When I eventually looked at the time yesterday it was 5 o’ clock and I hadn’t taken a bath for the day. I had essentially spent my day in an hour and a half pre-school Zoom meeting, talking with my mom for another hour and a half, correcting SEA math with my daughter and being sucked into the #blackoutTuesday #BlackLivesMatter wormhole which made it a Tuesday like no other.
In Trinidad and Tobago there is an underlying racist undertone. This is historical. This is colonial. Our past into present is made up in a way where the elites or as they are called ‘the 1%’ who have historically had everything stacked in their favour are made up of ‘Trinidad whites’, ‘French creoles’ and Syrians. These are the people with bank. These are the people who own the businesses, the co-operations and the conglomerates in industry from restaurants to pharmaceuticals, clothing to malls, sporting goods to coffee shops. These industries were built on and made money off of the backs of the 99%. I’m part of the 99% and I am black.
Yesterday during my social media extended session while I was crawling through my feed and giving my views on Blackout Tuesday. I came across this picture:
I was in the middle of explaining (lightly roasting, pan searing if you will) someone as to why #alllivesmatter does not make any damn sense in these times because….well I’ll let the ‘first man’ explain:
Anyway, my immediate reaction was “Whew Lord, nah man Dianne!” but as I was in the middle of my pan sear, I didn’t engage. I sent a message to one of my bonafide who then informed me she couldn’t find it. Lo and behold, there was a swift delete followed by an online uproar. Long story short, Dianne said she was ignorant of the meaning behind All Lives Matter and it was actually a ‘black girl who wrote it’. Sigh.
Of course it got better. Coming swiftly to Dianne’s defense was one of the aforementioned 1%, a Syrian with the surname Aboud who posted this:
(Check out the heart nah. Whew.)
Everything heated up after that and after unfollowing Dianne’s socials and getting comfortable with my despair that I had blessed her with my black coins three times and that I had done the same at a place where I once found happy solace, Starlite Pharmacy owned by Mr. Aboud, I sat and engaged in some serious thought.
I don’t live the YOLO life, but I am a believer in experiences and this is something that I heavily share with my gremlinz. In tandem with my family/domestic life which is CAREFULLY curated, I give my children every level of experience that is available to them and I make no bones about that. You could do what you want with your own money and nobody can stop you because of who you are. Again, IN ADDITION to that carefully curated domestic life I have ALSO stayed at great hotels bundled in white sheets and spent gross amounts of money on food with them from Buzo to Rizzoni’s to Texas De Brazil. I have giggled with my daughter at brunch at Dianne’s with my bonafides and have wandered the aisles of Starlite buying overpriced goods. I have gone on sushi dates with my son and I have randomly bought after-school Rituals chillers and Starbucks frappucinos. I have walked the length of West Mall with bags on my left and right arm. I have played mas with all the major players from Tribe, Lost Tribe, Yuma and Fantasy. I have spent serious coins on all kind of fetes over the years. I’ve eaten, drank and laughed with my husband, my gremlinz and my friends and this will forever be valuable to me.
Now why? Because I want to be ‘seen’ as a black woman in a wannabe ‘middle class’? Listen, I’m a St. Joseph Convent Port of Spain girl who lived in the East, with an East lifestyle and East friends. So while the ‘West’ was new and some things cool (including some people in the ‘White’/Syrian/French Creole bracket), acceptance by the ‘West’ was never a thing for me. However, nobody could tell me any damn thing about what not to do and my children must be exposed to every damn experience as far as I can do it, from turtle watching to lazing in a pool. In my ‘worldliness’ and perhaps influenced by an updated education and financial status shared by my nearest and dearest, I was blind to the fact that even though there was a space created for my money by the 1%, there may not be a space created for my blackness. Again, acceptance was not an issue for me. This is Trinidad.
Now here comes the consciousness that admittedly I did not share with my gremlinz. Even though they can do it, even though they can take part, even though their blackness most definitely CANNOT stop them from doing what they want, going where they want, and demanding what they want if the situation arises, they must also understand that there is power in NOT patronizing a place or a person just for the sake of a fun, cool or new experience. Additionally, according to one of my nearest, they must also understand that they have the power to cripple a business and indeed an economy simply by the withdrawal of their own black coins.
I have never firmly, actively, consciously boycotted anything except caraille (bitter gourd), melongene (eggplant) and vodka. Beyond that, most things are fair game but after soaking up all the argument and the rhetoric, I felt a change within myself as to where and to whom I give my money. This conclusion was based wholly and solely on the premise that many of the places are owned by people who do not like me simply because of the skin God blessed me with, but only care about how wide I skin my purse. This black woman will change her own narrative and is actively researching, discovering and participating black-owned industry in Trinidad and Tobago. Maybe it’s the current wave of protests in the U.S. or maybe it’s the vocal revelations of the MANY Trump fans in Trinidad who wish he ruled here as well (I know ‘ruled’ is too strong of a word in relation to him eh) but I’m over it. My black life doesn’t matter to you but it sure as fuck matters to me. So here’s to the new wave. Me and my coins, we’re good over here.