Category Archives: Citizens of Earth

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.

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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.


Bush Tea for the Soul

A recent conversation left me with an upset spirit. I literally felt the need to vomit, to purge, to rapidly expel the poisonous particles from my mind and soul, to eradicate all traces of the venom deposited. And vomit I did. I ranted, oh how I ranted. About the injustices of division, the cancer of elitism, the gangrene of institutionalised classism, which, like cystic acne, interrupt the beauty that is humanity.

Thankfully, I make it a point to surround myself with good people, and a wise friend pointed me to this song, ‘Sólo le Pido a Dios’. If there was any good in that encounter, it was in the harsh jolt back to the imperfections of reality, a poignant reminder of the work to be done. Take a minute….Read the lyrics…Click play, close your eyes and take a deep breath…Then roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty.

Solo le pido a Dios  (Leon Greco)
I only ask of God

Sólo le pido a Dios                                                            I only ask of God
que el dolor no me sea indiferente,                          That i am not indifferent to the pain,
que la reseca muerte no me encuentre                   That the dry death won’t find me
vacío y solo, sin haber hecho lo suficiente.          Empty and alone, without having done the sufficient.

Sólo le pido a Dios                                                            I only ask of God
que lo injusto no me sea indiferente,                      That i won’t be indifferent to the injustice
que no me abofeteen la otra mejilla,                       That they won’t slap my other cheek,
después que una garra me arañó esta suerte.     After a claw (or talon) has scratched this destiny (luck) of mine.

Sólo le pido a Dios                                                           I only ask of God
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,                       That i am not indifferent to the battle,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte                       It’s a big monster and it walks hardly on
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.                        All the poor innocence of people.

Sólo le pido a Dios                                                            I only ask of God
que el engaño no me sea indiferente,                      That i am not indifferent to deceit,
si un traidor puede más que unos cuantos,          If a traitor can do more than a bunch of people,
que esos cuantos no lo olviden fácilmente.          Then let not those people forget him easily.

Sólo le pido a Dios                                                            I only ask of God
que el futuro no me sea indiferente,                       That i am not indifferent to the future,
desahuciado está el que tiene que marchar         Hopeless is he who has to go away
a vivir una cultura diferente.                                      To live a different culture.

Sólo le pido a Dios                                                           I only ask of God
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,                       That i am not indifferent to the battle,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte                      It’s a big monster and it walks hardly on
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.                       All the poor innocence of people.


L’UNION FAIT LA FORCE!

Honestly, it is at times like these that I regret letting my oblivion in organic chemistry deter me from pursuing a career in medicine. But before I let myself be over run with regret, what-ifs, dreams deferred and whimsical wishes, I bring myself back to reality. The reality is not that my value as a person and what I would like to do is insignificant, but better yet that what we can do now as members of the human race is indeed of epic proportions in significance.

In the west, Haiti has been overlooked for a number of years. It would be somewhat cathartic for me to get into theories and point fingers at governments, imperialism and colonialism, slavery, corruption, but it won’t change the events of Tuesday evening. Nothing can. But what happens now is that we can all be held accountable because at this point one has to choose consciously and fully not to respond, not to be moved, and simply not to help. The issues and conditions in Haiti that have contributed to making a bad situation worse are sadly conditions that exist in other countries… this means that as we sit and watch the chaos and destruction in Haiti on television, there are others living in similar conditions that existed in Haiti prior to this tragedy.

My heart aches when there is tragedy in the world. The tsunami in Asia, the earthquakes in China and Italy, the fires in California. But I will openly admit that even in those instances there existed an invisible distance between myself and the victims. It wasn’t something that I consciously perpetuated but somewhere in the back of my mind the fact that people didn’t look like me, or spoke my language, or were geographically far away allowed me to let go of my worry and my concern too soon – because it wasn’t me. But now that my close friends are suffering, unable to locate their loved ones in Haiti, it’s a little closer to home. Now that this country of strong independent pioneers – pioneers that look like me – in a country whose landscape closely resembles mine from the coconut trees to the banana and mango trees in the backyard, has suffered such devestation, I cannot help but see brothers and sisters when I look at my people’s suffering faces. Sadly enough that is what we should all see regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, social class or status – but let’s face it . . . we don’t.

So my urge to you is that,  yes Haiti needs you now. Yes. Haiti needs us all. But if for some reason you feel that distance that I spoke of, here’s what you should do. Find a cause. Find a cause so that when you look into the faces of hardship you feel further away from the self that you once were before you found your cause, than the self that you become afterwards. I am not condoning prejudice in any form, I am stepping over it. The truth of the matter is the world some of us live in is not the world that the majority of citizens on this planet are able to experience. So even if you chose to ignore the fact that another human is in need of your help in Haiti, also know that there are humans in need of your help on all seven continents and the islands in between. Close your eyes… spin a globe and stop it with your pinky. I assure you that wherever your pinky landed, there is a cause worth fighting for there, even in the ocean.

You can donate monetarily or give of your time, or just spread awareness.

Call your local 311 or 411 to be directed to legitimate orgs.

Visit http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/impact/ for a steadily increasing list of orgs.

Text “HAITI” to ” 90999″ to give $10 directly to Red Cross for relief efforts

Text “Yele” to 501501 to give $5 to Wyclef Jean’s org which is very active in Haiti. As of right now I suspect the website server is just inundated with traffic.

Red Cross needs Creole speaking volunteers for a 24 hour PHONE BANK! CALL B. WILFORD @ 305-776-6900.

Medical professtionals needed in Haiti. Airlines are working with consulate call 212 697 9767 for more information. Feel free to pass the message.

[Update 1/14/10]: More ways to help

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also established a family linking Web site, enabling persons in Haiti and abroad to search for and register the names of relatives missing since the earthquake. www.icrc.org/familylinks

www.redcross.org: While the American Red Cross asks that donors consider making a gift to the International Response Fund, we will honor donor intent and accept gifts specifically designated to the ongoing response to the earthquakes in Haiti. If you wish to designate your donation to the Haiti earthquake, please do so by mailing your donation with the designation [“Haiti Earthquake”] to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

Compliments Sade Jemmott of the FB Group “Whas De Action?!!” for those of us living in the Caribbean who would like to help:

To make a donation just call OR text the word “Help” to the number below.

Directions to send a text donation:
Step 1: Open new text message
Step 2: Type HELP as your message
Step 3: Enter the number to for your country (e.g. If you’re in Barbados, enter 5151)
Step 4: Press Send

To send a call donation:
Step 1: Dial the right number for your country (e.g. If you’re in Barbados, enter 5151)
Step 2: Wait for it to answer. You’ve now automatically made a donation to help Haiti. Thank you.

1. Aruba/Bonaire/Curacao 5151 (Cost: NAF $1.00)
2. Anguilla 5151 (Cost: XCD $1.00)
3. Antigua & Barbuda 5151 (Cost: XCD $1.00)
4. Barbados 5151 (Cost: BBD $1.00)
5. Bermuda 5151 (Cost: USD $1.00)
6. Cayman 5151 (Cost: CI $1.00)
7. Dominica 5151 (Cost: XCD $1.00)
8. Guyana 1133 (Cost: GYD $100.00)
9. Suriname 2727 (Cost: SRD $1.00)
10. Trinidad 5151 (Cost: TTD $3.00)
11. Jamaica 162 (Cost: JD $25.00)
12. TCI 5151 (Cost: USD $1.00)
13. BVI 5151 (Cost: USD $1.00)
14. FWI* 999 (Cost: E $1.00)
15. El Salvador* 2001 (Cost: USD $0.30)
16. Panama* 5151 (Cost: USD $0.50)
17. Honduras* 9090 (Cost: L $5.60)

ALSO for the US posse:

T-Mobile USA Waives Call Charges to and From Haiti; Pledges Support of Wireless Equipment to Assist in Restoration. Check out the link for more details. FREE MINUTES!!!

VISA, American Express, and MasterCard have decided to wave fees attached to donations made to SPECIFIC organizations… follow the links for more info.

Visit the Haitian Consulate Website for directions on what and how to donate and locations at which to drop donations. http://www.haitianconsulate-nyc.org/

Sidebar: And if you are hoping to go overseas and volunteer in Asia or parts of Africa there are a number of  orgs that you can go through. Just do your research since it can get pretty expensive and there is the potential for a very difficult experience. One of my fave orgs with thorough info, affordable opportunities to volunteer and good reviews is www.volunteerhq.org. CARPE DIEM my friends!

God Bless our Haitian brothers and sisters.


“From Africa with Love” [Citizens of Earth…..

tameisha

Tameisha Henry, 'From Africa with Love'

Tameisha Henry should probably kill me for not making this post sooner. She *should*, but I hope she won’t. It’s been months since our conversation about her experiences in Emali, Kenya where her sojourn has currently situated her, via the doorway of the Peace Corps. I could blame busy-ness and preoccupation with travel and significant life events for the delay, and while valid reasons, I’ve had to confess that there’s another reason. Smaller reason. Bigger reason. It’s a selfish reason. Over the past few months, I’ve ruminated on the themes of our summer conversation, and they’ve been recapitulated in various forms – in conference presentations, in books, in class lectures, discussions with peers… And the source of my understanding of all these, and the perspective of my interpretation, can largely be drawn back to that summer conversation. Yet not to the conversation itself, but to the new place it created when Tameisha and I *met*.  A place I’ve been holding as sacred. In any case, as I drank my Milo over an Austin Clarke novel this morning before church, I knew it was time to tear the veil in two and write this. Discarding all previous drafts, and with no promises of its quality, here goes.

From Africa with love‘ – Tameisha’s blog… But she speaks to Africa with love, and of Africa with love, even in the midst of the inner conflicts that characterize her time there, as they characterized even her motivation to go…reminding me that love is not born of perfection, but growth towards the ideal is produced in the gritty, difficult workings out of love.

Tameisha tells the story of the women  sopping up water from the floors with rags – a strange choice of technology, as there are mops available. But the choice is not out of ignorance. Rather, they explain that they have no desire to spare themselves back pain by using a mop instead of working tirelessly on all fours with their rags, as the pain is the evidence of work well done. Juxtapose that with Tameisha’s life in the United States, throwing money at frivolities like mani-and-pedi’s. I polarize intentionally… What is it like when we are faced with realities which disturb the wavelength of our customary view of life? When the mundanes are shown to be luxuries? It can be turmoil.

Tameisha calls it an “emotional rollercoaster”. She confesses guilt, and I readily identify. She further confesses that guilt had a part in her choice to work with the Peace Corps. I quote our conversation:

“Peace Corps is the best of both worlds – you get to shape the work you are interested in, help in watever arena you want, while still getting to experience new cultures. But I’m not the type to just skim the surface of something…if I’m going to do it, I have to put my all into it. I wanted to fully immerse. I wanted to walk away saying I LIVED in another country not just I worked there, not just I traveled there. And I had a lot of guilt coming [to the US] from Barbados. I felt like I needed a humbling experience – I needed something to not come so easily for me, like everything else had.”

We elaborate on the guilt – me being selfish again – and it’s here that the $20 pedicure comes out. And I talk about guilt over things like all the yoghurt in the fridge in my apartment being mine, after growing up sharing every single thing and fighting – though lovingly (hehe) – over luxuries like yoghurt.

I talked to Steve Kariithi the other day, a Kenyan, co-director of the Dignitas Project in Mathare, a slum of Nairobi, roughly 130km north-west of Emali. When he first met Tiffany Cheng, also co-director of DP, an American, Tifanny was struck by his declaration that despite the abject poverty in Mathare, in his work, he was “searching for treasure”. In many ways, I guess you could say Tameisha too is searching. I don’t think she would deny it – she does not only expect growth, but seems to have actively sought it out. And she – I, you, we – will find.


Arise

While we sleep, the children die.
We waste their love with our lives
Chase their peace away
and their dreams to early graves.

While we sleep, the children die.
We feed them stones for bread
Give them ashes for joy
And lie to them that dark is light.

While we sleep the children die.
Arise. Cry out into the night.*

*Jeremiah 2:19


Citizens of Earth: Toni Thorne & Martha’s Smile ~*~*~*~*~

marthassmileIf we stop complaining long enough to take stock of all we have to be grateful for…and then if we stop looking at ourselves long enough to notice that in our privileges, gross inequalities are made manifest, we’ll notice that we have something to offer. Not out of guilt, not out of pity – out of brotherhood. The journey could take a lifetime, but Toni Thorne is definitely on step 3. She is the CEO of BoUiK, a “creative lifestyle” company based in Barbados. Many may know BoUiK as a refreshing clothing line, but this company does not lend itself to being boxed in! They are the creators of the Martha’s Smile Initiative. Martha’s Home in Jamaica houses children directly affected by HIV/AIDS. This initiative gives them the gift of creative opportunity through the funding of the children’s instruction in music and dance. Generous Caribbean designers donated all-white garments which the children themselves hand-painted, and are available for purchase. Creative humanity at its best.

Be sure to search the Martha’s Smile Initiative on Facebook, and while you’re at it, check out another of BoUiK’s projects, ‘Wear The Issue’. Stay tuned here @ Allegiance for a blast on that coming up soon.