Photo by Richard Acosta
St. George’s University (SGU) inaugurated the Dame Hilda Bynoe Writer in Residence Program in 2014 with Trinidad and Tobago writer Lisa Allen-Agostini. The new program is designed to boost the output and quality of writing coming out of the English-speaking Caribbean, and a panel of adjudicators selected Lisa from the Caribbean writers who applied for the position. She is the author of The Chalice Project and co-editor of Trinidad Noir, and writes a weekly column with the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian.
Six of the fifteen weeks of her residency will be devoted to service. As such, Lisa will be facilitating a series of workshops for writers in Grenada as part of her community outreach. She will lead a Creativity Workshop workshop on March 8th, from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon, at Windward Hall, True Blue Campus, St. George’s University. These two-hour workshops are free of charge and open to the students, staff, and faculty of SGU as well as the wider Grenadian public. Anyone is encouraged to attend the workshops and unleash their inner writer. There are no prerequisites to attend. Participants should come prepared to write.
Similar workshops will also be hosted for secondary school students throughout the island.
In conjunction with the Writers Association of Grenada, Lisa will lead a workshop on editing on March 4 at Marryshow House, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. It is also free of charge.
A special workshop for poets is planned for March 29th, from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon at Windward Hall, SGU. Joining the workshop by Skype will be Grenadian-Guyanese poet Malika Booker, who has been poet-in-residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK and has recently published her book of poems Pepper Seed.
All the above workshops are free and open to the public.
Lisa also will be leading a four-week Intensive Workshop every Thursday in March. This workshop is geared towards intermediate to advanced writers of prose fiction, five applicants have been selected to participate.
Anyone interested in meeting with the Lisa will have the opportunity to do so during her consultation hours at Dr. Antonia Mac Donald’s office, ground floor, Balisier Building, SGU. Her consultation schedule is as follows:- March 25th & 26th and April 1st & 2nd from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
To culminate Lisa’s sessions here, she will give a public reading, which will take place at SGU on April 12th; it will be an evening of literature where other writers will also showcase their works.
To find out more information about any of these events contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Groundation Grenada is a youth led social action collective, founded in 2009, which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the community’s needs, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. We pursue our mission online, through Groundationgrenada.com, and this year began expanding to live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists and activists. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect youth who are hungry for innovative change.
:: by Kimalee Phillip ::
Mixed media artwork by Ammar Nsoroma
For I know only that which flows beneath my skin
That which flows within my blood
The stories and memories of ancestors within
The waters that flow within and among
El Caribe, because of you, my love and appreciation for the oceans, seas and rivers is one that is unwavering and at times, erratic. For I dream of soothing ocean waves, sun-kissed sand and worlds below, yet ah just can’t swim!
Recalling my dad trying to teach me how to swim; I was probably 6 or 7 years of age and though in his mind the ‘tough-skin’, do-or-die approach may have been one of sheer brilliance and innovation, it left me quite traumatized and I simply sunk to Yemaya’s/Olukun’s depths. It was probably 4 feet deep but shheeeeiiiittt, shit seems deeper and more intense when you’re only a tiny human.
Despite this unwanted yet memorable experience, I continue to remain drawn to the water. At the age of 28, my behind still can’t swim but yes, I remain very much part of her fluidity and unpredictable flows.
The soothing sound of the waves, the salty, desirable taste; the warm and course sand that embellishes her curves and edges always leave me wanting yet at the same time nervous by her uncertainty, spontaneity and tumultuous temper.
A few years ago, we witnessed a storm surge in Grenada. Now that was some scary ish! I remember us standing in our uniforms in town, where the old bus terminal used to be, watching with much anticipation and fear as the waves continued to grow as they approached us. Looking back, I still can’t explain why the maco part of ourselves got the best of us because we weren’t moving to save our lives.
There was something incredible about seeing what creatures inhabited our waters. From the starfish to the sea moss to the ones left unbeknown. It remains incredibly important and striking what lays beneath.
Our world does not only comprise of the living creatures, plants and soil on land. Our Mother Earth is so much more, from the human to the animal to the spirit world and the surrounding waters.
Mami wata, the one who is said to come for her children when she sees fit;
Mama La Diablesse, the one whose one cow foot leaves an indelible print in our rain-soaked paths;
Soucayant, I could swear that you were one Mr. Buds, everyone knew that Mr. Buds was a soucayant;
But then shouldn’t I have been able to tell that that was the person who left that mark on my neck over ten years ago?
From duppy baby to loup garou;
The folklore in all their glory continue….
And my love for the waters continue.
Maybe one day I’ll finally learn to swim and travel the unknown below.
But for now, I will remain drawn to the waters and the energies within.
From Accra to Nairobi to Zanzibar…
To the Caribbean,
This piece is published on Groundation Grenada as part of Code Red’s Blog Carnival, an invite for bloggers to write on the theme “To the Caribbean, With Love”!
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
The Ministry of Social Development and Housing in collaboration with Grenada National Women’s Organization (GNOW) and Grenada Planned Parenthood Association (GPPA) present L.O.V.E- Behind Closed Doors: No Secrets… No Lies.
This is a unique opportunity to attend a multicultural program featuring live musical, theatrical and spoken word pieces performed by various local artistes including the Carriacou Cultural Drama Group in recognition of the international movement V-Day.*
Thursday, February 13th 2014
Reception: 6:00pm || Performance: 6:45pm
Marryshow Folk Theatre (H.A. Blaize Street)
Entry Fee: Donations of non-perishable food and personal care items to be distributed to needy charitable organizations around the nation.
*V-Day is a global activist movement and catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness and generate broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls through public performances, education, networking, and capacity building. Spread the word!
For more information, contact the Ministry of Social Development and Housing at 440-2269.
:: by melinda blaise ::
As a sometimes writer, actress and shockingly horrid singer (ask all my tortured loved ones), I am always on the lookout for creative outlets. Perhaps it’s the innate wanderlust in my bones that drives my need to explore opportunities to push beyond comfortable limitations. I’m still investigating possible theories. In any case, in early October I happen to be browsing Groundation’s website and noticed a posting for a chance to participate in a free two-part workshop focusing on Performance Art. Although I had been exposed to this medium while growing up in NYC, I didn’t really know its background and where it stood conceptually in modern times. So what better way to find out than to sign up for the gathering, which included “participants developing and executing performance pieces collaboratively” and taking those collaborations “to the street and performing pieces in public” spaces around Grenada.
What I found in these sessions was not only a great introductory lesson into the historical and contemporary foundation of Performance Art but also an understanding of the influence and long reach this method is having in the world from Europe to the United States and to the Caribbean. I was intrigued by the tough issues tackled by these artists around the globe more specifically in the pre-workshop assigned videos showing the facilitator and interviewees examining often all too difficult topics of discussions. Many of the themes considered were matters that I have grappled with (i.e. love, womanhood, race, gender, power, etc.) If you haven’t had a chance to see some of these recordings check them out here at The Fresh Performance Project.
In our workshop, it was clear that we too would be doing the same. We were placed in groups and given a moment to choose a topic to represent. My group which consisted of three other women of like minds immediately bonded and strategized on the best way to create a Performance Art piece that would best reflect the “high rates of unemployment” in Grenada. We jumped right into discussion focusing on the:
Impact on women and men, families
Risk factors (including teen pregnancy, transactional sex, prostitution, etc.)
Crimes associated with unemployment
Mental illness/ depression as a result of shame and guilt
The discussion was invigorating but time was of the essence. We had less than 24 hours to plan and execute a 15-20 minute performance.
If you can imagine the planning for the actual piece was even more stimulating. We decided to go with developing something powerful yet simple. Our prop- a black shroud representing the shame and stigma of unemployment and underneath was going to be myself and two other teammates demonstrating:
At the end of our demonstration we’d plan to fall to the ground in exhaustion and despair.
On the day of the actual performance we did all that we had planned and more. However, I was not prepared for the reactions of the public who stood there watching the three of us lying under this black shroud for over 10 minutes. I was amazed at the comments that I could overhear from those standing near as well as those of passersby. Things like:
“Dey dead? Someone call the police!”
“Oh my, the floor is dirty- you’ll catch germs!”
“Kick dem, see if dey move?”
“What’s really goin on there?”
“I wonder how long dey really goin to lay there?”
After it had become uncomfortable (for our audience) and unbearably HOT under that shroud (for us), I gave my team members the sign that it was time to be revived. And it couldn’t have been a minute to soon! Amazingly enough we arose to a standing ovation, hoots and claps. It was quite fitting that we were that last group of performers to perform among a pack of talented individuals.
By the end of my teams’ performance I was gratified once again for another opportunity to stretch myself in a different direction. Most importantly, I am grateful to add one more tool into my arsenal of techniques for creativity. I. Have. Been. Re-inspired. What about you?
See Magnify the Message by Sherry Hamlet for another reflection related to Groundation Grenada’s performance art workshop.
See Magnify the Message by Sherry Hamlet for another reflection related to Groundation Grenada’s performance art workshop.
melinda blaise is a clinically trained psychotherapist, currently serving in Grenada as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer working with the Ministry of Social Development and Housing as a Pyscho-Social Educational Development Officer. In this capacity she develops trainings for personnel responding to adult victims of trauma, including sexual violence and domestic violence. She hopes to utilize aspects of Performance Art at her post as a tool to educate and to inspire the masses around the prevalent issue of Gender Based Violence. She promises… absolutely no singing will be involved -at least not by her!
:: by Sherry Hamlet ::
I attended the two day workshop focused on performance art put on by Groundation Grenada in collaboration with their first resident artist, New York based Guyanese artist damali abrams in connect with the Barbados Fresh Milk contemporary arts platform in October . The entire workshop was truly an awe inspiring experience. I must admit that before reading Groundation Grenada’s article i had never even heard of this type of performance art. Luckily damali abrams had recently put together a video interview series that collectively showcased the work and opinions of performance art artists all over the Caribbean and North America. By consulting this handy resource I was able to conclude that performance art was a branch of visual art that uses the body as the means through which you portray the artistic concept. I like to think of it as the mood, tone and theme one would capture within a frame brought to life and into motion by the human body.
The first day was a treat, with only fifteen available spots we had a lovely intimate circle of participants ranging in various artistic disciplines. However, I won’t go into too much detail on the first day, comprised mainly of discussion and planning our performance art pieces, instead I want to talk about a question that I have found upon the minds of many…
…Why do this?
In the Caribbean and many parts of the world street harassment is a glaring issue, like a guard dog it patrols our streets and attacks the self esteem and sense of security of men and women alike. I look it in the eyes everyday, I watch it grow in aggression and inspire hostility and fear on my small island, making the air thick with cowardice and squeezing the unique voices of peers, students and strangers straight out of their lungs. As if, they have no right to free thought or self expression. I watch it linger in the air waiting for a moment to strike and perhaps even kill…
So I decided to do something about it and the first thing I decided to do was to:
Change the conversation
A statement I once heard and that resonates with me is this, if you don’t like what’s being said change the conversation. Forever a writer at heart I felt that In this case, I could choose to use performance art as a tool to change the story, manipulate the negative narrative by challenging it head on.
To direct the conversation
The performance art workshop was an opportunity to use the stares, the jeers the snide remarks and gestures often saturating the streets to discuss a given topic, a topic worth talking about and that needed attention that had a right to be questioned.
So many times on our streets people walk past each other and choose to interact by highlighting negative aspects of humanity, choosing to poke, prod and pick away at people they often do not even know. With the use of performance art one could put before the public specifically for speculation a theme one wanted to be looked upon, to be scrutinized, discussed and analyzed. In this way people could interact and use their negative and or positive comments to exact change by forcing the public to acknowledge and discuss issues right there out in the open, issues we often hide away. I felt this could be done simply by using what is often done with no coaxing; talk. Letting people talk freely, openly and without fear, in groups or by oneself, at the top of ones voice or grouped deep in the throat because whether we realize it when it is happening or not talk teaches.
To push the boundaries of ones own creativity
It is simple for us to stick to what we know, when deciding how to represent a creative idea it seems to make sense to reference media we would have previously been exposed to. However, what happens when we move beyond the self set boundaries of creativity, when we explore a new way of representing our ideas? What happens…is discovery. Sometimes what we discover is big better or more beautiful than we could have imagined if we had remained thinking in the way we were used to… Sometimes it isn’t but which ever way it goes, it is always a valuable learning experience.
To be brave outside of the comfort zone
(photo captured of me being super nervous moments before we went on)
I am a very shy person. Many won’t believe that statement but it is true. Especially as someone living with a visual impairment trying something new can be extremely intimidating. I am not new to performing, I am a teacher, I’ve done some acting and I perform poetry on a regular basis at the Grenada National Museum Jazz and Poetry event on the first Friday of every month. However, I have never done this. This scared me, this challenged what I was used to, and this was outside of my comfort zone. I was confident it would not hurt me but that did not mean it didn’t scare me. If we stopped at the edge of our comfort zone how small would we make our universe, how drab and lacking in diversity? Will I try this kind of art again? I cannot yet say. Did I try it, live through it, feel my heart race as I concurred another fear in this raging time stream of events we call life? Yes. Was it an experience worth feeling? Absolutely! Even the extremely expressive have fears to concur.
To add flames to the fires of inspiration
As artists we are always seeking inspiration. My experience is that inspiration is rather cunning and does not hide in the same place for too long. Often we have to seek it out in corners of ourselves we have not yet explored. When you live on a small island where it is near impossible to hide your identity once attention is drawn to you, sometimes you choose to do nothing than be who you are because sometimes it feels easier and even more comfortable to be a sad wallflower than it is to be a happy person of note. Sometimes all you need to set the inspiration you feel in the deepest part of yourself ablaze is proof that it can be done, proof that someone else is willing to dare to defy the normal for a passion they believe in. I knew that this was a daring action as much as I believed it was a topic worth speaking up about. I knew that it could inspire someone who saw it, whisper to them that it was okay to want to make a difference in a way that nobody may have seen before because when you believe in something, it has to the potential to be great but the only way it will be great is if it is given a chance to breath and see the light of day. Sometimes you just have to dare to try something new and maybe…maybe you will make a difference….or…maybe you will inspire someone else to.
See Reflections of a Would Be Artiste by melinda blaise for another post related to Groundation Grenada’s performance art workshop.
See Reflections of a Would Be Artiste by melinda blaise for another post related to Groundation Grenada’s performance art workshop.
Sherry E. Hamlet
Sherry E. Hamlet is a Grenadian teacher and writer. Currently she also holds the office of Vice President of the Writers Association of Grenada. Alongside perusing the completion of her BEd. in English and Literature with Education, she is often found performing self authored works of poetry before a live audience, under the pseudonym ‘TheWordyPhoenix’ . At present, she is working on the editing and publishing stages of her first collection of literary works. For more of her writing and performances, she can be found via her blog or her facebook page.
As many of you know, Groundation Grenada is committed to being a safe space for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. We are also committed to actively fighting all forms of oppression. In this regard we have partnered with Trinidad and Tobago artist Joshua Lu to create a visual campaign to draw analogies between sexual orientation/gender identity discrimination and other forms of discrimination.
Our campaign -‘Discrimination is Discrimination’ – addresses the fact that most people in the Caribbean reject other forms of arbitrary discrimination; they understand why it is problematic and toxic for our societies. Sadly, the same understanding isn’t extended to discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI). This is not to say that all forms of discrimination are the same or operate the same. There are however crucial parallels between various forms of discrimination that are often ignored. Our campaign visually juxtaposes discriminatory remarks in popular media in a way which makes the parallels apparent.
The images below are the first in installations in our campaign. Help us to spread the message of non-discrimination by downloading and sharing the images as far and wide as possible. Click here to download a compressed file (.zip) containing all three images. #BunDiscrimination #GroundationGrenada
:: by A. Naomi Jackson ::
Artwork: Night Beach by Folasade
The past year has found me in love and considering the implications of being in an intercultural relationship with another black person. Here I was explaining why my parents so scorned the moment my sister and I dared leave their good-good house to pay somebody else’ mortgage, bringing home pieces of black cake for her to taste, wondering why ten years after coming out to my folks, introducing them to my girlfriends was still so difficult. This summer, I gave my honey a copy of Jamaica Kincaid’s short story, “Girl,” to try to explain the kind of girl I was raised up to be. Recently, she called me after watching a rerun of the In Living Color comedy sketch, “Hey Mon,” the 90s black comedic routine that engrained the image of West Indian thrift and neurotic work ethic (“You only have one job?”) on the American imagination. Finally, she said, she understood why I had such a hard time quitting the part-time job I had no business taking on in the first place.
The humor of “Hey Mon” belies the insidious ways that black Americans have been pitted against West Indians since they began arriving in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, settling in Harlem and Brooklyn and earning a reputation for being industrious, insular, and proud. Literature and history have recorded both this battle, and the truth underlying the ways Caribbean folks approach work. I still remember the fight that erupted in Rosa Guy’s novel The Friends when one of the Caribbean characters is called a “coconut,” a derogatory term that I’ve since reclaimed. And a writer friend reminded me that the husband in Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones is derided for being lazy because he only has one terrible job. The tension between these two groups is a precursor, I believe, to more contemporary struggles pitting recently arrived workers from Latin America against African-American workers.
I grew up in Flatbush and Crown Heights in the 1980s and 1990s, neighborhoods that were then home to two distinct groups of outsiders. If you blinked you’d suddenly find yourself transported from the sights and sounds of West Indian America to the beating heart of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community. I joked then that the only African-Americans I knew were on television, and black folks were as familiar with the public rituals of Friday prayers and Shabbat as the annual West Indian Day parade. We didn’t always coexist peacefully, as the Crown Heights riots, and other events will attest to. But at the same time that we envied the way Hasidim built their own yeshivas and synagogues, West Indian families like mine packed up several adults and children in small apartments in order to build a financial bulwark against an America we believed we could ascend in as long as we worked hard enough. I’d argue that there were more similarities in terms of prizing self-reliance and clannishness than either of these two communities might admit.
As a young person, I bristled against my parents’ admonishments not to become like African-Americans, who they degraded as slack, lazy, and completely out of order, pregnant as teenagers, drug users and dealers, etc. Never mind the hypocrisy that some of those same social ills showed up in our own family. I thought their statements were problematic at best, and I still do. Through it all, I heeded their lessons of self-sacrifice, discipline, and perseverance. And I eventually adopted their mantra of West Indian exceptionality alongside a commitment to solidarity with black Americans and other black people from the African diaspora. I believe that my West Indian superiority complex (along with healthy doses of luck and privilege) has allowed me to succeed in predominantly white school and work environments where psychic warfare is waged in both subtle and overt ways to convince me and other black students, workers, writers, that we are somehow less than our white peers.
Then came along the New York Times, that bastion of American cultural and political imperialism I read every weekend, telling me that the beliefs my parents inculcated in me were actually essential to my success, a kind of triple threat recipe for resilience according to the authors whose research was funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, a social science think tank where I once worked. So what’s the magic recipe, according to them? A superiority complex, an inferiority complex (or more accurately, a compulsion to prove oneself), and impulse control.
My most intimate relationships have been a mirror to interrogate my most deeply held beliefs and a gentle prod towards making smarter choices. The current one has forced me to question why, for example, I would start a part-time job in the middle of finishing the last, most stressful round of edits to my novel. I’m learning too, about how to congratulate myself on a job well done before barreling on to the next project, and enjoying small indulgences, like taking a taxi to the airport for an early morning flight rather than slogging it out on public transportation to save a few dollars.
I’d like to believe that I can hang onto the myths of superiority (with folks like Usain Bolt, Shelly Ann Fraser, and Ri Ri on the team, it’s hard to imagine letting this go anytime soon), the drive to prove myself, and the discipline to work hard even when no one’s watching. And yet I also recognize that one person’s hard work and self-sufficiency is not nearly enough in the face of systematic discrimination that has haunted black people and stymies our progress still.
Is there a way then, to take the successful bits, live in solidarity with our black sisters and brothers, loving them, and leaving the more problematic bits of our cultural superiority complexity behind? I’m not sure. For now, I’ll enjoy the early morning taxis, and the tail end of the part-time job I “quit” two months ago.
This piece is published on Groundation Grenada as part of Code Red’s Blog Carnival, an invite for bloggers to write on the theme “To the Caribbean, With Love” this month!
A. Naomi Jackson is the 2013-2014 ArtsEdge resident at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House. She studied fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was awarded the Maytag Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction to complete her first novel. Jackson traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright scholarship, where she received an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. A graduate of Williams College, her work has appeared in brilliant corners, The Encyclopedia Project, The Caribbean Writer, and Sable. Her short story, “Ladies” was the winner of the 2012 BLOOM chapbook contest. She has been a resident at Hedgebrook and Vermont Studio Center and received the Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker scholarship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She co-founded the Tongues Afire creative writing workshop at the Audre Lorde Project in Brooklyn in 2006. (Photo credit: Lola Flash)