Visibility is Reality

Living in Guyana is like living in the end times. I’m in the front seat of the bus and the driver’s driving like he’s mad, as usual, like all the rest. Nevermind that it’s night time. Nevermind the bicyclists. Nevermind the dogs. Nevermind the pedestrians. I don’t even bother with a seatbelt anymore. I am strangely calm. I feel high even before I leave the house. I haven’t smoked or drank anything except for the ‘herbal’ blend of juice that the man at the shop down the street gave to us for free, to sample. It was sage and lime, he said. Sage and lime. Yes, I tasted that. As well as too much sugar. But who knows what else. I welcome the feeling.
I don’t always feel like going to read with the children. Truth be told, most of the time I I don’t even want to leave the house, much less my bed/hammock. Leaving means bathing, dressing semi-respectably, dealing with other people. I know what depression is. It’s a gray cloud hanging over your head for days at a time, a leaden weight pulling down your shoulders and slowing your feet. It’s an emptiness, a hollowness. It’s an inability to connect with people, to maintain happiness, relationships, balance. This is my normal state of being- if normal means how you are most of the time. Some days are better than others, easier to cope. Other times, not so much.
I don’t remember why but I didn’t go to the drop in center last Thursday. I think I had to go somewhere in the morning and dealing with whatever I had to deal with then wore me out and so I just came home and lay down afterwards. But then on Saturday a little girl said that she missed us on Thursday, that she was looking out for us. Why didn’t we come, she asked. Then I felt bad, like I had let her down. She had been looking out for us. She missed us when we didn’t show up. Nobody else said anything, but one was enough. Then, at the gate, when we were leaving, a little boy begged “Bring poetry next time miss.” Poetry! Wth! Did I hear right? He repeated it. He wants poetry! I am blown away. Ok, so I have to come back on Thursday, and I have to bring poetry.

craft day at drop in center
craft day at drop in center

Also at the drop in center today- one of the staff members- one I don’t like because she’s always shouting harshly at the children- asks me when is the next APNU rally. I dunno why she’s asking me. I don’t know, I tell her. I wonder if the politicians tell people to stop hollering and beating children if she’ll stop.

The stray dogs on the street are now my new best friends. I cannot pass without them jumping up and following me home. If I’m going to town, they walk and wait with me until the bus comes. At least now Mama Sita’s filled out; she’s no longer a walking skeleton, and her fur has grown back in, so she looks much better, no longer scabby and sorey. Most days, the only thing in my refrigerator is dog food. They don’t like the dry chow I offer, preferring rice and meat instead. So I, vegetarian for 2 decades, go to the butcher in stabroek market for the first time, holding my breath and trying to avoid the flying bits. I buy liver and cook it in an old frying pan which then becomes the dog food pan. It is segregated and stuck under the sink after I finish, until the next time. Feeding the cat and dogs is often what gets me out of bed/the house most days.

Pumpkin and MamaSita b4 and after pics
Pumpkin and MamaSita b4 and after pics

I see (one of) my junkie “friends” as I walk to the bus park. It’s the first time I’ve seen him all year. Every time I see him, he looks worse and worse. He was in the hospital for 3 weeks in February he tells me. Somebody broke several of his ribs and injured his knee. He’s trying to exercise it to make sure it heals properly. But he’s still on the coke. He asks me for a pen and paper and writes a note to his grandmother in Canada. He writes her phone number from memory and asks me to deliver the message please. Then he asks me for money. He never asked me for money before. I usually ask him if he wants something to eat or drink and he usually asks for a small coke or $60 lemonade. But this time he asks me for money. When I was looking for the paper to give him to write the note, I found a $500 bill in the back pocket of my jeans. I hadn’t known it was there. Now, I could use that $500. I could buy phone credit with it, or some lunch a day. That’s several days bus fare, or a Guinness and a GT beer at the corner shop. Tomorrow is the first of the month and I have to pay rent. When I looked at my money yesterday, I was shocked. Where was the rest of it? I thought there was more.. Where did it go? I have no idea. Did I hide it from myself and now I just can’t remember where? Haha. But it’s night time, late and dark and we’re not close to anybody selling food or drink. I give him the $500 and ask him what he’s going to do with it, if he’s going to buy cocaine with it.
Earlier that night, I’d seen a girl who had gotten busted at the airport a few months ago for trying to fetch cocaine to America. She was wearing a gold sequin dress and smiling brightly. I don’t know what happened to her case but she was walking free now, with a bright smile and loud gold sequin dress. I’m scared of people, my junkie friend confides to me. I say goodbye then, and hurry home. The closeness between us scares me.
I’m drinking the tequila straight from the bottle these days. Straight, no chaser. There is a dead cockroach in a corner, courtesy of Pumpkin. The TV is on upstairs, as usual; loud and aggravating. We have a picket tomorrow. It’s April Fools Day. It’s also Sexual Violence Awareness Month. They gave me an award today- Advocate of the year. I’m glad Hicken didn’t show up to the event like he said he might. Politics, G, says, gotta play it. Not me; y’all try deh. I can’t picket outside your office one day and socialize with you the next. A lot of people are wearing green. Somebody jokes about getting a transgendered president one day. I wonder if the politicians tell people to stop hating gay and trans folks, bullying and tormenting them in school and the streets, to give them jobs so that so many won’t have to resort to selling their bodies late night on the road where unhinged people stab and shoot at them, if they will, if families will stop throwing their lesbian, gay, bi, and trans children out of their homes, will stop preaching at them to become ‘normal’, if the teachers and religious leaders will stop teaching and preaching hate.. If, if, if. Visibility is reality someone says. Yes. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people have always been around in the world. Deny or try to hide that fact all you want but it remains a fact. And remain in society we will, no matter how many of us you abuse or kill. The girls are dressed to the nines tonight, exuberant and gorgeous. Don’t any of you commit suicide, said another longtime advocate from the podium. Haha. But there’s a funeral on Thursday- a young 19yr old gay/trans who drank poison after breaking up with his lover. The funeral is Thursday. Depression. Abuse. Suicide. That’s also reality. But tonight we eat, drink, and are merry. Well, eat and drink anyway.

TransVisibilityDayEvent2015Collage
TransVisibilityDayEvent2015Collage
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my sunday worship

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every once in a while, once a year at least, you must climb a tree. it might seem insurmountable at first, but you are stronger and more flexible than you think. lay your palms and soles flat against the tree’s trunk and press, feeling the solid, soothing contact against your skin. stand on your toes if necessary, give a little jump, hug the trunk tight, and before you know it, you’ll be airborne. trust me. trust yourself. trust the tree. om

Understanding and Unlearning Fear (Part 1)

http://www.stabroeknews.com/2015/features/03/27/understanding-and-unlearning-fear-part-1/

Fear is a fascinating thing. Some degree of fear is essential to our survival- in fact, a major part of every living creature’s training after birth is in figuring out how to keep themselves safe and secure from danger. In order to do that, we need to sort out what to be afraid of, what can injure us, etc. Fear is useful because it helps to separate friend from foe. As children, our caregivers teach us which foods are ok to eat, which animals to avoid, which actions will result in harm, etc. Much of this knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation; that is how evolution works-experiences in the environment provide information which shape our actions, brains, and bodies- both in the short as well as long term.

The common fear of snakes, for examples, is thought to result from the fact that snakes were one of the biggest threats that our human ancestors faced centuries ago. Snakes evolved before humans and were harder to detect compared to other more visible predators, thereby posing more of a threat. So the fact that many people are afraid of snakes today, even if they have never been bitten, is likely a result of these ancestors’ experiences being ‘hardwired’ into our DNA. The point is that fear is a learned behavior that is sometimes helpful. But it isn’t always.

Fear can also be a hindrance to healthy development. Fear has the potential to be crippling, to negatively impact our wellbeing, and to prevent us from enjoying life fully. Research has shown that exposure to continuously scary and stressful situations affects all systems of the body and can result in a variety of health problems from raising one’s blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attacks, cancer, depression, panic attacks, and other mental health issues, to substance abuse, headaches, eating and digestive disorders, fertility problems, and even premature aging and death. Adults and children who are made to feel fearful regularly can also have difficulty learning and focusing, developing healthy relationships, and making appropriate decisions.

Interestingly, data reveals that people’s fearfulness is not always based on reality. Oftentimes, the things people are afraid of are not really the most dangerous things. For example, some people are terrified of flying. But the fact is that road accidents are far more common than plane crashes, so that should be more concerning. Then there are things like climate change and environmental degradation that are altering our world in truly frightening ways- polluting the soil, air and water and affecting the very elements necessary for our survival. However, climate change does not rank high on many people’s threat scale, even though it’s causing such harm in the world. Part of the reason for this is that people don’t always have all or accurate information about a subject when they’re making decisions. Sometimes the information may be available but not easily understandable. But sometimes, even when people have all the correct information, irrational fear still remains. To return to the snake example- there are many snakes that are not poisonous or harmful, but that does not stop people from being afraid of them.

One thing that affects how each particular person deals with and reacts to fear has to do with the amount of power and control that he/she has or believes they have over their lives, environment, and things that cause fear. One key way to handle fear is the ‘fight or flight’ response. When someone has options and resources that allow them to escape from dangerous situations (flight), they are less likely to be paralyzed by fear. Those who do not have such opportunities, who must stay and face the threats, are much more vulnerable- especially if they lack the ability to successfully defend themselves (fight). It is after all, the weaker animals who become prey and are consumed. But when people believe that they have the power to change their environments they are less negatively impacted by fear. Studies show that people who take action to improve their circumstances and communities- to make them safer and more appealing- are less anxious, fearful, and stressed. Power and control therefore, are intertwined with fear.

Similarly, people who are engaged in activities they care about, who do things they love, learn, and gain from, who have opportunities to express and develop themselves, who are not just forced to battle for survival- these people make up the foundation of a healthy society. This, sadly, is not the case in Guyana today. These days, fear cripples many Guyanese. Whether the fear the people feel is real or manufactured, the fact is that it is a major impediment to the healthy development of our society. Fear keeps people from working together. It prevents dialogue and understanding. It breeds violence and ugliness instead of empathy and wellbeing.

It is critical that we understand the role that fear is playing in our lives and society today. To reiterate- yes, some fear is necessary to survival. But too much of our fear is irrational and not based on any facts. Humans have the largest brains of all animals; we should therefore, theoretically, be able to process information better than any other, to discern fact from fiction. Unfortunately, it is also true that our baser instincts- those that drive the lust for power, control, and material goods (usually at the expense of others’ wellbeing), still have a strong hold on many. Greed and personal glorification still drive much of our decision-making processes, both privately and publicly, and using fear as a tool to divide and conquer is still commonplace.
We must realize how harmful this is and we must reject all those who peddle and seek to manipulate us this way. We must resist the temptation to stereotype. We must think critically and look beyond the surface to figure out the truth. We must do this if we are to build a better, healthier, society. Fear is learned behavior and can be un-learned.

The East Indian exodus – 49,368 Guyanese left Guyana ‘LEGALLY’ for US from 2005 – 2014

another MUST READ AND SHARE

mark jacobs lives!

demockery & capitalism thriving in Guyana demockery & capitalism thriving in Guyana

don’t believe your lying eyes. progress breeds enemies daily

Immigrant visas issued by US Embassy Georgetown, Guyana from 2005 – 2014
6,887,5,806, 3,197, 5,214, 4,357, 5,185, 4,934, 4,394, 4,750,4,644
73000 visas were issued for the period 1992 to 2004. in other words 122,368 Guyanese ‘legally’ left the country for the USA under PPP mis-rule. and we’re only talking america. throw in the masses in suriname, french guyana, venezuela, trinidad, antigua, grenada, st. kitts, antigua, bahamas, canada, st. vincent, aruba, curacao etc etc and you’re talking hundreds of thousands of Guyanese who have fled demockery under the PPP.
let’s see what the US Ambassador had to say about this issue

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06GEORGETOWN157 2006-02-15 13:11 2011-08-26 00:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Georgetown

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
SUBJECT: CENSUS PROVIDES INSIGHT INTO…

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dear brother #joker

Dear brother,

Who taught you to hate so blindly? Why do you allow yourself to be brainwashed so easily? What, besides a sense of ethnic superiority, do you stand to gain from a continuation of the status quo? Don’t you think that after 2+ decades, it’s time for a change? And why oh why, can’t we talk politics in 2015 without Burnham’s jumbie still getting raised? Lastly, if you’re truly convinced that things are so great in Guyana under the PPP, why haven’t you and your family moved ‘back home’ to GT to live years ago?

I know you aren’t stupid but I don’t understand this ignorant allegiance of yours, how you can so readily suspend your critical thinking ability. You don’t even have anything to gain; you aren’t doing any business or getting any government kickbacks (at least not that I know about). I know that kinship is important to you, but the fact is that plenty of your ‘mati’ are punishing under this government; reality remains real, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

So why are you still falling for this nonsensical race-based, partisan politricks? I can understand the antipathy of those who suffered directly under the pnc, but that’s not us. It seems like you’ve conveniently forgotten the fact that our father had a good good government job under Burnham. True, I don’t know exactly what compromises he might have had to make or the stressors of the adults at that time but I know that we had a privileged and sheltered childhood, that we never punished or wanted for anything. I know there were abuses and that others did indeed suffer. But there is abuse and sufferation now as well- if anything, more than then, truth be told.

I agree there’s a venality to politrickians the world over. That is why we must be as committed to accountability in the long term as to voting on election day. Protesters get shot, he says. Yes, I know. He tells me he believes that the opposition could have killed Courtney in order to stir “their” people up. When there is irrefutable proof of links between the PPP and druglords/gang leaders/murderous criminals like Roger Khan. The same blood flows in our veins but he’s as alien to me as ET. He tells me that he’s going to fly in to vote. When are you moving the wife and kids back here to live? I counter. Oh, I haven’t decided yet, he says lamely. Thanks for the laffs, bro. #joker

today in Guyana undercover Police farces searched me for drugs & guns

MUST READ #GUYANA

mark jacobs lives!

noticed two guyana foolice officers on bikes going east on paradise public road approaching melanie damishana. they are communicating with a parked gold four door pick up truck dark tinted PNN 8762
well let me take that back. the two jokers on bikes have on bullet proof vests that say police, i have no idea if they are or not. as we know men dressed in Guyana police uniforms have been hijacking, murdering and killing Guyanese reguarly

Bandits in police uniforms at roadblocks…Bogus cops would confuse even real police – official
March 21, 2015 | By KNews |
Police appear to have no plan in place to catch bandits who dress as cops to rob travelers at bogus roadblocks, and one official acknowledged that even real policemen would be unable to tell the real from the fake at night.
The official gave this response after bandits dressed as policemen made…

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he’s “our hero” now that he’s dead. when he was alive he was a madman..  my old wish was that more people had stood with courtney when he was alive. but it’s too late for that now. my new wish is that more than 10% of the people standing up and speaking out now for the first time continue to do so beyond today. just more than 10%. i want to believe that that’s not too much to ask, but deep down, i don’t know. guyana and guyanese people continue to disappoint me time after time, and it’s really hard some days, to see the light. but i’m still alive and still trodding dis dam, which is more than courtney can say, so.. gotta keep trying i guess..

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on the bus coming, a man in the back seat says he going in the opposite direction of the funeral. “cuz i’m an indian, so you know…” my migraine from the day before is still lingering. i thank the goddess for my fierce indo-guyanese friend who turns around and manners him before i have to say anything. “hello, all ahwe blood is the same color!” well, not everybody thinks so, is his lame retort. revolution begins in the mind. the crowd at parade ground is majority afro-guyanese tho. we are in the minority. we take note every time we see an indian person (who is not a politrickian). there IS a lot of straight hair there, just not on the heads of indo-guyanese people. revolution begins in the mind, oui.

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i see some familiar faces but most are strangers. two of my gay/trans friends are right at the entrance tho, one in a hot pink shirt. we hug. i am happy to see them there. they are not afraid to be in the minority, to be visible; they stand proudly. later on, when they move closer into the crowd, some big women in brown uniforms who are standing behind me start making a set of noise, whooping, shrieking “look antiman!”, and running behind them. “why are you behaving like that, making all that noise?” i ask one of them. “is a funeral we’re at; you should have some more respect!” she sneers at me and tells me that she’s behaving so because she’s happy. i shake my aching head and sneer back at her, making my disgust and disapproval clear. it’s all i can muster right then. these are big women, people who should know better. but no, they are proud of their ignorance and not ashamed of displaying it for all to see. sometimes the amount of work and change that is needed overwhelms me. but if we all take on a little part, do what we can, whenever we can- acting when you hear ignorance being spouted, when you see people harassing, bullying, or abusing others, animals etc- you know, like courtney did,  maybe then change will come.

entropy

the tent under which the casket will lay goes up minutes before the hearse pulls in. people surge forward. sister penda calls for order and discipline, but people aren’t paying her any mind. courtney’s father also calls for order, reminding people that courtney was a very disciplined person. but the surge continues. sister penda gets vex quickly, as she is known to do, and barks that the casket will not be opened unless people form a line! i am embarrassed. i flash back to the chaos of the bus park the previous day, with full buses stuck behind other buses deliberately parked to block traffic. then, as now, i sigh. if we are unable to accomplish such simple tasks as forming a line without chaos breaking out, how the hell are we ever going to get anything right in this country? people can line up orderly enough when they want to tho- you see that at the american and canadian embassies.. and also when the ‘because we care’ cash vouchers were being handed out. but it seems like chaos is our default position now. i can’t wait to see how things go on election day.. i am comfortable with a fair amount of disorder; in fact i quite like the concept of entropy,  it comforts me at times, weirdly enough. but there is nothing comforting about the level of ill-discipline in our society today. as the line pushes and shoves to the casket, i am sad and embarrassed. that, more than seeing a strangely silent and immobile courtney, threatens to bring forth the tears.

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there are lots of vendors selling stuff- drinks, snacks. guyanese flags for $100. i already have a flag, don’t need another. but the vendor gives us one each anyway. she tells us a man nearby has paid for them and told her to give them to us. is it because we’re indian, i wonder idly? i’m glad she’s getting some sales though. i know some people find the vending in bad taste but it doesn’t bother me. i know the profit margin for most street vendors is razor thin and i understand them wanting to take advantage of every situation where people assemble to hustle their goods and try to make a bit more money. this is the life of poor people on the dam in guyana today. courtney’s mom, after all, is a street vendor. he was a bus driver. donations to the fund for his three daughters can be made at any Republic Bank Guyana Ltd. Name of account: Education Fund – Daughters of Courtney Crum-Ewing. Account number: 261-548-2. Bank address: 38 – 40 Water Street, Georgetown Guyana. For Wire Transfers from outside of Guyana, use SWIFT CODE: RBGLGYGG.

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everyone is still harping on may 11th and voting. yea yea BUT THERE’S SO MUCH MORE TO BE DONE, BESIDES VOTING! i want to scream. my head pounds even more. monuments will be constructed, they promise, so all guyanese will remember our hero. i think of all the people, youth especially, who have no idea who walter rodney is. martin carter poems and shakespeare are read. i think of the children at the drop in center who struggle to spell the days of the week. there’s so much to do there, but i’m still struggling to get enough volunteers, people willing to consistently spend some of their time building with the youth. if you ask me, i’d tell you that’s the kind of monument guyana needs- a living one! the pounding in my head continues.

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incompetence, interference, and injustice: this is how rape gets dealt with in guyana

so tired. spent hours today going back and forth between magistrate’s court and police station. this is the station where they lit that teenage boy’s genitals on fire in 2009 so i was a bit scared to go in. but we were determined to get to the bottom of the bullshit, so there was where we had to go..

case file incomplete since december. time passing and case (rape) will most likely get discharged 2moro. police prosecutor (who we’ve heard is related to the perpetrator) seh is nah he to blame, is the CID detectives not doing their work properly. CID inspector deny deny deny (one thing i doan tolerate is rape story, allahuakbar!) and toss the buck back. definitely some bucks being caught somewhere, that’s for sure. incompetence and interference: the hallmarks of the police and judicial system in guyana today, nevermind what the big ones tell you in their air conditioned offices in georgetown.

don’t try and wear a jeans into the courtroom (well women only; men can pass)- dem community policewomen gon be at your throat. o lovely guyana- if only all your laws were as strictly enforced as the nonsensical dress codes! it’s worth mentioning tho, that the policemen pants more tight than anything i see any of the women wearing. and apparently you can wear a jeans skirt that show more skin than a denim pants covering 100%. see, this shit makes no sense but that is what they focus on and enforce more strictly than anything else.

while rapists walk free and rape victims struggle to carry on. he comes by her workplace and stares her down. from the beginning, the first time she went to the police, she heard the matter wasn’t going to go anywhere. she drank 10 pills on sunday last. they were antibiotics tho, so didn’t do her anything, she said, with a tremulous laugh. rapist’s girlfriend and auntie in court by his side. yea, women are complicit in patriarchy too.

meanwhile, her mother says- cover yourself in the blood of jesus and have faith! magistrate says her hands are tied; she know more is needed but she’s limited by the law. asks us if we can help counsel the gay teenager who got caught stealing because his father put him out. she doesn’t want to send him to noc because she’s seen from the others who she’s sent there that it doesn’t help. send them, we say. we don’t tell her that there has been no funding for months, that the center is running on fumes.  “do the churches, mosques, mandirs have any counseling programs?” she, the magistrate, asks us.

my head pounds. i have to come home and lie down. before i explode.

i don’t make it to read with the children.

we have to go back tomorrow morning.

in the afternoon, we bury courtney.

but guyanese happy, rohee says. i dream of smashing his face with my fist.

http://www.cswnet.com/~menamc/langston.htm