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Watch this video.

Posted: June 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

New video by the band Buffalo and Back. Trini indie rock… rocks!

 


Colin Laird rocks. Totally.

Posted: June 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Column | 1 Comment »

One of my heroes is the architect Colin Laird. If you are a Trini and don’t know who that is, 1) be ashamed, be very ashamed, and 2) look him up.

Colin Laird is an architect who designed some of the great public spaces in our country, including the Brian Lara Promenade, the National Library, and the old Queen’s Hall. People under 30 might not know what that means but think about the great big elegant National Library. Think about how gorgeous it is, and how easy it is to lime on the galleries around it. Think about the Promenade, a stretch of paved and landscaped coolness right in the middle of the city. It’s urbane and fancy but it’s also completely Trini–and you can tell because the minute it opened people colonised it and made it a liming spot right away.

Anyway, all this is to say there’s an exhibition of his work and designs opening at the National Museum on Thursday June 28 2012. It runs till July 16. You should go.


Martyring our saints

Posted: June 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Column | 4 Comments »

Verna St Rose-Greaves wasn’t the biggest loser in Friday’s Cabinet reshuffle; we were. Fired from the post of Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Verna’s only sin was that she was too committed to serving this country according to her conscience, by seeking to protect our women and children. Instead of being lauded for this, Verna was thrown under the bus by the PP government. Given the choice between the Christian/conservative vote and the smooth introduction of the Gender Policy Verna championed, the PP government chose the votes, going against what its leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had seemed to stand for before she became Prime Minister.

I say without apology that this makes Verna a political martyr to the cowardice of the PP government and its failure to stand for what it seemed to believe in before it formed the government. There are those who feel Verna was fired because of the Cheryl Miller episode. In March Millar was taken from her desk in Verna’s ministry and committed to the mental hospital against Miller’s will. It’s possible this is what led to Verna’s firing. However, it’s more likely that the government saw too many protests against the Gender Policy, and the imaginary LGBT marriage lobby. (Surely it’s imaginary, since most LGBT organisations in the country haven’t said a peep about gay marriage, and have only asked for equal human rights for LGBT folk.) Verna, being Verna, stood up for what she believed in and presented a Gender Policy that wouldn’t embarrass her as a longstanding women’s activist. Would that the PP government had the same courage.

I am not Verna St Rose-Greaves’ friend, but I have interviewed her many times in my capacity as a reporter. She was always a straightforward, blunt advocate for the people she served as a social worker; and she was passionate and well informed about women’s and children’s rights and the wrongs done to them. In fact, Verna was the go-to interview on any such topic, because she was one of a very few public servants who would risk defying the public servant ban on talking to the media. She might have looked mad to play “warner woman”, complete with bell, during the Summit of the Americas in 2009 in Port-of-Spain, but I agreed with her choice to protest the then-government’s holding of an expensive international summit and spending millions of dollars to spruce up the parts of the country the delegates would see while our women and children were being murdered and suffering egregious poverty. Jada Loutoo reported in the Newsday at the time, “After leaving her post on Wrightson Road, St Rose-Greaves […] walked down to the fountain at the Summit Village on the Port-of-Spain Waterfront promenade, where she was accosted by security officers who took away her bell […] and called for backup.”

Now it’s 2012 and once again Verna’s bell has been taken away. She has been whisked out of government back into the shadows where her cries for justice and equality will be easier to ignore. She told the Guardian in an interview published Sunday, “I was offered an ambassadorial position in Costa Rica, which I chose not to take because I didn’t come into government to go to Costa Rica… The one thing that I am sure of, my voice will not be silenced. Death will have to silence me.”

As Ataklan sang, “I’d rather be a shadow in the dark than a big fool in spotlight.”

 

 

Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was once a politician. I told him I felt politicians were the lowest of the low, opportunists who had only entered the field for what power and wealth they could gain. I cited the infamous declaration by Desmond Cartey—“All ah we thief”—as proof that in this country people enter politics to line their pockets and the pockets of their friends and families. My friend corrected me: far from being the slimiest occupation, politics was among the highest callings an individual could follow. Being a politician was an opportunity for service to one’s country and one’s fellow man, he said. What could be nobler than that?

But the take-away lesson of Verna’s firing is that conscience and integrity have no place in T&T politics. When you enter the government, leave your conscience at home. Verna’s firing is a loss for the country because it spells out in bold, clear letters to service-minded individuals, “Don’t go into politics.”

This column appears in today’s Trinidad Guardian.


Speaking up about child sexual abuse

Posted: June 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Column | 2 Comments »

I haven’t posted here for some months, being more active on my Facebook profile page–which is now public and accepts subscribers, by the way–and my Facebook author page, which you’ll find links to on this blog. I’ve also started back my column in the Trinidad Guardian, and it runs every Tuesday.

Anyway, the reason I’m here posting this today is that my column in today’s Trinidad Guardian was supposed to be formatted in a certain way and it isn’t. The lack of formatting makes it incredibly difficult to read and I am sure it will make no sense whatsoever to whoever reads it there. That’s why I’m here, to repost the column with the correct formatting. I also want to share it far and wide because it’s about child sexual abuse and we can never say too much on that topic.

 

Break the silence

[Trigger warning: This column contains descriptions of child sexual abuse.]

 

Most of the alleged sexual abuse victims of US football coach and father figure Jerry Sandusky remained silent during and after the abuse. Most victims of child sexual abuse do.

Jerry Sandusky (creative commons)

Unlike Alleged Victim Nine in the Sandusky trial, many of the victims of child sexual abuse never scream for help. Instead, you might hear:

Go away. Nothing’s wrong. Leave me alone. I hate you. I want to kiss you there. I want to sit in your lap and play with your body. I want to show you something. I want to see yours. I hate everything. My belly hurts. My head hurts. I can’t sleep. I have a rash that I scratch till it bleeds. Nothing’s wrong. Go away.

This case, now being tried in the Philadelphia courts, is sickening. Eight men have testified that Sandusky, while a top coach at the powerful Pennsylvania State University football team, handpicked boys as young as eight to be his special friends. They claim he identified troubled boys from a youth charity he founded, the Second Mile, and seduced them with affection and attention, showered them with gifts and took them on extraordinary outings. Some of them testified to a Grand Jury in December last year that he made them feel like part of his family, and that he told them he loved them. To any child, these are powerful inducements. Would every child take this poisoned candy? No. But some would.

We in Trinidad and Tobago might imagine the Sandusky story is some alien thing, and that this could never happen here. We would be very wrong. There is child sexual abuse happening in this country at this very moment. Somewhere not far from you there is a boy or girl being seduced by someone he or she trusts, seduced with cake and money and weed and PS3’s, and love, or the facsimile of it. This seeming love is the thing that draws child victims in and shuts them up. Because the one who is seducing them seems to care, sometimes more than their own parents and siblings. These monsters will give hugs and back rubs and listening ears. They will know just what a child wants and give it unstintingly. And then they will take what they want.

It’s only fair. I gave you this. You give me that.

Why do children stay silent about sexual abuse? Why don’t more of them scream and run away to report it to the police or a parent, a teacher or a pastor? Apart from the fact that in many cases it is these very authority figures who are themselves the abusers, victims often feel an overwhelming sense of love for the abuser, and feel complicit in the abuse.

You knew it was wrong, but you did it anyway. You let it happen. If you tell, everyone will think it’s your fault. And what would happen to your special friend, the one person who treats you like you’re precious? He or she would get in trouble. Do you want to be the one who tears apart the family? Do you want him or her to lose his or her job over you? Shame on you.

 Perhaps the most shocking thing about the Sandusky trial is not the men’s stories of being sexually fondled and raped as ten- and twelve-year-old boys, but that so many adults actually saw it with their own eyes, yet did nothing. It is not the victims’ silence that is the most horrifying part, but the silence of their community. The Grand Jury testimony gives stories of people who walked in on Sandusky lying on top of boys, showering with them, having oral sex with them, raping them. Some reported what they had seen to a superior, and those superiors did not do what the law mandated: report it to the police, investigate and take measures to protect the boys who may have been molested. (In one case, a mother did report it to the police, who subsequently dropped the investigation.)

If a child you know says a respected adult is making him or her uncomfortable, what is your first impulse? Is it to ask questions, or to brush the child aside? Do you listen to the silence, or compound it with your own? Whatever the outcome of the Sandusky trial let us take one thing away from the horrendous story: Break the Silence.

For more information about the UWI St Augustine IGDS campaign Break the Silence, go to: http://sta.uwi.edu/igds/breakthesilence/index.asp