Allegiance – the European edition

I’m sitting here, nestled between the mountains of central Europe, wondering, ‘wha de rasss I doin hay??’ (Sorry mom, but really – that’s what went through my head and I’m just trying to be honest with the people.) I’m now on the tail-end of what has been a life-changing month of traveling in Europe. The original intent was to attend a Drama Education workshop, plant a flower on the patch of Paddington where Dad’s navel-string is buried,  knock around good old London for a bit, visit a friend in Paris, and come home with the glow of newness, re-energized for life and ready to take on Crop-Over. The actual experience, though, has transcended intent and revealed another dimension to life entirely. Whilst an open mind is a solid foundation for happy travels, some amazing things happen when you travel with an open heart…

  1. You make friends. Real ones.
    It’s not always easy being a creative person – in thought, expression and perspective – especially in a conservative community.Barbados is my paradise home but it doesn’t always ‘get’ me. Bajans are beautiful people but I’ve learned to accept that even as a beautiful Bajan myself, I’m different from a lot of them. I love to reach out and connect with people, but we don’t always speak the same language. It gets tiring sometimes to have to constantly ‘translate’ and I long for moments of understanding, true and common understanding. On this trip, I found that. I made human connections that defied age, race, ethnicity, language, background, class, status, experience and culture. I renewed one golden friendship and made a couple new ones – the kind of friendships that you instinctively know will last always, in one way or another.
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  2. You find affirmation.

    I’m crazy. I’m spontaneous. I’m too ‘spur of the moment’. I’m irresponsible. I’m different. I’m bold. I’m mad. I’m weird. I’m quirky. All these things I’ve been told. As fun as it can be to be me, I sometimes wonder if I’m really going to turn out alright. Kind of ironic that most of the time on this trip, I’ve been the ‘other’, yet it’s affirmed many things about myself that are sometimes problematic. A lot of the time, I’ve been the only West Indian, the only black person, I’ve been the youngest, I’ve been the only English-speaker, the only musician. Perhaps it’s the contrast effect – you know how blue is bluest next to orange? I’m reminded that it’s not just ‘ok’ to be me – it’s a cause for celebration.*
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  3. You find out where your heart is.
    “Home is where the heart is,” it’s said. They also say that “you can never go home again.” I suppose I’ve found that both are true at various times. It’s certainly true that ‘home’ for anyone is defined much more by what is inside you than by what is around you. When you step outside for a moment – outside of your country, outside of your usual mindset, outside of your comfort zone – and the only comforts lay inside you, your core is suddenly and surprisingly distinguishable from all the externals, the people and perspectives that have the most influence on you. The crowd noises are too far away to be heard and your own whispers become shouts and screams. The desires you sacrifice to maintain ‘balance’ are no longer ignorable. The restraints others and you yourself impose aren’t there anymore – you begin to think and act as you truly feel and believe. It can be scary, it often feels unsafe, yet there is no doubt that you are at your freest when your heart is truest😉.
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  4. You discover that the only bridge between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ is courage.
    Many things are new and you start to exercise your bravery, more out of necessity than anything else. There’s no macaroni pie on the menu, so sure – I’ll have the Erdäpfell-spinat-schafkäseroulade. What do you know – turns out I love sheep cheese. And quiche with goat-cheese. And mountains, and swimming in fresh-water lakes, and dancing to Francophone techno, and a host of other things which required suspension of expectations and activation of courage. After a few days of exercising your courage muscles in everything, down to meals even, you start to become courageous in thought. You think about situations, relationships, dreams and goals, and anxieties. You think about them in ways you never have before. New alley-ways of perspective are suddenly open – you didn’t even realize that fear had rendered them inaccessible. When I get back home, when the familiar is the default, I’m going to challenge myself to choose the option labeled ‘courage required’ a little more often, whether that option is apparent or not. Heck, I’ll invent it when necessary. Extraordinary is well within reach.
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  5. Wine is fabulous.I’m serious.If ever there was a doubt, Alcaeus is verified – in vino veritas. The Europeans are really onto something. I’ve always liked wine, and Bajans bust it out at the special occasions – the artsy-fartsy events, recitals, parties, proper dinners. Some like to have a glass while everyone else is having rum, to distinguish themselves as ‘cultured’ or whatever. In my house, the standard liquid requirement is mauby. Ya caan not got mauby in de cubburd. When tings tight, might not got nuh soft-drinks nor nuh Tampico nor even nuh pine-hill juice tuh offuh, but if you come at me ya know ya cud at least get lil sweet an dandy. And that’s how these folks are about wine. Any and every day, any and every occasion – from sun-bathing on the lake to lazing in the hotel room, dinner, dancing, driving, whatever. You share a glass or two (or bottle or two…) and you’re so relaxed – the guard is down and all company is free to communicate honestly and simply. And honesty and simplicity are key.*
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About 36 hours left ‘til I leave Europe, and I can’t wait to keep living. With these new lessons in the bag, I’m certain that life will be spectacular.


Of assaulting alarms and “MacMillan Morons”

WAKE UP, ALLEGIANCE!!!

Yes, man – get up. Kind of rude I know, but so is your alarm clock and you still get up. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just me, a slave to the stupid thing, rising early even when I finally have a chance to sleep in! But anyway🙂 I’m finally on vacation, so the blog’s slumber is officially interrupted. The most stressful term of my teaching year is over, and I can have a life again.

Venturing into a new writing project, so I’m doing all kinds of research on writing in the Caribbean. Came across this gem today – The (Civilizing) Missionary Position: A Manifesto (Published in the Trinidadian Guardian, April 13, 2011). Raymond Ramcharitar accuses a MacMillan-published compilation of racialising, exoticising and imperialising (yes, it’s a word) the Caribbean. My cup of tea. Maybe I’m an mc* cynic, and that’s why I find his article so refreshing and delightful without having actually read the compilation he shreds like coconut to make sugar cake, but that’s ok for today – I’ll own that. Don’t let my blind acceptance stop you from forming your own opinion, though – long live critical thought! Hurrah!!

*mc stands for “multicultural”…ew…I don’t like the word.


Went there, did it – wore the T-shirt!

So… I did it! After a lengthy discussion with some friends on the campaign, discrimination, human mortality, survival instinct, morality, responsibility and any and every other issue possibly connected to the social issue of stigma associated with HIV/AIDS , I headed valiantly to the City on Saturday to get hold of my HIV+ T-shirt, just as I planned. Like any good big sister, I brought my little one along for her general social education. NOT just so I could have company. Promise. The actual event started at least an hour and a half later than scheduled (that’s when I left for another engagement), and up until that point, I saw a small crowd of at least 100 people starting to assemble.

After making several inquiries, I finally spotted the t-shirt distribution point and raced over. I was issued stern directions: “Do NOT just come here and take a shirt and go! You are supPOSED to WEAR the SHIRT NOW, and STAY for the ralLY!” Well. There went any internal debate about whether I would actually wear it or not. Looking around at the numbers already wearing it, I figured I’d never have this much centralised support so now it is! My sis and I quickly donned the shirts. I think we looked a little too happy to have just been ‘labelled’ HIV+, but there was definitely a positive energy buzzing in the atmosphere. There was that mixed feeling of both trepidation and affirmation in following through with a decision to accept responsibility to be active agents for change in civic society.

Although I didn’t get the benefit of the on-stage portion of the rally since I had to leave, I felt really encouraged. I saw people there of all ages, all walks of life, representatives from community organisations. I didn’t feel as alone as I do on this issue as I often do in my own professional and social circles. The next level up, though, is to get the t-shirt into my regular wardrobe rotation, and not reserve it for socially-conscious events. I’m encouraged, but I’m going to be real with myself too. I can for sure say though that I’m already growing through this dialogue – both internal and external (see nation-wide comments here).

Change is possible and individual choice not only makes a difference – it’s the impetus.


HIV + ….should it matter?

Photo by Anesta Henry, retrieved from http://www.nationnews.com

Would you wear this shirt? I’m eager to get my hands on one. Note, I didn’t say eager to wear one. The thought of being identified, even if superficially, as a person living with HIV/AIDS is not nearly a pleasant one. I get the feeling, though, that that’s exactly what Dr. Henrick Ellis, head of the local HIV/AIDS Commission, wants to happen. It definitely makes me think about what so many who do live with the disease face every day. It makes me wonder why WE make them carry this burden, in addition to their inescapable fight with the disease.

The HIV/AIDS Commission is launching a new campaign against the stigma persons living with HIV/AIDS continue to face in our conservative society where image and superficial talk supersede love and humanity. Harsh but true. The shirts read “HIV + ” on the front, while the back says “should it matter?” I love the idea. Imagine the effect it could have when persons are directly faced with that conflict – a sister, a daughter, a friend, a cute girl on the street and all the positive emotions these labels evoke, alongside the disgrace, shame, blame and disgust usually associated with persons living with HIV/AIDS. I hope it would make them consider that this disease does NOT discriminate. I hope it would make them consider that WE – YOU & I – should not discriminate either. The campaign launches on Saturday at 2pm in Jubilee Gardens, Bridgetown. I’m planning on being there and getting my hands on one of these shirts. (Is it shallow to hope they have baby-tees….?)

 

P.S.: If you are interested in empowering yourself to DO more in the fight against HIV/AIDS, click here for e-course materials Towards Universal Access: Young People in Action.


Wha gwan, ras’ mouse!

On my way home from work today, caught a BBC news blurb on the controversy their Rastamouse series is causing. First I’d heard of the show and just the thought tickled me. Apparently, parents are concerned about their children picking up poor English – Jamaican Patois is Ras’ mouse’s verbage of choice – and about racist overtones. I looked up some episodes, but haven’t seen enough to tell about the racist bit. My instincts tell me, though, that we can all be a bit oversensitive sometimes,  leading to detrimental silencing of cultural and ethnic differences in our bid to avoid inadvertent offense. Whatever. All Ras’ mouse tryin tuh do anyhow is tuh “mek a bad ting good”!


Psssssst….

Morning, beautiful… You good, sweetheart? Look like you just fall right outta heaven… Girl, if you wake up in a red room widout doors nor winders, doan worry – you in my heart! …Wooo, boy, looka dah ass!! Cushion fuh de pushin!!Girl, you got a nice sweet fat pussy! (yeah, I said it.) “

 

I have heard all the above and more, just going about my business – walking, bus-ing, train-ing. Sometimes if it’s a polite call, and I’m in the mood, I’ll give the requisite nod to avoid the cuss out. Other times, I haven’t and I cuss right back. Still other times, I continue on peeved that my beautiful day has been sullied with unwanted and unmannerly advances. And generally, it bothers me how many of us have to strategise ways to avoid or handle street harrassment. Let me be careful, I’m getting all into it. All I really meant to do was to drop by quickly and share this article by OUTlish magazine out of Trinidad, and point you towards the WomenSpeakProject and ‘Hollaback!‘ , generating positive momentum to pull this thorn out of the female side!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In America we are celebrating African American history during the month of February. I encourage you all to CONTINUE the search for knowledge about our heritage and ancestors lest we forget their our struggles.

“Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.” 

— James Bertrand

This brother Kevin Miller is way beyond traditional thinking as he uses his creativity to inspire, teach and motivate.

Martin Luther King Jr.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

this young minister

showed that dreaming was okay
and racism, wrong
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Rosa Parks
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

smart secretary
knew that sitting was standing
up for equal rights
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Francois Dominique Toussaint Louverture
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

revolt against France
not just for Haiti, but to
set all islands FREE
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


L.O.V.E.
Kevin A. Miller
www.poetkevinmiller.com

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