Due to the pressure of other things, I was unable to attend most of the International Women’s Day events last week. There was a plethora of them, especially at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, including a lecture at Mary Seacole Hall and the UNDP’s launch of a new publication “Where Are The Women?” to name but two… The event that I especially did not want to miss was WE-Change’s “Her Legacy,” which honored Jamaican women, with a focus on several individuals (including myself – I felt humbled). It was funded by J-FLAG and UN Women. I should not have been absent, but I had to be. However, I hear that it was an enormous success, attended by a cross-section of Jamaican women (and men). I am sharing below some thoughts from founder Latoya Nugent, and selected photographs from the evening’s happenings. This was a milestone event in many ways: WE-Change is an affiliate of J-FLAG, serving the Jamaican community of lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women. It is also a member of the 51% Coalition, and not yet one year old. Congratulations to them on bringing together Jamaicans in all them diversity! Here is a heartfelt piece by Latoya Nugent:
#HerLegacy – ‘A Treasured Memory’
Several months ago the WE-Change team decided that WE wanted to do something special, something different, to honor, celebrate, and commemorate International Women’s Day, or rather what has now become International Women’s Week.
WE knew that several groups, organizations and individuals would undertake a number of initiatives on March 8 – the day observed as International Women’s Day. WE didn’t want to add to what WE knew would have already been a hectic day for many persons, particularly those who always try to support all things women and all things gender equality!
WE knew the events would be awesome, but WE suspected that they would look and feel like many of the women’s events persons would have hosted over the years on this special day – a forum, and perhaps a lecture or two.
You should know by now that WE-Change is big on change, creativity, and consciousness raising. So WE conceptualized #HerLegacy and decided to host it a couple days after International Women’s Day on the evening of March 10, 2016 at the Doctor Bird Suite, New Kingston Conference Centre.
Under the International Women’s Day global theme – Pledge For Parity and the UN Women theme Stepping It Up For Gender Equality, #HerLegacy featured a small gallery of powHERful inspiring Jamaican and Caribbean women who have made significant contributions to gender equality in the region. The gallery recognised the contribution of Dr. Marcia Forbes, Dionne Jackson Miller, Carla Moore, Judith Wedderburn, Taitu Heron, Nadeen Spence, Joan Grant Cummings, Jean Lowrie Chin, Professor Verene Shepherd, Emma Lewis, Yaneek Page, Patricia Watson and Joy Crawford all from Jamaica along with Teocah Dove from Trinidad & Tobago, Kenita Placide from Saint Lucia, and Peggy Antrobus born in Grenada and naturalised in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Beyond showcasing these 16 powHERful women leaders WE also wanted to pay special tribute to women in spaces that are not always acknowledged: women in families and women in communities. WE also thought it most fitting to pay special tribute to three Jamaican women who WE refer to as our unplanned advisers: Taitu Heron, whom WE have dubbed as the Goddess of Wisdom, Joan Grant Cummings the Goddess of Knowledge and Nadeen Spence the Goddess of Intellect; they have been steering this 10-month old organization (WE-Change) into greatness! As part of our tribute, WE presented each of the goddesses with portraits created for them by the talented Veneesia Thompson of ManyMe Inc.
Hosted by MC Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis, the #HerLegacy programme also provided an opportunity for persons across three different generations to pay tribute to their mothers. Judith Wedderburn, Imani Duncan Price, and Jomain McKenzie (represented by Ifidel Williams) all shared inspirational stories about the lives of their mothers and how these women have moulded them into unique beings. Dr. Adwoa Onuora did a special reading from her recently launched book Anansesem, which elevates the role and impact of motherhood and mothering on black consciousness and national development; she shared a very intriguing, thought-provoking and illuminating story about a unique interaction she had with her daughter and how that experience evolved into a beautiful realization of the importance of black consciousness in self (no matter how young in age we are), as descendants of Africa.
WE-Change was sure to treat the audience of approximately 160 persons to crowd-rocking performances from two emerging Jamaican artistes J-mi and Anna Mariah who thrilled us with ear-pleasing music and smooth delivery – both performances were perfectly executed and earned the stamp of approval of the audience.
Earlier in the program WE heard from one of our senior officers, Rochelle McFee who offered remarks on behalf of the organization, packaged in the story of her own personal experiences with radicalism and the revolutionary impact of her grandmother’s mothering on her gender-blind outlook on life. Tonni Ann Brodber masterly delivered a brilliant presentation in her remarks on behalf of UN Women, which chronicled the flame that is still alive in women’s rights activists and advocates throughout the decades. She delved into the magnetic and irresistible energy among Jamaican and Caribbean women’s rights advocates, something she believes we should channel into what could perhaps become the most powerful social justice movement in the world. And it is this kind of organizing that is needed to challenge our government and the oppressive quality of our culture to ensure we achieve Planet 50-50 by 2030.
#HerLegacy would not be complete without addressing one of the most common issues affecting women – violence in all its forms. So in spoken word form, Taitu Heron shared the gift of her pen and creativity with us; she performed three incredibly well written pieces, one of which was a renaming piece performed as a duet with Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis that demonstrated how easily we could begin to (re)address and (re)name each other using positive language, because we are kings and queens, not &%$# and &%$#. The most gnashing piece she performed was her Libation Poem for Women that recounted the experiences of Jamaican women and how we resisted and survived the ugliness and pain of slavery, colonialism and oppression of the woman’s body and mind.
This was followed by a sober, tear-jerking, agonizing, wound-opening personal story shared by a survivor of sexual violence. She narrated the horror of her experience even through the tears that pierced her eyes. The room was still. She spoke about her years of countless journeys to courthouses to ensure that that justice was served, and so it was! The perpetrator was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. At the end, the entire room stood in awe, and offered an applause that would go on for more than a few seconds. This, is the definition of a powHERhouse!
#HerLegacy was a success. And WE are grateful to UN Women (Caribbean) & J-FLAG for funding this initiative, and for investing their faith in this young organization. They were confident that WE would deliver.
It is this kind of support that young women’s activists, advocates and organizations need to continuously raise awareness about, challenge, address, and reduce Violence Against Women. It is this kind of support that is needed to tackle the culture of patriarchy and privilege that currently serve to oppress us because we dare to be women.
#HerLegacy would not have been the success it was without this support. The reviews have been extraordinary and WE are humbled by them. The online/social media dialogue about #HerLegacy before, during, and after the event was quite rich and extensive; at one point during the event our hashtag (#HerLegacy) was trending on Twitter in Jamaica!
It was a phenomenal evening!
WE did it!
“This event #HerLegacy will be a treasured memory.
-Carla Petite, attendee-