Post 476.

HOPE SPRINGS eternal, but hopeless floods the nation. It’s a hard time to think about celebrating independence when it feels like we are becoming worse off than we were. We have frittered the dreams we held at independence. 

Is there anyone who feels hopeful about the years between now and our 75th anniversary? 

We produce brilliant athletes, creatives, professionals, inventors and activists, and committed and caring communities that surround them. They keep our sense of possibility alive, reminding us that we can be both small and great, and that our best selves set a world standard. 

However, we must also be honest. Beyond the symbols of nationalism that make us feel proud today, whether military parades, marching bands, congratulatory speeches or fireworks, what is our stake in making TT a place where people want to live tomorrow?

I think of celebration of our independence only partly as commemoration of the greatness of these past decades. I think of it also, and more importantly, as the baton we are handing on, from one generation to the next, and the inheritance we have protected over our years as custodians. 

I think of the nation as a garden that we tend for those also in our care and for those to whom we will one day give this living, breathing complex ecosystem. I think of commemorations as a grounding and a reasoning, when we ask ourselves what we are doing with this responsibility. 

I’m sceptical of pomp and ceremony, even as I recognise the effort that goes into it and its value. One mother, driving a taxi, told me that she insists her children, from ages eight to 24, line the streets of Port of Spain to watch the parade each year, to be awed by the impressive glint of sun off uniform buttons and the horns and symbols that vibrate her children’s chests, shaking loose a little tight-throated emotion. For her, it’s a chance to teach pride in their country. 

It’s understandable, for there are not many such moments or places that make visible and beautiful the idea of independent nationhood. I was glad for her that there are such displays, noting that they become moments of tying love for family with love for country, when both may otherwise be wearying and hard. 

I’m not that kind of nationalist. It’s not about lack of pride, it’s about concern at the way that nationhood gets mixed up with state power, and love for country becomes mixed up with loyalty to state authority. 

On an anniversary of independence, we mark transition from being a colony. We also mark decades of self-rule. We present how we see ourselves now. We breathe into a vision for who we want to be and what we still must achieve. 

We must also ask ourselves about exclusions, and what our independent status means to those without equal access to the freedoms and protections of the very citizenship we are celebrating, such as LGBTI communities. We must ask ourselves about inequities, and what independent status means to neglected rural communities where flooding results from near-abandonment by the very state being celebrated today. 

We must ask ourselves about fear at a time when citizens are in terror both in and outside their homes, because of failures and corruption that connect politics to ports, to police. Institutions are how a state touches the lives of its nation of people, and are how they most experience its rules and their rights. 

We string up flags, as a state does to mark its birth, but working institutions would bring more daily pride and reciprocity, making citizens less likely to undermine the bureaucracies that alienate them, making government much more of, by, with and for its people. 

Reasoning even further, isn’t it time we see the nation as more than its people, but also as its land and sea, its mangroves and coral reefs, its wildlife and its migratory species? Haven’t we moved beyond becoming modern “hell or high water” on obsolete terms, based on closed-door agreements with foreign capital? On our 60th anniversary, what do we consider worth most protecting for the next 60 years? 

Like slowly receding waters ready to rise again, the country is rippling with despair. We can celebrate our small greatness and our best examples of brilliance, and come together in pride, but we need hope to spring from the places of exclusion, inequality, alienation and threat, for the rewards of self-governance to spring eternal, precious and shared.

Post 473.

THE LEAD-UP to our 60th year of independence is excellent timing for a reignited conversation about decolonising our landscape of statues, streets and parks. 

This is a decades-old discussion whose fire has been kept alive by global reparations research and advocacy, changes made in India and Myanmar, student protests from South Africa to Bristol, Black Lives Matter movements, Caribbean historians and African and indigenous organisations. 

As always, what is happening in TT is interwoven with complex global currents, including a Latin American emphasis on decoloniality which has influenced thinking over the past two decades. 

This is different from postcoloniality, where black and brown men (and a minority of women) filled the roles and institutions previously held and dominated by white men, but kept the legacy of colonisation intact in newly independent nations. 

By contrast, to be decolonial is to question everything about the postcolonial world from the perspectives of the marginalised and oppressed, those least remembered or valued, those seeking to right historical wrongs, and those who radically challenged social order as it was forcibly established over hundreds of years. 

It is to champion care, freedom, justice and solidarity over mere continuity, whether in relation to law, governance, schooling, gender or sexuality. With these values in mind, everything about ourselves, our landscape and our institutions is up for renewed self-determination. 

It’s an amazing time to be a young person, unintimidated by the entrenched authority of dead white men and their beliefs, ideas and actions. It reminds us that independence was not only a historical moment, something that happened and is over, but a continuous and collective act of forging a nation from an unapologetic love for liberty, as its meaning evolves over time.

In our little local teacup, of course, we are whipping up a storm. Some are against any change, some for changing everything. Some argue for naming only new things, leaving in place the old. Some don’t think cultural change is as important as addressing our social, economic and infrastructural failings. Some worry about ethnic and gender bias, technical challenges of changing postal addresses, risks of state lip service and creation of communal disunity.

Some argue that changing names denies history. Rather, is an act that acknowledges history, and the colonials and plantation owners through whom we still locate ourselves. It is also an opportunity to name those, such as our ancestors, who were often in resistance to these men, but whose names have disappeared from our geography, schoolbooks and memories. 

We could replace street names entirely or leave them but instal plaques that provide the truth of violence, exploitation or inequity endured, so that we are reminded at every step of our resistance, creativity and survival. 

The first is a far more radical gesture of national self-making. It replaces those symbols, like scars of harm, with those of our homegrown movers and makers of history. It could transform TT for future generations. 

The second option is a conservative compromise. In a postcolony, public space is a living, breathing arena for teaching about the past. Here, mas is a theatre of the streets. Similarly, we don’t need a European-museum approach to history. The places where the past was made, where we walk every day, can make us more conscious of our past, present and future dreams, the isms and atrocities fought, and freedoms hard won. 

Removing statues such as that of Columbus can powerfully show indigenous people that we now condemn a man whose invasion of the Americas led to the genocide and dispossession of millions of their foremothers and forefathers. It should remind us that our nation was built on occupied indigenous land, and we are inheritors of such domination. 

Alternatively, leaving such statues in place, but toppled, reframed or defaced for all to see, shows those figures are no longer held in high regard. Still others have suggested creating an area where such statues could be located and the story of their displacement told, instead erecting an indigenous woman where Columbus once stood or replacing Picton’s street names with Luisa Calderon’s. 

There’s value in different options and possibilities. We therefore need thoughtfulness and an ability to listen, willingness to change our minds, skills in building consensus, and a path away from quick and dismissive opinion. 

Liberty and loving are messy, but are ours to choose in this deliberation. More than about statues and street names, on the cusp of independence, let’s not mistake this chance to forge our shared beliefs as a nation.

Entry 471.

THIS COLUMN may appear to be a month early, but on July 22, the Environmental Management Authority published a notice pointing the public to its Position Paper on the Management of Fireworks in TT, which recommends that traditional noise-producing fireworks should be banned. 

Though published last year, the paper remains a useful stepping stone in the citizen-led journey to change legislation and informal neighbourhood practices regarding fireworks. 

It’s important because, as we return to pre-pandemic ways of operating – whether in terms of schooling, traffic, governance or the economy – we are going back to being just as out-of-sync with public good as we were before. While pandemic protocols meant that fireworks were disallowed last year, come August 31, we are back to the same-old, same-old. 

The movement to reduce and ban fireworks has taken hold over the past decade as fireworks companies profited without a care for those at their mercy, such as the ill, elderly, infants, people with disabilities, and both pets and wildlife. 

Supply creates demand. Soon, excess noise at all hours, on nights of Divali, Christmas, Independence and Old Year’s, was the norm. There were no time limits or zoning, and everyone with money to burn forgot we share a landscape with others who are affected by our every irresponsibility. 

The groundswell to make us more considerate has come from animal welfare organisations and a diverse array of citizens. Zookeepers have been calling for state action for years. It’s insane to have fireworks ricocheting off the Northern Range above the heads of so many terrified and caged animals. Who can forget the imported baby kangaroo that (allegedly) died of terror in 2019?

Before you jump to the conclusion that this movement is frivolous, just about the environment, a lesser issue than food prices or without any hope of national impact, keep in mind that one person’s house caught fire as a result of fireworks at the beginning of the year. 

In January, under the old AG, comments were sought on “the fireworks bill,” which citizen stakeholders widely considered to be unacceptable. Today, with the economy in tatters, we have a strong argument to make about fireworks as a poor use of foreign exchange. About US$1.6 million was spent between 2012 and 2017. 

This is a movement that will eventually win, because enough people are affected when noise is too late in the night and too much. It’s a matter of consistent pressure and public education over time. It typically takes decades to secure any sensible change in this place, including (and especially) in relation to legislation and its implementation, but giving up isn’t how anything is ever achieved.

So why this column this week? First, according to the Minister of Communications, the Government hasn’t yet “revealed” its plans for celebrating independence this year. You can support activists who are already calling for the State to act responsibly.

Wouldn’t taking this issue seriously show just how far we have come in inclusive and considerate self-governance, prevention of unnecessary harm, care for diversity of species, cost-saving in a time of economic crisis, and setting the right example to those inheriting our nation?

Back to the EMA. Its recommendations are for a “complete ban on traditional noise-producing fireworks and importation of
only noise reducing fireworks” and limits on the discharge of fireworks to specific days and time periods. 

Noise-reducing fireworks are still noisy, but it’s an imperfect attempt at improvement so that some can enjoy them with less injury to others.

At the beginning of this year, the TTSPCA additionally recommended “a ban on the sale of fireworks to members of the public,” restrictions on the locations where fireworks can be used, and rules on appropriate use. 

As well, as always, legislative change is overdue. Anti-noise citizen groups have also recommended moving the independence fireworks display to a barge off the Mucurapo Foreshore. This is a chance to innovate.

You can still submit comments on the EMA’s position paper to, lobby the new AG on revising a seemingly abandoned bill, and tackle Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, who heads the independence celebration committee. An historic 60th anniversary is a brilliant opportunity. 

The achievement of independence is about deciding to take collective responsibility. Self-governance should mean that citizen voices matter, and that the legislature represents the will of the people and protects those with few rights and little say. 

Finally, commemorations should be a reminder that change is always possible. That is our legacy. Our future is ours to make.

Post 335.

Today, I turned 45. I’m not sure I feel celebratory. I feel like a survivor. Like the walking wounded. Moving slowly, but surely on my feet.

For all my empowerment, I’m amazed I’m still negotiating women’s timeworn challenges. Like an increasing number of us, precisely because sheer hard work has led to vastly more university educated women than men, I’m a main breadwinner.

At the same time, because male privilege remains so resilient, I also put in the majority of time on child care and carry the majority of responsibility for managing all the logistics and planning related to family life.

This comes at the cost of my savings and my career. It brings the exhaustion that so many single mothers are familiar with, and dust off like just another day.

It’s labour that is mostly invisible, undervalued, taken-for-granted, and assumed to be mine. For the good of my daughter, like so many moms, I do it willingly and wholeheartedly. I’m clear-eyed about the inequalities, but I’m prepared to sacrifice, to provide the absolute best, and to teach lessons of generosity, care and justice with joy.

I’ve started a whole new life. It’s like adulthood, which is cynical at best, but blushed with rose-coloured bliss. Maybe bliss is just a choice. I imagine I’m past life’s half-way mark so, at this point, I have fewer years ahead than I’ve already lived. These days, therefore, I’m just trying to be happy.

There’s debt to climb out of, overdue publications to submit, a house to buy, and ends to meet. It’s the kind of stress that keeps you up calculating at night.

There are also rivers to walk, waterfalls to find and beaches to remind of the wind and the waves, alternately whispering and roaring, as both wash across the shore.

There’s also love which feels like winning the Lotto every day. Maybe past forty you are not looking for perfect, maybe you are not even looking, maybe you just get lucky enough to cross paths with someone committed to growing.

Inside, I’ve turned bountiful like the hillsides after first rains. I awake more aware that love is a harvest you sow each morning. I count lessons about commitment and communication like seeds, in between calculations at night.

Some days, I lift each limb depressed and empty, like Sisyphus waking to discover the boulder he had shouldered uphill had rolled back down again. What working mother doesn’t know the feeling of not having an hour for herself, to breathe, to think, to feel or to stay sane.

I pole dance twice a week now which is both hard and hot AF. It enables me to support a woman-run and women-only small business which challenges women to become strong, to feel good, to recognize their challenges, to value themselves, and to connect to their sexuality. My goal is simply to show up, for me.

I’ve reached here through taking on and giving up, through gathering and letting go. I remind myself that it’s not possible to have it all, at least not at the same time, wondering if men tell themselves that daily too.

Patriarchy, from politician to religious leader to employer to lover, is a killer, but it’s like rising above the falling rain when you finally reach where you know yourself, your rights and your power. Women come into our own because we’ve hurt and healed, stooped and conquered. I hope I can carry my own independence and freedom, for it has been hard earned.

I now understand how women seem to become more certain, more centred, more unapologetic, and more fearless in their fifties, sixties and seventies. They’ve paid their dues pleasing everybody. Having learned through love and loss, they know there’s far less to fear than they thought. Such insight is a trade with age.

I’ve learned gratitude and forgiveness for those on my side, for those in my softly-beating heart, for the giants in my life, for the child who teaches me, for allies and inspiration, for opportunities to become a better person, and for laughter and cool mornings with trees in the distance.

Every dawn, we receive life as a gift to keep opening. Every dusk, women know the weariness from standing tall like a silk cotton tree, carrying our scars and imperfections, worries and burdens.

Over my shoulder, my own jahajin bundle is slung. Thirty kilometres per second on this next rotation of the sun, and blossoming in my own time and season, here I come.


Post 210.

Those very struggles established in slavery and indentureship have not yet been won for all Caribbean women. Sisterhood and empowerment are a commitment to their individual and collective achievement, and that commitment is the fire and hope of Caribbean feminism.

Let us take the words offered by this movement while also embracing Caribbean feminism’s radical history and intent, its lessons and wisdom, its analyses and aims. Let us love ourselves and each other, building community in ways that claim our place in continuing its legacy. When it comes to hundreds of years of our region’s women desiring and labouring for change, let us feel no fear or shame.

The feminist movement still keeps this controversial label because this is the only movement in all of modern time that has unapologetically placed  women’s real issues first, not because addressing them helps to improve the economy, the family or the nation, but to make the world right for women.

Advocating for maternity leave, domestic violence, anti-discrimination or sexual assault legislation. Challenging sexism in school curricula. Recognising housework’s economic value. Creating global agreement that women and girls can achieve any aspiration. Insisting that femininity isn’t about lack or weakness, but about women’s own definitions and embodiment of power.

Feminism in the Caribbean wasn’t imported, it emerged from the conditions of our lives and our dreams for equality and rights. It was never built on hatred or discrimination, but on the long struggle for true emancipation. It never aimed to make women superior to men, rather it aims to enable women to live on terms not defined by male superiority. It challenges racism as it is knotted with sexism, distorting women’s and men’s experiences of their bodies. It seeks a world in which all women can be who they are, and be valued simply because they are, regardless of their sexual choices.

Caribbean feminism gives us words to describe realities and resistances that are only ours, to describe a movement led by everyday women for every woman, without apology. Let’s not forget those foremothers as we also enjoy the rewards of looking good, having disposable income, networking within rather than across class, and improving our individual capacities to earn more money. Let us not forget the implications of a Beyonce brand of sexy feminism in heels and on fleek in bright lights and big stage, for women who refuse sexiness, but still wish to be seen as beautiful.

Reproductive rights, safety from sexual violence and exploitation, equal pay for equal work, fair sharing of family responsibilities, a right to independence and decision-making, and a sense of self free of racist ideals regarding our beauty are the roots of Caribbean feminism today. If you are a woman who believes any of these are important, then you believe in feminist ideals which centuries of struggle have made more legitimate and worth fighting for. Disown stereotypes and misrecognition, and fearlessly tell them that this is what a Caribbean feminist looks like. And, then, however it feels right, rock this politics’ insights and inspiration in your unique contribution.

Sisterhood. Empowerment. Financial independence. A supportive community of women. Sexual freedom. Fearlessness. Equality. Choice. Self-acceptance, self-determination and self-care. As we invest in these in our lives, let’s also connect to and celebrate the Caribbean women whose feminism gave us these words to make ours and to confidently share.