Say it out loud

Say it out loud
(Gender-Based-Violence)

Irked is he
at the acronym
saying it hides
the word violence

Connected to jazz
is Nigel Vermaas
on evening Bush Radio
the 16 Days Campaign
at its end

Say it out loud
Gender-Based-Violence
don’t hide it
don’t let it hide

Behind an acronym
Behind a committee
Behind closed doors
Behind a veil a cloak
Behind a pandemic

Woman got a right to be
follows the little opinion
a Caiphus Semenya song
he finds fitting

He said it out loud

Bush Radio’s Nigel Vermaas puts his foot down on evening community radio.

By David Kapp

(Photo Credit: Design Indaba)

In Bolivia, words of wisdom, will they be heard?

Recently, Bolivia’s newly appointed vice president, David Choquehuanca, delivered a speech in the National Assembly of another type. He talked of the culture of life, interrelations between all beings, the Pachamama, and the cosmos. He spoke of harmony with Mother Earth. He also reminded the audience that the way of life and the understanding of indigenous peoples’ world vilified by the colonial power to allow their extermination. Still, as David Choquehuanca asserted, they have never strayed. 

He mixed in his speech indigenous words such as Ayllu that is an organizational system of all beings, all that exists and all should flow in harmony on our planet. The savvy and intelligent blend of genres unwraps a different perspective on our limited, violent world. 

His speech was premised on indigenous baselines, which also implied a particular vision of the sacred role. Moreover, his words reminded the struggle against “all form of subjugation against colonial thoughts, against patriarchal thoughts…” 

He insisted on the nature of this power that distorts the minds of politicians. How did it come to be? 

Far too many westerners like to believe that they control all things; in fact, the encumbered pattern that accompanies this belief tends to force upon other people what will work to their own interest. They have been worshiping their civilization, foisting this power relationship on others to worship it, to the point of absence of sight for its disharmony. The shock of civilization has another side! 

The “heartless” people in charge of state affairs in the United States during the past four years with all the extravagances of their commander in chief trampled all humane ethics, rights, and intelligence of life. But they were the pure product of this disharmonious civilization. American Indians have mobilized in significant number in Arizona to reverse the usual conservative claim of the state. But their votes were not even labeled as Native American votes as Jodi Archambault, a citizen of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, remarked, they were called “something else” on the CNN infographic. Native Americans are rendered invisible as the history of the bloodshed that built the United States, remarked Archambault. 

Invisible again, the fight for respect of the Shinnecock of New York state, as their land and way of life, including their fisheries, are always compromised by the State. They created Sovereignty Camp 2020 to remind the State and its inhabitants that they were a real nation.  

American Indian women of the United States have led the fight against the whites’ nefarious plans to exploit them and their land, consequently, Mother Earth, and to eliminate their way of life from the picture of life itself. Native Americans, women, and men have been at the forefront of climate and environmental fights. Water is life, they shouted. They formed squads of water protectors, for protection of life. They organized ceremonies and fought and won legally.

We see now the resurgence of the smallpox contamination strategy. As a reminder, white settlers gave smallpox contaminated blankets to American Indians in the 18th century. Only this time, it has taken a different form. Covid 19 didn’t affect the reservations during the first wave as much as it is doing now. Tribal power has tried to isolate the reservations to protect their populations with the highest rate of underlying conditions. The Navajo nation is also talking about their elders’ weakening conditions due to the wanton uranium mining, leaving contaminated waters for Native American communities. They observe in many reservations the highest rate of contamination and deaths, killing the elders who are the teachers for the young generation. They are afraid of losing the heart of their language in the process. The land is to be seized. The strategy is always the same, isolate and create a series of rationales to put hassles for these communities. The colonial power is still looming over the indigenous populations.

The neoliberal profit-making political climate has not admitted the nature of this equilibrium that David Choquehuanca described in his speech. The harmony is disharmony; life is a series of crises. The feminine is removed from the public sphere and left to exploitation and violence in the process, and in whole so is the Earth. There is a part of politics only concerned with masculinized images of technology, financial power, and progress as soul saviors, to let the ugly happening. It is this ugliness that Bolivia’s Vice President identified and provoked with the people heritage and cultural power to call for deep transformation of power with the Bolivian State which should be a lesson for all of us.

(Photo Credit: Sandro Cenni / Medium) (Image Credit: Jordan Singh / Twitter)

Honestie Hodges could have been Vice President one day, or maybe President

Honestie Hodges

“They fail to discern the beauty and they see only the disorder, missing all the ways black folks create life and make bare need into an arena of elaboration.”
                                                                                                        Saidiya Hartman

Honestie Hodges “could have been the vice president one day or maybe the president. The world was open to her”. She was “beautiful, sassy, smart, loving.” Honestie Hodges’ grandmother Alisa Niemeyer chronicled not only Honestie Hodges’ struggle with Covid 19, to which she succumbed November 22, but even more her beauty. Honestie Hodges was 14 years old when she died. Honestie Hodges was a young Black girl, living and growing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She could have been the Vice President one day, or maybe the President.

Honestie Hodges first came to national attention, on December 11, 2017, when she was handcuffed, at the age of 11, for the crime of Being Black, more specifically for Being a Black Girl. Police were looking for a 40-year-old White woman suspect in a stabbing incident. 11-year-old Honestie, her mother, and another family member were on their way to the store when police confronted them, guns drawn. They were immediately handcuffed. Honestie’s mother screamed that her daughter was only 11 years old. Honestie cried and screamed, begged not to be handcuffed, not to be taken in. To no avail. After much outcry and uproar, the Grand Rapids police sort of admitted their error, established the so-called Honestie Policy, which calls for least restraint when dealing with youth. The results have been, at best, mixed. 

Two days after that incident, Honestie Hodges asked, “I have a question for the Grand Rapids police: If this happened to a white child, if her mother was screaming, ‘She’s 11,’ would you have handcuffed her and put her in the back of a police car?” Honestie Hodges was beautiful, sassy, smart, and loving. 

Grief and horror mix with beauty. The story of State violence, systemic racism, the ways in which that racism is blended with and intensified by sexism, the ways in which boys will be boys and girls will be jailed, these are parts of the story of everyday horror in the United States. The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black and Brown communities, a story of grief, is at some level the latest iteration of the tale of national horror. But that is only the disorder. Honestie Hodges was a young Black girl in America who was beautiful, sassy, smart and loving, who could have been the Vice President one day, or maybe the President. Her words and actions suggest as much, as do those who knew and loved her. Honestie Hodges’ grandmother, Alisa Niemeyer, established a GoFundMe campaign for the family. Please consider donating. 

(Photo credit: Alisa Niemeyer / GoFundMe)

ASHES TO ASHES

Kwanele

ASHES TO ASHES 

A fly sits on a woman’s lip
she spits and swears

a priest in black and white 
raises his hands 
“Ashes to ashes may our holy god give 
your bleeding hearts peace…” 

Plastic petals
red and white 
rain on the wood 
covering your flesh
dead leaves falling 

Your mother throws soil
dust falls
her tears follow the motion 
wind scatters them 
before reaching ground
mourners swallow 
march behind her in procession  
footprints embroider 
the path from your grave

I stay and read the headstone, 
“Nomaphelo, 1973-1992, 
we will remember you always
beloved daughter”

Walking from where you sleep

I remember your legend: 
the day the gods made you 
they carved and carved 
once happy they called a heavens’ Imbizo   
the heavens came 
breathed life into you and next day 
you opened your eyes

At five you asked the priest when god
was coming to our village
he pulled your cheeks and turned his back 
at six you chased policemen with a spoon 
and at twelve taught us 
mellow yellow engine sound 
yaqal’inyakanyaka
rooftops raining
a million feet rise 
Molotov cocktails 

White lies ashes

On your fifteenth birthday 
we exchanged gifts on Makana’s Kop
three years later an East Cape paper 
reported “liberation movements unbanned, 
exiles come home”
the story of the girl found naked 
at the foot of Ntabezono,
a stick shoved into her vagina 
did not make news 

A young boy found the silver chain 
I gave you in his brother’s jacket
Mothers whispered “a familiar voice, 
early hours of the morning 
pleading forgiveness” 
Fathers moaned of “the howling dogs
and the screaming whore 
who disturbed our sleep”  
The law spoke for months 
of “circumstantial evidence”
looked your mother in the eye 
“docket lost, case now closed

Two decades on 
I rest my head on your stone 
and hear your heart’s beat 
the sound of a tidal force twirling 
waves of fists that roll time 
into cannon-balls
churning flames that shred the sky 
as they rise
roaring
Kwanele!
Kwanele!
Kwanele!

(Photo credit: New Frame / Barry Christianson)

Once again, South African domestic workers win in court, expanding domestic workers’ rights everywhere!

Sylvia Mahlangu outside Constitutional Court

Great news! Last week, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that domestic workers ruled that domestic workers injured on the job in the past can claim damages, under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, COIDA. This ruling includes the family of Maria Mahlangu, a domestic worker who had worked for the same family for twenty years. While washing windows, Maria Mahlangu slipped, fell into the pool, and drowned. Her family received no compensation. More to the point, the family offered no compensation and the State excluded domestic workers from COIDA. Last May, the North Gauteng Court ruled that that exclusion was unconstitutional but did not rule on whether that unconstitutionality covered past injuries. Last October, the Gauteng High Court ruled that the Constitutional invalidity of the exclusion of domestic workers meant that all domestic workers are due unlimited retrospective COIDA compensation. The case of Sylvia Bongi Mahlangu and the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union, SADSAWU, vs the Minister of Labour then went to the Constitutional Court. Last Thursday, November 19, the Constitutional Court decided that the exclusion of domestic workers from the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, COIDA, is unconstitutional. Further, “the order is to have immediate and retrospective effect from 27 April 1994.” After 26 years of struggle, domestic worker organizers, Black women such as 77-year-old SADSAWU organizer Eunice Dhladhla “nearly broke into song inside [the Constitutional Court], breaking the law.” After the ruling, Sylvia Mahlangu said she was excited at the decision. We all should be.

Justice Margaret Victor, writing for the majority, opened her decision: “Domestic workers are the unsung heroines in this country and globally. They are a powerful group of women whose profession enables all economically active members of society to prosper and pursue their careers. Given the nature of their work, their relationships with their own children and family members are compromised, while we pursue our career goals with peace of mind, knowing that our children, our elderly family members and our households are well taken care of.

“Many domestic workers are breadwinners in their families who put children through school and food on the table through their hard work. In some cases, they are responsible for the upbringing of children in multiple families and may be the only loving figure in the lives of a number of children. Their salaries are often too low to maintain a decent living standard but by exceptional, if not inexplicable effort, they succeed. Sadly, despite these herculean efforts, domestic work as a profession is undervalued and unrecognised; even though they play a central role in our society.”

Later in her decision, Justice Victor noted, “In considering those who are most vulnerable or most in need, a court should take cognisance of those who fall at the intersection of compounded vulnerabilities due to intersecting oppression based on race, sex, gender, class and other grounds. To allow this form of state-sanctioned inequity goes against the values of our newly constituted society namely human dignity, the achievement of equality and ubuntu. To exclude this category of individuals from the social security scheme established by COIDA is manifestly unreasonable.

“For all these reasons, I find that the obligation under section 27(2) to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within available resources, includes the obligation to extend COIDA to domestic workers. The failure to do so in the face of the respondents’ admitted available resources constitutes a direct infringement of section 27(1)(c), read with section 27(2) of the Constitution.”

This case crosses beyond the borders of South Africa and beyond the African continent. Many countries across the globe, including the United States, continue to exclude domestic workers from labor laws and from labor law protections and rights. That time is coming to an end. Domestic work is decent work, and domestic workers demand formal recognition of the dignity of their labor. Tell your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors about Maria Mahlangu, Sylvia Mahlangu and last week’s decision. Tell them Sylvia Mahlangu is excited. The time to sing the song of the unsung heroines has arrived. Amandla!

Eunice Dhladhla outside Constitutional Court

(Photo Credit 1: Sowetan / Penwell Dlamini) (Photo Credit 2: New Frame / Cebelihle Mbuyisa)

In Lebanon: Escalating vulnerability in current crisis

A 4-year-old girl runs up to me while walking in Hamra, Beirut. Her tiny hands are wide open asking for money. I tell her softly to return to her mother, and she runs back to her with her pigtails swaying side to side. I can tell it is the first time she has begged; because children who have been begging longer, continue to insist on money. I later spoke to her mother, Zahra. She tells me she is a single mother with 4 children, she also has to take care of her mother who lives with her and is sick. They are from Homs, Syria. Her husband left them a few years ago, went back to Syria and she hasn’t heard from him since. She doesn’t stay on the street long, just enough to collect the month’s rent of 300,000 Lebanese Pounds (LBP) – with today’s economy it is equivalent to $40 US Dollars. She tells me “no one will sit on these streets unless they have to”. She said she works in the morning cleaning homes but it is impossible to make enough for rent.

Lebanon is currently undergoing a devastating economic crisis that began last year around January with a fluctuating Lebanese Lira, often rising to 9,000 LBP per US dollar ($) compared to the original exchange rate of 1,500 LBP per US dollar. This is in addition to the general turmoil and struggles caused by the demand for political change, COVID-19, and the chemical explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4th. The income that used to provide basic necessities for a family like Zahra’s, is no longer providing the minimum. As a result, Syrian refugees who are in Lebanon experience more difficulties and oppressions with the current crisis. There are Syrian citizens who cannot travel – to Europe or the United States – nor return to Syria because they lack legal documents or have been exiled by the Syrian government.

Lebanon is home to more than 120,000 migrant workers hailing from African, Asian, and Eastern European countries like Sierra Leone, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines and Russia, and home to around 1,700,000 refugees from neighboring countries like Syria, Palestine, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia. For refugees, Lebanon is the nearest safe country. For migrant workers, Lebanon has a high demand for low wage migrant workers and are unfortunately part of the modern slavery system. On the other hand, migrant workers are deceived by the image of prosperity in Arab countries. The country’s current situation is felt by all; however, the burdens of the crisis fall mostly on the lives of the most vulnerable and underprivileged communities such as the poorer Lebanese families, migrants and refugees. Many are undocumented. They feel paralyzed since they cannot move forward. For example, Genet, from Ethiopia, who is undocumented, is a single mother in Lebanon. Her baby is 2 years old. She cannot return home because her father threatened to kill her for having a baby without marriage.

Sophia is a domestic worker in Beirut. She is from Côte d’Ivoire. She says her employer stopped paying her salary of $200 a month for a 24/7 work schedule 7 months ago. Every time she requested her salary, the employers beat her, and would threaten to take her to jail and accuse her of stealing. When she finally gave an ultimatum demanding her salary or leaving, the employer told her to pack her belongings and threw her on the street a few neighborhoods away. Now she is waiting for repatriation but in the meantime sleeps at multiple friends’ houses, and works 4 hours a week, where she gets paid 10,000 LBP an hour – equivalent to $1.5 US dollars. This occasional, exploitative part time job, that does not even provide her a day’s food supply, puts her in danger of being arrested since freelance work is categorized as an illegal work status as she is no longer sponsored by a Lebanese resident under the Kafala (Sponsorship) system. The Lebanese sponsors treat the rights of migrant workers nonchalantly in a State that does not enforce the rights of noncitizens. The Lebanese government has not adopted a strong and coherent stance on racist and exploitative actions against migrant workers.

Sinay is from Sierra Leone. She left her sponsor’s home in 2017 because, in addition to inconsistent payment of her wages, she was beaten and yelled at often. She regularly sends money to her 3 children who remain in Sierra Leone under the care of her neighbor. She borrowed $500 from a cousin to pay her smuggler, she also has to pay off that debt. Sinay tried to find freelance jobs, but with the COVID-19 lockdown she was forced to stay home. In addition, when the explosion occurred, she was left homeless. One night she was raped by two men.

As migrant workers turn towards their embassies and consulates, there is no sufficient support nor safety ready for them. We saw this with the Kenyan embassy and the number of women who protested outside the embassy headquarters demanding they be sent home. Foreign initiative aid helped the women return to Kenya. Other embassies, like the Ethiopian embassy, are requesting that migrant workers pay for their return flights home in US dollars. It is an impossible task considering the extremely low wages and the high conversion rates. On another note, embassies are often involved in the trafficking and exploitation of their citizens. For example, the “artist visa” is an agreement between the Lebanese government and the embassies of European countries like Ukraine and Russia to recruit European women as dancers in clubs in Lebanon. They are frequently beaten and forced to work in sex trafficking with their passports confiscated. This artist visa legalizes the criminal activities of pimps and governments, trapping the women in sex trafficking.

The near future looks grim for people caught in this power-politics chaos. People migrate mostly out of necessity rather than by choice. Migration should follow different laws to make it safer and more flexible. Migrant workers need to be included in the Lebanese Labour Law, and refugees need to be supported in rebuilding their lives rather than becoming dependent on organizations funding. Organizations need to shift their power dynamics and work to offer these communities jobs and autonomy. We need to address the issues these communities are facing in more diverse ways. There are many grassroots initiatives and organizations who work on supporting the rights of these communities. At the moment, their efforts are directed towards providing shelter, food, repatriation, psychosocial support, cash or legal assistance like Egna LegnaKAFA (enough) Violence & ExploitationSAWA for Development and Aid, Border FreeSyrian Eyes, and Bird of LYF. For more information on the work they do and to make donations, please visit their websites.

(Names of women changed for their protection and safety.)

(Photo Credit Hanging Man: Mona Ayoub) (Photo Credits: Nina Bazin)

Beginning nowhere

Beginning nowhere

So then, we continue from the end…

Mabuded’ubumnyama
(Let the darkness fade)

Arms crossed 
in prayer to gods who 
no longer know how to hear us
we stand at the edge of darkness
bearing a forlorn witness 
to our own slow-motion descent 
into night without stars 
or moons 

We lift our hands to the skies
Makudedubumnyama
kuvelukukhanya
Makudedubumnyama 
Kuvelukukhanya

The pounding of our hearts 
levitates us to the weightlessness 
of questions whose answers 
land like boulders 
on our shoulders
It was never the light 
but us who left 

(Photo Credit: Jane Alexander / artthrob)

A prayer for the woman in all of us

Inside every woman
There is a forest
(Some of us even have jungles in our armpits)
Equally Cheetah’s 
and Chihuhua’s
Needing feeding and walking
Walking
And feeding
Rain and patience.
Sun.
Shade.
And soil that smell of mushrooms.

Yet sometimes
For millions of lifetimes 
There are armies and soldiers
Stomping, thrashing, cutting and crashing
Property developers
Presidents
Ministers
Bureaucrats
Bankers
Concrete mixers
Tearers
Breakers
Fantasy Makers

And then a woman doesn’t want to get out of bed anymore.
It’s not just because she is lazy.
Thousands of years of burning Witch Healers
Bricking up Princesses in Towers
It doesn’t matter
I’m not really hungry
I don’t need
…want
I shouldn’t
I can’t
I must
Sorry.
Sorry.
Sorry.
I’m guilty.
….bad
I don’t have the time
(for my self)

Each one, 
A tree ripped, sawn, broken.

So when the land is barren
the way back to a life filled forest isn’t easy.

Simple, but not necessarily easy.

Planting, watering, singing,
Walking, walking, walking.

Every day
Every day
Every day

Insisting on it
As if your life depends on it because it does.

I seed
1 seed
1 seed
1 see
I seed

Practicing protecting twigs, caterpillars, newly built nests, frogs and small brown birds
Just because you love them.
All ways 
All ways
All ways
Love all ways

hdr

(Photos by jagatjotikaur)

What happened to Lisa Adams? Just another 16-day torture ordeal in Canada’s Nova Institution for Women

Lisa Adams

Canada routinely tortures women in prison by throwing them into so-called “dry cells”. Today, Lisa Adams, 33 years old and about to end a two-year sentence in the hellhole that is Nova Institution for Women, and advocates from the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia, are challenging that practice in court. Some will ask, “What happened to Lisa Adams?” The real question is, “What happened to Canada?”

Lisa Adams lives with an addiction to methamphetamines and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. In March, Lisa Adams was released on day parole. In May, she was picked up on for methamphetamine usage and was taken back to Nova Institution for Women, where she was strip searched and passed through a body scanner. Authorities found nothing in Lisa Adams’ body. A few days later, authorities reconsidered the scan and felt they could perhaps see something, small and round, somewhere in her vagina. Authorities then did a scan of Lisa Adams’ cell and found traces of methamphetamine. They then gave Lisa Adams a urine test, which came back positive. Lisa Adams protested her innocence, explaining that the meth was from her earlier pre-arrest usage and that she did not have any methamphetamine with her. Authorities did not believe her.

At that point, Lisa Adams was dumped into a dry cell, where she stayed for 16 days, from May 6 to May 22. A dry cell is a cell without running water or toilets. The thinking is that by placing someone in a dry cell, authorities can sift through their waste – feces, urine, vomit – and locate the concealed drugs. The prisoner is kept in segregation in that cell, without any water, under 24-hour-a-day surveillance. Lisa Adams stayed in a dry cell for 16 days. She started to tremble, became incoherent, threatened self- harm and suicide. Remember Nova Institution, the hellhole prison where, in 2015, Camille Strickland-Murphy and Veronica Park were effectively executed by the state? That’s where Lisa Adams spent 16 days of hell, and for what?

Lisa Adams only got out of the dry cell when she finally persuaded the authorities to let an actual doctor examine her. The doctor found nothing in her vagina or anywhere else. What the doctor did find was a severely injured woman, who had been battered and abused by the state.

Lisa Adams and her allies went to court today to argue that dry celling is a form of torture. Last year, Canada effectively outlawed solitary confinement, after the court declared keeping anyone in solitary for more than 15 days was cruel, unusual, and torture. Somehow, dry celling does not count as solitary confinement. The segregation is total and absolute, the conditions are nothing short of evil. In fact, the actual material facility of the dry cell is worse than that of solitary confinement. Lisa Adams spent 16 days in dry cell and, again, was only released when she begged for a doctor to perform a real examination.

Lisa Adams explains, “”For me, on a base level, I’d like to have the idea of dry celling removed from female institutions. Because I’m not naive to the fact that drugs are an issue, and there has to be a means to prevent that, I’m hoping that potentially there could be an overhaul throughout all of CSC to find a new way to prevent this from happening. A way that’s less invasive, that’s more trauma-informed and that takes into account the value of the individual as well as the security of the institution … I want the public to see that we are individuals. What happens to us in here is important. People wouldn’t want it to happen to their mother, daughter, sister, wife. They need to keep an eye on that.”  

I want the public to see that we are all humans, that what happens in prisons and jails and immigrant detention centers and juvenile detention centers, that what happens “in here”, not only in `correctional institutions’ but in here in our hearts, matters. What happened to Lisa Adams? She was tortured, traumatized.. What happened to Canada, and by extension to all of us? 

(Photo Credit: CBC/ Elizabeth Fry Society)

The whole world is Africa

The whole world is Africa

we are oft reminded so
in an evocative advert
by resident historian 
and the Blues in the Bush 
Sunday night presenter 

we are reminded so 
by stand-up comedy’s 
erstwhile chief resource 
and former resident
of imperialism’s palace

He stamps his feet
He says he won
He threatens mayhem
He says he won’t go
(He is out playing golf)

He is just
like those folks
who do the lifelong
clinging to power
for their own

The whole world is Africa
though Uhuru has not
reached everywhere
or everyone

We see the changing
of the guard and the guards
though the more things change
the more the guards guard
their bejewelled palaces

The whole world is Africa
it sometimes seems

An old Black Uhuru song it is – “The whole world is Africa”.