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


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!