edge

Walkout for Women

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Safiyyah Acosta and I walked out for women on Monday 8th March, International Women's Day.

I grew up and lived most of my life in San Juan, pronounced, “Sah Woh”, not “San One”. When you’re from Sah Woh, you say, “Sah Woh”. When you’re from anywhere else you pronounce it “properly”.

I come from a huge family. I have 13 siblings, myself making 14, cousins, uncles, aunts, always in a big family setting. I have a family of my own: my sisters I organise with. My Womantra warriors [organisers of today’s march] and other women I’ve worked with in the US. And then I have my blood relatives who I live with.

“Family” is always growing, for me. And, eventually, I’ll create more family in the future. But I don’t have any children of my own at this time. I have a puppy named Passion, aka, “Miss Passion”. She’s a fierce little something, tiny but mighty.

My whole life I’ve been called a lamppost or a gaulin [long-legged egret] or “Tallest”. In primary school, I was a head taller than everyone else. You always feel like you’re not in the right class. I always had a little dip in the shoulder. [To take attention away from myself.]

When a woman is tall, it’s threatening; and when a man is short, it’s a joke, it’s funny. Even height is gendered.

To an extent, I’m a Muslim. I was born into Islam but, as I grew, I chose my own path. But Islam is still a big part of my foundation and I still practise elements of the religion.

My dad passed away about a year ago. He was part of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen. He was a GoI, a guardian of Islam, who protected the imam and secured the masjid. But he wasn’t an insurrectionist in 1990. He was much more interested in other opportunities. He was a businessman first and foremost.

I know a lot of the children of families involved in the 1990 coup attempt [were affected in that they] weren’t able to travel and things like that but I am also an American citizen. I’ve felt exhausted by Donald Trump. No other president ever got that much screen time and it was never beneficial. It was always harmful. It was misinformation, antagonistic. Fortunately I left the US in 2019.

I do believe in worship but in a much broader sense than sitting in a church or attending juma or the ritual of prayer. Sometimes, worship is self-care. Grooming yourself. Eating the right foods. Sometimes it’s also paying reverence to those who came before, fought for us and left lessons we could still learn from. That connection with the greater consciousness.

I’m very proud I got my communications bachelors in 2016 from the City College of New York in Harlem. Best school. I also minored in Africana studies, where I started my activism.

I practise polyamory [multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all involved], which is growing in popularity. I think I took the traditional Islamic view of relationships and then I flipped it. It would be the man who had four wives. I have three primary partners I have strong connections with but I wouldn’t necessarily name any of my significant others. I’m open to more casual relationships outside of that.

Muhammud Muwakil [from the band Freetown Collective] and I grew up on the masjid together. I was actually quite surprised to come back to Trinidad and find out he is, like, a superstar!

Musically, I listen to everybody black. So I like jazz, soca, reggae, Afrobeat, traditional African music. Rap. Anything that connects me to the Diaspora. I will listen to people like Lana Del Rey, when those emotions are there, but my YouTube playlist would be, majority, black women. Everything else comes after that.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

We are walking out for women on International Women’s Day, to bring awareness to the issue of safety, which women have to be constantly conscious about. We want to capitalise on the energy in the country right now, where a lot of people are paying attention to gender-based violence. Women’s organisations have been championing this cause for decades.

The recent murders of Ashanti Riley and Andrea Bharrat in the transportation system pushed us to ask where women were safe. And we concluded that women weren’t safe anywhere, so we may as well be outside. Women are unsafe even in the home. We are unsafe in working environments due to sexual harassment and the [lack of a] domestic violence policy commonly accepted at workplaces. An abuser or perpetrator can show up at your workplace and cause you harm and there are no mechanisms for women’s safety.

We are asked people to walk out on Monday from wherever they were: walk out from your home; your place of work; walk out from the shop if you went in the shop! Observing all covid protocols – groups of five, face masks, sanitiser – we gathered at 2pm at City Gate, the hub for transportation. To focus our demands for safe public transportation for women and girls. Maintaining social distance, we walked up Broadway, along Abercromby Street up to the Woodford Square and the Red House. To call on our leaders to make the changes necessary to protect women in public transportation.

The best result about the march is that everyone would be safe. That’s my ultimate goal. That’s the top priority. But we also want our leaders to take heed of our demands. To my mind, it’s the responsibility of the government to provide safe public transportation for women.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayIf BC Pires suggests to me that the society devalues women, I say that “devalues” is the correct terminology. Because we live in a male-dominant, male-centric society, the female – and even femininity – is disregarded. Even a man displaying feminine attributes is something negative. And a woman, just being a woman, is disrespected. Some balance between the masculine and the feminised in the society would be much better. For men and for women.

I’m an activist, through-and-through. Working with Womantra has allowed me to realise a lot of my aspirations about creating change.

Going to Tobago recently made me proud of my islands and the sister-ness of Tobago.

To me, a Trini is somebody who is connected to and part of the islands. Who appreciates the beauty and the struggle. Who is a product of the history of the islands.

It’s not impossible for somebody to be born in Canada and to be a Trini. But it would be difficult. It all depends on how you relate to the islands. If you feel connected to and love Trinidad & Tobago, you could be a Trini. And, yes, BC Pires, I realise the irony of somebody who is also American [saying this].

To me, Trinidad & Tobago has a lot of potential to really be examples of the beauty of multiculturalism. We just haven’t figured out yet how to perfect it yet. [I love the] merge of cultures, the connectedness of all the peoples, that calaloo, the melting pot, and the harmony it can create.

Walkout for Women

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Safiyyah Acosta and I walked out for women on Monday 8th March, International Women's Day.

I grew up and lived most of my life in San Juan, pronounced, “Sah Woh”, not “San One”. When you’re from Sah Woh, you say, “Sah Woh”. When you’re from anywhere else you pronounce it “properly”.

I come from a huge family. I have 13 siblings, myself making 14, cousins, uncles, aunts, always in a big family setting. I have a family of my own: my sisters I organise with. My Womantra warriors [organisers of today’s march] and other women I’ve worked with in the US. And then I have my blood relatives who I live with.

“Family” is always growing, for me. And, eventually, I’ll create more family in the future. But I don’t have any children of my own at this time. I have a puppy named Passion, aka, “Miss Passion”. She’s a fierce little something, tiny but mighty.

My whole life I’ve been called a lamppost or a gaulin [long-legged egret] or “Tallest”. In primary school, I was a head taller than everyone else. You always feel like you’re not in the right class. I always had a little dip in the shoulder. [To take attention away from myself.]

When a woman is tall, it’s threatening; and when a man is short, it’s a joke, it’s funny. Even height is gendered.

To an extent, I’m a Muslim. I was born into Islam but, as I grew, I chose my own path. But Islam is still a big part of my foundation and I still practise elements of the religion.

My dad passed away about a year ago. He was part of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen. He was a GoI, a guardian of Islam, who protected the imam and secured the masjid. But he wasn’t an insurrectionist in 1990. He was much more interested in other opportunities. He was a businessman first and foremost.

I know a lot of the children of families involved in the 1990 coup attempt [were affected in that they] weren’t able to travel and things like that but I am also an American citizen. I’ve felt exhausted by Donald Trump. No other president ever got that much screen time and it was never beneficial. It was always harmful. It was misinformation, antagonistic. Fortunately I left the US in 2019.

I do believe in worship but in a much broader sense than sitting in a church or attending juma or the ritual of prayer. Sometimes, worship is self-care. Grooming yourself. Eating the right foods. Sometimes it’s also paying reverence to those who came before, fought for us and left lessons we could still learn from. That connection with the greater consciousness.

I’m very proud I got my communications bachelors in 2016 from the City College of New York in Harlem. Best school. I also minored in Africana studies, where I started my activism.

I practise polyamory [multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all involved], which is growing in popularity. I think I took the traditional Islamic view of relationships and then I flipped it. It would be the man who had four wives. I have three primary partners I have strong connections with but I wouldn’t necessarily name any of my significant others. I’m open to more casual relationships outside of that.

Muhammud Muwakil [from the band Freetown Collective] and I grew up on the masjid together. I was actually quite surprised to come back to Trinidad and find out he is, like, a superstar!

Musically, I listen to everybody black. So I like jazz, soca, reggae, Afrobeat, traditional African music. Rap. Anything that connects me to the Diaspora. I will listen to people like Lana Del Rey, when those emotions are there, but my YouTube playlist would be, majority, black women. Everything else comes after that.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

We are walking out for women on International Women’s Day, to bring awareness to the issue of safety, which women have to be constantly conscious about. We want to capitalise on the energy in the country right now, where a lot of people are paying attention to gender-based violence. Women’s organisations have been championing this cause for decades.

The recent murders of Ashanti Riley and Andrea Bharrat in the transportation system pushed us to ask where women were safe. And we concluded that women weren’t safe anywhere, so we may as well be outside. Women are unsafe even in the home. We are unsafe in working environments due to sexual harassment and the [lack of a] domestic violence policy commonly accepted at workplaces. An abuser or perpetrator can show up at your workplace and cause you harm and there are no mechanisms for women’s safety.

We are asked people to walk out on Monday from wherever they were: walk out from your home; your place of work; walk out from the shop if you went in the shop! Observing all covid protocols – groups of five, face masks, sanitiser – we gathered at 2pm at City Gate, the hub for transportation. To focus our demands for safe public transportation for women and girls. Maintaining social distance, we walked up Broadway, along Abercromby Street up to the Woodford Square and the Red House. To call on our leaders to make the changes necessary to protect women in public transportation.

The best result about the march is that everyone would be safe. That’s my ultimate goal. That’s the top priority. But we also want our leaders to take heed of our demands. To my mind, it’s the responsibility of the government to provide safe public transportation for women.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayIf BC Pires suggests to me that the society devalues women, I say that “devalues” is the correct terminology. Because we live in a male-dominant, male-centric society, the female – and even femininity – is disregarded. Even a man displaying feminine attributes is something negative. And a woman, just being a woman, is disrespected. Some balance between the masculine and the feminised in the society would be much better. For men and for women.

I’m an activist, through-and-through. Working with Womantra has allowed me to realise a lot of my aspirations about creating change.

Going to Tobago recently made me proud of my islands and the sister-ness of Tobago.

To me, a Trini is somebody who is connected to and part of the islands. Who appreciates the beauty and the struggle. Who is a product of the history of the islands.

It’s not impossible for somebody to be born in Canada and to be a Trini. But it would be difficult. It all depends on how you relate to the islands. If you feel connected to and love Trinidad & Tobago, you could be a Trini. And, yes, BC Pires, I realise the irony of somebody who is also American [saying this].

To me, Trinidad & Tobago has a lot of potential to really be examples of the beauty of multiculturalism. We just haven’t figured out yet how to perfect it yet. [I love the] merge of cultures, the connectedness of all the peoples, that calaloo, the melting pot, and the harmony it can create.