Give us Barrabas: on the planned and unjustified crucifixion of Bill 6

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Dream Variations (Langston Hughes Series), Benny Andrews

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished.  And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”….

But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

They said, “Barabbas!”

 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”

 
 

Were this not the year of impossibilities becoming possible, scarcely would I have believed that a bill that promises fundamental rights for Grenadian citizens, would be on the brink of crucifixion.

That this bill may die a swift death as a result of deliberate misinformation and untruths peddled by today’s ‘elders’ and ‘chief priests’ is a travesty. Even more troubling is the penchant for those who lead this charge in killing the bill, to be arrogant in their lack of reasoning and so obstinate in their belligerence that they cannot see the irony in claiming that a certain sector of the community is bullying the public into voting yes, when they have themselves been harrying and hounding the public into voting no, with no credible justification (at least none that I have seen).

The story of Barrabas is apposite in this regard. The Jews, having been given the opportunity to vote for Jesus, to have the benefit of a man who would continue to give sight given to the blind, to heal the lame, and to perform miracles, were convinced, at the instigation and persuasion of certain ‘elders’, to vote instead for a man who was a known rioter and criminal. 

The parallels are uncanny today. Grenadian citizens are being assaulted by daily virulent Facebook posts and intimidating social media messages over many weeks and months to vote for Barrabas- i.e. contrary to a bill that accords long overdue rights to them, on the premise that it is their Christian duty to do so.  Doubtless, in my view, voting no is possibly one of the most unchristian and uncharitable acts one can do.

What does a vote for No mean?

I say so because a vote for no means denying some of the most vulnerable and deserving in society, essential rights. Aren’t Christians called to minister to minister to the same?

Voting no is saying that discrimination against disabled people is not deserving of constitutional protection and neither should the principle that men and women should have equal rights and should be treated as such.

Voting no means that government can restrain the press and that discrimination can continue based on party lines such that jobs, scholarships and assistance can be denied to non-party supporters, without any recourse to a remedy. This happens frequently.

Voting no means saying no to basic constitutional rights (including the right to a lawyer) for individuals who are under arrest, when for years the public have been agitating for more police accountability, particularly in the light of the notorious killing of Oscar Bartholomew and the many accounts from members of the public who have been subject to abuses in the prison and judicial system. These are rights that have existed for decades in other countries and it is shameful that we are only just obtaining the benefit.

It is a vote to reject the government exercising financial and fiscal responsibility when so many have had complaints over alleged corruption and wastefulness.

Essentially, voting no means that we prefer to have constitutional rights as we saw them in 1974, and that the last forty years do not matter. This is a sad and disappointing given that another opportunity for constitutional reform is unlikely to come around for decades. If we vote no, we would have chosen to reside in our Janet-house of rights when the world around us has moved on to casting their houses in more sturdy brick.

Why is it important that these rights are protected by the constitution?

Many people are questioning whether the protected rights necessarily need to be protected by the constitution. Elevating these rights to constitutional rights means that these rights are the supreme law of the land, and that they represent our values.

The government would be obliged to legislate in accordance with those rights and any laws that are contrary to those rights would be vulnerable to being struck down. Voting yes therefore empowers Grenadian citizens to be able to take concrete action against discrimination; this can only be a good thing.

The so-called ‘gay agenda’, gender identity and gender equality

I chose to focus on what a ‘no’ vote would mean, because its significance has been overtaken by a number of disingenuous arguments relating to gender equality and a so-called ‘gay agenda’.

In a nutshell, fringe ‘church leaders’ have seized on the term gender equality in Bill 6, and have propagated the view that gender equality somehow provides a route to gay marriage and the accordance of rights to LGBTQ persons.

When asked to articulate their concerns, not one of these leaders appears to be able to explain how this is possible, particularly since (i) the bill does not contain any reference to gay rights at all and (ii) rights based on sexual orientation were expressly excluded in the wording of the bill (based on their rejection at the initial consultation stages).

The opponents have recently changed their tack, and concerns are now apparently expressed that persons may potentially use the bill to suggest that ‘third gender’ protections should be extended to persons who have gender identity issues. With respect, this latest suggestion smacks of desperation and rests on over-exaggeration and  three fallacies, without prejudice to my own personal beliefs.

The exaggeration is that such an extension is entirely hypothetical, and in a population of 100,000, extremely unlikely.  Only 1 in 30,000 people in the West experience gender dysmorphia. To strike down a bill on the basis that at best, approximately 3 persons in Grenada might choose to bring a speculative claim is ludicrous. And to take this argument to its natural conclusion, if this is our position, shouldn’t we deny all other rights such as rights to privacy and rights to sexual and reproductive health access to the entire population, on the off-chance that someone with a lifestyle or a belief with which we do not agree, may take advantage of those rights? The very suggestion of a no vote on this ground is obviously cruel, oppressive  and disproportionate.

On to the fallacies.

First, gender identity is not the same as gender equality and the two are disparate concepts.  A vote for gender equality is not a vote in favour of persons being able to choose or define gender.

Second, no evidence has been put forward that gender equality has been extended universally to person claiming third gender rights. I know of a single case in India where a third gender has been recognised, but this is in light of existing cultural and religious Hindu beliefs in a third gender as of right. Hindu philosophy has the concept of a third sex or third gender (tritiya-prakriti – literally, “third nature”) to encompass people with mixed female and masculine natures. We do not share this culture or religion so a fear of incorporation of this concept is largely unfounded.

Third and finally, although the constitution is interpreted as a living document, it has been completely ignored that the aim of including gender equality rights is to reflect the universal concept enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights since 1948 to mean equal treatment and non-discrimination between women and men.

This has recently been re-articulated by the UN Sustainable Goals. Gender equality, as understood for many decades, is not a principle we ought to be afraid of; its aim is to empower our women and girls in our society so that laws are enacted for equal access to, inter alia, health care, work, pensions and representation in political and economic decision-making. Gender equality is in fact, one of the proud legacies of the Grenada Revolution and we should be proud that it has now made its way into our constitution.

Its constitutionalisation opens a route for, inter alia, improved maternity rights and the implementation of paternity rights, an end to indirect discrimination against women in relation to wages (i.e. jobs that require similar skill sets being paid differently,) and better access to reproductive rights to young women, some of whom may be victims of incest or sexual exploitation. These rights are invaluable.

Conclusion

It is my hope that, tomorrow, citizens of Grenada exercise their rights to vote in an informed manner and that they will realise that there is nothing to fear from the constitutionalisation of fundamental rights, contrary to the instigation of the ‘elders’.  I hope we do not choose Barrabas.

Written by Akima Paul Lambert

Bill 6: Hate and Intolerance Must Not Win

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Painting by William H. Johnson

In recent weeks I have followed with shock and dismay as the discourse concerning the Rights and Freedoms Bill (Bill 6) of the upcoming Grenada Constitution Reform referendum has sunk to depraved depths. There are two elements that have been particularly sad to witness. The first is the indiscriminate spreading of fallacies regarding the bill itself. The second is the intolerance and hate that has dominated the conversation. I will discuss each in turn.

The key trigger that has fermented this homophobic discourse to once again and allowed it to rear its ugly head in our beautiful land is the inclusion of gender equality in Bill 6. Here is where the fallacies and an uncritical public have allowed this discourse to degenerate into what is at best illogical and at worst harmful for everyone involved.

The Rights and Freedoms Bill, while a legislative instrument, is actually written in fairly plain language and should therefore be accessible to most people without expert interpretation. As such, anyone who has taken the time and effort to read the bill will note that the section on gender equality deals exclusively and, in very simplistic terms, with the fact that women should be granted the same rights as men in society. A notion that seems simple and at face value even trivial to some, however, the reason why women’s rights need to be enshrined constitutionally is precisely because on so many levels women are not seen or treated as equals in society.

It is important to note that, in its entirety, the bill does absolutely nothing to open the floodgates, as its critics would have it, to the rights of sexual minorities (e.g. gender neutral persons) and, much less so with any regards to or rights of would be same-sex couples. It therefore beggars belief how some would interpret this portion of the bill to mean anything other than is written in the bill’s plain language. Knowing the prevailing views on homosexuality in Grenadian society, it is even more unlikely that those drafting the bill would have even contemplated to embed such a possibility in the bill in the first place – knowing full well that it would be politically untenable.

This particular fallacy acts as a double-edged sword, and herein lays the true tragedy. Not only do the detractors of Bill 6 ignore, if not diminish, the real issues facing women in Grenadian society but they also ignore the numerous other fundamental rights and freedoms that would be granted to citizens with the passage of this bill. They somehow see the element gender equality as so terrible, so evil that it may on the off chance lead to rights for sexual minorities, which it clearly does not do. In following this perverted fallacy, some are willing rob the rest of society and future generations of even the most basic constitutionally protected rights.

It is here that the fallacies concerning Bill 6 and hate for sexual minorities have mixed to spread like wildfire on social media. Hate is a very strong, visceral word and some of the comments made simply cannot be interpreted otherwise. Any reasonable human being reading such comments should be appalled, those writing them should be ashamed.

It is most unfortunate that this hate and intolerance is being driven, quite vocally in some cases, by a portion of religious groups in our society. The result is utterly paradoxical and perverted: In order to defend the rights of women and the fundamental rights proposed in Bill 6, one is placed in a position that requires detraction from the very rights of the sexual minorities that are not included in the bill.

This is where the unreasonable nature of this discussion becomes downright harmful. We must ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, what we value most. Are the rights of our mothers, daughters and sisters secondary to that of men in society, should their rights not be constitutionally protected? Do we not want the constitutionally protected right to speak to an attorney if arrested by the police? Should those who seek to rightfully challenge the people we vote into power not be constitutionally protected to speak freely without fear of retribution? Do we not desire to protect the vulnerable such as children and those with disabilities and ensure that the highest law in the land constitutionally protects them too? We are a small island nation with limited resources and we depend on our environment for virtually every part of our economy – tourism, fishing, agriculture, and construction. Should the protection of our environment not also be constitutionally protected so as to safeguard our future?

It is important to remind ourselves that these rights, on which as a society we are to vote, are not simply acts of parliament that can be altered or repealed by future administrations but rights that should become constitutionally protected for all. These are the very rights that are fundamental for a healthy democracy and socio-economic development. Yet, there are those who would gladly deny you, your wife, child or disabled relatives those rights on no other basis than fallacious arguments, intolerance and hate.

Written by Nicolas Winkler

No-Vote as Protest – In Defence of Constitutional Reform Part II

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Recently, persons have asked the public to vote no on the proposed constitutional changes in the upcoming referendum. Among these persons is Sen. Ray Roberts, labour representative, who takes issue with government’s failure to address pension related issues for public workers. In his view, a no vote will pressure the government to move on this obviously important issue.

Another ‘no-voter’ is former Attorney-General, Mr. Jimmy Bristol. In an MTV News video outlining his reasons, he draws a distinction between constitutional ‘reform’ and constitutional ‘amendment’ (I’m still scratching my head), says that the reform committee is ‘tampering’ with the constitution, and that the process is really a disguised attempt at replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ as the final court of appeal. On this last point, how ‘disguised’ can it be when that proposal features prominently in national discussions, in various consultations  and in the national Gazette? When – as with all the other proposals – it is open to a national democratic vote? He makes the point that there was no consensus at the Grenada Bar for the Privy Council’s replacement. But, why should a matter which potentially affects every single Grenadian, be hinged on a green light from a legal minority, the same minority which has a right to vote on it, along with every other qualified Grenadian?

Those objections aside, many people take issue with the lack of transparency in the constitutional reform process; I partially agree (lest I be called an NNP propagandist). To illustrate, cabinet has rejected at least one proposal submitted by the committee – a proposal that would allow a Member of Parliament to be removed from their parliamentary appointment by public vote (for bad-behaviour or under-performance in public office) , before the end of an election term. Cabinet did not provide reasons for why this proposal was rejected. Cabinet might say that the committee is an ‘advisory’ committee – that they advise but do not mandate – but this does not change the fact that rejecting proposals by the committee, without providing explanations, is not transparent.

The History of Constitutional Reform

Grenada received its current constitution as a parting gift from old mother Britain at independence; one which the people of soon to be independent Grenada had no say in. This fact reduces the legitimacy of the current constitution in the opinion of some persons, including the late prof. Simeon McIntosh, a Grenadian former Dean of law at the UWI and also a former constitutional commissioner.

Since our independence in 1974 this is the 4th attempt to birth a constitution that is truly ours. the previous attempts in 1984, 2002 and 2013 stalemated for various reasons, the last one (in 2013) died along with Prof. Simeon McIntosh who was spearheading it, may he Rest In Power.

The Current Reform Process

Part 2 of the Constitution lays the parliamentary procedure for changing the constitution. It mandates that there be a 2/3rds majority parliamentary support as well as a 2/3rds majority national support (hence the referendum). Importantly, the committee and parliament has organised the referendum such that the issues will be voted on more or less individually, eliminating the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water, or having to drink the fly with the juice.

Parliament gets its power to make provisions for the referendum from section 39(5)(c) of the current constitution. However, the constitution does not prescribe what the general reform process should be. It does not prescribe who should establish a reform committee, who should be on the committee, or anything about a reform committee at all. In fact, beyond the current constitution giving parliament the power to manage the referendum, and the Referendum Act which sets the technical requirements (like timelines), there is nothing which establishes protocols for a constitutional reform process.

In fairness to the government, they have assembled a commission which diversely represents the major national sectors and interests. The government has a seat, the opposition HAD a seat (they pulled their representative from the committee last year), civil society has a seat, the Grenada Bar has a seat, the OECS Bar has a seat, the business sector has a seat, the Min. of Youth has a seat, the Min. of Legal Affairs has a seat, the Media Workers Association has a seat, Carriacou and Petite Martinique has a seat, the churches have two. Also in fairness to the government, despite the claims by some that the reform process carries an NNP agenda, at least 2 of the proposals specifically favour the current opposition. These are (1) the proposed term limits for the Prime Minister, and (2) the proposal that would ensure there is always an official leader of the opposition in the Lower House (usually occupied by persons winning constituency seats), even where the opposition has won no seats (as is currently the case). In other words, this proposal secures the place of the leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives as of right.

Some people, including leader of the Opposition, Sen. Nazim Burke say that there has not been enough discussions or consultations on constitutional reform. I also partially agree. However, I reject the attempts to heap all blame for this on the government or on the reform committee. In 2014 alone there were at least 50 public engagements by the committee islandwide. These have been advertised on TV, radio, newspaper and social media. Some of these have been call in TV and radio programs. There were also consultations with the Grenadian diaspora in the USA. Video clips from the majority of local town-hall consultations show poor attendance. Recently on my facebook feed, I have seen much more commentary from Grenadians about the US presidential elections, than about Grenadian constitutional reform. The sad truth is, many people don’t care about constitutional reform, neither do they care about understanding or engaging the process. Forget bringing the horse to the water, the water is being brought to the horse(s); the horses cutting style.


What’s in a Constitution?

A constitution, simply put, is the Supreme law of the land. It sets out the principles according to which the State of Grenada is governed. To illustrate, it establishes our geographic territory, the name of the state and the procedures for governance and making laws. It also establishes the high public offices and the rules around them. In short, it is the single most significant legal document in Grenada.

Importantly, the constitution also establishes the rights people in Grenada have, and provides a mechanism for getting justice when rights are violated. Some will re-call the recent pensions case in which the high court of Grenada ruled that the Pensions Act was unconstitutional because it fell below the constitutionally protected standard of pension (one might loosely say a constitutional ‘right to pension’). The Act disqualified public workers who began service after 1983 from pension. Some may re-call the Gairy case in which the daughter of Sir Eric Gairy, brought an action to recover compensation for the confiscation of some of Gairy’s land by the People’s Revolutionary Government. The Privy Council ordered compensation, holding that the confiscation violated property rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The Constitution also guarantees a right to work. It is this right to work which public workers rely upon to take the government to court when they feel they have been victimized by being fired or displaced. These are just a few of the rights, guaranteed by the constitution which people rely on to challenge the government.

It is also important to understand what a constitution is not. Sen. Ray Roberts, in explaining his no-vote says that the commissioners should have been instructed by the Prime Minister to deal with the issue of pensions. This exposes a misconception of what a constitution does. Nothing in the proposed amendments interferes with the ‘right to pension’ (loosely speaking) guaranteed by the current constitution. If anything, the issue of pensions needs to be addressed through ordinary legislation in the parliament – which the goodly senator is a part of. The non-payment of pensions and the lack of an effective pension scheme are essentially legislative matters, that isn’t the constitution’s or the committee’s responsibility to fix. Perhaps Sen. Roberts can sponsor a bill for an amendment of the Pensions Act and rally the support of his parliamentary colleagues. That is a much more practical way of getting the change he desires. A constitution is concerned with big principles of broad application. It does not seek to regulate the smaller details of public life. Ordinary legislation can be thought of as the hench-men sorting out these smaller details.


No-Vote as Protest

I believe that Senator Roberts is a decent men with good intentions. I distinguish him from the feisty rabble-rousers claiming that the proposals don’t offer “real change” – without suggesting what that would look like constitutionally. At the heart of Sen. Roberts’ no-vote, I get the sense that he is protesting, not any of the proposals per se, but governmental inefficiencies. He is encouraging No-vote as protest. This is not a new tactic.

In 2009, St. Vincent and the Grenadines underwent a similar constitution reform process. The opposition party – the NDP, led a heavy campaign asking people to vote no. None of the arguments had anything to do with the actual proposals themselves. In fact, part of their campaign was to produce video shorts with snippets of people explaining why they were voting no. None of the explanations critiqued the proposals. They ranged from “people suffering”, to “government corruption”, to how expensive the process was. On that last point, some said that the amount spent – 4.4 million dollars – was a waste of money. I can’t help but call out the circular irony here. The same people who complained that spending 4.4 million dollars on constitutional reform was a waste of money, made sure it was a waste of money by voting no. In a tragic waste of money, resources and more importantly, opportunity to reform the country’s founding principles – including its human rights, the no-vote succeeded 55.29% to 43.17 %.

Like the government of St. Vincent in 2009, the government of Grenada has also spent a ton of money in this constitutional reform process; at  least 1.5 million dollars. There has also been a ton of money and technical assistance provided by organisations like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Like St. Vincent, this constitutional reform is an expensive but excellent opportunity to update our archaic but supreme law.

I support people’s right to protest, especially when there are real grievances – like the pensions issue, which I agree needs to be addressed. However in the context, there are more useful ways to do so; ways that that do not frustrate a process which is very expensive, long overdue and which stands to bring tremendous benefits to the people of Grenada.

Any invitation to vote-no arbitrarily is an invitation to squander resources and opportunity. On October 27th, reject the no-vote naysayers. Let us not cut off the nose to spite the face.

Richie Maitland – Human Rights Lawyer & Grenadian

The Sky Isn’t Failling: In Defence of Constitutional Reform Part I


cropped-cropped-cropped-realgroundationlogo1.jpgGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.

 

The Sky Isn’t Falling: In Defence of Constitutional Reform Part I

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Who remembers the story of Henny-Penny and Turkey-Lurkey? The popular children’s story goes – Henny Penny was walking down the road when an acorn falls on his head. He concludes that the sky is falling and frantically starts spreading the news, creating panic and attracting an ever-growing string of animals in his chorus – Turkey-Lurkey being one of them. In the end, they all get eaten by a fox, who lures them away into a den under the promise of safety.

They say life imitates art. This is true; at least in the context of constitutional reform in Grenada and some of the stories that are being spun. Devon Rachae (I don’t know what hit him on his head) jumped up proclaiming skyfall. The Bill of Rights he says on Facebook, is a “sinister plan” to introduce gay marriage through a “loophole” – which he does not specify. He says that the full-gospel churches have unanimously agreed to vote no on the Rights and Freedoms Bill and that “we can’t all be wrong on this”. YES YOU CAN. Religious leaders are not immune to fallacy, neither does consensus make them right. “We can’t all be wrong” is known in philosophy as the ‘argumentum ad populum’ (argument from popularity), a fallacious argument that concludes that something is true because many or most people believe it. “We can’t all be wrong about the earth being at the center of the universe” (said religious leaders in the 17th century). So sure were they in their consensus, that Galileo Galilei, the father of modern physics who argued that it was the sun and not the earth at the center of the universe, was imprisoned for life. Today we accept Galileo’s proposition as absolute truth.

Like Turkey-Lurkey, Kem Jones, an NDC activist, hears the commotion and joins the chorus, even adding his 2 cents, pointing menacingly at the gender equality provisions, saying on his Facebook page that they “promote homosexuality” – he too doesn’t specify.

I suspect that Jones, an aspiring political commentator for the opposition, wishes to frustrate the reform process so that the NNP can’t claim it as part of their political legacy. I suspect that Rachae, an aspiring pastor-man, wishes to build pastor-man legitimacy; to whip up fervour in the same way DJ’s do at parties when the vibes is dry. The tactic is the same – condemn homosexuals; appeal to an ever receding pocket of ignorance about sexual minorities. It’s a self-serving and dangerous exercise of power.

The Big Bad Bill of Rights

So what exactly is the ‘Bill of Rights’ and what is being proposed ? The Bill of Rights is that part of the constitution which expressly sets out the rights we have, as well as the mechanisms for getting justice when those rights are violated. The proposed reforms seek to strengthen the human rights protections which people currently enjoy. Namely, they:-

  1. Include ‘disability’, ‘religion’, ‘gender’, ‘ethnicity’ and ‘social class’ into the prohibited categories of discrimination. As the amendment bill makes clear, the changes will bring our constitution in line with the CARICOM Charter of Social Rights, which Grenada, along with every other CARICOM country has already committed to.
  2. Expressly guarantee freedom of the press as part of the wider right to freedom of expression.
  3. Make limitations on human rights subject to due process of the law. I.e they say that people’s rights can only be interfered with in the public interest where that interference is non-arbitrary in substance and fair in process.
  4. Expressly protect people’s rights to their intellectual property – songs, drawings, rolly-polly dance,… I dunno, etc
  5. Expressly guarantee the right of a person who is arrested or detained to communicate with their lawyer
  6. Expressly guarantee equality before the law and equal protection of the law for all people
  7. Introduce a right to be treated ‘humanely’ as well as ‘equally’ by all government institutions
  8. Expressly guarantee the equality of all children, including those born out of wedlock
  9. Expressly guarantee special entitlements to disabled children
  10. Expressly guarantee a right of all children to a publicly funded education

Rachae, Jones and others promoting a No Vote would rather see ALL of these benefits down the gutter; would rather see disabled people, children, women, ethnic minorities, artistes, poor people and religious people, stay without the benefit of these protections, than in their view, admit any possibility that homosexuals could get rights. A friend in a facebook post calls this “the most unchristian thing [she has] ever seen”.

Big Bad Gender Equality

The proposed amendments (Chapter 1B), introduce measures to recognize and protect the equality of women with men. The first thing to note is that the amendment is careful to define the key terms in ways which prevent the provisions from being used to extend rights to homosexuals. ‘Gender’ is defined as “the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, male and female” and ‘gender equality’ “reflects the view that men and women should receive equal treatment and should not be discriminated against based on gender”. In other words Gender does not refer to gender identity or sexual orientation and gender equality does not mean anything other than equality between men and women. The drafters of the bill were keen to ensure that the sections can’t be used to win rights for LGBT people. Perhaps they anticipated and tried to preempt the kind of self-righteous panic that still came, despite their efforts.

Definitions aside, let’s look at what the gender equality proposals actually say. They guarantee, as between men and women:-

  1. Equal rights and status in all aspects of life, but especially in economic, educational, political, civic and social activities
  2. Equal access to academic, vocational and professional training; and equal opportunities in employment and promotion
  3. Equal pay
  4. Equal access to justice
  5. Equal opportunities to be elected or appointed to public office and to be eligible for appointment to positions of decision-making bodies at all levels of the society
  6. Equal legal protection; including just and effective remedies, against domestic violence, sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
    They Also:-
  7. Protect women from being discriminated against by reason of pregnancy or marital status
  8. Encourage the state to domesticate treaties promoting gender equality
  9. Encourage parliament to pass laws to correct inequalities between men and women
  10. Encourage political parties to promote gender equality; including by appointing more women to key positions like the House of Representatives, Senate, etc.

Maybe the importance of constitutional gender equality provisions isn’t obvious. A 2015 Global Study by the World Economic Forum places the Caribbean behind most other regions in gender equality. We only surpass 2 regions – Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East and North Africa – nothing to boast about. Grenada does not feature individually in this study. Grenada does however feature individually in another study conducted by the Royal Commonwealth Society in 2011. Here, Grenada ranks 23rd (in the Commonwealth – not the world). Compared to other CARICOM countries, we fall behind Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St. Lucia, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, The Bahamas, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Belize (in order of ranking). In other words, for gender equality,  Grenada is one of the worst performing CARICOM countries and the 2nd to last worst performing OECS country. Given this reality, one would think that people would jump, clap and catch the spirit for the gender equality proposals; instead of encouraging people to reject them, but alas.

Let Henny-Penny and Turkey-Lurkey beat their bells and bawl. Please, PLEASE, don’t join their bacchanal. Don’t be lured into the den of foolishness, under the promise of safety. The sky isn’t falling.

Get the information for yourself at www.grenadaconstitutionreform.com. Vote yes on Referendum Day 27th October 2016 and strengthen human rights protections in Grenada. Vote yes and affirm the equal rights of women.

Richie Maitland – Human Rights Lawyer & Grenadian

 

Read Next: No-Vote as Protest: In Defence of Constitutional Reform Part II


cropped-cropped-cropped-realgroundationlogo1.jpgGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.

Cassie Quarless, a London-based Grenadian featured in upcoming Third Horizon Caribbean Film Festival

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Generation Revolution is a feature-length documentary film, which follows an exciting new breed of activist organisations as well as the young Londoners that are part of them. It is an official selection of the inaugural Third Horizon Film Festival in Miami, FL. It will be screened at 4:00pm Oct 1st 2016 at the O Cinema Wynwood, 90 NW 29th St, Miami, FL 33127.

Co-directed by London-based Grenadian Cassie Quarless and Usayd Younis, Generation Revolution brings to screen the powerful story of a new generation of black and brown activists who are changing the social and political landscape in the capital and beyond. It vividly chronicles the evolution of its characters as they experience personal and political awakenings, breakthroughs and, at times, disillusionment. The film offers a unique and original glimpse into the rewarding but difficult path that must be trodden in the struggle for personal, social and political liberation.

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Jason Fitzroy Jeffers a Miami-based writer and filmmaker from Barbados is the founder of Third Horizon, a collective of Caribbean filmmakers, musicians and artists. This fall, the inaugural Third Horizon Film Festival will be held in Miami, bringing the best in film from the Caribbean and its diaspora to South Florida. It is being coordinated in partnership with the Caribbean Film Academy, a Brooklyn-based not-for-profit organizationis focused on promoting and sharing the art of storytelling through film from the unique perspective of the Caribbean. The Third Horizon Film festival will take place from September 29 to October 2.

 


cropped-cropped-cropped-realgroundationlogo1.jpgGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change. We are a co-founder of Grenada Community Library & Resource Centre.

Roopa Kaushik-Brown’s Artist Residency – Week 4 Blog Post

Visiting artist & healer Roopa Kaushik-Brown’s reflection at the end of her month long residency in Grenada. 

Every place I’ve travelled in the world, Indians and Africans live together, but don’t co-exist strategically.  Usually, the Indians and Arabs own the small businesses where everyone has to shop, but outside of that economic wedge, will live side by side with black folks.  We have so many reasons to not be so convinced by divide and conquer, and yet, everywhere we are, divide and conquer rules the day.  I have always believed in black and brown solidarity.  I will continue to work towards black and brown solidarity being more of a thing.  Being in Grenada affirmed this soul directive.  It was a blessing to spend a month in a strong, proud black country, especially while the U.S. is imploding with denial and anti-black and brown violence.  My black and brown family grew so much, right down to the breath, to breathing better, and being better to self.  I believe in the expansiveness of the breath, and of our abilities to subvert divide and conquer mechanisms in place, somehow, someway.

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I walked into the Carenage Cafe, and fell in love with the old school wall map that adorns one side of the venue.  What really stole my heart?  It uses our true name, Bharat, and it depicts a time before partition.  I rarely see maps that use our real name.  It was moving.  I inquired about the map, and the kind manager furrowed her brow as she tried to recall.  She said it came with the building, which was built by Italians around the late 19th century/early 20th century.  Italians, so that is why all the city and country names are spelled so well, with so much fidelity to true pronunciation.  There is none of the awkward lack of lyricism that plagues most, for example, British maps of India.  How sweet it is to be called by your true name.  How important it is to remember, and resurrect. 

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Yoga is often translated as union, or yoke.  But it is also a disunion, from all patterns of suffering.  Yoga is liberation, and liberation means it is both personal and political.  Prison yoga sessions have become oddly popular yoga service offerings in the States.  Oddly, only because these offerings overwhelmingly feature white folks at the helm; leading the classes, running the prison yoga teacher trainings.  There is essentially a total white out at every step of the way in prison yoga, except for the incarcerated folks themselves, who are almost exclusively black and brown.  This is a strange phenomenon but unsurprising, given how deep white saviorism tropes run.  The prison yoga teacher in the hit Netflix show Orange is the New Black, is a new-agey white woman, but this is just one example of a truly imbalanced on the ground phenomenon.  Liberation means yoga, and yoga means liberation, and all of this means that prison yoga is a particularly ripe ground for the practice.  All of the white out in prison yoga in the states made it such a valued experience to attend and lead a prison yoga session with Uncle Ferron Lowe and the Spice Harmony Yoga Prison Outreach Program in Grenada.  So special to see a prison yoga teacher in whom the incarcerated people can see themselves reflected.  So moving to be present alongside those who strive for liberation in ways I never have, such as from the reality of physical cages.  I learned deeply about the practice, and for that I am always and ever in gratitude. 

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1422617_10152066697306663_1790595049_nRoopa Kaushik-Brown
Groundation Grenada Artist-in-Residence

Roopa works at the intersection of art, healing and social justice. She is a visual artist, certified pre-natal yoga instructor, doula and a new mom. She is also a licensed attorney and PhD student in Justice and Social Inquiry PhD at the School of Social Transformation (ASU). Her research areas include critical race theory and racial mobilities in law, hip-hop, and the contemplative practices. She holds a B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, with a certificate in South Asian Studies, from the University of Pittsburgh, a JD from Boalt School of Law, and an MA in Cinema Studies from NYU. In 2003, Roopa launched SAAPYA (South Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America) via an ongoing series of groundbreaking panels and arts residencies elevating the voices of South Asian diasporic artists, activists, and academics talking yoga, race, cosmopolitanisms and cultural wars. www.roopakb.com

 

Akiera Xavina Charles’ Writer Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

Visiting writer Akiera Xavina Charles reflects about another week as Groundation Grenada writer resident. She joins us as a recipient of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights.

As pesky period cramps rolled in last week, I braced myself for the tidal wave of emotions that always follow it – grumpy face greeted by easily agitated body meets erratic mood swings, occasional sadness, tear drops and feelings of isolation.
I knew the worst was yet to come.
I then waited
and held my breath.

8…7 …6 .. uhhh … 5…4…3

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Surprisingly, I did not cry a lot as expected last week; I enjoyed my own company – just chilling alone and relaxing in Darbeau, Grenada.
Rather using most of my time getting angry
at folks’ Facebook posts,
enviously admiring others’ Instagram pictures,
as well as,
chatting on the cell to my mammy, boo-thang and friends,
apart of my soul ached
by this week-long moment of nothingness – frivol unproductiveness.

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Everyday I imagine myself doing …
something ground breaking like developing a new skill, writing a lot, reading an entire book in one day, discovering the magical serum that could finally grow my nappy 4C hair, finding a bomb ass Fulbright topic, collaborating with all those amazing young hippie Insta-famous artists, being the next Octavia Butler, learning how to swim, finally shaving my legs etc.

However, none of these things have happened yet – failure still looms all over my face.

But how can I be here, but not there?
My Black communities are in mourning; my POC queer community are still suffering. Please ancestors how can I be here?
Through my month long stay, I have learned
that Grenada is not a place of paradise.
I cried many nights hating upon my father’s sins and lies; despising
both old and young Grenada men – those who were taught to thrive and find
ownership over any woman’s “saltfish.”

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Brethren who have taught you to be this way?
Why do you whisper me “hello” when most “hellos” in my life have been laced in threats of rape, fucking me, hurting me, using me, wanting me, and hurting me again.

I don’t trust any of your “ hellos”
Black men you have failed me.
Grenadian men you have failed me.
Father you have failed me.

Is it ok to say I longer trust “the male centered opinion?” I no longer have patience to listen to those who cry endangerment unto the Black man.
Do you have patience?

Black man open your eyes, we are all grieving here.
Fuck the Hotep Niggas because I already disowned y’all ass.

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Because I am in search of a sisterhood …
I showed up with a smile on my face that day. Of course, this smile was conjured as I silently fought away period cramps and mood swings, but as soon as laughter filled the outside space of the Priory, I adopted a newly improved spunk. Excitement filled my face as I watch these women talk about how “saltfish” is remembered. In particular, after listening to songs like “Jab Jab Salt fish,” “Cukus Bag” and “In Yoh Panty,” we questioned which part of our bodies wanted to move the most and dabbled away with our pens and paper as why it moved or did not move. We shared in similar feelings of discomfort having to write about an intimate body part, yet through support and laughter we managed to have a good, productive gathering.

 


FullSizeRender (2)Akiera Xavina Charles
Groundation Grenada Writer-in-Residence

Hailing from the concrete jungle an ocean away in the overly gentrified, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Akiera is a Grenadian born, mango-loving, queer woman.  As a 2015-2016 recipient of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights, Akiera has been selected by her institution, New York University’s (NYU) Gallatin School of Individualized Study to take part in documenting the dreams, desires, and experiences of women loving women in Grenada. Her research delves into the realms of afro-futurism, magical realism and speculative fiction. Feel free to poke and prod her with questions about creative writing stuff, survival as a queer twenty-something year old, love, sex and any other random ‘destroy white supremacy’ tidbits.

Roopa Kaushik-Brown’s Artist Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Visiting artist & healer Roopa Kaushik-Brown reflects on the beginnings of her Groundation Grenada residency. She shares insights from her trips around the island and from Healing Through Parenthood, Roopa’s workshop for new/expecting parents in Grenada. 

 

serenity.  a thing to aspire to.  the water vessels at the carenage are named to honor god, women, hopes and dreams, and serenity; a state of being we can all achieve, with great effort and confidence.  of course, liberation for all helps.

 

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belmont estate is a top destination spot in grenada.  it is a former plantation, and as with all plantation tourism, that fact makes the place lowkey creepy, no matter how nice the grounds are now.  for example, we had an amazing chocolate tasting of bars and even coco tea made from cacao beans grown right on the estate.  however, just prior to this deliciousness, i learned that this estate served as the ellis island for all indian laborers brought over in servitude to grenada. like belmont was the clearing ground and distribution site for 100% of the desi diaspora on the island.  for the month of june i was doing grant funded archival research in dc on india, yoga, early tourism and colonialisms at the smithsonian, the library of congress, and howard university.  i found ship records unearthing forced servitude of indians during that search too, from the east india company.  this photo is from some of the archives i saw at the on site museum at belmont.  just the names of the ships alone are enough to make me want to write a book of poems.

 

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on sunday, july 17, i held space for new parenthood at spice harmony yoga studio.  it was the first in my set of workshops as an artist in residence with groundation grenada.  as a child of diaspora, i don’t take this opportunity to teach in another, new to me country lightly.  it was very special to hear stories from a beautiful new mom, to make space for her to write, to read her writing, and hear my own experiences of motherhood reflected in her voice.  our babies played together in the yoga studio, bathed in purple, gleaming wood and fresh breeze.  this coming sunday, we will take our writings, blend them with writing from other new parents, and envision a zine together (a zine is a creative, self authored booklet). you are welcome to join us. here is a peak at the new parenthood writing being created:

 

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i am always amazed by the resiliency of writing.  it is there, ready to begin again with every single letter we etch onto paper, or press down on on the keyboard.  writing is there for me, even when i wish i had more time, writing is with me, willing me to keep on, word by word, page by page, and book by book.  when i was pregnant, my creative energy shifted inward, growing big in my cocoon.  now, i am happy to be in a doctoral program wherein rigorous writing is expected.  it is a blessing to be in a practice; a writing practice, a yoga practice, a guitar practice, a mindful mothering practice.  even and especially when life’s demands make it hard to find serenity, it is a blessing to be in practice.  and, emphatically, a blessing to be present, and here in grenada.  shout out to my partner reese, we just celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on the 19th at bathaway beach.  love is such a brave, brave thing.  i’m so honored to be brave, together.

 

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1422617_10152066697306663_1790595049_nRoopa Kaushik-Brown
Groundation Grenada Artist-in-Residence

Roopa works at the intersection of art, healing and social justice. She is a visual artist, certified pre-natal yoga instructor, doula and a new mom. She is also a licensed attorney and PhD student in Justice and Social Inquiry PhD at the School of Social Transformation (ASU). Her research areas include critical race theory and racial mobilities in law, hip-hop, and the contemplative practices. She holds a B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, with a certificate in South Asian Studies, from the University of Pittsburgh, a JD from Boalt School of Law, and an MA in Cinema Studies from NYU. In 2003, Roopa launched SAAPYA (South Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America) via an ongoing series of groundbreaking panels and arts residencies elevating the voices of South Asian diasporic artists, activists, and academics talking yoga, race, cosmopolitanisms and cultural wars. www.roopakb.com

Akiera Xavina Charles’ Writer Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Visiting writer Akiera Xavina Charles reflects about her Groundation Grenada residency thus far. She writes about this first journey back to Grenada since she left at age five. She also writes about the first events that she hosted as part of her Dreaming Sexuality of Grenadian Women & Girls creative writing series. Akiera is a recipient of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights.

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As the plane skidded down the tarmac, I dreamt of Mexican Avocadoes.

If only Grenada had the creamy

veggie tasting avocadoes I buy in the States.

This tropical, fruity avocado is not cutting it.

Sheesh …

Being in Grenada is very uncomfortable for me.

I feel my privilege everywhere I go. As my mashed up southern drawl meets New York Black millennial slang with a touch of Caribbean somewhere in between, I still feel unable to fully fit in here. Either my too glammed up attire, iphone or my doubled nose piercings give me away as a foreigner or indicate my class.

However, since most Black millennial women in New York typically look like me when it comes to fashion aesthetics, all this unwarranted attention I have gotten feels scary and unnecessary.  Sometimes I feel the eyes of those secondary school girls zoom in on me when I walk pass Andall Shopping Center in Town. Somehow I guess their taking note of my sunglass, shoes, lipstick, demeanor, and face; but still I feel uncomfortable.

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from: DutyMan101@yahoo.com
to: axc210@nyu.edu
subject: What’s Your Nationality 

What this gyal better not be Grenadian. Wow … she cannot be Grenadian, she does not answer back to me when I told her of how hard I want to fuck her and make her cum all over her herself. I made sure to turn around in the bus seat so she could see that I was talking to her, but still no response came from her mouth. This rude ass gyal could not have been Grenadian. How dare she not respond back to me.

Much Love,

Bold Disgusting Man From Bus # 5 to Town

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Anyways I felt super awkward presenting about my residency during Yoga/Film Night.

Since all eyes were on me waiting for my magical facilitating skills to come alive. I felt my nervous lips quiver as I read aloud part of Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ short story in Octavia Brood. Once four minutes passed of me still reading aloud from the book, I was sure everyone had lost interest in whatever I was saying. Yet, perhaps my initial facilitating style was to blame, since my readings came off as too teacher-like and  “jargony.” Currently, I am looking for “afro-futurism focused lesson” plans for additional help in simplifying and condensing my material; however, the developing stages for these lessons plans are still a work in progress. In this sense, I thought cultural barriers made it difficult to explain afro-futurism, but as my writing friend from NYC recommended – these writing series should be more interactive and relatable.

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from: GrenadianWoman1@gmail.com
to: axc210@nyu.edu
subject: Re: Note To Bourgeoisie Black American 

This seems impossible: this writing/memories
series thing. She said that something about
“Af-fruit-or-ism,” but what exactly does that
mean? We Grenadians don’t do those sort of
things. Perhaps she should have gone to
Africa instead to do this writing series.

xoxo,
Grenadian Woman 1

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I have been holding my tongue, thus far,
to survive.

Still unfamiliar with Grenada’s law, I fear being that “ignorant, entitled” Black American who is too sensitive about Grenadian sensibilities; too quick
to revolutionize about everything. Sometimes I wonder whether
it’s my place to critique as harshly as I do about
sexual harassment, fat-phobia, colorism and patriarchy in Grenada.
If people are used
to coddling men desires in Grenada
I then don’t know where
exactly my politics would fit in this Island.

While wanting to “licks” every man
who brother me with their “sweet talk” or cast shunning eyes
at dark-skinned sistas, wide-nosed sistas,
nappy hair sistas, fat sistas, masculine centered sistas,
women-loving-sistas and other
sistas who make colonialism
uncomfortable,
I recognize how my love, pussy and eggs
serves as a passage ways to the U.S., economic and job security and patriarchal dabs (ouch).

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from: axc210@nyu.edu
to: anescro@gmail.com
subject: Re: Electricity & WaterMummy for the longest I wondered why Grenadians were “bitchy” about turning off their lights. You know already I am fond of brightly lit rooms. Anyhow I over heard someone last week saying that electricity is expensive in Grenada, can you imagine? Shesssh … I miss having bright lights and hot water.Love & Light,
Akiera

 

from: anescro@gmail.com
to: axc210@nyu.edu
Re: Electricity & WaterAkiera stop sounding like a privileged brat. If you actually paid the electricity bill in NYC, you would not say such things. Expenses are different in Grenada.Love,
Mummy

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from: axc210@nyu.edu
to: anescro@gmail.com
subject: Re: Electricity & WaterSo is this why my Grenadian father always get a pass from his responsibilities, like paying for part of my college tuition? Why does he think 60 USD is enough to take care of me every month in the States, especially in NYC? That’s around 162 EC. Idk … how to feel Mummy, I understand he is trying, but Grenadian survival money is a different amount in comparison to the States.Love & Light,
Akiera

 

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DSC_0643Last week’s writing workshop was the first in the series.

It was actually super chill and spectacular.

Everyone present was warm, kind and extremely fun to be around. Interestingly, moments before setting up for the first session, I was struggling up market hill in Town while carrying four bags full of supplies. Anyhow by the time I got into front of the Priory, I had done sweated out my edges and was blessed with help handing hands from one of the participants. Fortunately, as soon as we set up the space for the workshop more people trickle in. With the backyard location almost feeling like a picture from Solange’s wedding photos, the vibes of the space immediately turned black girl magical. There was so much laughter and smiles in the space that spoke wonders to my kindred spirit. Eventually, introductions led into random conversations about various sexual orientations, asexual desires, lipsticks and Broadway shows. We wrote letters, talked about our least favorite animals, whispered in each other’s ear and wrote responses to how we imagine Grenadian women.

This day was special, magical and peaceful.

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from: grenadianwoman2@gmail.com
to: axc210@nyu.edu
Re: Mission Fatness Failure in year 4000Ehhh … I though you were going to be fat as a cow, like how your mudtha was. Remember when you last came to Grenada in year 1000 you were “big, big like a whale.” Gyal what happened, I wanted you to be disgusting, obese and ugly, but shessh … those dreams did not come true.xoxo,
Grenadian Woman 2

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Akiera Xavina Charles
Groundation Grenada Writer-in-Residence

Hailing from the concrete jungle an ocean away in the overly gentrified, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Akiera is a Grenadian born, mango-loving, queer woman.  As a 2015-2016 recipient of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights, Akiera has been selected by her institution, New York University’s (NYU) Gallatin School of Individualized Study to take part in documenting the dreams, desires, and experiences of women loving women in Grenada. Her research delves into the realms of afro-futurism, magical realism and speculative fiction. Feel free to poke and prod her with questions about creative writing stuff, survival as a queer twenty-something year old, love, sex and any other random ‘destroy white supremacy’ tidbits.

Meet Roopa Kaushik-Brown – Groundation’s Artist-in-Residence

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Roopa Kaushik-Brown works at the intersection of art, healing and social justice. She is a visual artist, certified pre-natal yoga instructor, doula and a new mom. She is also a licensed attorney and PhD student in Justice and Social Inquiry PhD at the School of Social Transformation (ASU). Roopa will be hosting two very special workshops at Spice Harmony Yoga Studio Grenada this month – “Pre Carnival Yoga Sessions: For Focus, Freedom, Flexibility” and “Healing Through Parenthood”, a two part workshop for new & soon-to-be parents. Find out more & Register