Growing up in Trinidad my backyard, like many, had a ravine behind it. My brothers and sister would jump from one side, our backyard, to the other side, an abandoned plot, for exploring adventures. I was tall enough and definitely had the strength to secure my landing. But I’d always hesitate. I would be the last one to jump. Everytime. The additional pressure of being left behind in a tiny jungle would push me to take the leap. I’d land safely. Everytime.
This week I took a similar leap. I’ve been tip toeing around leaving a job that had several major push factors. However, there was always something; I don’t have time off to interview or I’m too drained at the end of the day to do applications. Really it was fear that chained me by the leg.
My predecessors lasted much shorter than my 11 months but I’d hoped things would improve. Before I started a woman was hired . She started 2 weeks before me and was out by my 3rd week. She literally had a mental breakdown one day and I never saw her again. The workload weighed heavy and she snatched her purse and ran off. We spoke briefly on a few occasions before her swift departure. She wasn’t happy. She felt disrespected and undervalued by show of her wage and the condescending talks she’d get. She shared how this job matched up to her decades-old experience of similar work.
I was about to graduate college when I started working there part time and didn’t think I’d be there very long. Most of what was said to me was irrelevant to me, or so I thought. I was getting paid a cool $14/hr and thought I was being compensated fairly.
Circumstances in my life started to change and I needed more money quickly. This coincided with the great escape of my closest coworker. I took on more hours but my boss kept me just below full time so she wouldn’t have to provide benefits. She also gave me a raise. I was excited. So I took on more responsibility in addition to what I was initially hired to do. Months passed and I snowballed, picking up more and more responsibilities. I was getting worn out but needed every cent I could garner.
My relationships with my coworkers were always rocky because of fundamental disagreements and differences. This was exasperated by the income and racial divide in place. It was an all female office but labor was assigned, seemingly, based on race. I was hoping to influence everyone and build a united labor perspective to gain fair pay and treatment. That obviously didn’t work out. I came to the conclusion that while I could sympathize with the pressure my absence would create I had to leave.
I’ll write later post on the problems I faced there because it deserves specific attention. Today, however, I’m celebrating my freedom. The opening of a new door.
Moreover, I’ve been dreaming of taking my own path. I’m not a big preacher of following dreams and all that. I’m a bit of a critic of people that gain wealth and celebrity and give great speeches on self-determination. When it really comes down to luck and privilege most times. Anyway, I’m taking my own non-advice and taking a moment to do what I absolutely love.
There are few things in this world that gives me unabashed pride. One of them is my creative mind’s ability to consistently come up with fresh ideas. Another is my natural craving to write. Yet another is my loving relationship with Public Relations. This triple power has emboldened me to take this great leap of faith and trust in the Universe.
Look out for written pieces, photos, graphic designs, drawings and every other media I can use. I hope to share intrigue, conflict and joy with you in my own voice. I will always be honest and write what I think. I’m ready to work to fulfill my ideas while remaining responsible with what I create.
The feeling of a freedom like this, regardless of how short lived, is priceless. Today I am on my own to create something I’ve imagined for over a year.
I was in a car leaving my partners house in Arima. I had stayed too late, but it was her parent’s house so sleeping over was not an option. We ordered a car, said our goodbyes and parted till the next time. The moon was bright overhead- wide and full. The music in the car was perfect for the light mood of the evening. I said to the driver, “Do you see this moon?” after hitting the highway, the moon seemingly following us. He cleared his throat and spoke, “Uh yea”. I complimented his playlist and asked if he curated it himself. He said with some pride and now with interest in his tone, “Yes, I sing so I like to listen to all kinds of music to practice”. My curiosity peaked and he got comfortable. We talked for the remaining hour long drive to my home in Barataria.
When I got home, I paid him most of what I owed, and we exchanged numbers. As I typed his name into my phone I caught a shadowy glance of this fella and thought to myself, “eh , he looks nice and seems like a sweetheart, maybe we’ll make good friends”.
Our relationship was easy. We went out on dates, took vacations and met up casually often as we worked walking distance from each other. He was politically intelligent, sensitive, talented, fun, financially secure and was in it for the long haul. I was enjoying his company. There was other things too like possessiveness, pettiness, crossing boundaries, and an imbalance of power in the relationship which he couldn’t acknowledge. He was comfortable and I was just getting by. I felt unsure about whether I wanted to settle with him. The only way he would accept my polyamorous lifestyle was if it was a female partner. That was not how I wanted to be in a relationship so we knew we were not going to be together forever. He thought he was the obvious choice for a woman to match with. *Eye roll* The entitlement.
“Don!” I yelled from the kitchen. The door to my room remained close and no movement seemed to be happening. I was in a struggle with a relative. A knife in his hand and vast dead space in his eyes. I was losing my grip and coaxing wasn’t working. I called again in desperation but this time the door opened. He walked out sleepily dragging his feet and rubbing his eyes. The lights revealed what all the commotion was about. I shouted impatiently, “Don, do something!” I was about to be stabbed in my own home by a family member I had cared for and sheltered. My heart and sense of safety was fracturing by the millisecond. I was falling apart. He was a trained firefighter and a grown man he could handle this damaged teenager right?
In one move there was oil on the floor from a nearby pan and I was loose but now worry rose like an air balloon in my chest. There was a knife between the three of us and a slippery floor in a small apartment kitchen- anything could happen. Before my cousin could be subdued he managed to jab Don right in the chest. The combination of the jagged blade and the heated fight caused blood to flow out his chest like a steady leaking faucet. The match came to an end finally and the assailant found some sense in his defeat. The high was over and I could see him come down from whatever demon had possessed him. He left cursing and slamming things into a backpack, burning the bridge behind him.
Don and I visited hospitals, completed a police report and I seeked counselling for the incident. He got 3 stitches and had to take off from work for a few days while the pain subsided. But we were never the same. He wanted us to go steady. After all he did take a knife to the chest for me. I felt guilty but didn’t want to compromise on my sexuality
Don is by no means a villain or a victim in my eyes. The way I see it we were, like most relationships, exactly what the other person needed at that time. We made an impact in each other’s lives and we are better for it.
We were in a mall walking one day and he saw a stall selling crystals. Knowing about my witchy ways insisted I pick one out to wear. I asked which one he liked and he choose a clear crystal quarts, cracked and warped with smooth edges. He said it reminded him of me. I looked at the other stones amoung them was my birthstone and many other beauties. But his choice was unmistakably perfect like the playlist singing so sweetly on the first night we met. I like to think this stone has continued to protect me and purify the energy I take in.
I know he is not the same man either. He has learnt a lot about feminism, processing grief, how to be a better kisser and that a relationship doesn’t have to be physically abusive for it to end. I think about him now and then and hope he is well.
Sunday 19th July 2020 I was assaulted in my home. It wasn’t a burglar or a rapist but a family member I cared for dearly. He’d been living with me from September 2019. His mom told him he had to move out by 18 knowing with limited education and no job he would be on the streets. He was family and more importantly community. Everyone in the family knew he was gay but no one spoke about it openly.
We had spent some time together before he moved in. We attended a open mic night for LGBTQ youth to boost confidence. Under the moonlight I witnessed him come to life strutting across the stage and reciting an affirmation into the mic before leaping off. I was so happy to see him feel safe to express his femininity in a public space in a country that was unwelcoming to rainbow people. I became his mother in the drag sense. I would protect and guide him until he could be on his own. So much so that when he was told at a lesbian owned bar to stop dancing with his boyfriend I confronted the owner who was less than gracious about her own internalized misogyny and homophobia. My crew, the DJ team and other patrons stood in solidarity with us and left the club empty. I included him in my activism as well. He got home from a Columbus Must Fall protest with ideas to form his own non-profit and what issues it would tackle. I couldn’t be prouder.
We’d had some rough patches that made it clear that we weren’t a good match to co-habitate from early on. It became harder and harder to get him to attend our monthly house meetings. Anytime I did ask him to help out around the house especially because I was working and doing all the house work he would complain that he didn’t feel good or that he would get to it eventually. The energy in the house became tense and when we went into the first COVID-19 lockdown things intensified. I had to ask him to leave for my own sanity and peace of mind. I had planned on supporting him in other ways but the outcome made that impossible.
One of my partners was at the house sleeping when the incident took place. His presence was a savior for me but he was hurt in the scuffle to regain control and disarm the aggressor. We left the house after some deliberation about whether I could treat his wound with my first aid kit. Even with my pre-pre-med training I was covered in blood and traumatized. My shaking hands couldn’t steady and the flow of blood out his chest indicated he would need stitches. We left for the hospital with banging and quarreling going off in the next room. My cousin had tried to kill me?
Arriving in emergency everyone turned to look but no one jumped to action. I walked up to a nurse and asked for help. I couldn’t string together the right words but I managed “stab wound”, “stitches” and “help him”. At the time my body was so pumped of adrenaline I felt hot but not hurt. We had been fighting so later when the hormones subsided and I would notice my forehead on the left, behind my left ear, my right knee, right hip, left arm were in pain as well as minor scratches and bruises on my hands. The conversation started in the laundry area and by the time we were in the house I was being slammed on the kitchen counter. Every so often I allowed myself to forget the ordeal until I touched my head or turned over in the bed and winced.
I stood in the waiting area under the curious eyes of other patients and called my support team. My closest partner was first. She helped me breathe. My sistren was next. She came immediately. I hugged her and cried. All that had happened was hitting home.
We sat down and went over everything. I knew I didn’t trust police or believe that they could help. We devised a plan to get the attacker out the house and document the incident. This would be useful for state data on violence which has implications on policy and procedures as well as in case of a further incident the history would serve as a defense.
I attended two sessions of counselling by the Victim & Witness Support arm of the TTPS. I completed the report over the course of three days going to and from the hospital to get a signature from the doctor and again when it wasn’t the right form that was signed. The whole thing was essentially over in a week but the impact lasted much longer.
My landlady’s perception of me had changed and now I was a problematic tenant. I had brought my cousin there and now look, police had to come, the neighbors would gossip and I would be asked if it was my boyfriends fighting. It looked bad. My job suffered as I had to take time off to see the counselor, get the police report completed, visit my partner who had taken a hit and manage my own emotional state which was crumbling. On the inside was worst. I felt betrayed not only by my blood relative but by my own intuition. How could I have trusted him? How can I trust any decision I’ve made in my life? The fear caused me to adopt a pup. She made sleep possible and brought joy back into my tiny apartment.
I haven’t spoken to this person since the incident and I don’t think I ever will. I still see him though- in pop stars he adores or resembles. I wish him peace.
This list consist of incredible leftist books with a focus on womyn of color. Most of these I’ve personally read and can attest to their greatness. While others are recommendations by trusted comrades that have read them. Either way this is a great list to grab from in pursuit of political education.
Left of Karl Marx- Carole Boyce Davies
From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation- Keeanga- Yamahtaa Taylor
Where and When I Enter – Paula Giddings
Through the Eyes of Rebel Women- Iris Morales
Assata Autobiography- Assata Shakur
Pleasure Activism- adrienne maree brown
As I learn and grow I will share more gems in this list and give some info on each. Add your titles in the comments of books that shaped you and tell us why it’s a read, recommendation or required.
As a life long learner and teacher in the movement this list serves as a resource for those looking to sharpen their practice and do compelling work. This is the beginning of a collection of aids from my studies along my life journey as a publicist for the people. I hope you find these helpful.
So you want to help someone but you think you don’t have anything to offer, well read on. You’d be surprised how small tokens of support can uplift . Most people work on a tight/ fixed budget and feel helpless when someone they know is struggling with financial difficulties. You may believe you can’t help without being financially well off yourself. I’ve been on both sides and I assure you we are better when we help each other. Here are a four constructive ways you could make an impact without breaking your budget:
Offer transportation or assistance with getting around. If you have a car or an extra metrocard, share the blessing. When I was looking for a job the hardest thing was affording transportation; to interviews; to work; to networking events. For a while, I walked home from work on aching feet and was once removed from a public bus because I didn’t have the fare. Hectic, I know. It was the difference between attending all my interviews and getting to work until my first check, and not. Not to mention carpooling is more environmentally considerate.
Share an enriching meal or bring over goodies. Try to bring fresh fruits or vegetables to friends houses when visiting, not all you have, just a small supply. This can help you cut down on spoiled food at home and is a rewarding habit to foster. Food insecurity is the most painful consequence of poverty, most cut back on whole meals or eat cheap nutrition-poor foods like ramen noddles. There’s a saying in Islam that no matter what you have to eat, you can share half of it.
Offer to help with a challenging task. As simple as carrying groceries home or preparing for a new experience, advice, companionship or reinforcement is invaluable. If you know a friend is moving ask if you can help them organize and pack without paying movers. Assist with paperwork or applications by proofreading a resume and cover letter or writing a glowing recommendation. If you have a printer at home, offer to print copies of resumes or related documents. Anything to relieve stress or save on spending is a good idea.
Ask them what they need. You’d be surprised what people really need that you wouldn’t think of. Each of us struggle under the same system but face different challenges unique to our lives, the help we desperately need reflects that. Gift clothing items that are work or interview appropriate. It could be a shoe, blouse/ shirt, or accessory, just make sure it’s not worn out or ill fitting. Your friend may even just want company for a shopping trip to steer them in the right direction.
Its important to lift each other up in our time of need and build support systems to tackle to symptoms of poverty. We must do what we can for our people without expecting something in return. Also, try not to push your ideas of success or direct someone’s life when/ if they ask for your help. At the same time don’t offer to help beyond your means. For instance, if I had extra on my snap benefit card I’d give away fresh fruit or treat my comrades. Do what is within your power to contribute to a mobile, galvanized community to overcome the obstacles capitalism upholds. We all struggle and have our highs and lows in life, so don’t be afraid to reach out because we have a lot more in common than is apparent and all it takes is an honest conversation to erase the facade.
Let’s share our experience with needing help or ways you found you can help in the comments below!
As a womanist and organizer who studied the history of the women’s movement I love to participate in women centered events. I was closely involved in two national Women’s Marches in two very different countries; the mas loving somehow still conservative island of Trinidad, and liberal but segregated New York City in the United States. Here’s what I learned:
In January, NYC held it’s now annual Women’s March, originally spurred by the election of accused sexual predator, the honorable 45th President of the United States, DJT. Mostly white upper and middle class feminist organizers staged their march on the upper west side under the organization Women’s March Alliance, separate from a multicultural diverse rally downtown, organized by Women’s March NYC. This split trickled down from a clash arising in the women’s movement about anti-antisemitism and Israeli violence. In my view class distinction played a large role as well.
Originally spurred by Tamika Mallory alleged closeness with homophobic, anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, anti-imperialist ideology coupled with protesting Israeli violence in Palestine, leaders of the Women’s March NYC was accused of antisemitism. At the rally a black Jewish activist would explain the difference between critique and hate speech.
I was volunteering for Batala New York, an all women Afro-Brazilian percussion band, handing out fliers and making video recordings for the band. Prior to performance day, band members grew concerned from the avalanche of news coverage the division between the two women’s groups was drawing. To make matters worse, Batala’s inclusion in the uptown march felt haphazard and insincere. The massive enthusiastic crowd peered over line of police to get a glimpse of the band banging it out off to the side of the path of the march. Amused marchers stopped to take photos and videos or to dance but were hounded by police and organizers attempting to keep the flow going. It was the type of chaos that would be easily solved in brisk 30 degree weather, still police barked, “You’re here to march, right? March then!” to curious onlookers. I shook my head, saddened. Downtown a cozy group of protesters stood at the rally cheering on the unified message of solidarity while acknowledging our differences as women.
After the band wrapped up their set, a small handful agreed to bring some liberation music to the rally and we made our way downtown to Foley Square. We arrived to incensed speeches, the words echoed over the sea of pink pussy hats, hijabs and witty signs. The energy was warmer and obviously more inclusive that what I witnessed uptown. It made me wonder about the true nature behind such effort to shut down this event. The highlight was new kid on the block, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s call to action. She stood there as proof that we have to engage politically to benefit from representation in government. A fire was lit. Her message was received and the rally roared.
When the rally ended, the party started, as the Batalettes struck up powerful sounds, each taking turns to conduct in their own style. Such strong feelings of joy, love and comradarie emanated from their drums, attendees swarmed toward the sound and formed a dance circle. I was holding back tears. The fliers in my hands evaporated and I instantly understood the power of music to move people. For a moment we forgot the cold temperature and totally jammed out! We weren’t asked or authorized to be there, we didn’t ask permission, and the police kept their distance. It felt like home as the stage came down behind us.
Hundreds of miles away from NYC, on a warm clammy night a group of women gathered at Caiso House in Belmont, Port-of-Spain in Trinidad to prepare for the celebration of International Women’s Day. Music in the air we crouched over signs, computers and refreshments focused on our tasks. Some wrote empowering lyrics to popular soca songs, others made stunning posters with phrases both familiar and unique. Lead organizer, founder of Womantra, Stephanie Leitch buzzed around each team making suggestions, giving direction and lending encouragement. It was refreshing to see her calm and personable the night before such a important event.
The next day celebrations kicked off with a short welcome and a march before a diverse program. Despite little public buzz the event was well attended by those already connected to the women’s movement, progressive non-profits and government agencies. A massive truck packed with speakers boomed soca music alongside the procession. Stephanie fiercely held on to the truck with one hand and declared our power as women into the microphone in the other.
Bileshia and Safiyyah holding up signs at International Women’s Day March in Trinidad
Unlike in NYC there wasn’t public debate or division but there was a deep divide growing at this march too. The LGBTQ community versus seemingly everyone else. The truth is “trinis” aren’t yet accepting of queer women and thus are uncomfortable in our presence. There has been a noticeable decline in Muslim attendance since the march’s inception 3 years ago meanwhile the rainbow colours become more apparent. Unfortunately, the heavily conservative Christian culture of most Trinidadians is a remnant of colonized rule. While making a lap around the Queen’s Park Savannah derogatory remarks and discriminatory attitudes could be heard coming from some Ministry employees. Their disapproval was targeted at a joyful participant donning a rainbow cape. Later Stephanie’s call to support all sisters, listing lesbians as one group, elicited groans and further disgusted “shoo-shooing”.
Tents were setup to distribute information and resources available but I found that most attendants had no interest in engaging and would often answer a question with passing you a pamphlet. While I was excited to see so many information booths I left each dissatisfied. One pamphlet about domestic violence assistance wrote, “We reap What We Sow” on the cover which left me confused and concerned. The main stage welcomed speakers of various organizations, powerful young poets and seasoned performer Cecilia Salazar singing “Die with my dignity” by Singing Sandra. Themes of unity, sisterhood, empowerment and mutual support in all aspects of our lives kept us attentive and our spirits high till the end.
Pamphlets and stickers provided by various booths
I’m positively optimistic about the future growth of the women’s movement around the globe as I’ve met so many uplifting brilliant women in person and even more through research. This work continues on through women presently building off women in the past and passing the torch to the women of the future.
Comparing these two very different women’s movement marches a few similar areas of improvement crop up in my mind. These are my thoughts on growing and strengthening the women’s movement:
The movement has not reached the poor. Ads mostly placed on Facebook and word of mouth in pre-existing circles does nothing to expand the pool of attendees. Newspapers and local outreach would bring greater interest in this galvanizing movement. Often only educated women know about, understand, and attend such marches that don’t address poor working class women’s immediate concerns like housing or education access.
There is a growing divide that needs to be addressed with the basic principle of common interest. While women are not a monolith and we are affected by patriarchy differently depending on our race, class, occupation, education level, gender expression and sexual orientation we are better off supporting each other. We must analyze what our interest as a group and aim high and hard to reach it. This work has to include women in poverty and address their specific needs. We are sistren in this fight and cannot be afraid of inclusion or differences because that makes us stronger.
The educational aspect is missing and halts progress. We must continue to empower each other with education and sharing our experiences. Pamphlets are a good start but we must examine the contents and assess if its useful and what it adds to the movement. Education comes in so many forms we can utilize like music, curated books for reduced or no cost, zines, skits and of course impassioned speeches. We can share information on commonly misunderstood topics and issues of contention. Fear comes from not knowing, lets lift the veil.
Provide the larger public with tools to overcome challenges. Tools like conflict resolution tactics can reduce violence, understanding child development can teach parents what their child needs at each level of development and self-care practices to ease mental and emotional stress. Nutritional and economic tips around budgeting, home gardening and lifestyle alternatives can make a significant difference in the health and financial well being of people.
Interested in Activism?
I’ve started organizing with a badass feminist organization in Trinidad called WOMANTRA. As the name suggest we focus on issues affecting women and girls as well as LGBTQI concerns. Check out the dope work and find out how you can play your part for gender justice!