Monday, 8 May 2017

Journey to NOAH Con 2016 :: Meeting Seniors with Albinism & What Honey Taught Me.

I am an educator by profession and as an educator I have learned to love learning on many levels. When I first saw Honey, she was in a bright red t-shirt and a beautiful bright lipstick. Her eyes were lined perfectly (i saw em when she got closer be quiet and pay attention to the story) and she had a sweet engaging smile. 

I found myself in another situation where I was staring without realising it. I watched her approach and though ah look at this beautiful brave woman in a fabulous red lip. Then she said hello. Obviously, I had to complement her lipstick. She said 'thank you, I did it myself and I did my lashes and my brows' 

Now Honey has a pretty southern accent ( my favourite ) a gorgeous face and a pleasant engaging demeanour. So talking to her was just as immediately captivating to me as seeing her. Her captivation does not lay simply in the superficial, in fact, as soon as she began talking I was drawn in by much much more intangible awesomeness.

Honey oozes capable and resilient.

She was at the conference with her daughter. They were dressed in red to easily identify each other in a crowd. Given what I mentioned about loosing children with albinism here I'm sure you can appreciate the foresight. Honey's daughter came up and it became immediately clear to me that I was dealing with a multi generational string of strength and fortitude. While I was busy being impressed with their compliments and achievements, they kept pulling more and more out of their sleeve! Don't think that stopped me from being even more impressed either.

I don't know how we managed it but I learned so very much of their life story in that short conversation in a conference auditorium. I learned not just about what she had done but that she could do it and I was hooked. Confidence and capability so rarely come as a pair I knew it was a blessing to be fortunate to be able to meet and talk with them, sharing in their experience even if it seemed so much by silliness and chance that we met.

When I speak of Honey I speak of my gorgeous, capable, luxury car drag racing, business co-founding, dog training, horse riding, make up mastering, loving mother and motiving friend.  

Honey is amazing!  Not just because of what she has done, not just because of what she can do but also because she has raised a family of strong independent individuals with the same attitude of getting it done. Ladies and gentlemen that is what successful parenting resembles. My friend Honey reminded me that the world is not just big, it is waiting to be seized by anyone willing to adventure. Regardless of our hardships, life is ripe for us all. Just ripe in different ways. Success and fear look different on everyone.

I spent a lot of time with Honey and her daughter Dona who reminds me merciless of the same thing. Dona and I sat at the front of the trolley car together and watched it go down a steep incline. Now I do not like heights, with my depth perception remember everything seems higher than it actually is that's why I stay getting my holes and my shadows mixed up. Dona sat with me in a moment of both fear and awe and reminded me of the lesson that had gotten me to the conference in the first place.  

Staring down that incline, as we descended at an angle? Dona reminded me that awe and fear co-existence and that's perfectly okay. I mean, it's scary and all you can imagine in the moment but after you live through a thing, you realise that it's only big before you do it.

I can still see the scene so clearly now, looking down that incline from the front of the trolley, my heart is my throat for so many reason. One because what the heck was I thinking by doing this?! Two, I'm so glad I'm alive right now. 

It had been said that it is only with the reality of dying do we appreciate life itself. Honey is not at the end of her life but she sure has lived a lot of it fully, actively with value, planning and precision. Honey reminds me that it is living life that makes it sweet.
me with Honey, yes I know it's blurry but i love this photo because it is truth!

Four days later I went back to New York and bought myself my signature red lipstick. 

Mine is Mac's Lady Danger, not Ruby Woo like every other woman I know seems to love and swear by. My Mac signature red is Lady Danger. Red is a bold unapologetic lip and on these lips of mine built from black heritage against porcelain skin?! They're more than conspicuous. Sometimes I still get it all smudgy round the edges but you know what? Life is smudge round the edges!

After Honey, I've never worn my red in remorse a day since and I don't intend to so do. Think it's too bold, too alive? Tough, look away because life is worth living and red lipstick is worth wearing, give me full lips and a full life any day of the week, red lipstick and all!

Peace. Love. Your very own Signature Red.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Journey to NOAH CON 2016 : Taking a self defense class with albinism.

Taking a self defense class as a person with a visual impairment is one of the most empowering thing I have done in a long time.

I have been harassed on many levels in my life, I have been accosted in the street where everyone can see, I have been followed and grabbed and laughed at while it all happened. Yes, right here, in my beautiful country, I have had many female friends who have been accosted likewise and many male friends who have shrugged and suggested that we just don't go to those places.

Except sometimes those places are in the middle of the capital where you take the bus home.

Unfortunately, usually when I speak of this what I'm told is that this is normal. Even if I accept that it is normal to be publicly violated in my country I will never accept that it is right. Now by now you must know that I am a Christian and for me part of that Christianity means standing up and saying NO to something when I am presented with the notion that normality equates right.

I woke up very early to take that self defense class and one of the things I learned from itouch self defence is that those things, being harassed, leaves physical residual affects as well as the type you cannot see.

I had to be told so many times by my instructor to calm down, to go slowly, that this was practice so I need to be careful or I would mistakenly hurt someone. My reactions were involuntarily serious every time I had to conduct a mock exercise due to being involved in the real thing far too often.

I think every person should learn to defend themselves from assailants who society empowers through acceptance of their actions into thinking that they have a right to take security from others.

Taking a self defense class was one of the best things I did at the conference and I would do it again and again if given the opportunity. Then, I would teach it to my daughters because if I live in a world that tells me I should expect a man to hurt me, I will make it a world where I will know the quickest and most effective way to make him fail at it. Then, I will teach it to my daughters. Oh, and for the sake of equality let me say, that goes for if the world tells me that i should expect a woman to hurt me too. Unfortunately statistics are still in the majority of a male assailant and so are my experiences and the experiences of my loved ones.

Also, shout out to my male friends who have not averted their eyes when I have been accosted. Shout out to the ones who have said no when the notion has been suggested.Thank you for being part of the solution.

 My trip to the NOAH Conference 2016 was made possible by sponsorship from: The Writers Association of Grenada, Kallalou Designs, The Office of the Prime Minister and various good Samaritans who insist upon not being named;their kindness clearly knows no bounds!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Journey to NOAH CON 2016 : Meeting Tweens with albinism

My story of meeting the mother of and a tween with albinism is...memorable. There were so many sessions to attend and in the midst of my overload I wondered into the end of a session that focused on how to handle Street harassment. Ivy sat at the back of the room, I think we both kind of just wondered in late. 

I don't even remember how we struck up a conversation. I only remember us talking about the various violent reactions her daughter had to deal with due to the cruelty of other children.

I wont cower to tell you how shocked I much it shook me learning about other kids breaking bottles over the head of this little girl who just wanted to go to school, learn and hurt me.

I know what it feels like to be grabbed in the street without permission. It boiled my blood and ached my heart thinking of this girl much younger than I, who should only have to focused on deciding on what she wants to grow up to do and nurturing that growth, being cornered and having bottles broken over her head because she doesn't have as much pigment as her classmates.

It shocked me, this happening in America, not in Africa or China but in one of the states of a leading first world country. In a place that is known through media for being a place of freedom and acceptance a girl is holding her hands in the shadow of the day and dreaming about being darker so she can escape harm and simple exist free. She is breaking into tears because she is questioning her faith as God didn't answer her prayers about the colour of her skin in the morning when she woke up. I'm not even just talking about the girl in the picture any more, this is a real situation, real accounts but I am saying to you that it is not an isolated account. How do we change that?

Maybe we remember that we are more than skin colour, that we are more than #TeamLightSkin and more than #TeamDarkSkin, Maybe we remember that race is more than melanin, a lack or abundance of it. Perhaps we entertain that worth transcends physical tributes? Maybe if we did that we would stop convincing generation after generation that they should filter their self worth through the lens of superficial characteristics. Perhaps it would allow them to more quickly and readily see the unwavering value of personality, skill and contribution to society. That is my suggestion but that's a whole different story for a whole different day...

I had already taken a self defence class at the conference so I was able to share that with Ivy and encourage it for her daughter too. We bonded over the struggles of having to be guarded and protective over safety due to looking differently and strangely enough, over roti. Turns out My girl V is well acquainted with Indian heritage and knew all about roti so you know my Caribbean self was impressed!

I treasure V's friendship and can't wait till we meet again! Her daughter, whom we will affectionately call Peanut-Buttercup, is a beautiful strong girl blossoming into an amazing woman. Just over the course of the four days we spent at the conference I got to watch Buttercup go from talking with her head down to leaving her mother in the dust as she ran off to join her new friends.

I still remember looking over at V and hearing her say ' I lost my child for the first time' with a content smile bubbling up from her heart and spreading across her face.

Okay let me explain that so you don't get the impression that V is terrible, she is not.  Parents with albinism have no fear on the day to day of loosing their child with albinism. Let's face it, we stick out like gold bars in a sea of tomatoes, you just can't miss us. To 'lose' your child with albinism in a place where they are safe and with people who understand their struggles and will rejoice with them in their strength. To lose your child amongst people who will praise them simply for being and not for being is a deeply emotional and unexpected joy afforded to us by the NOAH Conference.

In a world were everyone is always desperate to be seen this seems unimaginable the overwhelming joy of being able to simply...disappear from sight for a change. Even more so if you are a person of colour.

For us to disappear is a bit of a luxury. The NOAH conference put that luxury in our hands and said 'have fun' so we did.  When I share this with people who don't have albinism, who can easily disappear because they look just as the world expects them to so the world does not notice if they bow their head I get disbelieving looks. 'Why would you want that?' is what I am asked.

The truth is, we don't usually. I LOVE sharing life and experiences with people, you would know this if you've ever spoken to me. I wouldn't be writing this blog post if I simply wanted to disappear. Here is the harsh truth; we all have those moments, when we don't want to be kind, when we want to throw on a hat and an over sized t-shirt and simply fade into the masses consumed by our own uninterrupted self discovery. It might be rare, if you are more on the extroverted side like myself, but these moments do happen, we are all deserving of them but we don't all get to have them.

For many of us with albinism those moments are like finding a needle in a hay stack while having bad eyesight. A stroll down the side walk never goes unseen and barely goes without someone feeling like they have a right to comment on who you are, what you look like and what you should do with your life. No thank you, I know who I am, I know whose I am and I should not be made to defend that constantly when the rest of the world is not.

Peanut-Buttercup said this to me and know I will never forget it as long as I live 'I used to think I was the only one in the world and this weekend I was one in one thousand!' I had to put on a brave face y'all.  I used to think the same thing you see.  On my little Caribbean island at 11 years old I remember stealing myself against the isolation of being the only one that looked like me in the world. Accepting that I would never look to my left or right and see someone who looked like I did...

It didn't turn out that way for me and because of the NOAH Conference it didn't turn out that way for Peanut-buttercup either, thank God. The NOAH Conference was our opportunity to be a part of a community of rarity

Peanut-Buttercup is doing pretty good these days by all accounts, she's been out their joining groups, growing up and discovering herself safely and confidently with the aid of her amazing mother who, has taught her the art of a quick witted tongue and a no nonsense sense of self worth. V loves her daughter and continues to teacher to way of the strong willed, driven, capable woman. Those are the parents that build success from the ground up by teaching capable despite difficulty or difference.

Did the NOAH Conference serve to aid this, I would so say certainly.

My trip to the NOAH Conference 2016 was made possible by sponsorship from: The Writers Association of Grenada, Kallalou Designs (shout out to my boss earrings), The Office of the Prime Minister and various good Samaritans who insist upon not being named because they are kind beyond measure <3
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