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!!!