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The Ponderings of SCsquared

The musings of my self-discovery

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Observations

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.

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.

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.

 

He Said I’m Strong

You know Shikisha, I’ve always admired how strong and independent you are. You always did things for yourself, no one had to do it for you.
-Uncle Fred

Continue reading “He Said I’m Strong”

Jamaica’s Beauty Queen Issue

Over the past few weeks I have been spending time preparing my “self-introduction” presentation. It is meant to introduce my students to me, however I have designed it to focus more on Jamaica.

One of the purposeful things I am introducing into their subconscious is diversity. All my teachers can now explain our motto, “Out of Many, One People”. As a matter of fact, so can the head of the Education Department, the Mayor and all authority figures. The first example of diversity I show is the side about my family – well because we are truly a rainbow of people in this tribe. We range from Anglo, to African, to Asian, and everything in between.

MW Crown

Continue reading “Jamaica’s Beauty Queen Issue”

Hurt & Hope

Dear Chris Tufton,

I cried that night you lost the vote. My heart broke, not just for you, but for my country. A little piece of my faith in Jamaica died that night. It hurt, and it hurt beyond that night, for weeks it felt like an open wound, and even now, four years later, it feels like a scar that’s still there.

See, before that night, though I felt unsure about most seats I was certain yours was sure, solid like a corner-stone. Why? Because I could see you working, I saw your commitment to the agricultural sector, your vision to help it develop and to bring younger people into the industry to ensure longevity and our survival as a country. I saw your love for South Western St. Elizabeth, and your concern for the members of the constituency, you were not half-hearted in this either.

What I saw in you was a man who understood and loved his ministry, but could stand and negotiate and deal with those that don’t – the bankers, the buyers, the bullies. Yes, I said bullies. You are a good blend of what I think an MP should be, you were doing what you were elected to do. You are an example of how leaders should carry themselves, you have a calm confidence that seems missing in the days we are living in. You seem to be a decisive contemplator, not that you have not made mistakes, but you clearly think before you speak and act. You are not easily thrown off-balance, and you do not jump up and carry on because of sensationalism.

I can’t vote for you, wrong constituency, but I do hope that you have learned what older and jaded politicians know – how to win elections. You are the new politician that my generation hungers for and wants, however, we tend not to vote. This means pandering to those who do, and no one does it better than the ones we wish would “just resign already”. Find out the legal and ethical side of their secret and WORK IT!

Dr. Tufton, shortly after the election, I saw you at a party, I wanted to just hug you and lament with you on the loss that I could see you were trying to not dwell on. I did not. I thought it would be a little weird, having never met you and it being a party and all. Also, you are still human and need the space to not be on show, to drink some rum / scotch, and breathe.

I hope you do not let go of the hopes you have for our island and your role in helping us get there. I hope you inspire others to get involved in the service of our fellow citizen, so that we can play our part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.

With Hope,
S. C. C.

I Honour You

Growing up with a father like mine was good, bad, adventurous, chill, and all sorts of things in one. As a child, I thought my father lit up the night sky and pulled the sun out of its slumber every morning. As a teenager, I loved him but resented his work. In my early 20’s, all I wanted was his approval and respect. Now, I adore him and appreciate who he is, where he’s been and most of all, the relationship we have.

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I honor him not because he is my Daddy, but because of the man he is. The man I grew up with. The man I respect. The man who mentors me.

When I was very little, my dad always had money for the many persons who reached out to him for help. Even when we ourselves were stuck with tin mackerel for dinner, he somehow was able to always help others make ends meet.

I recall one night that he had a homeless man come to the house to bathe and get some new clothes. It wasn’t the only time it happened, but I remembered wondering why does he always do this. More importantly, why couldn’t he let them use the outside bathroom, why let them use ours? When I was a little older, he told me the man was the same as us, he just had a different struggle.

His kindness and care for others was never a matter of pity though, it was just a part of community, a genuine caring for others. It was not always the grand gesture of helping to pay university fees, but it was also in things like buying a breadfruit or a pear (avocado) for his friend just because. Why? Because that is who he is.

The struggle of being my father’s child is shared by the children of any passionate person. When you grow up with someone who is excited to go to work, who can’t wait to pursue their vision, it’s hard to settle for anything less. It is difficult to imagine a life more ordinary, because you have seen and experienced a life less ordinary. There is no return from that.

I appreciate you, my wonderful blessing of a father. I honour the love, the joy, the peace, the passion, the amazing, the principled man you are, because you have taught me about the person I only can hope to be.

 

(Originally written December 14, 2013)

The Truth About Friendship

Friendship

Someone asked me if I was still close with people I went to high school with, ahhhm – No. She was shocked, partly because her long lasting friendships were birthed in High School. Truthfully, a lot of people have that experience – I’m not one of them. This is not to discount the value of anyone I went to high school (or prep school for that matter) with, it’s just that we were classmates – not friends.

My reality is just different. I come from a home of 7 children, who for the most part were taught – you have each other and that’s all you need. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to grow up simultaneously in two great neighbourhoods filled with kids and where everyone was part of the family. Seriously, we ate dinner at various houses each night. My closest friends, the ones I trust the most, call the most, e-mail the most are from these two neighbourhoods, Innswood & Gallery. They say, “Blood is thicker than water”, I say “Concrete is thicker than blood, and they are my foundation.”

I say all of that to tell you, the truths of friendship, according to me:

  1. Not everyone that you know and have had a conversation with is your friend.
  2. You can be someone’s friend, without them being yours. In other words, friendship is mutual but being a friend isn’t.
  3. You know you’re friends when the convenience is gone and you still choose each other.
  4. Not all friendships are for life, some are just for a season.
  5. On that note, “We used to be friends” does not mean we had a fight and are in malice, it just means life happened.
  6. These people are not automatically friends: Class-mate, dorm-mate, room-mate, church sister/brother, siblings, cousins, bredren, sistren, friend of a friend, parrie, Boy/girlfriends friend, co-worker, god-siblings, parent’s friends kids, neighbours, ….and the list can go on forever
  7. Friends are trust worthy, honest, caring towards you.
  8. Anyone that gossips about others with you will gossip about you with others ~ my Dad told me this early on in high school and I trust it as Gospel
  9. It’s not just mutual interests that make you friends, it’s a mutual positive influence on each other, a mutual desire to be together . . . .

What are your friendship truths?

Is it Worth Your Life?

 

When I was 14, my mother was murdered by a “don”. Most of my friends know this, however, let me tell you a part of the story that is rarely spoken about – the reason the Police took so long to respond.

Growing up, my mother was the parent least present, she lived in a few different places including other countries and being the youngest, I jumped at the chance to live with her when I was 12 and she was finally “stable”.

It was great, my sister and I shared a room, I started to learn about my mother who had been but a visitor in my life up til that point. I learned that she loved to cook, and she was good at it. I learned her habits, the sound of her laughter, her smell. I learned that I could always be honest with her, and what she thought was appropriate behaviour.

When I was 13, she got a boyfriend named Ricky, who moved in. I did not like him at all, but I chalked it up to being a jealous kid who just wanted a parent that was there. I pretended my gut didn’t have instincts.

Ricky was a deportee and a recovering addict who missed his flashy Miami lifestyle. When he was sober, he could be decent, but in general he was just unhappy with his life. The entire time I knew him, he cycled through addiction and recovery, violence and laughter, depression and joy. Was he evil? No, but he was broken in ways I am still unable to fully understand.

Ricky and my mother fought A LOT to say the least, and there was violence. Violence both verbally and physically. There was hitting, choking and death threats. Did my mother just take it? Certainly not, that’s not who she was. Victim was not a word one would use to describe Valerie, but victim she was.

I distinctly recall an incident in which he hit her, and I stepped in asking who does he think he is to lay a hand on my mother, his response was to raise his hand at me. My mother looked him dead in the eye and said if he ever dared touch me, he would die that day. A few days after that, he threatened to kill her, her response was “I dare you to try”.

She was someone who showed no fear, but she was still a victim of Domestic Violence. The police had been called many times to the house. They had taken statements, held Ricky in lock-up, tried to have her press charges. All for naught, she was planning on marrying him that May anyway. (She marked it on her calendar as “D-Day”.)

My mother taken him to rehab, to church, to counseling, trying to help him. Most of this was at his pleading request after he had been kicked out or found himself waking from an overdose. She had hope for him to end the cycle in his life (and ours) but it did not happen.

On the day my mother was murdered, she shouted the name of her murderer over and over as he held up the household and massacred both her & Ricky. She called out his name so loudly and in such a manner that the neighbours kept calling the police to come. This was at 7:30 in the morning. The police did not arrive until 11:00 even though the station was less than 5 minutes away.

They did not take the call seriously, they thought it was just another “Domestic Incident” where a couple were arguing. Both my mother and Ricky were murdered that morning.

Many women AND men stay in situations like this. Many Christians stay because they think leaving is betraying their vows. Many stay because they don’t think they can survive without their spouse. Many stay because they are ashamed to let anyone know. Even more stay because they think there’s hope and it will get better, statistically it won’t.

Domestic violence ends in two ways, either you leave or you die. You can’t stay in the same place and change at the same time, and neither can an abuser. Keeping them clothed, fed, or housed while they hurt you is not helping them, it is enabling them. Don’t keep yourself in the cycle, get help.

October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month and the month of my mother’s birth. If you or someone you know needs help here is a number to call:

(876) 929-9038 – Jamaica;
1-800-799-7233– USA;
0808 2000 247 – UK;

 

You were made for a better life than to be abused and mistreated by anyone.

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