That Nappy Hair

I was working out at the gym early one morning when I realized someone was at the door knocking. I turned and looked at the person and ignored them. I thought to myself, he wouldn’t need to knock if he had a gym pass. Someone else in the gym that morning thought differently, and let him in. It just happened that he had left his bag by the lockers and his keys were in it. I felt so ashamed. I tried thinking of all the reasons I had not offer any assistance.

Many excuses were found, but the truth is I was prejudiced: prejudiced to the fault of his appearance. No possible way could this nappy head man be a member of this gym.  I had adopted a behaviour I am a victim of.  Young black men with hair length beyond an inch or two are presumed to be nothing less than delinquents.

Growing up I hated going to the barbershop. It was an uncomfortable feeling having someone standing over me with tools that could inflict serious and lethal harm. So naturally when high school had come to an end, I quickly part ways with the barbershop.

I had landed a job at a very prominent commercial bank. During the interview process members of the interviewing team spared no chance to make a joke or comment about my “unkempt” hair. I believe had it not been for my impressive test scores that opportunity would have been lost. I went on to face some rather nasty ridicule from staff members who thought it was a disgrace to have my hair like it was working at the bank. Nevertheless I was extremely defiant and confident in the fact that my performance at the bank was beyond reproach. I recall the operations manager confessing to me that she had a completely different opinion of my character before I started talking. While I sympathize with her sentiments, I was not amused.

Opportunities are scarce and many young men are judged first by their appearance, consequently denying them the chance to demonstrate their abilities. Society still considers black boys and men hair to be “unkempt” if it is beyond a certain length and dear to liken us to “cruffs”. Young men are still being sent home from school to get a haircut before returning. Young men are being profiled by police authorities for this same issue. And while it is not the most pressing of discriminatory matters it contributes significantly to the marginalization of young black men.

I have completely bought into this European standard of professionalism as a young professional demanding respect in the corporate world not missing my fortnightly appointments at the barber. I say it should not be so.

“Who I am and what I can do is not what I look like”.

The songwriter India Arie wrote “I am not my hair, I am not my skin, and I am not your expectations no no… I am a soul that lives within.

 

***Name withheld to protect identity

Mothers Day

On May 8, 2016, we celebrated the life and efforts of all  Mothers. Those that are alive, who have passed, biological and non-biological. I can imagine many of us shuffled to get the presents on time and got hints from our mothers on what they wanted and where they wanted to be.

I can recall many instances in which I’ve watched mothers conduct their duties and just stare in awe at how they did things effortlessly. They mess up at times, but watching how they fixed it is a God given gift to me.

Recently, there was a discussion about whether fathers should be celebrated on Mothers Day and this created two positions. One side agreed that they should be included; under the premise that they are single fathers taking on the responsibility of both parents. The others opposed because there is already a day for them, let us wait until that day, Fathers Day to recognize them.

Earlier this year, I was at my cousin’s baby shower and what stood out to me, was that they all spoke about one thing – Instinct. Most agreed that every pregnancy is different and the development between you and your child will also be. Your instinct will be your guide as to whether you’re doing the right or wrong thing, as you will know your child. What works and what doesn’t. However there’s nothing wrong with taking advice from others.

M

Hearing this, had me thinking about other things such as good mothers versus bad mothers. The one word that everyone can agree comes to mind when they think of mothers is nurture– mothers are nurturing. For instance in the book of Sybil where Sybil’s mother who was schizophrenic, inserted things into Sybil’s vagina causing her to be barren later in life. Many persons would think that Sybil’s mother was an evil woman.

Another instance is a mother who gives up her daughter to a man as a means of getting money, a mother who encourages her son to be involved in criminal activities as it promotes a better way of life and ignoring a child when they tell you that they are being abused by your partner. Being negative to the child when they make a mistake and  having your children sell on the street. Are all examples in which mothers would be considered bad.

Some of these instances from the onset we can see as wrong, however we must understand that it is at times the surroundings that mothers are in that promote these behaviors. If it is considered the norm in one area, it would be very hard to convince them that it is something that needs to change.

It is not easy being a mother and until we are in the situation we will never understand what it means to make decisions such as those. I find it amazing that on Mothers Day we place such emphasis on these hardworking women. That’s the thing- women over the years have been witnesses and victims to MANY circumstances. Throughout the years, I believe we as women have learnt to adapt to certain situations and when faced with peril we get an inkling of what to do to make the situation better even when balancing a job, marriage and extra curricular activities added to being a mother.

Mo

I believe that women are born with an inner lioness in them, an innate supply of strength that prepares them for situations that they may face in life. Even if they are scared, it does not show,  as they are able to mask it so that they can stand their ground and make a point. At that moment nothing else matters.

HAITIAN

I remember when there was a robbery at my family’s jerk centre and my brother and his friend was there. Our house is right next to it so my mom and I were inside. The first shot was fired because my brother ran off and the second shot was for him. At that moment, my mother ran out of the house, asking what was wrong not knowing that she actually talking to the gunman, because all she could think of was that her son was out there- it was his birthday.

Persons may say that the emphasis  we place on our mothers is too much, that it’s just a day and what’s the big fuss about. After the day we go back to our old ways. I recommend that we not limit these acts of kindness to just Mothers Day, but do it everyday.

Before you disobey your mother leading to your ‘I told you so moment’. Take a look at your mother’s activities on a daily basis. The time she rises in the morning to get you ready for your day to when you leave her to go to bed. This woman can never be repaid and her love is inevitable, undying and unchanging. Sometimes she may say things like “no go out tonight because mi dream”… at times it’s best to listen to her and just do. She may explain or may not after her instructions. However trust her  and believe that what is being said further enhances your safety.

 

Mother

 

 

Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. 

 

 

Teachers Day

We have reached another year in which we celebrate the work of teachers. This is something worth celebrating as these are the people that spend most the day with us. They help to mold us into responsible, independent persons that can help to develop a sustainable society.

The day before was the Read Across Jamaica initiative, where many  volunteers including corporate entities took part in reading in schools. From the reviews that I’ve seen, it was a worthwhile experience. However after the day, what next? The teachers have the task of continuing this work, encouraging persons to read, to understand the importance of reading and how far it can take you as it provides a deeper level of reasoning.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child”. Carl Jung

I am aware that there are teachers who have a different approach in dealing  with their students, who go as far as abusing and degrading them; some of these tactics are what they believe can help the student to be better. The approach works for some students while it doesn’t for some. Every child is different and for each stage of life it gets harder to mold the minds of persons, as our experiences can affect the expected outcome.

Can you imagine having a class of minimum 20 pupils – 20 different personalities? Learning each and every student’s behaviour and  learn that the way you to teach has to be adjusted, as some learn faster than some.  Some need extra lessons,  some miss school because of issues they’re having at home. Not to mention creating lesson plans, having to set exams and tests enabling a good pass percentage for the group, having angry parents approach you to say that their child isn’t learning and you’re the reason why. Saving a student because they are being abused by a family member and being their voice when they are not able to speak for themselves…..the list goes on.

I remember after leaving a History workshop in 6th form, we were complaining that we don’t get enough time to rest in summer and we have all this work to do. My teacher answered by saying we didn’t have much to worry about, that we were young, compared to her who had no time to rest. Balancing her marriage, newborn son, marking papers, creating new lesson plans and other things that prevented her from really enjoying her summer.

Over the years we have seen where teachers were dissatisfied with the wages that they had been receiving. Though it is a general view by many workers in our society both public and private, with some achieving the increases they want compared to other organizations.

In 2015, the  Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) rejected the 7% increase offered by the Government. One representative from the JTA commented:

“I believe that the average teacher – that is one who has a first degree – should go home with no less than $10,000 more after tax,” Morris outlined to The Sunday Gleaner. “The current offer would see that teacher going home with $7,000 more; that can’t even buy a tank of gas”.

From another perspective, one can assume that some of these concerns we could brush off and state that they could have taken the 7% increase as we Jamaicans would say ‘it betta dan nuttin‘. However, when considering what they have to do in molding the minds of students that spend most of their days in their presence. It would cause for anyone to want a raise of pay.

Let us continue to show some respect for the work of our teachers, who in a combined effort with the social groups we are apart of; help to mold and shape our minds to be ready for the society. Granted they may not get it right at times- cut them some slack. However let us be more appreciative of these amazing educators, advisers, mentors and coaches that have graced our presence and have made an impact in our lives.

 

Sources:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_teacher.html

http://www.jta.org.jm/article/double-or-nothing-teachers-want-least-10

 

Ras Noah and the Hawk

Many communities are in a position where there is a lack of resources provided for individuals in terms of education, employment and basic needs.

The play Ras Noah and the Hawk is set within a ghetto community in Jamaica .The story starts where we see a group of community members lounging at a particular shop after the hurricane Ivan. Regardless of the high prices, they still hang out as there as a means of communication with the shop owner “Butcha”.  It could be that because of the success of his son Noah being able to leave the community; one which does not have any real progress for the average man. It causes them to stick around him.

The regular interactions, have helped to create an interesting relationship between the group. The street smart that drives Butcha throughout his life, shows in the way he deals with his customers. Though confident in his choices which may not be the wisest, people still flock to him for his products. It could be that the hostility that he meted out to those members, is a representation of what they get on a daily basis in interactions with other persons in the community.

A Butcher is someone who sells meat in a shop, however in the beginning we see where Butcha has become multi faceted where he sells everything to make some money after the hurricane. Though the significance of his name may have lost its meaning with his current position, he doesn’t cease to slaughter his customers with his “witty” remarks and bouts of ignorance. Like any parent he speaks with pride on what  he will do and who he can be, even though we the audience knows that some of these goals are unrealistic and not possible in his capacity. Though he may be considered ridiculous in many ways, it’s this drive he has that caused for his son to be in medical school.

The first song Noah tun Rasta; speaks of the expectations of the community as it relates to Noah’s successful return. The views of the community are shared views as it relates to the success that can help to remove the stigma and solve the problems that are particular to the community. He’s considered to a “gem to society”, worth praising.

Interestingly, this changed when Noah, the “lucky” one returned as a messenger in khaki, locs, slippers and flag instead of a stethoscope and white coat that is associated with doctors. The embarrassment Butcha faced was evident when his disbelief set in, resorting to even blaming Noah’s mother for his poor decision. From the song Noah tun Rasta, the community held the perception that rastas have  brought nothing but shame and disgrace to the Jamaican society. Him being a rasta will not get them the help that they desired as these dreams went down the drain and NO ONE can help them, so the blame rests on him.

With this change, it now highlights the calling from God- when he wants you he WANTS you.

We later see the perils he faces as the people have no faith in God. He being a man who has observed and experienced the wrath of God’s people even questioned God’s decisions. Like when the angel told him to “go lay down inna Hope Road and let the speeding Tata run ova him”. The reactions of him being a messenger is also significant, as it highlights how we are as a people. If there is something that is new that we don’t know much about, we become negative and ignore it.Most times our actions are driven by the fear of the unknown, and the repercussions of believing, until there is someone or an instance that reassures us that we have nothing to fear.

Patrick Brown brought provided some skepticism in the play which anyone would have with questions by Noah. One question was “where him a get board from fi make the Hawk?”. Yet regardless of what the message was, no matter how far-fetched it was as God’s humble servant and what God requested. His actions spoke to the choices we have the make and the obstacles we face if we want to be closer to God and do his will.

A very important factor to highlight is the decisions between God and his people. He was convinced that the people had forgotten about him and thought the flood was a good decision. However, when they had the opportunity to see him they were upset  as well as they thought that he had forgotten them. Some of the concerns had been expressed in the song Mr. Man; though some were not real issues, they still felt neglected.

With this scenario, we become familiar with the relationship between parents and their children. Where at times, the plans that they have for us and their decisions/ rules may be disregarded because we cannot see the logic behind it. Since we tend to stray, both parties tend to make rash decisions based on the repercussions. In the end they make up and live together in harmony. This was evident in the song “More Mighty than We”, where the people realized that God is indeed mightier than them and that they should worship them.

At the end of the day throughout our lives here on this Earth, for the believers of Christ, there is a God that we serve. Though we may not see what he has planned for us at times. He is always there for us and will never give us what we cannot bear.