Monday, 24 April 2017

Journey to NOAH CON 2016 : Taking a self defense class with albinism.

Taking a self defense class as a person with a visual impairment is one of the most empowering thing I have done in a long time.

I have been harassed on many levels in my life, I have been accosted in the street where everyone can see, I have been followed and grabbed and laughed at while it all happened. Yes, right here, in my beautiful country, I have had many female friends who have been accosted likewise and many male friends who have shrugged and suggested that we just don't go to those places.

Except sometimes those places are in the middle of the capital where you take the bus home.

Unfortunately, usually when I speak of this what I'm told is that this is normal. Even if I accept that it is normal to be publicly violated in my country I will never accept that it is right. Now by now you must know that I am a Christian and for me part of that Christianity means standing up and saying NO to something when I am presented with the notion that normality equates right.

I woke up very early to take that self defense class and one of the things I learned from itouch self defence is that those things, being harassed, leaves physical residual affects as well as the type you cannot see.

I had to be told so many times by my instructor to calm down, to go slowly, that this was practice so I need to be careful or I would mistakenly hurt someone. My reactions were involuntarily serious every time I had to conduct a mock exercise due to being involved in the real thing far too often.

I think every person should learn to defend themselves from assailants who society empowers through acceptance of their actions into thinking that they have a right to take security from others.

Taking a self defense class was one of the best things I did at the conference and I would do it again and again if given the opportunity. Then, I would teach it to my daughters because if I live in a world that tells me I should expect a man to hurt me, I will make it a world where I will know the quickest and most effective way to make him fail at it. Then, I will teach it to my daughters. Oh, and for the sake of equality let me say, that goes for if the world tells me that i should expect a woman to hurt me too. Unfortunately statistics are still in the majority of a male assailant and so are my experiences and the experiences of my loved ones.

Also, shout out to my male friends who have not averted their eyes when I have been accosted. Shout out to the ones who have said no when the notion has been suggested.Thank you for being part of the solution.

 My trip to the NOAH Conference 2016 was made possible by sponsorship from: The Writers Association of Grenada, Kallalou Designs, The Office of the Prime Minister and various good Samaritans who insist upon not being named;their kindness clearly knows no bounds!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Journey to NOAH CON 2016 : Meeting Tweens with albinism

My story of meeting the mother of and a tween with albinism is...memorable. There were so many sessions to attend and in the midst of my overload I wondered into the end of a session that focused on how to handle Street harassment. Ivy sat at the back of the room, I think we both kind of just wondered in late. 

I don't even remember how we struck up a conversation. I only remember us talking about the various violent reactions her daughter had to deal with due to the cruelty of other children.

I wont cower to tell you how shocked I much it shook me learning about other kids breaking bottles over the head of this little girl who just wanted to go to school, learn and hurt me.

I know what it feels like to be grabbed in the street without permission. It boiled my blood and ached my heart thinking of this girl much younger than I, who should only have to focused on deciding on what she wants to grow up to do and nurturing that growth, being cornered and having bottles broken over her head because she doesn't have as much pigment as her classmates.

It shocked me, this happening in America, not in Africa or China but in one of the states of a leading first world country. In a place that is known through media for being a place of freedom and acceptance a girl is holding her hands in the shadow of the day and dreaming about being darker so she can escape harm and simple exist free. She is breaking into tears because she is questioning her faith as God didn't answer her prayers about the colour of her skin in the morning when she woke up. I'm not even just talking about the girl in the picture any more, this is a real situation, real accounts but I am saying to you that it is not an isolated account. How do we change that?

Maybe we remember that we are more than skin colour, that we are more than #TeamLightSkin and more than #TeamDarkSkin, Maybe we remember that race is more than melanin, a lack or abundance of it. Perhaps we entertain that worth transcends physical tributes? Maybe if we did that we would stop convincing generation after generation that they should filter their self worth through the lens of superficial characteristics. Perhaps it would allow them to more quickly and readily see the unwavering value of personality, skill and contribution to society. That is my suggestion but that's a whole different story for a whole different day...

I had already taken a self defence class at the conference so I was able to share that with Ivy and encourage it for her daughter too. We bonded over the struggles of having to be guarded and protective over safety due to looking differently and strangely enough, over roti. Turns out My girl V is well acquainted with Indian heritage and knew all about roti so you know my Caribbean self was impressed!

I treasure V's friendship and can't wait till we meet again! Her daughter, whom we will affectionately call Peanut-Buttercup, is a beautiful strong girl blossoming into an amazing woman. Just over the course of the four days we spent at the conference I got to watch Buttercup go from talking with her head down to leaving her mother in the dust as she ran off to join her new friends.

I still remember looking over at V and hearing her say ' I lost my child for the first time' with a content smile bubbling up from her heart and spreading across her face.

Okay let me explain that so you don't get the impression that V is terrible, she is not.  Parents with albinism have no fear on the day to day of loosing their child with albinism. Let's face it, we stick out like gold bars in a sea of tomatoes, you just can't miss us. To 'lose' your child with albinism in a place where they are safe and with people who understand their struggles and will rejoice with them in their strength. To lose your child amongst people who will praise them simply for being and not for being is a deeply emotional and unexpected joy afforded to us by the NOAH Conference.

In a world were everyone is always desperate to be seen this seems unimaginable the overwhelming joy of being able to simply...disappear from sight for a change. Even more so if you are a person of colour.

For us to disappear is a bit of a luxury. The NOAH conference put that luxury in our hands and said 'have fun' so we did.  When I share this with people who don't have albinism, who can easily disappear because they look just as the world expects them to so the world does not notice if they bow their head I get disbelieving looks. 'Why would you want that?' is what I am asked.

The truth is, we don't usually. I LOVE sharing life and experiences with people, you would know this if you've ever spoken to me. I wouldn't be writing this blog post if I simply wanted to disappear. Here is the harsh truth; we all have those moments, when we don't want to be kind, when we want to throw on a hat and an over sized t-shirt and simply fade into the masses consumed by our own uninterrupted self discovery. It might be rare, if you are more on the extroverted side like myself, but these moments do happen, we are all deserving of them but we don't all get to have them.

For many of us with albinism those moments are like finding a needle in a hay stack while having bad eyesight. A stroll down the side walk never goes unseen and barely goes without someone feeling like they have a right to comment on who you are, what you look like and what you should do with your life. No thank you, I know who I am, I know whose I am and I should not be made to defend that constantly when the rest of the world is not.

Peanut-Buttercup said this to me and know I will never forget it as long as I live 'I used to think I was the only one in the world and this weekend I was one in one thousand!' I had to put on a brave face y'all.  I used to think the same thing you see.  On my little Caribbean island at 11 years old I remember stealing myself against the isolation of being the only one that looked like me in the world. Accepting that I would never look to my left or right and see someone who looked like I did...

It didn't turn out that way for me and because of the NOAH Conference it didn't turn out that way for Peanut-buttercup either, thank God. The NOAH Conference was our opportunity to be a part of a community of rarity

Peanut-Buttercup is doing pretty good these days by all accounts, she's been out their joining groups, growing up and discovering herself safely and confidently with the aid of her amazing mother who, has taught her the art of a quick witted tongue and a no nonsense sense of self worth. V loves her daughter and continues to teacher to way of the strong willed, driven, capable woman. Those are the parents that build success from the ground up by teaching capable despite difficulty or difference.

Did the NOAH Conference serve to aid this, I would so say certainly.

My trip to the NOAH Conference 2016 was made possible by sponsorship from: The Writers Association of Grenada, Kallalou Designs (shout out to my boss earrings), The Office of the Prime Minister and various good Samaritans who insist upon not being named because they are kind beyond measure <3

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Musing :: Style :: SpiceBlogger Meet Up

Blogger confession; I've been so jealous watching the rest of the blogging world get to go to blogger meet ups. I had given up on the idea a long time ago. Living on a small Caribbean island I had conceded that it wasn't going to happen for me because there just were not that many bloggers that I knew of on island and when you put that with my awkward shyness I figured...thems the breaks.

Flash forward about seven years and blogging has become more popular, stretching it's arms far enough to reach the coast of even my little island. I had met a few blog buddies along my journey I'm sure you know, I've featured my friend Shell, I've loved talking blogger shop with both Islepreneur and Grenada Soul Adventure for a few years. I never would have thought though that I'd find myself at a local restaurant talking shop with a whole group of beautiful LOCAL blogger babes!

Islepreneur, myself and Grenada Soul Adventurer (all stared photos in this post are her own.)


Can you believe it? These aren't even all of us! After blogger Divya, whom I met when I did a shoot with Kered (lady with the cute white purse pictured above), took the bull by the horns and started a Facebook group I was surprised to find that not only are there many local bloggers but local blogger of numerous blogging genres.

Of course the only other logical thing to do was to meet. A venue was chosen and we met at The Edge Restaurant and Bar.

The scenery there is fantastic and the name is well suited. We found ourself in up close and personal company of the ocean. The waves were our live dinner serenade and the warmth of the sunset light kissed us all over as we laughed and celfied our way into acquaintance. 

It was a good time. I LOVED meeting this group of beautiful diverse women with different passions and different stories to tell. There is a pride about my countrymen I've talked about before and it was so heart warming to sit in a room full of bloggers who know that pride well and want to celebrate it through different genres of writing. 

I remember playing with the idea of a directory when Shell and I thought we were the only you can check out islepreneur IN DEPTH post about Spice Island blogs, what they are and where you can find them. I am so thrilled to see this day! You can find out from the growing directory within the spice island blogger facebook page.  Like I said in a previous post being a writer can feel like a very isolated life but as Islepreneur put it on the day of our meet up "if you never ask a question you'll never know'  Now we know we are not alone both literally and in terms of our passion. I compiled a quick tiny directory of all the bloggers present at our first meet up here, if you want more info on all the known spice bloggers check it out or the directory via the facebook group.

When was the last time you were happy to find you were not alone in your love of a thing?

Peace. Love. Community.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Journey to NOAH Con 2016 :: Meeting Parents of children with Albinism

After meeting the little girl in the blue dress I stepped outside and ran into Laura and her baby boy. I watched for sometime as he crawled happily about the room, exploring the ground with his mother close behind. His mom and I shared brief pleasantries but what was  most clear is just how very loved is her son. He was shy and she coaxed him into a smile, hugging him close. 

I don't get to see babies with albinism. The last baby with albinism I knew was myself, not many memories to tap into there. Seeing them made my heart flutter but if I'm honest, most babies make my heart flutter. 

At one of our evening meet and greets I was fortunate to meet the adoptive parents of another baby with albinism. Baby A is a happy, healthy, beautiful, shy girl, who clutched her mommy's leg with apprehension, as I cooed over her elated. She is very loved by her entire family, her older brother included. He is protective and guiding as good big brothers tend to do even though he's not that much older than she.

Adoption is something very very close to my heart. It is something that I have been passionate about since I was a little girl and learned of its existence. This passion has only grown as I have and as I conducted investigations into my own heritage. Meeting this happy family gave me an opportunity not only to ask questions I've always had about the process but to witness first hand the beauty of a complete family made up of people who have love to give and a child who wants to be loved.

I know that the bonds of love are much bigger than blood connection. Baby A's momma is her mummy and will always be her mummy. The love between them is potent and cannot be missed. 

We talked about her motivations for coming to the conference which were mainly focused around gathering information to ensure they can provide their daughter with all the help she needs as she grows into a thriving and supported young girl. 

Kurtis is a father of a child with albinism and fellow spoken word poet. It was so good to meet him! Kurtis was a chief male figure head in many of our sessions, representing the male voice and showing us what it is like not to be a mother but the father of a child with albinism.

He was frank about to toughness and veracity with which a parent may be required to teach their child to stand up for themselves. He shared with us his struggles with understanding that something what may initially seem as disrespect could very well be the side effects of a personal issue faced by the child with a visual impairment.

One of his examples was being called into school by the principal because his son was called in for being disrespectful by way of refusing to make eye contact, even while being disciplined. Kurtis explained to us that it had taken even him a while to understand that his son was not being disrespectful but was not keeping eye contact likely due to his nystagmus. He shared with us how it took a while for him to come to terms with this reality and underscored the importance of parents being ready to present and defend a reality they may be privy to before the rest of the world simply because they are parents. Kurtis was ready to stand up for his child because he took the time to understand his child, to see that his son saw the world differently but that didn't make him less than important or less deserving of justice than other students. He helped us underscore the importance of toughness and the right to equal treatment and understanding by the parent of a child with a visual impairment. It was a great asset to have him there with his boldness of truth.

All children are young people with talents and the possibility of adding to the world. It is the responsibility of the adults charged with taking care of the world to see this possibility alive in the helpless and the young and nurture it into greatness or tragedy... Children with albinism are no different. Attending the NOAH conference did not prove this to me; it enforced it.

Every child is as capable and as important as the eyes of capability with which we choose to view them. If you grow them in love and the possibility of success, they will water that investment and it will bare fruit.

My trip to the NOAH Conference 2016 was made possible by sponsorship from: The Writers Association of Grenada, Kallalou Designs, (aren't her earrings darling?) The Office of the Prime Minister and various good Samaritans who insist upon not being named, a further extension of their extreme kindness!. THANK YOU SO MUCH!
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