The Unsilencing & Inspiration of ‘Me Too’

I’ve been reading many tweets, Facebook posts and articles about ‘me too’. The number of people using those five letters is a reminder of how pervasive sexual violence is in communities around the world, in communities across the Caribbean, and in communities at home – Jamaica.

Survivors are talking.

Silencing – one of the features of rape culture is slowly becoming a thing of the past. I also notice that as more survivors speak and challenge the status quo of silence, the shaming is being reduced – I see many compassionate responses to those who have decided that they won’t be silenced anymore. And the blaming – the third feature of rape culture isn’t a feature in many of the responses I’ve seen to ‘me too’. I’ve realised that some survivors have gone a step further – they are naming perpetrators; they are casting the blame where it belongs, and they are shaming those who ought to be shamed.

I know it will take much more to rid the society of this nasty life-ruining culture of sexual violence, but I am hopeful. It may take several shockwaves at different points in our history to experience the change that we need, but that’s no reason to give up, at least not in the ways I have, because I was wrong about many women who used to inspire me – women I thought would defend, ad infinitum, survivors and their right to a life free from sexual violence and their right to justice.

It’s going to take a revolution, and the revolution may happen in stages and with bold actions; movements may sometimes seem disjointed, but the revolution will happen — I feel it in my bones. I know one day when I don’t feel so defeated and remember all the supportive voices around me, the fire that is needed to be a part of the revolution will once again be set ablaze in me.

For now, I am watching the fire ablaze in many of you, and I am watching with humility and hope. And I hope that for every woman, for every person who said ‘me too’, there is a sea of people available to support because the ‘unsilencing’ is the beginning. For change to become our new reality, healing must take centre stage, and we must not give up on our ailing justice system. We must make it better, generations of young women and young men need our advocacy now. We need to do what we must to ensure that justice is possible for all of us.

For a while there I thought the status quo had won, I thought we had failed, especially those girls who we promised we would fight with and for, but I see hope and a brighter future and I am feeling inspired again. I am feeling inspired today.

Children: Whose Responsibility?

A couple days ago the official Twitter handle of Prime Minister Andrew Holness tweeted that ‘Social responsibility means you should have the children you can afford to give the best life.’

I saw it this afternoon thanks to a colleague who retweeted it. The tweet reminded me of a conversation I had with a few people some time ago regarding my views on child bearing, child caring and this business of responsibility.

Yes, having and caring for children is in fact a social responsibility, but not just the social responsibility of parents; I believe extended families, the community and the state all have roles to play. It is for this reason that I believe, for example, that children should have free access to education – tuition, books, etc; healthcare should be free for all children and pregnant folks; communities should have fully functional entertainment and social development centres; and safe, green and play spaces should be available and accessible to children. It is also the responsibility of the community, the state and parents to ensure that children are protected from harm, including the nasty and disgusting abusive people dem outta road.

Once someone decides that they want to give birth to a child, caring for, supporting that child, and giving that child the best life possible cannot be their responsibility alone. After all, having children benefits the whole society. Therefore, raising skilled, educated, healthy, productive children who respect the dignity in humanity ought to be the social responsibility of parents/family, community and state. We cannot reasonably expect that parents alone should bear this ‘burden’.

Affordability of children is not something prospective parents alone should consider. The state and the community have roles too. We have a responsibility to ensure that if someone decides to have a child, we are creating the best possible environment for that child to thrive. It is our children who will manage families, communities and the state later on in life. How can they just be the responsibility of parents? Come on now!

And this habit we have of beating down on people who are affected by poverty every time we raise the issue of childcare needs to stop. Minimum wage already a beat down pon dem.

We need to be careful that we don’t suggest that people affected by poverty should avoid having children.

Sometimes pregnancies are unplanned, all when family planning and contraceptive use ‘up like 7’. We cannot continue to pretend that we live in a world where anything but abstaining from sex or tubectomy or vasectomy is foolproof where contraceptive use is concerned. So if someone affected by poverty should use the free condoms made available by the government and NGOs and ‘get ketch’ say on two or three occasions, what should we say to them? Are we going to insist they have a vasectomy or a tubectomy?

And even when abortion becomes legal, are we going to insist that they get an abortion?

The state needs to do a better job at ensuring that every child born into this country has a good chance of contributing to our development. Prospective parents also have that responsibility. And so does the community. Children are the responsibility of parents, the community and the state. And if you disagree, that’s fine. But consider who will be making decisions about families, communities and the state in a decade or two.

A love letter to my mentors

The first time I heard the term ‘unplanned mentor’ was actually just a couple years ago. Strange, but true.

At the time, it was Imani Duncan Price who was articulating her mentorship relationship with Omar Davies, and the impact it had on her professional development.

I didn’t ever have mentors – planned or unplanned. I did have a few folks on whom I relied for professional advice of sorts, people whom I admired because of their work and professional ethic, but never had I ever had mentors.

Until

13416797_10206312079393181_6643712433019870475_oI began to engage and claim Taitu Heron and Nadeen Spence as my own.

I met Taitu Heron in a job interview in 2013 (though I didn’t remember her name until after I engaged her as part of a documentary project later that year).

I knew (of) Nadeen for some time, several years actually. I engaged her for the first time in a professional capacity in 2014.

13268517_542650139272321_5912347877832929410_oAs time progressed, these women became important to me and begun to impact my professional life.

But it wasn’t until late 2015 that I started to claim them as (unplanned) mentors – Taitu at first and later, Nadeen.

In 2016 we got even closer and their impact began to transcend the professional; it became personal too.

13268161_544148355789166_2574838199413314601_oI love them dearly, not just in the way I love people because they are human beings, but in a way that a niece loves her favourite aunt, or a daughter loves her mom, or a girl loves her best friend, or a Latoya loves her Note4.

And they love me too, I have no doubt.

10288775_514254875445181_8390274212784013329_nThey see the beauty and beast in me and they nurture the beauty and tame the beast when it’s not appropriate for me to be beast-like.

They are my guiding light, and the three of us make one lovely family.

We do have conflicts from time-to-time, and I will occasionally (or more than that these days) tell them two bloodcarts, but that changes nothing. I’m not even sure our conflicts can last more than an hour – our spirits and our energies just won’t allow it.

We never hold grudges or keep record of wrongs. We just live and fuck shit up!

I love you Tai. And I love you Nadz. And I will be eternally grateful for the bosom of your love, the illumination of your guidance, and the safety of your homes.

Love,

Latty

Finding Common Ground: Where #EvilSpirts and #GoodSpirits Converge

Yesterday I attended the #EvilSpirits forum that was put on by Wayne West and the team at the JSSACHAR Foundation.

The forum was quite interesting and indeed spirited, but not very confrontational in my opinion, which was a pleasant surprise.

It was a truth-stretching space, stretched so much that one would wonder if it was really just a satirical set.

The audience was treated to several presentations focused on the evil powers of international aid agencies that are sexualising our children through Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) and the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum. We were also advised that Appropriate Sex Education (ASE) is what we need, which takes a more biblical, moral, and ethical approach to sex education.

We were told that

  • CSE can mean anything and everything including porn;
  • CSE promotes sexual freedom and promiscuity;
  • CSE promotes early sexual activity;
  • CSE promotes the LGBT agenda;
  • CSE threatens children’s health;
  • CSE promotes abortion as a right;
  • CSE promotes diverse sexual orientation;
  • CSE promotes high risk sex behaviour such as anal intercourse;
  • CSE disrespects parents;
  • CSE disregards religious values;
  • the HFLE promotes homosexuals as superior to heterosexuals;
  • the HFLE is anti-development and anti-ethical;
  • removing the ‘buggery law’ will lead to sexual anarchy;
  • there should be no sexual rights for children.

We were also told that

  • ASE for children must include abstinence;
  • ASE should encourage persons to save sex for marriage;
  • ASE insists that there should be no sexual activity for children;
  • ASE promotes a biological (and not a sociological) view of gender;
  • ASE protects and promotes the rights of parents.

And we were advised that

  • parents should be wary of international bodies & aid agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA & UNESCO promoting and attempting to institutionalise CSE;
  • the highest authority of morality is the church.

But that’s not really why I’m writing…

I am writing because I want us to start thinking about the way forward in a very practical, conciliatory way.

How can Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) advocates and health practitioners who understand the real world and people of faith who are more preoccupied with the Bible world, reach a point of common understanding for the benefit and welfare of all?

Where can we find common ground?

On what issues do we agree in principle?

What are some possible starting points?

Following the forum I was a part of a group of about six people who were engaged in dialogue about church, Christianity, SRHR, and sexuality. It wasn’t hostile. Views were allowed to contend, even though  for some time there appeared to be no common ground. Truth be told, I was really there for the fun at first, but then I recognised the value of the dialogue.

As folks shared their views including some of my young advocate friends (on whose faces I could see the pain and struggle), I realised in that moment just how draining advocacy work can be in religious spaces, and I felt their pain.

But alas there was hope!

I asked Carol Richards (I think that’s her name) who was leading the charge for Christian folks in the dialogue, whether, in her opinion there was such a thing as marital rape – because I know Wayne West et al believe there really should be no such thing… To my surprise she said of course a man can rape his wife, of course a man can abuse his wife, and it’s wrong!

She got me there. It was our common ground. And the energies shifted. We were high-fiving and sh!t!

Of course we ventured into sexuality stuff, and as she spoke about the goodness of her sanctified husband’s sexual prowess, I spoke about the goodness of my wife’s. At one point she said but the Bible says woman mustn’t love woman, and I exclaimed ‘but it nice!’ We all had a good laugh – no hate, no judgement, no ridicule, no name-calling, just real refreshing dialogue and debate.

As we departed she asked us all where we were from – I quickly exclaimed with hand in the air: J-FLAG! She then asked the others if they were from J-FLAG too. My colleague who was there said yes and the other persons shared their respective affiliations. She then suggested she must be a magnet for our spirit, lol! Mi tell ar shi ah goodaz.

So although she was there and would be considered a Wayne West et al supporter, she was also very conciliatory and practical in her exchanges with us. And we need more of this on both sides. We have to be willing to shift a little to the middle, and it doesn’t mean we are ‘giving up our rights’.

This little post-event conversation taught me a lot and I hope J-FLAG, WMW Jamaica and other civil society organisations can arrange for people like her to engage in more dialogues of this nature. We need to move (all of us – both sides) if what we want is, in fact, a just, safe and equitable society for all.

 

 

The Social Justice Ten

Nadeen is at it again. Brilliant piece on politics and social justice representation

nadzspeaks

So a question people tend to ask me often when they hear me declare my intention to vote, if of course who are you going to vote for.  That would be easy to understand if I voted along family lines, but I don’t.  I am the voter who loses all sense of what else is happening around her, who wants to catch each new item, each breaking story and who engages everyone she meets in conversations about the latest political hot topic.  Exhausting, so for this election my friend Latoya Nugent and myself have been bitten by the same bug, we want to delve some more into the political history and culture, into the voting behaviour and into the manifesto.  Having done that we still had not come up with a formula to figure out who to vote for.  But then after all we hit it, we came up with a…

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