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I STAND WITH ISHAWNA: Dancehall’s ‘Equal Rights’ Fight

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In a piece I wrote last year for The Establishment on women in Jamaica’s dancehall culture, I said the following:

Misogyny, violence, and homophobia permeate [hip hop and dancehall], with the male-dominated nature of each being highly prevalent. Through the transition from girl to woman, I loved my culture, but didn’t always feel like it loved me. Where was the room for women’s ownership and expression of dancehall music and culture? In what ways could women siphon some of the control from men and create space for themselves?

Through my reverence for Carnival and love for women in dancehall who helped pave the way to my own brand of womanism, that positivity is all-too-often interjected by a misogynistic, patriarchal, homophobic poison that reminds me just how much my culture doesn’t love me – or anyone who isn’t a heterosexual, cisgender male.

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Some of that poison permeated the general bashment and bacchanal of my life a few days ago, when I got caught up on the latest gendered controversy happening in dancehall. Long-time artist Bounty Killer issued an Instagram post “warning” to fellow artist Ishawna, demanding that she not perform her new hit single at a Labour Day show they’re both billed on for tonight (EDIT: post has since been deleted, but screenshots live forever). Why would he do such a thing, especially after recently speaking out against gender-based violence? Follow me, camera. (RIP Messy Mya!)

Dancehall artist Ishawna recently released her new single, “Equal Rights,” which explicitly details her preferences for a sexual partner who can provide her the oral satisfaction she desires. Now – dancehall enthusiasts know that discussing the merits of heterosexual sex is not off-limits in the music, and explicit lyrics ensure that the point is not misconstrued. However, dancehall’s (and Jamaica’s overall) patriarchal culture has normalized the permission for male dancehall artists to speak on sex as they see fit, and hypocritically clutches its pearls at a woman doing the same.

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Enter, the current eruption over “Equal Rights.” A significant amount of men (and women who uphold the practice of misogyny for their own myriad of reasons) have condemned Ishawna and the song, seemingly unable to swallow (pun intended) a woman who is calling the shots on her own sexual pleasure – what she’s willing to give, and what she wants to receive.

From the dawn of dancehall in Kingston’s inner-city communities to now, men have detailed exactly how they like sex, how dem bad inna bed, how they (think they) pleasure women, and how they’re “champion lovers” and “bedroom bullies” drinking peanut punch and magnum tonics with the stamina to ‘tan pon it long.’ Anything other than penis-inserted-into-vagina sex is shunned, with an interesting juxtaposition between the gunfingas that fling up when a DJ says “dem nuh bow,” the women who look around the club and see the men who they know are lying, and artists like Vybz Kartel, who openly sing about receiving blow jobs.


Ishawna isn’t the first woman in dancehall to share how she likes it. Lady Saw and Tanya Stephens came before her, and Spice is currently touring Europe, letting audiences know she likes when her partner “stab up mi meat, mek mi tear up di sheet.” It hasn’t been an easy road for any woman in dancehall – but Bounty Killer took it to a new low when he threatened Ishawna and tried to blackball her by refusing to do any future shows with her (actually, not that new – since male artists did the same to Lady Saw in her heyday).

Misogyny, sexism, and homophobia weren’t invented in Jamaica, and aren’t unique to dancehall. However, for the purpose of today’s blog post, I’m going to put the videolight squarely on men like Bounty Killer who exhibit their fragile, toxic masculinity in reaction to a woman making a song for other women. These men stay firmly pressed about what others do in their bedrooms, inserting themselves into conversations no one invited them to, and puffing out their chests to share what they will or won’t do in their own encounters. These men exhibit their innate sensitivities at not being the head of the sexual pyramid, recoiling at the idea of *gasp* reciprocity in sex and pleasure. They react with violence when they feel threatened, when their status quo is rocked, when others dare to love differently from them, when sex isn’t just about getting pussy and getting their dicks wet. These men put their cards on the table, and all of them show weakness. In Bounty’s case, being braggadocious on Instagram and threatening the livelihood of another artist – a younger woman who will do something for the audience that he can’t – is the only way he can scramble to clutch at some semblance of strength. These men and their delayed evolution are a pox upon the richness of dancehall, supported by a society that serves as a Petri dish, allowing their bacteria to multiply.

Call me an overthinker if you want – but reactions to Ishawna’s song clearly tie to other issues across the Caribbean region and diaspora. The Tambourine Army in Jamaica and the #lifeinleggins social media movement started by Bajan women fight against sexual harassment, rape culture, and violence against women. Heteronormativity plays into the rigid gender roles and homophobia that are dangerously rampant across the culture. And though there’s further societal and historical context that can be applied to this entire discussion, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel if we continue to assume that things – and people – cannot change.

All this to say – #IStandWithIShawna and want her to do the damn thing tonight at the show. She’s already responded to Bounty, basically telling him to “bring it on,” so I hope she’s got a supportive circle and audience standing with her – and I hope Bounty is ready to get put in his place and watch how ‘oman run tings.

TRUTH SEEK: Black Girls, Natural Hair, & The Cost Of Believing Lies We’ve Been Told


After wearing my hair naturally for years, writing about natural hair, and producing events aimed at the celebration of natural hair, I try to remember to approach conversations from various perspectives. For every woman who is comfortable rocking her Afro puff in the boardroom, there are 3 more Googling “natural hair transitioning” while twirling relaxed locks around their fingers. Natural-haired women sometimes say to me, “We’re over asking ‘Can you be sexy/professional with natural hair’! It’s time to move on!” While I hear that, I acknowledge that we aren’t all at the same place in this discussion. That disparity is never more apparent to me than when I hear a flagrantly ignorant comment or the report of some egregious occurrence where someone simply dared to wear their hair with its natural texture. One of those occurrences was recently brought to my attention.

A Facebook status made the rounds this weekend, where a woman in Toronto named Kaysie wrote about her niece. After recently having her hair done in a crochet braid style, her niece was chastised by her middle school principal who first gave her a hair tie and told her to “do something about her hair,” then kept her in the office, telling her that her hair was “too poofy,” “unprofessional,” and that “if she were working in a store, no one would buy anything from her.”

After a news story revealed that the principal was herself a Black woman, the reporter asked the women in the salon she reported out of “Does that make a difference?” On the surface, sure – but the root cause of the principal’s comments and the reason why she felt empowered in humiliating this young girl is more common than we think. Anti-Blackness and the reverence of European beauty ideals are themes that infiltrate the minds of many, regardless of race. It’s why we have people the world over bleaching their skin. It’s why we have fashion marketing campaigns choosing White models in order to “convey a positive image.” And it’s why we have Black women denigrating young Black girls who are proudly wearing their hair in natural styles.

Colonialism did a number on Black people and other people of colour across the globe, and its effects can still be felt throughout the diaspora today. When I decided to wear my hair naturally, some of my biggest detractors were older Black Caribbean and African women, who couldn’t fathom why I would choose to run more towards my Blackness than away from it. I am still working to help family members divest from the mental weight of carrying that kind of self-loathing with them, most motivated by comments I’ve already fielded about Little Magician’s hair. Though I’ve been natural for years and love to cloak myself in the bubble I’ve built with friends and acquaintances who love and accept natural hair like I do, I will never forget that there are people – many people – like this principal who feel otherwise.

The same anti-Blackness and European veneration I mentioned before are what leads people to incorrectly believe that natural hair is unprofessional, ugly, wild, or a distraction. It’s what enables discussion to swirl around the fact that hair is not part of this particular school’s dress code, making me believe that this case may create an unnecessary conversation. When a Black girl’s hair is up for debate, even the slightest attempt to find a way to regulate it (in this instance through school dress code, which often only reinforces Eurocentric standards) gives me serious pause. It’s what sets us – I’m speaking to Black girls and women specifically here – up for failure, constantly chasing an ideal that doesn’t belong to us because someone made us falsely believe it was the path to a better/easier life.

I pity the principal of Amesbury Middle School and the fact that she is so dedicated to this fallacy. However, the person I am most concerned about is the child that remains in the midst of this mess. We still have the reminder that there are people entrusted with taking care of our children and shaping their hearts, minds, and souls for the future, but we must remain vigilant and always be our children’s fiercest advocates. We still have a Black girl who needs to remember that she is magic, even if others can’t recognize her sparkle. We still have much work to do with those among us who believe the lies we’ve been told about ourselves, and we always need to remember to work internally to ensure we aren’t perpetuating those falsehoods consciously or unconsciously.

I don’t know what will come of future discussions and interactions between this young girl, her family, and the principal. What I do know is I hope this girl remains uplifted by her loved ones, remains confident (or regains her confidence) in her natural beauty, and continues to side-step the lies while walking in her truth. 

MISSING IN ACTION: The Silence of Black Organizations That Serve Us



It’s often said that silence is golden. Contrasting with the clamour and din of the world we live in, there’s a beauty in silence; a special solitude in the space that it gives us.

Then, there’s an aspect of silence that stuns in another way. When the world’s noise begs for a voice to respond, that revered solitude festers into neglect and the golden beauty of silence tarnishes into ugliness.

For marginalized people in this city, this country, this world – things aren’t just noisy, they’re deafening. Individual voices raised in retort have done amazing things, but when voices combine in effort, even more impressive things ensue. That’s why for me, at this time, it’s distressing to feel the crushing silence emanating from long-standing Black institutions who have failed to add their voice to our current struggles.

This past weekend, I passed on an invitation to one of Toronto’s – if not Canada’s – premiere Black events. I looked forward to the opportunity to get dolled up and connect with old friends and new people. What I didn’t look forward to was the nausea of watching Toronto’s mayor grace the event with grandiloquent comments celebrating the same demographic victimized by the carding policy he supported a week prior. The cognitive dissonance is unsurprising, yet it’s hard to shake the feelings of frustration and disappointment.

Even more disappointing is the fact that organizations that purport to advocate for Black community/communities and support their advancement have failed to take their place at the current tables of discussion on the issues affecting the people they claim to serve. No representatives at police board meetings. No participation in or organization of town halls. Poor outreach to the community in favour of more insular, self-congratulatory efforts. Refusal to engage in the conversations that community members are asking – no, begging – for. I guess you can chalk some initial silence up to lack of awareness. Then, you can say, “Well, maybe they’ll be present at the next meeting/will have a quote in the next round of media coverage/will issue a statement of their own.” Then, you wait and wait and grasp at nothing but empty silence and realize that their silence is their statement.

The Star’s “Searching for Toronto’s next generation of Black leaders” covers a spate of perspectives on issues affecting advocacy and activism in the city. Why do older leaders hesitate to pass the baton on to younger generations? Is there a misunderstanding of new waves of activism? How do we increase community involvement in various initiatives? This article asks questions and attempts to answer them, highlighting some of the very issues that I feel compound on the function of Black organizations in our communities.

Far too many Black organizations uphold narrow paradigms of respectability, putting an asterisk beside the definition of the demographic they represent. Far too many ascribe to the modus operandi of “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” without acknowledging that sometimes those very bootstraps are given to us, already frayed and deliberately unable to support our weight. Far too many think that their presence is effort enough, failing to actively engage the individuals and communities around them. Far too many cry that there’s no one new to helm the ship when their white-knuckled clutches on power impede their ability to let new blood in. What we need are organizations that understand, as Audre Lorde said, that “the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” We cannot build an empowered Black identity using the sociopolitical tools that were created to work against us. We need organizations that are truly open to new voices and new ways of doing things; ones that are accessible in a myriad of forms; ones that aren’t afraid to speak up when and where it matters; ones that don’t value photo ops over true progress.

Perhaps some of these organizations are misunderstood. If that’s the case, I truly hope that they do the necessary work to make change and align their internal missions with external perception. Maybe a redefinition of who they serve or a revamp of the hows and whys of doing what they do is needed. Additionally, a reminder needs to be given that there isn’t much room for ego in community work. All critique and criticism isn’t cruel – more often, it’s a sign that your community is invested in what you do and wants you to do even better, so disparaging that response isn’t always a smart move.

Then again, maybe I’m the one who is looking at this all wrong. Maybe I’m expecting things of people and executives and institutions that they aren’t meant to deliver. When it comes to carding or police brutality or fighting for higher minimum wage or support for Black women, maybe I’m waiting for people to speak when they truly have nothing to say. What I do know is this: your silence speaks volumes, and I hear you loud and clear.

DON’T BOW DOWN: Thoughts Inspired By Michael Brown & Ferguson



It hurts to say this, but I had a moment last week where I looked at my daughter and wondered, “What did I do? This might have been a mistake.”

Not because I regret her presence. Not because I think I’m a terrible mother (well, I have had those thoughts, but that’s another #BROWNSUGAMAMA post for another day). No, I looked at my daughter’s face as she slept and wondered if I made a selfish mistake to bring her into this world, because I wonder what “surviving while Black” will look like for her. In the case of Michael Brown, John Crawford, Renisha McBride and so many others, it’s quite clear that there is still a critical struggle to see the value in Black lives.

I’ve been glued to all things #MikeBrown and #Ferguson since the news started trickling down – then flooding –  my Twitter timeline on August 9th. The fact of the matter is this: Michael Brown, a Black 18-year-old, was shot multiple times and murdered by Darren Wilson, a White cop in Ferguson, Missouri.

Both victim and killer are gone.

One is waiting to be laid to rest after laying in the street for hours post-shooting, after enduring autopsy after autopsy, after using science to shed light on the truths his body holds.

The other has seemingly vanished behind a protective wall of blue, on paid leave while receiving over $100,000 in GoFundMe donations from other police officers, bigots, and racists alike.

Through it all – the mishandling of Brown’s body, the attempts to assassinate his character, the lies told by Wilson and the police department, the treatment of protesters in Ferguson, the mixed messages between mainstream and independent media, and the brazen boldness of racists with internet access – I’m not sure how anyone can cling to the claims of living in a post-racial society. If the jig was ever present, it is now up.

It seems that when Black bodies aren’t being seen as curiosities to be prodded and examined, they’re being seen as threats to be exterminated. Some remain under the belief that respectability politics around pulling up our pants and not dressing like “thugs” and “hoes” will save us, but that negates the fact that Blacks have been harrassed, attacked, beaten, lynched, and shot wearing their Sunday best for decades. Others say well-intentioned yet erroneous statements like “I don’t see colour” or “We’re all just one race” when neither colour nor race is the issue. The beauty in our differences gets marred by the ugliness of bigotry and racism – and it’s that evil that is the real enemy. Do I want to be colourless and melt into one overarching race? No. Do I want to be respected as the brownskinned Black Canadian woman of Jamaican descent that I am? Yes. Frankly, you’ve got me f*cked up if the only way I can earn my humanity is to erase any flavour of individuality that has been handed down to me by my ancestors.

I’m tired of feeling like I have two strikes against me as a Black woman, and I’ll be damned if I allow my daughter to feel the same. I’m tired of worrying about my husband, my brother, my father – living/working both in Canada and in the States, being harassed by police both in Canada and in the States, being feared and having to prove their humanity both in Canada and in the States. I’m tired of snatching the rose-coloured glasses off of people who think we live in a utopia; who think that racism will disappear when victims of racism stop talking about the abuse they experience at the hands of racists. I’m tired of people demanding perfection from Black folk – a perfection that is killing some of us in attempts to attain it, and finding many of us dead in spite of it. I’m tired of deceased Black men and women being put to trial for their own murders, being convicted with harsher penalty than the real criminals. I’m tired of helplessly mourning lives taken by cowards who hold the weapons yet play the victim when face-to-face with skin darker than theirs. I’m tired of being tired and refuse to bow out of the fight. Joining the ranks of Black motherhood in this day and age requires a new burst of energy to protect my child and initiate as much change as possible to make her world a bit better, more liveable, more survivable.

Michael Brown’s death will not be in vain. The mobilization and consciousness around the realities of what’s happening will undoubtedly lead to some level of change. A conviction in his murder? The end of racism? That, I don’t know and highly doubt. But some change is coming. I feel it.

My daughter’s life is not a mistake. The enemy will not take my happiness, as was attempted months ago during my pregnancy. Walking down the street, I had an encounter where I was pushed and called “a n*gger with a n*gger baby” by an Asian couple. I will not fear the decision to bring her here, and will teach her to be fearless and unapologetic in her expression of self.

Not sure what more I can say. Rest in peace, Michael. Stay encouraged, residents of Ferguson. Citizens of the world, I’m praying for us all.

RACE IN CANADA: Where American Media Went Wrong With Justin Bieber


Being a Canadian blogger/writer with a majority American readership, I sometimes struggle to balance topics that I’m genuinely passionate about with those that will resonate with the lovely people who read my words.

I feel at times that the voices and experiences of Black Canadians get lost in the roar of our cousins to the south. Working to uncover our own histories and cementing our own identities is hard enough – we’re either sucked into the cultural vortex (i.e., being called “African-American” by Whites, which they think is PC but we know is geographically incorrect), or our experiences are negated because we live in ‘Canada’ – a land whose name has apparently come to mean “blessed nirvana where social ills cease to exist.”

The latter was all too apparent this week, as Justin Bieber – or La Bieba, as I like to call him – was seen on two leaked tapes (the first, and the second) dating 5-6 years in the past, referencing “niggers” and singing about joining the KKK.

Rocsi Diaz (of Entertainment Tonight) said that La Bieba “didn’t know better because he’s Canadian,” and granted him a pass.


Whoopi Goldberg (of The View) tweeted that “Canada didn’t have the same history” with the word as America, and granted him a pass.


Don Lemon (of CNN) wrote about his soul-burning question – “Are we to blame?” (before editing the original title) – asking if African-Americans and AA culture was the cause of La Bieba’s ignorance, and gave him a pass.

If it wasn’t enraging enough that these media figures were finding ways to paint La Bieba as a poor victim of circumstance or an unaware patsy, they did it while simultaneously minimizing or ignoring what I feel is the true grievance – the prevalence of racism in Canada.

Allow me to enlighten you all in simple terms.

I am a Black woman.

I was born and raised, and still live in Canada.

I spent my first 23 years of life in a small town very close to the smaller town La Bieba is from.

And lastly – get ready to clutch your pearls – racism is alive in Canada. Don’t let our Olivia Pope-level (seasons 1 & 2, not 3) PR fool you.

Covert and overt racism exist here. From being hit with bananas thrown at me from passing cars as I walked to school, to having teachers keep me separate from classmates because their parents didn’t want us fraternizing, to being followed in stores like a thief or outright ignored due to my perceived lack of finances, to most recently when my physical space was violated and both myself and my unborn child were called niggers – I’d love the Rocsis and Whoopis of the world to recognize our reality.


Visiting my father’s friends – migrant farm workers – who lived in the country surrounding my and Justin’s hometowns, I distinctly recall having to leave before sundown to avoid “trouble.” Ku Klux Klan activity was known and accepted around my town, and it was commonplace to hear young White children holler “Nigger!” from their front yards as Blacks passed by, to the delight and pride of their parents. I see La Bieba in the same light as these children from my past – absorbing learned behaviours and sustaining those lessons as they move through life. To the Don Lemons of the world, please understand that for many of these children, hip hop and African-American culture were not their introduction to racist terms. The red carpet to that entranceway was rolled out by families and communities who instilled in them the ideologies of racism, White privilege, and Black inferiority, long before a sing-along to Jigga My Nigga or connections with YMCMB gave them any level of permission.

Canada’s spectacular PR team laid out the most delicious of cookies and Kool-Aid, and people like Rocsi, Whoopi, and Don took the bait. Canada is not populated by unsuspecting yokels who sing Kumbaya with their multicultural neighbours. Canada is not a place lacking in its own ugly, painful history (and present, to be honest) of disastrous race relations. Canada is not an idyllic oasis that can solely blame the American influence for the soils and stains on its pristine image. Canada is a place where the intent and emotional effect of hurling racial slurs is the same as it is in America, and it is a place where there is no room for the excuse, “He didn’t know any better.”

To Rocsi, Whoopi, and Don: I hope this helps straighten things out.


Your neighbour to the north




I have a conundrum that I’m currently trying to work through. When did being dysfunctional become synonymous with being Black?

By now, many have heard of the latest incident involving one of Hollywood’s stars. Justin Bieber was arrested in Miami on Thursday morning and charged with DUI, drag racing, and resisting arrest, after admitting to police that he drank alcohol, smoked marijuana, and took prescription drugs before getting behind the wheel.

As I usually do in the morning, I fired up my Twitter app today and delved into my social media world. Being the current trend, I found out about La Beiba’s arrest there before I could even find my remote to turn on the news. Informational tweets, amusing tweets, concern-filled tweets, “If he were Black…” tweets – Beibermania took over my timeline in a variety of ways. What really got me going were the amount of tweets insinuating that La Beiba had finally crossed the threshold into his impending Blackness with this latest brush with the law. I had to stop for a moment. What?

Equating particular behaviours with Blackness isn’t new. Though Bill Clinton has no direct political relevance to me as a non-American, I still remember the confusion I felt about Black folk calling him “the first Black president” seemingly because he played the sax on Arsenio and cheated on Hillary. Navigating your Blackness in a country so near yet still so far from the U.S. is difficult enough – I couldn’t navigate this White man’s Blackness too, so I left it alone.

More recently, similar adoption papers have been signed and sent to my fellow Canadians La Beiba and Rob Ford. The former’s affinity for hanging out with Black celebs, his recent legal struggles, and his absorption of what he believes to be Black culture seem to have earned him some kind of honourary “Congrats! You’re Black!” medal. The latter’s drug habit and recent display of ‘diversity’ with drunken rants in Jamaican chat have earned him the same. I know some commentary is based in satire – but this week especially, I seem to be coming across more and more folk who are earnest in their bestowing of Blackness on actin’-up assed non-Blacks.

A Facebook status I wrote on Thursday was the inspiration for this post. As I wrote on my page (in part):

The behaviours that La Beiba and Rob Ford exhibit are common across all kinds of people, yet some Black folk seem quick to take sole ownership of these pathologies like it’s all we have to offer.

Unlike some of the interviewees featured this week on G 98.7FM (a local radio station), I don’t view Rob Ford as my first “Black” mayor. His struggles with drugs are not unique to Blacks, so him smoking crack didn’t make him any more “down” to me. Additionally, I don’t see him as my first “Jamaican” mayor either, even in jest. I value my Jamaican heritage entirely too much to grant citizenship to someone who spews out some careless “bumboclaats” and “rassclaats” in a drunken stupor.

How are we granting honourary Blackness to people who have the privilege to avoid the repercussions that actual Blacks would receive in their position? With both La Beiba and Ford, the convenience of having Black bodies nearby to take varying amounts of the fall isn’t at all lost on me. Remember when comedian Paul Mooney said “Everybody wants to be a nigga, but nobody wants to be a nigga” on Chappelle’s Show? Just call me Tag Team, because Whoomp! There it is.

There are so many layers to these issues and the ways we absorb and emit commentary on them. Media hypocrisy. Discussion around legal slaps on the wrist for many White celebs. Discrepancies in the American legal system as a whole. Thoughts on deportation processes and the who’s who of artists who get banned at the Canadian border. Society’s ability to blame Trayvon Martin for his own death because “he should have known better”, but to then turn around and shield La Bieba from controversy because “he’s just a kid.” I could go down the rabbit hole on any one of these points, but my head already hurts enough.

As with everything on this blog, I can only speak for what I’ve seen and heard, and can only represent my thoughts and feelings on the matter. I almost didn’t follow through with posting this, until I saw Ian Andre Espinet’s tweet and knew I wasn’t completely off the mark:


As far as thoughts and feelings go, mine can be best summed up at this moment with another portion of my Facebook status:

La Beiba and Rob Ford ain’t no kin to me. My Blackness amounts to much more flyness than they could ever hope to adopt.

P.S. – check out Britni Danielle’s post on Clutch Magazine for another great perspective.

FYI: For Leamington’s Mayor On Matters Of Race & Street Harassment

Dear Mayor Paterson,

I recently read a piece on in regards to your concerns over street harassment in your town of Leamington, Ontario (for those unaware, Leamington, ON is a town near Windsor – close to the Canada/US border). As I understand, your daughter reported that she was allegedly the object of street harassment while walking to meet you at a restaurant – and while this is atrocious, I was even more unsettled by your handling of the situation.

You stated in the CBC piece that she was the object of unwanted commentary about her body parts by “possible Jamaican migrant workers”, and you took the matter to your police services board meeting to discuss “lewd Jamaican behaviour.”

“Not to be bigoted, not to be racist, not to be anything, it is directly related to some of the Jamaican migrant workers that are here,” you said.

“Maybe it’s appropriate back in your home town, but here it’s not,” you added.

I’d like to alert you to a few matters.

As a young woman who is accosted with various forms of harassment on an almost daily basis, I empathize with your daughter. There have been times when I’ve walked down a sidewalk alone, have seen a group of men up ahead, and have chosen to cross the street to hopefully avoid catcalls, yells, and comments that reduce me to nothing more than a passing fancy. I’ve put earphones in as I’ve walked past men to give them a reason to see why I was ignoring their comments about my face, my legs, my ass. I’ve fought back against hands that lurch out of dark corners,  grabbing me to do God-knows-what, planning on showing me how much power they can wield over me. If your daughter has felt any of these same fears and emotions, or has tried to protect herself the way I have, I understand her more than you ever will.

This may come as a surprise to you, but “lewdness” and sexual/street harassment are not distinguished by race/ethnicity/country of origin. I’m amazed that a man of your stature would venture to place the responsibility of such behaviours solely on the shoulders of Jamaicans, as if they invented it. While you comment that women have filed “hundreds” of complaints about the Jamaican migrant workers (though you only spoke to the OPP about your daughters’), how many complaints have been launched against men born and bred in Leamington? Or are you attempting to imply that sexual harassment didn’t exist in Leamington until the arrival of these “lewd Jamaicans”? I wonder if you’re attempting to ignite a necessary conversation about sexual harassment, or if you’re simply looking for a crutch upon which to hoist your bigoted thoughts about migrant workers. Remember the examples I gave in the paragraph above of the harassment I’ve experienced? Many of those incidents have been forced upon me by men who looked just like you – and some even in your hometown. Some are younger and think that their screams letting me know that they “love some sexy brown sugar” are compliments. Some are older, and the confidence with which they grab my arm and lick their lips tell me they’ve gotten what they’ve wanted before. These men look like you, Mr. Mayor. They live in your town. And if your daughter is ever in a space where she isn’t known as “the Mayor’s daughter,” these men that look like you will do the same. Please do not insult me, your daughter, and other women by making this a racial issue.

Speaking even further to your insults – assuming that unwanted sexual comments and harassment is “appropriate” anywhere is a disgusting paradigm. As a woman of Jamaican parentage, not only does it reek of elitist and privileged thought, but it also leads me to believe that if you witnessed me being sexually harassed on the street, you might just chalk it up to “Jamaicans being Jamaicans” and go on your merry way. Do not insult us – the women who don’t have the privilege of looking like your daughter; the women who fight against sexual harassment here, there, and everywhere; the women behind groups I support like Red For Gender who work to educate, empower, and change mindsets in the Caribbean and the diaspora at large. Sexual/street harassment is not appropriate anywhere. Please remember that.

Now. Aside from the times I’ve been harassed by men that look like you, I’ve also been harassed by men who look like the Jamaican migrant workers you speak of. The underbelly of a beautiful Caribbean culture unfortunately reflects the often patriarchal and sexist memes that permeate its communities. I’ve fought them too. I’ve tried to ignore them too. I wonder – do you think that we accept this? Do you think that Caribbean men and women are not working to eliminate street harassment and replace it with a respect for bodily autonomy? Or do you think that we Caribbeans are a wild, animalistic, hyper-sexual people who can’t control ourselves anyways? Regardless of your thoughts, I would urge you to read this piece on ending street harassment in Latin America and the Caribbean.


In closing, I reiterate that I understand how your daughter (and any other victim of street harassment) feels. Fruitful discussions on ending street harassment are crucial and necessary in Leamington, Toronto, or Kingston, Jamaica. I also wonder what the outcomes of your meeting with the police services board were.  Do you have a good handling of navigating a multicultural community? As migrant workers have become an indelible part of Ontario’s structure, what will you do to make this “arrangement” a more positive one going forward?

Patriarchy and power dynamics are responsible for much of sexual/street harassment, and these matters need to be honestly investigated. Hinging them on the arm of a select few do nothing to help advance the movement and make communities safer. Please remember: Jamaicans may have given the world Bob Marley and jerk chicken – but Jamaicans did not invent, create, or birth street harassment. Good luck with Leamington.

Yours truly,


P.S. You’ll notice I didn’t mention or discuss the variety of implications in Ontario’s migrant worker industry, and the inherent discrepancies in fair wages and safe labour – we’ll save that for another discussion, shall we?

PREGNANCY PSA: Why Unsolicited Advice, Questions, & Sperm Offers Make Me Mad


It was just your average Tuesday. Just your average Facebook chat with an old friend (specifically, a dude I dated back in high school who I hadn’t seen in forever). Just your average so-what’s-new-where-are-you-living-now-how’s-married-life-any-kids-yet routine check-up. It was just average, until it turned the corner and became unbelievable.

Now, I’ve written before about my request for folk to stay up and out of my uterus, but it seems the lesson bears repeating. I’ve continued to deal with overly excited family members and well-meaning but overly inquisitive friends, but never thought I’d have to deal with an overbearing and downright disrespectful puppy love ex who didn’t know how to stay in his lane.

After being asked if I had any kids yet, and replying that I didn’t, and fielding questions about why not, and explaining it’ll happen when the time is right – I was mentally exhausted. Usually people end by tossing up an unsolicited reminder: “Well, don’t wait too long!” or get the hint and move on to the next topic. But no, not this dude.

The next morning, I received another Facebook message that read “Good morning, my future mommy friend!”

Me: “Lol. Do you know something I don’t?”

Him: “Haha. I just know it’ll happen soon.”

Me: “I see…well, when there’s something to share, I’ll let you know. But it’s a bit of a sensitive topic, so let’s move on, shall we?”

Him: “Why is it sensitive?”

Me: “…because it is.”

Him: “Why? Is it because you really want a baby and don’t have one yet? Or is it because you just turned 30? Or do you have health problems? Or is something wrong with your husband?”

While I picked up my jaw off the floor at his audacity to continue to push the topic, I noticed the screen read “____________ is typing” – and I knew I should have just logged off right then and there.

What followed was an offer.

An offer to be my “Plan B.”

An offer to impregnate me if my “Plan A” didn’t work out.

I won’t write my response here.

Insane Facebook conversations aside, the question remains: Why are people so extremely concerned with the contents (or lack thereof) of a woman’s uterus? 


Let me preface with this: I know that 99.9% of the time, questions about my family plans are backed by nothing but good intentions, and I get it. Friends are excited to cuddle and spoil a brand new chocolate drop. Family members want to see which genes HomieLoverFriend and I donate to the next generation. And if I do say so myself, we’re two pretty dope individuals – so who wouldn’t want to see what kind of amazing creation we could come up with? I get it. I’m excited too. I want to see it all unfold. And that’s the point – people never realize that their anticipation pales drastically in comparison to that of the two people who are waiting for the same thing. Your urgency, anticipation, prodding, and reminders do not help.

I’ll be 100% honest. There was a day recently where I was SURE I was pregnant. I had (foolishly) played Google Doctor and read about early pregnancy symptoms, and suddenly I felt them all. I remember patting my bloated belly, imagining something no bigger than the dot on top of an i burrowing its way into me, and I couldn’t help but smile. Part of my brain said “Too soon! Don’t do it! Reconsider!” like Andre 3000, but the other part relished in its “women’s intuition” that just KNEW something was different. The day I ended up getting my period, I got caught up in a conversation about babies/when I was having some/why it was taking so long – I laughed and played coy and cliche on the outside, but each comment was like a tiny stab to the gut. Now I’m left with wounds that pretend to heal but reopen on a monthly basis.

My personal experiences have showed me just how sensitive of a topic this can be. Many assumptions are made when engaging women in discussion about their baby plans, but mindfulness is missing. Some women are aware that they cannot conceive or carry a baby to term. Some women have partners with fertility issues. Some women are navigating non-traditional families and relationships. Some women are anxiously hoping that their periods don’t come next week. Some women may have just lost a baby last week. Some women *gasp* don’t even want to have children. Regardless of circumstance, no woman should feel obligated to disclose the minutiae of her fertility plans/problems/wishes.


I understand human nature, and I often don’t mind a question or check in at times from family or friends. What I do mind, detest, and resent are habitual line-steppers who are pushy, rude, selfish, and/or nosy in their conversation. There is a very short list of people who are allowed to be inquisitive about the subject. If you’re in doubt, just opt out.

Today I’ve got one less friend on Facebook, but I’m OK with that. If this post encourages one more person to think before they offer some unsolicited advice or ask a prying question, I’ll live on happily. Go forth and prosper…and wait until you get that text/call/Facebook update that there’s about to be a +1. Also – keep in mind that the pushier you are, the more likely you’ll be called on for babysitting help later on down the line. I’ve got a list of folks who will see me and my bundle of joy at their doorstep, talkin’ ’bout “Well, you were so excited for his/her arrival, I didn’t think you’d mind!” Be warned.

How do you field unwanted questions and advice about your pregnancy plans? What’s the craziest thing anyone has ever said to you about having a baby? 

BLACK WOMEN & SNL: When Will We Be In On The Joke?

Danitra Vance, the first African-American woman to become a cast member on SNL

When I’m not out being a Saturday night social butterfly, you can catch me at home, curled up on the couch, tuned into Saturday Night Live. A recent Saturday was one of those homebody nights. As I chuckled at host Anne Hathaway’s portrayals of Claire Danes and Katie Holmes, and marveled at the Windows 98 screensaver effect of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” performance, I had a thought. Where are all the Black women on SNL?

For as long as I can remember, save for the comedic goddess that is Maya Rudolph, the only Black women I’ve seen on SNL were the musical guests – or the Black male cast members in drag. A look back at the history of SNL reveals that in the show’s 38-season run (first airing on October 11, 1975), there have been only 3 Black female cast members – Danitra Vance, Ellen Cleghorne, and the aforementioned Maya Rudolph. So, what gives?

Rudolph’s exit from the show was 5 years ago, but she has since been brought back a number of times for guest appearances, playing Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Beyonce in various skits. This seems to suggest that SNL sees the need for representation of Black women on the show, but they clearly haven’t done much to satisfy that need. In today’s world, Black women are Grammy-award winning pop stars, media moguls, First Ladies, TV show hosts, actresses, sports stars, and more. We are also mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, career women, dreamers, and anything that could be just as funny or as socially relevant as SNL’s current output. To virtually make Black women’s imprint on today’s society non-existent on a platform like SNL is highly negligent in my perspective. Even more cutting is when Black women are parodied, distorted, and exaggerated by Black men in drag. As a Black woman, that only leaves me feeling like the butt of the joke, not an active agent in the humour.

Hosting SNL is also a great vehicle for exposure. Halle Berry hosted back in 2003. Janet Jackson and Queen Latifah played host/musical guest double duty in 2004. Gabourey Sidibe was the last Black woman to host in early 2010. As per the records I found online, Black women have come and gone in short spurts in SNL hosting capacities. That’s not to say that there aren’t any Black women capable of hosting, that don’t have projects that need promotion, and that couldn’t benefit from showing off a well-known or unknown comedic side. I could see Kerry Washington on that stage. I could see Gabby Douglas on that stage. One day I hope that Tracee Ellis Ross has a big enough project to push to be on that stage, because I think she’d be fabulous. Let it be known that there are Black women in the limelight who can command the SNL stage, who can garner interest in the show, who can benefit from the experience – and who deserve the opportunity.

Going back to my original point – I am sure there is also no shortage of funny women – who happen to be Black – that could rock SNL as a regular cast member. Whether to touch on current news with our public figures, or simply to add diversity to a skit about regular people doing regular things, you would imagine that a forward-thinking show like SNL would recognize the value in this. During a conversation about this very topic on Twitter, I had a friend state that “maybe it’s a good thing,” expressing concerns that Black women may simply become the centre of stereotypical jokes on the show. In my mind, the pros of having Black women on SNL outweigh the cons – and how can we raise concerns about stereotyping when we’re barely represented in the first place?

As we roll into 2013, I look forward to more nights where I hang my social butterfly wings up for the weekend and curl up on the couch with my blanket and remote. I’m also looking forward to the day that Saturday Night Live gives Black women the platform and opportunity to share the funny voices that we possess.

Dear Lorne Michaels and the powers that be at SNL,

Let us in on the joke.


Funny Black women everywhere.

Are you an SNL fan? What do you think of the diversity level on the show? Do you have any thoughts on the lack of representation of Black women on the show? If I’ve made any glaring omissions of Black women on the show, please let me know!

Trayvon Martin: A Reminder That “Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere”


Photo source

Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote is all too fitting today.

I’ve been contemplating for a long time about how to approach this post. You don’t know how many drafts have been conceived, edited, deleted, and re-written, but I feel such a strong connection to the story of Trayvon Martin’s murder, and I knew I had to use this site as an outlet.

By now, I would only hope that everyone reading this has already heard about Trayvon Martin. If not, I’ll give you the Coles’ notes edition: On February 26th, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon was visiting his father and step-mother’s home in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. He left to walk to the corner store and purchased a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea. As he walked back home, he encountered George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Neighbourhood Watch captain. Zimmerman spotted Trayvon walking through the area and called 911 to report a “suspicious” person. He was instructed to remain in his home, and that 911 was dispatching officers to the area to investigate. Instead of heeding their advice, Zimmerman got in his SUV with his loaded gun and followed Trayvon. What happened next is unknown to everyone except Trayvon and Zimmerman, but within a matter of minutes, Zimmerman shot Trayvon. Police arrived on the scene to the boys’ dead body. Zimmerman admitted to the shooting but cried self-defense (they allegedly engaged in a physical altercation). Weeks later, Trayvon’s loved ones are still reeling from his death, and at the time of this post, Zimmerman has neither been charged nor arrested.

I’m not sure where to begin, and there aren’t enough synonyms for “angry” to describe how I feel. I’m pissed that when Trayvon’s father reported him missing, the cops chose to bring a photo the next day of their ‘John Doe’ with blood pouring out of his mouth. I’m incensed that Zimmerman’s pathology of paranoia allowed him to find a 17-year-old boy with a bag of Skittles and bottle of iced tea so threatening. I’m enraged that so many minorities have dreams of escaping the violence of the “hood” or the “ghetto”, yet moving on up like the Jeffersons brings it’s own new terrors. I am beside myself at the fact that a young, innocent boy is dead, and his killer is free – especially when we all know that if roles were reversed, there would be absolutely no mercy for Trayvon.

Florida college students rallying for Zimmerman’s arrest

Photo source

I love the naïveté of people who believe we live in a post-racial society, or those folks who think that racism does not exist in Canada. I’ve called some of those people friends, acquaintances, and co-workers – and one thing they have in common is that they’ll never have to teach the young men in their lives how to act around police and other authority figures like I have. The same way society loves to remind women that it’s our responsibility to not get raped, society creates the same vortex in which Black men have to shoulder the responsibility to not get pulled over for a DWB (driving while Black), arrested or killed. Where is the demand for control from those who abuse authority, assault, and kill us? I’ve read that Trayvon shouldn’t have been wearing a hoodie, that he should have clearly explained to Zimmerman that he lived in the area, that he should have, should have, should have…I wish those people would instead see that Zimmerman should have listened when the 911 dispatcher advised him to stay home. Maybe then he wouldn’t have had to “defend himself” against a young Black boy armed with Skittles and iced tea. I’m not sure how you admit to pursuing someone and then hide behind the legal arm of self-defense when it becomes convenient. Between Trayvon and Zimmerman, who really needed defending?

Late last Friday, 911 calls from the day Trayvon was killed were released. I still haven’t been able to listen to the recordings, but all reports describe the same three things. Someone crying and pleading for help. A gunshot. Then complete silence. Zimmerman made sure to state once cops arrived that he “was calling for help and no one came” – but no one seems to believe that Zimmerman could have been the voice pleading for help on the recording. Community residents who placed 911 calls all described the voice of a child, and reports state that when Trayvon’s mother heard the recording, she ran from the room in horror. Cops stated that they have found no evidence to dispute Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense, so no action has been taken to arrest him. This is where things stand, nearly a month after Trayvon’s killing.

There are a few things that I wish:

  • I wish that my Facebook and Twitter feeds were flooded with Trayvon Martin details like they were when Kony hit the scene a few weeks ago.
  • I wish I had a better way of managing my rage when hearing about my husband being accosted by police because he “looked suspicious”, or my brother being followed and pulled over for no specific reason.
  • I wish I could ignore the fact that Blacks are consistently snatched up and put under the jail for far less than Zimmerman’s crime.
  • I wish that I didn’t do the ugly snort-laugh when people tell me that justice will be done. It hasn’t yet. I’m not holding my breath.
  • I wish that there wasn’t a racial division in response to this case (in my world). Compared to the reaction of minorities, a number of White friends/colleagues were silent when I spoke about Trayvon. Sure – race might make you uncomfortable. But a child being murdered should garner something more than silence. If you were upset about Kony, you should be upset about this…
  • I wish Trayvon Martin wasn’t yet another name added to the list of Black males needlessly slaughtered like cattle. Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Emmett Till…

I usually try to write my posts with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion (all you writing buffs don’t laugh at me if I don’t always succeed!), but this post was written freely and unapologetically. My response to Trayvon’s murder has been so organic, so primal, so cellular to my being, and I haven’t been able to shake it yet. We’ll see how things play out in the days to come, but I continuously send prayers out to Trayvon’s soul, the Martin family, and our society as a whole. Hopefully Trayvon will see that while his death was completely premature and wholly unnecessary, it will not be in vain.

Want more details on Trayvon’s story? Read here or here (or go ‘head on and see what that Google search function is hittin’ fo’). Looking for a way to get involved? is circulating a petition for the prosecution of George Zimmerman – if you’re so inclined, sign it here. Also, Twitter has started to mobilize a movement to write into Bill Lee’s office (Chief of Police in Sanford, FL) – for details on that (I will be writing my letter tonight) – go here.

Note: As of 11pm on Monday night, CNN reported that federal prosecutors and the FBI have finally opened an investigation into Trayvon’s murder.

Any thoughts on this case? Share them below. And as always, thank you for reading.  

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