Tambourine Army Rising

While we argue about whether Stella’s approach was wrong or right, “the Caribbean has among the highest rates of sexual assault in the world. According to the United Nations statistics from 2015, one in three women have experienced sexual or physical violence at least once in their lives. And it is estimated that 14-38% of women have experienced intimate partner violence at least once.” The Tambourine Army is focused on relieving Jamaica of the scourge of child sexual abuse and violence against women.They have taken a deliberate decision to stand with survivors and that is but one of the reasons I stand in solidarity. I don’t want anyone else to have to endure feeling like I did… yucky and alone.

If it weren’t for Pastor Donald Stewart who noticed that I displayed behavioural signs of a victim, I would have probably still been silently suffering and not given a space to heal, recover, feel empowered and delivered. But what happens to those who don’t have a Donald Stewart? Do they continue to suffer in silence? The Tambourine Army understands this need.

I have followed the Facebook posts of 2 of the leaders in particular – Nadeen Spence and Donaree Muirhead – and I have found them to be sincere (not a synonym for perfect), fearless, competent, passionate, militant, organized, empathetic, experienced and fed up enough to be disruptive, consistent and persistent in their advocacy. The team of leaders seem diverse in knowledge of law, human rights and gender-based advocacy, youth development, project management, proposal writing, social work, cyberactivism etc.

While we argue about possible ‘hidden agendas’, there’s a girl somewhere trying to commit suicide because she’s tired of being sexually harrassed, molested and/or raped. 

There is the possibility of a hidden agenda in all groups because all groups are made up of individuals who have differences in opinions, values and priorities. I remember ‘The Jamaicans For Justice’ received similar criticisms and accusations of having a hidden agenda: being partisan, anti-police and one sided in justice. Why should the possibility of a hidden agenda prevent you from supporting what’s on the table now? If the Tambourine Army eventually deviates from its original objectives or intended purpose/focus, you are free to withdraw your support as you are allowed to change your mind based on new information and agendas. This is not a cult and you are not a prisoner.

The noise you’re hearing by some of the Tambourine Army’s oppositions, who seem like well meaning warriors of ‘by the books’ advocacy, is merely a distraction and diversion tactic. If the noise confuses you enough to keep you silent, indifferent or from taking a stand, they have served their purpose well. Forget the poker face, if you’re clutching at straws as to why you will not support, you’ve already shown your hand.

 “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu

Should I not join a Service Club whose mission is in line with mine if I am a JLP supporter but the president is PNP? Or not work at a company because I’m an atheist and the CEO is Christian? Do I ask not to be operated on by the best surgeon available if I’m heterosexual and he/she is gay?

I know Christians who celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ and it’s customs of gift giving and family dinners who know how Christmas originated and know that it was not originally intended to celebrate the birth of Christ but they continue to celebrate it and say Merry Christmas because of the new meaning they have given to it. The Tambourine army is no different. It’s origins may have been, to you, an unfavourable incident or person (read: lesbian) but it’s mission, mandate, objectives and plans are clear to those who take the time to read and be informed.

I went to a Catholic High School and I wasn’t Catholic and having completed my studies and graduated, I’m still not Catholic. All I’m saying is, we did not march on our differences. We marched because our focus and desired outcomes are the same. My allegiance is to the cause. That is, healing and empowerment for survivors, changing cultural attitudes towards sexual violence and putting an end to sexual abuse, rape and all other forms of violence against women and girls.

They are not the only group tackling this monster of sexual violence. There is space for all groups fighting for this cause and you have a right to educate yourself and support the one you think is consistent with your demeanor, class, decorum, ethics and/or values. There are some cases where the pen is mightier and some where the sword is necessary. I marched in solidarity with the Tambourine Army because I believe in what it stands for, I think their approach to dealing with the problem is thorough, disruptive and necessary, and I believe the team will effectively execute on its plans.

“We decided that we would not ask, “are you sure?” “what were you wearing?” “why did you?” Our radical posture comes from denying the prevailing rape culture the right to direct and interfere with our narrative, for that reason we had to identify shaming, silencing and victim blaming and engage in a kind of mental and emotional cleanse. We had to disrupt the cultural and historical narrative which puts women’s well being and in this case women as victims and survivors of rape below men’s preoccupation with their ‘good name’.
We decided that in the case of a victim/survivor her well being was more important than the potential damage to a man’s good name…” – Nadeen Spence

The Tambourine Army is guided by five strategic objectives:

1. Provide multi- sectoral support and alternative healing spaces for survivors of sexual assault

2. Reduce and eliminate sexual grooming of children

3. Strengthen the capacity of state and community institutions and agencies

4. Positively change the public narrative about, and attitudes towards survivors of sexual violence

5. Build the largest sustainable Jamaican coalition against sexual violence.

Ask yourself, how many police, lawyers, teachers, doctors, politicians, pastors, accountants, engineers, business men etc stand to lose their reputation (and freedom to continue violating) if the Tambourine Army’s mandate is met?

I support and advocate for the #saytheirnames initiative as I believe our silence is their greatest weapon. I believe sexual predators will almost allow you to fight freely for your rights as long as you leave their name(s) unsaid. In fact, they will even pretend like they care about your cause and “fight” alongside you as long as you leave their reputation untarnished. Why didn’t they arrest Stella before or on the day of the march since they knew she would have been there? I believe some powerful people who are guilty didn’t expect that the march would have been as supported and impactful as it was. They probably saw the social media outcry and #saytheirnames initiative as another 9 Days Wonder but after observing the traction it was gaining they felt the need to put an end to it before some more dirty laundry got exposed. This movement makes them uncomfortable and scared shitless because they can no longer ignore advocacy tweets and Facebook statuses if we #saytheirnames

Stella’s arrest, in my opinion, was meant to create havoc, fear and division, a ploy to show who is boss and give some powerful people time to clean house (read: threaten or bribe victims so they don’t say their names). Those who are saying the movement is too angry or aggressive probably have never been raped and therefore speak from a position of privilege not empathy. 

There is a need to protect every Jamaican from sexual predators and violence. It would seem this arrest was not only about her “breaking cyber laws”. Lisa Hanna had several hundred threats on her life from several valid social media accounts which she reported… to my knowledge not one arrest was made. This is not playing tit for tat either because I don’t subscribe to arguments that ‘nothing should be fixed if all is not fixed (at the same time)’. I’m just wondering why is Lisa’s life less valuable than the reputation of the man who Stella named as a rapist on her social media page?

The Tambourine Army is not against law and order. I attended the march and saw mutual respect and cooperation between the leaders and police. The crowds were at all times encouraged to follow the directives of the police.

As long as the Tambourine Army continues to have as its forefront and focus the eradication and protection of women and girls from sexual violence and predictors then I will do what I can when I can to support. Who feels it knows it. And I’m not talking about the Pastor who felt the bang of the Tambourine on his head. I’m referring to all the women and girls whose lives and confidences have been altered by sexual violence. Enough is enough! We will be ‘loud’, ‘vulgar’, and ‘aggressive” if we have to. We will not be silenced. We will not be ignored or tuned out. We will not lay silent on our backs like missionaries and continue to be f*cked by this culture of sexual violence. We will not be told to use less teeth in advocacy so as to please the unconscionable dick-heads that lay comfortable in their bed of patriarchy. This is not foreplay or charm-school. This is war! And we #nahmekdemwin

Tambourine Army Rising.

Survivor & Victor,

Queen Stacia.

You too can support the Tambourine Army:

Donate:

https://www.gofundme.com/support-the-tambourine-army 

Events and Initiatives:

https://www.facebook.com/tambourinearmy 

Volunteer:
Email tambourinearmy@gmail.com

Other Perspectives on The Tambourine Army:

Kei Miller

Michael Abrahams

Ingrid Riley

Petchary

Kimberly Roach

To see more of what people are saying on social media, use hashtags #TambourineArmy #NahMekDemWin #SayTheirNames #TambourineArmyRising

Follow me on Instagram: @staciadavidson

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Why I Support The Tambourine Army

I grew up in the Pentecostal Church where we made a joyful noise (read: screamed tongues, beat drums, fingered guitars & banged tambourines). But that’s not why I showed up on March 11 to march with the Tambourine Army. I didn’t show up to play church, to be a part of some 9 Days Wonder, Social Media Hype or to wallow in the pain of my past or that of my friends’. I showed up because I know what it feels like to be sexually taken advantage of, to want to be heard, healed, understood, supported and defended.

30 years ago, I remember telling my helper that my next door neighbour had sexually molested me. I probably didn’t use those exact words since I was only 6 at the time but I remember her response… that it was normal and that she too was molested. I think she even made an excuse for him by alluding to the fact that his wife had migrated. It was not until I was older that I understood that she was suggesting that he must have been sexually deprived and horny due to the prolonged absence of his wife. I guess that somehow legitimized him seeking sexual pleasure from a 6 year old.

In that moment, I felt my tears meant nothing as they were brushed aside almost as if that experience was some kind of rite of passage that all girls had to go through. She assured me, “It’s normal. You’ll be ok. Every woman I know has experienced the same thing.”

Somehow, it still didn’t feel right. But if the one adult I had the guts to tell said there was nothing I could do about it then all that was left for my 6 years old embarrassed self to do was to cave in the silence and secrecy that my molester had vowed me to. For years, I did just that. I stayed silent. I blamed myself. My self-esteem was low. And I felt alone.

Many years later, a friend told me that she was raped (more than once) and one of the persons that raped her was her brother. My story paled in comparison and I began to view what happened to me as relatively insignificant. I thought I was being “ungrateful” and that I had no right to feel hurt or be heard. I wanted to ease her pain instead of mine.

As I grew older, more persons confided. This other friend said she was molested at the alter in church and years later she was also raped by a taxi man while on her way to school. Then there was the friend who was molested nightly by her father until she retaliated and was forced to move out of the house by her mom. Every time I heard these stories, my heart ached. There was something brewing in me and I felt these stories needed to be heard and something needed to be done.

Fast forward to recently when the #lifeinleggings movement and hashtag on social media got viral, then news of multiple murders of women and children and multiple allegations of rape by pastors in Jamaica became rampant. Those publicly shared experiences of victimization, violence, assault, rape and molestation, in addition to the surge in reported cases of violence against women and children on the news, seemed to rehash wounds, connect survivors in solidarity, inspire militancy and gave birth to what we now know as the Tambourine Army.

Origins of Tambourine Army

“Early one Sunday in January, a group of women arrived at a church in the rolling, green hills of rural Jamaica. They were not there to worship, but to show support for a young victim of sexual abuse: a 15-year-old girl, who had allegedly been raped by the church’s pastor a few weeks earlier.

The 14 activists entered the church and sat in silence, but angry words broke out when they were approached by a different pastor; the confrontation culminated with him being struck in the head by a tambourine.

The incident marked the beginnings of the Tambourine Army, a new organization to fight gender-based violence in Jamaica…”

Read More Here 

And Here

I had wanted to focus on this same issue for years and I attempted with my Silence is Violence Campaign where I publicly shared my story through my blog after being nudged by the Bill Cosby rape allegations and then the Trump ‘grab the pussy’ incident. It was my intention to raise funds to support organization(s) working to end rape and child molestation and offering support to victims. I wanted victims, witnesses and supporters of the cause to speak out, break the silence and stand in solidarity. I wanted us to stop blaming and shaming victims and put the blame exactly where it belongs: At the feet of the perpetrators and the culture and system that fuel, normalize and support these behaviours. 

I was therefore overjoyed when I heard about the Tambourine Army and read about its purpose, mission, objectives, agenda and plans. I believed that it would be more impactful if I used my energy and resources to support the Tambourine Army rather than try to start something of my own.

Sure, I understand the perspectives of those who won’t support the Tambourine Army because of its origins of Latoya Nugent (Stella) using the Tambourine to, as I put it, try to knock the lies and perversions out of the head of that Pastor. They argue the movement was founded on violence/assault and therefore goes against the very thing it fights for.

But some things are not black or white, some things are perspective and context.

“By what standard of morality can the violence used by a slave to break his chains be considered the same as the violence used by the slave master.” -Walter Rodney

How can I use that incident to demonize the Tambourine Army if I, having been in the same situation, could have reacted similarly?

Had I visited that Moravian Church with my Tambourine that Sunday and saw my molester and having confronted him and he denied it, I too would have banged him in his head with my Tambourine… or my Bible… or my cellphone… or my fist. The point is, I could have easily been Stella.

To be clear though, the movement’s purpose is not to go around assaulting pastors sexual predators with tambourines. This movement is also not about Stella, (or her sexual orientation). By making it about her, you are diverting the focus, creating a distraction, and helping to dilute it’s effectiveness. The mandate is bigger and more pressing. We are in a crisis. Our women and children are being violated daily. These criminals are deadly! They are physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically assaulting, killing and raping our women and children. Drastic measures are necessary. We are the ones being crucified – ‘nailed’ and ‘hammered’ – yet we are waiting on a saviour that will not come. We, as women, must therefore take matters in our own hands because that’s where our salvation lies.

“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, have gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur

Survivor & Victor,

Queen Stacia.

You too can support the Tambourine Army:

Donate:

https://www.gofundme.com/support-the-tambourine-army 

Events and Initiatives:

https://www.facebook.com/tambourinearmy 

Volunteer:
Email tambourinearmy@gmail.com

Other Perspectives on The Tambourine Army:

Kei Miller

Michael Abrahams

Ingrid Riley

Petchary

Kimberly Roach

To see more of what people are saying on social media, use hashtags #TambourineArmy #NahMekDemWin #SayTheirNames #TambourineArmyRising

Follow me on Instagram: @staciadavidson