Tag Archives: politics

Why I Don’t Watch TV in Martinique

I don’t watch TV here.  I used to.  10 years ago I lived on a daily diet of BET and a German cop show I still remember storylines from relatively vividly.  It was called Le Clown in French, and it was awesome.  A standard detective/action hero main character but because it was German the things that people called the police for were different from what I was used to.  The things that a jury would think were important were different.  I found it fascinating to see how another people lived.  That it, like lots of violent cop shows came on at like 8am was also a revelation; we have a ‘watershed’ in the UK, which means that if it’s not suitable viewing for kids it shouldn’t be on TV before 9pm.

It’s probably why I like languages in theory.  I say in theory cos in practice I become more reluctantly bilingual by the day I swear.  When I’m feeling stressed out, suddenly I’m all ‘argh, as if my day wasn’t shitty enough, I have to explain my vex face in french! ARGH!!’  But that happens when you’re a bit homesick.

I used to love French.  When I was in secondary school, I used to translate my favourite RnB tunes into French – for fun!  In my spare time!  And then I’d do my regular French homework!  When I did A levels, I would listen to French radio every morning.  And not the music stations, like news programmes.  I was a proper francophile. Continue reading

Honey, Food is All About Power #Dispatch: Thy Tran

I was honoured to be interviewed as part of Bani Amor’s series ‘Race, Place and Adventure’ bringing to light the voices of travelling writers of colour this summer. But you should check this out cos Everywhere All The Time is awesome, fun, and ALWAYS thought-provoking!

Trouble in Paradise? Travelling Through Protests in Martinique, St Lucia and London

I’ve been travelling a lot this summer.  I’ve been magnificently blessed.  I’ve also travelled with my eyes open, and something unusual has caught my attention:  Quite separately from my natural antenna keenly tuned to signs of social upheaval, it seems that every place I’ve visited has been in the throes of a political drama.

Seriously!

I’m not expert in international political analysis, but I swear every stop involved someone explaining that something wasn’t working normally as a result of protests.

Before you write me off as some leftwing fantasist seeing the revolution everywhere I go, here’s what I mean:

1) Martinique:  Petrol Strike.

Firstly there was the question of whether I could leave for my adventures in the first place.  A week before my anticipated departure, there were talks of yet another petrol strike.  Two days later it was confirmed and began.

As usual in Martinique, the petrol stations were blockaded and the island came to a swift, choked standstill.  In a petrol strike, business meetings are postponed, schools lack teachers and pupils or close, services – including health and police – effectively shut down because key personnel can’t get to work. The state doesn’t appear to have reserves in these eventualities/make provisions for ‘key’ staff.  Riots don’t break out because the would-be opportunists/discontented are also conserving whatever petrol they have left.  Thus it was that all movement in the country halted days – hours really – before I hoped to begin the adventure of a lifetime.  ‘Off island,’

C’est pas possible! I fumed.

No one knows how long it will last.  Although the petrol strikes in the last year have always lasted five days or fewer, everyone remembers how it was a ‘mere’ petrol strike that started the historic 40 day national strike/protest of 2009.  The discontent which fuelled that moment remains widespread – particularly the social complaints – so I’ve often heard Martinicans say they expect another such outbreak, with some rather apocalyptic predictions of a violence which will be markedly different from the last period of protest.

On the Friday before I was due to leave, the worst happened.  My ride to the airport phoned me to say she’d run out of petrol; if Coralie couldn’t get some the following day, I’d need to try and find somebody who still had petrol, and who loved me enough to use the little remaining petrol they had on me.  She might be able to take me the 10 mins to the port with what little petrol they had left, but not the 30 min drive to the airport.  Boats and planes had the fuel to get me off Martinique to St Lucia, where a flight would take me to London and my summer adventure would begin.  But could I get to the port or airport to board? Continue reading

Listening in on Young People in South Africa

I often reference books I like, or which made me think, or which taught me something I think might prove useful to know sooner or later.  Memoirs of a Born Free, about a young woman activist growing up in post-apartheid South Africa, is one of those books.

This review,  on the Steve Biko Foundation’s Frank Talk blog, discusses the book and it’s Eastern Cape launch event in Ginsberg, and sums up why I think it’s a must-read for you.

 

Great news! Sexism is over!

Racism is over dudes. And a whole bunch of isms. I was due to post on this myself but the ladies at Disrupting Dinner Parties took the words out of my mouth so I felt compelled to reblog!! But I don’t think they say it as well as David Rovics…

“It was a time I’ll always remember
Because I could never forget
How reality fell down around us
Like some Western movie set
And once the dust all settled
The sun shone so bright
And a great calm took over us
Like it was all gonna be alright
That’s how it felt to be alive
After the revolution

From Groton to Tacoma
On many a factory floor
The workers talked of solidarity
And refused to build weapons of war
No more will we make missiles
We’re gonna do something different
And for the first time
Their children were proud of their parents
And somewhere in Gaza a little boy smiled and cried
After the revolution

Prison doors swung open
And mothers hugged their sons
The Liberty Bell was ringing
When the cops put down their guns
A million innocent people
Lit up in the springtime air
And Mumia and Leonard and Sarah Jane Olson
Took a walk in Tompkins Square
And they talked about what they’d do now
After the revolution

The debts were all forgiven
In all the neo-colonies
And the soldiers left their bases
Went back to their families
And a non-aggression treaty
Was signed with every sovereign state
And all the terrorist groups disbanded
With no empire left to hate
And they all started planting olive trees
After the revolution

George Bush and Henry Kissinger
Were sent off to the World Court
Their plans for global domination
Were pre-emptively cut short
Their weapons of mass destruction
Were inspected and destroyed
The battleships were dismantled
Never again to be deployed
And the world breathed a sigh of relief
After the revolution

Solar panels were on the rooftops
Trains upon the tracks
Organic food was in the markets
No GMO’s upon the racks
And all the billionaires
Had to learn how to share
And Bill Gates was told to quit his whining
When he said it wasn’t fair
And his mansion became a collective farm
After the revolution

And all the political poets
Couldn’t think of what to say
So they all decided
To live life for today
I spent a few years catching up
With all my friends and lovers
Sleeping til eleven
Home beneath the covers
And I learned how to play the banjo
After the revolution”

By David Rovics.  After the Revolution is on his album ‘The Commons’ .
Check him out at davidrovics.com (or on tour all over England until 25th April 2014!)

Disrupting Dinner Parties

There are going to be some changes here on the blog, thanks to some really amazing news developments in global society.

We’re thrilled to announce that sexism is over! Congrats, friends; we did it!

Celebrate!

I for one am super grateful that now everyone has equal access to physical safety, leadership positions, material well-being, healthcare, childcare, social status, respect, education, sexual freedom, emotional support, and freedom of choice, regardless of gender. 

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The Christmas Films (including how not to make a film about a liberation movement)

Maaaayn, it’s been a while.

Further evidence of my cushy life could be that I’m only now distressed about my last weekend of freedom before the 9-5 starts cramping my style again, or perhaps evidence to the contrary; everything’s been so hectic for the past 6 weeks that this has been the first week I’ve been able to sleep late, let my head stop reeling from things to do, and basically stop long enough to think about writing something worth reading.

I can’t promise that this is it, but at least I’m trying right???

Continue reading

Ayiti cheri…merci

Another Citadel view

View from Citadelle Henri, Cap Haitien, Haiti

I don’t want to write about Haiti right now.  Not least cos I still haven’t worked out how to put ‘it all’ in one concise post.  However I also have not been able to stop writing about Haiti.

Since I first got proper confirmation that I was going (i.e. after I’d looked at my bank balance after buying the plane ticket) all I’ve been able to talk about is going to Haiti.  When I was in Haiti, I jumped up and down in my seat on numerous buses, as excited as a little girl about the place I’d been to, and in anticipation of the next town.  High on the experience of travelling through Haiti.  Since I’ve been back, I’ve been in part low that I’m not still there, catching jokes and exploring, part femme comblé because I made it.  I went to Haiti.

And it was f*cking amazing.

Continue reading

Ooh la la! One crazy month in Martinique!

It’s not a huge secret that I love Martinique.  I try and play it cool like it’s a place like any other, with its good and bad, people and places.  Just another Caribbean island but with a French twist, but that’s a lie.  The truth is that I love this complicated place despite myself.  And several seemingly unconnected innocuous events will help me explain why.

First, there was the night I debated and discussed until I fell asleep.  Exhausted, we all crashed out on our sofa.  Me, and the husband and wife creative team I’ve been calling housemates this past summer.  The subject?  The private view had of Hélène Raffestin‘s art exhibition ‘Sois belle et plais toi’ which I’ll translate as ‘be beautiful and make yourself happy’ (‘please yourself’ has distinctly sexual connotations in English).  The title had intrigued my housie who noticed the play on the play of words on the charming French expression ‘Sois belle et tais toi’ aka ‘be beautiful and shut up’.  Who says the French aren’t romantic?  We were both looking forward to seeing how her desire to look at ‘the role of women in our contemporary society’ would manifest itself in her art.

She did a good job.  Art is supposed to provoke debate and emotions and she certainly did that.  According to the flyer, Raffestin lives and works in Martinique, did her first art school here, and we infer was born here.  The picture of her is shadowy, so although she looks ‘kinda white’ she could also be mixed.  Why is that important?  Because this is Martinique.  The personal, the impersonal, the private, the public, it’s all political!  Martinique, an ‘overseas region of France’ exists as a complete anachronism.  A colony in the classic Age of Empire sense of the world in the age of 21st century necolonialism.  And it retains many of the features of a colony, such as skin colour as an arbiter of social class.

Raffestin’s critique of women in ‘our contemporary society’ threw up immediately the question of ‘which society?’  Continue reading

A Black Brit Heads to Brooklyn

New York City

New York City (Photo credit: kaysha)

Well I’d be lying if I said my trip to New York had gone according plan. It’s fine though, I didn’t have a plan to begin with.

I merely had the time off work from Thurs eve, and had to be in Washington DC 3pm Monday afternoon. When I arrived in The Big Apple and what I did was pretty flexible.  My plan consisted of catching up with old, beloved friends, and seeing Black New York. You see, while some may sing the Sinatra track when drunk, my friends (and fam) were more likely to do Ja Rule and Fat Joe impressions.  Until Jay-Z and Alicia Keys paid musical homage of course.  So cos I’m like, special, for me they might as well call New York Malcom X-town.  As for years I’ve grappled with his ideas, and had his words lift my head, (and having done all the ‘sights’ 10+ years ago on a school trip) I wanted to see the Malcolm X museum, or get closer to him somehow when I was in his hometown. Continue reading

All Caribbean Men Dress Up As Women: Carnival in Martinique

Notting Hill Carnival 2006 (London, UK)

Notting Hill Carnival 2006 (London, UK) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Soooo…my first experience of Carnival in Martinique takes place the same day that the French government passes a law permitting gay couples to marry and adopt children.  I have yet to see this on a news site but multiple people mentioning it plus a sermon about how God instituted marriage to be between a man and a woman the following day have convinced me that it’s true. In case you didn’t know, here’s links in French (more authentic innit), and in English.

In case you’re wondering about the connection, seeing is believing.  As I’m not planning to be in Martinique for the official two days of carnival next week, I’ve been curious to know what I will be missing.  It’s a curious twist of fate (slash me taking every piece of holiday time literally) that despite two carnival-time séjours in the French Caribbean, and being somewhat religious about participating in London’s annual Notting Hill Carnival (and the biggest festival in Europe fyi) I’ve never experienced Carnival à la Martinique, Guadeloupe or Guyane.

I wonder if, as a Londoner born and bred, it doesn’t feel like Carnival Time.  My whole life, Carnival has been at the end of August, Carnival Monday is a day off work, and regular revellers know to book the Tuesday off to recover.  All summer long you’re outdoors; in the park, having BBQs, celebrating the appearance of sunshine, good vibes are buzzing like unendangered bees, and London is the best place in the whole world to be alive from May – September pretty much.  Carnival is the official closing of summer in London.  The Thames Festival wants to be, but no one’s heard of it (sadly, it’s actually good.  I blame Boris). Continue reading