What We Work To Hide: Abuse In The Caribbean

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For the past month, I’ve been in the United States and since coming here, I’ve spent my free time continuing my self-education about abuse of all forms including emotional and physical abuse.

Before January/February of 2016, here are examples of some of the books I’ve read (including Amazon links)

Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control In Personal Relationships

How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved

Why is he so mean to me?

Throughout all of these books, there are some pretty interesting conclusions to be drawn about abuse…

What type of cultural environments make people prone to becoming abusers?

How can you tell when abuse is happening (in your own life and in others)?

Most people reading this will probably be in some form of denial about abuse as it plays out in their lives. Especially if they’re West Indian…

But of course, abuse and denial are our drugs of choice (besides alcohol of course.)

The realities of abuse in our society are often very difficult for me to narrow down. There are so many facets to abuse and all of these facets of abuse are woven through every aspect of our society to the point where nearly every social interaction is tainted by either the specter of abuse or abuse in the flesh…

4 Lessons I’ve Learned In 2015

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As the year comes to an end, my boyfriend and I have spent a fair amount of time assessing the changes we’ve made this year to ourselves and to our education as well as what we hope to accomplish in 2016. Maybe it’s early… but when a visionary and an idealist get together, the future is more often than not a topic of conversation. I don’t know how qualified I am to give advice, but I can certainly write a few points on some important things I’ve learned so far this year. Of course, there are two more months to go, so hopefully, I’ll be able to learn much much more.

  • Living a lifestyle you want is possible. Before writing, the idea of not working a 9-5 job had never occurred to me. I dreaded the idea of working a regular job and the idea of having to work 10+ hours a day to make ends meet in the U.S. What I really wanted was to make enough money to live comfortably, be close to my parents and have plenty of free time to pursue other interests. It was difficult and it took planning but in 2015, I’ve made that happen. I think the key here is not just saying what you want, but answering this question: “What do I have to do to make the lifestyle I want attainable”.

Intersectional Feminism: Mental Health And The West Indian LGBTI Community

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Viewing mental health through the lens of intersectional feminism calls for us to examine the specific mental health issues faced by the LGBTI community. While all mental health issues are largely ignored by the greater West Indian community, another group of marginalized people face specific oppression at the hands of medical professionals; they face specific issues regarding their sexuality and gender expression that other West Indians do not face.

In a society where non-cisgender and non-heterosexual people face massive amounts of physical/emotional and sexual violence, there is no space for LGBTI+ individuals to receive help or support for their unique difficulties. Not to mention, the people who cause these difficulties don’t believe that their problems are real. While I’m not qualified to speak on behalf of anyone in the community, I can advise my readers, especially those in positions of privilege, to pay attention to how our society creates toxic conditions for the mental health of LGBTI+ individuals.

LGBTI+ individuals face bullying and abuse at the hands of their family and friends. Abuse has a definitive negative impact on mental health. (Source: CDC, Google it)

Intersectional Feminism: Addiction & Discrimination

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West Indians ignore addiction, a very pertinent aspect of mental health, by pretending our cultural identity as West Indians makes us immune to the addictive effects of alcohol.

Our culture glorifies alcohol on a level that surpasses that of even the United States. We have bars popping up called “Rehab” and “Rum Therapy”; although funny on one level, these trends point to the disturbing fact that using a harmful substance as a coping mechanism is celebrated. There are many memes online about how Lucians/West Indians drive better drunk that promote false information about alcohol abuse under the guise of humor.

Intersectional Feminism: How We Fail Young Black Girls

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(Part 1 of about a million)

We ignore early symptoms of mental disorders.  

Since my parents are both educators, I hear a lot about what happens in the education system down here. I also have some of my own experiences and the experiences of close friends that I use for reference.

I would automatically distrust any statistics produced by the government of this island regarding mental health, so I’m going to address this issue without hard data because no hard data is trustworthy far less “unbiased”.

In school, there are many cases of high achieving students “going mad” either before exams or during the middle of the semester. These students sometimes let out blood-curdling screams heard through out the school. Sometimes they “speak in tongues” or engage in behaviors otherwise deemed “off”. There are many other instances of acting out that get students labeled as crazy.

everyone hates black people: hair edition.

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Content Warning: strong language, racism, anti blackness, realness

it’s repulsive how much saint lucians (and probably other west indians) hate blackness. i could spend all night counting the ways but for now i’m just gonna focus on their hatred of black hair.

it starts at home of course… good hair v. bad hair. no need to rehash what’s been done a ton of other places by black bloggers who can break it down twenty thousand times better than i can. colorism… white supremacy… we know what’s preferred.

but in schools down here… HOOOLLLLYY shit… it’s bad.

basically black boys are told that their hair bad, ugly and messy! if you have any type of hair showing as a black boy you are immediately painted as a thug.

“all rastas are thugs”

“cornrows are for thugs”

both of these are VERY common ideas here about black men’s hair.

meanwhile a white boy can have hair that’s a few inches long.

what else besides white supremacy makes three inches of white hair okay but three inches of black hair messy?!

black hair is MESSIER?

black hair is DIRTIER?

that’s what they’re saying essentially (and of course no one sees it)

it’s so colonial and backwards and when these men internalize this self hatred, they bring it with them into adulthood. and of course, they don’t just hate themselves, they hate black women too. Sometimes, being so emotionally dead inside, they project ALL their self hatred onto black women who are forced to suffer….this can happen through mockery…disgust w/ afro textured hair on women… and worse.

in this case black women are also both victims and perpetrators of these white supremacist hair standards unfortunately…

in school, black girls weren’t allowed to wear their hair “dropped” but they would let it slide for white girls. pretty much “neatness” has always been contingent upon how white hair looks.

in secondary school… neat hair = complicated ass styles OR relaxer.

relaxer DESTROYS natural hair. It destroys blackness at the root. yet it’s clearly preferred amongst students, teachers and everyone.

even if you have looser curls (like i do)… your hair is still considered a “bird’s nest” or “uncombed” if you do ANYTHING with it beyond brushing down every last strand.

women enforce this HARD with other women (hence perpetrators as well as victims). you experience a lot of verbal abuse from the women in your community if you dare to wear your hair as anything but “neat” (read: white) 

i’m still getting used to my hair being aggressively political… i had forgotten in which ways it was hard to be unapologetically black here. (but no going back of course. i’d rather have healthy AFRO textured hair than be damaged and fit in)

then in adulthood… it’s a nightmare too.

when i look up around a room at any given point most “professional” women have the EXACT. SAME. STYLE. Relaxed hair. so broken that the ends are mere wisps. rolled into a high bun (or the closest thing the wisps can get to a bun) with not a strand out of place.

who taught you that your hair was inherently messy?! White women wear their hair down all the time and get to be considered professional but when black women do it with the way their hair grows out of their head, it’s a different story…

of course luckily i’ve seen a few natural women down here and a few with dreads. but we all know that this isn’t the “preference” and especially amongst middle and upper classes it’s very much looked down upon either explicitly or subtly.

amongst blogging circles regarding natural hair on the web there’s very much the idea: you can have weave and not be self hating!! you can have relaxer and not be self hating!!

but i have yet to see the collective consciousness that proves this is true in the caribbean. in fact, it’s just a plain fallacy and anyone who claims that about the caribbean is expressing willful ignorance. hair is still very much political territory.

it makes a statement against white supremacy to wear natural hair here, ESPECIALLY if you wear it “dropped”. relaxing your hair and wearing weave down here IS an expression of self hatred. and until i see that there’s been change, i’ll stand by this statement.

Black Feminism Reader: Education About Contraception & STD Prevention

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One of the things I’ve learned through exploring black feminism is that taking care of my health and my body is a priority. It can’t just be ignored into wellness. I’m really alarmed by the massive amounts of misinformation out there about birth control or any form of contraception in the Caribbean.

When I hear certain things a part of me wants to scream, “Who did you learn this from? A manicou?!”

For example…
•    Birth control makes you fat
•    A vasectomy inhibits a man’s ability to orgasm properly (do you even know what’s down there?)
•    other ridiculous things, too numerous to mention…

A part of me understands that it’s just ignorance and the education system completely fails its students when it comes to sexual education.

We rely on “abstinence only” or “no sex until marriage” education when…

•    Saint Lucia’s marriage rate is THE THIRD LOWEST in the world [x]
•    One of the highest teenage pregnancy rates (43.9 out of a 1000 live births according to U.N. reports.

So obviously, not only is abstinence only education not working but we have deluded ourselves into actually thinking people wait until marriage to have sex. I mean… Even if you do believe that people should wait for sex until marriage the fact of the matter is they don’t. We need to be teaching based on reality not just wishful thinking.

Not to mention, it’s laughable when you think about it since 99% of the people who teach abstinence had plenty of sex and plenty of children out of wedlock. Maybe it’s not that laughable, but I’m laughing at it anyways…

So here are the ways that you can prevent yourself from getting an STD or having babies before your time. I’ll give you a few bullets for each one, but really you should check these out yourself and KNOW THE FACTS before you spread uninformed nonsense.

(i.e. unless your priest/pastor/mother/auntie/obeah man is a physician, i don’t want to hear it)

  • IUD – Intrauterine Device [x]
    • t-shaped tube  inserted by a physician into your uterus. there are two kinds copper (lasts ten years) and plastic (lasts five years)
    • You can get them removed at any time
    • Prevent pregnancy but not STDs
  • Diaphragm (used with spermicide) [x]
    • shallow dome shaped cup that covers the cervix
    •  need to get fitted by a physician and you can use it for up to two years
    •  prevents pregnancy but not STDs
  • Hormonal Birth Control (the pill) [x]
    • Take every day, ensures that you don’t ovulate
    • prevents pregnancy and not STDS
    • myth busting: the pill does not inherently make you fat… some people experience weight gain with some kinds of birth control but not all people with not all pills. Different medications have different effects.
  • Depo-Provera (The Shot) [x]
    • injection of hormones (natural hormones that are already found in your body in case you’re panicking) that prevents pregnancy for around three months
    •  given to you by a physician
    • prevents pregnancy but doesn’t protect from STDs
  •  Nuvaring[x]
    • insertable hormonal ring that prevents pregnancy but not STDs
    • you put it in for 3-4 weeks and then remove it to have a menstrual period. Painless as putting in a tampon
  •  Female Condoms [x]
    • polyurethane condom that you insert into the vagina to prevent pregnancy/some STDs
    • inserted prior to sex
    • sort of difficult to come by, but you can use them up to six hours before intercourse (#BePrepared)
  •  Dental Dams [x]
    • use during oral sex and prevents STDs from spreading
    • doesn’t protect from pregnancy (obviously…
  • Condoms [x]
    • I think you know the deal with these. With proper use they are 99% effective so don’t listen to people who say they “don’t always work” as an excuse!
    • Easiest to come by and cheapest. If you have a latex allergy they are available in other kinds of materials.
    • Prevents some STDs and pregnancy. Don’t prevent herpes/pubic lice
    • there are many different sizes of condoms so “it doesn’t fit” doesn’t mean no condom, it means try a different sized one.
  •  Vasectomy [x]
    • somewhat reversible surgical procedure that prevents sperm from leaving the penis
    • less popular form of male birth control, but does not prevent STDs
    • myth busting: yes you can have a vasectomy and still release semen because semen and sperm are not produced in the same place.
  • Historectomy [x]
    • removal of the uterus (or partial removal of the female reproductive organs
    • prevents pregnancy but does not prevent STDs

If you want to know more, follow the links that I so helpfully included for you. While most of these are for preventing pregnancy… STD prevention can be attained by getting regularly tested and having your partner get regularly tested as well. (#HospitalDate)

THIS is the information that should be COMMON knowledge in schools. Not fear mongering. Not lies and misinformation. Abstinence only education prevents people from making INFORMED choices and is typically inherently misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic.

I guess the other thing to tackle in terms of sexual education would be the obsession with the biologically false concept of virginity… but I’ll leave that for another day.

Intersectional Feminism: Mental Health Isn’t Just For White People

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“Mental health” isn’t just something for wealthy white people. Intersectional feminism calls for us to examine the intersectionality of experiencing sexism, racism and mental disorders. Of course, practically no one in the Caribbean believes mental health isn’t a first world invention, barring perhaps a few therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists. (NOTE: I must add long after I wrote this post that most Caribbean mental health professionals are incredibly ableist.) Even then, I’m skeptical about the depth of understanding considering what I’ve heard about doctor/patient confidentiality down here (although willing to listen to dissenters who may know the truth). If we look at statistical data across the West, which likely mirrors the trends here, we can see that mental health issues are serious and pervasive.

For example: 

  • Poverty and mental illness are inextricably linked. Poverty is thought to cause mental illness and mental illness is thought to cause poverty. [x]
  • Long term stress exacerbates existing mental health problems and create them. [x]
  • Black Caribbean people in the UK have high rates of schizophrenia, a condition we know to be at least partly influenced by genetics. [x]
  • Cases of depression may be underreported in black Americans due to stigma within the community. [x]

These articles represent some of the many pieces of evidence that suggest mental health issues are relevant to the Caribbean community. Yet, we continue to ignore the facts because of stigma and strong beliefs based on misinformation. We have a lot of work to do when it comes to breaking the silence around mental health issues and ultimately creating a healthier society. The mind and body are integrated and when one suffers, the other does too.

What supports our culture’s view of mental health is the notion that expression of black suffering is “complaining” or “exaggerating”. This is rooted in the racist belief that black people can tolerate more pain and should tolerate more pain.  We see lapses in mental health as weakness, attention seeking or much worse rather than recognizing them for what they are: valid expressions of emotional pain. The “strength” of the Caribbean people can be a good thing but not when the cost is something as significant as honest communication about our mental health and how to care for it. We are far behind the scientific research in our perceptions and attitudes towards mental disorders and maintaining mental health. (Rum is not a solution because it makes you temporarily ‘stress free’!)

While many may respond to what I’ve said dismissively, suggesting that the region is just backwards, I don’t think that’s an entirely accurate view of what’s going on. Like everything in the region (history, culture, religion) there is a powerful colonial legacy at work here that’s created these views and perceptions that are slowly poisoning our people. Poisoning our people? Isn’t that a bit theatrical? Not particularly when you consider that the outcome for many untreated mental disorders is suicide. Ignoring mental health results in death. 

While suicide may be the “worst case scenario” it’s not the only reason we need to care for our nation’s mental health. Untreated and undiagnosed cases of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia all contribute to lowering national productivity. If the population is too mentally ill to work and not getting better because they lack diagnosis and treatment, national productivity will dip.

Additionally, the ability to contribute to the capitalist economy is also not the be all end all of life. When we have a mentally ill population we have an unhappy population, a population with lives defined by violence, abuse, alcoholism and possibly much worse. (Experiencing these things as children can lead to mental disorders later on is just a part of what I’m getting at here, not suggesting that mentally ill people cause violence etc.)

I haven’t quite worked out yet what would be a good solution to our massive problem with mental health here. We could start advocacy groups or perhaps increase the number of suicide hotlines across the region. This still might not be enough. We can’t examine mental health without looking at how it intersects with other identities like class, disability or LGBTQ identity. That adds another layer of complexity to this whole issue.

Hopefully though, there are people working on solutions. What do you think? I haven’t ever explicitly done this before but I welcome readers to begin discussing this with me in the comments!


Diva Cups Aren’t That Gross.

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What the hell is a menstrual cup? According to Wikipedia:

Menstrual Cups: come in pre-childbirth and post-childbirth sizes!

A menstrual cup is type of feminine hygiene product which is usually made of medical grade silicone, shaped like a bell and is flexible. It is worn inside the vagina during menstruation to catch menstrual fluid (blood), and can be worn during the day and overnight. (Plus they last fifteen years!)

Before I tried one of these for the first time I was VERY skeptical. Here were a few of my major concerns:


  • I have to empty blood out of this… in PUBLIC?
  • This looks dirty, how will you CLEAN it?
  • It looks really big and uncomfortable, how can I get it up there?

Well, I have the answers to all these questions and I also have some benefits of using a menstrual cup that I didn’t consider before I owned one.

  • You can wear the menstrual cup comfortably for 12 hours at a time. So if you put it in at home in the morning you can remove it at home in the evening! No public mess, very hygienic.
    • Note: Personally, I have an unusually heavy flow on Day 1 so I actually had to wear it for a little bit less time.
  • You do NOT clean it with soap, which I was concerned about since soap can mess up the pH of your vagina. You clean with boiling water after use. This still might gross some people out, but if you think about it, this makes it a lot safer than using a tampon which might still have bacteria in it. We’ve all come across those really gross pictures of moldy tampons…
  • It’s SUPER easy to put in. If you think about it, BABIES can come out of vaginas. This is much smaller than a baby, therefore it definitely fits.

Some of the other benefits include:

  • For the one time cost of $29.00 I saved myself fifteen years of buying tampons ($20 * 12 months * 15 years = $3,600). Which would you choose: spending $3600 or spending $29?
  •  Never awkward to carry around! No more awkward wrapper crinkle in public restrooms, no more wondering if your tampons are going to fall out of your purse. The menstrual cup can be kept in an adorable little bag for storage so you can bring it anywhere, at any time, just in case.
  • Environmentally friendly. Tampons, pads and all their wrappers produce a LOT of waste. Over fifteen years, the lifespan of a menstrual cup, I can’t imagine how much waste we produce using tampons and pads. This cuts down on waste, making sure we live in a more sustainable way.
  • NO overnight leakage! I didn’t believe that I could possibly sleep through the night without creating a huge mess. I’ve ruined countless sheets, underwear and pajama pants throughout my life but the menstrual cup seems to have stopped this, even with a heavy flow.

I’m not going to lie to you though… it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

My first time trying to remove my menstrual cup was similar to the first time I tried to remove my contact lenses. I thought it was “stuck” and proceeded to panic. Thanks to google, I realized that there’s simply a technique to removal and instructions exist for a reason. With the recommended technique, it’s become easier to remove over time. What I’m saying here is that it IS an adjustment.

For me, the benefits far outweighed the cost of that traumatizing “it’s stuck and a part of my body forever” moment. I especially love the fact that I won’t have to deal with another cardboard applicator (only type of tampons available in Saint Lucia that I’ve seen) for the rest of my life. Seriously, who invented those?! I think menstrual cups are an amazing innovation for everyone who menstruates. There’s nothing gory or gross about them. All my concerns disappeared the moment I actually tried it out. I highly recommend this product to anyone interested in handling their menstruation in an environmentally friendly, inexpensive and sanitary way.

Black Feminism: Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

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intersectional feminism health
Fat Chance by Robert Lustig

I’m a twenty one year old woman in the land of plenty eating like a diabetic and I FEEL AMAZING! Recently, I read the book Fat Chance by Robert Lustig and through this book, I was convinced by a friend to give up sugar and most complex carbs (like bread and potatoes). I was seeing the results happen to this friend before my eyes. With each Skype conversation he seemed to look healthier and seemed to feel better so I figured I would give it a try.  I had the evidence, theoretical and practical. Nothing was stopping me. Eating “well” leads to having a healthy body, and since the mind and the body are one and the same, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. All of this is crucial to self care, one of my biggest personal priorities.

Sugar is a major addiction that most of us have in the United States; this addiction is growing world wide. Cutting that addiction out has been difficult and I haven’t been perfect. One cheat day and six days of “clean” eating per week has opened my eyes to the possibilities for my physical health and overall well being. It’s been three weeks since I started this new lifestyle and my diligence has increased over time. I don’t have the cravings and I don’t sneak bites of dessert anymore. I’m well on my way to cutting sugar completely out of my life, as well as these extra pounds.

Cutting sugar out of my life has been difficult mostly because of my environment. Since I’m on my school’s meal plan, I’m forced to eat what’s in the dining hall and often, the options are not pretty. For example, today as a part of my breakfast I shaved off apple peels to dip in natural peanut butter just to avoid the available food that was jam packed with high fructose corn syrup and sugar.

I’ve always found eating healthy so much easier in the Caribbean. We complain that our grocery stores don’t have options. We fantasize and dream of a world where we can access all the McDonalds, Cocoa Puffs and Cadbury chocolate that we could ever possibly need. Maybe our lack of access to these unhealthy options isn’t such a bad thing. Healthy food is relatively affordable in the Caribbean compared to fast food (even with VAT). The cost of burger doesn’t beat out the cost of lentils and chicken. You can’t say the same for many regions of the United States. 


This is the choice I want to make… yum.

As I’ve traveled from home to the United States a number of times over the past nine years, I’ve noticed changes in the health of the population. Metabolic syndrome, hypertension and diabetes seem to be on the rise and I can’t help but wonder if a part of it is an increase in unhealthy eating. If healthy eating is easier in the Caribbean than it is in the United States, why do we still make the unhealthy choices? Perhaps, we associate these unhealthy foods with the sought after American lifestyle. We associate the American lifestyle with wealth. So in our quest for wealth or perceived wealth, we forget something much more important: our health.

In the coming years, what we need more than anything isn’t to give West Indians more access to fast food chains or cheap sugary foods. These glorified American foods are not necessary! We need to work on ensuring that the population is encouraged and enabled to make the right choices when it comes to health and eating. This doesn’t mean increasing education about health. That relies on the faulty assumption that people want  to and choose to be unhealthy. They don’t always. We need to make sure there’s access to the healthy foods so that making the right choices is easy and automatic. Rather than fighting heart disease or diabetes as it comes, it would be wise to focus on prevention to make sure our population is spared these harmful effects of unhealthy eating.