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.
The ISL will be having an open day titled Conference Materials this Staurday September 24 from 3-pm. Fresh from two conferences this week summer we brought back conference material to share we also wanted to explore what makes conferences useful for you. Pass thru
Th common factor is people. How we are. How we relate to each other.
Some months have gone since i have posted. Many lessons have accumulated though and when i spread them out on the table i see that the common factor is people. If the problem is economic, you will find that it is a problem about us and how we think about what we need and how we measure ourselves against others and what we hold as ambitions. If the problem is social. You will find it is how we think and how others have thought of us. Who we were as children. People, ideas,values, cultures and subcultures.
When we started the ISL i said it was an art project/experiment. It was an outgrowth of the SO((U))L HQ and designed to for us to experiment and learn about learning, leadership, justice, community and equality in african communities in Jamaica. As we learn we change and we continue.
We are entering another phase of our learning at the ISL and another phase of making art or making space.
We have problem at the ISL . We cannot get any volunteers from the Alman Town community which is closest to the ISL and where most of the young people and adults who use the ISL live. We are also not getting volunteers from outside the community to work with us at the ISL. Sometimes people ask what they can do but they don’t follow up on their initial interest and they usually have a problem giving time consistently. We have tried to offer a small stipend for volunteers in the reading programme at the ISL and even this still doesn’t get us volunteers. Sometimes friends come and support but we need people who are willing to give time consistently.
As soon as i started to write this post i remembered a post i had written at the beginning of the ISL about designing an effective volunteer program.
When asking for volunteers we have only specified the time we need and the activity we want the volunteer to be involved in.
We currently need volunteers for a reading programme for young people ages 4-13 from 4-6pm on a Thursday. We meet the ISL and take the children to Heroes Circle.
We also need volunteers for our Science Technology Art and Maths Programme (STEAM) for young people ages 4-13 on Wednesdays 3-5pm.
Uche says you have to grow something inside them. You have to grow something inside them so that when they think about doing “wrong” the thing will help them to think differently. This is what he told me when i asked him if he thinks we can change anything for these yutes who come to the ISL. I believe him. What we have done to the children is wrong. What we have done is so wrong. They came into a life that we made and they suffer as children into adulthood to then make more children and this cycle will never change. Children will always come, and make more children.
Two boys came to hang out at the ISL yesterday. Sunday evening. They came while i was playing a game of draughts with Uche. Uche called one them to come sing his songs for us. He started singing and he had some funny lyrics. You know how cute it is for kids to be singing showing their talent from early it gives a nice feeling about the possibility of talent, creativity and youths in Jamaica. But one of the songs was about having a girlfriend, the more I listened to him singing I had questions about his life, his world, what he sang about. Where did he live?how come he sounded so adult, or so grown. I asked him two questions based on what he was singing.
His response made me cry for the rest of the evening into this morning. I am not crying now but i know that what we have done to the children is wrong. They don’t have the thing inside and they are not children. We haven’t given them a chance. We haven’t thought about them. They came on earth but they haven’t come from our hearts. The “we” is not just their parents. The “we” is us all of us. The us that create their reality. The “us” that ignore them. What we have done to the children in Jamaica is wrong.
The boy sang about murdering any man who sexually violated his sister or mother. He would murder them with a Winchester. I asked him if he knew how to murder someone and what a Winchester was. He explained that the Winchester was a gun like a ” one pop”. Uche told me they could be made with old windshield wipers. He told me he knew how to murder someone and in explaining he showed me what he would do. He would walk up the person and seem friendly and say something like ” wah gwaan chargie, lend me u lighta mek mi light me spliff”. He would then would then go into his pocket pretending to take out a spliff and instead take out a knife quickly and just cut his throat with it. He also showed me another way to murder someone.
He sang a song about a girl or getting some girl. I asked him if he had a girlfriend. He said “mi have too much girl” mi get gal everyweh”. I asked him if they knew each other and he said no. he said sometimes he has a girlfriend but her friend likes him so he has to make her friend his girlfriend as well. I asked him why he wants to be with his girlfriend’s friend and he said, ” if them want me i can’t refuse them, you mad mi haffi deal wid all a dem, you don’t know what can happen when mi get big suppose one weh mi deh wid a gimme bun?” I dont remember what he mentioned but he started talking about one girl who he wanted to “deh wid”. his friend told him she is good to do things with because she “clean” she doesn’t do oral sex. I asked him what he meant by doing things and he told me have sex with them. The other boy who was there shouted to me that he can “have sex good”. i asked him how he knew. He said when he does it to the girls they cry. He said they cry because he is doing it good. He said one day a girl came to his house and he did it with her in the bathroom and she ran out of the shower crying. she just cried. he smiled as he was telling me.
Everyday i learn that this is not the problem of the poor. These boys are not problematic because they come from the inner city. This is something that all of us have created a condition in which humans decay. Adults and children hurting themselves and each other.
Would you cry? How does this make you feel? What are you thinking about? Do you agree with Uche? Can you see how we create the conditions in which humans decay? Do you understand why we need to grow the thing inside them?
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:
This post is based on a conversation with two boys who came to visit the ISL on Thursday February 5 2015. The conversation started when I tried to stop the two boys from calling another boy a “batty boy” (homosexual). They were shouting at him in a threatening manner. I stopped them and also asked them why they were calling the boy names. The conversation raised the following issues;
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org or telling us if you would want to give a talk our presentation about Africa during the exhibition.
For more information
Afifa Badiliko Aza – Creative Director and Co-founder
tel: (876) 799-0102
Di Institute for Social Leadership( ISL) was started in December 2013. After one year we decided to ask Uche Onobe his thoughts on the space and to share with us what the space means to him.