Sunday, 28 September 2014

I Should Get Out More



Last evening, I had the pleasure and honour of participating in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change poetry event. The session in which I participated was one of two that marked the event in Toronto.

Truth be told, I was a tad nervous about reading...delivering my poems to that crowd. Most of my readings, to date, have been to smaller Literary Café crowds. And, as I mentioned to the gathering last Sunday afternoon, I always feel I'm in a welcome and comfortable space when sharing my poems there. But, I was not sure whether - and how - the Toronto mix would be different. I simply counted on them being poets or lovers of poetry.

My preparation took me to a new place. I asked a (really nice) co-worker to give a listen. Well, according to her, seeing me in that element for the first time, "You're gonna kill it!" :-) Okay, so, I dunno about that. I do know I put a lot into preparing for performances and speaking events. I recorded myself; timed myself and was glad I came within 20 seconds of the allotted 15 minutes. But, it was good to see that a total stranger to my poetry didn't break out in hives.

The highlight of the evening was not the fact that everyone was noticeably quiet during my set - unlike the much chatter during those of others. (I read from my upcoming "Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years".) Neither was it the wonderful compliments I received right after and long after, in person and in email. No. The highlight of the evening was that one of my sis, Durie, was there to cheer me on. Well, she also helped me out by recording the set. Heh heh. But, I was really glad that she came to keep my company and give moral support.

Further to a few conversations I had with a couple of the organisers just before I left, it turns out I will have opportunities to deliver my poems to more audiences. I like the sound of that. It's one thing to be home, or wherever, writing. It's another to share the created pieces with others. And, the more I do share - online or offline - the fewer butterflies I have to whip into V-formation each time. Go figure.

Yeeaah. I really should get out more.


Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Your Voice Will Find You


There is a plus to writing often: One becomes better at putting one's thoughts into words. After a while, you are so in tune with knowing what you want to say, and saying exactly that. No more; no less.

There is also a plus to writing regularly. Keeping a writing date with yourself helps keep you disciplined. As you know, my dates are the 8th, 18th and 28th of the month. As you live up to your self-imposed expectations, meeting that regular commitment like clockwork, you come to appreciate that particular meaning of self-respect.

For, it is true that holding yourself to a high standard and honouring your commitment to self, show that you respect and value your own time. See,  you could easily put off doing the thing, because, after all, "It's just for me. It's not like I made a commitment to someone else." Fact is, if you don't value yourself and your own work or creative process, don't be surprised if others don't; if you're often asked to blow off your creative moment, in deference to someone else.

It is usually said that, as you keep writing, you will find your voice. I've taken that to mean, over time, you will come, more and more easily, to rest on and write about that thing that stirs you the most. That thing that makes you mist up; or makes you laugh out loud; or makes you angry; or makes you feel nothing but contempt; or makes you sad, even to tears. And you'll be so drawn to it that you find you want to write about it, even if not all the time, but, certainly more often than you want to write about other things. And, that does happen.

Over the years, I've come to realize that I take great pleasure in writing about the little people in my life. Of them all, I've written most about my niece. I've found writing about her to be joy-infusing. It's delightful, really, to have a conversation with her, then quite easily, preserve that moment by putting it into words. Who knew I'd come to look forward to writing about (and for) children? And, who knows? She might come to be amused by some of it later on. As a matter of fact, we're collaborating on a writing project. Uh-huh. Well, she's doing (most of) the talking, and I'm doing the writing. More to come. Suffice it to say, we're very excited about it!

But, also also? The biggest plus of all to writing often and regularly: Your voice will find you, at long last, ready and willing and strong and disciplined enough to carry and convey the sentiments and messages for the season. You will find, even though the fear that "everybody's gonna hate this piece!" never entirely goes away, there's far, far less of it. You will find you've grown courageous enough to not require several prompts - from yourself, or others - to "put it out there." You will find you are able, and willing, to swim against the current; say the unpopular; write your heart out, and know, finally, that it's okay. Yes, there may be reactions to what you write - some positive, some negative, and some outright snubs. And you will find you don't care about that - and wonder why you spent so much time caring about that in the past. :-) You will begin to write with clarity, saying what you mean to say; realizing those who are for you are more than those who aren't (plus, they're better looking!) learning as you go and grow, and reading the good ones. (I hear bad writing is contagious.)

And, what is more - for me, at least, where it used to come down to #writeorsuffocate - one finds that it becomes far easier to breathe.

Monday, 8 September 2014

"Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years" An Intro - of sorts.


Yaaay! First post kicking off Year 7! Yes. Yes. I am getting waaay ahead of myself. Just a tad excited, is all.

For a moment there, I was beginning to wonder whether I'd finish coining the title of this post.

There are a few writing projects in train. The one I'd like to mention tonight is the poetry. You've heard about the poetry, yes? No? Well, allow me. (I have, in fact, mentioned a bit about the poetry in a few posts, and have also shared a few poems. But, I digress.) Over the weekend, I continued to work on my poetry project. It's a book of poems spanning quite a few years. After much to-ing and fro-ing, I've decided on the title and subtitle: Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years. I also have a sub-subtitle, if you will. (If there's a more technical term, do share.) The sub-subtitle will be written in italics right under the title. I thought of it just today, so, there's no way I'm ready to share that here. But, I love you! :-)

Man, those things really added up! I'm looking at scores and scores of poems out of the lot. Like, seriously. They do, after all, span the years between 14 and 40-ish. Hence the title. Any surprises there? Okay. Who did not see that coming? As I've envisioned, the book has three phases, with a few pieces of short prose in appropriate spots. It's taking shape, from my mind to the page, and I like that.

I've had two beta readers so far. Yes. One of them was my mom. Of course. But, as thankful as I was/am for her positive feedback, it's...advisable to get feedback from folks who aren't family. The other was an editor I'd met via Twitter. I won't share much of what he said here. After all, I am thinking of asking him whether I may reproduce some of it in the book. However, one thing stood out. He said, afterward, that he felt like he knew me. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm still not sure whether that's a welcome thing. And, yet, here I am about to publish the book of rather telling poems! Hmm. For, you see, they are rather telling. I write from the heart - and wear it on my sleeve. An English Lit professor had once told me/the class: "Poetry comes from a place of deep emotion." Over the years, now and again as I wrote the poems, I'd remember him saying that. And I'd understand all over what he'd meant. The poetry itself is in the composition but you can't make that stuff up.

I'm getting the doc ready for another beta reader. Daniel Kojo Appiah is a poet from Ghana I met on Twitter. We'd had a few exchanges long before he was named the winner of the inaugural Ghana Poetry Prize in 2013. Just sayin'. He goes by the handle: @OZionn. During a quick chat the other day, the thought came to mind to ask him whether he would do it. He said he would. I'm looking forward to his feedback. I shall have to remind him not to be gentle.

As I prepare to get the poems out, I'm also getting ready to read a few of them at the upcoming 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Toronto, later this month. One of the organizers said she thought of me and so extended an invitation. We'd met at the Lit Café in town a few years ago, and she's heard me read my poems. She added, "...your poems reflect a depth and a beauty more than you realize." She said a few other heart-warming things, but I'll save 'em. :-) So, this weekend, God willing, I'll be sure to show up at the Lit Café to practise...I mean, perform. The pieces I've done there on repeated visits have been appreciated. This time around, I'll be one of the featured poets. That'll help.

(And, I simply must find a way to tie in my pen name - reserved only for the poetry - Dnafcnatgada. No. I do not know what it means. It came, quite simply, out of the air, as I pondered, at 14 years old, what my "poet name" should be. Yes, that's a silent "D", to boot. If it rings close to something in your frame of reference; your knowledge base; your linguistic armoury, or your stream of consciousness, do share.)

So, you understand my excitement. Rather, so, you understand my excitement! I'm so psyched! Getting this book published will be a huge deal for me. Always thankful for family and friends who've been über-supportive. Can almost hear a few of them going, "Finally!" Lol! Ohh, the sound of it: "A published poet." Tee hee. God continues to order my steps and each day brings me closer. And, what's that word again? Ahh, yes. Relatability.

"Funny, isn't it, how one moment can change a million after it." - Raya (Movie: How She Move)


Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro


Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Journey


Six years. My dad has a saying, "The time is moving so fast, people don't have time to age." :-) I get that. My lil home here in cyberspace started six years ago today. And, it's still under construction. As I am. As we all are. Still here? You're still a work-in-progress.

I won't be long tonight. (Don't all rejoice at once. Heh heh.) More than anything, I wanted to say thanks for sticking around; for reading each post, or most of them...even a few. When I started this blog, it was so that I'd have an outlet. #writeorsuffocate. I still keep journals. They've metamorphosed into prayer journals. But, this place in cyberspace is kinda special. It helps keep me disciplined in my writing. To be honest, I've started to breathe easier. So, the writing here has helped. :-) The journals do have their place, of course. For Him, a place apart.

Funny. An insurance agent asked me recently about my prized possessions - Jewellry? I told him nope. I do have a favourite pair of earrings going 20 years now... The stuff I treasure are more of sentimental than monetary value. Like the journals I've been keeping since I was 14. If those go, I told him, they couldn't be replaced anyway, so let's move on. He agreed. We moved on.

So, back to the outlet. This has been great. And, it continues to be great. I get to write whatever the heck I want. You've seen the posts - or not. If you're new to this blog, welcome. Feel free to scroll though the years. It's important to me that I write whatever I want. So, the subject matter and content - and, occasionally, style - do vary. From Buju to Baby Shower; from McLuhan to Marley. In the end, I would have written what was on my heart and mind. And, out of 220 posts, I'd say one - no more than two - left me a bit bothered about whether I'd said exactly what I'd set out to say.

On the cusp of the seventh year, I am thankful. I am thankful to God for this blessing to create and write. I am thankful for my life. I have been wondering how, my life being spared, the next year of writing will be shaped. What new experiences will inform my writing; whether there will be more passion about certain things; to give or not to give even more of myself and share a few testimonials, all for the sake of lending a hand. As I've said many times, one of the best things someone could possibly say to me, having read my writing - be it prose or poem - is how well they can relate. Relateability. (I keep using that spelling...)

Don't you ever wonder why it's so important for someone else to know they're not the only one who's going through a particular time of despair; a certain trial; a rough patch that seems unending? That someone else has, too? I've wondered about that. Why is it important for someone to know a certain bad situation is not unique to them? Why does it matter that Tom, Dick and Harry have made it through this? Or, are going through it as well. Good for them. This is me, and I know how it feels and they couldn't have felt this way and things could never have been so bad and so on and so forth. As I thought about it, all I came up with was hope. It's a simple answer, really. Hope that if someone else made it through, maybe you can, too. If someone else is strong enough to continue enduring, maybe you can, too. Relateability makes my heart glad, because it says, someone read my work and saw themselves in it, and were encouraged or inspired by the how I came through/am going through a similar mess; bore/is bearing a comparable cross. And yet, I'm still here! And how.

We all have something. No one has "got it all together". Some don't say much; some find an outlet and some, well, with them it's TMI. Point is, one doesn't have to be an expert in any field of study to offer a hand to hold. It's a human thing. I'm big on hand-holding in a time of despair or anxiety. Hold my hand. No words. I've found it to be comforting. I suppose that's the other thing with relateability (a tweep assured me it is a word). Hope is one thing; the other thing is comfort. Perhaps that's one way of looking at it. I'd also like my writing to be seen as offering my hand to hold.

This paragraph is dedicated to family and friends who've held my hand - figuratively and literally - on this journey.

Now, the writing doesn't have to say, "There, there," to be comforting. Even if it simply evokes a feeling of, "You know what, the way she writes? All is not lost in today's world. I'm inclined to believe everything is going to be alright." That'd make my heart glad.

The recent passing of a few famous people has reminded us that the journey of this life does not go on forever. Robin Williams' passing saddened me - for a number of reasons. Lauren Bacall's evoked tributes that reminded the world of her love for Bogey. (I also finally figured out the lyrics to Key Largo. Don't ask!) And, today, Roger Clarke, Jamaica's Minister of Agriculture, passed away in Florida, as he prepared to travel to Jamaica. Walk good, Roger Clarke.

As that line from Wear Sunscreen says, "The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself."

Here's to more creating, more writing, and more glad hearts on the journey.



Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro

Monday, 18 August 2014

"Holes"


Holes

There are no holes in my arms.
Like the girl - early twenties?
Pants - if you could call them that -
Maybe the Lululemon yoga sort
They had to finally recall
Too sexy; too sheer; too revealing
Shares fell after that.

Her pants - as she stooped to get
Something from her bag -
Slid below the crack. Way below.
So far down, I looked away
For shame for her.
Did she not feel cool air
Against that vanilla-pale, soft, smooth skin?

Then, as I stole another glance -
Or, maybe it was just that her move to stand
Caught my peripheral vision -
She stood
She rummaged
Pants still half-way down.

As she rummaged through her bag
Just moved to the top of the table
Her hands came into view.
They bore holes - large, healed, gaping
Waiting?
From the back of her hands to her forearms
Wherever there could be a vein.
Holes.
They held my gaze for more than the polite two seconds
When I finally looked away
I cast my gaze upon nothing in particular
Pretending I could taste
The iced tea I was sucking through a straw
Too large for that.

She found what she'd been searching for
She must have
She abandoned her bag
- Not caring, it seemed
Whether any of the hundreds of
Food court patrons
Would prove themselves untrustworthy -
Reached into the upper part of her pants
Pulled them up just a little
Before going for a refill.

It was on her return
I saw her face
Too young
Too old and long a story
Too weak
Too worn
Too familiar
Too easy to get sucked back in.

No fight
No more
All gone
What's the score?
Doesn't matter
All lives used up
Way too late to start over
Again.

As I looked around
And sipped my iced tea
I somehow managed to be thankful
There are no holes in my arms
That you can see.

- Dnafcnatgada



Claudia

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Few of My Favourite Things - On Writing


August - the anniversary month for this blog. The 28th is the actual date, so I guess I'll wait until then to properly commemorate. Heh heh.

I had a few things in mind for these August entries. However, after much thought, I've decided to place them on hold. Essentially, they had to do with particular journeys. Why mention them? Well, consider this a placeholder of sorts. I do hope to share them in this medium at the appropriate time.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite quotes and memes that have inspired me along the writing journey. Many quotes and writings and tips and so on and so forth, may be found in books, on the Internet... It never ends!!! It's very easy to spend more time reading all that, than actually writing. Of the myriad, it's not often that a quote touches me right here - resonating with my own feelings; echoing the rhythm of the lines (poetic and prose) in my blood. It helps to know that the treasure lies not only in the destination - which is subjective, really - but also (if not more so) in the journey. And what a journey this is turning out to be!

Okay, here goes:


"My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way." 
- Ernest Hemingway

"Sometimes a book isn't a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Sometimes it's the only story you knew how to tell."
- Tahereh Mafi

"Don’t cast sidelong glances, and compare yourself to others among your peers! (Writing is not a race. No one really “wins.” The satisfaction is in the effort, and rarely in the consequent rewards, if there are any.)" 
- Joyce Carol Oates

"Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that is the whole art and joy of words." A glib saying. When the time comes to u at which u will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the centre of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words." 
- C.S. Lewis

"Writing: a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don't want to make eye contact while doing it." 
- John Green

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
- Maya Angelou

"A thousand nations of the Persian empire will descend upon you! Our arrows will blot out the sun!" - Persian  "Then we will fight in the shade." - Stelios (300)

"You think your work is crappy, but it's not. Show it to someone. You're better than you think."
- Claudia (Moi) :-)

"S/O to those who keep getting back up; whose vulnerability has been mocked, but...meh; whose courage yells at adversity: #YouAndWhatArmy??!!"
Claudia

"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."
- Jeremiah 17:7-8, Bible (KJV)



Embedded image permalink
Via @i_Author

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Via @DeinaFurth

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Via @AJAsh


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Via @ShaunFrankson

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Via @MyNextDance


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Via @anilawhitney


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Via @BSHMNetwork


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Via Google


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Via @Archnahr

And, a fav fav:

Dear Writer, Please do me right now. On the kitchen table. In your bed. On the couch. Hell, I'll even take the floor in front of the TV, I don't care. I just need you to do me like I've never been done before. Sincerely, Your Writing


Text inspired by: http://www.damnlol.com/pics/463/f1aa397bf5048c3f2c7678a410fb6f49.jpg

Image from: http://photographyandtransformation.com/feet-magic-moments-preserving-memories-picture-to-ponder-v8-5/2012/01/26
Via @Quotes4Writers


Claudia 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Dear Jamaican Men and Dear Jamaican Women: A Word


Social Media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, can get very noisy. And, when people are passionate about certain issues, even more so. The good thing with the way these platforms are, however, is that you can take in the information or points of view one at a time - if at all. You can always opt not to check out the issue being discussed or the contributions from other authors. When you're good and ready, in your quiet place, you can peruse and scroll to your heart's content.

Some folks have mastered the art of speaking passionately via these media without having their points misinterpreted. The quick posts come a-mile-a-minute, saying exactly what they wish to say. That's good. What is even better, is being able to engage respectfully with people with whom they do not share a particular point of view. I've seen such well-mannered exchanges between folks at opposite ends of a spectrum. On Twitter. The zoo-like, mean streets of Twitter! Such admirable exchanges are a thing of beauty to read. They always remind me that, even though we are behind computer/phone screens, we can be civil. All is not lost.

The Art and Joy of Words
But, some of it is. I've shared a bit of a quote by C.S. Lewis in a previous post regarding the "art and joy of words." There is more to the quote, and, in its entirety, it gets to the heart of what makes saying or writing "exactly what you wish to say" a sometimes uncomfortable thing. A part of the struggle is not about whether you will offend. No. Such an outcome in today's world is, to wit, expected. For, as long as you create/write/say/stand up for/take a position on something, people are gonna pull up their soapboxes and criticize your work/opinion/position, etc. That's a given. It's not even the fear of being labelled a pariah. The part of the struggle that spells discomfort is the knowledge that there are those who will not pause long enough to listen or read through; who will not try to understand a conflicting (worse, less than savoury) point of view. In articulating your own thoughts, you come up against opinions set in stone, which is a part of a bigger stone - a wall, if you will. And, when this meets that, there's little point in adding to the noise. But, a thing that need be said can do no other than to find an outlet.

"Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that is the whole art and joy of words." A glib saying. When the time comes to u at which u will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the centre of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words." - C.S. Lewis

These thoughts came to mind last week as I witnessed the unfolding of a sexual harassment awareness campaign on Twitter. (As you know, with Social Media, campaigns are no longer solely the purview of organizations and their marketing teams. Anyone can start a conversation and, if it catches on, it goes viral - takes on multiple shares or retweets - in no time.) A Jamaican man suggested the use of the hashtag #DearJamaicanMen on Wednesday, July 22. The idea was to help make people aware of the verbal (and sometimes, physical) harassment many Jamaican women are subjected to as they go about their daily lives.  And so they did - and how! The tweets were authentic, passionate, no-holds-barred. I had to take it in, in pieces. Many tweets were being published in a short space of time and it was a lot to take in. Women recounted episodes upon episodes of unwelcome advances; crass behaviour; crude language, and the like, from those men.

The Medium. The Message.
One of my concerns was how to now go about reaching and changing the habits of those men. After all, as that Jamaican proverb goes, "Wha bawn inna kid, dead inna goat." Or, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." But, we have to believe that there are exceptions to the rule. After all, would we then be saying that people...adults, are unteachable? That's not what adult-learner-based courses presume. How, then, do we go about impressing what is acceptable behaviour upon these minds, and making it stick? Social media provide such avenues.

Is the target group on Twitter? Perhaps there's a presence, yes. The campaign raised awareness, and it was also a call-to-action. Twitter may have been a great starting point. But, needless to say, other media - including (if not especially) word-of-mouth - are critical to the cause.

Respect Due
It would not only be a rather tedious one, but, as well, a very frustrating exercise for Jamaican women to keep reminding/correcting those men each and every single time they are confronted with such crass approaches and, in some cases, inappropriate touches/sexual harassment. Every. Single. Time. This might give the impression that women are saying they meet upon these offences ten times per day. In a word, no. In another word: Thatisnothepoint. What is real, however, is that meeting upon such an offence even once a week is too often. The frequency is one thing; what comes out of the mouths of those men is another. Worse, the touch. The question is what makes them think it is okay? The answer(s) may be varied and may make sense to them. Want to know which answer will not make the cut? "I did not know any better." So, knowing better is one thing. Doing what they do is another. Doing what they do because they know they will face no consequences is yet another.

Those men, in most cases, are strangers to the women they call out to or try to touch or hold. They don't know them from Eve! But, as the saying goes, "Respect due!" Human to human, respect is due. The ugly truth is (although the physical appearance of the truth is irrelevant) we don't always get the respect we deserve. And it is folly to think that we are going to get it from some perv or crass so-and-so on the street. We have zero control over the words that come out of a person's mouth. As crass and crude as they are, trying to control another's words is like trying to take just the right amount of air from a bubble. Even speech writers will tell you they're never 100% successful. (The client/boss will ad lib - sometimes ad nauseam. Smh.) But touching? Nay nay! I get the feeling I should include these reminders a few times in this post; sprinkle them around like Parmesan cheese:

Touching a woman in a sexual way
Without her consent
Is never okay.

It does not matter if she chooses to walk the street clad solely in nipple covers and a skin-toned thong. It. Does. Not. Matter. No one has a right to touch her in a sexual way because she chooses to walk the street half or 90% naked. Whether her elevator goes all the way to the top is another matter entirely. Dressing and showing a lot of skin is not my thing. It's how I was brought up and doing so makes me uncomfortable. But, again, people choose how they want to dress. It is not an invitation for non-consensual sexual touch. So, if one of those men decides to reach out and touch in a sexual way (and, given the context, we're talking without the woman's consent), it just got real. Not only is that scary, it is sexual harassment and it should be reported to the police. I know. I know. "But, this is Jamaica," you say. I know. I know. For one, there's no anti-crass legislation, and, for two, our judicial system is backed up with cases from Whappie killed Phillup. And the jury is still out on that. So, for the system to be "burdened" with these "cho-a-nuh-nutten-dat" cases of sexual harassment, may not be a welcome notion for the long arm of the law.

What also came to mind is that some Jamaican women make it bad for others, in seeing nothing distasteful or wrong with these kinds of approaches. By extension, they encourage this kind of behaviour. Sadly, the message some men get is that it is okay. Encouragement might also come from certain songs/chunes and the like. (That debate continues. Talk amongst yourselves...) As we have called on the men we know to relay to the one or two breddrin they know who fall in the those men category, my dear Jamaican women should also have a word with the one or two sistren we know who encourage "this kind of behaviour". There's a campaign on for good manners in Jamaica. Yes, it's now requiring a movement. There's also the Respect movement. I'm not sure whether there is offline presence, however, Respect Jamaica is all about the message of having and showing respect for one another. Respect for self; respect for others; respect for life. It goes for both men and women. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is a two-way street.

Sigh. For now, it seems "the crass we have always with us." Hopefully, not for much longer. Wouldn't it be great if we could run them out of the gene pool? Just saying. While we work on getting to that point where the awareness and lessons about impact lead to a change in mind and behaviour, let's try not to let it consume us. By the way, if we have to start demanding respect from the men in our lives - the men who really matter - then, Houston, we have a problem.

Self-defence
We are often advised not to take the law into our own hands. In a physical encounter that threatens to hurt you or take your life, defensive action is reflexive. No one has to tell you to try to defend yourself. I'm not going to stay too long on this point because (1) I don't know too much about this (2) The Internet, movies and self-defence classes abound, and (3) The little that I do know, I ponder. Yeah. I imagine that it would be helpful to be mentally prepared for any "light" or serious encounter. We're not able to stop bullets with our teeth. However, it is not sufficient to simply walk with key in hand as I sometimes do - depending. It is important to be prepared to use that key in a way that will incapacitate the person who's physically harassing or attacking you. For instance, you could plan to apply a side kick to an attacker's knee. Would you be mentally prepared to hear it crack? And, knowing you've done some damage to render him immovable, hightail it out of there instead of being paralyzed with fear? How are you with the sight of blood spewing? It is also advised that you make a sound; a shout, even a guttural noise of some sort when fighting off an attacker. So much adrenaline is coursing through you, you need a release. I understand that that is one of the reasons police officers shout their commands: "Hands up!" "Get down!" And so on. If all that is pent up, you might suffer a mild stroke. (The noise you make may even alert someone.) In some jurisdictions, if you apply more force than necessary beyond simply defending yourself, you may end up in court. The goal, as is often said, is to get out of that situation alive. You may get hurt. After all, the person is trying to overpower you. But your goal is to get out with your life. So, be mentally prepared to hurt or outsmart the person enough to achieve that goal.

Needless to say, that goes for anyone - not just women.

Touching a man in a sexual way
Without his consent
Is never okay.

I searched for and found a lil something to get those thoughts a-flowing. This one goes out to my Dear Jamaican People:


(Image found via Google search. If it's yours, I'd be happy to give credit.)


Foreseen Response
But, the messaging continues. Those on Twitter still do. And, like all messages, they earn feedback/responses/criticisms. One of the ones many saw coming was the #DearJamaicanWomen hashtag. It would have been naive to think that that was not going to happen. It would also have been naive to think that people won't and don't appropriate their own meanings to linguistic constructs and even end up turning the original on its head. Again, no control over that. Plus, it's Twitter. The similarity of the workings of the human mind is on fine display. Create an "original" hashtag and you discover it has already been used dozens of times. Also, it may have been used to convey an entirely different thought or used within an entirely different context altogether. So, you put something out there and hope for that folks will stick with the theme.

Upon the creation of the new hashtag, I figured, as many others must have, that the two would not be comparable. Statistically, women are way more on the receiving end of these unsavoury comments  and approaches than men. But, I also figured that the users of the DJW hashtag would use it to express their annoyance with some habits of Jamaican women. That happened. And, believe it or not, they had a right to do it, as the women (and some men) did with the DJM hashtag. My interpretation of that move was: "We know it can't compare, but this is our chance and avenue to express our concerns and annoyances." The subject matter was not the same - and they knew it. But, some of them also came from a place of what was real to them. True, there was little regard to time and place and courtesy/netiquette. However, should their views be discounted or should we close our ears to what they were saying because their views didn't fit the theme; the timing? Some of them tried to turn it into a positive for Jamaican women. And a few of them were just plain stupid. And crass.

Literary Tropes
One comment was that those men should not have to see these women as their family members before showing respect. However, it may very well take a comparison between other women and their mothers, sisters, aunts..., to trigger a change in thinking and behaviour. For some folks, their tropic (trope-ic) view of the world is heavily based on metaphors. They are better able to grasp a concept through association using specific analogies. (Similar to this is metonymy - association based on general understanding. "The beautiful game" is a widely accepted reference to football.) Another trope is synecdoche (not the place in New York). This is where people tend to refer to the part for the whole: "Oh, you've got a new set of wheels!" Or, the whole for the part: "The long arm of the law finally caught up with you!" (Instead of saying the police stopped you for speeding.) Where was I going with this? Yes. So, perhaps, for some of those men, metaphors/associations would resonate more with them. We would like them to exhibit a change in behaviour; get to a higher level. Are we dictating how they get there? Or should we appreciate that they would be choosing to change; making an effort, and that that's a starting point for them?

Ladies and Gentlemen
The task is a challenging one, but it is necessary to begin - if we have not already begun - to raise our little girls and little boys to be ladies and gentlemen. If we don't take the time to do it, they will be raised by wolves. We could leave them to the (societal) elements, be über-liberal in a hands-off approach and simply hope for the best. And it's fine to talk about being prudish, until the day you realize it's your son or your daughter who's being a menace to society. Yes. The same wolf-esque society to which he/she was left to be groomed. As was told to us as students at Wolmer's Girls', "What you will be, you are now becoming."

Here's the thing: Values and principles remain a thing. And, here's another thing: People differ in their definition of values and principles, etc. It's as though we all make it up as we go along. We've made such a descent, and are now we've found ourselves up that creek - without a paddle. But, we gotta find a common standard, man. We all must be able to agree that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable; is wrong. Why can't we all just get along? (Sorry. It's been a long post.)

Decency is not just something to do to get something in return. You could "Good morning, Miss," til you're blue in the face, it doesn't necessarily mean the woman will hand over her telephone number. No, just be decent because it makes you a better you. It helps you on the journey to living a fulfilling and rewarding life - in Jamaica or in Australia or wherever. (I was gonna say "successful life", but the definition of success is not the same for everyone.) You may have heard the saying, "We hire for aptitude. We fire for attitude." Yeah. That.

A Word: Respect
The conversation continues, no doubt, online and offline. The message needs to get through to minds and hearts, and a huge part of that message is Respect.

(Note: Thanks to sis, Durie, for her feedback on the draft of this post. Much appreciated!)


Claudia
www.cyopro.com
www.twitter.com/cyopro