ramadan day 7 reflection: it’s really hard to be patient and creative with children when you’re hungry and thirsty. remember this the next time you see a parent and child(ren) begging on the street corner. i couldn’t focus and packed it in early today at the drop in center. ended up just sitting and gyaffing about god and religion with 8 yr old M. she said god talks to her when she’s sleeping. what does it sound like, i ask her. well, i’m sleeping, so i don’t know! okaaaay… he tells me i can go home though, she continues. she and her sister are at the drop in center, 4 other siblings at the other location in sophia, and 4 other, older ones, at home. yep, that’s 10 children total. she used to run and hug me when i started going to the center; now 9+ months later, i barely get a wave and dry greeting. but at least she’s staying to gyaff today. um, why is god a he? i asked her. you’re saying god is a she?! wide eyes! why not? i wonder who she’ll report this conversation to and if i’ll get in trouble the next time i go back.. she’s wearing a blue and gold dress with prints of ankhs, pyramids and female Egyptian heads on it but she doesn’t know anything about Egypt when I ask her. I pull out the atlas and show her where it is on the map and tell her about mummies. I make a note to bring a national geographic magazine and some printouts for her the next time. if there’s a next time, that is. They’re filling the children heads with so much skunt. R wanders by with a scarf around his neck and gets screamed at. ‘Take that scarf off! You’re a boy!”. I flash back to the lgbt conference I recently attended in suriname and how our facilitator L entertained us with his fun and ever-changing scarf placement/arrangement. There are quite a few children at the drop in center who are gay/lesbian, but that fact just gets ignored, as if that’ll make it go away. I don’t know yet what to do/how to approach it. it’s been one of those days. saw ch cry on the witness stand in court this morning while the police woman who participated in his brutalization smirked. a black man crying and his black woman torturer smirking. a woman who’s out of a job while her pal, constable devin singh continues to “work” in the foolice farce, torturing and brutalizing other Guyanese. while their lawyers bemoan the besmirching of their name and their loss of wages. Fucking lawyers. The one representing the woman constable had shaken my hand a couple of weeks ago and told me congratulations on bheri-gate. today he passed me straight while I stand with ch and his mom. Fucking hypocrites. I got some more tequila today tho (and some dark chocolate ), and I got to see one of mamasita’s pups. A luta continua.
While the norm in most places nowadays is to run into a pharmacy and pick up some medication if one is feeling ill, the truth is that pharmacies, as we know them, have only been around for a couple hundred years. People, however, have been on planet Earth for thousands of years. What then did our ancestors use for medicine when they got sick? The answer, which many people have forgotten, is that many of the original medicines were plant-based. Humans, through trial and error, careful observation of the animals around them, and experimentation, learned over time which plants could heal and which could harm. This knowledge, obviously, was very valuable and carefully passed on from generation to generation.
Today, a significant number (40% – 50%) of prescription medicines still contain extracts from plants, while many other drugs ( 50% – 70% of those developed in the last 25 years) contain plant derivatives – chemicals made in a laboratory but based on elements found in nature. Aspirin, for example—one of the most well-known and commonly used drugs in the world—is based on a chemical found in the willow tree bark. Other plant-based medicines are used to treat all kinds of illnesses from cancer, heart disease, malaria, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, to pain management and depression even.
Usually, scientists are eager to discover new sources of potential medicine. Some plants however, even those with significant medicinal properties, sometimes end up being stigmatized. The cannabis plant is one such glaring example. Cannabis has been around for centuries and grows wild in many tropical lands. It is also one of humanity’s oldest cultivated crops. Certain varieties (aka hemp) were and are used to make fabric, rope, oil, and paper, while other strains—recognized as having more mood-altering properties—were and are used for medicinal, religious, and recreational purposes.
Records detailing cannabis’s medicinal uses have been found as far as 2737 BC (by Emperor Shen Neng of China), as well as in numerous ancient Egyptian papyrus, Indian Ayurvedic texts, Greek and Roman medical references, and other records of civilizations ranging from Asia to the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, South and North America; worldwide, basically. The root, seeds, and leaves are all useful, with traditional Chinese medicine recommending using juice from the leaves to fight tapeworms and powder from the seeds against constipation and hair loss. Egyptian papyrus describes its help with sore eyes and haemorrhoids while Ayurvedic medicine used it to combat insomnia, headaches, anxiety, and numerous gastrointestinal disorders. Arabic physicians used cannabis from the 8th to 18th centuries, recognizing its anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, anti-fever, and anti-vomiting properties. Cannabis’s use in pain management was also widely documented, with evidence showing that numerous people, including the Vikings and medieval Germans used it for pain relief pain during childbirth, toothaches, and for minor surgeries. The Ancient Greeks also used cannabis in veterinary medicine, to dress wounds and sores on their horses.
In recent times however, there has been a war on cannabis, led primarily by the United States. Ironically, in 1619, the legislature of the state of Virginia had passed a law requiring every farmer to grow cannabis (the hemp variety). The fear of marijuana—the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant and the least potent, most widely available and used of all the cannabis products—only dates back to the 1930’s, and was triggered by an influx of Mexican migrants who used the plant. Ignorant racist fear, along with widespread unemployment during the Great Depression led to the blaming of marijuana-using Mexicans for all kinds of crimes and the eventual passage of laws banning marijuana use and cultivation in the US. The industrial variety of cannabis—hemp—was also banned.
A few decades later, in the 1970s calls for decriminalization began to be heard but various forces including conservative politicians, concerned parents, anti-hemp businesses, pharmaceutical corporations, and others pushed back, arguing (even without any concrete evidence) that marijuana was a ‘gateway drug’ that would lead to the abuse of other ‘harder’ drugs, which could see permanent brain damage. The ‘War on Drugs’ became a massive operation in the 1980s sucking up a huge amount of resources and spreading to numerous countries outside the US. Foreign aid became linked to countries’ willingness to go along with American drug policies and the demonization of cannabis and persecution of marijuana users became even more widespread, even in places which had never before had such laws. In just a few decades, hundreds of thousands of people became criminals for the simple act of using, growing, and selling a plant which for centuries before, had been used freely, openly, and widely.
Cannabis does have psychotropic properties. It does cause changes in one’s mood, perceptions, and consciousness. However, so do numerous other substances, many of which like alcohol, as well as other plant-based substances such as tobacco, caffeine, cocoa, are legal. In fact, alcohol and tobacco abuse often does much more harm than marijuana use. Unfortunately, much of the ‘research’ from which the anti-cannabis sentiment and laws sprung was not based on valid scientific research but concocted by persons and groups intent on a particular criminalization and economic agenda. In recent years, much of this anti-cannabis research has been revealed to be flawed and current data backs up what our ancestors always knew – cannabis does indeed have significant medicinal properties. It is not a gateway drug. Cannabis users are not criminals; crime rates have not increased in places that have decriminalized cannabis. People suffering from cancer, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and other illnesses have been shown to benefit dramatically from medicinal cannabis use. As a migraine sufferer, I personally have found cannabis to be immensely therapeutic. Hemp products also remain more sustainable and environmentally friendly than their petroleum-based competitors. It is high time that we rid ourselves of the nonsensical notions and laws and use all our brain cells to address the real problems in our society. Ending the stigmatization of the cannabis plant and persecution of its users is one step forward in building a healthier and more just society.
Sherlina can be contacted at email@example.com
I’m not sure why but I woke up yesterday feeling like the sky- leaden and overcast. It had already been a very ‘full’ week, with lots of high and lows. I was still missing the sight of Mamasita’s sweet brown eyes and wagging tail at the gate and on the road every day. Missing also was Courtney Crum-Ewing during the opening of the People’s Park and Parliament on Wednesday; the fact that the occasion fell on his birthday made it all the more bittersweet.
On Thursday morning, I fielded a call from a cousin of mine who I haven’t heard from for months, not even during Bheri-gate. He was calling now to let me know that his son- who has been going to private school all his life- had gotten into QC. “What I didn’t do, my children doing,” he said to me emotionally, telling me also that he remembered how I had been the ‘top girl’ in Guyana when I wrote Common Entrance, eons ago. I was left momentarily speechless. Yes, and I had also been valedictorian and voted the one ‘most likely to succeed’ out of my high school class, but the fact is that as soon as I got to college and started broadening my horizons and honing my critical thinking skills, my definition of success changed radically, to put it mildly. In the end, I congratulated the child, told him to keep up the good work and that learning was a lifelong process, and bigged up my cousin for being a good parent.
Later that day, I went to the drop in center. Four year old J, who really needs to be somewhere more age appropriate, who is both the youngest and the loudest child there, who last week ripped multiple pages out of one of the story books, came in and started flinging books around, as usual. He’s going to school, but what he’s learning there, I’m not sure. Not wanting a repeat of the page ripping, I grabbed him and imprisoned him in a wraparound hug. I’d tried this before and he had squirmed out, but this time he stayed. I tickled him a bit and he giggled. Then, when I tried to remove my arms, he reached out and wrapped them back around himself. And so we read, quietly and peacefully. A, who had been running around outside, put on a shirt over his sand-streaked back and came inside to read when I called his name. L, who has also been doing more playing than reading the last couple of weeks came in towards the end and picked up a book. One of the older girls read to one of the younger ones.
Many of the children still aren’t going to school and too many of the ones who are in school are still struggling with the basics, still too far behind where they should be. Troubling also, is the lack of empathy and attention being paid to positive emotional development of the children. J is always screaming and lashing out because he’s always being tormented by the older children. As we read, I asked B, another slightly older boy, to describe the feelings of the people in the picture. “Happy,” he said, when the image was clearly not. “Are you sure?” I asked again and again he said happy. Depressing also was the gaggle of schoolgirls on the bus singing along to the vulgar song lyrics. Still, giving that hug to J, and getting him to sit quietly and engage with a book was my marker of success for Thursday.
Later that evening as I tried to respond without sighing to the UG student as she asked the perpetually aggravating “So, you really never wanted a child of your own” question, I thought about all the people like Anil Nandlall and others who pay huge sums of money to artificially inseminate themselves when thousands of children languish in poorly-run facilities, and all the others in families but who still don’t get the care, attention, and access to opportunities they deserve because of lack of financial resources. While millions are spent on things like Commissions of Inquiry that go nowhere, and accomplish nothing more than distributing state resources to those who don’t need them one whit. And so I awoke yesterday, feeling leaden and melancholyish. I’m not a patient person and waiting for change and justice is not easy for me.
I had been looking forward to this day though. It was our one year anniversary of Groundings. We started last June, by the police outpost in Stabroek. Now, as then, most Guyanese in the street still don’t know much about Walter Rodney- just that he was a ‘freedom fighter’, was murdered, and whatever else they’ve gleaned from the news stories about the COI. Last year, I had taken copies of his books for people to check out and read from, but this day, with my head dull and clouded, it was all I could do to drag myself out of the house. We’d wanted to do something big, but people’s schedules and the wet weather had dampened our spirits and plans; books and Guyanese don’t do so well in rain after all.. And so, without much planning, like salmon simply following their instincts back to their homegrounds, we ended back at the last spot we’d grounded at- on the pavement outside of Parliament building. We’d last grounded the week before the elections, with lots of folks and gyaffing. This time it was just me and Vidya.
I tied the less-than-impressive homemade cloth banner on the iron Parliament fence and we spread out the books on the cloth on the ground. They went quickly; several people taking more than one. I began forcing myself to interact with folks. A woman picked up one of the slim volumes of poetry and I asked her to read a poem to me. She read about the shadow of a strawberry tree and my mood started to lighten. It was as if someone flicked a switch inside my head; it was that immediate and apparent. Amazing. I thanked her and she went on her way. A St. Stanislaus student picked up another of the poetry volumes (thank you btw, Anouska, for all those!). She writes poetry, she said, but it HAS to rhyme. Oh no, I said, and we went back and forth about that for a little while. I challenged her to explore different types of poetry, including the none-rhyming ones and eventually she said she would. Another schoolboy picked up the booklet of Afro Guyanese proverbs and dutifully read aloud to me. I was curious to see if the Creolese ‘translations’ would go over any easier than the ones written in standard English, but he seemed to stumble over them both equally. I encouraged him to read them with an adult or older person (you should have been there, Charlene!) Gyaffed with a couple parents and students what they thought about the private vs public school story and most agreed that the public schools needed to be improved.
Around this point, two City Constables came up and told us that we’d have to move, that things had changed and they had orders to keep the pave in front of Parliament clear of junkies and the like. But we’re not junkies, I protested and we will move, just as soon as we finish giving away these books. The constables were firm tho- we would have to move, even if we weren’t junkies. Just now, just now, we pleaded. The sky was still overcast; rain still threatened. If it rained, then we’d move, but to do so otherwise would have been a pain in the butt and I just didn’t feel up to it. “I know you all are just following orders, so can I talk to your supervisor?” I asked. No, no was their response. “Go and tell them is Kissoon and Nageer out here,” Vidya tried. Another man who had been gyaffing with us also told them something about “this is the woman who Bheri…” and “they’re good people..” and eventually they walked off. In the hullabaloo, several children passed by and scooped up armfuls of books. Yes, they were going to read all those, plus they were carrying some for other people. Ohk, I said, still mentally questioning the veracity of their statement. There are several used books vendors around and truth be told, the thought had passed my mind that that was one avenue I could explore, if my bills ever got too big. Maybe that was the business these children’s family members were into. I didn’t really mind tho; after all, who can get vexed at children for taking books?
The two City Constables came back. Y’all have to move. I sighed. It’s not that I’m against following the rules really, it’s just that when the rules make no sense and when people use fear and threats instead of reason and critical thinking that I get irked. The constables were clearly afraid of their supervisor. I dug out my cellphone. “I actually have Hammie’s #,” I said out loud. “Should I call him?” I mused. I’ve never done that before- called some bigwig for a favor. “Call, call!” Vidya and the other guy encouraged me. Vidya wanted to witness the karma of Hamilton Green coming to the rescue of a Walter Rodney-inspired Groundings event and because my head was now feeling light light and I too like karmic jokes, I made the call. “Hello, Mr Mayor. I’m, um, having a slight problem here..” Where are you and I’m on my way was his response. I don’t want y’all to get in trouble, I told the city Constables, so maybe y’all can just go around the corner and watch or something. They looked at each other and walked off again.
A man with a pink plastic beaded necklace and some wood in his hands, who looked like he might be homeless, came up and looked at the remaining books. He picked out the one he wanted and I asked him where he lived. On the street, he said. “Are things any better now?” I asked him. It’s cleaner, he said, and he feels better. I wanted to talk to him more, to find out if the city Constables are giving them more or less problems, where he goes when it rains/floods etc, but then he wandered away with his book. Another man with a case of GT beer on his shoulder stopped and asked for a nice book. There were only a couple left. “Um, what you mean nice? You want mystery? Romance? Thriller? You could put down the beer and look at them for yourself, you know,” I told him. But maybe he knows me better. He kept his hands firmly on the case of beer and pointed to The Odyssey. “Oh, you picked a classic there!” I said (don’t ask me to tell you anything more than that heh). He grinned back and cheerily posed for a picture. That’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Mayor’s vehicle roll up. He didn’t get out, just rolled down the window and spoke to the two Constables who had re-appeared. Wave, wave, and he/they disappeared again. 🙂 Neither Vidya nor I got to ask him anything about Walter Rodney, but at least the harassing Constables went away. The last books were snapped up by two women, one with a big Afro. They wanted to know what we were really doing and I told them. Then I asked the woman with the Afro if that was her real hair or a wig. Oh geez you, she laughed, before telling me it was a wig. The end 🙂
Vidya and I stood by the fence a little while longer, gyaffing, until one of our long-lost friends reached. Some people drove by and asked us what we were doing there and Vidya joked that we were chaining ourselves. Another time he said that we were waiting to sneak in. I shook my head and inched further away from him. Another friend came by late but gave us nice nice gifts to share out at the next Groundings. We decided, in the interest of not having any further run-ins with the City Constabulary, that we’d go by the People’s Parliament pavement instead next time. Or, if the weather gets nicer, maybe we’ll finally have that picnic in the Gardens, maybe by 7 Ponds 😉 Look forward to seeing you.
YES. Reject the IMF! is sheer punishment for poor people. let them find their $$ some other way.
St. Lucia Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Antony has defended his decision not to follow into the footsteps of some regional governments and not taking his island into a programme of austerity measures with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He made the statement while wrapping up debate in the St. Lucian Parliament on the 2015-2016 Appropriation Bill in the face of criticisms from members of the Opposition who claimed that those countries that are under an IMF programme are seeing economic growth.
During her presentation, Opposition Leader Dr. Gale Rigobert accused Dr. Antony who is also the country’s Minister of Finance of being responsible for another period of economic contraction.
The St. Lucia budget indicated that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by an estimated 0.7% or negative growth of minus 2.7%.
The Members of the Opposition told the House of Representatives that the…
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not a blade o grass!
Tradewinds – Dave Martins -“Not a blade of grass & Is we Own”
Dave Martins – the story behind “Not A Blade of Grass”
NOT A BLADE O’ GRASS
There are all sorts of strange tales about my song Not A Blade O’ Grass.
Some I’ve heard second-hand, but some folks, believe it or not, have
actually come to me directly to categorically assert that they know
exactly how the song came about. A couple times, I’ve been told, “Burnham
pay yuh to write dat song.” One fellow, fully blocked, told me that Mr.
Burnham had even suggested some of the words. In fact, while Brother
Forbes certainly used the song for his own ends, he had nothing whatsoever
to do with its creation. For that, you have to go to the late Pat Cameron.
Here’s the story, unabridged:
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people who call other people ‘its’ are shits
I am re-publishing below an article from the “Jamaica Gleaner,” and a response to it from one of the “things” referred to in this article.
Yes, “things.” This is how the writer, Mel Cooke, refers to his fellow Jamaicans, whom he happens to self-righteously disapprove of. Clearly he has written this to create a stir – and will include responses to this airing of his personal prejudices in his next column. Wow, that is something to look forward to.
Below this article, I am printing a piece by Afifa Aza, Ph.D., about whom I wrote a profile in an earlier blog post. Both Mel and Afifa are well-educated, intelligent, creative people. Mel Cooke is a published poet and writer; Afifa Aza is a social activist, educator, writer and DJ. And yet, the gulf between them is enormous. But isn’t that Jamaica for you? It’s sometimes a very sad place.
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Originally posted on mark jacobs lives!:
Total cost of the facility is some G$4bn (US$19.6mn), and is partly being financed via an US$18mn IDB loan, while the remaining G$800mn was allocated by the government. December 30, 2014 | By KNews | Filed Under News Four years after the opening of the much anticipated Haags Bosch…
Originally posted on mark jacobs lives!:
see how things works out? the pendulum always returns to equilibrium position. on time, every time. Justice is not vengeance and we will get it. Join us at Parliament from noon to remind APNU+AFC parliamentarians that the murderers of Courtney Crum-Ewing must be brought before the courts ASAP. President…
a lot more to learn, indeed…
In Trinidad, if you are an Indian woman, and you don’t like doubles, curry, Bollywood films, pepper or big river limes with rum and loud chutney-soca music, you don’t practice any religion, lack all deference to patriarchal authority, and you made a Dougla baby with an Afro-Trinidadian man who is a DJ, not even a doctor or lawyer, people of all ethnicities often openly and genuinely ask, ‘What kind of Indian are you?’
It’s understandable. I’ve been asking myself this question since 1995, when I returned to live in Trinidad from an adolescence spent in Barbados and Canada. Never really feeling like I was a real Indian because I didn’t end up naturally connecting to typical cultural, religious, familial or other kinds of practices and traditions, I used my Mphil thesis to explore how other young women were living Indian femininity at the turn of century. I administered…
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