Higglers

The play set in the downtown area of Kingston provides the life that most higglers in Jamaica experience on a daily basis.

We are first introduced to Girlie who we can assume is the leader of the turf that she shares with Pearl and her nemeses Tony. Girlie who shows dominance in the group we later find has a troubled past. Where she is exposed to the harsh realities of life of an unfaithful father who shows no remorse for his exploits with her other nemesis Devine.

One could go further to assume that the name is a reflection of who she really is. A woman who like many other women is capable of being a softer version of herself; once she meets someone who treats her well. Fast forward to the current situation where she finds comfort in an abusive relationship with the bad boy Trevor. Who also is in relations with her friend Pearl and other higglers in the market.

Her responses are another example of her defence mechanisms to survive in her environment. Such instances are her convenient devotion in the morning to ward off evil spirits, her dismay of lost clients with her stinging answers and her childish behaviour at another higgler’s attempt to win customers. In which she gets rowdy and when she’s not able to get her way calls for her man Trevor. Who is her defender when she feels overpowered or like any woman can’t get her way.

Her friend Pearl may be considered the peace maker of the group as she does her best to cool down the area when when things get heated in the brawls between Tony and Girlie and other conflicts that may arise. Though she is the more subdued of the two, she is able to lure her way in the view of Trevor to be tricked into thinking that he is the only one for her.

For these two women, they represent the time when Dancehall was the new ‘in ting’ and image meant everything. As higglers your appearance can help to draw the crowd. One thing you learn from them is you have to be sweet with your words or else you loose the customer completely. By extension, not only are their words sweet but sexual appeal is what helps to get them selling. As they appeal to the egos of the men and women that traverse the arcade.

On the flip side you’ll be met with negative utterances that are just defense mechanisms for the potential sale they would have. These utterances are examples of the pride they feel working as higglers. Your decision in preventing a sale is impeding on their time to make money. An example of this is with Girlie’s interactions with Devine. Who is unable to understand the fact her husband Tony  truly enjoys his job in the arcade. As her thoughts are clouded by the assumption ( which later turned out to be true) that he wants to see Girlie.

Tony on the other hand provided a different perspective on selling as a higgler and this brought a wave of magnetism with it and he honed his craft. As he observed his crowd and made his findings worked for him.  This level of thinking we learn at times may cause those around us to resent us. As we are above their level and in a sense ‘show dem up’ on their inabilities. Unfortunately some of these disagreements turn in dangerous situations that may not only involve the aggressors but also their families and friends.

With the love situation that ensues in the play; Tony is Girlie’s night in shining armour. Her recognition of him after she was robbed is evidence of this. They later realized that the disagreements they had were barriers to a match made in heaven. Soon after Girlie’s behaviour changes and just like a happy child her perspective of the world changes.

Girlie represents the many young girls that live in our system who fall victim to many forms of abuse. Who have to  wear their body armour to defend themselves from the evils of this world. Unfortunately, not all women are blessed to meet people who are genuine and partners who treat them like a lady should be treated. They find themselves in a cycle that is repeated by generations to come. Until we decide to work for higher heights and strengthen communication and represent our peers. We will always feel sad, dejected and mistreated by the system. A system that if you’re not careful can kill you- literally.

Dear Young Girl

I’m sorry that you are at a stage in your life in which you question who you are and why this had to happen to you. 

I’m sorry that the media has placed too much emphasis on this unfortunate turn of events and cast your accuser as somewhat a victim.

 I’m sorry that you are not receiving the protection you believe you would get, as society is too caught up on protecting the image of a man who seems to make sleeping with girls a skill than that of a pastor.

I’m sorry that you are another statistic; another young woman who will develop trust issues unless she received counselling for what happened to her and justice is served in the end.

What I can say to you is to be happy, why? You have opened a door to a dark place which people thought would always be closed. People have wanted to burn, shoot and damage that door. The same door that was opened for you. 

Pay attention at this time as secrets will now be stories and positions will be revoked to fix the problem of elderly men believing it is their right to sleep with younger women.

I don’t know what your mother or father was thinking but at no point should you be the victim of such a crime. A matter of indulgence for an older dried up Fart. 

I hope you gain strength from this experience. One in which if you were to this said man you would smile and move along. As he did not break you but made you stronger. 

Use this new voice that you will develop to encourage other women and young girls out there to speak up and rid this nation of men who believe that they have a right to take from the cradle. 

Christmas Time: The search for Happiness 

It’s Christmas Time !!!

A time for togetherness and remembering the birth of Jesus Christ for those who are spiritual persons. 
This morning, most of us have that one or few relatives that can cook and would have had the ham ready and cakes baked with the presents under the tree. 

I’m currently in bed and happy that I don’t have work for two days because we’re observing Christmas and Boxing day Monday and Tuesday respectively. 

With all this excitement and Digicel not giving us anything free because they know we’ll use it hard on Christmas day. We have to consider another aspect of the festivities. The homeless and those living in private and state run homes. 

Recently, I have been thinking about the homeless and how some of these people find their way on the streets. Some look more decent than some and you can tell that they’re new to the area. I remember seeing this elderly lady at the Transport Centre in Half Way Tree, who asked if I could help her fill her prescription. When I heard her plight, I recommended using what was left of the card to buy what she needed and return another time. She stated that my suggestion wouldn’t work. I left and told her that I wasn’t able to offer my assistance. Weeks passed and in passing the same centre I saw the woman again.

Another instance was Friday, where a man who they said had cancerous tissues damage one of his nostrils leaving a hole in his face was begging money on Ruthven road. I wanted to stop and give him money -it’s Christmas. However the other side of me said not to as he may ‘tek set’ if he should see you again (it soun a way- mi kno).

Then there are the children who live in state run homes. They are excited to see new faces and are content with you interacting with them; real interactions like playing games, reading to them, letting them play with your phone or just sitting with them and returning on other occasions. I’ll never forget the last visit my Optimist Club (Royal Optimist Club of Kingston) made to Glenhope Nursery and one child fell asleep on a volunteers lap….

For those who have had the opportunity to visit on a regular basis to any home. They will agree that all these individuals want is attention. If this is the response from them in the homes imagine that of our own families that we hardly talk to?

 Every time I see them on the streets and in these homes, I always wonder what their story is. For those on the street; what happened for them to be in this situation?  Were things that bad where their families gave up in them? Did they live a good life?  Are they at a stage in their life where they don’t want to return to the “normal” life? 

Then there are those who have to sell to make their Christmas and even the New Year better. I respect their hustle and try to support when I can. What saddens me is when everyone including children have to sell to make a profit. To them it may be the norm but I can’t recall doing it as a child. Though they set up shop anywhere to catch the eye of interested shoppers, causing a nuisance to law enforcement officer and your walking space. We should support them in their efforts.

How many of us can say that we’ve made a shopping list that included items for those living on the streets and in homes? Did you stop to give money to the Salvation Army before entering a store? Are you more concerned about what you’ll get for Christmas than the current state of your relationships? Did you consider purchasing  less presents than multiple items per giftee this year to create an ease for your pocket? How many of you contacted your loved ones and friends today to wish them a Merry Christmas?
On the other hand I’ve always asked myself, when am I giving too much?
These are the things that we should reflect on during the Christmas holidays. This season is about giving, which means we should not limit ourselves to just our families. However, extend a helping hand to those whose families have disassociated themselves from them, those whose families have died,  those who don’t know their families. Those who wish they were in our shoes. 

This Christmas season, never forget to be appreciative and truly thankful for what you have and the thought of the things you will receive. Life is too short to mulling over the little things and harboring thoughts of malice and condoning petty behaviour. 

It’s Time to Talk

From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.

In 2016, the UNiTE campaign strongly emphasizes the need for sustainable financing for efforts to end violence against women and girls towards the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

One of the major challenges to efforts to prevent and end violence against women and girls worldwide is the substantial funding shortfall. As a result, resources for initiatives to prevent and end violence against women and girls are severely lacking. Frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes a specific target on ending violence against women and girls, offer huge promise, but must be adequately funded in order to bring real and significant changes in the lives of women and girls.

To bring this issue to the fore, the UN Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women’s call for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in 2016 is ‘Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls’. The initiative provides a moment to bring the issue of sustainable financing for initiatives to prevent and end violence against women to global prominence and also presents the opportunity for resource mobilization for the issue.

In support of this period of activities I’d like to share my experience. In my time of reflection I have made some interesting choices. However, with the treatment that I have received from this type of behaviour it should never be accepted.

I met a man who at first I thought was interesting and it was at a time in my life when meeting him I thought that he was nice. Things started well between us and I began to think that we were going somewhere. In my plight to make the relationship work, I found myself going above and beyond to ensure that I was doing the “right” thing. I now understand there should be comprise in a relationship. However what I did was give too much of myself and lowering my standards just to be accepted. I was in a phase where I wanted so much to please him that I disregarded my values and the image I was painting of myself because he would be happy

There were moments where I felt uncomfortable with what he wanted me to do and at that time, I was afraid that if I didn’t he would end it….I believe he noticed that because he would threaten to do it if I didn’t do what he wanted.

There were other instances where he would make decisions that affected us both without consulting me and when questioned, he got defensive and said that I don’t have to worry I just control the situation. When I decided not to follow through- he got annoyed.  Other moments occurred when I stood my ground at his requests, provided an alternative and he called me crazy for what he claimed he was saying what I had been rambling about all along – Mi ‘ead tough.

My time for redemption came when I did something wrong and that got him very upset. The request he made was his way of making things right but at that very moment, I remembered something my father said to me once “Hold yuh head high”. It was then I realized that my current situation should never be and that if I want to go I can always do so. I’m not tied to him, he doesn’t own me.

I ended it . 

Months passed and I fell for his charm again, then I realized that this second time wouldn’t work. Days after hearing him apologize and reassuring me that things would be different, he went right back to his old ways. The blatant disregard displayed for what he did in an incident that took place, was a sign that I would not be happy. I remember explaining how I felt about the past and was told that I was the reason why he was acting like that. It’s my fault.

Ending it again, I went through months of ignoring his messages, blocking him to ensure that he could not contact me after conversations that went nowhere. I must say that reflecting on what happened he did have a point; he was just being himself. I was the one that wanted so much to be someone else than myself. Since I was willing to do- what’s the issue? With this new information, I was willing to fully accept that he was NOT the one. I learnt that all that glitters is definitely not gold and I should never lower my standards to just be happy in a relationship.

With this negative experience I can say that I have grown, I’m not perfect but I’m no longer interested in him. That is one road that is impassable. I remembered our last conversation where in his plight to win me over, I was degraded. During this conversation he told me:

“You can’t afford to take care of me”

“You’re just a country girl, you’re nobody”

“The only reason why I’m talking to you is just cuz no one else is awake at this time”

If I am a girl that was conditioned by Disney to find my Prince Charming why should I settle for someone who thinks less of me? Where is the love? Looking back at that conversation I have achieved many things. Keeping those remarks in my mind I vowed then and still continue to be the best version of myself. You nah go more dan me.

I don’t  hate people  and I try not to malice either, there’s no progress to be had from that and life is too precious to waste time doing things like that.

It takes two persons to make a relationship work, as I said before I am not perfect but it doesn’t mean that I should be subjected to such treatment.

 

Sources – See more at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism#sthash.qiqWOrla.dpuf

The Jamaican Spirit

Imagine standing in Half Way Tree waiting for the 100m finals to start, because Usain is in the race and you’re hoping that Gatlin doh win. Even though you don’t know him- you jus’ cyah stan’ di bwoy. The lights change from green to red with cars still in line. Pedestrians look intently on the big screen while the athletes get settled in their blocks and wait for the gun to go off.

Gun cocked and the athletes are out of their blocks, you watch with bated breath as you see Usain off to a slow start and Gatlin look good, then out of nowhere….the Legend increases his speed and just like that- he wins the race!!!

Gold for Usain…Gold for Jamaica.

Being blessed to live in that very moment, Jamaicans celebrated all over the world with persons they know and don’t know. At that moment nothing else mattered, only that Jamaica has something to be happy about.

This, like many other moments are what I will call the Jamaican Spirit.

Like many other countries we get together and celebrate our nation’s victory in an international event, wherever we get the opportunity to see. However, the Jamaican spirit is unique.

Earlier this year Wray and Nephew launched their Our Spirit campaign, one which I publicly lauded them for as it truly embodies who we are in this land of wood and water. Despite the many setbacks we are facing; our spirit provides us with a level of cohesion that makes us use that One Love Bob Marley sang about.

 

 

On August 6, we celebrated 54 years of Independence and the question I asked myself was, What makes me Jamaican? I was unable to answer for a few minutes and then I remembered bits of our culture.

It’s that unique behaviour that makes us who we are and Usain Bolt I believe is an great representation of who we are as Jamaicans on the track.

  1. There will be instances in which we’ll mess up, but when it’s time to work you can count on us.
  2. RESPECT us and we’ll RESPECT you.
  3. We know how to make a situation work for us.
  4. We enjoy the opportunity to showcase our Jamaicaness (word of the day).

There are many more things that we can think of which makes us who we are. At the end of the day, though small in stature we have made an indelible mark in the world. The generations to come, once led in the right way can continue to make this country be the place to live, work and raise families.

 

 

Love Potions for the Skin

Growing up, I always felt that I was “too black”. Among that I never used to feel beautiful, I felt unloved, unnecessary and worthless, just because I was black. I got teased a lot in primary school, it would happen quite often too. My skin color was the first thing someone would use to refer to me instead of my name and it was never in a positive way. I was either called “ugly black gal” during a confrontation or just naturally, or I’d have someone tell me I’m simply “too black”. This made me cry myself to sleep several times feeling unimportant in such an environment, at school. The other hurtful part was that it came from the same girls who would call me their friend, smile with me once I brought food to school or once they saw me with my parents.

All this eventually took a toll on me. I grew up not liking the act of taking pictures unless it was on my own, that way I could set the camera at the perfect angle to look pretty. I could scan my environment and get my own lighting. I could finally feel beautiful. I could love my skin for once.

However, as I grew up I realized that my whole past about being black negatively was stupid. I am beautiful, whether or not anyone else thinks so. It’s as if I just gained confidence overnight after doing some mirror talk routines. I slowly learned to love my distinct black features. My discolored, imperfect, yet beautiful skin. My nose, my naturally puckered lips and big forehead. To help myself, I used to take long stares into my mirror to realize how beautiful I was. To look in the mirror and simply smile. I gave myself pep talks, had empowering conversations with myself. I taught myself how to acknowledge and accept my flaws day by day. In the end, I grew into a girl who completely loves herself and appreciates every aspect of my being despite what the world has to say.

My advice to anyone feeling “too black” or ugly due to being black… is that you’re uniquely beautiful. Love your features, but most of all, love your skin. And yes, not all black girls have perfect even-toned skin as the ones on the internet do. It’s okay to have an uneven skin tone as a black person. You’re still beautiful.

~Nykefah Nairne

Class of 73

Education in the 70’s was said to be better than what we are experiencing now. At Ackee Tree  All Age where the play is set, we are exposed to the opposite. One in which those who are considered slow, underprivileged and black have no place in the school system.

Grade 6Z hosts a class of students who are considered to be in the ‘dunce’ stream. Since they are a group that is considered to be slow and incompetent. There is no hope of getting them to sit the Common Entrance. With the introduction of “Sir” as their guiding light who was caught up in his own vision of a better society in which better schooling comes from teaching those who are more privileged. It seemed as if there was no hope for the students at the end of the year.

The same can be said for their principal who believes that that his friendship exists with the lighter class,  who for some strange reason left him to deal with his own people as a principal. So brainwashed by the view of a whiter society being the better one, he segregates himself from the black monkeys who are not able to function in society as their blackness attracts the sun which burns their brains. His name “Drop Shorts” begs to question his morality as a Reverend and Principal in the education system.

From this group we see the potential that exits, and even though they may play a lot and their grammar, deposition and behaviour may not be the best displayed, they do have dreams of becoming successful based on the things they are passionate about. This becomes evident in the challenge against the 6A class. Their stupidity could be considered their confidence, as they were relentless in  trying to answer their questions the best way they could by using their experiences to get the “correct” answers. This speaks to their street smart and that intelligence is not limited to just academics but also to your experiences.   This is an example of the willingness of those who are considered less fortunate, though they may not have the education that society dictates you to have, they are able to fend for themselves in society. When they do have children and are able to give them something better, they fight for it. This is why Hurricane Hotty marched down to the school and used her charms to get her way with the principal for her daughter to get an opportunity to a better life.

That scene highlighted another issue that occurs in our society, where it’s who you know that allows for you to have a foot through the door. Who knew that Hurricane Hotty would be able to charm the principal and teacher to get her daughter a chance in life?

Fast forward to the future where they have their reunion and the students did get the opportunity to achieve their goals. Though it was no instantaneous, they got serious and motivated themselves towards a better life and not be a statistic of those who aren’t expected to amount to anything.

The message of the play teaches us that our current situation and people’s opinion of us is not what determines who we will be later on in life. Once we decide on what it is we want from this life and work towards it, who can stop us?

 

 

The Voice Within

I’ve been silent for too long and want to use this as an opportunity to empower and let other women know that they are not alone…..

 

My incident began when I was in Grade 10 with my boyfriend who I knew from Grade 9. My downfall in the relationship was that I never took the time out to know him; who he was, his  background and who his family was. Many times we don’t know the most important details.

I was stifled and beaten. After being beaten, I was brought before the mirror and further degraded by being told that I was ugly. It got so bad to the point in which I was extorted for money- my own boyfriend demanding money from me…..

There was one incident where I was beaten to the point in which my face was swollen. Few persons knew what had happened and others wanted to know what had happened to my face. I went to school and when I got there, some of the girls were jeering me. When I walked pass, one of them said:

“some a dem man a beat dem”.

My self esteem was depleted, I had to make up lies at times to not let people know what was going on with me when the signs were there- I was being abused. It got bad to the point where the police had to intervene and a restraining order was issued for him to leave me alone.

After the relationship I realized that his Dad was beating his mother.

 

A time to heal is not overnight…

 

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do but I want to make peace with myself. Confidential people are always hard to find. In my experience, persons would be all concerned wanting to know what was happening between me and him and as soon as they get the details; go right back to him and tell him everything.

I must say THANK YOU to my friends Fiona Grant and Andrea Irvine for being there for me in such a tough time. They offered their support and also got me to see the guidance counselor.

No one wants to get involved in domestic violence unless it is public. We see this happening many times even when law enforcement is involved. We should be using social media to lobby against violence against women rather than promote it. The social construct we are conditioned to believe is the perception of men and women. Ladies must be seen and not heard; they must be submissive if not, they are battered. Men want to express themselves but are looked down upon as weak.

It is OK to say that you are NOT OK. Be honest with yourself, if you are not able to you will have problems with others and the situations you’re facing. Empowerment becomes evident when we talk about the things we’ve been hiding- our experiences and what we’ve learnt from them. I chose LIFE over everything. I could have died in the process of being that man’s girlfriend.

This brings me to the issue of discrimination for persons based on their age. The common misconception of adults towards  young adults and children is that we  no have nuttin fi worry bout. Preconceived notions like that have caused for some children and even young adults to believe this. Some persons are going through real issues, some are able to find help while some are not fortunate enough to get it. So many thoughts and emotions are bottled up for many persons out there.  The society we live in has taught us to pretend. Too many of us are pretending that things are OK when our world is falling apart.

We live in a world of pretense (patch work), where we fix some things to an extent so that we can ‘show face’. However there is a whole lot of unfinished business behind the facade.

 

I can Share, I can Inspire

In the same way that the mirror was used to damage I am using it to rebuild myself. Crying is not a sign of weakness but a sign of release. Life is like the seasons, and in order to gain a rebirth we have to loose some things. Just like a tree looses its leaves in autumn.

 

Tina Renier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stilling Standing

My first instance  in which I was discriminated against was when I wanted to go to college.  I was told that based on my background, which was a poor one that I was  not eligible for a Student Loan and I went there several times thinking that the next time their decision would change. The only thing my mother had as an asset was her cow. Coming from a poor background, that was the only thing she had.  She was told that it could not be used.

However there was a positive that came out of it and that was where I met a lady who was working at SLB at the time. She asked how many subjects I had, I told her 10. She asked for me to show them to her and I did and she took me to the Scotiabank and opened an account for me (don’t ask, I won’t tell you lol) and she aided me with everything  needed to start school. She gave me 40 thousand dollars which was half of my school fee; which was a start. Every month she asked that I send my grades to her so that she could track my progress, so that she could maintain the relationship of monetary funding to aid with my schooling.

Years later having that experience. I faced discrimination again when I was 24, and I went for an interview at National Recovery Service. I was teaching at the time and I wanted an extra job; a way of moving out of the teaching profession to go into something else. They had an opening for a Client Relations Officer and I went and I applied but I did not put my age on it.

When I went, I looked the part, sounded the part and then she asked me my age and I told her. She said no, she’s looking for someone who is in her 30s or 40s. She said I have all of the capabilities and what was required, I speak well and I have a track record of excellence but she said that my age was the reason why she could not hire me.

Can imagine how I felt after hearing this? Thinking about my attempts for a loan and finally getting it. Working to keep that money, getting a job and trying to better myself, but because of my age, I’m limited. It’s unfair when you are young and highly intelligent among your peers, yet when you get the chance to really test your capabilities, there are many factors limiting you. Sometimes you have to go down a level or even start from scratch to get somewhere. The beauty of it is when you are able to rise above your circumstances and excel in whatever it is you are doing.

I’m a fighter- I don’t stay down for too long. There is a God and he is my guide.

 

Camele Shields- Trainer at Hinduja Global Solutions

The Misidentification of Man

I was given the task of taking care of my younger brother, the house and my education at a young age. I was always a quiet child taking solace in my own time. This made me a significantly domestic young man. My first encounter of discrimination was when I was a child when my brother and I were younger. We were being introduced to my step father’s side of the family. My step father looked at my younger brother and said

“here is my son” and said to me “this is Troy (which is my nickname)”. My mother just stood there and accepted it, that I was just Troy… at that moment I felt that I was being misidentified.

Having saved my mom from suicide twice, had saved me from self sabotage making me altruistic. It was sort of a wake up call… With acts like that, it gave me the rite of passage as a youngster growing up. Staying up late, going out with friends-the works.

On the other hand, my orientation became the concern of many as I was not interested in a girlfriend did not want one. I was labelled as the girly nerd, because I was engrossed in books rather than manly things. Men are respected for having masculine abilities.  People did not see man, they saw a girly, quiet, too distant man in the form of a boy. Society had it switched.

In high school, I was able to set my mind to working  hard and making my family proud.  I am good at anything I put my mind to. In my school environment it was no different, teachers considered me to be narcissistic in first encounters and I had this sarcastic manner about it. I was not respected until they saw my grades.

Everyone in my family has some amount of disrespect for me because I’m different– I’m considered a disgrace. I’m too intelligent because I know stuff. I have to be gay.

Recently I took a taxi, I usually walk with a knife and whenever I’m entering taxis I take it out and have it close to my side, to avoid people saying that it’s sticking them. I was in the taxi, and there was a guy, who had on a really good pair of shoes that he wore well. I was staring at the shoes and felt him looking at me- I looked like a cruff then. I looked at him and followed his eyes, he saw my knife in my hand. Apparently I forgot to put it up. I asked “are you feeling threatened by me now?” He said “slightly, but hearing you speak. I know that you are not like the others”. Meanwhile, there was another guy who was at the front screwing the whole journey. Why? Because the guy with the shoes was gay. I was only judging based on his dapper shoes.

The scholarly definition of Respect is an epistemic virtue. Respect to the common man is relative and often times feelings are attached to what people see. I see Respect from the very root of the word. To look  at something clearly for what it is and not to attach your views or feelings to it. To see it clearly as it is in its own right and not in any predisposition.

 

***Name withheld to protect Identity