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Community University

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Feeding ourselves finding ourselves and restoring dignity to ourselves as human beings

We talked about hunger for a little bit. He said that life is hard sometimes because people can’t find money to buy food to eat. I asked him if he could bear hunger? He said yes! I asked him how he did it. He said you just hold on until you get something to eat.

I thought why should he have to develop this “skill”. He is 14 yrs old. How early do we have to practice baring hunger? 

I didn’t know what to say after that. After a while he called me and asked me for $100 to buy something to eat. I paused to think. Should I give him money? I don’t want him to be hungry.  Maybe he is hungry. But I don’t like the idea of giving money like this it looks like I have money to give. But I have given so much money here and there already. Giving money like this doesn’t fix anything. 

 I decided to give him $50 instead. As I reached for the $50 I had a second thought. I have $3000 in here should I give him $1000 and ask him to take $100 and bring back the change? I decided to stick with the original decision. Give him the change I had. I was uncomfortable. I needed some space to work out why I felt like this. 

There is a line in the song “who knows ” by Protoje and Chronnix where  Protoje says “Food Deh Pon di tree while the youths Nuh have don’t have nuttin to eat” .

I thought about how many times this hasbeen my reality. Except I can just go to the supermarket.  It wasn’t until recently that I really understood self-reliance. I should be able to feed myself. I should be able to provide myself with basic nourishment. I live in Jamaica the land of wood and water with a lot of sun so anything can grow. 

I have started to learn how to grow things. My greatest success has been learning to grow escallion and add flavour to my food based on the seasoning that I can grow in a garden like ginger, pepper, escallion and thyme. To be self-reliant I need to grow more food so that I am not dependent on cash to eat. 

A few months ago my father asked me what my plans were for the rest of the year. I told him I wanted to reduce my dependency to where I didn’t really need a supermarket. To my surprise he replied with a story about how much food he had around him growing up in Portland and that all they needed at the shop was salt. 

“Begging” for money to buy food is not a good thing. Needing a job to get money to buy food to eat is not a good thing either. 

Youths are looking at life and seeing hunger. People can’t find food to eat because they have no jobs or no way of earning money or they eat very little because they earn very little or they eat poorly because they live on cheap foods. I used to think that a “cup a noodles” and some tin foods was a cheap good way to have something to eat when times were tuff. It was all I thought I could afford so I eat it knowing it had very little nutrition.

We have all been sold something which has taken us so far away from ourselves it has made us dependent and turned the population into markets for cheap food items distributed widely through Chinese wholesales shops in the capital city of Jamaica.
I was talking to a group of sistren in St. Thomas one time and they said to me “food deh Pon the tree yes but suppose you feel like you want something else to eat today? You must get tired of eating the same thing”. I completely understood what they mean and this is another thing to look at. 

In Bahia Brazil I was excited and surprised to see  a how many different  things you could make with coconut and banana and similar to Jamaica just how rich the land was.  We can create variety. Our great grandmothers and their grandmothers also wanted variety and they made many of the things we still enjoy today.

All the spaces that we occupy should be growing food. It is an essential practice. It won’t be easy in 2017 because as Ras Takura points out is a “Food war we a fight”. But we need to consider the youth and the future.  We have to provide a example for being independent and self-reliant. We have always needed to. 

Who does social work? Developing a diversity participation policy for working in black communities

Policy guideline 1. Race

When we started the ISL we didn’t know that we would be getting requests from “white people” to volunteer. We didn’t know but somehow we should have anticipated this. Over the last year and past weeks I have had to think seriously about people wanting to volunteer with the ISL.

The ISL is open to participation from everyone. We do not discriminate on any basis. We do not want to discriminate on race.

While we are open our objective is not to reinforce the problematic of the “savior complex” or the “the white savior complex” in our work. So when people ask to volunteer what do we tell them? At the moment we have a disproportionate number of volunteer request. Young “white foreigners” from all over are able to travel freely to low-income but spiritually and culturally rich countries such as Jamaica, there Black or African counterparts in the Caribbean, Europe, United States or Canada cannot. This is an inequality and a social injustice. This dynamic is problematic for all involved those who want to volunteer and those who cannot volunteer.

This “volunteer dynamic” is present in several other low-income countries in the Caribbean, and Africa.

I am not only identifying an ideological or philosophical problem. I think it is a very important part of our experiment but questioning how we can come together to do make our interactions valuable. I have more questions than answers and at the moment I think we should move to considering a policy for “diversity participation in social work”. Some guidelines that we use to understand how to accomplish our objective of “creating a space to learn together and develop an understanding and motivation towards social leadership and creating positive alternative realities.

These are some questions I am considering for persons of diverse background interested in volunteering at the ISL ;

  1.  What does it mean to be a volunteer?
  2. What is your experience with volunteering? In what areas have you volunteered and why?
  3. Has your volunteering only been with poor black communities in the Caribbean or Africa?
  4. Have you previously volunteered with children in low income “white” communities?
  5. What is your understanding of the objective of the ISL? How does it fit into your desire to volunteer?
  6. What are your views on blackness, Africa, racism and white privilege?
  7. Would you be willing to go through an intensive training programme before you begin to volunteer?
  8. What in your opinion are the social and economic priorities for Jamaica now?
  9. What in your opinion are the social and economic priorities of your country and how will that affect Jamaica?
  10. What is your proposed involvement with the ISL after you volunteer period has ended?
  11. What would you be willing to do to keep the ISL open?
  12. Are you able to offer or arrange opportunities to travel to your country for individuals you interact with while volunteering?
  13. What is your passion in life?
  14.  What does social leadership look like with the dynamic of race?

There are more questions and more points to dissect but we have to start here .

 

Learning about Masculinity, Sexuality and Fatherhood from Vbyz Kartel

I have been thinking seriously about Vbyz Kartel for about a year now. My initial discovery of him was in the  song “Yuh a mi baby”. This song started a reflection about the “erotic Vybz kartel”, our relationship to male sexuality and sexual expression, love and sex, the importance of kete pa (the good marriage bed and the erotic as African.

Since my discovery, Vbyz Kartel has been convicted of murder and has been sentenced to life in prison. I have continued to be interested in Vbyz Kartel, primarily trying to understand him through his relationship with women, that is the expression of his sexual self and how he shares that and is powerful through that.

My interest in Vbyz Kartel has given me insight into art and the artist and dancehall music as a legitimate space for creating complex identities which present us with critical ways that we need to question and understand ourselves.
My interest has led me to discover Adidja Palmer. Carolyn Cooper has also tried to show the two Adidja Palmer the creator and Vbyz Kartel the character.  I recognize Vbyz Kartel as the creation of an identity, a character.
What is it about Vbyz Kartel that makes him resonate so deeply with several youth, men and women and even older men and women?  My discover of him and his resonance within society makes be believe this is an important exploration.
On Monday September 7 at 6pm at the Di Institute for Social Leadership Marescaux Plaza, Marescaux Road we will have a reasoning about Vbyz Kartel, masculinity, male sexuality and fatherhood. Dr. Ana Perkins will be the main presenter and will speak on Vbyz Kartel masculinity and fatherhood.
I hope you will join us for this first in a series of conversations. If you can’t make the event tune in to ZANJRADIO for the live stream. Bless and love. afifa.

Guest Lecture Why Mangroves Matter

Tatiana Becker will give a talk on “Why Mangroves Matter” Monday July 27 at 6pm.

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Where are the community Sports Programmes in Jamaica?

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I met 3 former student athlete at Di ISL.

One guy used to play football for his school. His team was celebrated when against the odds, they reached the finals of the first LIME Super CUP football competition that was held this year. He also plays for a club in the Premier League . He is now looking for work and hopes to find a job doing “anything” and continue playing football when he can.

Another guy used to do Track. He has dreams of being a 800m runner as good as David Rushida of Kenya. A coach from a “prestigious” high School in Kingston saw his performance at some track meets and got him transferred. He worked hard on improving his time and going to the Boys and Girls Championships but never made the team. He still sees himself being able to compete for Jamaica but he has been out of school for 2 years now. No job and no clue of where to go next in pursuit of a dream.

Then there is the female hurdler and 100m runner. She ran for a high school with a reputation of producing athletes who could get scholarships to go abroad and continue their athletic career and become professional athletes. She believed she was well on her way until she got some injuries and that affected her performance at Champs. She didn’t do well but she was trying to work out a way to get a scholarship to go to a college in the United States. It hasn’t worked out. Now she is looking for work and some options.

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Community Sports programmes advancing opportunities for youth

Sports has offered an opportunity for many youths to earn a living have a career and do something that they really love. However i am feeling like there is something very wrong. I am posing several questions.

  • Why should a dream of playing sports professionally stop after High School?
  • How are students athletes being prepared to be professional athletes?
  • Are there community sports programmes or clubs were youth can continue to compete and develop professionally?
  • Were can youth compete independently internationally as professionals in the sports of there choice?
  • Do sporting bodies understand and support the development of community sports programmes? For which programmes
  • Does Jamaica have a national sport development policy/plan?

I found some ideas on the Social Development Commission website

The Social Development Commission (SDC) is the principal community organization agency working with Jamaica’s 783 communities. Positioned in the Ministry of Local Government & Community Development, the SDC continues to execute its legal mandate to inter alia, “promote and control schemes for, and to do any act or thing which may directly or indirectly serve the advancement of – sport, social, cultural & economic development – for the people of Jamaica and workers in particular”(S7/1965).

Sports is a unifying force and a catalyst for igniting the energies of individuals and groups within communities. Community sports is a mechanism that is used to capture the attention of various groups at the community level which result in bringing them together for collaborative community development efforts.

Goal: To engender the broad participation in community sports programmes/projects as a part of the wider policy for social development.

Mission:To empower community groups, through the various governance structures, to participate in, and ensure that they benefit from and support sustainable sports development programmes in their communities.

Outcomes:Opportunities provided for exposure to rules and requirements of related sports, as well as healthy lifestyle practices through training.

  • Strengthened administrative capacities of individuals and community groups, to plan, access financial resources and implement sporting activities that support the community development process.
  • Stimulate the formation of new community based organization (CBO’s) and strengthening of existing community groups to participate in community development processes.

Annual events

The following are annual events on the Social Development Commission’s calendar,

  1. Parish and National Athletics Championships (March – June),
  2. National Community Cricket Competition (May – September)
  3. Capacity Building Workshops for community representatives (October – November).

The Sports Development

 

Further reading

Discovering an African liberation philosophy and practice in maker culture

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Open letter to Tony and Christie (Facilitators of Makers Lab at the ISL)

Tony ad Christie,

Just wanted to say thanks you for doing such an excellent job at sharing “maker culture” and your time and interest in doing workshops and working with us in solidarity. Your work has added an interesting dynamic to the idea of community development work and social justice work and has given us a new understanding about how technology can be integrated into community development work. I think technology and making things is an important component of working with people now because it is a lot of the world we live in. Technology is also important because it helps us to imagine our world as different or better. Designing making  and repairing are a necessary part of a liberation practice.  And liberation is our essential fmission. Bless and love

What are some of the things you see emerging from the Maker labs?

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What are some of the things you see emerging from the Maker labs? We were asked this question yesterday in a meeting with our Maker labs partners Tony and Christie from the Metabolic foundation.

The Maker labs is hosted at Di ISL on Wednesday and Thursday from 3-7pm. We develop project ideas together and guided by Tony and Christie we learn how to make things, fix things or come up with cool recycling ideas. An important part of the Maker labs now is our engagement with children.  On any given day at the maker labs we have on average 15 children and young adults age 6 to 20.  Some of these children know each other from the community or from school. What we make is sometimes determined by the materials we have available, we have made things from pallet boards, cardboard and newspaper.

Earlier when we started we were asked what were some of the projects we imagined building a solar dehydrator, a window farm, a tech corner for kids, chalkboard paint and a roof top garden. We also wanted to do some projects with the Arduino board and the Rasberry pi. 

So far these are the things we have observed:

  • It is not always easy for kids to work together and to learn to share things
  • The labs offer the opportunity to learn to work together
  • The labs makes learning fun and interesting
  • Kids feel proud when they can complete a fun task or project
  • The labs allow kids and adults to be use their imagination and to be creative
  • The labs helps us to focus on problem solving in creative ways
  • Kids feel a sense of responsibility working on projects
  • Kids look forward to coming to the maker labs
  • Some kids demonstrate an increase in discipline since coming to the maker labs
  • The labs help us to see kids who have a natural interest in making and fixing things
  • The labs give adults a chance to see they could develop a livelihood around the knowledge and skills they may be developing in recycling and making things
  • The labs is a social space. Kids and adults spend constructive time together
  • The labs helps us to experiment with alternative models for learning
  • The labs help us create awareness around the environment and materials in the environment
  • The labs helps us re-imagine our world and feel capable of making the things we imagine.

 

We should be making technology

I just lost the article I was typing in wordpress! Chrome crashed and its gone! The autosave did not save the latest version. The version I have spent the last 45 minutes typing. If it did save it i can’t get it back. This brand new Windows 8 “beat studio machine” failed me. Again!

You know when these things happen you need to go quickly to the lesson. Then it crossed my mind. What would an ideal personal computer be for me. I think it crossed my mind when I looked across to my Debian machine and felt that if I wanted to continue to write the blog post, I would have to be more serious and committed to making it a dedicated machine for that purpose. The Debian machine is a desktop though so I started to imagine my ideal laptop. Here is a list of things I came up with.

  1. A good Operating system. Stability is important
  2. A good software for writing
  3. A way to be efficiently divided into multiple use. Music production different from writing ( similar to profiles)
  4. Good battery life
  5. A big screen with clear display
  6. Space on the keyboard to type
  7. A keyborad that makes my hands feel good on it
  8. Firm but soft keys buttons
  9. Mouse separated into two parts( basic left right function)
  10. Keyboard and mouse sensitive to the touch
  11. No more than 200 gb internal storage
  12. Additional storage provided in a external drive pack so I can use my files in other places.
  13. A cd drive

Why is imagining the tech tools we use important?

How do we decide what technology should look like and what it should do? how can we play a part in the design of technology. What the availability of recyclable parts why don’t we design our own computers?

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Two week ago we started the ISL Maker shop or Maker labs. It is a partnership with Metabolic Foundation led by Christie and Tony who are in Jamaica to do community and environmental projects. Every Wednesday and Thursday from 3-7 pm we meet at the ISL and invite others to come and join us and make things.  So far our project list includes:

  1. A Solar Dehydrator
  2. A Window farm
  3. A Roof top Garden
  4. A multimedia station for Kids
  5. Chalkboard paint

And we keep adding to the list.

We repair and recycle phones,computers, or other electronic devices on some days as well.

Each week offers us some opportunities

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How to keep a community stage show

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Tomorrow will be our second HEART a LOVE stage show at the ISL.  We are almost ready except for a few questions which we haven’t been able to answer to determine how to have a successful stage show.

What kinds of food and drink should you have at the bar?

How much food and drink should you have?

What prices should you sell the food and drink for?

What is a good time to start a stage show?

How should we organize the programme?

How do you keep the programme balanced? male/female different talent?

Who should be invited artist?

What should be the objective of a stage show?

Looking at Africa – A photographic exhibition about Africa for Children

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“Miss what Africa look like?” She leaned over the table waiting for my answer. I told her it was beautiful. She asked me like where? I could see she really wanted to know and although I was pleased I was surprised.

A few months earlier this little girl and a few other children who came to the Di Institute for Social Leadership (ISL) were distressed about the rumors that we were going to take them to Africa. They said they wanted to talk to me and settle this matter. Was I taking them to Africa? They did not want to go. They did not like Africa because it was full of people who would eat children, take them away from their parents and kill them. It was full of starving people. After a long conversation with them, listening to their fears explaining that I was not trying to take them to Africa, but I have been there and I am African and I love Africa, they slowly stopped coming.   So I was surprised when I saw them again that evening and the little girl whispered to me “Miss, what Africa look like?”

Her question is all I could think about for the rest of the evening. How could I tell her more? There must be others like her who want to know. Little girls and boys who have the same question. Little African Girls and Boys living in Jamaica who didn’t know what Africa looked like expect what the adults told them if they did tell them anything or what they saw in some Nigerian films. There must be more children out there with the same curiosity.

I decided I was going to show them photos. I thought that I could collect photos about Africa and create an exhibition. An exhibition about Africa, especially for children. We could call the exhibition “Looking at Africa”.

For those who couldn’t come to the exhibition at the ISL we would take the exhibition to them, maybe libraries maybe schools.

The exhibition will open on Monday Feb 2, 2015 at Di Institute for Social Leadership and continue running throughout the years in different locations.

We are asking people who live work or travel to Africa and who have photographs to contribute them to the exhibition.

You can be a part of the exhibition by submitting your photos of Africa to leadtochangeja@gmail.com or telling us if you would want to give a talk our presentation about Africa during the exhibition.

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For more information

Contact

Afifa Badiliko Aza – Creative Director and Co-founder

tel: (876) 799-0102