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 ~

Archive for the month “July, 2014”

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.


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.

Delicious Home-cooked Caribbean Meals

Most of what I eat is home-cooked by me. And pretty much most of those dishes are native to my beautiful homeland Barbados and the wider Caribbean region. Be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, I almost always have a taste of my beloved Caribbean spicing up whatever I cook. Over the past few years, I’ve produced vlogs and photo stories sharing recipes of many of these dishes with my growing circle of American and international friends. I’m happy to share some of those creations now in this photo gallery.

From Bajan salt bread, jam puffs and our national dish “Coucou and Flying Fish,” to Trinidad-style dhalpuri roti and chicken pelau, Jamaican jerk cuisine and dumplings, to and Vincy-style coconut drops, hot cross buns and peanut brittle, I present an array of my delectable homemade Caribbean dishes. My diet is predominantly fish/seafood and I occasionally eat chicken, so the photos will reflect this. All photos were taken with my trusty iPhone camera.

Should you require a recipe for anything you see, please don’t hesitate to ask, I’ll be happy to share.  So, please tell me, what is your favorite Caribbean dish? Comment below!

~ I Keep it Irie ~

He Raped Me Now He Wants To Be My Friend


Say No to Rape

I am a rape victim. I’ve never written or spoken publicly about this ordeal. But almost half of my life later, the traumatic experience stills haunts me. I always cringe during rape scenes in movies or TV shows. I look away, sometimes close my eyes till I think the horrific action has passed, or on occasions challenge myself to watch the scene, only to break down in tears. I have had nightmares of the tragedy, visions so real; they disturbed my slumber – for years. Frightful flashbacks of not just about being taken against my will by someone I trusted, looked up to and called friend, but of the real life nightmare of the consequences of my speaking out against my rapist.

In the “world” where we both existed at the time, I was a “nobody” with no influence, he, a powerful man known and respected by many within and around of our spheres. As with many rape victims, my personal and professional reputation suffered. I was the one under the microscope, doubted, accused of making up stories, of trying to destroy a beacon in society, of looking to cash in on big dollars, I was threatened, mocked, bad talked, blacklisted, scared out of my wits.Through it all, I held firm to the truth and I trusted that in time it’d truly come to light.

Unbeknownst to many, one of the key reasons I decided to leave my beloved Barbados, my home, my dear family, my closest friends and the only life I’d ever really known was to escape the pain of living in the same land as this man. I needed to get a fresh start on life, to pursue new dreams and hopefully one day to have forgotten that lowest point of my life. The man who raped me left me nursing physical, emotional and mental wounds. Alas, to this day, I still bear scars of the latter. How does one forgive a man who has caused such damage?

It’s been at least a decade since I last laid eyes on my rapist and almost as long since I’ve made New York my home. From time to time, since Barbados is so small and I still have a solid network there, I hear about him. In particular, just a few short years ago, I heard that he had raped again and was far more severely penalized than in my case. Still, like back in my time, he was again spared the wrath of imprisonment.

One would think I’d be delighted in what many called my vindication, but my emotions were saved for empathy for the victim and her family. I have some idea of what she went through and what she was up against. I’ve never wished “bad” for my rapist, although at times I’ve hated him. I’ve just always felt sorry for his wife, family and for the other victims I subsequently heard of, who unlike me, didn’t have the guts and voice to speak out.

My life in New York, amidst some hurdles, has been happy, prosperous and progressive. God has placed many angels here in my path and on the academic, professional and domestic/personal front, I couldn’t have made a better choice than to emigrate. I’m now Ivy League-educated, a graduate of Columbia University; I’m a more talented writer and journalist – from WCBS Radio 880, to The Root at the Washington Post, to Black Enterprise and WNYC Radio, I’ve worked at some of the best media organizations in the U.S. and further honed my craft. The temper tantrums of my early 20s including my then tendency to curse are no more; I’m a more loyal daughter, sister, auntie, niece, cousin, friend and girlfriend; I’ve made friends from several states and almost 50 different countries. I’m a more faithful follower of Christ.

My tough times here have taught me how to do without the frills, to survive with the bare essentials; I’ve become a more rounded cook and baker; I’m more disciplined about my fitness and training. This island girl who loves sunshine, tank tops and flip flops has learnt how to embrace Old Man Winter. I feel accepted, admired, respected, and cherished by my New York “family.” I have a greater sense of appreciation and love for my homeland Barbados and by extension the Caribbean. Overall, New York has made a damn fine woman of me, or better put in the words of the late iconic Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal woman, that’s me!”

So in part, to my rapist, I say thank you. Thank you for stripping me of my dignity, for robbing me of all I had as a young woman, a young reporter, a young Barbadian. For in taking all this from me, I can recite Maya Angelou again:

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise …”

In taking everything from me, you drove me out of my country to another, to reinvent myself, to become a better person. Oh no, am I saying thank you for raping me, that you were right to take me against my will, but like so many of life’s ills, sometimes there is a silver lining. I heard that your past indiscretions are now behind you, that you’ve been forgiven by many among the powers that be and you now hold a most prestigious position on that beautiful island where I teethed, bruised my knees as an infant from learning to ride a bike, had my first date as a teenager and for many a day with my 20-something friends basked on unspoilt white sand beaches and swam in crystal clear waters. Congratulations to you.

So it may appear that I should forgive my rapist, right? That life has since then more than rewarded me, that I’ve been blessed and I ought to finally let go and move on? Truth be told, I long forgave him. And even though I still shudder at the thought of rape and rape scenes on the small or big screen, I’ve thought less and less of my rapist these past few years. That is until today.

This morning, I logged on to my Facebook and of all people from whom I should get a friend request? My rapist! Admittedly, a few years back, he’d sent not one, but two friend requests, both of which I rejected. I figured after the second time, that he’d got the point. His audacity at a third request leaves me shocked, more than slightly annoyed and unfortunately took me back to that devastating experience – he just never seems to understand “NO.”

I may have forgiven him and I may have had a great life despite what he took from me, but I am NOT and will never be ready to again let him into my personal space or to call him “friend.” I just can’t do that.

~ I Keep it Irie ~

What do y’all think, should I block him this time? Do you think forgiveness in this regard means letting him into my social networking circle? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks.

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