INDEPENDENCE

Fifty years ago today a three-year old boy stepped off a ship from London and into a foreign land.  It had been his second ship that year.  The first was from Ghana to London, from all that he had ever known and ever lost.  His Daddy was a few steps behind, shoulders ramrod straight, big hands holding his baby brother.  He was only a babe.  The little boy didn’t speak English.  His baby brother didn’t speak at all.  All that they knew of life had changed overnight.

An air of grief clung to the party of three – the giant man and the two little boys.  The toddler’s eyes would have been as wide as saucers as he was prodded ahead down the gangway.  Trunks and cases would have followed – but not many.  Maybe just one.  Their Mummy did not come with them.

I can imagine him now, forgetting for a second that she was not there and searching the passengers behind him for a sign of her skirt, her hand, the sound of her laugh.  No one had explained to him but he understood – the knowledge broke his little heart as he remembered he would not find her here.  Or anywhere.  She was gone from him.

What greeted him at the end of the pier was another world, another life, another language, another people.  They were dancing in the streets.  His grief collided with their jubilation on this hot August day.  Colourful skirts would have been twirling, women with round figures and heads tied with colourful cloth would have been dancing around with bare-chested or cotton-clad men singing, lifting their arms in excitement, bawling out in prayer and praise.  He heard one word chanted over and over from the boiling masses on land – In-dep-end-ence.  Was it one word or four?  What did it mean?

It must have been something very special but he would not have known for a few more years.  It would not be his first English word.  That word would be “For”.  The first phrase he would speak in the language of his parents would be “For health and strength and daily food we praise Thy name oh Lord, Amen.”  He would learn to sing it from the woman standing waiting on the shore.  She looked a bit like Mummy had but tiny and with more wrinkles.  She wasn’t much bigger than him and she was a good deal smaller than Daddy.  As he walked down toward her she would have bent at the waist and wrapped her arms around him and lifted him into her embrace.

I wish I could tell him to be brave, this little boy, as Mama Birdie held him to her chest and reached for his sickly baby brother.  I wish I could tell him you will grow.  You will learn.  You will travel.  You will succeed.  You will play football with Bob Marley.  You will climb a mountain in Cumbria.  You will race go karts with your children.  You will meet Fidel Castro.  You will know God.  You will know love.  And you will have me.

A daughter who loves you and is proud of who you have become.

Happy Independence Day Daddy.  Happy Birthday Jamaica.

Bushlings to Bolt

Bredrin mi luv you lang time… like rasta man love ital.  Mi did dehyah da wait pan yu fi show di wurll ow di ting run.  Nuh baddah widdi lang talkin – put i’ dung fi dem eenah dem istory book.  A YOUR story book now!

BOSS MAN!  Mi dah love you like ow mi love mi caffi.  Mi caffi, mi caffi, mi bawl a bwilin caffi in di mahhhhhhhnin (Miss Lou, wish you did dehya fi see).

WHY I LOVE USAIN:

  1. He shows up on time.  Unlike most men of our generation the man knows the value of beating the clock.
  2. Puts in the WORK.  Talk about making it HAPPEN.  Bredrin, weh u give dah leave BRAWTA!
  3. Never takes things for granted.  (Take note Asafa.)
  4. He comes just like how I like my coffee… not too sweet, no milk, keeps blood pumping constantly.
  5. Makes me PROUD to be a Jamaican.  Sweetheart with all the rough reputation the land of my Father has had to endure, your golden triumph makes me proud every time you cross a finish line.

 

Peter Rabbit Got Lost

It’s just plain MEAN what whoever they were did to him.  Let him loose in a country where Bunnies like him do not live wild,  in the scorching heat of the Caribbean summer, in a neighbourhood where cats and iguanas are the pests, and in a subdivision where at least 15 dogs are walked twice a day.  He must have belonged to someone not long ago – his collar is still on him.  They probably saw him as another mouth to feed (and backside to walk behind) and left him in a field full of spanish needle.  Meet Black Peter, the Rabbit.

Poor little Peter! If the dogs get him he will WISH for Mr. McGreggor’s pie!

The pups didn’t pick up the scent.  The two dogs ahead of us hadn’t either.  But why on earth would they be looking for the smell of some northern rabbit that they’ve never seen the likes of in these parts?  But Juju watches his mama very closely and followed my eyes to what I was watching so intently.  And went over to investigate himself.  Lola still hasn’t seen him – she didn’t want to put her paws on the grass (brat).

 

 

A Tragedy of Delay: I turned 18 in an election year…

Committed to Democracy

I was so excited!  My voice was finally going to be heard!  18 and full of opinions, full of optimism, there was nothing I didn’t know.  I was especially sure that I would put down my X where it would count.  I was as sure about that as I was sure that I wanted to one day be the first female Leader of Government Business.  Mind you, I hadn’t yet decided who I was going to vote for.  But serving my country was all I ever wanted to do.  My little X would mark the beginning of that journey and the end of it was limited only by the sky.  Me and Cayman, we were in love back then!

And then the General Election was called for… get this… 4 DAYS before my 18th birthday.  I was crushed!

Four years to wait and in those four years another election was called.  I had been overseas at University before the registration deadline but had sent my documents in to be registered in time. My dreams were not very different but I wanted to be educated.  I’d heard that world leaders throughout time had often been best prepared with a law degree.  And so I was off getting me one.  The officer who received my documents misplaced them for some or no reason.  I came home from University sure that I would vote.  This time I’d even gone so far as to say I know who I will vote for.  Only to find out my name was not on the list. And so I missed that one too.  As you can well imagine, I was disappointed.  When would I become a political adult?  A voice that would be counted?

Resigned to the realities, I settled myself to work for the Elections Office.  If I couldn’t be a part of the decision, I would at least be a part of the process.  It was the first election I worked and I’ve worked for every one since.  I was a poll clerk in Bodden Town and after the close of the polls I got in my car and made it to St. George’s Anglican Church from BT Primary School in five minutes to be a part of the count.  It was the first time I saw the ballot papers come to life and a decision that would change history and it was remarkable.  It was so remarkable I wrote about it in my diary… the experience had to be put into words.  The entry was shown to one of my parents who asked me to type it up.  It ended up in the Caymanian Compass.  It was a gorgeous experience that I will never forget and I’m glad that I had the presence of mind to write it all down.

Another four years came by and by this time I was living in West Bay.  When the time came to register I didn’t.  This wasn’t my district and I hadn’t become connected to the process.  It wasn’t about parties or personalities but I’d have loved to have cast my first vote in Bodden Town.  As it wasn’t possible without some false declarations I settled back and decided this time I would voluntarily pass.  It was the beginning of practiced indifference that has led to the entry of earlier today.  I now am part of a growing statistic of young and eligible Caymanians who have never voted.

In this year, however, I ran a polling station for the first time.  I wasn’t selected for the count but I was no less fascinated by the process.  It cemented in my mind a commitment to democracy as the system above all others, where those who vote cannot complain and where losers cannot claim that victors have denied them an opportunity to contribute.

I have today worked in several elections, including the Referendum of the past week as a servant to democracy.  Democracy itself, not politics.  The system itself, not the names populating the ballot or the parties that have waved their flags.

Yes, I have never registered to vote.  To be clear, it wasn’t for lack of trying – at least not at first.  I didn’t register in time for this Referendum, but I might have if I’d been paying attention.

It didn’t begin in an indifferent and irresponsible place, this question To Vote or Not To Vote.  It began with someone who really wanted to, a lover of country and of countryman working hard to do good.

What surprises me is that I am not the only one not registered to vote.  There are hundreds of my peers who have had a far more convenient opportunity to vote and never have.  I note with interest that there are near 15,000 registered voters in Cayman.  When you consider that my high school was near 1,000 and that we qualified at 18 years old over a decade ago, that number looks really small, doesn’t it?  The three graduating classes behind us were even closer to 1,000 and the three ahead of us… if all the persons I went to school with registered you’d be looking at just under 3,000 voters right there!

But we aren’t voting.  And I ask the question WHY?

Against Voting

Now… lemme just say this… this is not realllly my position. But it does outline some ideas around the discussion. Thoughts?

No Pun Intended

Yesterday was Election Day, meaning a lot of people spent a lot of time talking about how important voting is. Voting is the cornerstone of democracy—it’s a cliché, but it’s true. And, as most of the Western world lives in a democracy, we hear a lot about the importance of voting. When President Obama went on The Daily Show last week, he made sure to remind viewers to vote in yesterday’s elections, and you can assuredly find countless celebrity videos and PSAs telling people to vote every November, or risk their corporeal demise.

It’s true that voting plays a significant role in our society, but that doesn’t make it good. There are plenty of things that are important but terrible: the Iraq War, cancer, the Tea Party, religion, the imperial conquests of the British Empire, terrorism, Dr. Luke’s contributions to pop music, infanticide, etc. Like all of these things…

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The Power and The Vote: A discussion around voting and whether or not you should

Gimme somethin better than this!

As an introduction to this discussion, let me first introduce myself.  I am a single 20-something Caymanian woman.  I have no children, some tertiary education, a home, a decent job, religious beliefs, an interest in reading and a love of writing.  You will know from reading this that I have a blog, I am not short of words and I am not short of opinions.

I have never registered to vote.

This shocks many people and I have until now been very careful who I say this to.  But, you know what, I feel good about ME.  So there it is.  Near a score and ten I have never voted.

A few more facts before I get down to business and what this discussion is about – not only am I not short of words or of opinions, I am not short of friends.  Put an extrovert in a small town and you end up with something like me – I know thousands of people, have to cull my facebook monthly to keep it under the sweet spot of 800 friends, can hang out in any district in Cayman and about every level the society has to offer, and have a pretty good feel of the state of our society as a whole.  I say all this to say…

I have ONE close friend in the twenty-somethings who voted on Wednesday.  ONE.

 Now let’s talk about why that is.

I do not presume to have the answer to this question.  I cannot and will not speak for my entire generation.  I am inviting YOU, the people I know, to explain to me why you are not on the voters list.

I would also like to invite those who are on the list who strongly (or not) believe in the power of the vote to engage me.  Convince me.  Leave a comment on this blog or on this page and tell me why you choose to vote and why I should.  A little later I’ll put my own two-cents about my WHY of it.  Keep an eye out.

ONE RULE:  I ask that you respect the non-partisan nature of this page.  For those of you with a party to plug, plug it elsewhere.   I am not inviting the left, the right, the middle, the green, the orange, the red or the blue to sing the party songs on this page.  If you do it your comment will be removed – don’t be upset, you’ve been warned.  Save that stuff for those who are registered and we will be just fine thank you.

This is about the system and whether or not and if so how much one should participate.  WHAT DO YOU THINK?

On the eve of Referendum…

…I know that tomorrow I will not vote.  It is not something I yet care to do and have nought of an inclination to explain it to any man.  I understand the value of the vote and that so many died that I might have it.  But they didn’t have a clue as to what my X would mean at the time and so I am forgiven, armed with knowledge my forefathers and foremothers didn’t have (even if only by my own self).

Nevertheless, to honour them and the freedom I have to choose not to vote, I have worked for every election and referendum since I reached majority and returned to home shores.

What I have gained from working in the electoral system…

  1. …a knowledge that, in spite of popular belief, there are servants of the people who really believe in what they do and do it selflessly, evenly, ploddingly, thoroughly, efficiently and well in the Civil Service.  There is pride in our team, in our integrity, and it is an honour to work with this group.  We are banded together from all parts of Cayman society, not all of us publicly employed other than for this team, but we are led by seasoned old vets of the Service.
  2. Nothing brings people together like public service.  There is a spirit of seriousness mixed with jovial Caymanian sense of humour that reminds me of days gone by when I knew nothing other than how to be Caymanian.  Now, a little more worldly and travelled, cultured, careworn and jaded, the reminder warms me as I work with many who will never know anything else.
  3. Civil Servants are expected to know very little about how my private sector world works, and I admittedly know very little about the realities of theirs.  I get a peek into the beaurocratic systems of management and almost socialist-smelling (and definitely socialized) rules like treating everyone the same and talking slowly with long pauses and a fear of the microphone for hours and I realize… this would never do in my office.  BUT I also realize that my swift decision-making and high-handedness would absolutely never do in their world either.  I tip my hat to the other side of the fence and am able to accept that our differences are what make them good at what they do and me good at what I do.
  4. There is a familiarity to the scenes around me- the shirts with the Coat of Arms, the smell of the public school walkways all rust and chewed-up red erasers, the government issue ballpoint pens that we write with, the obvious security presence, the monotone of the speeches in training, the class clown in the back (sometimes me) and the mix of people from all walks of life in this team that take me back to public school.  I left public school with loads of street cred, no less than 4 convicted murderers in my high school class, and loads of petty criminals and knocked up teenage moms along the way.  There is much violence in my memory that dwarfs the days of total normal and the people that were just regular joes that made up the majority.  This reminds me of the more ordinary days… with a bunch of mixed abilities and mixed backgrounds thrown into a room with just a few things in common and a lot to laugh about.  It really wasn’t all bad, my schooldays.  I wouldn’t go back, but I can now appreciate it with this experience like school days without age limits and without violence.
  5. I love when things are done right.  And so, even if I care not to participate in the content, I am happy to be part of the context.  Democracy fascinates me – not in a fanatical way that others find it fit to die for, but in the way a difficult puzzle fascinates a child with special abilities and keeps them in its thrall for hours.  I am under no illusions about its limitations, but I am pleased to be part of it.  And I am honoured to take part alongside a group of people who, for reasons of their own, are just as dedicated to doing it right.

Another time I will tell you of my scariest election moment during which I was sure I had seen a man die.  But for now I must have my rest.  I am just recovering from the latest drowning and have a full Referendum Day tomorrow.  I pray my Homeland stays safe, peaceful, and holds on to her integrity throughout.

The Calling to the Poet

There is a group that meets monthly at the largest local bookstore on island.  The people who assemble come from all sorts of places with all sorts of accents and all sorts of ideas.  We share our writings and speak our truths in poetry.

In the last session there was talk around A Gathering of Old Men.  Quite the conversation starter, this little book of stories.  I had a friend recite the poem of Theophilus Brown and the power of this timbre married to the spirit of that poem brought to life the warrior of the old Obi man sent back to Africa on the ninth night.  From the performance came the discussion of ideas –  the purpose of our gifts, the power of words, the feelings of victims, the obedience to the powers that be, the pointlessness of rebellion, and revolutions of history.  The story of Salomé Ureña, the Dominican poet, was savoured.  An Ecuadorian shared her story of three poets from her hometown who were responsible for the removal of a brutal despot.  She quoted one of them saying “There is nothing harder than the softness of indifference.”   (Juan Montalvo) A Jamaican spoke of the stigma attached to the black cat and the themes of racism in societies of the Caribbean today.  A Barbadian distinguished the Jamaican story from the histories of the other islands.  A young man asked “How do you see revolution?” and an answer was given “Authenticity – each of us is responsible for our own story, to be it truthfully and boldly”.  Another answer was “Be the change you wish to see in your world.”

And it was decided.  For the month of July, to remember the American 4th and the purpose of the poet, the Floetry theme will be Revolution.

As my fellow floets turn to the task of writing, there is some inspiration to be found in what has already been written.  This is one of my new favourites.