Thursday, December 19, 2013

world peace leaders



With the recent death of  a great leader Mandela  I am back pondering world peace leaders…Please take a minute to close your eyes and  see what names come to  mind when contemplating world peace leaders…. whose names come rolling easily off your tongue? Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Dali Lama, Ghandi, Malcom X, Mother Teresa.  Why do you think majority of names in our minds are men’s names? Why do these names come so easily to us? Why aren’t the names of great women peace leaders like Aung san Suukyi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchu, Mary Robinson, Nasrin Sotoudu, Buffy Saint-Marie immediately lightly and easily roll of our tongues?  Why aren’t the names of women peace leaders side by side with their great male peace counterparts? I believe Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Dali Lama, Ghandi would be the first to acknowledge and ponder too this absence and I believe Mother Teresa would be happy to share that lonely space.

Aung San Suu Kyi Burma
Nasrin Sotoudeh Iran
Mary Robinson Ireland
Buffy Saint-Marie Canadian-American Cree

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Voices of the Daring Youth


Last Friday Theo, Maya, Billy (our young friend next door) and I were blessed to experience a memorable performance by powerful Grenadian youth. Voices of the Daring Youth spoke of courage, strength and hope. Voices of the Daring Youth demonstrated personal and collective power in imparting vital lessons, ideas, morals, teachings of the heart and mind. Voices of the Daring Youth spoke of justice in a world of injustice; of youth breaking free from attitudes and behaviors predicted, subscribed, ratified, solidified by the worlds all around them.
Voices of the Daring Youth was a spoken word production involving talented, positive, brilliant, brave youth coming together to share the power of the word, the power of the collective in giving space to youth and the teachings they hold within. Some of the voices spoke of love, intimate love, the kind of love we perhaps all pray for, the kind of love where two people respect and hold one another in great reverie. Some of the voices supported, encouraged women to speak out, to walk away from the kind of touches that shatter the very interior of our souls, to find another kind of touch, a touch that speaks of the spirit living within.   Some of the voices moved from the personal to the political questioning negative minds, boxed in minds, limited, socialized, brutalized minds that continue to confine society’s stone view of youth. Some of the voices questioned development, the kind that affects all of us, the kind we let dictate the way forward, the kind that begs the question  ‘for who and by whom?’.  Some of the voices shouted,  for too long schools have been spaces to colonize not liberate minds; promote habitual conditioned patriarchal notions of who and how youth should be, think, feel.   
I am deeply grateful for last Friday night’s performance as it restored hope, critical hope, the kind of hope that embraces the positive and transforms the negative.  Positivity ruled the evening   tearing down the norm of negativity. Last Friday night was proof of what we all can do if we can find the courage and compassion to step out of our busy habitual lives and step into the spotlight of being more than our individual selves, more than what society predicts, more than what our conditioned minds tell us.
Thank you Voices of the Daring Youth for picking up the mic, for sharing with us your voices, your hope, your critical hope in a time when the world is in desperate need!

Monday, June 10, 2013

revolutionary hope


On Friday Maya and I attended the ending of the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) Conference. We walked into the middle of the closing plenary: the Grenada Revolution in Retrospect: Lessons for the Contemporary Caribbean. I began scribbling notes the moment we sat down, swept away by talk of revolution in general, and then more specifically within a   Caribbean and Grenada context. I was immediately carried away by the intriguing voice of one of the panelists who spoke about revolution being a necessary part of our past, present and future. Without revolution how else would slavery have been toppled, colonialism dismantled, he expressed.

Revolution is a process, a universal construct and yet a word that carries such heavy and uplifting implications depending on who is defining, how it is being defined and within which context.  The danger of a single story continued to be underlined heavily across my page as the panelists and audience shared their views. I beleive the majority of us attending the session would agree the stories shared that afternoon were critical stories to learn and unlearn from.   I walked away from this forum with questions such as: Why aren’t these stories an important and critical part of our children and youth’s education? Why has there been to a large extent national amnesia around Grenada’s revolution? Why is there a need to escape this part of history when there are so many teachings, so many lessons to incorporate into ways of moving forward on a community, national and regional level? Why must we throw away history because we choose to focus on single stories of Grenada’s revolution and furthermore who dictates what stories we settle on or for? 

After inhaling the other educational and empowering forums during the afternoon Maya and I jumped on the bus to head home. While traveling through and over the Grand Etang we were hit with the popular soca music of today. After being part of powerful conversations and revolutionary ‘aha’ moments I literally felt hit in the head by the lyrics busting out of the bus; lyrics like  “Massage the pum”, and “Kick in she back door”, and “How she like it? Real hard” and “I going home with she tonight”  and “Drink drink drink..” My mind went to the revolutionary music during the late 60’s and 70’s and into the 80’s;  music inspired by upheaval and change; music with political,  social, racial, spiritual implications;  the rise of reggae music and soca with political social messages.  I couldn’t help think of the state of music given play time in Grenada today, music drowning any thoughts of revolution, of transformation, of critical consciousness; music that dehumanizes, trivializes, sexualizes, oppresses the human race. What happened to the political, spiritual, emotional, class conscious music of the past? And why aren’t people questioning the shit that is hitting and dominating the airlines today? Why are we dancing to it, celebrating it, defending it in the name of freedom of speech, and whose speech, whose freedom? The words of one of the panelists struck me at that moment,   “We must not contribute to our own stifling, our own dehumanization, our own deliverance back to the plantation”.  

Feeling down and out after the bus ride Maya and I walked up the old cocoa road on our last leg home when a jeep full of Caribbean womyn stopped alongside; beautiful warrior rainbow womyn journeying through the country side after spending a week at the conference.   They were heading to our house to drop the movie projector I lent them for the launching of the 7th edition of ARC magazine. They were squished happily into the jeep vibsing on African music and high from the week spent together. Revolutionary hope was restored as Maya and I piled into the jeep and inhaled the power within that vehicle, the power to affect change, the power to revolutionize and transform, the power to ignite critical hope!!






Sunday, April 28, 2013

Building Cultures of Peace through Spoken Word and Community Yoga   

Giving thanks and praise for the power of yoga and poetry bringing people together through movement; through mindful attention to the body, mind and emotions; through words expressing the internal; through taking poses that lean, balance and depend on one another; through speaking words of self and others; through being in kinship while bending, stretching, balancing, twisting, reaching, moving our bodies, our minds.

I give thanks and praise for the youth who blessed these evenings with presence and courage; playfulness and strength trusting in the process of words and movement.

I give thanks and praise for Damarlie Antoine and Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe for facilitating these powerful sessions and continuing their creative critical work in personal and social transformation!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

gender based violence is everybodys business

Kick in She Back Door    
by: Onyan and Burning Flames
Women does mek things real hard
Especially when they get mad
No matter how hard you try
No easy way to slip inside
So the solution to get inside
Cause she lock down she house so tight
Whether rain or sun
Morning, noon or night
Is the only way to win this fight.
What to do?
Kick in she back door
Kick in she back door
What ah mean?
Kick um in
And she bawling murder
[more screaming]

Gender Based Violence is Everybody's Business
Over the weeks I have been trying to understand a few things in relation to gender based violence in Grenada. For instance I am trying to understand the criticism towards Grenada National Organization of Women (GNOW) for standing up and against the soca song  ‘Kick in She Back Door’ (a song that promoting violence against women) and why some people think it is a waste of time for GNOW to pursue this issue. I am also trying to understand those who recognize gender based violence as a serious problem in Grenada and yet continue to criticize the work of GNOW and I am trying to understand why many people believe gender based violence is a women’s issue and therefore   the responsibility of women and women’s organizations alone.    

I write in order to understand. For example if people believe violence against women is wrong; if you as man or woman would be enraged, frightened, shamed to have your daughter, mother, sister, auntie, grandmother’s back door kicked in by a man who is trying to get in when he is not welcomed then you too should be speaking out against this song. This is not an issue of freedom of speech this is an issue of violent lyrics that are promoting violence against women. Whether you believe it should come off the radio or not you should be speaking out. Many critics of GNOW say why this song and not all the other violent songs. This I believe is a question that must be asked and reflected upon by all of us. Along with, why are we waiting for GNOW to do the work? Gender based violence is not a women’s issue it is a social, health, political, economic, environmental, spiritual issue, it is a ‘we’ issue, a man and woman’s issue. So why aren’t churches, government ministries, non-government and community organizations, businesses speaking out against this song and other violent songs.  

People question why focus on songs when there are many other urgent issues to deal with related to gender based violence and this too is true however I believe without getting at a deeper more critical understanding of the root causes of gender based violence then the more urgent issues will be treated at a surface level without   understanding where violence comes from. There are many of us who don’t understand that violence is a learned behaviour. We learn how to be violent through various socialization processes. Music is one of them. Music is a huge part of our culture so why not make this song and other violent songs a place where we begin to bring attention to one of the ways violence is learned and reinforced. I agree there is no escaping what many people defend as freedom of speech, however what are we teaching our children and youth if we are not questioning and critically analyzing these forms of socialization but rather defending them.

I believe we need to begin critically analysing violence in all its forms in order to understand how violence is learned and how violence is reinforced, normalized, glamorized and internalized. We need to teach our kids and youth critical thinking so they can analyse these songs themselves and come up with their own means of understanding the negative and violent effects of songs like ‘Kick Down She Back Door’. Perhaps then it won’t only be women’s organizations like GNOW speaking out but also men, women, youth, radio announcers, teachers, ministers of parliament, and church people.

I make a special plea to the men of our society, gender based violence is your problem too! The major victims of violence are not women alone it is men too. Men and boys are being murdered, imprisoned, assaulted, raped by other men. Check out the statistics for yourselves. I believe it is in everyone’s interest to examine the concept of masculinity and the socialization of masculinity. Violence is no longer recognized as deviant behaviour but an accepted form of masculinity. This must change in order for changes to take place at a personal, community, institutional and cultural level. 

We are all responsible for the violence in our society. We are all responsible for the violence perpetuated by and against men, women, children and youth.  Before you criticize the work of GNOW please ask yourself what are you doing to stop the violence?     Every one of us must ask ourselves what we are doing to resist, reduce, eliminate violence in our children, youth, men, and women’s lives.  Gender based violence affects all of us.  Gender based violence is everybody’s business.   

Martin Luther King once said, ‘It is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends that will hurt us in the end.” We need to break that silence.  


Friday, April 5, 2013

Young Men in Dialogue for Change!

Understanding Violence:
Young Men in Dialogue 

I would like to give a big ‘Shout Out’ to Mr. Claude Douglas (sociologist, political analyst, adult educator, inspirational speaker, and author) for taking the time to facilitate a peace-building session with the young men of Harford Village.  Another big ‘Shout Out’ to the young men of the community for showing up and sharing their perspectives on peace and peacelessness on a personal, community and national level.  The community session confirmed the essential need for safe positive spaces where boys and men come together and take part in the dialogue for peaceful change.
The evening session began with an activity that enabled young men to explore and examine different personal states of peace and peacelessness in their lives.  Mr. Douglas pointed out that in order to break the cycle of violence that is prevalent in our families, communities, workplaces and society on a whole we must address peace on a personal level. “Peace begins within,” said Mr. Douglas, “If you find and strengthen your own state of peace than you will not be controlled by what others think or say about you.”  

Concluding the opening activity Mr. Douglas sat in circle with the young men and shared his  perspective based on the participant’s contributions. Mr. Douglas spoke of the root causes of conflict and violence in men and boy’s lives and subsequently women’s lives. He spoke of gender socialization and how men/boys are socialized from a young age to be tough, hard, not to show or speak their emotions and if they do they are often ridiculed and punished for being weak.  Mr. Douglas believes the suppression of emotions is one reason men and boys find themselves in situations where acts of uncontrollable violence are the means to deal with conflict.   Mr. Douglas also spoke of power relations and how men and women are taught from an early age that men are superior to women and that we live in a hierarchal power-driven world where we believe there is always someone better or less then us.  He told the young men repeatedly “Never believe anyone is better or less then you. We are all equal in our humanness.” Mr. Douglas believes the socialization of gender roles, attitudes, and behaviour needs to be addressed on a community and national level.  He shared examples from his own marriage and told the young men he was not afraid to cook, or bake, or wash his wife’s clothes; he was not afraid to look weak in the eyes of his male friends by picking up the phone and calling his wife to tell her where he was during the day or evening.

Mr. Douglas reinforced repeatedly that conflict was an inevitable part of life; however how we deal with conflict was a choice. He stressed that violence was a choice and that we needed to teach boys and men alternative non-violent ways to deal with conflict.  The session confirmed the need to have community sessions where male mentors like Mr. Douglas take the lead in mobilizing spaces where men and boys come together to unlearn violence and relearn non-violent ways of being in the world. Mr. Douglas expressed the need to confront and address socialized gender roles that are deeply affecting our ability to see one another as equal human beings. 

Recently Grenada has witnessed a continuous cycle of violence from the beating of a Principal by an 11 year old school boy with a cricket bat, to numerous domestic violent incidences that resulted in women losing their lives or being seriously injured, to the incarceration of boys and men for violent crimes. Now more than ever there is  need to explore, examine, and create paths to building cultures of peace within our relationships, families, schools, communities, organizations and country. Thank You Mr. Douglas for sharing your time, wisdom and compassion and thank you Harford Village men for being part of the peace process!!!


Friday, March 29, 2013

collage evening with friends

There is nothing like a collaging session with women friends! thanks Harford Village sistren!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Someone To Life

Giving thanks and praise for my dear friend and sister, Cathy Gerrior. Once again Cathy shares the teachings through personal reflections, a path to helping all of us love one another back to life. 

With love, respect, and deep gratitude i share hope and healing with you  from a very important woman in my life! Blessings. maureen.  

In Hopes of Healing

The journey to healing can be a long and winding road.  At least that's what i thought until recently.

i had the amazing honor of gathering with residential school survivors for a five day workshop called "Returning to Spirit". It is an emotionally intense program that requires the participants to return to that moment in our childhood when our spirit was broken and our souls scarred by something that happened to us.  We learned that we cannot go back in time to change what happened, but we do have the power to change the impact on our lives now.   

i wonder if you could imagine what it's like to sit in a room and listen to people speak of the most unimaginable and unspeakable things that were done to them as innocent children.  The horror deepens with each story.  What is surprising and most amazing is the genuine love, caring and support shown by these very same people who were tortured, brutalized, and victimized for much, if not all of their childhood.  It speaks to me deeply about the resiliency of our people.  Despite everything done to us over seven generations, we are still here.

i have always struggled to hear these stories from the people who lived them.  And when i think it can't get any worse in terms of the horrors inflicted on them, it does.  So much worse.  Yet each time someone trusts enough to say it out loud,  it is with the hopes of healing, both for themselves and for their people.

i recall one story years ago told by a survivor. She was being beaten very badly after being accused of speaking her language.  In the midst of that beating, when her face was being smashed into the kitchen counter, she somehow realized that although they could physically control her, they could not control what she thought.  They couldn't hear her thoughts so they couldn't reach her there.  She spoke of how that freed her at that moment.  She was no longer a helpless victim.

As a child of a survivor i had my own story to tell and it was not easy either, but so many little kindnesses happened between us all; a hug, a chant, a song, kind words, a listening ear, a smile, and a lot of laughter, that it became possible to share my deepest darkest pain with a whole group of people.  We all took the risk together and, it was a process, but through that process we were able to understand how the impact was still influencing our lives today.  And we learned how to not just stop it, but to change it.
There is something to be said for going back in time and looking at an event or situation from the perspective of an adult.  You can learn to see, and to even believe that it wasn't your fault, that you didn't deserve what happened to you.  You are not bad, or evil, or unlovable, or that there's not something wrong with you.  Bad things do happen to good people and even to innocent children.  That is not our fault.  It is our responsibility though to give ourselves permission to work through it and to move on, because it is our lives and our families lives who get punished for it, over and over again when we don't.

There is so much more to us than our pain.  i learned that there.  Outwardly i was not living my life as a victim.  Inside i still was.  i was not reliving the event(s) over in my head.  i was living out the belief that i had no value that resulted from those things that happened to me.  i learned that belief i held was only a story i created in my head because as a child, that is what made sense.  If bad things were happening to me, then it must be because i'm bad.  If no one is protecting me, then it must because i'm not worth it.   i also learned that i quite like how i feel and think about myself and my world when it is no longer tainted by that brush.  It took only five days.   

We are not finished yet.  We will be going back to work on reconciliation.  You see, people connected with the church took the same workshop the week before we did.  They too carry the legacy of the residential schools and are also in need healing. Differently i think, but perhaps they too are just as broken.  The goal is to bring the two groups together to complete the healing on both sides.  There is much work to be done to accomplish that in safety for all, but i think we left feeling like it was possible.  That maybe anything is possible now.

We heard a saying in this workshop, 'Love someone to life'.  i think that's what happened over those five days.  Through all the anger, tears, shame, and confusion, we loved each other back to life. 
And so now we wait for the next half of the workshop.  With a little fearfulness, some uncertainty, and perhaps even some anticipation.  i believe that each of us though, are looking to return in hopes of healing.

All my Relations.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time for NOT Understanding is Done

                                                                 photo from the Telegraph by: Getty
Time for NOT Understanding is Done

Time for NOT Understanding is Done
This reflection started mid-December after the Connecticut shootings in America where 20 children and 6 adults were killed by a young man.  This reflection started when I heard myself say  “I really don’t understand.”  I kept hearing this same sentiment from friends,  strangers in the streets,  radio announcers and call in programs. I even heard these words from Buddhist nun and spiritual mentor, Ani Pema Chodron .
Not sure what shook me out of my disbelief, out of my not understanding perhaps it was the image of a friend‘s 10 year old child pointing his plastic gun directly at her facebook friends from her profile picture; perhaps it was the interview I watched with film maker Quentin Tarantino who directs and produces violent films under the disguise of art and who blasted his interviewer recently for suggesting violence in films perpetuates violence in society;   perhaps it was the beginnings of the ‘Idle No More’ movement  and  the reminder of a violence that has/is killing generations of people in many different ways, a history that many of us to do not want to take responsibility for; perhaps it was the electric blue hard candy ring my four year old friend was sucking with such pleasure and happiness;  perhaps it was news of the burnt down garment factory in Bangladesh  where 112  workers were killed and where Wallmart purchases their clothes;   perhaps it was a close relative of mine who blamed the Middle East for violence world-wide; perhaps it was the rapper who said she believed it is the parents responsibility to censor what their kids listen to;  perhaps it was the man on cbc call in program who lost his job due to his disability and felt deep frustration at a system that preached free health care for all;   perhaps it was the news of a young man from our community who is in jail for theft and the unforgiving reaction of some of his friends and community; perhaps it was the recent news of Obama’s ‘Kill List’ resulting in bombs being dropped and children  being killed in the name of freedom and democracy;  perhaps it was the word ‘crazy’ I began to hear over and over, thrown around carelessly to describe people who displayed emotions, behaviours, attitudes that did not conform to mainstream;   perhaps it was witnessing the boy down the road crying and being slapped for acting like a girl. 
Perhaps the time is now to understand we all have the potential to do violence, support violence, misunderstand violence, promote, ignore and laugh at violence. And many of us do so under the disguise of freedom of speech, or constitutional rights, or under the belief that we live in an ideal world where all kids have parents who will guide them through the violence with critical minds and open hearts.
Perhaps the time is now to begin understanding that we live in a ‘connect the dot’ world where everything effects everything, where all acts of violence exist within a context;  a context that begins in the centre of all of us and reaches far and wide.      
Perhaps it is not until we realize that much of what we label incomprehensible is comprehensible and that the time for not understanding is done and the time for understanding is now.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

in solidarity


Sadie, Cathy, Thomas, Rose and me
in solidarity!

Dear Friend, Sister, Mi'kmaq Elder/Healer shared with me her reflections last night. Reflections she said that were rattling around in her head related to Idle No More! i said rattle no more can i share them! and she said do as i wish! and my wish is to share them in solidarity with "Idle No More"!
Gving Thanks and Praise for you Cathy Gerrior. One love.

Natives, First Nations, Aboriginals, Metis, Inuits, Indians. 
We are called a lot of names.  What images come to mind when you hear these words? Savages, heathens, wagon burners, or maybe scalpers?  Perhaps the images invoked now are of drunken, high, or pitiful bums and freeloaders who inconvenience you with their protests and blockades?  Maybe it's the uncomfortable emotions that arise as you hear us always speaking of the Residential Schools or our Treaty Rights.  Maybe it's the righteous anger that simmer beneath as you are reminded that we don't pay taxes, nor seemingly work towards gainful employment, or when you hear on the news about those chiefs who make huge salaries while their community continues to live in extreme poverty. 

i wonder if anyone ever really thinks about from where and from whom these images and negative feelings have been generated?  Or to what motive or gain is behind the creation of these images.  i often wonder about these things when people feel they have the right to accost me and demand answers or to inflict their privileged and narrow views on me.  i wonder too what they are so afraid of.

These images are not who or what we are.  We are a proud people who know through many centuries of teachings that the Earth is our Mother, the Sky is our Father, the Moon is our Grandmother, and the Sun is our Grandfather.  We know that all life, from the smallest grains of sand to the Eagles that fly high above us, to those that dwell under the earth as well as in the rivers and oceans, they are our Sisters and Brothers.  We know that we are neither more, nor less important than they.  And we know that it has always been, and always will be our responsibility to be caretakers of this land and its many life sources.

We know that for generations we have been lied to, cheated, slaughtered, illegally forced from our lands and  onto reservations, survived attempted genocides, had our children stolen from us and violated, were marginalized and kept in poverty.  And all the while, we were the ones who were villianized and called the savages. Why?  Simply put, they wanted our land and resources. They turned us into the bad guys in the eyes of their own people in order to distract from their own actions and to legitimize their theft and other atrocities.

But that is not what this is about.

This is about our present and future.  This is about our people standing up, not only for ourselves, but for our children and generations of our grandchildren.  We stand up for our Mother the Earth and All who dwell on her.  We do not seek the land that you live on, or your homes.  We are asking only to be treated respectfully. To be given the right to have a say about our own lands.  To have our Treaties honored - Treaties that were created and agreed to by both of our Ancestors. 

i have heard many say that they have done nothing to us personally, so why do they have to be bothered by this.  That may be true.  It was indeed your ancestors and not you personally who did these things.  i say to you now that you have benefitted from your Ancestors actions and you continue to benefit from them.  We still do not.   To those people i ask, What have you personally done for us to undo the harms and to share in the benefits? 

The time for change is here.  We are standing up now for what is right and fair, for both our People and  for our Mother the Earth.  Thanks to you all who stand together with us at this time.  Let us be "Idle No More" and may we all have a brighter today and tomorrow, with all of us benefitting in this land and all of working to protect it.  Tahoe.

All my Relations.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No one is healed until everyone is healed

Kids and facilitators from peace camp, Halifax, NS. 2010

"No one is healed until everyone is healed"  Chogyam Trungpa Ripoche

Alice Walker once wrote that until we start caring for children other than our own than none of our children will be safe.  And so I wonder,contemplate,reflect …

How do we care for the children and youth of this world who don’t have access to the same privileges/opportunities that many of us have and take for granted ? How do we care for children and youth who do not have safe positive spaces (that many of us have) to explore discover and exercise their inherent goodness?  How do we care for children and youths who, based on race, religion, sexual orientation, class, physical, emotional and mental needs are part of oppressive, unjust, inequitable violent systems and structures that keep them from finding and blooming into their full potential? How do we care for children and youths who don’t fit the so called norm, norms that restrict bold and courageous children and youth, who if embraced, affirmed, accepted, respected could teach us ‘normal’ people how to stretch ourselves more fully into creative non ‘normal’ people?  How do we care for children and youth who choose violent paths out of frustration, anger, habitual patterns that continue to cycle?  How do we care for children and youth who lack mentors, positive role models to guide them through a steady diet of violence that ranges from multinational prepackaged food (poison), to the endless stream of violent tv, movies, music, video games, and internet? How do we care for children and youth when there are ‘power over’ people who believe violence in popular culture is fantasy not reality and therefor does not affect the youth in the violent choices they make just as the gun advocates believe there is no co relation between accessibility to guns and the violence happening in the streets, schools, movie theatres, shopping malls?
The time is now to reflect and act on the many questions affecting our youth today so that all our children worldwide can find spaces to heal, transform, blossom into the inherent strong, good, worthy beings they are and have a right to be.