About nadzspeaks

I am using life as a template. Learning lessons, using my words as medicine. Healing, speaking truth, soothing.

My Mother’s Laughter

I am traveling back through time to Mummy’s laughter. To the way she would give herself over to the laugh. All of her, her head, her belly, her feet stomping out a dance of resistance to the attempts by her laughter to colonize her whole being.

My mothers laughter happened from her toepoint and exploded through her lips at the same time it closed her eyes. It had travelled far, this laughter; and gained momentum in her bellybottom. And by the time it got to the top of her belly its intention was clear. My mother’s laughter would free itself through her mouth and it would cause her to bend at the waist and spill tears from her eyes.

One day, my mother and I were to travel for Black River, she for some unnamed mission. I was going to school. But as usual I got stuck in my head and moved too slow and she waited on me too long, so she left me. I was looking forward to the two mile trek to New Market to take a bus to go to Black River with her. She was impatient with how slow I was moving. I was just about to dash through the yard to try and catch up with her, when I saw her walking towards me. Annoyed, complaining that she had left her tested glasses in her bedroom on the dresser. “Look how me a run fi lef yuh an haffi turn back fi get me glasses” I stared at her in amazement, convinced my mother had lost a few screws. I was finally able to breathe out “Yuh glasses on yuh face” she touched her face, then she looked at me in shock as realization hit her. Then she laughed, she gave herself over to the laugh, she couldnt stand on her own, she rested against the concrete tank which stored our water for domestic use and she threw her head back and laughed. Then she took the glasses off her face looked at it and laughed. She took her bag from her shoulder put it on the ground beside her and laughed. I had to get her some water and then I hugged her and we both laughed. Mother and daughter in that sweet moment of ire, that had somehow become joy, laughter and sweet connection.

I have so many stories of my mothers laughter. Of the ways in which this busy woman, mother of eleven, the consummate grandmother, Maas Rupie’s wife, lay pastor and community elder, market woman and the world’s greatest cook, would give herself over to joy. How she would stop time and just laugh. How the laugh would travel from her toepoint, up to her bellybottom and then it would burst from her throathole and cause eye water to squeeze through her tightly closed eyes.

Of all the things I miss nowadays, I miss my mother’s laugh the most. I miss the joy of it, I miss the presence of it because her laughter inspired mine, it caused me to be present. Her laughter was like a dance that took shape and gathered momentum and then proceeded into a grand finale. It announced itself with an insistence that it had to happen. My mother could not control her laugh, I mean it didnt happen in church during the service or the sermon. But when the women gathered to put away the communion vessels and when the treasurer was counting up the collection money and the secretary was recording what needed to be recorded for that Sunday. And when I was so hungry that I could smell the rice and peas and stew pork that was waiting at home because she had cooked before church, it would come. That laughter would erupt from Mummy, I never knew what inspired it then. I know I couldnt dare ask, but to be honest I wasnt interested. I knew that when my mother laughed the world was set right side up and it would remind me that I didnt need to be anxious.

When They Have To Kill Us

Yesterday I spoke with a man who admitted that he beat women. He said he did it and it was their fault. He said it was our fault because we had made him angry and he couldnt help himself because the anger couldn’t stay inside of him so he had to let it out. He said he was hurt so he had to hurt.

He said he started at 17 years old, he beat a 16 year old girl, his girlfriend, because she had done something wrong and she had made him angry and his anger balled his fist and told him to strike a woman. Yesterday a man said women deserved, beatings and murder and violence, because men cannot hold on to pain. He said men were not taught to hold on to pain. He said when men get angry they lash out, so his advice was for women to leave them alone.

The man said women have institutions and support for their pain, men dont. The man said women have places to go when they hurt, they have the Women’s Bureau. He said women are listened to when they hurt. I heard women supporting this man, they said listen to him because in him, through his wisdom and logic is the answer. Somehow in his perspective is the solution to the problem of men murdering women.

And I can’t sleep. Because there was a 24 year old young woman whose blood ran in a supermarket in Mandeville and we are angry because she made the man kill her. The nation is angry at her because she provoked him and he was forced to kill her. He took his gun and emptied his gun in her 24 year old head. There was another man watching the entire thing. What distress she caused that man he was forced to kill her? He had no choice. It was her fault.

And there was another woman in Portmore, and a soldier man chopped and shot her so many times, he was mad, he was angry, he could not control himself. So he chopped and shot her because he had promised her that he would and so he did and when he was done he took a picture of her and posted on his WhatsApp status and we got even more angry. Look at what she did. Yet another woman forcing a man to kill her. She was unreasonable, she provoked him. What did she expect? He said she had a man and there was even a spliced voice note with him impassioned and angry out of control and a dispassionate cold woman responding.

And a 27 year old woman went to bed and she was sleeping he entered her father’s house through the window, her mother heard her scream. She had left him alone with his anger. But he came for her and cut her neck with her father’s kitchen knife. Then he called her father to ask if she was okay. She deserved it the nation said. Why didn’t she leave, but she did. Why did she go back? She had left though. She did something to him, she made him angry.

So now we are here. Trying to return to normal. To fall asleep on a volcano. Reassuring ourselves that the one who sleeps beside us will not do the same to us because we are better women than those three. We are of sound character and further more, it’s those careless women who take money from men, who perhaps dance to a certain kind of music, who cheat on their men. If we are good women, if we wash his clothes, cook his dinner, have his children and go to church on Sundays we wont provoke our men to wrath. Then they wont have to kill us.

A Nation Justifies the Killing of its Women.


The media narrative around the killing of three Jamaican women by their intimate partner has been nothing short of victim blaming with an almost hysterical insistence that the three women who were killed by the men who loved them and shared intimacies with them, somehow are to be blamed for their own murder. Between December 31, 2019 and January 13, 2020, three (3) women were killed by their male intimate partner. The news in each case was shocking and staggering. The murder of each of the women occurred in very different ways and under unique circumstances. As usual, no sooner had the tragedy been reported than the expected conversation which follows femicides in Jamaica was rolled out; and the question asked what did she do to get herself killed?
In Jamaica when a man kills his spouse, we do not all condemn the actions and look to solutions, we begin a destructive narrative of what the woman did to deserve being killed. Perhaps, the narrative goes, he spent money sending her to school or he invested a lot of money on her. Having spent money on her he now ‘owns’ her; she should recognize that ending the relationship, choosing to get involved with another person, or saying no to him is no longer an option that is available to her. She is now the man’s property, for God’s sake any one of the actions above means that murder is justified. The telling of the story puts the responsibility on women to not provoke men, they shouldn’t take money from men, they should learn how to be respectful to the man who ‘owns’ them because it could result in their murder. To be honest in each of the case we have seen these last two weeks have been explained away with this very same narrative with very little focus on the truth of the three women.
The national narrative is bereft of a true understanding of the factors which ultimately lead to the death of a woman in an intimate relationship. Any serious investigation would lead to the surfacing of information which would indicate that when a relationship ends in murder then violence didn’t enter the relationship in that one act of murder. A man didn’t just lose control and spontaneously kill his partner. Power and control were always a feature of the relationship and that woman would have spoken to family and friends and others who were close to them would have seen the signs. Unfortunately, when reporters, journalists and the media carry a story the way your paper did on Saturday, January 4, 2020 it doesn’t help to raise awareness, neither does it help a society plagued by a crippling murder rate to understand the complexities of the situation. The story plays into a narrative of victim-blaming and shuts down the conversation which needs to take place for a solution to be found. Victim-blaming dehumanizes the victim and sells her to the world as an unconscionable woman who is money hungry; an immoral woman who got what she deserves. The story that I saw in your paper lacked empathy and a deep understanding of the crushing problem of violence against women which is one of the intractable realities of gender inequality.
In 2017 a UN Report found that that while men are more likely to be killed in an act of homicide, they are more likely to be killed by a stranger than a woman who is more likely to be killed by someone she knows. 16 countries in Latin America have changed their laws to recognize femicides as a unique and particular crime affecting women and are developing a unique protocol to guide the security forces in the region in investigating the issues and collecting information that could chart a way forward. The UN Woman reports that Latin America and the Caribbean are experiencing concerning rates of femicides. The media cannot continue to perpetuate the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ old style gender war controversy. It sells papers and attracts viewers, but the media is more than entertainment, or at least I would hope so.
I encourage a more sensitive, reasoned and progressive approach to matters of violence against women and girls. This is an important response to the problem.

My Altar

I have always known that I needed my personal altar. My space to focus on the people, things and passions that are important to me. A focal point for my prayers. A space to make my desires, my asks of the universe come alive, to focus on my vision of myself and those I want to be in harmony with the most; and a space to work out what my work should be each moment, each day, each week, each month, each year. So I spent some time figuring out who and what would make my altar. In the process I retreated to silence, and I have been humbled. My heart burst open and my vision is so much clearer now.

Defining the relationship with my son is difficult. It wasn’t always hard but at some point during his teen years it became hard to manage. I have always felt that by bringing a child into the world when I was but a child myself, I had done my child a great disservice. I have agonized over the ways I have harmed him, how I have let him down. Even though my son is 29 years old I still cry over the fact that I did not take him to school on the two days of his GSAT exams. Even though he got high scores and passed for one of Jamaica’s top schools I still find it difficult to let myself off the hook. As I put the altar together and looked for ways to represent my son, I recognize that as 2020 approaches I need to go in search of joy and I need to find peace in this life changing relationship. No other moment in my life has touched me the way giving birth to my son has. I need to find all the joy and beauty that I know is locked up in our relationship. I love my son. I need him to know it and I need both of us to enjoy the best relationship. I bring him to my altar with love and hope. With positive affirming energies. For 2020 we will navigate our challenges with understanding and from a space of non-judgement and acceptance. On my altar he is represented in royal blue, my mother’s favourite colour. Resplendent and shiny, smooth glass stones because I want our journey to be smooth and seamless.

My mother’s death was and still continues to be the one thing I cannot face squarely. I cannot think of my mother as dead. It is so unlike her to not be alive. My mother was loud and full of life. She could walk the shoes off anyone. She had so much good energy. She was such a mother, I always tell people I was mothered well. My mother was patient and kind to her children. We were her priority and she played favourites with each of us. I know I was her favourite, but I know each of my siblings feel the same way. Her love was fair and just. At moments during my day, each day, my mind goes back to that moment at Cornwall Regional when the doctor said ” your mother died this afternoon”; I have been asking myself how come I kept breathing at 3:30pm on Saturday, February 10, 2017. Why did I keep breathing when Mummy’s breath stopped. I read recently that ruminations are dangerous to one’s mental health. I keep re-thinking that afternoon. I keep replaying the moment and putting different words in the doctor’s mouth.

The cinnamon scented candle on my altar represents the sweetness of my mother’s love. Such a love would not dare die. It represents those values and attributes that are in me that she taught me, For example, I can cook, I dont always do it but when I do, it’s from a place and a moment of love. Just like my mother who cooked always with love and care. Cinnamon soothes me and so I ask for more cinnamon moments, where I am secure in who I am and what I am about. Always reminding myself that my huge heart, my wanting a better world are values my mother implanted in me. I am her gift to the world. This meditation ensures that I see my mother as alive in me and my work.

Yellow, my aura has been yellow for sometime now. I am drawn to yellow. I feel alive in and around the colour. During one of my most moving meditations this week I saw myself dressed in resplendent yellow. I was asked to imagine myself at my happiest, successful and content, I was wearing yellow. I met my happy self in yellow. Yellow is on my altar, several times.

“And when you want something the universe conspires,” This is what Paulo Coelho writes in the Alchemist. These are the words on my altar. Written on a smooth stone I found at the beach. A statement of faith, an assertion of hope. My intention to live life from a place of passion and in return I know I will experience my best life. My altar is helping me to achieve clarity for 2020.

Christmas and Mummy and Me

This year’s Christmas celebrations and observations have been very interesting for me. Perhaps because for the first time I decided to go it alone without my family. I decided to stage my own Christmas celebration, at first I was anxious about my decision. I thought I was just setting myself up for disappointment and failure. I decided to change my mindset and create the experience I wanted and it worked. I had to think about the observations; the happenings; the Christmas things that I liked. Turns out that much of this is wrapped up in my memories of my mother and the traditions she built into Christmas.

Yesterday, I cooked a huge breakfast, a huge dinner and had mannish wata for lunch. I wasn’t at all hungry. I was full all day. Because cooking makes you full, but I was also full of love and good memories of my mother and the ways she made her children feel special and the ways she mothered her children.

At each moment of the day I chose my emotion. I chose joy instead of mourning, I chose laughter instead of tears, I chose happiness instead of sorrow. Even as I write this I am choosing hope and not despair. I was mothered well, I was raised by a wonderful, kind down to earth mother. I was grown up, like a strong, beautiful tree, I was watered with love, pruned with patience and careful attention saw me bloom and mature.

2017 was the last Christmas I spent with my mother. On Boxing Day she fell ill and I prayed for her recovery and she did recover. She spent almost two more months with us. Would I have wanted one more Christmas? Oh God yes! But I am so happy I got the time I did. So Christmas belongs to me and Mummy. It is a time that has so much meaning to so many people. For me, I remember every Christmas with my mother. Christmas is when I grieve, mourn, remember, celebrate, reminisce on the love that gave birth to me. My mother, Miss U.

Institutional Failure?

So here I am, sitting at Seacole listening to Judith talk to a group of young women about development and dependency and Caribbean Politics and Economics. I am reading ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. I am hopeful the NIDS ruling just took place and I feel all warm and fuzzy about our democracy. I want to find it and hug it and reason with it because we have treated it with such scant regard. I needed to catch up with my democracy and chit chat.

But here I am also feeling vulnerable, UWI just sent me a letter congratulating me on spending fifteen years at the institution. I have been wondering why I stayed in this relationship with this institution for so long it has been my most abusive relationship to date. UWI is a patriarchal space hyped up on machismo and male privilege, I have seen and experienced discrimination and silencing and undermining and physical intimidation and emotional abuse and isolation. This moment of coming to terms with my own culpability, how I have allowed myself to stay in this space until they sent me a letter of congratulations for being abused for fifteen years. I am heartbroken.

I am trying to find hope however. I know its time to move on. So this morning I am forcing myself to re-examine and identify the things that are at my core. What did I value and still value? What are the life lessons, I can learn from this moment of intense disquiet? I know what I need to do is re-center and re-focus.

I am thinking about how institutions have failed us as a people, as a collective and as individuals. Two years ago I came face to face with the church and its commitment to perpetuating sexual abuse and the protection of pastors and church leaders who use the church as hunting ground and make victims of poor and vulnerable young women. I have met a university and its administration focused on all the wrong things. Preoccupied with their reputation, not caring how they damage people who further damage other people.

Another institution that I question are political parties, especially the ones in Jamaica that only function to win elections, I do understand that this is their primary focus but it is not their only purpose. Who awakens the political consciousness of the next generation? Who explains what citizens are suppose to do? Who teaches us how to strengthen our democracy? This is also what political parties do. I am dissappointed in our political parties and our politicians who fail us everytime.

Institutions are flawed worldwide. But in Jamaica our institutions are failing us, they have done very litle to challenge inequity and injustice most of the time perpetuating a flawed concept of who and what we should value. Institutions, like a university need to give their students frames of analysis that are relevant because it is the ability to unearth the truth and speak truth to power that will see us through as we navigate systems of inequality.

Some time ago I read, something from someone who I dont remember his name now, speaking of the UWI in the 1960s he wrote “The University has grown old without growing up” for nearly 18 years I have mulled over those words, what did he mean in the 1960s? UWI was barely a full degree granting institution then. Just about twenty years old, yet if I were to find a critique I think those words would be apt and perhaps the sentiment the same.

So, I am here, wondering how to find peace in relationship with institutions that fail us time and time again. Please dont tell me to go in and change them, it doesnt work. They suck you in and break your spirit.

How to remain hopeful?

I am writing because I have run out of words.

My mind went blank.

I for a moment could find no thoughts to indulge in.

I need words to hide in.

I need words to keep myself busy.

They do that for me they occupy my time and take my mind to places I know I will never physically go.

Words provide me with solace and comfort and beautiful things.

Without words I am locked into the silence of agony and I cannot imagine an escape.

I am losing myself slowly.

Each day I find it harder and harder to find myself and bring me back from the hell of silence and emptiness that takes me over.

Feminism

I found myself in a rather unfortunate exchange three days ago with Wayne West. I had promised myself to not engage people like Mr. West. I personally find his politics and his way of dismissing and demonizing people unacceptable and disrespectful.

Yet here I was in an exchange with the gentleman. It was primarily because he had used an article from the Gleaner with a picture of myself and declared on his facebook page that Third Wave feminists were the greatest threat to civilization. West’s proposition comes from his equating pro-choice women with Third Wave Feminism. This is of course not true, there are some women who believe that the decision over whether or not to have an abortion is a woman’s decision. I am pro-choice, I believe that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a a woman’s decision. I do not believe that I am sufficiently invested in the contents of a woman’s womb to want to engage decisonmaking to influence her choice to carry a child to full term.

Not all women or men who believe this are feminists. Some women have accessed abortions and are today living satisfied lives. They enjoy the fact that they got the chance to correct what would have been a grave mistake, they had to make a tough decision and having done so they are grateful and happy. Some of these women go on to have other children some dont, either way they took a decision and are living with the ‘consequences’ of their choices.

Wracked With Guilt

The idea that women who have had abortions are sitting at home wracked with guilt is an interesting one. If women are filled with guilt, is it because they are genuinely sorry they made the decision to have an abortion? Or is it because their decision has been so scrutinized in guilt and shame that the lense through which they view an abortion has been heavily tainted by societal drama and judgement? Too often those who speak against women being able to access safe abortions make the point that women suffer mental and emotional anguish from their decision and for that reason they should avoid the regret and self-blame and keep the pregnancy because when they take the first look into their child’s eye all becomes right with the world. This is of course true in some cases, but of course this is not always the truth.

A Man’s Voice in Abortion

I believe that a decision to carry a pregnancy to term or to terminate a pregnancy is one that a woman in the situation at the time must make. She has to decide which people weigh in on that decision, whether that includes the father of her child is again dependent on the woman and her life circumstances. Those who argue for a man’s voice in that decision are very much right but this of course depends on what are the circumstances of that pregnancy. I have met women who have had their pregnancy terminanted to fulfill the wishes of their male partner who then used that information to shame and silence the woman. I had a particular troubling experience once where a friend of my family got pregnant and was excited about her pregnancy, she told her father who seemed excited at first and offered to take her to see his doctor. She had already visited a doctor and had confirmed her pregnancy. When she left his doctor the day she was told she was not pregnant, the doctor asked her to lay down on his examination table and I think he gave her something to drink. She doesnt know what happened after, she woke up groggy and out of sorts, her panty had been put back on her body and she was taken home apparently no longer pregnant. The boyfriend broke off the relationship soon after and she cannot remember what took place in that doctors office. She was devastated and had no answers. I remember another young woman at UWI while I was studying who got pregnant and her boyfriend made it clear that she had no choice but to have an abortion. In his words “some girls you sleep with some you marry” she was the ‘sleep with’ type she couldnt carry his child. She had the abortion and their relationship ended soon after. So many of us can recite stories of women who ended a pregnancy at the behest of their male partner. I wonder then at the hypocrisy of those who speak as if men are victims of women who arbitrarily have abortions without consulting them. At a Gleaner Editor’s forum that I participated in recently one of the participants spoke about men being in pain from women’s decison to abort. I almost had a heart attack. I want to meet the man, because it perhaps is a lone man.

Conclusion

The decision to have an abortion is a personal one that a woman has to make with the people who she will need to lean on for support whether or not she carries that pregnancy to term. This might or might not include her male partner.

Third Wave Feminists advocate a range of principles, ideas and beliefs chief among them is the idea that all women, regardless of their race, socio-economic status, colour, sexuality or religious belief should be respected and their views taken into consideration when laws or policies are made that will affect them. Some women believe that they should be able to have an abortion some women believe it is wrong and that it goes against their philosophies of life and being. I respect their right to choose for themselves, I think women should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

How We Perpetuate Violence Against Women and Girls

Discrimination against women exists in many forms, from cat calling to femicides but there are many stops in between. Just three days ago I was listening to a radio programme which had the host essentially expressing concern that the current situation where women were coming forward to make allegations against men for sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence was having a chilling effect on men’s ability to engage in courtship activities. Throughout the show the host, and later her guests lamented what they see as women’s excessiveness in reporting sexual harassment; their concern was that by speaking up and out in this way women were essentially a threat to the natural order of things. The narrative on the show suggested that pretty soon men and women would have to stop procreating and reproducing, in essence, when women came forward to speak about their abuse they were acting in a manner that would threaten the human race.

The argument that men are entitled to harass, intimidate and impose their will on women is a clear representation of male privilege, represented in this case by a prevailing idea which maintains that men are entitled to women’s bodies. The point is further bolstered by a belief that this is how men are and they must not be prevented from doing what comes naturally to them. During the conversation on the radio one man commented that the problem men are having is with ‘feminists’ who have managed to make everything between men and women a problem. He made the point that when women are accessing public spaces they would have no problem with male attention if feminists had not caused trouble. To him the issue is not with male behaviour, the issue is those women who call themselves feminists, who have an ulterior motive and must not be trusted.

Male entitlement and male privilege persist in a culture which still sees women as existing to please, pacify and satisfy men. This is typical of a rape culture where we believe and perpetuate the idea that a woman’s consent is not important in sexual engagement. If we continue to perpetuate the idea that women do not know what they want then we are normalizing the idea and practice that rape, sexual harassment, cat calling and all the ways that sexual violence exist are natural behaviours of men that women must tolerate.

Sexual violence is not a joke, it persists in a culture of gender inequality and a belief that men must find ways to do what comes naturally to them. The violence that comes with male privilege is bolstered by the idea that women are asking for too much. In a patriarchal society, male privilege and entitlement are but the norm and men and some women agree that this is a desirable status quo to perpetuate and maintain. Deciding to challenge patriarchy must mean challenging the behaviour of men and those women who normalize violence and discrimination and demonize women for asking for better and equal treatment.

Violence against women and girls is not limited to violent attacks such as rape or other forms of sexual and physical violence. It begins with the idea that women are inferior to men; we all need to understand that without the thought the behaviour wouldn’t exist. In the work place it exists as discrimination and the persistence of the gender wage gap. It exists in churches and schools where harmful gender stereotypes are maintained and passed on to boys and girls of course it exists in the family and on the street. As long as we are teaching boys and girls that it’s okay to maintain male privilege and entitlement we are perpetrators of violence against women and girls.

Radio call in shows are important manifestations of our democracy. They give us insight into popularly held beliefs and ideas about important phenomenon such as violence against women. In this case I was in awe at the perspectives expressed and the misogyny which emanated from the opinions expressed by the women and the men who called in or texted in during the programme. We have come far but we have so much more work to do as we seek to challenge prejudice and discrimination against women.

Making ZOSO Work

Many of us want the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) to work.  We want any plan that suggest that it could control the ‘crime monster’ to work. But I am afraid we might not be seeing one that can work in ZOSO, it needs too many things, beyond legislative changes, beyond a well resourced police force, beyond the political will to do the right thing about our crime problem; it needs an understanding of the issues that sit at the root of the problem.   Firstly, I think our solution needs to acknowledge the problem with post-slavery, post colonial societies and violence.  We tend to romanticize a time in our past when our societies were peaceful and we respected each other’s human and democratic right.  This is not so, this could not be further from the truth.   We need to quickly get past the misplaced nostalgia and acknowledge that as a people and as a nation, our recent history is not one that is located in peace, respect, tolerance or peaceful conflict resolution.   Our communities and our people might therefore be doing what they know, what has become imbedded in their  post-slavery DNA.

The Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) need to adopt historically located, research driven, proactive poverty alleviation strategies in each community it occupies.  One of the problems I have with how we respond to social realities in Jamaica is evidenced by how we treat with providing housing for Jamaicans.  I do not see a philosophy of community and families in how housing is provided for  Jamaicans or the kinds of houses provided.  I have engaged with the National Housing Trust on several occasions, I find that their philosophy of providing housing solutions as oppose to building communities is shortsighted and unfortunate.  NHT housing schemes have no social infrastructure, the houses are clearly not what Jamaicans envisage or imagine for themselves, as soon as a housing scheme is handed over the citizens start to build and modify the homes to suit their needs and taste. The inconvenience of gravel, marl, cement and steel all over the community is not just unsightly and aesthetically difficult; it is also a clear indication that these are not the kinds of houses Jamaicans envisage for themselves, hence the modifications and expansions.   Beyond the unsatisfactory nature of the houses is also the absence of the other trappings of community – spaces for engagement, for children to play, for leisure activities for adults and a space where the community leadership can manage itself and the community.

The truth is most of our state agencies tasked with responding to the challenges of community development, poverty alleviation and citizenship engagement find the average citizen a burden.  Our social intervention programs do not work because as a nation we believe that those who have not made it out of poverty and desperation need to struggle with their ‘lot’ because they could have pulled themselves up by their ‘bootstrap’ if they wanted to.   So the ZOSO social intervention program should have already been the norm through the work of the Social Development Commission (SDC), Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and the Program of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) these are government departments and agencies that have already been tasked with addressing these historical, cultural and systemic problems.  The fact that we need a ZOSO is evidence that these solutions have not worked in the past in the ways they have been implemented.

About six weeks ago the need for greater emphasis on parenting support for Jamaican parents found itself on the national agenda yet again, when a video of a mother beating her teenage daughter with a machete went viral.  The video led to conversations far and wide over our parenting philosophy as a nation, some of our parenting practices and whether we are engaged in downright abuse of our children under the guise of punishment.  Just last week UNICEF  released two reports speaking to violence against children and adolescents in Jamaica;their  global report, titled  A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents   two other reports looking at violence against children were published on that day one from the UWI:  Global Report 2017: Ending Violence in Childhood  and an update on crime data and children which was presented by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). we got confirmation backed by statistical data, supported by experts and researchers who made it plain that our brand of punishment in parenting was nothing short of cruel and inhumane treatment.   Yet those tasked with the responsibility of engaging our citizens in their role as parents are not in communities, health centers and schools talking with parents about the skills and strategies that they need to employ to make them into more productive parents.

There is the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD), different kinds of youth clubs; even police youth clubs to help build relationship between the police and our youth.  We have Boys Scout, Cadets, Girls Guide among others – longstanding organizations that are tasked with engaging children and young people beyond the 8:30am to 3pm school day.  The truth is we have not been short of solutions as we have tried to understand and respond to the problem of lawlessness and crime in Jamaica.  What we have run short of are persons and agencies that have the ability to implement successful programs and leadership which holds everyone accountable.

What if we had real communities? where people could support each other and there were regular meetings of the community to discuss problems as they developed?  What  if we had community engagement spaces where young people could find training and engagement opportunities that were available and ready to ensure that there were no idle hands for the devil to hold on to?  What if communities didn’t graduate their more affluent, educated and influential members to communities Uptown, where the aesthetics are pleasant and the environment is clean where residents feel proud of their neighbor and their home.

In rural communities the school was the epicenter of the community, the principal was one of the natural leaders.   That principal would also more than likely be a Justice of the Peace (JP) there would also be a strong church leader or church leaders and they would serve on the school board.  The principal’s cottage on the school compound was a central edifice representing leadership and the presence of authority.  I have been noticing how the cottages have fallen into disrepair in some of these rural communities and how they have been left to rot.  a different kind of leadership will emerge in these rural spaces, one that will perhaps not be welcomed.  I wonder what we will say then, when the effects of our  lack of attention bears fruit.

I remember when Montego Bay was called the friendly city, when we could walk on Bottom Road and sit on the Beach Wall at Dead End and eat jerk chicken from Pork Pit.  After awhile no one seemed to notice  the numbers of young people who were no longer being engaged by the sea, no one seemed to notice how the communities in Montego Bay lacked structure and leadership, no one seemed to remember that Montego Bay was a city beside the sea, easily accessed by external forces.  We were focused on Kingston and its inner-city communities in all the wrong ways.   Now Montego Bay is finally on our lips beyond the idyllic town by the  sea where white people from America come to enjoy sun, sea, sand and sex.    The visibility the second city has now gained makes it impossible for us to ignore the citizens themselves.    Yet the signs were always there, visiting Montego Bay should be a must on the agenda of  concerned citizens of how not to build communities.  On the one had there is the informal ‘squatter’ settlements like Flanker or Tucker,  and on the other are the badly built housing schemes at Catherine Hall or Cornwall Courts.  I will never forget the incident in 1994 when developer Joe Witter attempted to ‘claim’ land that he had acquired in Flanker.  What followed was a national incident and the matter of landlessness as a critical factor in Montego Bay life was put on the agenda, but no plan was developed to address the issue.

ZOSO will only work if it has a philosophy of community that is located in who we are as a people and the experiences that have brought us here.  It will only succeed if it seriously and rigorously apply the solutions that we have thought about, have developed over the years, but we have implemented badly.  It cannot engage in social development and social protection programmes  with the same level of disgust for the people it needs to engage most, that now pervades the public service.  ZOSO and those who implement its social protection arm need to recognize that we are here because we have not been serious or sincere about our belief that we can solve this problem.  I think we need to start with our community building practices. We need to build communities, not housing solutions, we need to tackle the problem of homelessness and landlessness in this country.  Both issues speak to a lack of awareness of how  land and a home can help people to feel a sense of belonging and can help them to restore dignity.  perhaps what is most powerfully suggested then is the need to address issues of poverty and marginalization.  Poverty has devastating and deleterious  effects on people, their psychological well-being we need to acknowledge this.  When ZOSO goes into a community, we will know it will succeed when it really tackles the problems.