Island Soul City Dreams

I love New York, but my heart has a Caribbean beat. It pulsates to the traditions of my people. Attuned to the rhythms of this City, I stay West Indian to the bone. I reflect. I analyze. I speak my mind. ~ I Keep it Irie ~

It’s My 25th Birthday – Again! And I’m Happy And Thankful

At one of the places that makes me most happy - a gorgeous white sand beach in my beautiful Barbados.

At one of the places that makes me most happy – a gorgeous white sand beach in my beautiful Barbados.

Every year since I turned 25 for the 10th time, as I approached my birthday, I’ve had a tendency to get depressed. Not because I’m sorry to be aging or to be in the land of the living. Oh no, I’m beyond grateful for life and to be alive. But like many of us have a habit of doing as we mark another year on the calendar, I usually find myself reflecting on my journey and instead of focusing on all the ways in which I’ve been blessed, I lament on all that’s missing from my life. The husband, the twin daughter and son, the luxurious house, the chocolate brown Labrador Retriever, that dream job, that “fantasy” Abraham Maslow created – self actualization.

This year again as Jan. 30 drew near, that feeling of depression started to creep up on me. But merely for a few fleeting moments. As those usual dark thoughts began to plaque my mind, I found myself going, “Hell, no, I’m in too great a space for this.” Today, for the first time in years, I start my birthday with no feelings of sadness, regrets or wishful thinking.

My day actually kicked off with me doing one of the things that I love most – writing. As the clock struck midnight, I was sitting at my desk in the newsroom working on a story that would soon top our homepage. It was a heartbreaking story about a terrorist act that took the lives of six people at a mosque in Quebec City. I find no joy in writing or hearing such stories. But the opportunity to be part of an amazing team this past year that impacts the world daily with the work we do, the stories we tell, is one of the key reasons, it’s been easy to focus on my blessings.

To say from last birthday to today’s has been an incredible chapter is an understatement. It’s been a year where I’ve had to adapt to a new home in a new city after living in my beloved Brooklyn, New York neighborhood – my adapted home for more than a decade. My move to Washington, D.C. started off challenging, but overtime, I started to develop a great appreciation for the change and to stop comparing it to New York. Because, truth be told, nothing, absolutely nothing compares to New York City.

But I can still now safely say, here in the District, I’ve found a haven.

It’s been a year, where for the first time in a long time I’ve awoken every day excited about going to work, loving what I do at work, enjoying the team with which I work. A year where I’ve found myself saying repeatedly, “I have my dream job.” Thank you NPR.

It’s been a year where I was hurt in the worst way by two of my dearest family members. A lesson learnt in forgiveness and rebuilding a bond so badly broken, ensued.

A year in which I’ve lost a few people I cherished, key among them my maternal grandmother, Doreen.

It’s been year where I was reminded how much I hate dating, a year of having to kiss a few more frogs and finding that none of them turned into a prince. But more importantly, it’s been a year where I reconnected with the man I’ve long considered the love of my life, who, in his inimitable way, reaffirmed my belief that’s he the best and most amazing man I’ve ever had. He’s a timely and much-needed reminder that I’ve been loved, am loved and worthy of unconditional unrequited love.

Sure, there were some tears, fears, frustrations, mistakes and disappointments throughout the year, but they added to helping me get to know me better.

It’s been a year where I’ve continued to improve my health and fitness, to grow closer to my mom, enhance my bond with relatives and my dearest friends. Moreover, it’s been a year where I’ve strengthened my faith, built a better relationship with God, prayed and praised Him more and been truly feeling His joy totally restored to my life.

So for all these reasons and more, for my first birthday in eons, I find it easy to refuse to focus on what I do not have. The following quote totally resonates with me:

“Sometimes pain becomes such a huge part of your life that you expect it to always be there, because you can’t remember a time in your life when it wasn’t. But then one day you feel something else. Something that feels wrong only because it’s so unfamiliar and in that moment you realize you’re happy.” – One Tree Hill 

Indeed, today, I am happy. I am joyful. I have complete peace of mind. On this my 25th birthday – again, I’m hopeful about my future, claiming all the blessings I know God has in store for me and fully cognizant that my timing isn’t His timing and that He’s working all things together for my good. Today, more than ever, I say, “Thank you God for everything.”

P.S. Happy birthday to my dear sister Sancia! Love you!😘🙏🏾

~ I Keep it Irie  ~

 

 

RIP: Remembering My Grandmother, Who Died Thanksgiving Day 2016

with-gran

The last time I saw my granny alive: At her house in St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2013.

My granny would grind cocoa beans and make cocoa sticks rich with cinnamon and all the good spices and send them from her home in St. Vincent to my mom in Barbados. She’d instruct my mom, “Send some for Maquita in New York .” I’d boil my water, drop in my cocoa stick, add some milk and a lil sugar and it’d make for the best homemade hot chocolate in the world!

I last saw my grandmother this month three years ago when I visited her for a week on the idyllic island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the place where my maternal navel string is buried. She’s not one for much chatting, but y’all know I’m little chatterbox, so I sure got her chatting. We talked about everything from how she currently spent her days to reminiscing about her childhood and young adult years. Most of it was marked by hard work, parenting, scarcely an idle moment, and every day spending time reading her Bible and giving God thanks.

On the penultimate day of my visit, while in the nation’s capital, Kingstown, I called and asked granny to make me her famous Johnny Cake (aka dough boy). It was almost 5 o’clock in the evening, “She responded, uh now yuh uh call fi Johnny cake? Is late, yuh see di time?” Anyway, she said to bring her a few pounds of flour and she’ll bake ’em for me.

Almost three hours later I got back to her house with about 10 lbs of flour. 🙈 But before I could step inside, I was greeted by a delicious aroma coming from the kitchen. Granny had gone ahead and used whatever flour she had and made me not one, not two, but three large Johnny cakes, that way I’d have enough to take some back to NYC. It was the best Johnny cake I’ve ever had. And not merely because of granny’s skills and secret recipe, but because my grandmother made everything with love.

As I left her house that November afternoon, I repeatedly hugged and kissed her, told her that I loved her and that I’d soon see her again. My grandmother looked me in the eye and said, “Girl, yuh nah see me again.” And then she too said she loved me.

Granny was right. This morning, I awoke to the heartbreaking news that my grandmother, Doreen Peters, 87, a dedicated wife of more than 50 years (predeceased by her husband) a loving mother of 11 (predeceased by one son), a doting granny to countless of us, a matriarch of her village and more than anything, a devout woman of faith, went quietly to be with her Lord and saviour.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks for this incredible woman that helped impart in me a spirit of generosity, selflessness, strong discipline, work ethic and enduring faith in God. This woman who was the best mother to the best mother I could ask for, Victoria Peters.

Granny, I will miss you sorely. I will miss calling you and hearing the excitement in your voice when you realize it’s me, I will miss your laugh, your soft spoken voice and you always encouraging me to keep the faith. I love you to infinity. Say hi to my granddad and my Uncle Moses . May you Rest In Peace and rise in glory. 😢😘

~ I Keep it Irie ~

Tinder Dating Tales: The Man Who Stood Me Up Because … You Have To Hear This

lawrence-tinder-photo

This guy right here stood me up; first time in my life that happened to me. And what a bogus excuse he had! 

DMV FOLKS: Any of y’all know/recognize this dude? I want to know exactly who he is. These are two photos from his Tinder profile that indicate he’s 8 miles from Downtown DC, NW.

He’d been communicating with me for a week and after insisting that we meet up, invited me out to dinner at 6 p.m. yesterday. He chose the place and set the time and said he looked forward to seeing me.

Would y’all know, I left the warmth and comfort of my fabulous apartment on my precious day off from work, got all dressed up and according to the folks at the concierge in my building, I looked, “Absolutely gorgeous,” and this negro NEVER showed up?! I contacted him, no answer. I actually even gave him a 15-minute grace period. He never showed, never reached out. Certainly, I thought, “This brother must have suffered some grave misfortune and is in a hospital somewhere. Heck, he must be dead.”

After living on this wonderful earth for all these glorious years, at this ripe age of “25” years (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), yesterday was (and I hope remains) the first and only time I’ve ever been stood up. I wasted a great outfit, my damn fine smelling fragrance, not to mention my effort in traveling to the location. So yeah, I need to know who is this basic dude, this loser, this less than a man who’d do this ish to this queen.

Best part, he just sent a text at 10 a.m. – 16 hours after he didn’t show up. Y’all believe this, a text, saying yesterday he heard his aunt was sick and he went to visit her, not knowing I’d be waiting at the restaurant. Wta! He invites a woman out, confirms it and then says he didn’t know she’d be there?!

I sure as heck don’t want his wack azz, but let me get a moment in person to rip him a brand new one!

~ I Keep it Irie ~

My friends have been asking to write about my Tinder dating experiences. So I finally decided to and this is the first I’m sharing via this medium. I’ll try to keep them short. Check back here for more.

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Men, Please Stop Calling Women Hot

Hot Blog

In my book, it’s not physical attributes that truly make someone “hot.” 

About a year ago, I came across a video on my Facebook timeline of Nigel Hayes, then 20, and a sophomore forward for the Wisconsin Badgers, where he was caught in a slightly embarrassing situation. Well, I thought it was cute. But he, having realized that what he thought he’d said in secret to fellow players during a press conference was actually relayed over the microphone, quickly covered his face.

Hayes had spotted a stenographer for ASAP Sports, 40-something Debra Bollman, and was so enamored by her, he whispered to his teammates, “God, she’s beautiful.”

As I browsed through the comment thread, I noticed several people — both males and females — echoing exactly how I felt about his actions. And as I revisited the video in preparation for writing this post, I reviewed the comments on YouTube, again seeing responses that captured my take on the incident. One commenter, The XXI, puts it as thus: “Man I gotta take the habit to say “God she’s beautiful,” instead of “God damn she’s f**king hot.”

Yes, I love that Hayes’ instinctive response was to say beautiful and not hot. It comes across as if he were describing the entire person, inside and out, although it doesn’t appear that he knew Bollman personally. It comes across as if he saw her as a complete woman and not merely as an object of sexual attraction. Young Hayes came over as genuine, sweet, appreciative of the woman before him, respectful. What especially appealed to me is that he didn’t sound “thirsty.”

I hate it when men sound thirsty. I hate it when a man calls me hot, especially when I don’t know him and even more so if it’s a man who claims to be seriously interested in courting me. No men, I don’t want you to call me hot. I find it neither flattering nor does it validate my sex appeal, nor who or what I am as a woman. Were a man for example, to say he finds my intelligence, wit, industrious nature, fortitude and other intangible attributes hot, that, I would find complimentary.

Some men don’t get this. They think that because they tell a woman she’s hot, she should simply accept what they deem the “compliment” and move on. Men like Marco. I dated Marco on and off for a two-year period a few years ago before and during grad school while living in New York City. He was a lot of things I adored, but never ready for a committed relationship. So over time, I stopped communicating with him. I recently moved to Washington, D.C., and as it turns out, Marco beat me to it by a few months. We reconnected virtually and he invited me out to dinner to, in his words, “welcome you to D.C.”

It was delightful reconnecting with Marco. I remembered all the reasons why I’d liked and dated him, from his smarts to his inimitable sense of humor, ambition, his overall magnetic charm and yes, to keep it real, his enthralling physical attributes. We discussed our history and evaluated why “we” didn’t work as a couple before, our current respective relationship statuses and goals and we concluded that the time was ripe for us to give it another shot. A real shot this time.

I made it clear that a solely physical relationship was the furthest thing on my mind, that obviously that type of interaction will become a reality once I’m committed to someone, but at present it’s not what I seek. Marco said he was on the same page with me, that he wanted to court me, to date me, that he wanted for us to truly become one, for us to get married and have children. That from hence forth, he’ll be working toward that. For once, he sounded serious and I took him that way.

The next day, he practically disappeared, citing he’d been very busy on the job. I too had been busy at work, but had reached out. I decided to not sweat it and just responded cordially to his text which came at the end of the day. The following day out of the blue, he texts, “You’re hot.” No “Good day, how are you,” or “Have a great day,” or “Let’s plan to meet up again.” His message totally turned me off. I’m not saying he’s thirsty. He has no reason to be. But he sounded thirsty, purely carnal and I didn’t feel flattered.

I told him all this and explained that had he said something like, “Hi beautiful,” that would have come over as more appreciative of the whole me. I further explained that if he’s as serious as he claimed to be about building something with me that he needs to understand and respect my position on this matter. That whether his intention was “pure,” that I don’t like to be addressed in that manner. Marco disappeared for more than two weeks, no response, no returned calls, nothing.

When I finally heard from him, he argued that it was fine for him to act carnal merely because we had a dating history and that I was irrational in my response to his comment. No consideration was given to the fact that his comment did not sit well with me and why. It especially did not work for me because no, he wasn’t saying hot in the sapiosexual sense and no, that’s not what I want to hear from a man who’s trying show me he’s serious about being serious in pursuing me.

What exacerbates the situation is the fact that he disappeared after I’d voiced my opinion, instead of having an adult conversation on the matter. To me, that further makes the point that it’s not me the person – inside and out- he was trying to get close to, but me the “hot” object of his sexual attraction. Do I think I’m hot? I’m hot alright, hot as in mad that some grown men don’t get that some of us grown women don’t find it hot that you call us hot.

~ I Keep it Irie ~

 

Farewell My Beloved NYC, Hello New City

Hello DC

They say NYC is cold? Not as cold as this place lol!

The one phrase I’ve heard over and over prior to and living in New York for more than a decade has been, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.” I’ve always thought New York was the toughest place to live. But gosh, I love this amazing city of blinding lights and so over the years I kept pushing on, no matter the challenge. And those of you who know my story, know there have been many a challenge.

These past few weeks have shown me more than ever just how much New York has made me grow, the strength it has given me, the lessons learnt, how it has enhanced my indomitable will to succeed, to go after my dreams, to never give up.

Yes, through smiles, tears, courage, fears, friends made, friends lost, dreams broken and some fulfilled beyond my imagination, moments of doubt and steps in faith, New York has given me far more than I ever could have imagined when I boarded that American Airlines Flight 1384 from a tiny beautiful island called Barbados, leaving all my family and dearest friends behind.

So as I bid farewell to New York City and say “see you later” to all those who’ve contributed to all I’ve become, to every Samaritan along the way, I say, “Thank you. One love and God bless.” Though now a couple of hundred miles apart, I hope you can continue to be a part of what remains an amazing journey for me in this country.

My new city has in my experience thus far, “done got New York beat” on merely surviving. Everything costs more here. Everything. Rent is far more exorbitant (although I do love the fancy amenities of swimming pool, roof deck, patio and more). Groceries are a prettier penny and one even has to pay for the plastic bags in which to pack them.

Gym membership is at least three to five times more than what I paid in NYC. Public transportation runs me a buck or more per trip than New York’s. Restaurants tax 10 percent unlike 8.875 percent in the Big Apple. And worse yet, I can no longer walk outside onto a Brooklyn street and get a nice mani/pedi for $19.99! I now have to fork out at least $50 in this new town.

Anyway, as I said, New York has prepared me well for whatever challenge may come my way. And so to my new city, I embrace an incredible career opportunity and I bring my NYC lessons, grits, curiosity, discipline, sense of adventure, hopes, dreams and faith in God. Someone living in my new neighborhood recently said to me, “If you want a friend in DC, get a dog.” _______________

~ I Keep it Irie ~

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First meal I made in this city, one way of surviving – more home-cooking, less eating out. Baked sweet yams/potatoes rubbed with my homemade virgin coconut oil, a dash of cinnamon and a lil organic honey served with baked cajun salmon and steamed vegetables. 

 

A New Chapter Begins For Me; It’s Handled

Channeling my "Olivia Pope," 'cause in 2016 I'll be approaching any challenge with, "It's handled."

Channeling my “Olivia Pope,” ’cause in 2016 I’ll be approaching any challenge with, “It’s handled.”

On this my “25th” (*cough*) birthday, I want to briefly testify of God’s grace in my life. I had no plans to make any of the following information public anytime soon, but I see the need to share it to encourage those of you “going through” to NEVER give up on God.

The past year was one of my most challenging ever – in every sphere of my life! I gave up a “safe” job for what I thought to be a better opportunity but it turned out to be otherwise. I met and fell in love with what I thought to be an amazing man, but he trampled all over my heart and even impregnated another woman. I found myself jobless, financially challenged, heartbroken and broken, dealing with what I like to call “immigrant issues” (some of which I know my fellow US transplants have encountered) and overall going through a dark period of depression, at times shutting close friends out. My faith was tested beyond measure. Sure, I continued to post photos with my ever present smile, but offline, away in my solitude, the tears scarcely stopped.

Through it all, as challenging as it was, I relied heavily on my faith. I thought of all the trials God had brought me through, times where I, in this country not having a single relative or my closest friends here felt alone, painfully lonely, lost, had no solution to the challenge at hand and figured “it’s a wrap” but somehow, He came through. And so over the past few months, I kept challenging God to order my steps, to open up new doors and to teach me to “wait on Him.” I also realized that it was OK to swallow my pride and to let my close friends in, to request their help, to tell them what I was truly feeling and going through and to ask them to pray for and with me for a much needed breakthrough.

God doesn’t always answer prayers in the manner and time we want, but it’s my testimony that He delivers in ways that far exceed our expectations. As I celebrate this birthday, this new year – my 25th for the umpteenth time – God has brought me to what is in many ways a new chapter in life: An incredible new job at an outstanding company working with some of the world’s best journalists; a fabulous new apartment; a new address – in a fantastic new neighborhood. And yesterday, for the first time in a while, I got my first bylined news article as seen here , for NPR, no less!  I’m both scared and excited at the possibilities ahead. But most importantly, I’m thankful and give God all the glory.

My favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Friends, no matter what your situation, please don’t give up on God, ’cause He won’t give up on you.

Please check out video below for highlights of the people, places and things in my beautiful Barbados that made Christmas Holidays and start of 2016 extra special.

~ I Keep it Irie ~

I am Enough

For a moment there

You made me doubt my worth.

I thought I wasn’t good enough for you;

Thought I was too short, too small

Too poor, too un-American

Too unaccomplished, too unattractive

Thought I had the wrong job,

The wrong dreams, the wrong goals

That nothing I am or have could measure up

To your ideals and expectations.

I thought I wasn’t enough.

 

You said I wasn’t your only one

And you had no such plans for me,

Your revelations were devastating.

I wondered how to change your mind,

Thought I needed to do things differently,

That I had to be a better me.

I agonized over it, cried over it,

Became consumed with it

“Why doesn’t he want me?”

I thought about it, prayed about it.

“How could I be enough?’

 

Soon enough I got the answer,

A reminder:  I am enough.

All five feet two inches, 120 pounds of me,

Forged by faith, fortitude, sentimentality,

A sharp mind, selfless spirit, indomitable will

And a heart overflowing with love,

I am enough.

Enough beauty inside and out,

Enough smarts, passion, enough ambition,

Enough empathy, enough loyalty.

I am enough.

 

I’m enough of the things

That make me wonderfully uniquely me.

Nurturing enough, sweet enough,

Witty enough, sarcastic enough,

Enough of a talker, dreamer, crier, writer,

A big enough smile, big enough personality

Enough of all a woman needs to be;

Homemaker, professional, supporter,

A listener, friend, daughter, sister, aunt,

I am enough as a lover, a mother, a wife,

As a faithful servant of God,

I am enough.

Heck, I am more than enough.

by Maquita “Queenie” Peters

~ I Keep it Irie ~

For Larry’s nephew A3. 

I am enough.

I am enough.

Why I’m Not Leaving My Abusive Relationship

Photo Credit: Google Images.

Photo Credit: Google Images.

I have an abusive man. He abuses me on various levels. But I’m not leaving him. Before you’re quick to judge, you ought to hear our story. Thereafter, you can be swift and merciless with your feedback. Given how often I’ve blogged about being single and my quest to find love, it may come as a surprise to many who know me to learn that I’m in a relationship. As one can understand, it’s challenging to speak about my dysfunctional union. Unlike most abusive relationships, however, I don’t take my man back primarily for the good he does to pacify me after a battering, rather, I stay with him because every time he gives me a beat down, I learn a lesson; I’m the better for it. He keeps me on my toes, he’s the epitome of tough love and despite the tears he occasionally causes me, I couldn’t see my life without him. At present, I know he’s the one for me and I pray to God daily that things will work out between us.

My man is CJ. I first met him in the mid to late ‘90s, while still living in my native Barbados. And not to sound cliché, it was love at first sight, at least for me. Physically, he was unlike any other I’d ever seen. I watched him in awe from top to bottom, like a magnet, he drew me in. He was full of life, bright, bold, smart, sexy, educated, worldly, well put together, accommodating, simply mesmerizing. Our connection was beautiful and organic. With him, I felt like I was at home. AIas, I was already committed to another and wished to remain loyal, so as difficult as it was to tear myself away from this new and exciting man, I had to part ways with him. Little did I know then, that we’d meet again in the not-too-distant future. Read more…

On Turning 40, Er I mean “25”

They say life begins at 40?;-)

They say life begins at 40?;-)

When I was a teenager, ages like 30 and 40 seemed really old. When I marked my 25th birthday (for the first time), I felt as if I were grown, that I knew all about life. When I finally turned 30, I thought, “Oh my gosh, where did the years go?”

My 30s have been my most challenging, most exciting, most memorable years; the years in which I’ve taken the most risks, suffered the worst heartbreaks, took my career and education to a higher level, the years in which I’ve matured and learnt the most. In my 30s, I truly discovered who I was and the kick-ass tough stuff of which I’m made.

Reflecting on when I was 21, I thought that by now I would have long been married, borne my twins, living in the proverbial house with a picket fence, ably guarded by my brown Labrador Retriever and black Rottweiler. As an old adage goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” For sure, God had and has completely different plans for me than I envisioned.

As I approached my birthday, I’ve been overcome by conflicting feelings. On the one hand, there’s been a sense of unaccomplishment about certain aspects of my life, there’s been a feeling that I am unofficially saying goodbye to my youth, and there’s just the incredulity that I’m already this age! I still feel as if there’s a little Caribbean girl trapped inside, waiting to grow up.

On the other hand, as I reminisced about my journey from St. Vincent to Barbados to Trinidad to Canada and to the USA, as I thought about the relatives and cherished friends I’ve lost along the way, as I grieved with my friend Moni who recently lost her dear mom, and my “bredren” Bertram (25) who only last week buried his beloved mother (who died two days before her 48th birthday), the reality of my own mortality hit me.

I’m reminded of what a blessing it is to awake to a new day, what a miracle it is to be able to celebrate another birthday. So today, I will not wallow in self-pity about what is missing from my life, but I will give thanks. Thanks for all I’ve achieved by the grace of God, whether tangible or intangible. Thanks for all the wonderful people, the angels in my life that have held my hand at whatever leg of this journey. Thanks that on January 30, many years ago, Victoria gave birth to her firstborn, and that four years later on that same date she gave me my best birthday gift ever, my sister Sancia. Thanks that my sweet, loving mother nurtured me into the God-fearing, fearless, faithful woman I am today.

Yes, today, I give my heavenly Father thanks for opening my eyes on this my 40th er, I mean 25th birthday. #Fab40

~ I Keep it Irie ~

P.S.: While in Barbados for Christmas and New Year’s, I launched my birthday celebrations and used the opportunity to ask my longtime friends there, some of the people who know me best to share their favorite memories/reflections of me and thoughts on our friendship. I recorded their responses on my iPad and iPhone and made a “movie” of it with a soundtrack that’s my testimony. Click on this link and check it out. I promise, you’ll be entertained. Thanks and one love.:-)

Life is a beach - especially at 40.:-)

Life is a beach – especially at 40.:-) Photo taken at Sam Lord’s Castle Barbados Christmas Holidays ’14-15.

A Reflection: My Time In Israel and Palestinian Territories, The Conflict Now

With Pastor Alex Awad outside of his East Jerusalem Baptist Church. Awad's family is one where members where expelled from Israel.

Me with Pastor Alex Awad outside of his East Jerusalem Baptist Church. Members of the Awad family were expelled from Israel.

Growing up in the Caribbean in both Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, my friends and I played with sheer abandon on miles of forest green pastures. Be it a game of cricket, football (soccer), hopscotch, tug-of-war, “red light, green light” or “puss puss catch a corner,” we sometimes played from early morning till the golden sun sank beyond the horizons of our tranquil tropical shores. We ran through gullies reminiscent of orchards, where we climbed or “pelt(ed) trees” to fill our bellies with juicy fruits of the season. In the summer, we often soaked breadfruits in our crystal clear seawater then roasted them on the beach, sometimes gutting them to insert pigtails and when we took them charcoaled off the fire, we garnished them with locally-made Mello Kreem butter and washed down the delightful delicacy with some cool lemonade or freshly picked green coconut (water).

We had our little tiffs too as children often do: like when I’d throw a pebble (or as we say in Barbados, a rock stone) at a boy for teasing me about being short or making fun of my name calling me, “Mosquito.” But never anything violent. Later, we’d all joke about it and all was forgiven. My friends and I were free to run in and out of each other’s homes, our respective parents feeding each child like their own. We were raised in a village, by a village. I cannot imagine nor would I wish for a more peaceful, happy and careFREE childhood.

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My 12-year-old nephew in Barbados walking along the peaceful village in which I grew up.

On the contrary, just three years ago I set foot in the Middle East for the first time. I was there in my capacity as a tourist, as a pilgrim, but above all, as a journalist. One cool spring day, my fellow reporters and I made our way from Jerusalem to the West Bank after passing through checkpoints manned by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). We’d arrived in Hebron. After Gaza City, Hebron is the largest city in the Palestinian territories and home to hundreds of Jewish settlers. On these streets where almost every corner seemed to feature an Israel soldier, rifle in hand, the rules are that Palestinians walk on one side and Jews on the other. Palestinians aren’t allowed to cross the other side.

We – visitors to the area had the freedom to walk on both sides. As we looked to our right, where the homes of Palestinians were stacked high together, we noticed, they were all fenced in, doors bolted and locked from the outside not allowing for exit to that side of the street. (Their only exit to the “streets” on which they could walk was via skillfully maneuvering across each other’s rooftops.) And each window was fitted with a barricade, with somewhat of an extended ledge and there in that area, we watched children at play– confined to those few square feet. As we caught the attention of their little faces and wondering eyes, the reality of their “captivity” hit me and I recalled my freedom on my island paradise at their age. I was moved to tears.

My colleagues and I, appalled by all this, took photos, recorded videos and voiced our concerns about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about how many in our noble profession, especially the American media never paint such an account as we were experiencing. Soon it was lunch time and our group of about 20 was famished. The only place nearby to get sustenance was the quarters belonging to Jewish settlers. Otherwise, we had to send a Palestinian from a local store into the Palestinian living quarters−as we could not enter there−to get us some food. As visitors, we weren’t allowed to actually enter into their quarters, although we could roam the surrounding streets and even got a tour by a spokesman for the Jewish settlers of the Caves of the Patriarchs, also within that vicinity. We were told that the food was at least 15 minutes away and then a wait for the orders to be filled. We all looked at each other, looked toward the Jewish settlement and back at each other and decided, despite how hungry we were we could wait for food from the Palestinians.

Religion has long been said to be the key issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and many argue that the related issues: security; politics; human rights; and “territory” all stem from religion. Prior to my traveling throughout Israel and the West Bank, prior to sitting on a bus and having the fully armed IDF come aboard and inspect my credentials, prior to walking along the streets in East Jerusalem with my Muslim friend and fellow reporter in her hijab and having Israeli police stop us just because she appeared to be “Arab,” prior to meeting Palestinians whose families were thrown out of Israel or killed as a result of this ongoing conflict, prior to coming face to face with the separation wall that prevents Palestinians from entering Israel without authorization, prior to sitting in a room with and hearing and interviewing members of Hamas, prior to meeting with top religious leaders of various faiths in the Holy Land from Judaism to Christianity, Islam and Druze to The Bahá’í Faith to hear all sides of the story, I had a completely neutral stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To see all this first hand, to experience for only a few minutes what many Palestinians endure every day, is a shocking, sad feeling; which though I appreciate, I don’t wish ever to “endure” again. Moreover, the conditions we witnessed led me to believe that no child should grow up like this. And just like my friends and I were free to frolic on our Caribbean beaches, certainly, no child should meet such a tragic death as recently reported here in The New York Times of those four little boys killed while playing on a beach in Gaza.

No matter what side you fall on, the reality is that the current state of affairs in Gaza, as well as overall between Israel and Palestine, is indeed cause for great concern. My stance now? NOW more than ever, there’s a need for a resolution—a PEACEFUL resolution. And soon. This is my prayer for Israelis and Palestinians at home and abroad.

~ I Keep it Irie ~

The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem - one of the most sacred sites of the Jewish faith. My colleagues and I folded pieces of paper with our prayers and placed them here.

The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem – one of the most sacred sites of the Jewish faith. My colleagues and I folded pieces of paper with our prayers and placed them here.

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