More Jobs But at What Cost?

:: by Kimalee Phillip:: 
 
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Photo: Migrant Workers, 1935 by Granger 

In the April 17th issue of Now Grenada Mr. Lincoln Depradine’s wrote an article titled, “More Jobs in Canada for Grenadians” yet the article failed to address any concrete issues or strategies on what that actually means. Instead, it read as a running tally of Mr. Theodore Blaize’s many accolades. It is great that Mr. Blaize has accomplished so much while living in Canada but I think it is important to actually address what should have been the focus of the article – an interrogation into how current migration policies create precarious work environments for Grenadian people seeking work in Canada.

Mr. Blaize is suggesting that elected Grenadian officials work with the Canadian government to increase the number of seasonal farm workers and personal support worker positions available to Grenadians. That approach is therefore calling for more workers to be classified under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and the Live-in Caregiver Program, both of which fall under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). TFWP is a government classification that the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), amongst other labour unions, and numerous community organizations have insisted needs to be reformed, whereas some have argued for complete dismantlement. The uproar about TFWP is because it promotes ongoing racist and discriminatory practices that target migrant workers. The TFWP specifically targets the recruitment of racialized people from the Global South, particularly Mexico, the Philippines and the Caribbean and once having arrived, these workers are denied many basic rights, pathways to permanent residency and citizenship regardless of the number of tireless years spent working in Canada.

It is important that I acknowledge the very real and distressful economic positions that many Grenadians are faced with, at home and abroad. Some may argue, “a job is a job” but that can’t be further from the truth; not when power and subjugation are involved. If a job was indeed just a job, many Canadians would be flocking to become seasonal agricultural workers, personal support workers and live-in caregivers but they’re not. They’re not flocking to these positions because workers in these positions experience alarming and disproportionate incidences of workplace violence, harassment, discrimination and intimidation. The systems of redress that would otherwise be afforded to a non-migrant worker are usually denied or granted in a piecemeal fashion, rendering any action taken virtually ineffective as a result.

It would also be remiss of me to not recognize the multiple violent and inequitable processes and systems that force people to desperately cross imperial borders, which are imaginary and imposed. It is because of these imaginary borders that some bodies are marked as “legal” and others as “illegal”. As a result of state-imposed wars, civil unrest, gender-based violence, homophobia and transphobia, dire poverty, environmental degradation and a lack of economic justice, many are pushed out of their home countries and forced to risk their lives, seeking better alternatives.

Samantha Ponting of Rankandfile.ca:

“It’s disgraceful that so many migrant workers are only welcomed into Canada as long as they are able to fulfill the precarious, often dangerous work Canadian employers assign them. Once a migrant worker is injured, our system discards them.”

According to 2013 data provided by the World Bank, Grenada owed $585,619,000 USD dollars in external debt. As of July 2013, Grenada’s debt had reached 100% of its national income. Current and past government have tried to address the magnitude of debt faced by the country and so the current economic state of Grenada is not so much due to mismanagement and lack of financial literacy but is also due to ongoing financial policies, free-trade agreements and political decisions that stagnate the possibilities of any real economic transformation. The current economic policies ensure Grenada’s dependence on other nations, slashes public services and supports the migration of citizens seeking better options elsewhere.

Blaize’s call for support is happening at a time when the Canadian state is increasing its efforts to not only reduce the number of migrant workers entering, but to also ensure that they remain in precarious economic positions. This move significantly impacts migrant workers’ ability to build whole, self-reliant lives in Canada and to support their families and communities abroad. The Canadian government recently introduced the “4 and 4” rule where all migrant workers in Canada in low-waged jobs and on Temporary Foreign Worker or Live-In Caregiver permits will be barred from working in the country for more than four years. This arbitrary and discriminatory policy will leave many migrant workers undocumented if they choose to stay, which ultimately affects them being able to reunite with their families abroad. This is in spite of many migrant workers having accessed the program and having worked in Canada on a long-term basis. These very workers who continue to help build Canada will now experience what is a mass deportation.

The main premise of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program is to use cheap, indentured and predominantly racialized labour to address shortfalls in the Canadian labour market. It is not based on principles of equality and fairness; in fact it reinforces global economic disparities that keep poor countries poor and wealthy countries wealthy. Further, these workers are usually at risk for experiencing injuries and other safety issues on the job. The safety and healthcare systems that are in place for many other non-migrant workers or immigrant workers in other sectors, is not afforded to temporary migrant workers in the same way.

Samantha Ponting: “Workers are sent back to their home countries with injuries that in many cases, leave the worker in a more precarious economic situation than when they arrived to Canada. Meanwhile, employers are held largely unaccountable for these injustices.”

The Canadian government claims that all workers under these programs will be treated fairly and with the same workplace safety standards afforded to Canadian workers but in actuality this is not the case. Migrant workers are treated differently and are of ten not afforded due processes when violations and workplace safety issues are flagged. The Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) which provides compensation and support to workers injured on the job, is an employer-driven program which has seen millions of dollars in cuts and ineffective servicing to workers. Further, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which provides free health care to those living in Ontario, is terminated every year on Dec. 15 for migrant workers.

“While migrant workers in Ontario are eligible for benefits under the WSIB, systemic barriers are preventing them from receiving adequate medical attention for workplace injuries. In many cases, injured migrant workers are repatriated before receiving healthcare treatment for their injuries.”

“Migrant workers are commonly discriminated against for medical reasons. In a study conducted by University of Toronto researcher Dr. Aaron Orkin, it was discovered that between 2001 and 2011, 787 migrant farm workers lost their jobs and were deported to their home countries for medical reasons, largely against their will, in a process called “medical repatriation.”

In three cases, 3 female workers were fired and deported because they became pregnant. While such cases may not always involve workplace-related injuries, the findings highlight how migrant workers have little access to justice under the Ontario Human Rights Code. This, in turn, affects migrant workers’ ability to seek justice through the WSIB system.”

       – RankandFile.ca “The WSIB’s austerity agenda: deporting injured migrant workers

For many of these workers, their jobs and status as workers in Canada are tied to one employer which significantly impacts their agency, and physical and employment mobility. In the case of live-in caregivers and personal support-workers, there have also been numerous cases of sexualized and racist violence from employers. This is, in part, due to the fact that live-in caregivers, for example, not only live with their employer but their employment and immigration status is also tied to that one employer. Due to a lack of permanent immigration status, economic dependence and the isolation of their work many of them are forced to withstand the abuse.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is a social justice organization based in Toronto, Vancouver and Mexico City that fights for the rights of migrant workers. Justicia notes the following in their Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program brief;

“It is also important to note that some migrant workers claim to have positive work experiences in Canada. However, in our numerous visits and outreach in migrant communities we repeatedly heard forceful phrases such as, “they treat us worse than animals!” Migrant workers, mostly from the Caribbean, make references to slavery in explaining their situation in Canada. Other prominent concerns we have heard from migrant workers include:

  • Working 12-15 hours without overtime or holiday pay
  • Denied necessary breaks
  • Use of dangerous chemicals/pesticides with no safety equipment/protection or training
  • Being crammed into substandard housing with leaking sewage and inadequate washrooms
  • Overt racism from townspeople sometimes resulting in physical altercations
  • Acute pay discrimination between migrant and non-migrant workforce
  • Unfair paycheck deductions such as EI and other services which they have little or no access to
  • Inadequate health attention and services
  • Exclusion from basic human rights legislation such as Health and Safety Legislation and most aspects of the Employment Standards Act
  • Prohibited from collective bargaining and joining unions
  • Inadequate representation in policy making and contract disputes
  • Unavailable to claim residency or obtain educational opportunities for children despite extensive years of work in Canada
  • Lack of appeal process when employers repatriate workers to home country
  • Depression
  • Barriers to essential services due to language and location
  • Lack of basic ESL training
  • Gender discrimination (i.e. few opportunities for female workers and women are heavily controlled and disciplined in various ways by employers)”

Many governments in the Global South are complicit in helping to facilitate and bolster many of these exploitative employment programs that treat people as mere commodities deserving to be disposed of once they’ve served their purpose. Are the agreements between states regarding these programs publicly accessible? What systems and processes are in place to protect the lives of these workers pre-departure, throughout their work tenure and post-departure?

The majority of people who make the difficult decision to leave their families, friends and communities to participate in these programs are usually struggling, working-class people who are unable to find adequate employment in their home countries. Once having arrived, many of these workers are prevented from obtaining permanent residency limiting the quality of life that they’re able to build. They are paid below the minimum wage afforded to non-migrant workers and sometimes experience unfair pay cuts for benefits that they may never be able to access such as Employment Insurance. This then reduces their capacities to send monies home to their families and communities.

In Grenada, we continue to witness the devastating impacts on our agricultural sector, a sector that in the past, has helped to boost our economic growth and sustainability. Canada’s agricultural sector is a multi-million dollar industry that continues to benefit from the low wages paid to migrant workers who could have been helping to build their agricultural sectors back at home. Our economic and political futures cannot be dependent on the forced displacement and dehumanization of our people.

 


Kimalee Phillip Groundation Grenada Editor & Project Coordinator Kimalee Phillip
Co-Director & Project Coordinator

Kimalee intentionally defines herself as an Afrikan woman born and raised in Grenada. The urgency of identifying with the continent is critical to her as she is sometimes witness to a continuous and in some cases, visceral attempt by Black [Afrikan] people to severe ties from the continent, many of whom she encountered while growing up in Grenada. Kimalee is an anti-colonial labour and community activist living and working in Toronto. She completed her Master’s degree in Legal Studies at Carleton University where she analyzed the colonial impacts on gender and violence against women in Grenada. She currently works as the Resource Coordinator with the York University Graduate Students’ Association and is also a Counselor with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/ Multicultural Women Against Rape (TRCC/MWAR). Acknowledging the importance of labour solidarity and workers’ rights, she also serves as the Equity Officer with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 1281 and does organizing work with the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity.Twitter @KimaleePhillip

Why I Travel the World Teaching Meditation (Next Stop Grenada!)

:: by Ilse Marel ::

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I believe that inside everyone, there is purity, goodness and an amazing potential waiting to be discovered. Sometimes, we just need the right tools to get it out. My tool is meditation and that’s why I travel the world sharing this beautiful art with anyone who wants to learn.

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Now, don’t take me as a Yogi or Guru because I’m not. I’m a regular person, who one day stumbled across Peace Revolution. This is a project by the World Peace Initiative, a non-profit organization that believes that individual self-development can act as a foundation of peace-building. At the moment, it seemed like an ordinary day, but little did I know that my life was about to experience a 360° turn.

Those days, I didn’t have much to do and I saw that Peace Revolution offers a free online meditation program. If you finish it, you can apply and win a fellowship in Thailand. This country had been my dream destination for years. Too good to be true… so I gave it a try.

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Since the first time I meditated, I fell crazy in love with it. The initial benefits I experienced were relaxation and a sense of fulfillment that I had never felt before. As I continued, I started becoming more aware, more grounded, I started having clarity and focus. I learnt to love and accept myself. I started smiling more, I became kinder and more simple. All by sitting and doing nothing for 35 min. each day.

We get caught up with things that are happening around us, and we forget about the most important one: ourselves. Meditation is a reminder, to turn your gaze inward and find strength to live more fully.

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I received a wonderful gift but I thought it would be selfish to keep it for myself. When one person discovers the truth and beauty that lie within them, the world automatically becomes a better place. I had to share this meditation thing with as many people as I could. I decided to turn it into a personal mission and became a Peace Revolution volunteer shortly after attending their fellowship.

That was the beginning of where I am today, 3 years later, and I couldn’t be happier. This week I will be in Grenada as part of a tour around Latin America and the Caribbean. I’ll be giving free workshops for all those who want to learn how to manage stress, being balance to their lives and find inner harmony. Groundation Grenada is co-hosting one of my sessions on Wednesday 25th March 5:30pm at the Youth Centre, Grand Anse. Let us know that you are coming on the facebook event page or just show up! See the full schedule of free workshops in Grenada below.  My dream is that we can all live in peace and this is my way of making it happen.

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Free Public Meditation Workshops this Week in Grenada! 

Tues. 24th March 9:00am – Yoga & Meditation
Spice Harmony Yoga Studio, Calivigny, St. George

Tues. 24th March 6:30pm – Topic: Stress Management
Harford Village Community Center, St. Andrew

Wed. 25th March 5:30pm – Topic: How to find Inner Harmony & Balance
Youth Centre, Grand Anse, St. George

Thurs. 26th March 8:00am – Yoga & Meditation Topic: Stress Management
Sankalpa Yoga Studio, True Blue Bay Resort, St. George


ilseIlse Marel
Peace Coach Coordinator, Peace Revolution
Ilse Marel is a Life Coach, Blogger and Textile Designer. Her life changed radically after she discovered meditation, which is why she abandoned her career as a fashion designer and started to work in the field of personal development. She’s now on a mission of showing people how to live happy, peaceful and meaningful lives.

Revolution as a Sum of Parts – March 13th Reflection

:: by Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe ::

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Angela Davis at Carnival during the Grenada Revolution by Kathy Sloane

Today marks a climax in a movement of young Grenadians that inspired thousands across the island and millions worldwide. Our revolution, which started on this day March 13th 1979 was not about one man, as incredible as Maurice Bishop was, the Grenada Revolution was a movement made & supported by many activists and everyday people (like the ones in this photo) who believed in their own ability to change their world. We cannot forget the countless Grenadians who decided that business as usual was not enough… our parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, neigbours, godparents and siblings. Lone heroes make great symbols but movements are always made by collectives of people who, for at least a moment, come together for a common vision of change. The idea that huge social change relied solely on single exceptional individuals like Maurice Bishop, Julien Fédon, Walter Rodney, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr etc. can freeze us into inaction. We might think that their shoes are too big to fill. We may think that we are not [fill in the blank] enough to make a change. But, we are not alone and neither were these visionaries.

In fact, an upcoming film currently fundraising on kickstarter called The House on CoCo Road by Damani Baker is about his mother, Fannie Haughton, who was an activist alongside Angela Davis. Fannie was so inspired by the Grenada Revolution during her 1982 visit with Angela that she moved with her kids to Grenada to accept a position in the Ministry of Education. Back this film if you can, or at least share the campaign with your networks because these intergenerational stories have to be told. Last year we screened an extended trailer of The House on CoCo Road for our Caribbean Short Film night during Phase N°1 of Forgetting is Not an Option our ongoing cultural memory project. This has taken the form of a series of events and collaborations inspired by the Grenada Revolution and it’s implications for the present. Last week we collaborated with the Grenada National Museum to launch Dr. Shalini Puri’s latest publication, The Grenada Revolution in the Caribbean Present: Operation Urgent Memory and we have more Forgetting is Not An Option events coming up before March is over!

What does your revolution sound like? We want to hear it. Join us at Tellin’s 2: Open Mic Jame Session this Saturday 14th March 6:30pm at  Everything Cool Bar in the Courtyard behind Digicel St. George’s, Grenada. All are welcome to this ‘pay what you can’ event. The Mt. Zion Library (right upstairs) will be holding special late hours until 8:00pm so that you can become one of almost 1000 free members or sign up to volunteer.

If you are free on Monday 16th March at 6:30pm join us for The inaugural March 13th lecture a collaboration between The Grenada Revolution Memorial Foundation and Groundation Grenada at The Trade Center Annex, Grand Anse.

Our final event of the month will be a meditation workshop in collaboration with Peace Revolution, a global project which sees individual self-development can act as a foundation of peace-building. Join us on Wednesday 25th March 6:30pm at the Youth Center, Grand Anse for a free meditation workshop. RSVP at hello@groundationgrenada.com

Forward Ever Backward Never!

 


DSC_6664Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe is Co-founder and Co-director of Groundation Grenada and C0-founder/Managing Instructor at Spice Harmony Yoga. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Studio Art from Smith College (2008) where she was awarded a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship and worked in the education department at the Smith College Museum of Art. Malaika holds a Masters of Arts with Distinction from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine (2014), her research focused on cultural memory and the Grenada Revolution & U.S. ‘Intervasion’.  Malaika’s photographs and experimental short films have been exhibited internationally and regionally. Recent shows include:CaribbeanTales International Film Festival, Toronto, Canada (2013) Transforming Spaces, Nassau, Bahamas (2014),  Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (2014) and her work is currently on view as part of the Jamaica Biennial 2014 at the National Gallery of Jamaica. www.malaikabsl.com || twitter @malaikabsl || instagram @malaikabsl

[Updated] The inaugural March 13th lecture presented by the Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit

Update: Watch the livestream below

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March 13th 1979 is the birthday of the Grenada Revolution. The Grenada Revolution Memorial Foundation & Groundation Grenada present the first of our annual lecture series in commemoration of this event.

This year’s feature is the Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica, speaking on “The Grenada Revolution and the Foreign Policy Challenges of Small Island States”.

The event takes place at the Grenada Trade Centre Annex Monday March 16th 2015 and commences at 6.30 PM. There is no cost attributed to this one of a kind event so tell a friend, invite your peers and be there.

forgettinglogoThis collaboration is part of Groundation Grenada’s ongoing cultural memory project Forgetting is Not an Option, which seeks to engage with the Grenada Revolution as a launchpad for envisioning social change within a contemporary context.

Download flyer to print & share on social media (.jpg)


RealGroundationLogo_TransparentGroundation 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.

Tellin’s 2: Open Mic Jam this Saturday 14th March

What does your revolution sound like?


Step out this Saturday! Groundation Grenada invites you to share your poetry, proses, music and jam with other creatives as part of our ongoing Forgetting is Not an Option cultural memory project. On the night after the historic March 13th share your unique revolutionary voice.

forgettinglogoSat. 14th March
6:30pm-10:00pm
Free (Pay What you Can)
Everything Cool Bar
Courtyard behind Digicel St.George’s

 

Special late open hours at Mt. Zion Library, Homework and Reading Center (Arnold John Building), which is right upstairs from the location. Come out, become one of almost 900 free library members.

 


RealGroundationLogo_TransparentGroundation 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.

Game-Changing Regional Art Conference on Sustainability in Caribbean Visual Arts held in Barbados February 27th & 28th 2015

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The visual arts conference, “Tilting Axis: Within and Beyond the Caribbean–Shifting Models of Sustainability and Connectivity,” was held in Barbados this past weekend and was dedicated to forging infrastructure between several independent several art organisations and museums operating across the Caribbean, U.S., E.U., UK and China. The conference is a game-changing development for sustainable economic development in regional visual art.

The two-day conference took place on February 27 and 28, bringing together the diverse leaders of these visual art development organisations to negotiate strategic regional and international alliances for the formalisation and further development of infrastructure, production and markets for Caribbean art.

The conference was organized by The Fresh Milk Art Platform, Inc., where the event was held, in collaboration with ARC Magazine, Res Artis and the Pèrez Art Museum Miami. Tilting Axis was supported by the Prince Claus Fund, the British Council and The Davidoff Art Initiative.

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Among the more than thirty invited participants were Annalee Davis, Founding Director of The Fresh Milk Art Platform (Barbados); Holly Bynoe, Co-founder and Editor-in-chief of ARC Magazine (St. Vincent & the Grenadines); Tobias Ostrander, Chief Curator, and Maria Elena Ortiz, Assistant Curator, of the Pèrez Art Museum Miami (USA); Mario A. Caro, President of Res Artis (Amsterdam); David Codling, Director Arts, Americas, British Council (Colombia); Natalie Urquhart, Director of the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands; Amanda Coulson, Director of art fair VOLTA NY and Director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas; Deborah Anzinger, Artist and Director of Kingston-based visual art initiative NLS (Jamaica); Nicholas Laughlin, Co-founder of Trinidad and Tobago-based backyard space, Alice Yard; David Bade and Tirzo Martha, Co-directors of Instituto Buena Bista (Curaçao); Elvis López, Director of Ateliers ‘89 (Aruba); Remco De Blaaij, Curator at the Centre for Contemporary Art (Glasgow); Max Slaven and Ellie Royle, Co-Directors of the David Dale Gallery & Studios (Glasgow); Jessica Carden, Co-founder of Mother Tongue (Glasgow); Solange Farkas, Director of Videobrasil (Brazil); N’Goné Fall, Independent Curator and Co-Founder of GawLab (Senegal); Raquel Paiewonsky, Co-founder of the artist collective Quintapata (Dominican Republic); Kira Simon-Kennedy, Co-founder China Residencies (USA/China); Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe, Co-founder and Director of Groundation Grenada, Marsha Pearce, Senior Editor of ARC Magazine (Trinidad); Caryl* Ivrisse Crochemar, Director of 14°N 61°W (Martinique). And from Barbados participants included Janice Whittle, curator of Queens Park Gallery and representative of the National Cultural Foundation; Therese Hadchity, Art Historian; Joscelyn Gardner, Artist; Llanor Alleyne, Artist and Writer; Katherine Kennedy, Artist and Directors’ Assistant at ARC and Fresh Milk; Versia Harris, Artist and Fresh Milk volunteer; Sammy Davis, Fresh Milk volunteer and Tonika Sealy, Independent Cultural Producer.

According to co-organisers Holly Bynoe and Annalee Davis, the conference seeks to create opportunities for visual artists living in the Caribbean and provide professional and economic development in the region through formal collaborations between key art organisations and foundations across the Caribbean and beyond. The conference also aims to build and redefine relationships around cultural exchange between the Global North and the Global South.

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“It is not just about contemporary art. One of the tasks we have undertaken at the Pèrez Art Museum Miami is the building of Caribbean art histories in the consciousness of the American public. We see the Pèrez Art Museum as strategically placed to undertake this,” stated Tobias Ostrander.

From the conference, a strategic action plan for continued collaboration was developed after a reflection on the two-day discussion.

“In creating markets for contemporary art in the Caribbean, we are developing the ecosystem and all the underlying components that drive that market: The environment for artists to make great work; art writers, researchers and funders to help make that work accessible to the public; international museums and galleries to show the work; advisors and dealers to get the work placed in collections. Shared programming, exchanges, and educational initiatives developed between the institutions present addressed these key components,” stated Deborah Anzinger.

One of the mandates issued to the participants of the Tilting Axis conference is to tighten strategic networks in their home countries. The organisers of the conference also expect to expand the invited participant list for the next meeting which will take place in 2016.

Annalee Davis stated in her welcome address that “Many of us working in the region have been speaking with one another, in some cases for many years, but today is the first time that artist-led initiatives have come together from the Dutch, Spanish, French and English territories to meet physically in the Caribbean. It is critical that this gathering is taking place on Caribbean soil, and that we consider the visual arts sector from within the archipelago as a counterpoint to the many decisions that have been and are often made about the region externally.”

Mario A. Caro expressed his enthusiasm for the collaborations to be developed between members of Res Artis, a worldwide network of art residencies, and organizations in the Caribbean. “It is clear that the cultural sector in the Caribbean is undergoing exciting and, at times, dynamic changes, and many of these have to do with relationships being established with new partners around the globe. The increase in the mobility of artists through art residencies, both into and out of the region, is one critical factor.”

Holly Bynoe echoed positivism: “The meeting of professionals who are actively engaging and challenging collaborative strategies acknowledges the changes rippling across the Caribbean, and reaffirms the critical value of innovative emerging networks. As more eyes are turning to look at this space, we need to be cognisant of what they are seeing, and consider how and what we want them to experience. Tilting Axis aspires to become a conduit; supporting the professionalisation of artists and formalising engagements, leading to greater visibility and accessibility of contemporary Caribbean art.”

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To find out more about the organising institutions and funders visit arcthemagazine.com, freshmilkbarbados.com, resartis.org, pamm.org, princeclausfund.orgdavidoffartinitiative.com, britishcouncil.org

For further information about the Tilting Axis conference contact:
Annalee Davis & Holly Bynoe tiltingaxis@gmail.com 246-230-8897

Photo Credits: All photos taken by Sammy Davis

“A Chance Encounter”- a book lover stumbles upon her passion

:: by Rosana John

 

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      Shanna ensuring that all the books are categorized correctly.
Photography by Malaika Brooks-Smith- Lowe

It is a surprisingly cool and quiet evening at the Mt. Zion Library and all that can be heard is the steady hum of the recently donated fan and the distant drone of chatter and traffic.  The library has closed for the day and Shanna Julien sits completely engrossed in her novel.  “The Duppy” by Anthony Winkler is her paperback of choice for the day. She will not sleep until she is finished. It is her third book for the week and it is only Wednesday.

The twenty-four year old poet, singer and aspiring songwriter recalls reading from as early as the age of three. “It really kills me when I can’t get a book to read…literally!” she exclaims, her eyes serious behind her razor cut bangs.  When asked about her favourite book, that question was simply impossible to answer.  Nonetheless when presented with the  hypothetical scenario of being stranded on a desert island, and having only three books at her disposal, she identified ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ by Jeff Kinney , ‘Best of Friends’ by Cathy Kelly and the Bible as her companions of choice.

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The Children’s Library

 

It seems only natural that a booklover would volunteer at a library, however when asked about how her relationship with the Mt. Zion Library commenced, she smiled and replied that she had no glamorous story to tell.  She explained that on the day in question, she had gone over to the neigbouring phone repair shop to collect an item and was told that she had to wait. In order to pass the time she started walking around only to stumble upon the library. Upon being told that it was free she joined instantly and checked out her first two books. She kept returning and at times even borrowing as many as six books in one week! Her passion for reading was apparent and Oonya, the library’s Director asked if she wished to volunteer. It was an easy decision since as a volunteer she would have unlimited access to books.  A few months later when the library received more funding, she was offered the post of Head librarian. She describes the news as incredible; ‘I am being paid to do something that I actually enjoy!’

Shanna loves coming to work every day. She cites Oonya as being “the best Director ever” and Alesia Aird as being “so funny” and a pleasure to work with.  “I love looking at other people enjoy what I love!” she exclaims with a great sense of satisfaction. However, she laments that currently the library has very few male members and as such she is working on compiling a ‘wish list’ of books that may attract male readership.

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Shanna soon learnt that the Mt Zion Library is more than a centre for housing books. Volunteering at the library has broadened her horizons and she describes her most memorable experience as representing the library at a workshop on Gender Equality organized by CUSO International. At this forum, she was able to learn so much and gain a new perspective on society. The library has also hosted two workshops on Literacy​, Prejudice and Discrimination from which she also benefited.  Shanna is very excited about the library’s new adult literacy programme at the Motivational Reading and Writing Club and looks forward to seeing how the library’s work continues to positively impact the community.

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Rosana John

Project Intern, Groundation Grenada

project Intern Rosana is an attorney-at-law and a member of the Mt.Zion Library. As Groundation’s 2014  Project Intern, she is closely involved in literacy-based projects.

Groundation Grenada, as a co-founder of the library, envisaged the Volunteer Profile Series as a means of telling the stories of the individuals who give so much of their time and effort to   keep the library up and running from day to day.

Revealing Much More than Themselves – On the Need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Grenada

:: by Richie Maitland ::

Painting by Komi Olaf

Painting by Komi Olaf

Recently, leaked naked sexual images of some young teenage girls exploded across virtual networks in Grenada. The spread was driven by people’s inability to control their dark curiosity (aka ‘fasness’), even if satisfying that curiosity meant consuming and sharing child pornography, potentially harming the children involved and compromising their futures.

Together with the images came the expected commentary and Facebook statuses, much of which made the girls out to be the villains and blamed them for the leaks (as opposed to the the people who violated their privacy). When a back story surfaced about one of them attempting suicide after the leaks were revealed, a facebook commenter jokingly (and stupidly) suggested that she should have taken pics of the suicide attempt and posted them as well.

The comments revealed a cultural disrespect for data privacy and deep-rooted hypocritical values around sexuality and in particularly teenage sexuality. They also revealed some assumptions that we have internalised without thinking too hard about them: that teenagers are not supposed to be sexual beings and they are bad if they are, and, that wise people don’t keep or share sexual images of themselves. The debacle in general revealed very obvious holes in children and teens education, holes concerning comprehensive sexuality education, holes that many children and teens fall through to hurt themselves.

People are among other things, sexual beings – teenagers too. It is a fact parents and government can choose to ignore by not addressing it meaningfully, but it’s a fact nonetheless.  Facts of course don’t bend to our deliberate ignorance. Recent statistics from the WHO and the OECS Behavioral Surveillance Surveys (BSS) show that in Grenada about a quarter of young persons between 13-15 are having sex, many of them with multiple partners, many of them without protection. The BSS survey shows that those who attend church are having a lot more sex than those who don’t. Also, 1 in every 8 live births in Grenada is to a young woman, aged 15-19. If we are honest with ourselves and are able to recall our teenage selves we might smile and shake our heads at some of the mischief we got into. Reflecting on other instances, we may wish that someone gave us honest, clear information so that we could have made a better informed decision.

In more recent times technology generally and the Internet specifically has significantly changed how information is shared and consumed. Internet usage has penetrated around 45 % of Grenada’s population, a significant portion being young persons. Guess what? People use the technology available to them, including to share intimate things. That is as true for adults as it is for young people; it is as true for professionals as it is for lay people; as true for wise people as it is for fools. 

Whose fault is it if my mechanic steals and shares sensitive information that I had stored in my glove compartment? The blame rests squarely on the mechanic. We can argue about whether I could have been more cautious about leaving sensitive information in my car but let’s be clear on whom the fault lies. Why do we think differently of the situation with the girls? We pelt stones at the victims while the real wrongdoers skin teeth on the side. I would be very happy to see charges and convictions under the Electronic Crimes Act coming out of this. Maybe then people would begin appreciating the value of respecting people’s privacy.

I get the sense that for a lot of people sharing the images with commentary is about shaming the girls. A shaming that is meant to punish girls particularly for crossing lines that we have told ourselves girls must not cross. Boys have a little more leeway, but young girls find themselves squeezed at doubly oppressive intersection of being young and being girls. The boxes of decency and self respect are smaller, but girls must make themselves fit. When girls breach those boxes we must shame them. It’s the same kind of shaming that drove a Trini mother to half kill her daughter with blows, for posting a picture in facebook with her panties showing, in a video that went viral.

We can’t beat or pray sexuality out of teenagers. Sex and sexuality are a normal part of personhood, including teenage personhood. We can’t always keep sexual content away from them either. We live in a world occupied and saturated with sex. It’s the same world that young people live in. We would know if we could access the schoolyard conversations, backyard games and bathroom graffiti. 

Church sermons on chastity and half dead HFLE (Health & Family Life Education) curricula talking about boys having testicles and girls having ovaries aren’t doing anything for us or our young people. Young people must be empowered, an empowerment flowing from an understanding that sex and sexuality is natural. Government and parents must provide them with the tools to understand themselves and their sexuality better; to better manage their relationships and create dynamics with which they are comfortable; to lessen the potential risks involved in behaving sexually.

I say it’s time for comprehensive (and I repeat with emphasis – COMPREHENSIVE) sexuality education to be introduced into our public school system.  There is already overwhelming public support for this. An April 2014 Grenada poll done by UNAIDS RST and supported by the Norwegian Government showed public support for sexuality education at 63-71% in primary school and 89-94% for secondary schools.

In revealing themselves the girls revealed much more than themselves. They revealed an educational policy gap that we must address. Let’s do the right thing.

 


Richie Maitland Groundation GrenadaRichie Maitland
Co-Founder Groundation Grenada

Richie Maitland is a Grenadian attorney and activist. He is a graduate of the Presentation Brothers College  and T.A. Marryshow Community College. He earned his Bachelor of Laws Degree at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill, Barbados in 2010. Richie is a member of the Hugh Wooding Law School class of 2012 and is currently working as an attorney-at-law in Grenada.

Open Call for Caribbean Film Scripts!

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The Caribbean Film Academy (CaFA) and its partners – Groundation Grenada, Audiovisual Association of Dominica, ChantiMedia and SASOD Guyana – have launched Caribbean Film Project, an initiative which aims to showcase the talent of unknown and emerging writers in the Caribbean and Diaspora.

Through Caribbean Film Project, CaFA and its partners will not only tackle storytelling in films coming out of the Caribbean, but will provide an opportunity for Diaspora filmmakers to have their work included in a Caribbean film compilation. The initiative will focus on assisting in the production of films in countries which have mostly been absent from the current Caribbean filmmaking renaissance – Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, and St. Kitts & Nevis, as well as Caribbean filmmakers in the Diaspora.

Caribbean Film Project’s first phase is a script competition open for entries from January – February 2015. The winner from each country will be paired with a coach who will work with the writer to make their script production-ready. With the help of each producing partner, the films will then be produced. CaFA plans to raise the funds needed for the project through sponsorship, fundraisers and crowd-funding.

This focus on writing is long overdue, according to CaFA’s Co-Founder, Romola Lucas, who has led the effort to organize this new project. She says, “Spurred by the availability and increasing affordability of filmmaking equipment, the Caribbean is currently experiencing a surge in filmmaking. More and more people, who may never have considered filmmaking an option are making films encouraged by new opportunities to have their work screened at the growing number of Caribbean film festivals. Many of the films are excellent – well-written, professionally produced, and visually appealing. However, there are many others which suffer from technical issues and incomplete storytelling.”

“From our perspective, well-written stories underpin every sustainable film movement, and in order for Caribbean storytellers to be counted among the best in the world, specific focus and attention must be given to the development of great writers,” Lucas continues.

The Film Project competition is open to writers/filmmakers who are residents/nationals of Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and to those of Caribbean descent/heritage living in the Diaspora and writing Caribbean stories. Submissions open on Friday, January 2, 2015 and close Friday, February, 28, 2015. To learn more about the Project, eligibility/requirements and submit a script, visit www.caribbeanfilm.org or email us at submissions@cafafilmproject.org.

 

For further information, please contact:

Chantal Miller – ChantiMedia hello@chantimedia.com
Jessica Canham – Audiovisual Association of Dominica jessica@earthbook.tv
Joel Simpson – SASOD Guyana manager@sasod.org.gy
Malaika Brooks-Smith- Lowe – Groundation Grenada malaika@groundationgrenada.com
Romola Lucas – CaFA romola@caribbeanfilm.org


About CaFA

Established in 2012 in Brooklyn, NY, The Caribbean Film Academy (CaFA), is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and support of Caribbean filmmaking and filmmakers, in the Region and the Diaspora. CaFA’s work is focused on promoting and sharing the art of storytelling through film from the unique perspective of the Caribbean.

About CHANTIMEDIA

ChantiMedia was born out of a passion for the Caribbean’s unparalleled and vibrant creative expression. Founded in 2012 by Chantal Miller (presenter and voice over artist) as a primarily digital platform to share and promote the artistic diversity of the region, ChantiMedia has now evolved into a multi-faceted creative hub. Based between the beautiful island of Nevis and the cultural melting pot of London (UK) the company now focuses on production (film and television), the curating of exhibitions and film festivals, the facilitating of creative workshops and fostering creative collaborations throughout the Diaspora.

About GROUNDATION GRENADA

Groundation 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. Its 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. The organization pursues its mission online, through its 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.

About SASOD GUYANA

SASOD is dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in Guyana and throughout the Caribbean. The organization has worked tirelessly to repeal discriminatory Guyanese laws, change local attitudes about the LGBT community, and end discrimination in the government, workplace, and community. The organization has been hosting, for the past 10 years, the only LGBT film festival in the Caribbean – bringing many Caribbean LGBT films to home audiences.

About THE AUDIOVISUAL ASSOCIATION OF DOMINICA

AAD’s mission is to promote and support the growth of professionals and businesses in Dominica’s audiovisual sector. Membership in the Association is open to both individuals and to businesses. Being a member of the Audiovisual Association of Dominica enables individual producers and companies to benefit from activities and initiatives designed to improve the business climate for audiovisual professionals, and to support professional development. The Association provides training in production, and scriptwriting, it maintains a data base of industry professionals, provides networking opportunities for members, creates local and regional partnerships and advocates for a regulatory environment to promote and support the growth of the sector.

“More Smiles, More Reading”- The Conversion of a non-reader

:: by Rosana John::

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Alesia busy cataloguing , Photography by Malaika Brooks-Smith- Lowe

Wearing a rolled up black tee, a two-toned afro, torn jeans and a pair of worn converse, Alesia Aird does not appear like your conventional librarian. But then again there is nothing conventional about the Mt. Zion Library; founded by an unlikely trio consisting of a church, a writer and a grassroots organization and nestled between a barber shop and a cell phone repair shop in the heart of St. George’s.

It is a humid Wednesday afternoon and Alesia is busy writing up catalogues, brows furrowed in concentration as she seeks to mentally block out Peter Tosh’s powerful voice. She isn’t scheduled to volunteer on Wednesdays but the 20-year old musician and artist, whose name appropriately means ‘Helper’ in Greek is keen on spending whatever available time she has in service to the library.

Alesia plays the guitar and violin and ‘messes around’ with the piano and though music will always be her first love, Caribbean literature and Science Fiction novels are vying for a close second. When asked about her favourite book, she cited ‘The Duppy’ by Anthony C. Winkler and had difficulty explaining what it was about, “Yuh just have to experience the Duppy for yourself!” she exclaimed.

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However Alesia wasn’t always a reader. In fact she recollects that reading had always felt like punishment; something that she was forced to do. She describes her experience in school as being analogous to teaching a fish how to climb a tree, as the school system failed to recognize and apply different styles and paces of learning. So how on earth does a non-reader become a volunteer librarian?

Alesia’s relationship with the library started a little over a year ago when her friend Damarlie Antoine asked her to assist in the sorting out of books. Being true to her name she came out to help and hasn’t stopped assisting since. She cites the “good vibes” of the people involved as what kept her coming back and the smiles of converted non-readers coming upon a book that they loved as the reason she stayed. “If this were a regular library I wouldn’t be here” she says. She believes it is the passion of the volunteers, for whom the library isn’t a source of income, and its location and origins which all give the library its unique characteristic and unorthodox feel.

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“More smiles, more reading” she said, when asked about her dreams for the library, as seeing people, particularly persons who had never before enjoyed reading find a book they like brings a special joy to her. She notes that the library is increasing in popularity, particularly with secondary school students who mainly account for the average two member per day growth that the library is experiencing. Alesia is eager to see the library continue to grow and expand and hopes that persons from different walks of life will volunteer and contribute to creating more smiles, one book at a time.

Since this interview we’re happy to announce that Alesia has been hired part-time as librarian alongside Shanna Julien. Look out for Shanna’s interview coming soon!

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Rosana John

Project Intern, Groundation Grenada

project Intern Rosana is an attorney-at-law and a member of the Mt.Zion Library. As Groundation’s 2014 Project Intern, she is closely involved in literacy-based projects.

Groundation Grenada, as a co-founder of the library, envisaged the Volunteer Profile Series as a means of telling the stories of the individuals who give so much of their time and effort to keep the library up and running from day to day.