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The Ponderings of SCsquared

The musings of my self-discovery

Citizenship Matters

Over the past week or so I have read and kept silent on the matter of a bi-election in Jamaica having a candidate without Jamaican citizenship.

What I have seen is a solid reflection of classism, partisanship, and party above all on both sides of Gordon House. What I find not being discussed is why we are so agitated about it. So let’s talk about the questions this situation poses.

First, what do we (the people of Jamaica) believe makes someone Jamaican?

Truth be told we are a passionate people when it comes to the privilege and honour of being Jamaican. However, while the law states that anyone born of a Jamaican ancestor has the right to claim citizenship, we the people have a different litmus test.

Born and raised here? Jamaican.

Born here but raised elsewhere? Let’s check your accent, how you say plantain, if you know the difference between Tastee & Juici Beef, if you drink sorrel or eat chicken back/foot… then we will decide.

Born abroad but raised here? Yeah, sort of ish. I mean if your parents are from here then yes, but if they’re not there’s another checklist to go through. Ever tek bus? Firecrackers or clappaz? Shinehead or Super Cat? Also, can you cook run down or make fry-boil dumpling? Which corner shop ‘ave the best Curry Goat?

Born and raised elsewhere to Jamaican parent(s)? Once again the status check, including how often have you been to Jamaica? Can you speak patois without sounding like Taye Diggs? What Jamaican foods do you crave? How do you pronounce plantain and pomegranate? Have you ever used a dutch pot? No, not a Dutch oven, a Dutch pot.

Then we have to decide IF we want to claim you. So we sort of claim Colin Powell, but give reasons why Lee Boyd Malvo doesn’t really count. We celebrate Patrick Ewing but often brush off Ben Johnson. We hail Biggie but not Tyga. The list goes on and on.

 

The more pertinent question is, why does citizenship of Parliamentarians matter more than Jamaicaness?

Simple, we believe that Parliamentarians must have just as much to lose as the citizens they are making decisions for. We do not think that our government is incorrupt, in fact, we accept (actually assume) that there is a lot of corruption in all arms of our government. As a result, we would like to believe that anyone elected or selected to be in parliament is in the same boat with us. We want to know that they can’t easily escape the consequences of the decisions made.

The ability for CARICOM and British Commonwealth citizens LIVING in Jamaica to vote is not an issue to us. (Jamaican citizens living outside of Jamaica voting is.) However, when it comes to making laws, voting on the budget, and making national policy, your loyalties matter to us. No, you don’t get to run to an embassy and hide from the electorate if we are angry at you. You have to face the consequences with us.

I know each side is pointing fingers at the other and saying “But you….”, but If it were up to me, proof of citizenship would be a requirement to running for office and sitting in Gordon House. I would require that any current member who cannot prove citizenship as of the 2007 debacle, resign and refund the people of Jamaica all income garnered as a member. Further, they would be barred from running for at least 2 election cycles. Though I find this desirable, the law does not provide for this kind of action.

At this point, Shane is permitted to run. As much as I consider him Jamaican and believe his intentions are genuine, I would have preferred that he had at least applied for citizenship before running. I grew up with him and believe he is a man of integrity with a heart of service, but I am not one of the constituents he is offering to serve so I don’t get a vote. I don’t get a say in this, but I know I couldn’t knowingly vote for someone who couldn’t be bothered to file some paperwork. He knows too many lawyers to not have done it.

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This Is Not My Home

Life can be frustrating at times. As a matter of fact, sometimes life throws us enough stones that we can feel completely defeated. It can be hard to move forward or look up at these points in time. Sometimes there is so much fog that the future isn’t simply unclear, it seems to not even be there at all.
I hate it when my friends are facing those moments, but I’m happy to help them find the way when they ask. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the purpose of our situation. Sometimes we need to find a purpose in it. Sometimes we need to get out of it completely. And yes, sometimes we need more than an anecdote to move forward.
For me, being an expat comes with moments so upsetting my heart feels like it will shatter into a million pieces. It comes when I can’t speak for myself, when I can’t speak up for others, when someone is hurting and giving them a hug would be a great issue. Even more, it comes when I feel lost.
I often need my friends at times like these. I need them to remind me of the purpose in this process. I need them to remind me of my own life’s vision and the role this plays. I need them to give me the anecdote that helps me move through the moments of utter sadness and devastation.
Instead, I tell them I’m okay. I say, oh it’s just cold. I tell them funny stories about school, and interesting things I see in the supermarket. I tell them about my pot of soup.
I don’t tell them that I cry every time it snows. I don’t tell them about the teacher that makes me question my purpose. I don’t tell them how incredibly lonely it is to not understand anyone. I don’t tell them that I feel absolutely unloved living amongst strangers who don’t touch. I don’t tell them how much sleeping in on a Sunday offends the core of my being. I don’t tell them that not being there for them hurts my heart so much my chest is sore.
Instead, I remind myself that I asked for this. I remind myself that there is more to learn here. I remind myself that God has never left me alone in the wilderness. I remind myself that this, this is not my home. I remind myself that I have a home to go back to. I remind myself of all these things, so that I can remember to be grateful. Because gratitude changes my perspective and kicks me out the pity party. For me, gratitude takes me from misery into happiness, and from tears to laughter.
I’d rather laugh than cry, so I do.

Almost A Mother

Recently, I was reflecting on how long I have been single, and it dawned on me, I could have raised a child!

Honestly, I almost did.

Almost 11 years ago, my eldest sister died shortly after child birth and in the midst of our mourning the question was raised, “What do we do with this child?” It wasn’t just an important question, it was an urgent one. A baby needs a home, love, and family, and this child just lost all of that in one fell swoop.

Feeding Noah
He Changed My Life

There we were, in the saddest state I think we ever could have been in, and a child’s life was about to be decided by a bunch of emotionally compromised adults.

The decision: Shikisha will be his mother.

Their reasons ranged from my age to my seemingly unending love to how much I reminded them of my sister. My immediate emotion was fear, but my verbal response was that I will have to discuss this with my household.

A few months later when I was expecting to go and take this child home, my sister’s family informed us that they had given him up for adoption. Yes, all levels of anger replaced fear. However, there was also a great sigh of relief. I wasn’t ready to be a mom.

The prospect of being a parent sent a shock of realities through me. With all the comforts I had in life, I was completely incapable of taking care of myself. I was an uneducated, low-income earner, with limited options. My earnings at the time could barely handle lunch. My job had a nice title and I could randomly be seen on TV and was even quoted in the newspapers, but my financial status left much to be desired. I had, to that point, done nothing meaningful with my life. I had a stream of unfulfilled dreams, desires, and potential.

I was in my mid-20’s and a sorry excuse for an adult. By the definition of WHO, I wasn’t even qualified to be one.

This close call propelled me forward. It forced me to speak up more and to stop being silent to comfort those around me. It made me push for my own education, the formal kind that puts letters behind your name. It made me more aware of my own earning potential and more purposed in how I manage my finances. It made me look on my dreams as goals, and I started moving towards them. The idea of becoming a parent, pushed me right into adulthood.

My life would have been dramatically different had I become a mother that day, and yet, it changed because of the mere idea that I could have.

Likkle But Wi Tallawah

There is a sense of pride I feel when I see Jamaica being David, and standing up to the Goliaths of this world. We are a tiny country with so much to lose when we speak out, reveal our hearts, our disagreements with “the big boys”.

Continue reading “Likkle But Wi Tallawah”

Love and Hate

I suffer from a constant battle with cognitive dissonance, and I suspect I’m not the only one. Nay, I KNOW I’m not the only one.

I have spent most of my professional life in this state, at war with myself, fighting with myself (and sometimes with others) over what has to be done and what I believe. On one side, I am a big dreamer, a creative being who sees every idea in its most extreme, beautiful, self. That’s the “Go Big!” side that I inherited from my parents. On the other side there is the budgeter, the realist, the cut it down to make it fit, and appease the financiers side. This is the practical side of me, it concedes to my sense of responsibility to others. I hate this side, but it keeps the lights on and food on the table. It’s a necessary evil.

left_brain_and_rightI feel this way about many things in entertainment and the arts. I have always felt that advertisers hold too much power over the creatives’ lives. Which wouldn’t be that bad, if they didn’t use it to push agendas and politicise creativity. If they didn’t hold the threat of pulling funding at the mere smidge of controversy, so many things on our screens would be different. Some people’s court cases would have been seen through before they got the boot. (Yes, I am talking about Columbus Short et al.) Some shows would have either more in-depth content, or shorter episodes. (Every single reality show!) More importantly, some would end in their second or third season, while others would get to finish their story.

This makes me prefer British television to American. BBC does not cater to advertisers, it’s paid for by taxes anyway, so 5 episodes can be an entire season if that’s all they need to tell the story. They also care very little on how successful a show has been if the story has been told. It ends when it ends. No dragging it out to keep advertising dollars rolling in. Nope. This is also why their shows have 52-58 minutes of content, when American ones max out at 40-42 minutes.

netflix-vs-tbs-tnt-fxThis is why I love that online streaming services have grown to develop original content. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, have piggybacked on the audience they developed with licensed content and launched their own exclusive works. Most importantly, it worked, people logged on and watched, and no advertisers needed to be consulted or convinced.

This means they could be more daring, more creative, more innovative, and most importantly more honest to their truth, without having to take corporate agendas into consideration. They were free to fly or fail in a more organic way, but the genuine interest of the viewers, not Coco-Cola or McDonalds. Their viewership goals were set by intended audience, not Pepsi’s Reach needs.

It is because of this that we get to have shows that are not softened for the masses, nor are they diluted to appease the FCC. They are the stylings of the creatives laid out in a visual banquet and they have found success. So much so that they are competing with the “Big Boys” and not just being nominated for, but actually winning awards once reserved for network and cable television. Without these streamers, Kimmy Schmidt wouldn’t get to be unbreakable, and Orange would still be fighting with Yellow to colour the sun.

More importantly, for me, in my non-US living life, I get to watch all these shows at the same time as everyone else. There are no regionally staggered releases, there is no need. I paid for the service therefore I have access to it. More so, I can pay for the service anywhere in the world, and watch the original content right there in my living room without a VPN. LEGALLY.

Online Streaming Services is a win for creatives, and a win for global consumers. It is not just the future of media, it is today’s truth for media.

Opportunities, Advantages, and Privilege

Like clockwork, at least once a week I was reminded of the “opportunities” I had in life. I was reminded not to waste them. I was reminded that not everyone got them. They were the diamonds I had because I existed in my unique juxtaposition in life. Parents spoke about it. Teachers spoke about it. Even my helper spoke about it.
“Don’t waste the opportunities you have in life.” “We worked hard so you can have opportunities.” “Be careful that you don’t lose these opportunities you are given.” Sometimes, opportunities were revealed for what they truly were, advantages.
Growing up in Jamaica, I have had what pop culture now refers to as privileges. My parents, and those of most of my childhood friends, called them advantages and opportunities. Everything we were born into, every single thing that we had, every point of access, every book and birthday party, was one of these magical things that we had to be mindful of.
Hate having to wake up for school? Tough. Get up and don’t waste the opportunity for an education. Did the security at the bank not call you by name? (Or by your parents name?) Make sure you learn his name and always address him / her by it, and try to give them a Christmas Card or gift. Did you “have to” visit your grandparents in the country with kerosene lamps? Be grateful for the running water at home, and take the sunbath.
The reality of it is this, we each have some level of privilege over someone else. However, in Jamaica, we were constantly made aware of it. Aware that we had it, that we did nothing to get it, and that we could lose it at any moment. We were taught the responsibility of having this privilege. That it is our duty to look out for those without it, and take care of them. To not allow others to trample on them and stand by silently, but to step in and use our privilege to protect them. The privilege we have is fragile, if we make a misstep, it will cost us this privilege. Not only ours, but also those around us – siblings, cousins, parents. We must preserve the good name our forefathers built.
Then, I look at our northern neighbours just discovering they have privilege. First, it shocks them that it exists at all. The initial reaction is that it’s a lie, created to give “them” an excuse to fail at life, to ‘play the victim’. Then, it sinks in that maybe, just maybe, they had breakfast more often, or chairs in their classrooms, or teachers who understood the curriculum. But then they find their exceptions to defend the original stance that it’s just an excuse for lazy people. Then they see the news and wonder why we talk about “Black Lives Matter”, and labour over the loss of our brothers, sisters, children, parents, friends, with judgement. Slowly, one by one, it dawns on them that this is real.
Privilege is not just a fashionable word, it’s real.
Now, as shock settles into knowledge, it’s time for everyone to learn how their individual privilege can be used to help someone else without it. Let’s start by acknowledging the ones we have.

 

New Year, New Tings?

Every December to January, we get caught in an avalanche of blogs, vlogs, TV features, and newspaper articles about making the new year the beginning of a new you. With all these implications that you are not good enough, or that you must be dissatisfied with your life, I want to know…

Continue reading “New Year, New Tings?”

There’s Just Something About @Chunchi!

To know her is to love her. That’s the most accurate way to explain Chunchi. There is no other way to explain our friendship or our tolerance of each other. In fact, I don’t think our friendship works in the “natural order of things”. It really doesn’t. Chunchi 2016

I mean really, we have pretty much nothing in common. Continue reading “There’s Just Something About @Chunchi!”

Repeat that YouTube!

It is no secret, I love YouTube.
No, not in that, yeah I watch videos on YouTube way, more in the I carve out time in my schedule to watch YouTube type of way. Am I some sort of expert on it? Nope! I do enjoy what I enjoy though and so here’s a list of my faves (no Jamaican channels allowed or included).

Here’s my Top 5. Continue reading “Repeat that YouTube!”

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