Friday, March 18, 2011
While walking on the beach a couple Saturdays ago I bounced up with a group of young boys, half of them in the water playfully slamming into one another and the other half pelting sand balls. As Maya and I approached we heard a strong voice, “We not the only ones on the beach, so stop pelting sand!” I recognized Deek's voice and ventured over. Soon we were reminiscing about old times when Deek and I played football (soccer) together; when he too was the age of the boys on the beach and Theo his coach. Theo was the image of hope back then, as he not only coached a group of young boys every Saturday and Sunday morning but he also initiated and coached the first Grenada Women's football team.
I found an oasis of hope in Deek on that Saturday and it soothed my soul in these troubled times when it feels like violence in all forms is threatening to swallow our children whole both here in Grenada and throughout the world. Deek is an example of kind acts rippling and forming into waves of kindness as he too volunteers his time to coach and mentor a group of Grenville boys just as he was coached and mentored by Theo. Who knows which one of these boys will also ride the waves of kindness and take on the role of mentor and leader to the next generation.
I carried home this image of hope for Theo. My goal to breath hope back into his disillusioned state related to the youths today. A couple of months ago Theo decided to take a large step back from the Village football team; the team he initiated, coached and captained for the past few years. The last conflict on the field made him throw compassion to the wind and step away. The last conflict involved an older youth arguing with Theo about why he should not come off the field. The argument led to the youth walking into the bush at the side of the road and retrieving his cutlass. I can hear Theo's voice now, “So whats this nah? So you going to chop me because I call you off the field. I give up I really give up!” I hear him laughing on the outside but know he is grieving on the inside.
Recently a friend of mine wrote a blog titled An Open Letter to the Young Men of Accra (www.fionaleonard.net). In this blog Fiona addresses a style that seems to be quite popular with young men throughout the world. This style is the 'pants below the waist' style which many of the young men in Grenada also mimic. Even though the blog made me laugh out loud it also made me reflect seriously about our male youths and the directions they are taking. One has to wonder why and how this style spread throughout the world and why it appeals to many of the youths globally? What inspires young men to want to copy a style that was born from American prisons as a result of prisoners having their belts taken away from them? What are the influences or lack of influences in their lives that have them copying a hard line style and why are some of our young women attracted to this style. Once we get past the comical there are many layers to be addressed; even our own reactions and superior judgements. A year ago there was talk of charging the young men of Grenada for wearing their pants below their waists. Not only charging but giving them an allotted number of strokes. I couldn't help think of the irony presented; treating the youth like criminals when I imagine the goal is to help them see themselves as non criminals.
Richie Spice, one of the leading reggae stars today sings a powerful song called “Don't Call me no Dog” which addresses once again the American gangster styles Jamaican youths are choosing to mimic; such as calling one another “Dawg”. In his song, Spice makes it clear he does not want anyone calling him a dog and asks the youths to start seeing themselves in a better way, seeing themselves as the greatest, the highest, the strongest they could be. Spice also addresses the 'pants below the waist' style and pleads to the Jamaican youths to get their act together and prepare themselves for the future.
Our youths throughout the world are in crisis and the challenge is ours to become allies in breaking the cycle. Where do we begin as the mothers, fathers in this global family? I think of Alice Walkers words in her 2000 address to a graduating class at the Agnes Scot College, “ Be aware that the other children of the world are your responsibility as well. You must learn to see them, feel them, as yours. Until you do, there is no way you can make your own child feel safe.” How do we as global parents become morally responsible for the children around us and throughout the world?
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Breaking Through Village Stereotypes
The first Village stereotype of a white person was shattered when I moved into this little board house fourteen years ago here in Harford Village. The first time Theo and I inquired about renting this house; our present home, the man in charge said, “nah man, that is not a house for she!” He was referring to me, referring to someone from away, referring to someone like me who was born with delicate white soft skin. A few days later Theo's main Brethren says “nah man Theo, Maureen cant live in that house you crazy!” Yes this same board house that we have been living for the past fourteen years, the same house Maya was born in, the same house on the same piece of land maya can proudly say “I am Grenadian, me navel string bury here!” Maya's home birth was another shattering of misconceptions revolved around what white people can and cannot do. “What girl you real brave for a white lady!” referring to my birthing maya at home in the middle of the village, in the middle of this small board house.
Village stereotypes of white people continue to be shaken up, broken further into smaller manageable pieces as a result of our Antigonish farm family coming to visit! Over the past four years we have been honoured to host our Farm family here in the Village; beginning with Wesley, our friend, brother, and uncle to Maya! Wesley was the first to visit in 2008. He pitched his tent in the yard and settled in for six weeks. “So he is a Rasta??” one of our nieghbours ask after watching Wes outside his tent making various crafts out of bamboo, eating out of a calabash and scraping cinnamon trees. Many people here in the Village and in Grenada are accustommed to seeing us white folks lounging on beaches or sipping on fruity drinks by the poolside, or driving in big fancy toursit buses or climbing through the rain forests to get to the many waterfalls throughout the island. They do not expereince people of our delicate european colour heading into the bush with a machete in hand cutting vine for goats; picking, cracking, drying and grinding cocoa; playing dominoes and cards in local rum shops; catching scorpions underneath old building materials and putting them in rum bottles; unloading cement blocks and helping to build a studio and brick house. Village people were amazed at our first farm visitor but what amazed them the most was seeing Wesley arrive the next year to do it all over again!
The following year another farm brother, friend, uncle arrived. Sandy also pitched his tent and settled into the Village vibes! This one, according to Village friends and family was “a bald head rasta!” Soon Sandy was walking down the road with machete in hand too, helping Theo in the garden; visiting neighbour's lands; taking kids for bike rides through the village; cutting vine for the goats; attempting to walk up coconut trees; hacking open coconuts with a machete to taste the sweet sky juice; cracking and shredding coconut to make oil; climbing the highest mountain on the island solo; and helping to build an extra room that acts presently as a writing/bedroom.
This year the Farm sisters, aunties arrived! If village people were surprised at these young white men then all stereotypes were put to the test when the white sisters arrived! Many white women here in the Village (with the exception of me) are expereinced through tv and movies and the tourists seen on the other side of the island. White women are potrayed on the screen as rich glamourous nothing to do but shop, clean household appliances, style their hair, bodies and faces, seduce well dressed, well driven men and fight with one another over these same men. Tourists also sometimes give the wrong impression when their main goal is to tan their skin and therefore wear the least amount of clothing not only on the beach but in the shops, towns and buses.
Shattered are these images as Bara and Gem move into the Village for an extended period of time and live in the same studio Wes helped to build. A studio that consists of a bed and a table, an outhouse which Theo built days before they arrived, and a steep driveway that one has to walk carefully down managing the slippery algae that appears after a night or day of rain. Gem and Bara dived into what they love most; the richenss of the soil and its ability to produce food. Gemma and Bara were busy collecting sorrel, cracking cocoa, shaking down nutmeg, shelling pigeon peas and sorrel, cutting vine for the goats, cooking and baking stricly local, and painting our veranda national colours green yellow and red!
As i write this a wave of pride washes over me as i witness bridges being built while old stereotypes are stripped of their limitations. I expereince my Farm and Village family coming together to be a part of one another's lives and learn the richness of our shared humaness. I also feel a sense of pride radiate from Village family as they recognize the specialness of their Village; why else would their new friends and family continue to choose the Village over the norm of pretty manicured tourist attractions?? Why else would they keep returning year after year!