Post 179.

You don’t go there thinking that you will learn about how to live, but so it was last week at the funeral of Marcia Henville. How humbling to sit among her children and best friends, those she helped or who helped her, and some who never met her at all, everyone reflecting on what difference one life could make.

I was moved by invocations of forgiveness, knowing that this choice is not about excusing a wrong, but preventing it from devouring you from inside, particularly when your family is already torn asunder. I heard people say it was too soon, Marcia wasn’t even buried yet, but I couldn’t imagine what else her children could be expected to do.

We all live in families where we have had to learn to forgive hurts large and small. That hasn’t meant forgetting, and it does not displace necessary expectations for accountability, care and justice. But, as you walk with your wounds, you need to travel light. Fear, anger and hate are too heavy burdens when grief, regret and disappointment may be all you can bear.

Forgiveness is never about the other person and his or her lesson, it is only always about your ability to heal. When you forgive, you fit something that happened into your past, freeing your present, knowing there is no other exit from a darkening maze.

I admired that Marcia’s family and community understood this immediately. In my heart, I asked myself if I could be that good, that strong, that insightful about how to survive such a painful path ahead.

I also listened closely to what people remembered. She taught her children to be themselves, and she was their friend. Her friends said that she would go wherever she heard someone cry. She roamed the country helping families. She connected shotters with their desire to live differently, rather than by the gun. She had her own vision for the marginalised.  It felt like not letting such commitment die could be so simple, but her coffin was a reminder that it is not.

We still ask the wrong questions about violence against women. Why ask why women don’t leave? There are many reasons, from commitment to children and abiding love to terror and low self-confidence to lack of support and economic insecurity. While women must be empowered to secure their own safety, our questions should instead be: Why doesn’t every societal message tell boys and men who resort to violence that seeking help is their responsibility? Why don’t more men’s groups take action against men’s violence and for men’s healing? When will powerful men visibly lead transformations of masculinity beyond its associations with power, recognising the point of women’s struggle for peace and equality?

My own male Guardian Media bosses can begin to set examples that may save women’s lives. Stag’s totally sexist, ‘It’s a man’s world. Rule responsibly’, campaign should be the first to fund national anti-violence messaging everywhere that Stag sells, throughout and beyond Carnival. Profiting from dangerous ideals of men’s right to rule, despite statistics showing what that means for women in reality, means on every billboard and bottle you should be the first to market men’s responsibility to stop violence against women.

Reflecting on what difference one life, one effort, one campaign could make, I left Marcia Henville’s funeral with lessons resonating in my head like a conversation between tenor pan and bass. Remembering that love is a practice of forgiveness as much as of justice, I walked away under noon sun, grateful for an example of the kind of person I still could become.

(An interesting note: when this column was published, the Guardian editors removed the reference to the company, Guardian Media. Just reminder that what we read is, ultimately, corporate controlled.)

Advertisements

Post 178.

Watching her Gayelle family celebrate and remember Marcia Henville, I couldn’t shake disbelief that domestic violence could have caused her death.  The loss of such an irrepressible woman left horror hovering behind the love and courage being shared from Gayelle’s studio to our living rooms.

Feeling what Sunity Maharaj rightly called ‘grief upon outrage’ pressing heavily on my heart, I remembered that providing a sense of connection was always the genius of Gayelle and its hosts. Even at home, you could feel you were there with them, close, personal and on set with their emotions, their aspirations and their community.

But it wasn’t just Gayelle who made television we own, it was Marcia, a woman who seemed to know no boundaries, who walked unarmed where police feared to tread, who asked questions to make a politician cringe, and who made her own television brand one that was unapologetically rooted in pursuit of justice. Anyone who watched the programmes she hosted felt compelled by her passion, and on the streets with her she held your gaze, like a clear eye in an angry storm, as she demanded accountability to truths the whole nation could see.

When I was too tired to wake with Gayelle’s night-long vigil, I tried to sleep, but was unable to resolve how such a fearless woman could still be so unsafe in her own bedroom. It’s a different feeling from the sense of threat when Dana Seetahal was murdered. That was public and political, reinforcing that anyone who threated powerful interests and secrets lacks genuine protection in this country.

Marcia’s death happened at home, emphasizing how many women, less fearless than her, lack genuine safety in the one place it should always be.  So too with nineteen year old Salma Chadee and Shabana Mohammed, both also killed at home, as they either attempted to leave their relationships or after their relationships had ended. So too with Dorothy Rodrigo, 30 years old, shot on January 2nd, in her bathroom.

Homes are amongst the most unsafe places for the vulnerable. Women are most likely to face life-threatening abuse at the point of leaving relationships. It is their partners who present the greatest threat. We all know the smallest forms of violation and the most unconscionable acts of violence are borne by girls and women of all ages, daily.

In one month of 2013 alone, women reported assaults and threats to police in Barataria, San Fernando, Gasparillo, Marabella, Arima, St. James, Tunapuna, Las Lomas, Malabar, Pinto, Princes Town, Barrackpore, Point Fortin, Arouca, Gasparillo, Moruga, St. Madeleine, Cumuto, Freeport, Couva, Carenage, Malony, Mon Repos, Morvant, Siparia, Scarborough, St. James, La Brea, Valencia, La Horquetta, St. Margarets, and more.

Yet, despite all this information, despite understanding that class, race, and other differences don’t provide women with any guarantees, I couldn’t sleep because I realized how much I also fall for the myth that empowered women are more able to escape pervasive experiences of abuse. I had forgotten that a woman’s public life, her education, her job and even her politics, tell you little about the personal and her negotiations with its deeply embedded, often excused inequalities.

If a woman who was her own woman, like Marcia Henville, could fall victim too, then what does this mean for all the work that we, men, women and the state, need to do?

We lost a woman unlike any in the country and media because we haven’t completely confronted an entire culture of male power and domination. We haven’t made being safe at home a reality.  Marcia Henville’s spirit surely demands we pursue such justice. Now, and fearlessly.