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

SILENCE IS VIOLENCE

I’ve written this for some time now and have thought long and hard before posting it. If what I focus on expands then I really just want to be focusing on good health, personal development, love, financial freedom and traveling the world. However, I felt that using my voice and sharing my experience on this issue would be of greater significance to others than my silence.

Boys will be boys

Just to be clear, This is not a political post. Ironically, I am a Political Science Graduate who doesn’t follow up on the U.S. Presidential elections. I have not seen any of the Debates. To be honest, I haven’t watched television in months. The only reason I even know about Trump’s ‘grab the pussy’ incident is because there was no missing it on my Facebook Timeline.

He wants to “grab the pussy” (without consent)? Excuse me if I’m a party pooper because I didn’t find it funny. Yeah, I know he calls  it ‘normal’ locker-room talk and well, that’s just how men speak but I don’t buy it. I will not tolerate that defense. These kinds of behaviour and the mindset that leads to and encourages these kinds of behaviour can no longer be just a ‘9 Days Wonder’. The women who have to live with the repercussions of this “Boys will be boys” mindset that facilitates the pervasive culture of rape, molestation and abuse suffer for far more than 9 days. Some suffer for more than 9 years. And well, some just never recover. So I will no longer remain silent.

I’m not playing judge or jury on Trump and I’m not validating the allegations of the ladies. I have no idea if either is guilty or innocent. What I am saying, however, is that when we excuse certain behaviour, we send out the message that’s it’s ok for boys to say whatever they want to and about girls. And by the time this message has been cemented and these boys grow up to be men, well, they become the bane of some woman’s existence. And that is NOT ok. Boys can no longer just be boys. Boys MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their actions!

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Break the silence

“Why did these women wait so long to report it?”

“They’re lying! They just want fame.”

“They just want his money.”

I’ve seen this cynicism before. It’s not unusual for people to disbelieve a victim or condemn her for coming forward because, by their standards, she took too long to report it so it couldn’t possibly be true. I saw similar comments with the Cosby allegations and I kept silent; Partly because, for years, I’ve had plans on creating a campaign that addresses the issue of Rape and Molestation, partly because I had reservations about putting my personal life out there and partly because I really didn’t have the energy to respond to every idiotic comment I saw. But somehow this time, I am prodded by purpose to get out of my usual ‘moving right along” attitude and break my silence.

I’ve been waiting for the ‘perfect time’ and the ‘perfect strength’ since what seems like forever, but I read somewhere recently that the time is always right to do what is right. Though, there will never be a perfect time to want to feel vulnerable, this is not just about me.

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I’m Stacia Davidson. About 30 years ago, I was sexually molested by my neighbour Mr. Gordon when I was about 6 years old. Yes, I know if I’m to follow the thread of comments I’ve seen, in relation to the Trump and Cosby allegations, then I should also keep silent. In fact, it was 30 years ago, so by ‘logical’ social media trolls’ deduction, I must be lying or it was probably my fault. Furthermore, the time has long passed so why come forward now? “Get over it already!”

It was not my fault. I was not asking for it. I am not seeking pity. I’m not a victim. I’m not (just) a survivor. I’m a VICTOR. I have been fortunate enough to break free from the negative hold that the experience had on me for years. Unfortunately, many of my sisters have not been as fortunate. They still suffer from depression, anxiety, low-self esteem, fear, distrust and/or hatred for men and are still reliving the horror. It’s hard in itself to finally muster enough courage to actually come forward to speak out and name your molester/rapist but then to have people condemn you because somehow anyone who would wait that long to name the person who violated them must be lying.

Silence is Violence

I am coming forward now because I CHOOSE to speak about it now. I am coming forward because there is violence in silence. I’m coming forward because our silence continues to be their greatest weapon. I’m coming forward because of the thought of how many cases I may have prevented and how many other little girls’ innocence could have been protected had I not kept silent. I’m coming forward because of how many little girls’ lives were probably altered at the hands of Mr. Gordon because I kept silent. It was as if I had inflicted their pain by keeping his ‘secret’. I’m coming forward because my silence made him comfortable. I gave him no reason to stop hurting others.

I am coming forward because I refuse to protect the reputation of a man that hurts little girls. I’m coming forward because I won’t let molestation and rape continue to be ‘normal’. I’m coming forward because I will not let these men that prey on women and children win. I’m coming forward because of the children and women who continue to suffer in silence. I’m coming forward so that they know they have support. I’m coming forward so they can have the courage to speak out, to get help, and to name their predator. I’m coming forward because if I can prevent one little girl from this experience then I would have spared her life.

I am coming forward because I’m hoping to inspire change. Change in the way you think… about victims, about rapists and molesters… and about using your voice as a positive agent of change.

It’s disheartening that 1 in every 6 woman has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Additionally, 1 in every 4 girl will be sexually molested before she is 18 years old. Yet, amidst this prevalence, it’s sad and scary that both men and women alike are uninformed and have such warped opinions and expectations of how a victim/survivor is supposed to and not supposed to act or when and under what circumstances she is or isn’t supposed to reveal that it happened. Be more mindful of your words. Show some empathy.

For some of you, it’s not until the situation knocks on your door directly that you will care but believe me, it has knocked, you just haven’t heard because you’re in too deep a sleep. With statistics like those, I can almost assure you that someone you love dearly or someone you know personally has been sexually molested or raped and probably by someone you know. Let that marinate. 

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To my sisters, the process of healing is hard… and long… but possible. Always remember, the places you had to overcome your greatest challenges and pains are the places you have the most to give. When you have moved a mountain you let others know it can be moved.Your purpose will heal your pain but your voice will protect another from pain. 

To everyone who ignores, turn a blind eye and keeps silent on this issue, you have chosen the side of the rapists. Silence is violence. Break the Silence. Break the Cycle. I dare you to care share.

Victoriously yours,

Queen Stacia xoxo

Support the Campaign. Buy a “Silence is Violence” T-shirt or Hoodie. Click HERE

Share if you care.

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Black Hair Matters (Part 2)

“Kingston College High School students in Jamaica are sent home, on an exam day, for wearing fades and mohawks. Black girls in the Bahamas are sent home for Twist Outs. Black girls in Barbados are sent home for Afros; And Bantu Knots (Chiney Bumps) are deemed inappropriate for school.  Some may say that the students are at fault. They know the school rule and should have, therefore, adhered to it. After all, as one teacher puts it, “school rule is school rule. Abide or get out!” But I’ll address that later. For now, I have a deeper concern.

Responding to accusation that the school is lenient with students of Indian and Chinese orientation, the Kingston College Principal said,” students expect them to bald their head like mine but it can’t be that the same rule applies for obvious reason. We have to use our discretion.” It is more worrying than hypocritical that the same authority that sees it fit to suspend black boys for wearing Fades, have seen it fit to use their discretion biases when it comes to students of Indian, Asian and Caucasian descent wearing the exact hairstyles deemed inappropriate when worn by their black schoolmates. What are these ‘obvious reasons’ to which he alludes? Apparently fades are only appropriate when worn by Indians, Caucasians, Asians, Soldiers, Presidents and Prime Ministers… but NOT black students.”– Excerpt from Black Hair Matters Part 1

“Having had the wrong kind of education, the Negro has become his own greatest enemy.”– Marcus Garvey

“We speak often of modernized curricula at the secondary level, and the need to pay attention not just to academic/technical areas of study, but to the sense of identity that young people develop as students. Part of this identity is of course the history of their country and region, and their place in this history. Not just in the Caribbean but wherever young, Black women live, we are told that our hair is somehow inadequate: it is ‘hard’ or ‘knotty’. It is not straight ‘enough’, although enough for whom or what one cannot be sure. And where we are kindly allowed to wear our hair naturally as it grows from our heads, there are caveats: as long as it is pulled back or braided tight or otherwise tamed.”[1]

Though no one can force someone to start seeing and appreciating black beauty, it would be beneficial for us to start questioning our beliefs about race, beauty and natural hair. If we recognized that those who created the dominant cultural ideas we’ve internalized did so for their benefit, and not ours, we would be better able to understand that the psychological conflict this internalization causes is self-destructive. Self-hatred continues the cycle of self-degradation, and it’s impossible to teach our children about their self worth, and get them to take their history seriously, if our own sense of self is distorted through a white lens. What are the lessons being taught to us as a society that teachers would think sending a child home for wearing their natural hair out is acceptable and excusable?

“Among my primary concerns is the message being sent to young women of African heritage in this country that their natural selves are of necessity untidy, unsuitable or otherwise inadequate. The argument that “students can do whatever they like once they enter the real world, but this is school” also misunderstands the role of formal education and the process of young people’s development. School is the real world. Young people are understanding themselves and their environment, and while becoming who they will be, they also are.”[2]

Lessons of self- confidence, self- worth and self- identity have to be incorporated into the collective consciousness. Therefore, children have to be socialized to believe their self worth. I’ve heard parents tell their children, “Nuh deh wid nobody blacker than u madda or fada!

Choose a man wid pretty hair suh yuh pickney can have pretty hair

Nuh bring home nuh black picky picky head man/gyal fi meet mi

I’ve heard teachers tell children,

“Yuh see how yuh black” as if being black was some sort of leprosy and something to be avoided or ashamed of.

Children spend most of their time at home and school. The only way to undo all what we have learned as it relates to self hate is to constantly drive home the message of self love. The brain is a creature of repetition; whoever gets at it the most will rule it. The brain cannot resist the temptation to believe something that is regularly presented before it or that it’s regularly fed. So that’s what makes teachers’ jobs so hard yet critical. Children only spend approximately 8 hours at school. What do they spend the other 16 hours doing, hearing, and watching? The formative years of conditioning are from birth to 12. It is counterproductive that we (parents, teachers, society) instill values consistent with self hate in those critical years and then try to change them after they have already been habituated and developed personalities and hard habits. As the Jamaican proverb appropriately states, “ben’ the tree when it young, when it old, it will bruck” What people have ever been freed by giving the best years of their children to their ‘oppressor’? The ‘oppressor’, in this instance, is the value system of white bias.[3]

We have to replace the old zero-tolerance approach with an approach built on the conviction that suspension and expulsion don’t solve problems at the root of student misbehavior. Continuing to promote zero tolerance, masking it as just a commitment to discipline and blind social conformity, we are failing future generations of black kinky hair students. When you fail to engage your school boards in the conversation around changing these outdated rules, that’s your contribution to the old guard. Yes, systems matter, and yes, there are villains and bad apples out there. But we’ve got to be way more honest and own our contribution to all of this. Our contribution can be what we do but also what we fail to do. Let’s make it personal, and admit our own fault and contributions to this value system that promotes ‘white bias’. I know that’s hard to hear. But yes, you and I, intelligent, well-intentioned warriors of discipline — we contribute to the system when we say nothing and do nothing. If we remain silent in matters of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor.

I can see somebody reading and saying, “Look at her telling us not to uphold school rules and preaching about natural hair like she is more enlightened and confident than all of us. But she can say wah she waan say, she don’t have to deal with these unruly kids on a daily basis? and who are you to say we have issues of self hate just because we’re not natural?” I promise you, my intention is not to seem like I am the Malcolm X of natural hair advocacy or that I am righteous and have all the answers. It’s purely out of love for my people when I suggest that rejecting straightened hair is symbolic of a deeper act of rejecting the belief that straightening hair and other forms of grooming which are deemed ‘socially acceptable’ are the only means of looking ‘presentable’, ‘formal’, ‘sophisticated’, ‘groomed’, ‘appropriate’, ‘respectable’, ‘neat’, ‘professional’ and attaining success in society. I, like the other person, am still on that journey of undoing and unlearning all the blatant and subliminal negative messages that were fed to me in my formative years.

The first step to ‘rehabilitation’ is admission and realizing a need for change. Let’s consciously correct our subconscious thoughts, our conversations, and our actions. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. In fact, I have to stop myself from saying and doing things daily that contradict this empowerment of which I speak of. If your ‘discipline’ undermines the values of self love, self worth and self acceptance, it’s time for it to be disrupted.

Others should not be able to dictate to us what is beautiful and we just sit powerlessly regurgitating those beauty standards. Racism ‘works’ by encouraging the devaluation of self-identity by the victims themselves, and that re-centering of a sense of pride is a prerequisite for resistance and reconstruction. Let us take charge of the messages we consume daily and the messages we allow our children to consume. Our hair doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’! Society’s view of beauty is what is broken. I’ve been told more often than not that I’m prejudiced towards women with natural hair. I am not. Some of my most beloved friends have processed hair. However, I choose to highlight beauties with natural hair through this medium because, as a black woman, I understand that I needed to see positive images of black natural hair beauties and, by highlighting them, I am contributing, if only minutely, to my people seeing themselves as BEAUTIFUL. I am challenging the idea that there is one standard of beauty. Good hair is not only straight hair or hair with curl patterns closer to Caucasian, Indian or Asian textures. ‘Good hair’ is HEALTHY hair whether it be kinky, curly, coily, nappy, or straight.

“Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

We are Kings and Queens whose history have been distorted because we allowed someone else to tell it. We were never slaves. We were enslaved. Two different things. I see a need to incorporate and structure our history in the school curriculum in a way that empowers us as a people and that builds self esteem. But who would teach it if there are teachers who themselves need these lessons? Black Hair Matters. Until these hair rules are applied unbiasedly to all kinds of hair then you are asking us to accept that we are ‘valorized according to the tilt of our whiteness’ and that ‘rules are rules’ and must be followed regardless. Back in the day you may have blindly followed and upheld those hair rules but now that you know better or at least should know better (even if only after reading this). Don’t you think it would be irresponsible and cowardice to go back to enforcing those kinds of ‘rules’? The mind stretched by an idea can never be returned to its original dimensions. No man can grow and remain the same. Are you going to stunt positive growth and awareness because of fear and because ‘it has always been done that way’?

Let us be brave if only for the future generation.

Let us not apologise for the texture of our hair and for being disruptive about policies and changes that affect our race.

Let us not judge our beauty based on European standards or we will forever believe we are ‘ugly’ and ‘inadequate’. We are not Europeans. We are AFRICANS… and our hair (and lives) matter.
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Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

Follow on Instagram: @naturaliconbeauty

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[1] Letter from group of Harrison College Alumni in Barbados

[2] Letter from group of Harrison College Alumni in Barbados

[3] Dr. Umar Johnson

*Not all images are property of the blog

Black Hair Matters.

“We have outgrown slavery, but our minds are still enslaved to the thinking of the Master race. Now take these kinks out of your mind, instead of out of your hair.”– Marcus Garvey

All hair is NOT created equal. That’s the lye lie they are still trying to force into our heads. It is a sad day when the hair that naturally grows out of a person’s head is deemed unacceptable. I remember some 20 years ago having a conversation with a childhood friend who was telling me that it was against her school rules to comb her hair in more than 3 or 4 cornrows/braids. What was the logic behind this rule? I think she had said combing it in anything more than 4 braids would be akin to looking like a ‘Rasta’. But don’t quote me on that. Nevertheless, I found this rule weird and offensive since this was a school with a predominantly black student populace. Braiding is not only a way for Black people to show off our hairstyles and creativity but it is also a means of having one less thing to worry about while getting ready for school each morning. Since cornrows can last for at least a week once proper night time ‘tie head’ protocols are followed, this hairstyle is expedient. This rule posed a problem for my friend who not only had very short naturally kinky hair but who was a Christian in the Pentecostal faith. Her faith (church rules) prevented her from processing her hair and her school rules basically made it impossible for her to wear her hair in its short naturally kinky state. Since her hair would need at least 10 cornrows to be even considered “neat” by their standards, you could see that she was in a predicament of sorts. Though having never heard of Walter Rodney and Umar Johnson or knowing very little besides the names of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X at the time, I still knew there was something ridiculously wrong with that picture.

It was a pointed display of arrogance towards most manifestations of non-European culture. A prominent Girls’ school in the capital Kingston & St. Andrew preventing a female student from wearing natural braids and cornrows- hairstyles synonymous with the African texture- is a school that had no intention of catering to the needs of its black students who by nature were blessed with short kinky hair. For me, this was institutionalized Racism and social manipulation at most; discrimination partly entrenched in the school rules under the guise of instilling discipline.

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“Who taught you to hate yourself? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the colour of your skin?” Malcolm X

Fast forward almost 25 years later, Kingston College High School students in Jamaica are sent home, on an exam day, for wearing fades and mohawks. Black girls in the Bahamas are sent home for Twist Outs. Black girls in Barbados are sent home for Afros; And Bantu Knots (Chiney Bumps) are deemed inappropriate for school.  Some may say that the students are at fault. They know the school rule and should have, therefore, adhered to it. After all, as one teacher puts it, “school rule is school rule. Abide or get out!” But I’ll address that later. For now, I have a deeper concern.

Responding to accusation that the school is lenient with students of Indian and Chinese orientation, the Kingston College Principal said,” students expect them to bald their head like mine but it can’t be that the same rule applies for obvious reason. We have to use our discretion.” It is more worrying than hypocritical that the same authority that sees it fit to suspend black boys for wearing Fades, have seen it fit to use their discretion biases when it comes to students of Indian, Asian and Caucasian descent wearing the exact hairstyles deemed inappropriate when worn by their black schoolmates. What are these ‘obvious reasons’ to which he alludes? Apparently fades are only appropriate when worn by Indians, Caucasians, Asians, Soldiers, Presidents and Prime Ministers… but NOT black students.

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Why is it, in 2016 in Jamaica, over 17O years after the ‘Abolition of Slavery’ and ‘Emancipation’ and 54 years after ‘Independence’, do we still think that the afro, bantu knots (chiney bumps), twist outs and other hairstyles commonly worn by African women are ‘unsuitable’, ‘unprofessional’, ‘inappropriate’, ‘unrespectable’, ‘unruly’, ‘unkempt’, ‘untidy’, and ‘ungroomed’? Why are we still sending home black boys for wearing fades and mohawks? Why is the African hair not seen as ‘good hair’? We have been devalued through our history of enslavement. Yet we have, from generations to generations, continued to teach our own, whether through blatant, subliminal and even subtle messages, that we are inadequate and that all hair is NOT created equal. Some are more equal than others.

 “This was my first really big step toward self- degradation: when I endured all of that pain, literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man’s hair. I had joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed to believe that the black people are “inferior”- and white people “superior”- that they will even violate and mutilate their God-created bodies to try and look “pretty” by white standards.”- Malcolm X

Some years ago while attending High School, I was 13 at the time in 3rd form (9th grade). I usually travelled to school with my friend’s mom. Those traffic mornings led for great family conversations. I just listened. It was one of those mornings that my friend asked her mom if she would be allowed to process (cream) her hair for her Birthday. She was going to be 14 and that was the only gift she wanted. After negotiating with her mom the entire trip to school, her mom agreed that if she did well for the semester and got straight A’s, she would grant her that wish. ‘Creaming’ her hair was going to be her ‘reward’ for good grades and behaviour.

A friend of mine was in a long distance relationship and hadn’t seen her boyfriend in person for months. She had started her journey back to natural hair and had told me how she loved how her natural hair was looking and how excited she was at the sight of ‘new growth’. Her boyfriend was coming to visit and she gladly awaited the opportunity to spend time with him and show off her beautiful Bantu Knots. For those couple of days that he was going to be in the island, I knew I wasn’t going to see her. But after he left and she visited me, I was in for a surprise. She had exchanged her kinky curly natural crown with processed hair. When I asked why, she said her boyfriend didn’t like how she looked with hair natural. I was disappointed in her decision but I guess no one wants to feel “unpretty” especially to the one person who should be calling you beautiful. Her opinion of her hair didn’t matter because his opinion mattered more. Truth is, I don’t fully blame men for their opinions and preferences.  Men are very visual beings, and they unconsciously learn to define beauty by what society instills in them at a very young age.

Growing up in a Pentecostal Church, we were forced to keep our hair natural. With hopes of straightening my hair, I started questioning my mom as to the Biblical foundation of such rule. I tried to argue that there were no biblical grounds for such rule and even tried to negotiate terms but my mom was adamant that it wasn’t going to happen; At least, “not in my house!”  I kept nagging her about this stupid church rule until she called one of the Elders of the Church who I highly respected to talk to me about it thinking that it would have quelled my ‘sinful’ desire for the ’creamy crack’. As my mother handed me the house phone, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I said “Hello”. It was then that I heard a stern recognizable voice say,  “Are you telling GOD that you don’t like the way He made you and that you don’t think He made you properly or beautiful?” Pausing just enough to muster the confidence of Johnnie Cochran, I quickly backfired, “No, I’m telling Him I loved how He made me. I just want to look even more beautiful.” I don’t remember how the rest of that conversation went but, at that time, I actually felt proud of my response. I had made my case.

In retrospect, my reply only confirmed how deeply rooted the psychological legacy of slavery was and how successful Europeans have been in destroying our self worth and confidence by pushing their standards of beauty on us. Why would straight hair make me more beautiful? At least, why did I think it would? Why wasn’t my Kinky Curls enough?

I’ve had three friends with natural hair entered Miss Jamaica Beauty Pageants. They all entered in different years and they don’t know each other. They all passed the elimination round of the competition and made it to the finals wearing their natural curls. They all seemed like self confident and secure ladies who love their natural hair yet they all decided to ‘alter’ or ‘hide’ their natural curls whether through temporary straightening measures or in an up do. After questioning each of their motives,  I realized that the decision had less to do with what would complement the style of their gowns and  more to do with the thought that wearing their naturally kinky curly hair out for the evening gown segment was inappropriate as they needed a hairstyle that was more ‘suitable’, ‘formal’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘appropriate’.  It’s not a coincidence that they all viewed wearing their natural hair out, for such a ‘distinguished’ and ‘special’ occasion, in the same light. Those with hair closer to Indian, Asian or Caucasian textures let their hair out for the evening gown segment all the time. There’s not even an inclination in their minds that this could be inappropriate. So why then would they think that wearing their naturally kinky curly hair out wasn’t evening gown worthy? Why did they think it was inadequate and not fitting for a formal occasion?

I told all these stories not to declare how many friends I have but rather to highlight how different persons, of different ages, from different backgrounds, who don’t know each other could hold similar demeaning perceptions or convictions regarding their hair.

We had to learn it from somewhere. This internalized form of racism is an invisible presence in our psyches, and some of us don’t even realize that it’s a factor in how we perceive ourselves and others. Thus, for instance, my friend’s boyfriend could think his attraction to straight long hair is just a ‘matter of taste’, and I could articulate that ‘creaming’ my hair would make me ‘prettier’. It’s a matter of identity, self-worth and self-acceptance. That is why I can’t agree with the notion that rules are just rules and, as such, should be blindly followed.. Rules are NOT just rules. Rules are a reflection of society’s standards, values and fears. How we view ourselves and others are directly related to how we act. When we continue to enforce rules that either blatantly reinforce or express subtle undertones of self hatred and discrimination towards non-European traits, we are teaching our children values that promote a mindset that there is no room for the idea of naturally kinky haired black beauty.  And we continue the cycle from generations to generations if those rules aren’t changed.

  

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A Part 2 will be posted this week which will offer ‘solutions’ as I didn’t want to make this post too long 🙂

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Love & Blessings,

Queen Stacia.

Follow on Instagram: @naturaliconbeauty

Personal IG: @staciadavidson

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*Not all images are property of the blog