Post 446.

IT’S SURREAL that a nation of islanders would cut people off from our oceans and seas for so long. It says something about how decision-makers view nature, turning our back to it in the vulgar way that MovieTowne was built, as if our coasts do not matter. 

It’s surreal that people are already drinking on pavements outside bars, whether vaccinated or not. They are travelling together on public transportation, whether vaccinated or not, and working together in offices that haven’t imposed mandatory immunisation policies. They are interacting in markets, malls, stores, churches, schools and brothels. Yet the beaches remain closed.

For many, the ocean is essential to mental, physical and psychological health. For children, it’s a source of great stress relief and energy release, particularly amidst such an isolated and overwhelming experience over almost two years. 

Those with access to private beaches and small coves reachable by boat can still find a way to get into the water, providing opportunity for the wealthy to rejuvenate. For poor people or those who lost income and can’t afford restaurants, beaches are an affordable place to go, carrying their pot of food cooked at home. They are also a place where they can go with their children under 12, sit, rest and have family time. 

I know the covid19 numbers and deaths are high and vaccination rates are low, but the State’s approach to the pandemic has been contradictory and remains so. Remember when the borders were closed and it took contacts, prayers, pleading in the papers or lottery-level hope to get back in? Stuart Young himself had to provide permission, and his decision-making appeared altogether unsystematic, biased and unpredictable for months. 

It’s still not clear why the state of emergency was ended when it was, with numbers so high, conveniently in time for campaigning.

The State’s approach has also been one that completely ignored the burden of care put on families with children now at home doing online school or unable to access school at all, and the increased levels of stress that has caused. It’s not just hunger or violence or child abuse that has increased, it’s sheer psychological burnout for adults and children, and I would argue particularly for women. 

If your household has managed well, perhaps with a large private yard or access to a pool or a nearby open field or the chance to fly out, good for you, but there are children who are quietly falling apart. 

I watched a little boy riding his bicycle around and around an old car parked in his small yard. There was maybe three feet of space for him to manoeuvre as he circled. His yard off the main road was concrete. The main road was concrete. He seemed like those animals in the zoo pacing in a cage. I think of the children living in the concrete jungles of our urban plannings, ending up spending too much time on their phones, and getting too little time outdoors or in green spaces so their chemistry can balance and their behaviour improve.

We’ve put a ton of effort into keeping my 11-year-old psychologically stable at those moments when she seems to feel trapped inside, insisting on walks, bike rides and time outside. It’s the best we can do, but it’s not the same. She grew up exploring beaches all along the North Coast, returning home with her heart full of oxygen and sunlight, impressions of blue sky and green mountains reflected in her eyes. School is now closed and, as with the middle of the year, she’s desperate for the ocean, and all it relieves and heals. 

Across the Caribbean, beaches are open. What do Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica and St Lucia know that we don’t? Their beaches may have opened for tourism, but is their evidence significant enough for us to keep ours closed? 

The data suggests that transmissions primarily occur indoors, that physical spacing between groups at the beach, having limits on the number of people who can gather in groups, maintaining masks when not swimming, prohibiting fetes and closing beaches earlier are approaches that find a balance. Jamaica put in a curfew: Monday-Saturday: 6 am- 4 pm and Sundays: 6 am-2 pm. 

We opened bars, of all things, because of jobs, lobbying and a widespread culture of drinking to the point of near-alcoholism.

Can we open the beaches, before school starts back, on the best model of our Caribbean neighbours, for the mental health of children?

Post 439.

“If this continues without any control, we will all pay the price for the destruction.”

– Luisa Laita of the Aishara Toon Village, quoted in the South Rupununi District Council’s 2018 report on Wapichan environmental monitoring. 

THE REPORT highlights how extractive industries violate rights to life, health and a healthy environment, food and water, cultural identity, freedom from forced displacement, equality and non-discrimination, and community consent, information and redress.

What are extractive industries? Goldmines in Guyana, oil and gas extraction in TT, bauxite mining in Jamaica and planned copper and mineral mining in Haiti are but some examples.

These industries are worsening the global climate crisis and threaten natural resources for food, water, fishing, farming, and both traditional and climate-resilient livelihoods.

As the Wapishan point out, such violation of human rights and the right of nature also causes community-level distress, trauma and spiritual pain. Indeed, courts are increasingly recognising the rights of rivers and forests as living ecosystems.

The Caribbean’s voice on these issues was heard for the first time at yesterday’s historic Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) hearing on the Impact of Extractive Industries on Human Rights and Climate Change in the Caribbean.

The hearing was proposed by Jamaican activist and women’s- and human-rights lawyer Malene Alleyne and environmental filmmaker Esther Figueroa, to resist rising fossil-fuel extraction and mining activities across the Caribbean. Such human-rights strategies are gaining momentum globally and regionally.

Two constitutional cases were filed against mining projects in Jamaica. There’s a landmark case challenging fossil fuel plans in Guyana. In The Bahamas, environmental organisations have challenged approval for oil drilling.

There are also wide challenges to the Environmental Impact Assessment process, such as in Trinidad and Tobago, for lack of public participation in decision-making, lack of access to information and failure to take social and environmental costs into account.

People once thought environmental degradation and climate change were not bread-and-butter issues. Now we know they are connected to food prices, drought, hurricanes and flooding, and forced displacement. Usually the poorest are the ones hardest hit. These actions are therefore in defence of an equal right to life and a future for us all.

Alleyne and Figueroa’s request to the IACHR describes “the destruction of biological diversity; pollution and the contamination of crucial ecosystems; the erosion of food and water security; and the devastation of rural livelihoods and traditional ways of being.

“The impact on Indigenous, Afro-descendent and rural communities is near apocalyptic given their dependency on the natural environment for physical and cultural survival. In Guyana, for example, gold mining operations are destroying forest cover and causing extreme mercury pollution in rivers traditionally used by Indigenous Peoples for food and drinking water.”

For Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples, there is also state failure to recognise customary lands and their boundaries.

“In Jamaica, the near 70-year-old bauxite-alumina industry has wiped out entire rural communities; destroyed prime agricultural lands; and contaminated rivers, causing fish kills that dislocate the livelihood of fisher folk.”

A 2019 World Bank study on Marine Pollution in the Caribbean concluded that in the Eastern Caribbean, TT contributes the largest industrial-pollutants load to the marine environment.

The annual cancer risk from consuming fish from the Gulf of Paria is almost six times higher than international standards. According to Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, to date, those responsible for the 377 recorded oil spills between 2016 and 2019 have never been held liable.

In Haiti, Kolektif Jistis Min and the Global Justice Clinic published a 2014 report documenting issues of forced displacement in predominantly subsistence-farming communities in northern Haiti where mining companies hold permits.

The hearing’s objectives were to show the impact of extraction on economic, social, cultural and environmental rights and its threat to Caribbean ecosystems, emphasise the dangers of non-participatory decision-making by Caribbean states, and advance a necessary vision for “a new earth-centred, rights-based approach to development in the Caribbean in Harmony with Nature.”

As well, the hearing intended to highlight outdated laws, weaknesses in monitoring and enforcement, corporate flouting of regulations, obstacles to information and failures to provide sufficient redress to affected people, who lose their livelihoods, homes, health, crops and access to drinkable water.

As one Jamaican in Figueroa’s film about Cockpit Country put it, “I see it as not only an ethical but a theological responsibility to preserve and protect the environment.” To return to Luisa and yesterday’s hearing, if we don’t support all available strategies to resist extraction, we can all expect to pay the price.

Post 417.

HOW ARE Caribbean people coping in the pandemic? This is important to ask, for it connects those discussing diversification with those examining social protection, bringing the social together with the economic in ways we must consider.

If Caribbean households are becoming poorer, have exhausted their savings or increased their debt, and are raising tens of thousands of children whose educational performance (and future earnings) are set back, to what extent must our economic plans address the familial and generational shock that more greatly defines our future labour force, consumer demand, and psychosocial health?

The Caribbean Policy Research Institute (Capri) in Jamaica just published its report, “Insult to Injury: The Impact of Covid19 on Vulnerable Persons and Businesses.” It reviews Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, and helps us know the state of insecurity across our sister isles.

There is a lot to say in response to my opening questions.

As we already know, nearly all households across the region are experiencing decreased income. However, more “women are becoming permanently unemployed than men, exacerbating their existing situation of having lower incomes, precarious work, and higher unemployment.” Capri’s survey showed that 18 per cent of respondents were no longer able to work due to care roles in Jamaica compared with 17 per cent in TT, six per cent in Antigua and Barbuda, and seven per cent in Barbados.

Both women and men equally reported care work affecting their ability to earn an income and, thus, reduced earnings. However, in terms of not being able to work at all, the impact on women was more than double, affecting 13 per cent of them versus five per cent of males. In a region with a high number of woman-headed households, this implies a significant increase in daily familial stress and insecurity.

As we also know, there is increased demand for social assistance to meet basic household needs, particularly for those below the poverty line. It’s also been well established that inequalities in student access to online learning are a crisis in the making. There’s great regional variation, however, with 34 per cent of students in Jamaica versus only 11 in TT reporting difficulty focusing on schoolwork.

Up to January 2021, 30,000 of our children were still without devices. Capri offers comparisons of those surveyed, showing that 44 per cent in Jamaica, 14 per cent in TT, five per cent in Antigua and Barbuda, and two per cent in Barbados reported no access to the internet.

I want to highlight the report’s focus on access to food, particularly in terms of the poorest households in our region. The impact on the poor is significant and unequal, pointing to a widening gap even among those at the bottom.

For example, Capri reports that 60 per cent of respondents from poor households below the poverty line were unable to buy food because of high prices, compared to 34 per cent of non-poor households which were just above the poverty line, and 47 per cent of respondents from households with children were unable to buy food because the price was too high. More specifically, “poor households reported having to reduce the number or portion of meals they eat each day, almost twice as much (29 per cent) as non-poor households (17 per cent).”

Only ten per cent of respondents in TT reported this compared to 49 per cent of respondents in Jamaica, but the recession is deepening in TT and deficit- and debt-financing can only float us for so long. We should also note the particular precarity of Venezuelan migrants, who exist in the no man’s land of our state policy, which offers no clear position on asylum or refugee possibilities. This affects their access to income and ultimately food.

We are here already. San Fernando Business Association president Daphne Bartlett has been quoted assaying, “Half a pound of flour is being sold. Also, a half-pound of rice. People are cutting a margarine in half and selling it. That tells you that consumers’ purchasing power is really bad.”

Across the region, economic contraction means increasing hunger, greater dependence on the State, higher crime, riskier forms of livelihood, and social unrest; further undermining our collective vulnerability. Concern for unequal and increasing financial, nutritional, and psychological depletion among the most poor has to be woven through our aspirations to generate wealth that includes and uplifts, rather than just distributes subsistence welfare.

The alternative is expansion of those unable to cope, and small societies with appalling wealth inequality. Let’s consider recovery options that don’t add “insult to injury.”

Post 405.

Now facing one of the driest economic seasons in 25 years, we need revenue generation, but also strategies to conserve both state finances and the sustainability of our communities. Covid19 led to quick decision-making, in relation to virtual courts, that could save $80 million. It also led to timely and merciful release of prisoners. We can choose the right strategies. As always, it is a question of political will.

Prison reform is one of those strategies, and there are decades of good recommendations to implement. Incarceration is costly to both governments and GDP, but it also costs families and communities of those who are never able to rehabilitate their lives, heal from childhood or family trauma that put them at risk of criminality in the first place, get drug treatment, safely escape the risks posed by gangs, or find legal decent employment.

As old slave colonies, Caribbean countries made early investments in prisons. Indeed, for enslaved and indentured workers, plantations were prisons. As a recent regional Caribbean report, “Survey of Individuals Deprived of their Liberty: Caribbean 2016-2019” (IDB 2020), outlines, it is therefore not surprising that, today, “six of the 15 countries with the highest incarceration rates worldwide are Caribbean islands.”

This includes The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, and TT. Yet, incarceration has not made us safe. The Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, and TT “all have homicide rates more than three times the global average.”

Notoriously, our prisons also have high numbers (between 23 per cent and 50 per cent) of non-convicted people who may be first-time offenders or committed for non-violent or petty drug offences. If you have ever known anyone on remand, there are no social programmes, goods which must be bought at the prison are expensive for families, violent and non-violent offenders may be housed together, and court delays mock the right to justice on time.

In fact, prisons are hardly part of producing greater justice at all. The majority of those imprisoned are poor men with unemployment rates higher than the general population. They have been failed by unhealthy but dominant masculine ideals, by schools which they leave with lower rates of literacy and fewer livelihood skills, and by nations that accept class and race inequalities, and their harms, as the status quo. It is no coincidence that jails are full of poor people rotating in and out of hell.

Disturbingly, family problems – from domestic violence to a need to look for work during adolescence, abandonment or separation of families or being expelled from home – were key issues that prisoners had in common. As the IDB report emphasised, “Inmates who grew up in deprived settings – characterised by family violence, drug and alcohol abuse by parents or caregivers, incarceration of family members, early separation from their household, and criminal gangs in the neighbourhood – were more likely to commit a crime and showed higher levels of recidivism.”

It is so serious that “41 per cent of inmates surveyed in the six Caribbean countries were recidivists” and “40 per cent of prisoners that recidivated were imprisoned within a year of their release. In Guyana, Barbados, Suriname, and The Bahamas, roughly a quarter lost their freedom again in less than six months.”

This is a direct outcome of insufficient prison rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, pre- and post-release support, incentives for employers, and programmes that keep prisoners connected to families. Most incarcerated people have children, and children with incarcerated family are at higher risk themselves. In four countries, Barbados, Jamaica, The Bahamas, and TT, such cyclical incarceration began with juvenile detention. If we can protect adolescents from risk of criminality, and even adolescent ownership of firearms, and adopt non-carceral solutions, we can stop the cycle.

This requires investment in prevention in at-risk communities, which is also less costly and more humane than the social damage, and police suppression, of crime and violence. It also requires that we recognise how the violence and overcrowding among inmates create further conditions for violence, as men adopt hyper-masculine identities to survive, ally with gangs for protection and then are indebted upon release, and return to their families with anger, mental ill-health, and experiences of violation.

We must ask ourselves whether we value punishment, like the plantation whip, so much that we will continue an approach that increases incarceration and crime, or whether we will do whatever it takes to make our small societies safer, more just, more peaceful and more loving at this difficult time. Read the report. It’s clear what we ought to do.

Post 330.

There are women in every neighbourhood in Trinidad and Tobago who have terminated a pregnancy at least once. From here, our support to current efforts to decriminalize abortion in Jamaica should be clear.

In T and T, women can risk jail and pay for a private medical procedure. If they cannot pay or because poverty, age, lack of information and partner violence prevented them from being supported enough in this life decision, they could end up in hospital with various harms caused from unsafe options, as more than two thousand woman do here every year.

Illegal terminations can also result in long-term risks to reproductive health. They can be so unsafe that they result in women’s death.

The World Health Organisation estimates that twenty-two thousand abortions are performed in Jamaica every year. Additionally, the Partnership for Women’s Health and Well-being highlights that, “Complications arising from unsafe abortion are among the top 10 causes of maternal mortality in Jamaica, especially among teenagers”.

Banning abortion has never stopped the practice. However, it endangers women. It is a human rights violation which mothers negotiate without recourse to a public health policy that meets their needs.

Illegality also discriminates against poor women, whose right to equal medical treatment, privacy, integrity of the person, and access to sexual and reproductive health services is threatened by a combination of economic and social injustice, and arbitrary and archaic law.

Although women across religion, race, class, educational level and relationship status seek terminations by the tens of thousands under conditions not of their own choosing, poor and young women remain most vulnerable. In the Caribbean. 70% of all unsafe abortions are carried out on women below 30 years old and women 15-49 years old have the highest rate of unsafe abortions globally.

Prevalence of partner and non-partner violence in women’s lives is high, and pregnant women and mothers are at highest risk. Women do not always ‘choose’ to get pregnant when surviving conditions of physical and sexual violence, including forced sex, and such violence may leave them further unable to cope with children.

We fail to provide effective, national sex education. We let women ketch with employers who won’t hire them in case they get pregnant. We turn our heads at self-employed women who have no access to paid maternity leave. We blame poor women for having children they cannot cope with and for terminating pregnancies because they cannot cope. Is this an approach grounded in care, justice and respect?

Women often know they are making the best decision they can at the time, yet criminalization keeps them in fear, shame and silence when they most our need compassion, support and courage. In Jamaica, a woman can be sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to terminate a pregnancy, and accomplices or facilitators up to three years.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the Offences Against the Person Act similarly makes abortion illegal except in cases of risk to the health and life of a woman. In both countries, many doctors are unwilling to take the risk of interpreting the law, also leaving women vulnerable to doctors’ personal biases.

Jamaican Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert Flynn has bravely presented a Motion to the Parliament proposing de-criminalisation of abortion and its replacement by a civil law setting out conditions under which women would be able to access legal and safe termination of pregnancies. The call is to create a Woman’s Right to Pregnancy Act that allows a woman, after appropriate counselling, the right of termination within the first three months of pregnancy and thereafter, if necessary, to preserve her life.

This is necessary because it is just. At 12 weeks, a foetus is four inches long and weighs one ounce. It has all its organs, but none are functioning. It is not able to function fully independently outside the womb until 23 weeks. Aborting an embryo up to 12 weeks is not murdering a baby. In Jamaica, committed Christians have been speaking out in recognition of this call to recognize a mother as a human being with an inalienable right to decide what happens to her body.

This amendment could follow Barbados and Guyana where abortion was decriminalized in 1983 and 1995. Belize, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have also expanded exceptions that allow for abortion. Jamaican parliamentarians and social justice advocates are to be congratulated for putting this issue on the legislative agenda.

Trinidad and Tobago can show solidarity with such leadership on behalf of women and families. Meanwhile, we watch Jamaica, expectantly.


Post 288.

Back in Trinidad, the brown grass in my backyard makes the threat of hurricanes seem far away, but islands up the Caribbean chain are already looking ahead. I didn’t even notice the clock ticking its way into official rainy season until a few days ago when I was up at midnight watching lightning repeatedly tear down through Havana’s cobalt sky.

The next day, amidst heavy, dusty heat, I listened to a panel on climate change at a Caribbean Studies conference. You wouldn’t believe the words speakers threw around: Infrastructurality. Disaster capitalism. The Age of Disaster. The politics of recovery.

They made it seem like one morning you wake up and you understand why Indigenous People believed in Huracan, the god of wind, storms and lightning, because on some dark night you may be too powerless to do anything but pray.

Hurricanes decapitated Grenada’s houses, and almost decimated Barbuda and Dominica. They’ve submerged Havana and flooded roads in Kingston. Parts of Puerto Rico are still without restored electricity since last year’s Maria.

Disaster capitalism is corrupt or exploitative profiting off natural disasters, strategically using them to land grab or forcing privatisation in ways that make governments and populations dependent and pliable to foreign or corporate interests.

In Puerto Rico, people had to resist push to privatise not only electricity, but also public schooling, and push back against reconstruction loans at interest rates that meant permanent debt.

Climate change is the region’s singular crisis, caused by the impact of a global economic order that continues to arrive in waves on our shores. It’s a repeating story of these islands.

The colonial encounter with the Caribbean was fueled by enough profit motive and warped logic to fell thriving Indigenous belief systems, landscapes, ways of life and populations by the millions. The effects were cataclysmic.

Today, scholars consider fossil capitalism a contemporary form of extreme and devastating economic violence. It wields power over our life and death. It leads to overnight collapse of tourist capacity, agricultural output, public health provision and GDP, along with developed country status. It’s also our own brand of development so we have a hand in our demise, and no plan for saving ourselves.

A three-hour rain floods the Northern Range down to the Central plains, submerges Port of Spain, and drowns millions of dollars in crops. The best we can do is have strong, resilient infrastructure in terms of water provision, roads, buildings and the electric grid, but Trinidad and Tobago isn’t near ready.

If you are in a community prone to flooding, start hammering at the doors of your MP and Regional Corporation. Demand a plan that’s bigger than household compensation, which is increasingly going to be insufficient, and unable to protect us from what is considered a ‘tragedy of the commons’.

This is a tragedy that starts with our inability to protect the temperature balance in our shared planetary atmosphere and therefore to prevent worsening regional storms. It continues with our inability to protect our nations from the socialisation of losses resulting from privatisation of fossil exploitation gains. Finally, it ends with our failure to collectively decide what disaster and recovery measures are best for whole, interconnected communities.

We will not survive attack on commonly shared resources and realities through short-term, individualistic or selfish recovery strategies. For us, it’s not an ‘if’, but a ‘when’, once the global economic order continues as is.

Soon, our brown grass will turn brilliant green. Our Caribbean neighbours will become anxious about the eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes predicted. Besides climate change, there’s a natural climate pulse cycle that produced hurricanes in the 1950s and 1960s, and is back again.

Following Huracan’s sweep, the disaster isn’t just the damage, it’s also the recovery. Global media will descend to package stereotyped apocalyptic scenes of devastated citizens in need of rescue. What we need is resilient, regional power to stop this exceptional harm.

After its first category 5 hurricane in recorded history, Dominican PM Roosevelt Skerrit described Dominica’s state with the words, ‘Eden in broken’. This metaphor of Eden isn’t random.

The whole point of the Caribbean in the Western narrative of modernity is to be a perfect paradise, to be beautiful and consumable and an escape from elsewhere.

That was the story of the region repeated for five hundred years and it’s how we understand ourselves today; In Eden, under God’s eye, in fear of his wrath, wondering how much, this season, Huracan will weep with us along our tragic path.

Post 280.

I sat three rows from Theresa May when, as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, she apologized for Britain’s role in criminalizing same-sex conduct in former colonies. “I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country,” she said, “They were wrong then and they are wrong now.”

Apologies by Britain should come hard and fast, for colonialism itself, the slave trade, inconceivably vast economic extraction and impoverishment, antidemocratic laws kept in place by a ‘savings clause’, and more.

This apology should not be diminished, for it results from courageous and sustained global South struggle, across at least thirty-six countries. Nonetheless, as Justice Rampersad pointed out in his April 12th decision, changing discriminatory laws is a matter for emancipatory Caribbean jurisprudence. We didn’t need the British empire’s ‘benevolent’ mission of colonising and civilising. We don’t need a 21st century version of civilising now.

On the same stage that morning, Jamaica’s PM Andrew Holness spoke, quite brilliantly, highlighting what sustainability, prosperity, inclusiveness and security mean from a Caribbean perspective in which equity and accountability among nations count.

In an earlier response on having gays in his Cabinet, Holness said, “I think that the first step is that the State protect the human rights of every citizen, regardless of sexual orientation or inclination”.  This was a major shift in public position from Bruce Golding’s infamous “not in my Cabinet” statement, and highlights increasing openings for equitable and accountable Caribbean leadership.

Here at home, President Weekes herself has said, “I think in terms of the State and the law all citizens and all persons under the protection of our jurisdiction should have equal treatment whatever their gender, whatever their sexual orientation, whatever their race we need to have absolute equality across the board in terms of State obligations and constitutional rights”.

Having been involved in LBGTI rights advocacy since about 2005, I didn’t expect to hear such public declarations in my lifetime. I have a beautiful memory of CAISO’s 2010 campaign, conceptualized in many ways by Colin Robinson’s politics of claiming belonging to a nation of ‘many bodies’, and the dual flying of national and rainbow flags high in the air at massive UNC rallies.

It wasn’t an easy space, and the PNM campaign trail would have been significantly worse, for those were the infamous ‘big C’ days, but to publicly declare equal citizenship involved great courage. There are forgotten foot soldiers, among many, who have moved popular culture forward over the last decade.

I thought about all this in relation to Guardian’s front-page expose on Michelle Lee-Ahye. There’s much to disparage about ‘rescuing’ someone from social media smearing, and doing this using her partner’s photos, in a still homophobic society and without consent. There’s much to say about the problems of prying into the private lives of women in public life though that’s long been debunked as illegitimate, irrelevant and sexist.

However, more important, was the public backlash to the newspaper, rather than Lee-Ahye’s choices. Many were clear that her sexuality was a non-story, and were outraged it would be headlined, supposedly and misguidedly for her protection. Being a woman-loving woman, or any woman who has sex outside of heterosexual marriage, might be a basis for idle gossip, but it doesn’t tarnish her achievement of gold nor does it reduce her right to privacy. That this could be expressed as a widely held view was an unintended, progressive outcome of that story.

In 2005, I couldn’t predict all this. Advocacy felt exhausting and ongoing without any progress. Even seeing hundreds proudly, joyfully gathering with rainbow flags over these past weeks was unimaginable as late as 2010.

Hope has been reborn in me. Yet, the evictions and firings of LBGTI citizens following Justice Rampersad’s decision signal continued need to tirelessly press back against continued vulnerability, believing that together we can actually aspire and achieve.

Post 157.

It was hard not to spend this week thinking about children. Children in Gaza, in South Sudan, in Brazil, and in Trinidad and Tobago. Children being killed by bombs. Children facing mass starvation. Children living in a state that can find money for football while they barely survive on the street. Children being abused in shelters and in their own homes.

In one way or another, all us adults are collectively responsible for all children. Our responsibility isn’t about charity, though that has its contribution to make. Our responsibility is about ending violence of every kind, relentlessly pursuing disarmament on every front, infusing a commitment to child rights into every culture, and refusing to let children be unprotected against our own mercilessness, whether from cruelty or neglect, from corruption-caused poverty or avoidable war. Who will hold adults like us responsible, and empower us to do better, if not also us?

Here at home, another taskforce presented a vision for a way ahead for children, and we can almost predict being disappointed by its implementation, because of delays regarding personnel, resources, legislation and political will, even as well meaning public servants press on with commitment and passion. Malala Yousafzai came and, because she was a girl child, was silenced from presenting a crucial message to all adults in her midst, including and especially Muslim men, whose leaders somehow missed the entire point of her global struggle against patriarchal definition of girls’ rights. Another video circulated of a child being beaten, this time with a shovel, and we already know there are no social services that can provide true rescue.

If I’m like other parents, there’s that moment of unmatchable peace at those times when I’m falling asleep knowing that Ziya is safe and near to me. I think of her absolute trust in us when she is scared, her reliance on us to provide for her needs, and her unquestioning expectation that she is loved, and can feel at home and be herself. That should be the reality for every child, but also I lie awake at night just thankful that she’s been able to experience what seems like a privilege for precious few, feeling like getting it right for her is as much as I can do.

It was hard not to spend this week thinking about children, knowing that our global failure is not good enough. Marches can bring people together and show that an issue merits public concern, but marches won’t help children in Pakistan, Jamaica, Uganda or here. NGOs can take responsibility where the state and families fail, but we can’t leave often women-run, volunteer- dependent NGOs to fix our society. We can always blame deficient state services, but the problem remains the world that each of us adults allows to continue as is. All us adults are collectively responsible in one way or another for all children because every single one of them is vulnerable in a way each of us is not, because the civility of a society is marked by the quality of life of its most vulnerable, because their vulnerability is a result of our domination.

We can’t entirely prevent what is happening to children in India, China, the US or Europe, but almost a million adults don’t need an extra cent to transform the terms of childhood in Trinidad and Tobago. We adults need to grow up. Commitment by us all is necessary, and possible. Right now, it is heartbreakingly clear, from Gaza to South Sudan, Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago, children everywhere desperately need our far greater, non-negotiable commitment to care.

Post 6

I’ve never experienced someone else owning my body like this. Zi crawls over to me while playing, pulls down my top’s straps and launches her mouth, and now four teeth, toward my breasts. She twists against me, feeds, sighs, then drags herself away and crawls off.

She acts like I am killing her if I try to put her back to sleep late in the night by patting or with water instead. Gets offended and vex. Eventually, I turn over and she wraps herself around me, clamps onto my breast, beings to kick her foot in the air and hypnotically feeds. Eventually, I wake up, pry her off and try to unlock my hunched shoulder.

Having had someone survive solely off my body for more than six months, I feel a kind of awe for breasts that I did not before. You could put me out there to market for TIBS. Breast-feeding can be a burden, but it also makes you feel important, like you are doing something that makes you special to this baby. That’s also why you are the one that they want in the night. It’s a double-edged sword.

Breasts belong to you and your body, but are intimately linked to the bodily needs of another human being. In political sense, they are yours. In a biological sense, they are theirs too. Weird. Babies think your body is theirs with such full and genuine innocence that it’s easy to see yourself in their eyes. It’s not quite, but it feels like love, this unself-conscious claim on you.

Breastfeeding for what seemed to combine into about five hours was how Zi sat through three days of a regional academic feminist meeting in Jamaica. Sometimes she played with her toys on the desk. Sometimes she napped in my arms. But when she fussed, I stuck her on and she was perfection itself. Like an addict with a fresh fix. Bliss. She was with her mama and had unlimited access. Either that or she has a high tolerance for meetings and would do well as a future bureaucrat, someone said.

For working women, breastfeeding is both super easy and seriously challenging. When I was recently in London, where the hotel rooms (apparantly) don’t have mini fridges, the management refused to keep my breastmilk, in a small case I provided, in the kitchen freezer. Something about ‘leaking’ and ‘not near food’ and regulations. Seeing my tearful response, overflowing with despair and loss, the workers volunteered to take the bags of milk to their freezers at home. They did that for 5 days. On the weekend, when the manager was not on shift, they brought my little case back, kept it in the kitchen and I traveled home with seven full bags of frozen milk. And it would have been more had I not had to throw away a few over two ten-hour plane rides and at a two-day workshop where there were no provisions for breastfeeding mothers.

I had a friend who used to say that her god has breasts. Too true. Women who breastfeed multiple children, for multiple years, are everyday goddesses walking the earth. I guess now that I’m wondering how much longer I can do this, I am also pausing in a phase that makes see and appreciate my taken-for-granted body anew.

A revolution is a way of life is one of my all time favorite phrases along with there is no pure place for resistance and everthing that i do shall be upfull and right (from my student days listening to lots of early Bob).

I gave this talk at T and T’s first TEDx talk, proudly organised by UWI undergraduate students led by a deep thinking youth called Joshua Hamlet. If you want to know why there is no revolution without feminism, if you want to know why change is always possible, if you want to hail out us Caribbean folkses with the mostses as historical inspiration, then along with 20 minutes worth of popcorn, this talk is for you. Peace, justice, solidarity, love, forward ever my people!