Social Commentary

The Upcoming Revolution most people didn’t expect: The Tambourine Army

 

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There is a revolution brewing in the most unsuspecting of places, the hearts and minds of our women. I have been observing these past few weeks, especially on social media, a renewed sense of urgency to stop violence against women and children. The co-founders of this movement, notable advocates Ms. Nadeen Spence and Ms. Latoya Nugent, have managed to galvanize support from women young and old across the Jamaican society.

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To provide some context about this movement, it all started when one of the co-founders, Ms. Latoya Nugent, who goes by the alias Stella Gibson was featured in the media in January 2017 for using a Tambourine to assault, then president of the Moravian Church, Paul Gardner, who was also subsequently charged with carnal abuse. It was this incident that spawned the idea to start an activist group to tackle gender-based violence which came to be known as the Tambourine Army.

Since these women launched their challenge against the system, I’ve observed strong support as well as strong opposition from both men AND women on the issue. Most people, especially the women, seem to be fully behind the cause and have taken to social media to break their silence and speak up! The opposing minority however seems to be indifferent towards the methodologies used and have even gone as far as to question the motives of some behind this movement. They seem to be of the view that the force and aggression will do little for the movement and are suggesting a more balanced, inclusive approach to get a larger buy in from other stakeholders of society.

While in theory that approach should work, in actuality that hasn’t been the case and I commend the women of the Tambourine Army for finally accepting this and choosing to be BOLD FOR CHANGE. There are many issues like gender-based violence affecting us as a nation that we spend most of our time writing letters to the editor about, talking on the radio/TV about or posting on social media and then get frustrated when these methods produce little to no results. Maybe this approach was wrong, but that is something we will have to wait and see as time passes. However, we must acknowledge the courage of these women for trying and fighting; a lesson we all could take away and apply to our personal fights.

I would never pretend to understand or even relate to the pain these women must be feeling; especially the survivors. The overwhelming anxiety for change and the strength to bear that pain and keep it subdued, while the system considers their plight. At some point enough will be enough, and it is not our place to judge them for taking this position now if they feel, the time is NOW.

To my brothers reading this I want you to imagine for a second, you were born into a world where society counted you as inferior before you were old enough to understand what it meant. And imagine a superior group of counterparts whom are knowledgeable of the perceived limitations placed upon you and take advantage of you in the worst of ways to further their agendas of greed, power and pleasure. I’m not certain if that fully captures it, but I’d imagine that’s how our women have felt all these centuries. Centuries of psychological, physical and emotional abuse that constantly gets overlooked because the people beyond this social glass ceiling are all men; looking amusingly at the woman’s effort to try and break it.

This nuh feel right and I would hate for the situation to get bloody before oonu Jamaican people realize this! This issue affects me personally, because I have witnessed for myself the emotional, physical and psychological abuse of the women I grew up with by men who were suppose to be my father figures. Not knowing what to do as a young boy I silently shared their pain, cried with them and prayed with them for better days until I was old enough to know better and to do better! I have been blessed with two beautiful little sisters that I’m worried about honestly. I’m worried they will be forced to pay a gruesome price for their beauty, and have to stifle their potential to fit into a society that fails to see the value in allowing them to just be. This isn’t just a fight for our women and children, but a fight for Jamaica’s sake. We all have a part to play, because we all are affected by this issue; in one way or another.

If the women behind this Tambourine Army believe they have exhausted all avenues of “proper” ways to advocate that they taught us in their schools, then I say do what you must to maintain the fight. If you must shout, then shout; if you must march, then march; if you are attacked with force, fight back with force; but please don’t give up the fight. Your courage and nationalism is not unnoticed and my children and the children of ALL MEN will thank you dearly for your service to Jamaica. History will absolve you.

 

-G.B

 

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Politics, Leadership and Governance

The Fix that the Guild needs

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What I am about to say will either anger some of you, enlighten some of you or have no effect whatsoever. But regardless, let me state unequivocally that this is neither an attack on the current administration nor the integrity of the institution as a whole; but merely an objective take on something relevant to most of you reading this.

Often touted to be the standard for student governance across the island, the University of the West Indies Mona Guild Council is the highest institution of advocacy and representation of the 16,000 students which constitute the UWI Mona Guild of Students. Here at Mona, we the students colloquially refer to this institution as “the Guild”. The Guild is governed by a council of 37 student representatives which are elected democratically each year through a process of election (with the exceptions of Librarian, Guild Legal adviser and Publications Committee Chairperson which are appointed executive positions). By theory, the Guild should be doing enough to invite the participation of ALL or MOST registered students of the UWI Mona campus in its election period and by extension  its following year of governance. Unfortunately, it is quite evident that this has not been the case for some time.

To my recollection, the voter turnout for the last three (3) cycles of Guild elections have been no more than 4000 students exercising their franchise to vote; from a total of approximately 16,000 students who attend the institution. So in essence, less than 25% of the school’s population have consistently elected a government to serve them in the last three years. Now some would argue that this is because the UWI administration does not do enough to encourage a climate for voting, particularly with their hesitation to cancel classes in half or full for the actual day of voting; as they do each year for Sports Day. I would imagine, however, the Administration’s rebuttal would try to dispel the misconception that the Guild and the UWI Administration are one in the same; when in fact they are two separate entities just operating in the same space. So the UWI, has no obligation to the Guild as an institution, but only the students within it.

But as a student I want you to ask yourself this question: If you had a choice to take a free day and stay home or go to school and vote, which would you choose? I can imagine most residing students leaning towards giving the latter option consideration; since this would be of little to no expense to them. The same however, I cannot imagine for commuting students; and I think commuting students are the primary reason why the Guild is  performing below its full potential. But we can’t fault them entirely for not wanting to participate because political participation  should be encouraged by the candidates in the political process; hence why we have a process of campaigning. It is the candidates over the years who have just not been doing enough to encourage and inspire commuting students to participate. The prevailing perception of the Guild by commuting students, frankly, is that it is just a group of people who strive to serve the interests of residing students. But when we look at the facts on the table, can we blame commuters for having this sentiment? Let’s put it in perspective.

Outside of the Commuting Students Representative’s portfolio on the Guild, what other consistent pursuit has the Guild made to directly impact commuting students? Off the top of my head, the Guild Bus system is the only other service I can think of which is offered to commuting students and one I must say is very relevant and efficient; but not enough. If the Guild does not revise its approach to governance to be more inclusive and constituent-oriented, then they will never get the level of participation they truly want; and the Guild as an organization will never reach its full potential. Ever.

Now you might be wondering what then will it take to usher in this change in participation on a whole within the Guild of students, and the answer is simple: Better Representation. The leaders of Council must adapt an inclusive approach to the representation of the Guild of students that actually reflects ALSO the majority of the Guild of students being commuting students; and not concentrated around the needs and affairs of residing students only. This approach must be applied right across the board for the greatest chance of increasing participation on a general level; because even the residing students who are apathetic to the institution may develop an inclination to participate when they see a difference in leadership.

Sporting events for one, should be planned and organized more creatively to level the playing field for all competitors; and not put commuting students at a geographical and financial disadvantage in participating. Staple events on the Guild calendar such as Fresher’s week need to be planned earlier in the day (or necessary arrangements for transportation be made available after hours) to facilitate commuting students who live outside of Kingston and St. Andrew. The current Communication model utilized by the Guild needs to be revised entirely to be a more proactive and engaging means of reaching the people on the ground; most of which are actually commuters. The Council for some time has focused too much on its social media arms to reach its students, and this I believe is mainly the reason why participation has remained at dramatically low levels. The Guild needs to step outside this “the social network box” and do more interaction on the ground. I can guarantee that this would reap great returns for the Guild both socially and commercially.

It is time that we do away with old norms and traditions and adapt to this dynamic space that we are currently in; a space that requires greater engagement of constituents and the kind of innovative leadership that will impact the Guild of students on a whole. I hope, especially, that the candidates for Guild president take heed to my “foolish advice”, and not conform to a current practice of leadership that has been grossly ineffective for some time now. The power is in the people; the choice is now yours if you want it. 

 

-G.B

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Art and Poetry

Proclamations of the 2.0

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My voice….I’ve been asked to share it

But most times it’s just diplomacies

to combat their controversies

conjured by jacket and ties

with agendas for their big agencies…

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

But if I was to speak out, you would hear the revolution in my cry

Because I, am a child of Marcus Garvey

a string in the Tuff Gong’s guitar

a single current in this air of revolution…….waiting

Frustrated, Tired, trapped in a space of false pretence

Emancipated…no, emancipendence…but still recognize a Governor General in residence

When will we break away from this mental debt trap that the Maasas have us living in…

and stop starving our minds with their empty truths

When will we stop taking their monies, only to give them back!

taking their money and giving them back! Take, Give! TAKE, GIVE!

This cycle of “unprogressiveness” labelled as a strategy for growth..

meeting their targets, while creating more targets of our unsuspecting Jamaican citizens…

How much more children need to go to bed hungry to meet their targets??

How much more slashes to the back must our dollar endure to meet their targets?

How much more targets must we make of ourselves to meet their targets?

My brothers, my sisters, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for

We are the fire, we are the guns, we are the war that we’ve been praying for..

WE ARE THE REVOLUTION that will NOT be televised..

but tweeted, posted and SHOUTED….from the throats of change..

– G.B, in collaboration with L.K and K.H

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Politics, Leadership and Governance

Maybe we can start with the Mindset

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As a young leader myself, I fully understand the frustrations of my counterparts when their efforts to effect a change are futile. The system has been working a certain way for so long that anything which threatens to intrude on its natural rhythm is usually unsuccessful. But before we chastise the system, it’s majority stakeholders and the role they play in making it unfair and unjust for all, I think we should ask ourselves HOW MUCH are we really doing to change it?

Now, by HOW MUCH I’m not asking you to recall your many social media rants or demonstrations with placards because the real change doesn’t have to come through rebellion and aggression; but a method much less contentious but much more effective, which a CHANGE IN MINDSET. As young leaders, we need to act as the agents of re-socialization to the younger populace in re-branding and eventually re-shaping our society’s attitudes towards Change; but more specifically using leadership through politics as a means to achieving a change. We need to present ourselves in such a way that they start to see politics not as the “corrupted game where the disadvantaged STAYS DISADVANTAGED” but rather, “the instrument of social change, collective progression and revolution”.

Once the mindset is shifted, and people start to see the system as not an end in itself, but rather as a means to a greater end which is a renovation of said system, then I reckon the participation and enthusiasm of our people will be like never before. The results of Michael Manley’s and Edward Seaga’s political reigns should never be a deterrent to you the ambitious world changer; because truthfully the past is THE PAST; and Life is a never-ending phenomenon so for us to discount future possibilities of better because of previous possibilities of terror then we rob ourselves of the chance to be a change.

So to my colleagues, friends and whomever that may have come across this post and are privileged to hold a position of leadership, I implore you to see where my rationale for Change lies. We don’t have to always march or protest antagonistically, but sometimes it’s as simple as representation. How you represent the office you hold, and how you advance your agenda in a way that challenges the system’s status quo while inspiring others to do the same. If you can do this well enough, then the people will have no choice but to change their disposition, and start believing in a world where Change is possible.

 

Sincerely,

 

-G.B

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