Dear Media People, a few things about Obeah that Trevor Sayers can’t tell you

1. Many spiritual systems across the world believe that plants, animals, stones, wood, trees, geographical locations etc have an energy frequency and that you can use these to move yourself or others closer to or further away from balance. This belief does not just exist in African spiritual systems.
2. Vodou is a Fon/Ewe word meaning spirit. It is a religious body of beliefs practiced in Benin and it exists in a syncretic form with Catholicism in Haiti. Voodoo is anti-Black propaganda made up by Hollywood to further separate African people from their spirituality. The specific fear around Haitian spirituality stems from the fact that Vodou was a central part of the success of the Haitian Revolution.
3. There are multiple considerations of the origin of the word ‘Obeah’ similar or root words exist in Twi, Efik, Akan…but what we know of Obeah is a sloppy colonialist lumping together of complex spiritual systems that they did not understand but that they feared would be used by enslaved people to emancipate themselves.
4. Obeah was criminalised in the Caribbean because it was a tool of resistance, the first Obeah laws appeared in 1760 after Tacky’s Rebellion in Jamaica. You should also know that in 2015 three Hindu men were arrested and deported from Antigua under the Obeah Act of 1904.
5. Obeah is not Ifa/Orisa. However Ifa/Orisa devotees believe that all natural elements have a vibrational force that can be harnessed to achieve certain outcomes for the person requesting the ritual, or the intended receiver of the effects of the ritual.
6. All systems can be used for both positive and negative, if you believe in these polarities. Political, educational, spiritual systems around the world have since the dawn of humanity been created and interpreted by those who have more information to manipulate those who have less information.
7. The only thing that can hurt us is fear of what we don’t understand. If people know that we are afraid of certain ways of being and seeing the world they have power over us. This has nothing to do with spiritual forces. The perception of power is created and can be distorted by those who stand to benefit from keeping people in a state of fear.
8. If you know your own obeah, nobody can use theirs against you.

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Help Haitians, not the Disaster Capitalists

Disaster time again, for our sisters and brothers in Haiti. Already the vultures circle, using this tragedy as another opportunity to take advantage or worse, to engage in the pornography of suffering black bodies.

Now is not the time for tears, hand-wringing, there are lots of organisations that are quietly doing good work in Haiti that does not line the pockets of multinational aid corporations,  or continue to fatten the Port au Prince elite.

The following is a list I’ve compiled thanks to friends in Haiti and its diaspora.  Please do your own research on the organisations listed below. I’ll keep updating it as more info emerges.

Donations in Trinidad 

A group of citizens are doing a non-organisational collection of items from Monday 10th October. Collection/Drop-off point will be at the Veni Mangé Restaurant 67A Ariapita Ave, Woodbrook.

ITNAC Trinidad based organisation sending volunteers soon to Haiti asking for donations of  food/clothing/shoes/women’s sanitary wear/insect repellent as well as urgent cash donations in any currency.

Haitian led NGOs

Konbit Mizik   a NYC based non-profit using music to educate, empower and uplift Haiti’s vulnerable youth.

Haiti Communitiere   Donations go directly to help communities gain access to the resources, knowledge and skills they need to rebuild.

  Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC)  is an arts based non-profit organization created for the personal growth, empowerment, and education of children in need in Jacmel, Haiti.

Sakala  provides a safe space in the heart of Haiti’s largest underdeveloped area, where youth come together to grow, learn, and play.

Soil Haiti  eco sanitation service organisation

Volontariat pour le Développement d’Haïti  focusing on young people’s development

Lambi Fund  working on economic justice and alternative sustainable development.

MADRE LGBTQI friendly organisation doing gender discrimination and violence work.

Sowaseed Sustainable change and support for orphans

Konbit Solèy Leve Participation, Solidarity, Reciprocity

Haitian American Caucus  Brooklyn based young professionals organisation

PRODEV Education access in under-served communities.

Ayiti Se NOU Working on various projects around education, health, environment, entrepreneurship and culture/sports.

International NGOs 

Roots of Development  community led development projects

Partners in Health  Teaching Hospital in Mirebalais

Nova Hope for Haiti  community medical care

Crowd-funding appeals

Fondation Aquin Solidarite (FAS)  is a non-profit organization, founded in 2005, to provide educational, cultural, sports and economic support and mentoring to the city and the people of Aquin, located 117kms southwest of Port-au-Prince.

Hurricane Matthew Relief in Abricots Support for cacao farmers in Abricots organised by dance scholar Dasha Chapman.

Donations in NYC

Flatbush-YMCA at 1401 Flatbush; the Multicultural Bridge Project at 1894 Flatbush Ave.; and the Haitian Family Resource Center at 1783 Flatbush Ave.

Quiescere Resource Center (516-205-9035) is also accepting donations, as is the Fernande Valme Ministries (718-284-1809).

Donations in Florida Click image for details

lunionsuite

Western Union is offering toll free transfers to Haiti from United States, Canada , France, Chile, Brazil and the Caribbean at participating outlets, on their website and on mobile Western Union, where available.

The Senate debates the Constitution Amendment Bill tomorrow and from tonight we’re going to be outside the Parliament keeping watch over what is left of our democracy.
It’s not about activists. It’s not about protestors. It’s not about who talking the loudest. It’s not about red jersey or yellow jersey. It’s not about rum or roti or pelau or the same colonialist Afro vs Indo bullshit that they keep trying to divide us with.
It’s about the teachers who will share what they learn in the classroom. It’s about lawyers who could help bail out anybody that get lock up. It’s about yogis who help people stretch out a night’s worth of standing on a cold wet pavement. It’s about the snow cone man who turns up in the heat of the day. It’s about the lady who sends the pack of water and the sweetbread. It’s about fluid leadership, anybody on the side could pick up the lavwey. It’s about the drummer who turns up at midnight to lift dampened spirits. It is about all of us. Standing up together. It’s about defying the defeatist agenda. It’s about doing what you can with whatever you have. It is about finally claiming what is yours.

Beautiful, brutal people’s justice

One more, officer, one more
Before we go down the road and fight with we brother
One more 
Run the music man or we will come out and burn this town
Stop the music
You got to be mad
Listen, Inspector, we doh want to have to shake you down
This ain’t the Gaza Strip
This is Trinidad.

One More, Officer, 
David Rudder

The big joke last Saturday on the social media was that San Fernando stores were experiencing a toilet-paper shortage. I imagine that Sugar Aloes and De Fosto were not themselves finding this situation as funny as the rest of us watching on. But a calypsonian is like a stickfighter. He or she knows the risks involved in going into the ring. Such are the perils of the job description and if you can’t deal with the jamming, then don’t be trying to eat a food and then attempt to display moral rectitude.

You can’t legislate that kind of beautiful anarchy. You can’t predetermine that kind of ugly and brutal people’s justice. Even in the midst of an over-regulated celebration, branded and cosseted by people who don’t seem to really have a grasp of what this festival is. Even in the midst of a Carnival that is overshadowed by so much of what is wrong with here, the wastage, the unnecessary spending, the elevation of frills and frivolity into the main show.

Moments like that are the truth. The off-key, jacked-up, belligerent truth of Carnival. The side where the people get their revenge on those who they perceive as traitors. The placards are no less crude and cringe-worthy than anything that has ever come out of the Minister of National Security’s mouth. But these placards have a kind of exactness. The surgeon’s slicing motion. The bitterness of aloes on your tongue.

I am not sure if there is catharsis. But the evidence is clear that people are vex. It is not the kind of vexation that is at risk of ever going away. This is a centuries-old anger. This is the forever confrontation between the jammettes and the planter class. We still sing for someone else’s amusement. We are still the laughing, angry men and women who will fete and fete and then mash up everything, santimanitay. We love this ritual of beauty and destruction that we are constantly engaged in. 

In the finals of the NCC stick fight competition on Wednesday night, the blood flowed freely. In a cramped space with hundreds on the outside trying to get in. Because I mean, it’s only our indigenous martial tradition. It’s not special or significant enough to warrant a space that is properly equipped.

For the participants and the supporters, it is more than buss head. It is the beauty and the terror and the way the drums match your heartbeat and the skin on the back of your neck stands at attention when the tip of a bois connects at lightning speed with the forehead of an opponent. The chantwells are shouting: “If yuh lose a finger, if yuh lose yuh eye,”  and the chorus responds, “Doh cry.”

Fight on. In spite of what you have lost. Fight on because you stand to lose a lot more than your pride. In this never ending tragicomedy called Trinidad there are certain characters who will always exist.  Carnival is the time when some of us try to redress the imbalances. Some of us try to use the opportunity to show our great beauty while asking how come we don’t notice it for the rest of the year.

The Carnival-haters. The racists. The Christians who think Carnival is some kind of deepest heart-of-Africa devil worship. The Ariapita Avenuers who take loans to look affluent in all-inclusives. The ones who cah get over the tabanca they get from some sweet woman who give them a taste and then disappear like a Carnival stranger into the beckoning darkness.

 

Carnival always will be a fight. Between those who have and those who don’t. Between the arrogant young contender and the elder attempting his last stand. Between the people for a voice to adequately reflect their pain and the bard who wants to eat a food.

 

Carnival is when we play a bigger version of the same mas we are playing all year round. Except at Carnival we tend to over-exaggerate. Shout louder and more dotish than everybody. An endless confronting of difference. Even if it is to celebrate it. An endless confronting of what we love and what we hate and what we don’t mind losing and what we are prepared to preserve.

Play on, Trinidad. You looking sweet too bad.

Published in the Trinidad Guardian February 9, 2013

Finding freedom

I been thinking what is it I can do
All these feelings got me staring back at you
I been talking but you don’t hear me
Can I make it through somehow

—Take Me Away, Medics

Notting Hill is sunny in that innocuous way that sun shines in Babylondon, without the kick and sting that makes you imagine that the melanin in your shoulders is stretching little arms up to the sky and saying yes, yes. But it’s enough to make you smile and the familiar throb of soca reminds you that your heart is still beating, that you are living. That it is jouvay and thank Jah for Trinidad because then how would repressed white people get an opportunity to randomly wine on the streets? You watch the unbaptised, the unfamiliar with the rituals of the Carnival burn out a few streets down. They know nothing of chipping, that clever dance of energy conservation that helps you make it across the miles.

But they keep going because Carnival feels so good. Even though it’s only 13 degrees and the sun is doing a dollar wine with the clouds, coming in and out and in and out and then the rain comes down and it is not the warm sweet rain of home but an icy distant cousin that you’d rather not know. This is cleaner than oil, less smelly than natural gas. This Carnival that we have given the world. This claiming of the streets. And even the several thousand police officers that they put to line the streets, even they have to smile and look away from the sight of boomsies suddenly discovering the defiant joy of going down low, so low that the cold Babylondon asphalt is just centimetres away.

Even the police cannot escape the beat. And you catch those Bobbies trying to bop their funny round hats, that look like a mas themselves, to the beat. The sun comes out, properly. And gives you a little kick and sting and you think it can’t get better than this, then you hear a faint dudups coming up behind you and you turn around and four men are pulling a trailer of a riddim section, with the irons cleverly mounted on an ironing board. This Carnival we have given the world is sweeter than the fake mangoes you buy in Tesco, that have no smell of home.

This Carnival, if only we knew how much it meant, we would market it properly. And there isn’t a feather in sight and there are Sikhs jumping up in the band and a woman shouting to her children in Tagalog and your pardner the Wild Indian from Aranguez get so excited to see a riddim section that he play like if he want them to hear it home and so he buss the Guyanese man djembe. But it’s Carnival so they forgive him. And the rum is flowing and the love is flowing and I am thankful that Babylon’s powers that be didn’t ban the Carnival for fear of the restless natives.

The natives, you see, need the spiritual, emotional release. They need to be wutless and witless and raising their hands above their heads is just them doing yoga to increase the flow of blood to the heart, so that they remember that love is something that we all need sometimes. And you think about home, where the curfew is. Where the guns are. Where the anger is. You dread having to go home to restrictions. You dread having to control yourself. You wonder how come the people aren’t running amok on the streets during the day. You wonder if you can bear someone telling you where you can and can’t go and when.

From your position of watched freedom you wonder at why the only thing that’s being organised is curfew limes, why your friends report that Frankie’s on the Avenue is ram at 5 pm. From your position of freedom, you are thankful that you ran away when you did. So that you can walk the streets freely. With thousands of police. With CCTV cameras watching your every step. They are searching youths. Section 60 they call it. Criminal Justice and Public Order to tackle anti-social behaviour. And doesn’t mean they will charge you for not wanting to wine. The ropes are closing in. You can’t go that way. Your smartphone is suddenly stupid, the conspiracy theorists say the networks are being jammed so that youths can’t organise bacchanal.

It sours your Carnival experience. Reminds you that freedom comes with a high price, when you let somebody else define it for you. At the end of Carnival you walk the streets with your friends. And it’s like some post-Apocalyptic scene. The police blocking your way. The young people bleary-eyed from all the drugs they’ve taken for the past two days. The helicopters circle like mechanic cobos in a slate grey sky. The Carnival is over and the freedom you felt, like the warmth, is gone.

What replaces it is a kind of terror. That someone has allowed you to enjoy yourself. That this was not a joy of your own making. This is an undeclared cur-few. This is monitoring for the sake of it. Big Brother is watch-ing your every move. Like Big Tanty is now watching your news feed waiting for you to say something seditious, like Anand Ramlogan really desperately needs a hug. But the State, whether British or “Trinbagonian,” cannot control the desire for freedom. With fear or guns or cameras. The desire for freedom will win out ultimately. But it’s time to stop waiting for the next Carnival to be free.