30 July 2015

Reflections on my Fulbright Year

After a very long break from sharing on my blog, I am finally back -- and going to do a recap and highlights of the last seven months! I'm wrapping up my Fulbright year in Trinidad and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, St. Augustine UWI. 

And I'm thrilled to announce that I will be staying on as a Lecturer (full time post) for the foreseeable future! I feel incredibly honored and blessed with this opportunity and what the last year has brought me. It's been amazing!!! And so here are some highlights -- as I continue to use my blog space as a way to share and recap. One day soon I may get back into a more regular routine of blogging... but I make no promises ;-)

These days I'm mostly on Instagram sharing my art/poetry and on the Facebook to keep in touch with my peeps and share news and work-related events.

So let's start end of last year / beginning of the year and work to most recent -- focusing on my writing, art, and speaking engagements:

1) In late December, my review of Trinidadian artist Shalini Seereeram's new and beautiful collection was featured in ARC Magazine. The article is titled "Terrains of Female Desire: Women-loving Women and Radical Acts of Self Care in Shalini Seereeram's Intimate Moments."

2) For International Women's Day (6 March 2015), Krystal Ghisyawan and I launched the three parts of our Artivist Project -- Sixteen Days: Art and Reflection on Ending Gender-based Violence -- as the final outcome of a three-part collaborative project of reflections and original artwork produced in commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign (from Nov 25, 2014 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to Dec 10, 2014 Human Rights Day).

The project's three parts, Outrage, Body Power, and Change are all combined in this video presentation here, narrated by our voices as we SPEAK UP!

3) My artwork, Troubling Identities, a short art film / new media was on exhibit at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas for the 7th Annual Exhibition, Antillean: An Ecology (Dec 2014 through May 2015). And I am thrilled to announce that my work will be included in an exhibit in Austria, "Nassau Calling -- Art in The Bahamas [Re]-visited" (Sept - Nov 2015). For a short time, I have my film available on Vimeo (low res quality). (In the exhibits, it is/will be a much higher video quality.) Feel free to check it out!

Still shot from "Troubling Identities"

Still shot from "Troubling Identities"

4) In March, I presented my new research project at the Institute for Gender and Development, St. Augustine, UWI, as a Lunchtime Seminar. The title of my presentation was "The Problem of ‘Rights’: Movements for Gender and Sexual Justice in the Caribbean" -- and here is short description of my talk:

Public discourse around movements to reform and enact gender policies across the Caribbean has led to tenuous debates regarding issues of sexual and LGBT rights. These debates reveal anxieties about ‘rights’ and who should have access to protection. This presentation will offer a comparative analysis of these issues through an examination of public discourse, with a particular focus on The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago. My project investigates the ways sexual minorities and migrant communities (in certain cases) have been scapegoated as “the problem” in public debates regarding the expansion of rights, especially for women, thereby pitting women’s rights against sexual and LGBT rights. The larger contexts of gender-based violence and opposition to abortion and reproductive rights will be considered alongside fears regarding a so-called gay lobby and the use of religion and anti-imperial rhetoric. Overall, my research reveals how movements for gender and sexual justice in the region continue to be deeply affected by limited discourses on rights, equality, gender, sex, and sexuality; hence, I suggest new strategies for social change.

And here is a video of my presentation:

5) In April, I continued my work in Haiti for the 5th Delegation of Ayiti Resurrect – a grassroots collective focused on healing and community resilience. Ayiti Resurrect is a collaboration of visionary artists, community builders, holistic healers, and sustainable farmers from Komye (rural community in Leogane, Haiti) and the Haitian and African Diasporas. They have been working on the ground in Haiti since 2010 in unique partnership and local diasporic exchange and solidarity. I have been part of the core collective team since its inception and directly involved in the delegation coordination, fundraising, activities and community-led initiatives. The delegation included an intensive week of programming focused on women's empowerment, sustainable agriculture, education, art, and natural wellness. I co-facilitated workshops on African diaspora storytelling and Black Haitian pride for primary school children. Also, I co-facilitated skill shares for women on computers, creating herbal value-added products, micro-business enterprise, sexual rights/agency, and sexual education/health. One of the goals for this delegation was to support women's leadership among the Komye community partners, which will foster community development overall. It was an amazing and incredibly productive delegation, and as usual we learned more with each journey and each activity. 

For more info, check out our Report Back  & see the Photo Album

Skill Share Workshop on Value-added Herbal Products led by local herbalists and AR delegates
African Diaspora Storytelling with primary school children

6) In May, I wrote and published a review of Trinidadian artist Brianna McCarthy's new collection that celebrates Blackness and femininity for ARC Magazine. I had the great opportunity to interview the artist as well. The title of my article "Black Futures and Spirit Guardians in Brianna McCarthy's Vetiver Night Women."

6) I also participated in a really exciting new project by Small Axe called Caribbean Queer Visualities in April, which included a dialogue between artists and writers. I was paired with Nadia Huggins, and we both interrogated the use of queer and grounded our conversation in the local (space and place). All participants have been commissioned to produce new work for an upcoming special issue of Small Axe Journal; hence, this work continues and will be out sometimes next year.

7) And I attended the CSA (Caribbean Studies Association) conference in New Orleans end of May and presented two papers of new research projects, and also participated in a roundtable on Barbara Christian's legacy. The conference was incredibly busy and intense for me as I officially began my new volunteer (appointed) position with CSA as the 2016 Program Co-Chair of the 41st annual conference, which will be held in Haiti for the first time. As we plan for Haiti, I have worked on many many things (too numerous to list), but one that I am particularly proud of is working on the official CSA statement against the deportation and denaturalization of Dominicans of Haitian Descent, as well as developing the Call for Papers and Proposals and visioning/planning for the conference, which will be held in June 2016.

8) I co-wrote an article with Alissa Trotz about the situation in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas regarding new immigration policies. The piece was featured on Groundation Grenada, "Where is the Outrage? -- Tenuous Relations of Human Rights and Migration". Also a shorter version appeared in the Stabroek News.

9) There is so much more -- from Jouvay and Carnival to honoring the life and legacy of Claudia Jones; and a few community building projects that I'm working on (developing workshops for young people who are considered "at risk" using poetry, music, and stick fighting -- soon launch the pilot program in September!)... and teaching undergraduates at UWI and also continuing my work with graduate students has restored my love of teaching! much to share... and to say... But for now, making this offering on my blog of reflections and highlights of the past few months as I wrap up my very successful Fulbright year in Trinidad and Tobago. 

I'm blessed and filled with gratitude to be here and continuing my work throughout the region. I visioned and manifested to stay in the region and create homespace here in Trinidad. And the universe has granted this wish for me. As I do -- grasping opportunities and making the best of it all. Living each moment as fiercely and defiantly as my ancestors and community.

with peace, love & conscious vibes dem

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