Thursday, October 13, 2011

In de Gayelle

If I deny all that is foreign to me I might end up like Gayelle TV.

The media house has dedicated itself to 100% Trinidad and Tobago programming. It has struggled for that choice. Advertisers in this country don’t support Gayelle, at least so the story goes. In essence 100% local has not proven to be a winning business model.

It’s name, Gayelle (pronounced: guy-l), is taken from the name of the arena for stick-fighting, a blood sport that is decades even centuries old. Two men, usually, engage in a fight using a piece of wood taken from a tree, not one processed like ply or so, called a bois.

To extend on its meaning it can be suggested that it, too, means as an entity it is prepared to fight to the end in its defence and as is evident by the response to its agenda, with some offense.

My name, Sterling Henderson, is in the first part English and then Scottish.

As the story goes my first name was chosen by my god-father. I am my mother’s second child and she says the pregnancy felt so different to when she carried my brother that she believed she was having a girl. She decided on no boy names and when I was born it was then that a name was chosen.

The black Hendersons I have heard of hail from the southern states of North America and were freed after serving in the Civil War. Some of them settled in south Trinidad after migrating from the States, my father, Sylvan was from Belmont and before that I’m not sure.

Some might suggest that my name is not an African name and needs to be changed to reflect my heritage. I am Caribbean Roman Catholic. Some suggest that to really accept Christ I must be born again: now that I am older and aware I must consciously choose my savior and not accept the one given to me at baptism as a baby, I unawares. In Judeo-Christian tradition, though, the child follows the religion of the mother and so for now I rest comfortably like a vagrant outside the Vatican.

The story of Gayelle is one of determination in a sense and belief in self, too, of using the media to develop both in a nation, perhaps.

Abbott Joseph Liebling in a 1960 article for the New Yorker magazine wrote “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one”. The title of the piece was Do You Belong in Journalism?

I write this against the backdrop of a world with a relentless agenda that reinforces through images, popular music and silence that gays do not exist.

All the music I hear speaks to male-female relations, some to inter-racial relations and some to praising gods.

What in my day in the media says to me you have a voice? What says I exist? Not much.

People never seem to agree when I say I hate the world. Maybe I’ll struggle but hopefully they’ll understand if I say it’s really about embracing that which is like me and rejecting that which is foreign to me.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Side of Politics

I met Slava Mogutin when I lived in New York and he dated a friend.

My friend, is Jamaican. He once told me he "hates" his homeland and would never return due to it possibly being the most homophobic place on earth.

I have in recent times, more so, kept up with some of Slava's work as I try to make sense of my own voice as a poet and draw inspiration from his liberation which in a sense came after he moved to New York as he was able to express himself with impunity.

If you feel so moved to check out his website and photographic work, you may be offended. I find some of it disturbing but such is the nature of expository work. He captures what he describes as gay sub-cultures, to be honest for the most part they are white gay sub cultures, at least in genesis. This is not to say there are no fetishes in black gay culture but to my knowledge…lets just say to borrow a line from Langston Hughes who credits Berry “The ways of white folks, I mean some white folks…” you get my point.

The reality is though that there is no gay Caribbean identity. This may seem like a jump but it is in part what motivated this piece. The matter simply does not arise and when it does it draws heavily on the mores and trends of North Americans who live a different reality. I ask myself how we are at same sex union talks when we haven’t even decriminalized consensual anal sex, not to be confused with homosexuality but used interchangeably in the language of some. There is a lot more to be said about that but this is a blog and not me attempting to justify non-normative sexual practices, normative being for procreation in missionary style only.

In the Caribbean the only institutionalized rejection of institutionalized relationship models is the mistress, the outside woman, yuh matey. We never hear of parents advocating sex of any kind not even between them. We do though hear of that necessary deputy and are allowed to imagine that this is where men, the one kind there is in the Caribbean, get their pleasure.

It speaks to socialization which is really the bee in my bonnet as I write and which will take me back to Slava Mogutin.

In speaking with a former media colleague recently I asked her about what caused gun violence in her area. She answered by saying it’s rarely drug related. She said a lot of times its really minor matters like disrespect, basically men and more so young black men now express anger with the pulling of a trigger and many times the taking of a life. This has been said before. It's also been said that belying all that is a lack of a sense of power, which is natural to desire and so gangs form giving a sense of belonging to a disenfranchised group. Within this structure one is now able to experience a range of things among them power and the ultimate form being to take a life. For leaders of gangs the power to provide as we see with dons in Jamaica and so called so called community leaders in Trinidad.

This week in T and T a man was sentenced to 20 years, in real time, for a brutal and excessive rape. Story goes he showed up at a house, asked for the father of the girl who answered the door, he wasn’t there and he proceeded to rape her along with an accomplice. Strange.

One radio commentator, and contemporary, in addressing the issue on his show which has a black agenda, a man of Muslim faith he is, spoke of the absolute zero tolerance for acts of violence against women by men. Here I can add that feminist activists recently told me, albeit under the pressures of a press conference and one which they were using to denounce the rise on domestic violence and crimes against women since the start of the SOE, that domestic violence affecting women in same sex relationships is a minority issue, they said more women were being affected by the violence of that other gender making the matter more pressing. Ok. Back to the radio commentary though, it was the second Muslim I’ve heard say it’s ok for men to hit each other but reprehensible for them to hit or hurt women. This ironically does not jive with the misogynist label usually associated with the faith by feminists particularly.

I aint so brave to disagree, as they say, “15 million Frenchmen could not be wrong". I have been conditioned along the same lines. I on one level feel different when violence is perpetrated against women. From a purely academic p.o.v this is conflictual as feminists argue that any difference between a man and a woman in terms of strength, ability and the like is a nurtured difference and not a natural one. The paradigm is changing though. Rhinanna's Man Down comes to mind so too the movie Columbiana, which I havent seen but have heard features a lead female killer of sorts.

It does make we wonder though if the ideal of a world of no violence is possible if we look again at that message that we send young men: they will be violent and we accept that what we won’t accept is violence against women.

I don’t write without fear but I am comforted to some degree by some of those crazy white people who do things that black people don’t: Slap Peace