch the paths in my life swim, spiral and swan dive into gigantic free flowing circles and I connect the dots reaching deep into memories of my own childhood and the patterns that have led me here today working with youths. I reflect on my own struggle with self; how that self was squashed from a young age even with a belly a full of food, a roof over my head, little fear of being killed, bombed, abandoned, sexually or physically abused. Even with all this I still struggled with my self and getting it right for the outside world; the prescribed world of impossible beauty; the clearly defined gender roles that silenced many of us into walking straight and forever pleasing paths; the confusing messages of consumer needs and religious guilt.

If it wasn’t for the many privileges I was born into opening doors to limitless possibilities enabling me to work with my own barriers to self expression, perhaps I would not have had the courage to explore, discover and exercise the passions that have led me here, engaged in programs that provide safe positive environments where potential can bloom. Unfortunately the programs I am engaged with exist in a not so privileged world (the world of the village) where possibilities are not limitless but limited; where children and adults struggle against all odds to nurture their talents and potential and protect this potential from unjust systems that fight against them day in and day out. Systems such as market place globalization, poverty, racial discrimination, violence, internalized and externalized oppressive attitudes. However, despite all odds, resilience, courage and resourcefulness do exist and there are children and adults who do bloom and break free from the cracks and crevices of concrete attitudes and systems. Reminds me of a line I read the other day on the back of a school bus “possibilities exist”.

In March 2010, six young women and I began a program called Shine: Young Women Discovering Exploring Exercising their Talents. We began meeting weekly and sharing positive, safe and girl-friendly spaces that enabled us to explore, discover and exercise our natural talents and potential. Our first few sessions focused on reclaiming ourselves by exploring positive self images. We discussed the meaning of self confidence, took self esteem quizzes, reflected on our own ability to love ourselves and examined the barriers to self love.

The barriers the young women voiced included judgmental teachers, parents, friends and relatives; negative attitudes they hear over and over from people in authority; feelings of unworthiness and guilt that they believe come from a lack of love in their own lives; and violence in their homes, schools and communities. We confronted these barriers by writing group poems of self love, decorating personal journals with collaged images of beauty and peace. We used art sessions to support our vibrant discussions and reflections and made self aware bracelets, mosaic candle holders out of recycled bottles and tissue paper, and painted candles (most of the paint ended up on our toes, fingers elbows and cheeks).
In last week’s session we watched the movie, Mad Hot Ballroom. An inspiring movie about kids coming from high risk immigrant families who first came to United States to find a better life for their kids but found the ghettos of New York instead. The film portrayed opportunities for children to find their potential through learning the discipline of Latin Dancing and in return important life skills. The kids learned how to work cooperatively with their peers, how to be in healthy relationships on and off the dance floor, how to respect their team mates and dancing partners, how to stand tall and proud while looking their partners in the eyes, and how to make positive choices that can lead to other possibilities. One of the dance teachers defined success as “finding what you love to do the most and doing it the best you can”. After the movie the girls and I talked about finding what we love to do the best and finding opportunities to succeed even amongst all the barriers.

Exploring discovering exercising the possibilities for success is much easier for some of us especially where privilege exists in every corner. Not so easy when privilege is a distant cousin waving from the shoreline and self confidence your only chance to swim across. I find hope in the young women of Harford village, who against all odds, find themselves searching and finding small spaces of possibility and simply (and not so simply) showing up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding Peace





Human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places - and there are so many- where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
Zinn, 2004

Yesterday I received an email from a friend and artist extraordinaire; he was getting ready to sculpt a commission on the theme of peace. He went to my blog in search of peace and commented on the lack of. Therefore this blog is dedicated to peace within my extended village family of Harford Village.

Peace is walking down the village road calling out people’s names as you pass; stopping to share old and new talk with neighbors on their verandahs, or neighbors working in their gardens, or neighbors bringing in their goats, or neighbors pelting mangos from a tree, or neighbors liming on recycled benches; collectively built throughout the community, or neighbors strolling down the road; themselves talking, chatting, calling out their mornings, evenings and nights. I carry a bag on these strolls down the road, knowing gifts are shared along the way; an arm load of ripening mangoes, a handful of plums, a stick of sugar cane, a taste of someone’s food, a bunch of callalloo freshly cut.

Friendliness is knowing everyone knows your name or some version of a name meant to be you; “Good morning Sistren” or “bless up girlfriend”, or “you all right Rasta?” or “Maya’s Mommy going for a walk?” or “Stay bless sistah” or “Mrs. Theo where you walking so fast?” or “Guidance Sister Friend” or “Hold tight Daughter”.

Cooperation is watching Theo share the upkeep of a cow with his two Rasta brethren; daily figuring out when to cut, gather and transport feeding for their collective copper mama cow.

Authentic concern is when neighbors do not see you for a couple days and express this through questions of care: “you sick?” “What happened to you; I ain’t seeing you at all girl”, “How you scarce so?”; “You under house arrest or what?”

Freedom is the freedom to sing at the top of one’s voice anytime and anywhere; while filling buckets at the stand pipe, or strolling down the road, or sitting at the junction waiting for some friends, or picking peas by the side of the road, or hanging clothes, or getting on a bus.

Passion is the nations’ collective love of music, dance, drum anything that propels the body into movement; most of the time conscious some of the time not so conscious, but still a shared vibe of rhythm and movement.

Lending a hand is the planning and building of our peach painted community centre that sits proud in the middle of our village, testifying what our village people can do. An array of farmers, teachers, masons, carpenters, artists, government workers, vendors, nurses, police officers, hand crafters, service workers, mechanics fill up our small community; the sharing of assets and skills whether it be a boil that is lanced and dressed, or an old car battery replaced, or a grafted plant cut and shared; or a document to be faxed and carried to town; or tables to be made for the community centre, or signs to be painted for the next week’s bingo, or a drive to the medical station, or a weekend maroon scheduled to break down and rebuild someone’s house.

Hospitality is being welcomed or welcoming friends who drop by anytime of the day with no particular reason but to simply acknowledge an innate sense of community. Our yard and home a testimony to this innate community feeling; with daily gatherings of kids of all ages strewn across our veranda sharing the latest news, or taking turns on the “skin up” tree swing; or lying on the floor drawing, reading, building houses with hard covered books. Adults also drop by daily like Theo’s various brothers checking in while quenching their thirst with a glass of water or a shot of rum, sistren friends checking in before heading home to cook, brethren friends wondering if Theo can drop them down the road. And always a pot of food on the stove with more then enough to share for whoever’s belly may be grumbling or not grumbling.

I give thanks and praise to community; my extended village family filling me up with teachings of extendedness, of shared humanness, of fearlessness, of pure and simple loveliness.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

rage

A week ago two men were beheaded in the neighboring community of Baltizar. The gruesome murders and the bewildering actions of the man who killed two of his companions has left the parish of St. Andrews and Grenada on a whole shaking our heads in disbelief. I find myself drawn to this terrible story with incessant thoughts of how and why this could happen. I believe the close proximity of the murders ( just around the corner from the village); the accused and two dead men familiar faces in the larger community of Grenville; and knowing the three men’s neighbors, cousins, friends and acquaintances has me turning over the layers of a horrific story that cannot be understood in any logical form.

If I had received this news from another part of the world, or another Caribbean island, or even another part of Grenada I would have shook my head in disbelief and made a quick judgment; the man must be crazy, insane, mad. For a few days my mind believed these judgmental thoughts; how else does one explain the beheading of two companions, putting the heads in a bucket, carrying them to the Grenville police station and dumping the heads onto the counter of the station. Insanity. Crazy. Madness.

After witnessing the chaos in Grenville during the first preliminary hearings; watching the man who beheaded his two companions run up the court house before an angry mob; seeing his lowered face, his neatly pressed white bleached shirt and a face which I recognized immediately from the many familiar faces in Grenville; I no longer held on to the view that this man is mentally deranged. Perhaps for those hours or minutes it took him to do what he did his anger transformed him into a rage of unimaginable consequences which led to psychotic actions. But a history of mental illness, so far, has not been part of this story. This leads to my incessant thoughts of why people do what they do and what causes some to enter unimaginable acts of rage.

Witnessing some of the kids here in the village being raised by a constant diet of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse I can understand a little more clearly why many of the boys here in the village grow up unable to control their anger and lash out with violent words, or sharp edges of broken bottles, or cutlasses that turn from a gardening tool to a deadly weapon. It is common to hear boys and men throw out violent words such as, “I chopping you!” I can’t help wonder how hearing and saying these words over and over may create a worn out groove in the crevices of one’s mind and then maybe one day the cutlass is there and the anger has escalated to a place it has never gone before and suddenly the cutlass is swung, a hand is dangling or a head severed. Of course last week’s case is different as it all seemed so planned and contrived and thus the questions go around and around.

What made this man chop two of his companions heads off after an afternoon of sharing drink and food and helping with the evening garden chores? What made this man move into the evil acts his mind must have been immersed in for awhile? What made him kill and remove the heads of his companions, put them in a bucket, get into the van of the man he just beheaded, travel to the police station with two heads, and eventually dump the two heads onto the counter of the Grenville police station? Was this man haunted by his need to be seen, heard, taken seriously? Was he silently screaming “No more will I be silenced. No more will I be shamed, laughed at, treated like a ‘stupidy’. No more will I be invisible, without a voice, kicked aside!’ And why are many of us able to control such rage and others not? Rumors fly about like evening fruit bats unable to recognize their surroundings until the last light of day is smothered. And even in the smothering of light no rumor seems to answer any of the above questions.

I believe we are all born with basic goodness and what happens after we are born molds us into the beings we evolve into. What is this fine balance between those who find themselves in prison for atrocious acts against humanity and those who find themselves working for the betterment of humanity? Such complicated questions, such hard places to go and reflect on. However, there we must go in order to wake up to what we all have within ourselves, great bounds of kindness but also great bounds of potential violence.

Monday, May 3, 2010

there are a hundred ways to pray




















Papa God walks into our house again when Maya blurts out just before crashing into sleep, “Mom, the kids at school make fun of me because I don’t kneel and pray before going to bed. They say I going to hell if I don’t kneel down and pray.” It takes great strength and courage not to react emotionally. Instead I take a deep breath and on the exhale, Rumi’s words find their way to the surface of my thoughts “there are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” From here I say to Maya “Well I guess they believe there is only one way to pray. I, myself, believe there are many ways to pray, many ways to reach god or goddess or mother earth or the spirit world that sails through our piece of the sky every morning in the form of emerald green parrots coupled and calling “watch me watch me watch me”. I say to Maya every time we give thanks to the earth for our daily meals and safe journeys that is prayer; every time we walk on the beach and notice the gifts from the sea like swirly butterscotch shells, purply mauve jelly fish, snails hiding in the crevices of white worn coral that is prayer; every time we sit in silence on the cushion with candle lit and we breathe in and out noticing our breath that is prayer; every time we hug our friends with great love and gratitude that is prayer. Maya rolls her eyes and giggles “So how come you didn’t mention the Dalai Lama this time?”

Papa God is what I refer to as a colonial God. A God that I have a difficult time believing in. A God that Maya hears about regularly. A God that causes hurricanes and earth quakes to kill people who are dealing in wicked ways, a God that sends people to hell for not kneeling down and praying before bed, a God that favours one skin colour over a next, a God that strikes down dead a husband and wife for lying, a God that means beat your kids into submission when he is quoted, “spare the rod, spoil the child”, a God that enters our house regularly. A God I find great difficulty in facing with calmness and compassion. A God, however, that provides great opportunity to practice patience and courage. I deal with him the best way I can by trying hard not to condemn other people’s beliefs in his authoritative, patriarchal and fearful ways but to teach alternative perspectives, alternative ways to pray, to love, to forgive, to listen, to praise….

The first time Papa God entered our house was when Maya came home one afternoon from up the road with her Father. When I ask, “Why the scrunched up face?” She tells me she has been watching an “old time bible” at the shop with the rest of the kids. She says the Bible was full of pictures. In one picture she describes the devil stabbing a black man with a funny looking cutlass. Maya says, “Azuka tell me not to be afraid, she say ‘Maya why you frightened, girl? You don’t have to frighten. God don’t strike down white people.’” Maya bursts into tears. I let her cry, wondering what she must be thinking. Is she thinking that her father will be punished mercilessly if he does something wrong in the eyes of Papa God? Is she thinking of all her friends and family here in Grenada and abroad who do not share a skin colour that enables them to live when mistakes are made? I ask Maya again why is she crying and she says “Mom, I am not white; I am honey!” I hold her and tell her firmly I do not believe in this God and that my God, our God is an all-loving God, a God who embraces all people, a God that believes in coexistence with many people’s versions of God, a God that loves everyone equitably and equally, a God that is male and female, a God that believes in kindness as the basis of all religions. “Like the Dalai Lama, Mom?” “Yes like the Dalai Lama”, I say, “And like Jesus and like Buddha and like Mother Teresa and like….

Papa God enters our house occasionally these days; however not with as many emotions attached. We watch him come in calmly, offer him a seat, sometimes tea and then watch him transform as we replace him with a more loving, compassionate, nurturing soul version of God available to all of us worldwide if we would only look in the unexpected places in the many ways we find to kneel and kiss the ground.

Friday, April 30, 2010

journal junkie




I am a 4:30am journal junkie thus the reason these blog writings are not as constant as I had hoped. Not sure how to make time to write when early morning seems to be the space allotted. But the journal pages scream out “fill me up fill me up” and I bow down to this positive addiction knowing how transformative reflection can be. Pages fill up with critical thoughts on books read, or unexpected conversations shared, or a day gone nowhere but then somewhere, or an argument that turned ugly, or a conflict down the road turned violent, or a brilliant thought from one of the many children hanging in the yard, or a piece of gossip that cannot be ignored because it involves the potential abuse of a child, or the way the sunlight slants through the door illuminating a dancing figure to be sketched for the canvas, or the questions that pop out of maya’s mouth about the colour of her skin or the enslavement of jesus. All this and more hand written religiously every morning reflecting, sorting, creating, questioning, rationalizing, blowing everything out of proportion, and then not blowing anything out of order but creating order from this mind that is chaotic and clear. Then the next morning arrives and this time wanting to type blog pieces but instead my hand moves towards the pen and the white "fill me up" page and i am swept away again into reflection. But of course there are days like these when i begin to transform journal writings into blog pieces and know this can become routine when time opens up and inspiration erupts.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Today i will shine: thanks marilyn



I give thanks and praise for the strength-giving emails i received from the last blog i wrote on Marilyn and reflections of life and death. There were a few of you who wanted to know more about Marilyn and so I went searching for a poem I wrote for her on her birthday two years ago. I found it in an old journal.

As a preface to the poem:

I met Marilyn seven years ago on the Carenage here in Grenada. She came up to me and asked if I was the artist Maureen St. Clair. That was the first time I really heard and accepted the title of artist. Perhaps it was Marilyn’s certainty of Self or her mother like stature that would make any daughter say “yes I am thank you”. The week before our first meeting Marilyn had bought all of my paintings at an Annual Art Exhibit, five relatively large pieces. The irony of this purchase is that Marilyn and her best friend-husband divided their time between Grenada and North America. Their homes are a sail boat docked at a marina outside of St. George’s and an RV Parked somewhere in the state of Indiana. She bought those paintings regardless of lack of space. She bought them because Marilyn is all of and every one of the empowered women that I paint. Marilyn saw her glorious Life Defined self in my work. If you know my work then you will know Marilyn. And so this is what Marilyn taught me:

That a light is a light
shining bright
even under the pressure of time
seeking refuge in a cell that screams “help!”

That a year takes her time to heal the news of cancer
and that healing starts today
within our own minds

That love is free
a phone call
an email
a huge shining presence
walking up the driveway

That passion is within
all fo us
waiting to be released
into this world
a small project, a big event
a small suggestion to a vendor on the street
a hug of resignation
of letting go
and moving on to the next
seed in the ground
a bud with potential to bloom

That one must shine and share
the gifts, the journey of fearlessness
hoping at the most
not to intrude on others
making no one feel small
and everyone feel big
sharing that bigness
humbly with no apologies

That it is healthier for everyone to take out
the maybes
the perhaps
the ifs
the sorrys
the we are hoping tos
and replace them with more
confident stronger pliable positive powerful words

That women friends
are essential to
life’s work
to getting through a hard day a difficult month
an excruciating year

That cancer is cancer
and a breast is a breast
and that these do not define
who we are
because who we are
are these gigantic beings
of light and potential

That life goes on even after the diagnosis
that life goes on even after you look down and there is something missing
but then not missing
because we have love within
and without
circles of strength
circling us

that I am simply
a friend out of many
waiting for you to phone,
to email
to visit
knowing that you are out there
doing your thing
being yourself
feeling the moments
choosing which one fits best
now
today

Friday, April 16, 2010

remembering marilyn: life and death defined




My dear friend Marilyn died two weeks ago. Cancer filled up her bones, liver and lungs. I believe many of us were in denial of her cancer including Marilyn. Marilyn was life defined. Memories move frantically within. Each memory competing for attention “remember me remember me” they say. And I remember so as not to forget the glorious courageous life defined Marilyn. Maya moves away from my tears and then back again with unexpected hugs throughout the day “are you still thinking of Marilyn”, she whispers in my ear.

I contemplate how much we should or should not shelter our children from difficult emotions, or from the inevitableness of death. I wonder what Marilyn would say about this knowing that she too was sheltered from death when her father died unexpectedly when she was Maya’s age.

I remember hearing a friend of mine from Canada say she refused to read her kids Bambi because Bambi’s mom dies at the beginning of the story. I couldn’t help think, “yes but mothers do die.” Living here in the Village death is intimately connected with everyone. You either know the dead personally or you know someone who did and therefore you become part of the story and share your own stories of death or near death experiences.

Maya touched the possibility of death when her life was almost lifted away in a car accident two years ago. I remember village friends coming up to the house the same evening and saying to Maya “what gyal you almost dead!” Maya was six when the jeep her father was driving flipped over and landed in the drain. Maya pitched out of the jeep and the door landed on top of her head and half her face. Theo peeled back the steel and wedged her head from the wreck. She survived with very little damage with the exception of a warrior scar stretching across the left side of her face. I remember friends coming over during the course of the week to share with us their own stories of death and almost death experiences. One of my friends came and we remembered her son who was killed ten years ago in a car accident. Her son was beheaded in the accident. On a Monday morning my friend was called out of her house to walk to the scene of the accident to identify her 21 year old boy. His back pack was strewn across the road with parts of his brain scattered on top. The whole village went down to the accident that day. I stayed home. Despite my hesitancy to go that same evening to my friends home I went with the rest of the village. I grew up believing the first night of death was reserved for the immediate family however soon learned that death is everybody’s business here and you are expected to be a part and give whatever support you are able. I remember my friend holding me tight before she was swept away by another long hard embrace. I remember the children running in and around death free and yet present to the sorrow.

After Maya’s accident I was grateful for the stream of neighbors landing on our doorstep sharing their stories and expressing death matter of factly and yet with a gentle presence of life left behind. Today the accident isen’t a story to be hushed but is a tale of courage, forgiveness and strength. If you ask Maya about the scar on the left side of her face be prepared for a gripping story!

I think Marilyn would have liked the direction this blog took. The contemplation of death and pain and sheltering or not sheltering those we love. Marilyn’s choice to live life to the fullest was evident in everything she did and said. I cant help wonder if sheltering us from the inevitableness of her own death was a conscious choice or part of her legacy to be life and death defined.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To beat or not to beat?

Ideas for blog pieces surface in the spaces of my mind and they are there working themselves out for future entries but for now i share an aricle i wrote for a grenada newpaper and will follow up with writings on personal and other global perspectives on child honouring, a revolutionary path to changing this world around!!!

To Beat or Not to Beat?

I applaud the woman who recently phoned George Grant's Sunday morning show and courageously made her view that we should start looking at other ways to discipline our children and youths besides beating them. She expressed her view despite it running counter clockwise to the popular view that beating kids as a form of discipline is necessary. She said our Grenadian culture is becoming more and more violent and disciplining our kids through flogging is creating more violence. She felt there was more we could do for our kids other then beating them as a form of discipline. She felt that parents should spend more time with their children encouraging and teaching them more peaceful ways of dealing with conflict. She talked briefly about the cycle of violence beginning with master beating slave, man beating woman, and parents beating children and thus creating further a culture of violence. George Grant interrupted her throughout the call, disabling her from making her point clearly. George Grant seemed weary and frustrated with the state of the youths in Grenada today. He felt teachers should be given more authority to discipline their students through corporal punishment.

I can’t help wonder what is missing in this on-going debate. Is the debate only about whether our kids need more physical discipline in school? Is the debate only about whether to beat or not to beat in school? Is the conclusion being made that kids who are disrespectful, rude and violent are kids who need more hard lash?

I believe the debate needs to move to a deeper level. I believe other questions and issues need to be addressed such as: Does discipline mean corporal punishment? What is the difference between discipline and abuse? Is whacking a student in the back of the head with a text book discipline or abuse? Is calling a student stupid and/or too "hard headed" to learn discipline or abuse? Is beating a student until she falls down discipline or abuse?

Is the question really about “to beat or not to beat our children?” What about questioning the other factors contributing to children becoming more disrespectful and violent? What do our children and youth need in order to grow up better adjusted to the changing world? I hear over and over from successful adults that they are better people today because of the hard lash they received as children. I can’t help wonder what other factors made these same people successful? And why aren’t we discussing these factors? I want to know what other factors made George Grant the successful man he is today other then the hard rap to the knuckles he received in school.

I hear regularly on the block, call in programs, and local television that American youth are out of control because parents and teachers are not allowed to beat their kids, “You don’t see how those kids turning out. They walking to school with guns. They out of control over there and then they want to come here and tell us how to discipline our kids.” Again I believe the debate needs to move to a broader analyses of why North American kids are spinning out of control and thus why there are more examples of violence in American society today. Seems too simplistic a view to say it is because parents and teachers are not able to beat their children and students. What more should we be questioning in relation to why kids in America are becoming more violent? Why isen’t there more debate on other factors affecting the youth such as violent media images that are shoved into both our Caribbean and North American youth’s minds through tv, video games, computers ect.. How is violent media affecting our youths? Why is providing our kids material wealth more important then spending quality time with them?

Other questions I believe need to be addressed within a Grenadian context are: Are our teachers trained professionally in classroom management? Have they had the opportunity to look at alternative means to disciplining? Are our teachers trained to recognize and deal with children who have learning and emotional disabilities? (You cannot beat out a learning or emotional disability)? Are we parents spending enough time with our kids teaching, affirming, respecting, and acknowledging their talents and potential? Where and how do kids learn love, respect, responsibility, compassion? Is it enough to provide our kids with food, shelter, pretty clothes to walk down the road in? Why are our young women making babies at such an early age? Why are older and young men impregnating these young women? How does this contribute to the cycle of violence? Are we providing our adolescent mothers and fathers parenting training? How are we as a nation and individuals contributing to the cycle of violence that is prevalent in our society today?

I believe this on-going passionate debate on disciplining our kids has to go much broader then simply debating whether kids need more lash?

Friday, March 12, 2010

feeling no pain! community shines


















Economic, social, political and physically hard times take back seat for the evening as the Tivoli Drummers take centre stage in Harford Village. The drums beat out their invitation for community to come:

Come out from behind your tv screens, your dvd movies, your grievances towards neighbours;
Come out from your worries of a next day, your pots to be scrubbed and clothes to be washed;
Come out from the who said what and where and when;
Come out and join the rhythm of the drums,the chanting of old time songs,
the playing of circle games, the healing testimonies of music and laughter;
Come out and feel what it really feels like when the “music hits you and you feel no pain!”

The whole of Harford village gathered at the junction last Tuesday evening to listen, feel and witness the power of drum, the power of conscious music to soothe the soul and give birth once again to community spirit. By the end of the evening the whole of the village had arrived from the elders to the infants bouncing on their mother’s swaying hips.

Timvoli Drummers, one of Grenada’s most popular drum groups accepted a recent invite to come and play in our community! The drummers are a source of cultural pride not only nationally but also for the big parish of St. Andrews, the community of Tivoli where the group was conceived and now Harford Village! As one Village man said on the night the African drums arrived: “I can’t believe Tivoli drummers are playing for the Village, We special or what!” Clapping, chanting and dancing to African drums is a recipe for community spirit at it's most! Their was no time for: “fussing and fighting”; idle chat about “who say what”; loud talk of which political party “killing de country”, or “who ‘thiefing’ what from who”. There was only time to play old time games, sing rhythmical chants, laugh and encourage our children in the dances they danced, the games they skipped and the bent back limbo they performed.

One of the youth leaders leaned into me in the middle of a beat and says “I cant remember the last time village people come out and really enjoy one another!” Another friend commented : “so much negativity, gossip and divison between we people however on a night like tonight, when music take your soul we all one, we all feel our togetherness!”

I reflect on the power of music, in particular drum and dance in healing our bodies and minds; in providing a sense of hope and courage; in transforming hardened minds and bodies into soft flowing forgiving beings. I reflect while extending a wide open thank you to Krumah Livingston Nelsonand the rest of the Tivolli Drummers for creating, provoking and illuminating community spirit!!!

So when you all coming back!!!!!






















Wednesday, February 24, 2010

gender reflections

Stay Home and Mind Baby

All talk shifts from village man who stole over $30,000 of cocoa worker’ wages to a next village neighbor, a young mother accused of abandoning her children to “jump up” in carnival. My neighbor friend was picked up by police while getting on a boat to head to sister island Carriacou to take part in carnival. The story spreads that she left her three kids sleeping in the house and told her brother to watch them while “she gone.” The story continues that her Father called the police because he thought she was “getting on too much” by leaving her children with different members of the family while she went out to socialize. Our neighbor, mother of three, spent a Carriacou carnival in jail.

As most stories go throughout the world there are many colorful versions of the truth. However does anyone ever really know the truth. The first reaction to the story that hit me first was from another father, “She sick. She real sick. Imagine leaving your three children so you can “ jump up” in carnival. I always suspect something wrong with she head. There are many evening I see her at the shop when she should be home with she children. Imagine sitting up at the shop smoking cigarettes and taking a drink while your children are home sleeping. She leaving those kids in the house and coming down the road to do what???”

I ponder these words and can’t help think of the men who sit, smoke and drink night after night at the same shop. Majority of them fathers of young children. I think back of my own childhood and reflect on who stayed with my brother and I most nights while my dad was out socializing. I try to imagine the reversal. I try to imagine my mom leaving us night after night to hang with her girlfriends. I try to imagine me now leaving Maya night after night to socialize and feed a part of me that craves adult connections. I mention this to Theo “ I wonder what the village would say about me if they saw me down the road regularly and you home with Maya?” Theo responds, “They would judge me too you know and call me a ‘mamaguy’, someone ruled by their woman.” I leave Theo to ponder his own fear of judgement and reflect more about our socially conditioned minds wrapped around gender issues.

The same day the story spread I spoke with another village friend and neighbour who told me she was “feeling it” for our friend who was presently in jail. She pronounces, “I aint running my mouth on she at all! I know the pressure! I know what its like to be home with children all the time and no release. So where the Father? He should be locked up too. Why everyone quick to condemn the woman and nobody checking on the father. We need a break too you know.” These words spoken by single mom who raised 13 children. In my head I hear the rebuttal, “So why she make baby if she don’t want to stay home and mind baby?” I reflect further on gender stereotypes and wonder how and when these same stereotypes will be stripped of their conditioned meaning and understood in terms of health and well being for all worldwide.

An old time folk song escapes Maya’s lips as she practices for school concert. “brown skin girl stay home and mind baby, brown skin girl stay home and mind baby. I’m going away on a sailing boat and if I don’t come back stay home and mind baby.” I hear her say to her girlfriend, “so why can’t he stay home and mind baby and we go take a trip on sail boat!”

Monday, February 22, 2010

journey of the heart




To all friends and family who continue to lend their love, support and prayers towards our nephew JJ who was misdiagnosed in July 2009. The misdiagnosis led to a severly infected heart caused by rheumatic fever. JJ spent two months in the hospital fighting for his life. He survived the infection however damaged two heart valves. JJ has been waiting for the past 7 months to hear whether a hospital overseas will sponsor him for heart surgery. We found out yesterday JJ was accepted to a hospital in Richmond, Virginia! We are ecstatic over here. The Grenada Heart Foundation is funding JJ’s journey and operation! JJ and his mom, Hermione, are preparing for a journey of the heart in more ways then one!

Thanks you for your offerings of hope and gentle reassurance knowing that strength, courage and resilience surface from life’s interruptions.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

let we sing sweet grenada



Let We Sing Sweet Grenada

Independence day comes and goes with a stream of red green and gold left behind in the national flags waving and the freshly painted red green and gold telephone poles, street curbs, base of palm trees and shop doors saluting the end of a week of birthday celebrations.

The week leading up to Grenada’s 36th birthday was full of celebration. 36 years to ponder whether Grenada “really free or not”; 36 years to proudly wear and boast the brilliant colors of an independent nation; 36 years to radiate hope, courage and resilience in spite of many hardships; 36 years of culture, history, politics vibrating through the streets, villages, towns, radio and tv stations, mouths of shop keepers, neighbors and family.

Maya Samara and I met up with our community crew and joined the parade of colors. We danced down Cook Hill and into the lively streets of Grenville. Alluring beat of African and steel pan drums calling; conch shells trumpeting; calypso songs sharing “let we sing let we sing let we sing sweet Grenada”; hips winding to the beats of independence celebration; and soft smells of fried, steamed, soused, baked fish flexing through the air as fish Friday plants her lovely self down in Grenville on Saturday, the eve before independence day. We arrive just as the parade is beginning to march through the streets, school marching bands, carnival costumes, torches lit, a tropical sea of red green and gold as the whole of Grenada is drenched clean in national colours.

I continue to listen openly to a blend of hard worn colourful versions of independence day stories. Stories that begin with Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, the Father of Independence and move to the People’s Revolution government that “mashed up” for many reasons that are available through the people who lived through it. There are many shaded hues of personal perspectives. Here is one version told by an elder man in a shop one hot blazing afternoon while waiting for a pound of rice:

“You feel Gairy an easy man. Yes is true he sign the papers, he leave the island and return saying Grenada Free. Yes, is true he is the Father of Independence. He began as the champion of the oppressed and started with a good heart, good intentions but his ego take over in the end and nobody could say nothing critical about Gairy and his ways. If anyone say anything to oppose or if people seen meeting in groups Gairy send his mongoose gang to take care of that. Gairy have his own gang of thugs and call them the mongoose gang. The mongoose were brought to Grenada to get rid of the rats taking over the farmers crops. Gairy cleverly created his own gang, the mongoose gang to get rid of his own set of rats who he felt was eating up his ability to lead. You feel Mr. Gairy easy. He do a lot of wrong things in the name of freedom and independence. But I believe he started with a good heart and good intention. Well don’t they all because I too believe Maurice Bishop started off authentic and true to his intentions to lead a peoples revolutionary government. But ego catch up with Mr. Bishop too and many of the other leaders of the New Jewel Movement. Mr. Bernard Coard get eaten up so much by ego in the end he call treason and line up Maurice bishop and 12 of his cabinet followers and shoot them dead. People’s Revolution come along in reaction to the abuse that Gairy reign down. If that isent irony I don’t know what is. Gairy began by fighting for the oppressed and in the end he overthrown by People s Revolutionary government! Many foreigners say to me 'oh you come from Grenada isent that where the Americans swooped in and saved your country in four days'. I say to them, say what you like, four days is nothing in comparison to the four years of good intentions that got overthrown by men drunk on ego. yours and mine.”

I continue to move through the stories on the streets, in the shops, and throughout the island. I create my own colorful versions of how and when and why. I try not to get too stuck on my own versions knowing every nation's story is complicated however robust with teachings. I give thanks and praise to the past 16 years living here on the island and growing in a more social, political, economic, class, race and gender consciousness by listening and reflecting on people’s stories.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Woundedness

Rumour goes like this a couple days ago a young man from our community stole a large sum of money from one of the cocoa station managers. The manager was walking out of the bank with the cocoa workers monthly wages when young man tore the bag out of his hands and ran. He has not been found yet. The story leading up to the theft is a rumor. A large sum of money was stolen by a young man from our community is the reality. The incident reconfirms many village people’s beliefs: “the Village have some sort of curse”.

Theo’s brother dropped by the day after the incident and said: “The boy put a real scar on the village.” I couldn’t help think , the village has been scarred from before it's birth beginning with the open festering historical wound called slavery”.

Last year the wound was re opened on many different occasions starting with the mysterious death of village brethren whose body was found on the other side of the island strewn across the seaside rocks underneath a bridge while his motorbike was parked on the bridge and keys were found in his pocket. Police said it was a motorbike accident. As the Village was getting ready to go to the funeral, police phoned to tell decease’s family to call off the funeral as there was going to be further investigation. The investigation led to nothing and our village brethren was buried along with no justice and very little community protest.

A few months later the wound was reopened when another young man’s hand and foot were chopped off with machete in a drug related incident. The suspect in the chopping was from the Village. That same night a gang of boys came up to the Village and burnt his house to the ground. The village suspect was let out of jail a few days later and has not been implicated again.

Wound reopened again when another chopping incident occurred related to the same incident this time another village man was chopped but this time died on the way to the hospital. Three men were involved in the chopping one of them was a 16 year old boy from down the road.

Wound reopened again when two village youths were said to have broken into a crippled elderly man’s house, tied him up and stole his money and watch. One of the youth’s Uncles came up from town and “beat him bad”. The other youth’s mom did not believe her son could do such a thing and cursed village people for being “so wicked and spreading lies.”

Wound reopened again when our nephew was misdiagnosed ( if our nephew was someone of importance in the eyes of the doctor who misdiagnosed would he have been misdiagnosed?) which led to the severe infection of his heart. Today he waits patiently, his life dependent on a yes from a hospital overseas.

The wound began generations back with the dehumanizing effects of slavery and continues today with a legacy of violence, oppression and poverty. The cycle continues to repeat itself. Unfortunately many people are blaming one another rather then looking deeper into the layers of past oppressive conditioning and the present global oppressive conditions.

2009 was a year of woundedness however with pain comes healing and new paths taken in order to dress and take care of the scars. The birth of the Harford Village Peace Workers was in response to the wounded ness of 2009.

The Harford Village Peace Workers are a small group of concerned village members who believe the cycle of violence can be broken and reversed by focusing on various projects and programs that emphasize the strengths, assets, talents and potential of our community. We started with the children and youths and began a “Peace through Art” program which led to outreach peace programs in neighbouring schools. We are now in full bloom with our second Youth Peace Program and outreach peace programs for 2010. We are also reaching out to include the adults through community get togethers, meetings and a future community newsletter designed and written by community youths. The goal of the village newsletter is to highlight the success stories of the Village reinforcing the strengths, talents, potential of our community helping to heal the wounds inch by inch with stories of love, hope, courage and resilience!

stay tuned for ways you can contribute to building cultures of peace in Harfrod Village!