Black Girl, Grad School

an amalgamation of personal politics, and my life as a Ph.D. candidate

Women & LGBTQ Struggles in the Caribbean, for Left Forum 2019

Posted on 2019-07-01

This Sunday, on June 30th 2019 I had the honor of facilitating a panel for Left Forum 2019 on the struggles happening in the Caribbean against repressive political, judiciary, and religious groups in those societies– which harm women and LGBTQ populations.  This blog post will include my opening speech at the panel and I hope to update this blog post with video clips that are posted online at a later date.

Before sharing my speech, I would like to thank the Socialist Workers Alliance of Guyana and Life in Leggings for sponsoring and hosting this panel, as well as Robert Cuffy for organizing this panel and many other panels at Left Forum. 

Good Afternoon everyone, my name is Tamanisha John and I will be the facilitator of this panel on Women and LGBTQ struggles in the Caribbean. I would like to thank Robert Cuffy for organizing this panel and the Socialist Workers Alliance of Guyana along with Life in Leggings for helping to host and sponsor the discussion we will be having today.

Before I introduce those on the panel and situate the ongoing struggle for women and LGBTQ rights in the Caribbean, I would first like to take some time and acknowledge the most recent passing of Guyanese social, political, and gender rights activist Andaiye (pronunciation?). Born in 1942, Andaiye played an active role in the regions fight for political and economic independence, alongside other activists like Walter Rodney. Andaiye was a founding member of the Working People’s Alliance, worked in the Women and Development Unit at the University West Indies, served as an executive member of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action at CARICOM, and was a member of the Global Women’s Strike and International Women’s Count Network. I tell you briefly about the various roles Andaiye contributed their service to in the Caribbean, in order to highlight how they helped to build a radical and revolutionary left in the Caribbean region. As an activist, Andaiye fought for waged work for women and a left politik utilising a global justice framework that encompassed peace and revolution, for women and oppressed races and social classes. Let’s take a moment to commemorate Andaiye’s long fight against oppression.

Thank you.

Given the subject matter of this panel, I hope that it is clear that we will be discussing how women and queer Caribbean’s are able to make their voices heard and claim space for themselves in their respective Caribbean countries that have a history of coloniality, post coloniality, and neo-coloniality. This subject is not divorced from imperial rule in these societies, because it is through empire that moral and authoritative rules and dichotomies of “femaleness” and “maleness” were imposed over the institutional and ideological functions in these societies. These norms in turn, then come to influence culture—which includes societal thinking surrounding notions of what it means to be male or female and what it means to be considered fulfilling one’s “dutiful” role in society. Because of this, when one talks about violence against women and against LGBTQ communities, as well as discrimination faced by those communities, on would be ill-informed to not mention that colonial era laws still on the books in many countries today that heavily influence whether or not certain human rights are extended to women (that were formerly viewed as property and as “non-waged” workers) and to those within the LGBTQ community (that are viewed outside of laws regarding “regular” (heterosexual) persons). Today, all of the Caribbean countries where homosexuality is still illegal under the law, were once British colonies.

Further, violence against women in the region is consistently labeled a “widespread public health problem,” whose victims often cite failure amongst the judiciary and police forces to adequately investigate or believe their stories. Especially when reporting on abuse by an intimate partner. When looking at some of the themes which arise in conceptualizing the struggles in the region today for rights to protect women and also to extend protections of basic human rights to LGBTQ populations, something that is reoccurring is this notion of the family and church as being cornerstones of social life. Violence against women begins in the home and is relegated to private life, hence the high incidences of femicide in the region. Alarmingly, last year ECLAC put out a report to express concern about the increasing femicide in the Caribbean region—notably, in countries like Belize, BVI, St. Lucia, and T&T. Seen as being outside of “socially acceptable” notions of family, LGBTQ people are subjected to discriminatory legislation—ranging from various “indecency” laws to “buggery” laws that are vaguely worded and “serve to legitimize discrimination and hostility towards them,” through social and legal sanctions.

In regards to the ongoing struggles today, we see a sort of collaboration between the state and religious institutions which continue to downplay the rise in violence against women and to undermine minor civil rights gained by LGBTQ populations.

This year, Cuba cancelled its pride parade as its legislature was set to debate legalizing same-sex marriage. Despite its having sent gays to work camps in the early days of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Cuba recognized as a regional leader in LGBTQ rights in the Caribbean— where some countries still have anti-sodomy laws. Cuba guarantees rights such as free sex-change operations, although it has delayed approving gay marriage. Many activists in Cuba believe that the decision to cancel the pride parade this year was “motivated by the popular backlash last year against the government’s proposal of including a change in the new constitution that would have opened the door to gay marriage. In a rare non-state Cuban campaign, evangelist churches attacked the proposal, which eventually was removed from the new constitution.” So, we see that in even more progressive states when it comes to these issues, pushback by the church is still relevant.

In the Cayman Islands five days after the Chief Justice rewrote legislation to make same-sex marriage legal, the government has announced it will appeal the ruling.The Court’s reasoning was based on the principle that preventing “persons from accessing marriage and the suite of rights that come with it w[ere] a clear violation of freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, including the right to a private and family life, the right to freedom of conscience, and the fight to freedom from discrimination.” The court’s ruling, which took immediate effect, was for the clause in the law that specifies marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples to be amended to state that “marriage means the union between two people as one another’s spouses.” The governments reasoning for challenging the law was that “if the ruling was left unchallenged, the implications for the Cayman Islands Constitution [were] significant and potentially far-reaching go[ing] well beyond the rights of same sex couples.” They further added that the “entire government ha[s] respect for the Hon. Chief Justice and indeed the independence of the judiciary. But even the best judges get it wrong from time to time.” However, the Cayman Islands isn’t the first Caribbean country to legalize and then repeal same sex marriage. Last year, Bermuda did the same exact thing, with the government bypassing the supreme court’s ruling and signing a bill into law that reversed the rights of gay couples to marry. Bermuda’s Progressive Labour Party declared that this reversal was “intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda (LGBTQ populations and the Church), by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognizing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples.”

While each of the aforementioned setbacks were expected to reverberate more generally across the region, there are noticeable differences in regards to legislating and upholding the rights gained by LGBTQ communities. For instance, in 2015, Puerto Rico’s government announced that it would no longer uphold its same-sex marriage ban. In Trinidad and Tobago, the judges ruled that homophobic laws were unconstitutional, on the basis that “sections of the Sexual Offences Act” which “prohibited buggery and serious indecency between two men, criminalized consensual same-sex activity between adults.” This 2018 ruling by T&T mirrored the 2016 ruling in Belize which focused on consent as well. This year, there was a powerful win for LGBTQ activists in Saint Lucia as this year the country will hold its first public LGBTQ pride parade in August (23-26) with the aim of “educating and sensitising the general public, as well as nurturing the dignity of non-heterosexual and gender non-conforming people on Saint Lucia.” This was a massive victory for St. Lucians LGBTQ community, as the country still maintains its adopted constitution (from its former status as a British colony) which has clauses openly discriminating against marginalised women, children, and the gay and lesbian community.

In regards to women’s struggles in the Caribbean—which have a tradition of tapping themselves into racial, social, economic and political struggles— pushback have been against the notion of women as objects and property owned or to be owned by men, and not people. High incidences of rape and murder amongst young girls and women are rooted in the colonial legacy of the disproportionate ratio of women to men in these societies. Under slavery, African women were expected to “reproduce the slavery system naturally.” Meanwhile, the plantation economy and the indentured-ship system set the groundwork for “the nuclear family with the non-earning housewife” effectively setting up the “most appropriate model of the family and economic unit” as patriarchal. Today young girls and women in the region experience disproportionate violence that Caribbean feminists are tackling from a variety of lenses. “From 9-year-old Ariel Bohla in Grenada, to Sadia Byron in St. Lucia, and the wave of assassinations of women in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and beyond, the need for equality and justice is undeniable.” Therefore, tackling laws and societal norms that purport the “normal” and “natural order” for a woman to be beaten by her male partner or harassed by a male is sexually interested has been at the top of the agenda, along with combatting false constructions of masculinity.

In 2016, women’s rights groups in Guyana protested again the Social Protection Minister who dismissed a case of incest as being a “family matter.” Although the minister was replaced, the new Minister also proved hostile to defending women’s rights and in 2018, actively made efforts to “hush” matters of sexual violence and in one instance where a ranking member within the ministry committed an act of sexual violence, attempted to “coerce the victim into silence and later slut-shame her when she appeared in court.” Meanwhile, the perpetrator was only reassigned to oversee a different region. In Jamaica, it is common knowledge that 1 in every 4 women will experience sexual and physical violence in their lifetime. Although laws and legislation exist in Jamaica to protect women, they are scarcely enforced and often times, as in Guyana, lavish attempts to protect perpetrators—especially those with status—are made.  In recollecting her rape, one woman noted that although she “felt raped and violated, [she] got over it because [she] reflected on the fact that he is [her] husband, but [she] is still angry to this day.”

Although rape culture largely plays a role in instances of rape, murder, and other violence against women in the Caribbean colonial laws that constitute familial households in the region also play a role. It is largely a factor when considering things such as women’s pay, where women in the region are more educated and, in some instances, hold higher positions than their male counterparts but are still paid less, due to assumptions that a man is caring for the woman at home, and making an adequate wage. 

Pictured: Tamanisha J. John, Twinkle Paul, Ronelle King

On today’s panel you will get to listen to two esteemed Caribbean activists, talk about women and LGBTQ struggles in the Caribbean; as well as their personal stories with how they got involved in activist work in the region. Ronelle King is a feminist and activist from Barbados who founded a viral call for women’s rights in the Caribbean with the hashtag #LifeinLeggings after experiencing violent harassment. Since then, the Life in Leggings movement has reverberated across the Caribbean and Latin American region, to as many as 11 countries. Ronelle currently serves as the director of the Life in Leggings organization, continuing to combat gender-based violence in the Caribbean. Twinkle Paul is a trans Guyanese human rights activist with over 7 years of fearless advocacy in the fight for trans rights and social justice in Guyana. Twinkle has worked with both the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Guyana Trans United, speaking out against human rights violations and discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community in the region. Doing this work, she brings personal insights and knowledge about the fight for LGBTQ rights in the region.

Although a striking picture has been painted, what has been left out of my introduction are the on the ground activisms that have been happening in the region to protect the life and physical integrity of women and LGBTQ groups. In Guyana for instance, anti-cross-dressing laws were recently struck down. In Trinidad & Tobago, the “Lost Tribe” carnival band in mass— founded by openly gay Indo-Trinidadian director Valmiki Maharaj—allows men, women, and gender non-conforming people to wear non-binary outfits as they march through the parade. In Barbados, Didi Winston—a Bajan trans pioneer, LGBTQ activist, and flag waving champion— is using their newfound fame to help lead the charge in making Barbados more sensitive to LGBTQ communities.

Much more broadly, there is a noticeable resurgence of young Caribbean feminists getting organized to address issues of regarding “sexual sovereignty and combatting gender-based violence,” in a more confrontational way. In Puerto Rico you have women’s Plena groups singing at events across the island to destroy the patriarchy and assert that abortion is a personal decision for women to make with their own bodies. In Jamaica, Tambourine Army—composed of mostly survivors of sexual violence—march and spread awareness online about violence against women and trans women on the island. In the Dominican Republic, groups like Tertulia and Coloquio Mujeres RD meet regularly and stage protests to bring attention to increased femicide on the island and to revitalize discussions on gender identity, sexuality, and feminist politics. In Dominica, the viral kreyol hashtag that sparked a movement, #LeveDominik or “wake up Dominica” in English sought to address gender based violence for women victims of rape, abuse, and sexual assault. That movement also expanded to include men— which make up 20% of GBV cases on the island. In 2017 the song “leave me alone,” by calypso Rose was the most popular song at the Trinidadian carnival— it’s message being hailed as a feminist anthem which calls for men to not interfere with women carnival goers dancing in the street who reject their advances. This song was also powerful, because the year prior a woman participating in carnival was killed, and the mayor víctim-blamed her death, on the “revealing” nature of carnival costumes. In 2017 in Trinidad— a viral hashtags #SmearItTT also trended with the goal of forcing the government to implement a comprehensive national Pap smear screening program given the high rate of diagnosis— over 200 annually— for women on the island. Women on the island, especially doctors, wore their red lipstick smeared to work to bring awareness. In terms of more recent broader female solidarity across the region, Caribbean feminists coordinated their solidarity efforts to advocate for Yugoslavia Farrell who was wrongly imprisoned for allegedly used insulting language against the daughter-in-law of Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. Although their jobs were threatened afterwards, the charges against Farrell were dismissed, but a bigger problem was revealed— as have both of these social, economic, and fights have witnessed. That is these struggles must and are operating with pushback from the legal and especially political establishment— at the highest levels in Caribbean society.

Today, we have two Caribbean activists on the panel who can attest to what their fights and these challenges have looked like. I will now turn the mic over to the panelists where they will each have 30 minutes to speak and at the end, we will open the discussion up to the audience to ask questions— as we have the space until 12pm.

Pictured: Me, Twinkle Paul, Robert Cuffy, Ronelle King

Thank you to all who came to listen to this panel and engage in a discussion regarding Caribbean struggles against austerity, colonial laws, and an unresponsive political and judiciary establishment for social rights! 

Liberal Democracy has already Failed Refugees, Right-Wing Populism would have them Killed.

Posted on 2019-05-16

Please Note: I originally wrote this in November of 2018

A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America to the United States, run away from tear gas in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 25, 2018. Kim Kyung Hoon—Reuters
A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America to the United States, run away from tear gas in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

As people bemoan the abhorrent views of the Trump administration towards refugees and migrants, liberal democracies have always had abhorrent contradictions within them when it comes to refugees (and immigrants).

On Sunday November 25th the United States— in an attempt to deny Central American migrants their legal right to claim asylum on its border—shut down the San Isidro port of entry for migrants, between San Diego and Tijuana. Migrants that still attempted to reach the U.S. border in order to lay their claims for asylum, were met with tear gas by heavily armed U.S. troops that were sent to act as an accompanying police force for U.S. border patrol. Not only was the tear gas fired into the sovereign nation of Mexico, but it was fired indiscriminately— hitting men, women, and children, who had just walked or hitched approximately 400-miles to reach the U.S. border.

The human rights violation displayed by the U.S. on Sunday and well into Monday, couldn’t have had more bitter timing. As many people in the U.S. had just celebrated Thanksgiving— a holiday that marks the colonization of the U.S. to the peril of the Natives which inhabited the land before the pilgrims arrived. To be clear, settler colonialism, which helped to form the modern U.S., is vastly different from those currently seeking their right to claim asylum—which is just to remind people about the harm of referring to earlier colonial settlers as “migrants.” However, what this history points to is a larger picture of contradictions which exist not just in the U.S., but throughout liberal democracies in the western world. That is, the political inability of western liberal democracies to accommodate for those that seek asylum based on displacement, persecution, political or economic strife.

This story of contradiction during the modern liberal era, first begins during the end of the Holocaust, when international asylum policies were created. The creation was a direct attempt at stating: “never again” would we allow people to suffer in their human rights tragedies, without giving them the option to not only flee, but also to be welcomed into the sovereign nations whose borders they made it to and laid their claim for refuge. This is because claims to asylum which were turned away, ended up having tragic consequences. In 1939 officials in the U.S turned away more than 900 German-Jewish refugees from its borders, a third of whom would later be killed in various fascist strong-holds throughout Europe. The message that was sent, was that no one would care, or did care, about what happened to these refugees; thus in 1948, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights had a clear message “everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

Fast-forward to the refugee crises which is still heavily impacting the Middle East, and we see the same sort of limited action as we did in the 1930s throughout liberal democracies across Europe. For instance, with the Syrian refugee crisis, countries like Norway are more intent on throwing money at the problem in order to keep refugees out of their country, as opposed to letting them in. Norway tightened its borders—specifically against refugee migration— and in response to their heightened restrictions, closed and defunded asylum centers citing “lack of refugee applicants.”

Although less restrictive than Nordic liberal democracies regarding refugee intake, liberal democracies in the European Union are still debating “fair-share” models of refugee intake. Noticeably, some countries are taking in more refugees than others, spurring racist and xenophobic nationalisms at the societal level, that politicians have been slow at effectively addressing. The answer to this problem, contrary to Hillary Clinton’s statement in her recent interview— is twofold. First, it is obvious that western liberal democracies must provide refuge for refugees; and second, that they must educate their societies about the myths surrounding those fleeing persecution— and the myths surrounding immigrants and immigration in general. However, politicians in these societies are incapable of doing this, because of their own political fears.

Effectively addressing the refugee crises, would mean revealing the hand that western liberal democracies— with their guns and weapon sales in these regions, as well as their interventions and wars—have played in creating and deepening the reasons why people are fleeing their homelands. Thus, they are confronted with a political inability to appropriately and effectively address crises, ensuring that refugee crises will continue to worsen. Politicians in liberal democracies have settled with politicizing the refugee crisis happening around the world, to the point of inaction that has fueled right-wing populism. To say that we are witnessing an almost near reenactment of what happened to those denied the right to refuge in the 1930s, would be an understatement. What are we saying when we tell civilians seeking refuge to go back to Syria?

We know why the claims from the Middle East are being made– they are quite clear and obvious. However, it appears that for some in the U.S, the claims of asylum from the Central American migrants are “illegitimate” because they are thought of as being solely economic opportunity immigrants— not those seeking asylum. This oversimplification of the Central American crises and those seeking refuge from the crises, ignores U.S. intervention in them, and conflates immigration to the U.S.— which has been decreasing— with those claiming asylum. This mislabeling and misunderstanding of those seeking refuge from Central America, allow those attempting to justify their egregious rhetoric to skirt around the fact that the Trump administration is choosing to not hear their claims at all. Liberal estimates relay that they are currently processing less than 100 claims a day, as they try to re-write and circumvent both U.S. and international asylum laws, to allow the lowest number of asylum seekers in.

Are we now saying that asylum claims should not be heard in the U.S.? That those fleeing from their countries should be greeted with chemical agents instead? The thing about western liberal democracies— and the rise in racist xenophobic nationalisms that have been allowed to take over politics— is that once you start to justify the unjustifiable as moral, it becomes hard to undo. When citizens cheer on human rights violations, you are slowly justifying the use of force by right wing populists with a complicit society. That should concern us all.

Curaçao: Exploring a City Full of Art & Culture Infused with History

Posted on 2019-04-13

This year during “Spring Break,” I took my first ever realsolo trip. By real, I mean that I went to a county where I knew absolutely no one on the ground. This experience was exhilarating— not only because I made the decision to go less than a week before and at 2am— but also because I had always wanted to travel by myself and visit the island of Curaçao. The trip itself seemed like to two goals of mine coming together.

I went to Curaçao for 5 days and 4 nights during the week of April 11-15. While there I mostly visited many natural sites that were accessible to, me as I was on the most Western point of Curaçao (Westpunt). I hiked a 1,230 feet high mountain, went to many beaches, saw two waterholes, explored a few caves, and got to see many flamingos in their natural habit! [[Along with many other pretty birds which I really enjoyed.]]

I also visited the city once and took a million photographs of the gorgeous city waterfront that featured colourful buildings (nodding to Caribbean and island style colours) with Dutch architecture (a vestige of Curaçao’s colonial period).

Panoramic view from the bridge

The aim of this long overdue blog post will be to highlight the most important part of the trip for me as a solo and young woman travelling in Curaçao. That is:

Meeting people passionate about sharing their culture, history, city, and art with me— in a way that was real and also unfiltered.

Willemstad, Curaçao

In front of the Renaissance Mall & Rif Fort 

my first time using my iPhone self timer to photograph myself and my Joby iPhone tripod— not that bad for 10 seconds and no clicker

On Tuesday during my trip I decided to head down to the city to buy some groceries for my Airbnb and do a bit of sightseeing.

I was bit bummed about how I would do, seeing as none of the walking tours available online in Curaçao happened during the week— I’m not the best at reading a map. All of the online tours were reserved to just the weekend and for special private walking tours, you needed a minimum number of people. This for me, of course, would be a problem as a split traveller that didn’t know anyone.

To my surprise, while exploring Curaçao, I encountered a free walking tour guide right outside of Rif Fort!

The advertisement for the walking tour is easily noticeable outside of the fort, because it is literally advertised on the attire of the entrepreneur advertising these services (see photo below).

This walking tour was probably the BEST one I’ve ever been on, strictly due to the knowledge of the tour guide.

My tour guide knew when certain buildings were created, what parts of the city were filled and why, where everything was, he could also speak FIVE languages, and it was amazing. He also answered any and all of the questions I had in honest way.

And if you know me, you know my questioned ranged from higher education, race, migrants, Venezuela and it’s political and people relationship with Curaçaons, politics, etc.

Also, my walking tour started off with 3 in the group, including myself— and two members of the group had come in a cruise ship and had to leave early. But I stayed on and continued doing the walking tour solo with the tour guide.

One of the oldest buildings in Curaçao– and it’s not an Aldo which is why I neglected the bottom half

Here is the walking tour information and a photo of what the shirts look like as well as the contact information of my tour guide:

Elton Sint Jago (Free Walking Tour Curaçao)

FB: Elton Sint Jago

Instagram: @elttravel

Booking walking tours online in Curaçao range from $12-19 (NAFL/ANG) or about $7-$10 (USD) per hour. So in my opinion, if you do a 3 hour walking tour, you should be tipping at least $50 (NAFL/ANG) $30 (USD)— and of course, more is always appreciated.

Although a free walking tour, it is operated on a tip basis. I highly recommendpeople tipping for the labour of others and also tipping properly. Especially for these kinds of services.

On this tour, I was shown l where to get groceries, where the museum was, where the Walls of Scharloo were, how to see the entire city from a top viewpoint, it was 100% worth it.

After my 3 hour tour ended, I did my grocery shopping and went to the Kurá Hulanda Slave Museum and you should ask me why I believe that every single Caribbean state should have a slave museum like Curaçao’s and what my experience there was like.

Sint Willibrordus

Landhuis Jan Kok Gallery

After exploring Willemstad and being amazed by the walls and buildings featuring art that express Curaçoan artists— whose visions of blackness, childhood, and nature was marvellous to see — I was interested in seeing more of the Curaçaon art scene.

I was specifically amused with how the entire island seemed to have a rich history of art. This is notably expressed in their “Chichi” dolls, that are black and faceless and colourful and in the shape of a woman (my tour guide noted that no two chichi dolls are ever coloured the same and buying one helps a single Curaçaon mother in need).

Peeking through an open store to capture this shot of the Chichi dolls

But what else was there? I got to check some more artwork out on Thursday in Sint Willibrordus at the Landhuis Jan Kok art gallery— which is literally across the street from a “flamingo park” filled with flamingos in their natural habitat. The Jan Kok gallery itself is amusing, since it’s on a big chunk of land in a beautiful white house, that was once the premises of the cruelest slave master in Curaçao.  

Although my post may have not expressed this as much— remember my title— History is interwoven throughout the island. Even the flamingo habitat across from the gallery has a tribute to the slaves who fought on those salty wet (I guess) marshes, for their freedom.

The Jan Kok gallery mostly features artwork from deceased Curaçaon beauty queen, Nena Sanchez. It also features the artwork of other Curaçaon artists, who do get the profits when you buy their artwork. The bought work of Nena Sanchez contributes to keeping the gallery open and functioning. 


The manager in the office himself, is also an artist whose trade includes architecture, so his artwork is functionable for your home! His information can be found be searching Artectonik or visiting this link to the Artectonik Facebook page:

Please note, that due to the uniqueness of the artwork, photos inside of the gallery is not allowed.

I ended up buying a single piece of artwork, to share with someone who I know love birds (that wasn’t my mom). It came was not crushed which I was very pleased with:


I cannot seem to find the name of the artist, although I did write it down and his number as well 😔 if you know, please let me know and I will update the post! 

Notable Artist— whose artwork on the walls I enjoyed the most: Garrick Marchena

Logistic Wise: 

1: In Curaçao I felt very safe. I should probably note as a disclaimer that many Curaçaoan’s thought I was also from there. 

2: On the island itself, everyone spoke at minimum 2-3 languages: Papiamentu, English, Dutch, (and A LOT also spoke Spanish). 

3: While there I rented a car— which I highly recommend because the island is small and with a car you can see so much more. Some people also said that the taxi costs start to add up and waiting for the bus can take long. 

4: The city, Willemstad and surrounding areas are pretty much walkable (think NYC with more sun). The one day that I did go to the city, I parked for 7 hours and literally walked everywhere. YES! With my fractured pinky toe.

5: I paid $323 for a round trip ticket at 2am on a Monday night. So definitely wait for a deal, when I woke up later on that same day, ticket prices had gone up to $600 plus change and by Tuesday, $900 and change. (I was checking only in case I chickened out and wanted someone to accompany me, but them prices ).

6: I stayed in an Airbnb in Westpunt and it was great. I usually have awesome Airbnb experiences in the Caribbean.   

7: Most importantly, don’t worry so much about cash exchanges etc. Most places accepted debit cards and if you want to avoid tax, most places also accept USD so you wouldn’t have to do currency conversion. 

All in all, I had a great solo trip and did not limit myself even with a fractured pinky toe.

For more photos of Curaçao, you can check out my Instagram feed: @tamanishajohn 

views from climbing up the Christoffelberg mountain

Venezuela: The Continuation of U.S. foreign policy in “America’s backyard”

Posted on 2019-03-22

[Image Source:]

On January 23rd2019, President Trump and his administration decided to “officially recognize” the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the interim President of Venezuela. Four months prior to this official recognition of Guaido as the interim President in Venezuela by the Trump administration; right-wing Christian fundamentalist, Jair Bolsanaro, had won the elections in Brazil. Bolsanaro’s win was celebrated as a victory for the people of Brazil by the Trump administration, and Bolsanaro’s rise to the presidency was celebrated as a partner to the U.S. in the region. Two months after Bolsanaro’s win, and one month prior to Trump’s declaration of Guaido as the interim President of Venezuela, the government in Guyana (located to the east of Venezuela) fell, due to a vote of ‘no confidence.’

Here we are now, two months later into the escalation of threats of violence towards Venezuela with no real analysis on the issue. Due to the potential U.S. intervention in Venezuela, no one is talking about “America’s backyard” in the full sense of the term outside of this singular case study. Because people largely ignore the Caribbean region, fights against austerity and corruption happening within the region barely make it into our national press. As a slight digression, I would like to point out two things: First, right now in Haiti, the U.S. backed government has fallen. Second, as Prince Charles makes his way around the Caribbean on a tour to “win hearts and minds” before becoming crowned King of England, #NotMyPrince is trending. This as he avoids the regions currently experiencing unrest. With all this turmoil happening in “America’s backyard,” we must attempt to understand this extraordinary U.S. foreign policy shift to the region as it regards Venezuela, not as sporadic and Trump just being “crazy,” but rather as a strategic imperial response.

Take for instance the cries amongst some in the U.S. that humanitarian help is required in Venezuela, so the U.S. must intervene. What are proponents of this argument saying about the U.S. backed government that has recently fallen in Haiti? The protests there have led to deaths and outright violence in the streets against the corrupt U.S. backed political establishment. However, U.S. humanitarian interventionists are silent on this issue. Does this mean that they largely don’t care about Haitians as much as they do Venezuelans? Or is it just that humanitarian reasons have never actually informed U.S. foreign policy? The latter appears to be quite obvious.

I am using examples from the Caribbean because people largely ignore the region as it regards U.S. foreign policy decisions, which are seen as too “grand” or “big” in nature for the Caribbean to have any impact. However, as a tool of inquiry, the region right now presents us with a unique perspective when thinking about the motives for U.S. intervention or threat of intervention in Venezuela.  

Over three years ago in 2015, big oil reserves were found off the coast in Guyana. This discovery was shocking, and also perfectly timed on the eve of what is now the opposition in the country, having lost power for the first time in over two decades. Since then, there have been various attempts by the opposition at power grabs for the government—of what people surmised could only be because of their want to continue their corruption given the newfound oil finding. However, in December of 2018 a “no confidence” vote, aided by a member of the incumbent party that the vote of no confidence fell on, sealed the deal. New elections are not expected to occur until the end of this year, and put simply, you have an oil rich country without a fully functioning government in Guyana right next to Venezuela. However, that is not my only point. What this case study reveals to us about U.S. involvement in Venezuela is two-fold:

1: U.S. involvement is not because it cares about Venezuelan democracy and the strength of its democratic institutions—right next door, a government is in limbo 

2: U.S. involvement is not simply because of the oil (even though oil would bring more U.S. investments in oil in Venezuela AND in Guyana) because the less costly route to the U.S. would be to get investment in oil from Guyana 

Please note, I am not advocating for intervention in Guyana, Haiti, or any other Caribbean state. I am merely pointing out that within the U.S. domestic conversation, conservatives point out that Maduro is an authoritarian and we must protect the human rights of Venezuelan people. The left correctly points out that Maduro is an authoritarian however any intervention would not be because we actually care about human rights given the U.S. history of intervention, our alliances with authoritarian dictators, etc.—however, too many on the left place an emphasis on the U.S. only wanting to intervene for oil reasons. 

The main contention seems to be an over placed emphasis on humanitarian reasons or oil, without seeing how regional turmoil discredits both of these conclusions. By focusing on the Caribbean, specifically on what is happening in Guyana and the lack of U.S. response to that situation, I think it is better for analysts to situate the U.S. response to Venezuela differently. 

Having abandoned any thoughts about humanitarian intervention and only wanting oil, I initially surmised that maybe U.S. intervention was to control oil prices. However, after talking with my advisor that I trust about U.S. foreign policy—who pointed out that the oil price control narratives do not work because of our vast oil supplies due to new technologies— something with more explanatory power, and evidence rooted in U.S. history when U.S. foreign policy has shifted towards its own hemisphere was probably more likely.

That is, the U.S. response to Venezuela should be seen as an attempt by the U.S. to reassert U.S. hegemony in its “backyard.” This makes sense because the U.S. foreign policy apparatus has always been concerned about the growth and consolidation of its power abroad; And the Trump administration is choosing to do this the only way that it knows how: by making an example of a state that poses a challenge to U.S. hegemony in the region (due to its ties with the other states included in John Bolton’s “Troika of Tyranny” (Cuba and Nicaragua) and its ties with China, Russia, and Iran). This assertion tells all of the other states in the U.S. “backyard” currently in turmoil to “behave,” as the new Cold War and proxy skirmishes reignite themselves in both U.S. domestic rhetoric and within the foreign policy apparatus. 

Book recommendation: Christopher Layne “The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present”

Knock Down the House: A Review

Posted on 2019-03-15

Please note that my review may include some spoilers. In terms of my recommendations, I give this documentary a 10/10– thus a “must see.”

image source:

On March 6th I attended a viewing of “Knock Down the House” as part of the Miami Film Festival (#MFF) at Spotlight Cinema in Downtown Miami. Knock Down the House is a documentary written and directed by Rachel Lears, which follows the 2018 primary campaigns of four working class women who present challenges to politicians benefiting from the unfair structure of money in politics within their districts/state. Those women are Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Paula Jean Swearengin, and Amy Vilela all three of whom were backed by progressive organizations like Justice Democrats.

The documentary itself feels very authentic and raw. Not only does the documentary present itself as normal recording of people’s lives and day to day in real time (e.g. not rehearsed and so actual emotions are present), but it also does so in a way that still sends a strong message across. That message is that these women, just like you and me, are tired and frustrated at a system that is failing them, us, and our society as a whole. To describe what I’m trying to say, I will note this: You cannot go in and expect to watch this documentary without deeply empathizing with all of the women featured. There were three (maybe four) points in the documentary where I actually shed tears in the theatre– particularly at how unfair life is.

Cori Bush

Cori Bush ran for Missouri’s 1st District in 2018 and sadly lost by less than 30,000 votes against a politician whose family has had a stronghold on the district since the 1990s. As a nurse and a pastor, what pushed Cori to act was the events that took place in Ferguson Missouri and the response to those events, by the politicians and police in Missouri. As a nurse, she initially showed up to the protests to offer help in any way that she can. From there, she started asking deeper questions about how her community can best be helped and served, and whether or not they were receiving the support or help that they needed. This pushed her to run. As a black woman, Cori notes in the documentary that image will be everything– in terms of how she’s perceived by others– as she goes up against a wealthy and politically influential black male. One of the biggest struggles for her, appeared to be name recognition due to the long standing power of her opponent, Lacy Clay. One male that she approaches while campaigning for herself, notes that people just tick off Clay at election time, without thinking.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ran for New York’s 14th congressional district (representing some of Queens and the Bronx) and won by over 4,000 votes against a Democratic politician that was expected to be the next speaker of the house presumably. As a college graduate and waitress, Alexandria found herself having to both help her family and support herself, after her father unexpectedly passed away while she was in college. Struggling to make ends meet in New York and knowing how many other people were too, is why she decided to run. Of all of the women featured in the film– whether intentionally or not intentionally– Alexandria is documented the most. She’s shown preparing for her shifts in the documentary and campaigning for herself both after and before shifts, with the help of her partner, niece, and other family and friends. She recognizes that name recognition will be everything and she attends town halls, meetings, and speaks with those in the community that have all been neglected by Joe Crowley who has not been challenged at all in over a decade. Throughout the film, it is clear that the constituents in this district have actual grievances without any real ability to get into contact with their representative. You can see from the people that just by showing up, Alexandria is seen as trying to help them share these grievances.

Paula Jean Swearengin

Paula Jean Swearengin ran for the senate in West Virginia and devastatingly lost by over 64,000 votes against a Democratic politician whose been active in West Virginia’s politics since the 1980s and the Senator of West Virginia for almost a decade. Paula is an activist and single mother who has lost family members and community members from cancer and black lung disease due to coal mining and pollution in West Virginia. Her campaign wanted to address the failing infrastructure in her community and the politicians in West Virginia who consistently allow mining corporations to exploit workers there, and pollute West Virginia’s waters. Her campaign was essentially to address a standard of living issues, whereby West Virginians have been neglected in favor of dirty industries. She notes that people usually think of West Virginians as stereotypical hill billy’s without teeth– but what this stereotype neglects is why their state could be stereotyped in that way. Her loss to Joe Manchin, a senator that frequently votes with Republicans and is in the pockets of dirty industry, incredibly sad. Noteworthy is that Manchin called Swearengin after her loss and expressed interest in hearing out the grievances.

Amy Vilela

Amy Vilela ran for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District and sadly lost by less than 19,400 votes against a politician who previously represented the district (prior to him not representing the district at the time of the 2018 elections). Prior to her run, Amy was an accountant. What politicized her was the avoidable death of her 22 year old daughter. Amy’s daughter was experiencing symptoms of blood clotting (if I am remembering correctly) but was denied service because when she (the daughter) ran to the hospital, she could not prove that she had health insurance. She then went into a coma before being announced brain dead. Amy’s story made me cry the most. Any life lost, especially a young life lost, due to there not being service at the point of entry into a medical facility is troubling. It is also why Medicare for All is so popular in the United States, and this experience is what made Amy run unapologetically for Medicare for All– without accepting any PAC money. The latter of which the primary winner, Steven Horsford, wouldn’t even commit to during an informal discussion like setting.

All in all, I would recommend this film 10/10. It is a raw take on real, authentic people that you can empathize with, becoming political based on an issue that they can identify within their communities. The battle that they all waged was hard– and I believe could have been won, had Bush, Swearengin, and Vilela had more name recognition. Ocasio-Cortez’s win was and is marvelous– but the documentary also revealed something very important: In New York, people are outside walking, on the train, frequenting a bodega–they have access to information based on a grassroots campaign. In the case of Missouri, West Virginia, and Nevada– their campaigns depended on going to houses since community spaces (imo) seemed lacking. Public transport and people walking outside was not common. We have an infrastructure problem in many parts of this country– and neglected infrastructure in some parts– but I could not help but noticed that if some of these states were more connected (transport and social) candidates actually trying to improve their states would win.

I hope these ladies continue their fight!

Long Overdue, Grad School Update

Posted on 2019-03-14

It seems that I have been away from my blog for exactly eight months now. If you’re still following my writing even with my inconsistency, then, thank you. If you’re no longer following and just happen to be passing by and seeing this post, I also want to thank you, because you shouldn’t have to put up with something that is not consistent. Due to my inconsistency, I have merged my more personal blog with this one, so that all of my blogging is under one umbrella. Hopefully, this makes it so that blogging doesn’t seem like an overwhelming feat for me–in terms of thinking which type of post goes where, etc.– which may help me be more consistent when it comes to blogging.

To start off this post, I will say that I am officially a Ph.D. candidate after successfully defending my dissertation proposal at the end of Black History Month this year!I still technically have to submit my D-3 form hopefully by next week and definitely before the end of this month. My date was set for February 26th from 2:30pm – 4:30pm, at which I found out I had a successful defense at 4pm.

Prior to my defense, I felt nervous– not because I didn’t think that I would have a successful defense– because I could not pull myself to do any work at all. 2019 started off with me staying in New York longer than I wanted to because I had to get dental work done. When that was 2/3rds done, I got back to Miami and had an underwhelming (personal/social) January that was full of work. At the beginning of February, I also received a lot of comments from one committee member which essentially wanted me to change the direction that I was going in for my project. The change in direction being something that I did not want to do and expressed that it was not the direction I was taking my project. This also made me feel unmotivated to do any work. Everything just seemed like a lot–including the fact that as all of that was happening, I had not even started making my powerpoint for my defense. My powerpoint was put together exactly three days before I had to defend (something that I’m not proud to admit). This was possible because I have an amazing advisor who gave an insight into the five topics you need to touch during your proposal defense.

Defending your Proposal

I’m not an expert by any means when it comes to defending ones proposal. Seeing that I did not start a powerpoint right away however, and my powerpoint eded up being good, I am simply sharing what goes in the making of a PowerPoint to defend your proposal, given these 5 points that my advisor gave me:

1) The Central Research Question/Thesis.

2) The Significance of the Research Question/Thesis

3) How other theories have addressed (or failed to address) the question.

4) How you plan to investigate the question (your methodology)

5) The potential impact of your findings for future research.

My entire powerpoint for my defense was eight slides. My three additional slides were just the title slide (with my name, topic of my proposal, and acknowledgement of all committee members), a background slide (before I just blatantly and directly have the thesis slide), and a “questions, comments, constructive criticism” slide.

Comps update

Seeing as I have not updated my blog for eight months, some of you may be asking “how did she get here?” Especially because my last blog post on grad school was about failing one section of the core part of my comprehensive exams. Unsurprisingly, I retook and passed the core part of my exams early September in the Fall of 2018 with a score of 17/18. The academic hazer was not a part of the process, even though he probably would have wanted to fail me again due to his own need to haze and feel better about himself. However, the first fail did have real impacts, as the entirety of my Fall semester was spent writing my dissertation proposal to defend early in the Spring, since the first “fail” score, set me back by a few months.

In the Fall semester, I believe that I burned myself out. At Florida International University (FIU), including my department of SIPA, there’s this structure that they use which pays TA’s and Ph.D. students sub-par wages for a period shorter than the average time it takes to graduate. This forces many of us into adjuncting and receiving a decrease in our already low pay but an increase in work. My time as a Ph.D. student has been me rushing to get to the finish line to not have to adjunct. I’m already poor and can’t afford to be even more poor because of our for-profit University system that only encourages richer applicants into the Ph.D. pool in society.

Successes adding up towards my end goal

In spite of my lack of motivation when it comes to writing, I have been getting active in and about applying for different grants, contests, and fellowships as a “just in case” I don’t complete my dissertation before the Fall 2019 when I am out of funding. The scare of adjuncting honestly pushes me through some days, to send in applications– even if they are rejected– so that I gain practice in applying for various opportunities to help ensure an early and successful end towards my goal of obtaining my Ph.D.

I was runner-up contestant in the E-IR contest for my article Settler Colonialism and Financial Exclusion of Banks in the English Caribbean. I was accepted to present at this years ISA Annual Convention in Toronto at the end of this month. I was also denied funding by the Hayek Fund for scholars application to attend the ISA conference. I was also denied funding by FIU GPSC to attend the ISA conference. If you follow me on Instagram (where I am actually more consistent), I do have and post regular updates about grad school things in my stories and captions as they happen.

Socialism 2018

Posted on 2018-07-10

On Wednesday, July 4th, myself (Vice Secretary) and the Vice chair of YDSA FIU were able to attend the Socialism 2018 conference in Chicago. None of this would have been possible for us, had it not been for the South Florida International Socialist Organization (SF ISO). SF ISO informed YDSA FIU about the conference in April of the Spring 2018 semester, and then secured our flights to and from Miami and Chicago for us.

So, what is Socialism 2018?

Much as the name suggests, it’s a gathering of 2,000+ socialists who believe that human beings should come before profit. The annual Socialism Conference “has brought together revolutionaries and activists to exchange and debate ideas to advance our struggles” for more than two decades.

To actualize this, everyone at the conference is already, or is interested in, learning about getting rid of capitalism due to the harmful inequalities and violence that the capitalist system thrives on. Thus, there is a broader understanding (as the conference contains socialists of many stripes) that we are fighting for a new system where capital and the means of production are publicly and democratically controlled by the majority of people– those that are part of the working, exploited, and excluded classes.

Check out our cool earrings that we picked up at Socialism 2018 from awesome handcrafters existenceresistance (IG) and tarinandreadesigns (IG)

[Side Note: Due to the wealth of information, my blog post on the Socialism Conference will mostly highlight the panels that stood out to me for various reasons. I will then just list the other panels that I attended. I would also like to note that photos and videos inside of panels were restricted to those with media cards and access (unless you received express permission to record/photograph participants and speakers). Audio of all presentations are available at You can also visit the Socialism Conference Facebook page or @socialismconf on twitter for updates and information regarding the conference. I also appreciated that the Socialism Conference provided free childcare services, translation services, and a bookstore– while being hosted at a hotel where the workers are unionized.]

Day One

On Thursday, July 5th Socialism 2018 was underway!

I attended three panels plus the Welcome Plenary to the conference.

To get as much information as possible, whilst also sticking true to our own individual interests, myself and my colleague/comrade/friend only attended the first panel on the first day of #Socalism2018 together. That panel was:

“The Fallacies of “Scientific” Racism: From Thomas Jefferson to the Alt-Right” given by Phil Gasper.

In this panel, Gasper spoke about the resurgence of scientific racism in the era of Trump, particularly where scholarship is concerned. He highlighted recent scholars promoting racial difference (inferior vs superior) like Nicholas Wade, Richard Lynn, Charles Murray, and Thilo Sarrazin. Although one may be surprised that these authors are able to publish such horrendous material, even after race science and eugenics have been debunked as credible, they’ve been published by right-wing publishing agencies like Washington Summit Publishers (which is owned by notable racist and white supremacist, Richard Spencer).

Additionally, there’s a long history within the United States of utilizing fallacious science to explain race and racial difference. Gasper talks about how Thomas Jefferson, in the 18th century, created a hypothesis to explain the “inherent” inferiority of the enslaved in order to justify why they, unlike “all [other] men” were not “created equal,” and are thus slaves. To assert this, Jefferson wanted science to prove his hypothesis which births the anatomical science that starts measuring human brains and, through the falsification of measurements, asserts that each race is a new species.

Then, in the 19th century, Darwin releases his Origins of the Species which brings about evolutionary science in racism. During the 20th century when eugenics is accepted as factual and true within the United States, IQ testing enters the discourse with the United States. Ironically, the IQ test was created in France by Alfred Binet as something altruistic for society. The inventor of the test wanted to identify and provide remedial services to children which underperformed in their age category. His altruism came from the understanding that IQ measurements were not immutable and can be improved based on environment and learning. In the U.S. however, the IQ test as used by conservatives were to limit social programs for the poor which they stereotyped as largely being genetically inferior minorities that were unworthy.

Just like the aforementioned works written within the past 4 years, today the resurgence of scientific racism, is being used by the right to explain inequality. Why? Because if race is seen as a political category versus a disguised biological category (which race science and scientific racism aims to do), then you’d have to address the social and political inequalities based on race. This would require changing a society that depends and generates racial inequality (unsurprisingly, this would also be how we eradicate scientific racism). The other way around, the conversation becomes “why must we provide for their genetic/biological disadvantages?”

On Thursday, I also attended these panels:

“Marxism and Intersectionality,”which was given by Hailey Swenson (amazing panel)

“Loaded: AnDisarming History of the Second Amendment,”which was given by no other than Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz herself!

The Opening Plenary deserves a small space of its own. Theenergy in the roomwas amazing/exciting/thrilling/overwhelmingly good! Before the welcome could even begin, we were already chanting: Shut Down ICE and Free abortion on demand. We can do it, yes we can!

It was absolutely amazing and got me pumped for the of rest the Conference.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 


“Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century” by Dorothy Roberts

“How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective” edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

“On Intersectionality: Essential Writings” by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw

“Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Online Resources:

“Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw 

“Intersectionality and its discontents: Intersectionality as Traveling Theory” by Sara Salem

Day Two

On Friday, July 6th I was able to pick up 4/5 of the books that I had wanted to get at Socialism 2018. Haymarket Books hosted the book store shop, and as a “radical, independent, non-profit book publisher based in Chicago,” it should come as no surprise that they specialize in selling providing us with texts critical of the social, financial, international, and political world. A lot of the books seemed to be themed around helping us to understand histories of struggle and present day struggles (again, from a critical lens) within the U.S. and around the globe.

In no specific order, the books that I got were:

1. Decolonizing Dialectics by George Ciccariello-Maher

2. The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy by John Bellamy Foster

3. Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump by Asad Haider

4. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields

5. Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America by Todd Gordon and Jeffrey R. Webber

I cannot wait to read all of these books. I am hoping that Decolonizing Dialectics, Blood of Extraction, and Theory of Monopoly Capitalism will help me with my dissertation research. I got Racecraft because many panelists and audience members brought up how profound it was at the conference. I picked up Mistaken Identity as a leisure book (how nerdy does that sound, haha) for me to read, in order to better understand identity politics and how analysis on identity cannot be divorced from class and other narratives of struggle as well.

[Sidebar: Have you read any of these books yet? Please comment and let me know!]

On Friday, I admittedly was only really excited about two panels, one on Israel and the other by Democracy Now!, but I ended up going to three:

“Capitalism and the Gender Binary,”which was given by Lichi D’Amelio (GREAT panel)

“Israel: Colonial Settler State,” which was given by Bill Mullen

“Democracy Now! Covering the Movements Changing America,” by the wonderful Amy Goodman

All I will say here is #FreePalestine, and that there should be a one state solution. The Zionist project started off as a racist white supremacist project to rid certain European countries of Jews, and in the WWII period the Zionist State was (1) not to protect Jews from the Holocaust, but (2) to build a Jewish State in Palestine based on the dislocation, dispossession, relocation, and oppression of Palestinians and Arabs. Israel is an apartheid state which is why BDS is so important, especially in light of decreased Arab nationalism and increased neoliberalism after what happened in Egypt with the Arab Spring. Narratives which try to downplay apartheid and colonial settlement of Israel should always be debunked.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 


“The Struggle for Palestine” by Lance Selfa

“On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice” by Jewish Voice for Peace and Judith Butler

“Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” by Ronen Bergman

“Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East” by Adam Hanieh

“Democracy Now! Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America” by Amy Goodman with David Goodman and Denis Moynihan as contributors

Online Resources:

Jewish Voice for Peace

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IAJN)

Democracy Now!

Day Three

Saturday, July 7th was a full day, and I attended five full panels!

“Slavery and Capitalism,”which was given by Brian Jones (GREAT panel)

“Class Struggle and the Color Line,” which was given by Paul Heideman

“Decolonizing Socialism: Getting Racially Organized so we can get Free” which was given by Demita Frazier (wonderful workshop)

“Trump’s War on Immigrants,” which was given by Lucy Herschel and Heather Ramirez

“The Importance of Being Unruly,” which was a conversation between Frances Fox Piven with Sarah Jaffe

Because all of these panels were really good, I sat here thinking for 28 minutes thinking about which one I would like to highlight the most on my blog. I decided on “The Importance of Being Unruly,” which seemed to embody the broader theme of all of the other panels on Saturday.

While some people are drinking the #MAGA and neoliberal #RESISTANCE juice, they lose their perspective on what U.S. politics means, and how it impacts the rest of the world. This is dangerous because behind the apparatus of the right-wing #MAGA folks, there is formal power that they also wield and there is also an unhinged business group (like those in the fossil fuels industry) getting what they want. There’s also financial and banking interests getting what they want right behind them. Because of the nature of the formal #RESISTANCE which is neoliberal, it is insufficient to properly counter anything that the right-wing is doing. So the real Resistance– mostly composed of women are those people taking to the streets. Are those people realizing the importance of anti-racist socialist movements.

There is, and has always been, power in the collective. Collective refusal to cooperate on behalf of the enslaved southern Blacks to participate in the plantation economy decisively won the war and defeated the confederacy. Collective refusal to cooperate on behalf of the teachers strike which arose all across the nation teaches us the importance of collective refusal today. Massive movements, unorganized by formal bodies are allowing in the present, people to seize their own power and act on it.

If anything, Socialism 2018 reinvigorated me. And for that, I am glad to have gone.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 


“Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”” by Zora Neale Hurston

The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition” by Manisha Sinha

“Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All” by David R. Roediger

“Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution” by Laurent Dubois

“Class Struggle and the Color Line: American Socialism and the Race Question 1900-1930”by Paul Heideman

“The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800” by Robin Blackburn

“Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail” by Frances Fox Piven

“Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare” by Frances Fox Piven

“Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America” by Frances Fox Piven

“Why Americans Still Don’t Vote: And Why Politicians Want It That Way” by Frances Fox Piven

“U.S. Politics in the Age of Uncertainty: Essays on a New Reality” edited by Lance Selfa

Online Resources:

African Blood Brotherhood

Negro Resolution Adopted by Indianapolis Convention, August 1901

Poor People’s Movement/Campaign

Black Lives Matter

Immigration Act of 1917, I

Immigration Act of 1924, I

Immigration and Control Act of 1986, I

Immigration Act of 1990, I, II

Clinton: Operation Gatekeeper

Questions for Organizers and Individuals Willing to/wanting to Organize

1: When was the last time you had a conversation on race, involving the political sphere?

2: Is it forbidden to have a discussion about race within your group/organization?

3: Have you had deeply dissatisfying discussions on race?

Themes that came up within the Conference Workshop in Response to the Aforementioned Questions


-Racial Justice always being pushed to the end of agendas

-Contradictions within Marxist spaces as they regard race

-Microaggressions which end people of color retention within organizations

-Branches being “too white”

-Diverse branches do the “job” of race well

-Talking about race and understanding race and issues of race as two different things

Comps Results: 2/3; Why I Won’t Be The Angry Black Woman That White Supremacy Disrupts

Posted on 2018-06-29

I got my comps results on Tuesday! I passed my major and minor comps, but failed my core comps. This came as a shock to me, because whereas I anticipated failing 1 question on the core comps, I did not anticipate failing all 3 questions. I was passed by one core professor on 2/3 questions. But failed by the other professor on all 3.

I posted the above status and then waited one day before I sent out emails thanking my committee’s readers. On the day that I found out, I also went to the gym to blow off some steam (and mostly lose some weight since the gym was planned before I got my results back).

Most felt that there is no need to withdraw from the program– but if I’m being honest, the program is too expensive and the stipend rarely pays rents. Failing one section of comps– with only 1 year of funding left– decreases time dedicated to dissertation proposal and dissertation writing. People aren’t lying when they say that grad school is for the already wealthy.

Nonetheless, the professor that failed me, over the span of one day— and in the most passive aggressive way ever…bordering on (stupid and uniformed) smugness—tried to paint me as an “angry black woman.” And not just any angry black woman, but one who would— if I decided to continue on with my PhD— still be subject to his version of academic “rigor” on any possibility that I would decide to retake the exam. I put his version of rigor since his comments seemed to be upset with how I was taught theory, versus actual theory itself.

Of corse the latter clause (about me having to retake it with him) wouldn’t be true, as I found out the day before. But to him, the assertion meant that he had power– which he obviously does have, seeing as his singular assertion made me fail comps, in spite of passing the two questions to the askers standards.

As proof of his smugness, he decided to add in a director (of which, in the initial email I sent, I stated that I had already met the director) and I responded back to them both, saying that it would not be true. That is when the assertion was made. As a pro tip, I should note that if you intend to be smug against someone, and they pull your smug (the email version of this is that they keep the person CC’d) you should know: maybe they know something that you don’t 🤫.

But I won’t digress. As I thought about this assertion—and the one other time in the span of eight years in which a white male professor essentially made similar claims that:

(1) you are angry black woman

(2) whose future I could interrupt

I’ve realized that what they’re really addressing is the fact that I have the gall to voice my thoughts, emotions, and understandings of a specific situation and be confident and eloquent when I do (my transition from email petty to social media petty is unmatched, quite literally).

The first time this happened, I was an undergraduate and dared to correct the professor before our Habitat for Humanity volunteer break in one of the poorest reservations in South Dakota that: Native American people are not white and it’s incorrect for him to pretend that we’ll be meeting blonde hair and blue eyed Natives… unless the implication is that Natives have been completely genocided.

Unfortunately for him, upon arrival, it was clear that the Native peoples were not white or blue eyed and blonde haired. For some reason, he was mad that people saw what I said was right. On the reservation, he further became enraged after I stood up for a Native woman, over a fellow undergraduate student also on the trip, that was being offensive to someone Native. Apparently, Natives dislike claims from white people that their “4 generations back grandma was Native and “danced with wolves in the cemetery.” Because I called the white girl out on why it was offending the native people, since for some reason she appeared to be fine deaf, this to him warranted giving me an ‘F’ on his alternative break course. He was brought in to take the white girl away, by someone Native, but I’m black— so naturally he came in blazing at me and my intellect. (Everyone was like 😳 TF, wrong person)

Be it God or some other force, I wasn’t actually enrolled in the course, so he couldn’t give me a grade. Unfortunately in this case, no matter how many students came forward to back what happened, he was tenured and the University could do nothing. Unsurprisingly, multiple students— past and present had warranted claims against this professor, but tenure-ship was something too slippery for the university to deal with.

Fast forward to now— it’s always the white male professors with no real prodigies who tend to be doing the most when it comes to students and students of color. In grad school, this continues to be the case. Maybe it’s their personalities or maybe it’s because they’re wishy-washy and vindictive since they view their own intelligence as astronomical. And thus, if you’ve ever corrected them before, you must be perfect in everything that you do– they end up disenchanting others, I don’t really know.

But I’ve learned to stay away from these types a long awhile ago. Funnily enough, he was the last person I actually wanted on a committee since I peepped him to be one of these types after taking a course with him. But sometimes, life works out funny to reaffirm lessons that you’ve long learned in the past.

You don’t get away from white male professors, or authority figures, in grad school. You also don’t get rid of racism and sexism in grad school.

I think that what this has taught me, is that it’s okay to be an angry black woman. Prior to starting grad school, I intentionally— and even on this blog— have talked about how I’ve tried to avoid that label. But maybe it’s not that I’ve had or even needed to avoid it. But rather, I should embrace it.

I am an angry black woman, with every right to be.

I’m also #HereToStay. Nothing motivates me more than knowing I have haters that want to see me fail. Unknowingly, the angry black woman assertion COUPLED with the “your future is in my hands” bullshit, makes me want to go all the way awf!

You’re welcome.

Safeguarding the Fragile Male Ego in Academia

Posted on 2018-06-11


A comment made to me last semester, Spring 2018

‘Hey, I think you should do it this way…not because what you have is wrong, but maybe it’d read easier like this.’ 

I found myself saying this to a male colleague last semester, instead of outrightly saying: ‘what you wrote makes no sense to me, no matter how much I re-read it.’ I said the former because I knew that if I said what the exact problem was he (1) would not believe me and (2) tell people just how much of a bitch Tamanisha always is. 


My response to the comment made to me in Spring 2018

Unsurprisingly, he had other males read what he wrote too, and I do believe that they told him the exact problem without any fluff.  These men would never be subjected to number 2—however, as a trusted female colleague who is frequently introduced to others as “she’s smart,” he felt that with me telling him the same thing (of course) in a “nicer” way, his ego would not be harmed. Thus, I ended up freely helping him solely to keep his ego in tact, because, why not?

Far from people’s beliefs, I do not consider myself a “feminist” in the same way that some women who might study feminism may. I hardly ever read feminist texts— although I do tend to always be subjected to white feminism in grad school.  

But something that has been irking me as of late, is the easy way in which men in the academy—at the professor and student/colleague level—dismiss women’s knowledge if it does not serve their ego. What this looks like, for me as a black woman, is a continued conversation of always showing that I too am an intellectual. I too am capable of critically thinking and that in spite of your emotional backlash when your male ego is harmed:



Safeguarding the male ego in academia happens when you must tip-toe around the truth, so as to not upset a male colleagues ego. You must dumb yourself down—in case he has not read— to not threaten his ego. You must pretend to be able to see his side— no matter how wrong or not effectively argued it is, to not threaten his ego. Otherwise you go from “smart” and “respected” to now your academic intellect is being called into question. This happens quite frequently to me because although I do not mind the occasional ‘dumbing oneself down,’ I refuse to let someone that is blatantly wrong, pretend to be right— solely for the sake of his ego. 


The safeguarding of the male ego in academia is atrocious, when one considers that sometimes we negate information, to not harm the male ego. Sometimes we pretend to not have knowledge to keep that ego in tact. 

What is being witnessed via this safeguard goes beyond simply accepting instances of mansplaining. It is like we are accepting “fake news” helping fake news spread itself, for the sake of something toxic.


Some of the men in academia need to set aside their emotional, condescending remarks to women when their fragile male egos are hurt, and instead use that opportunity to really learn.

That education should also be done by themselves and without the expectation that their hand will be held through that learning process since they are the ones that must undergo it. Women should not be tasked with explaining academic and political intricacies to them, because their egos make it incapable for them to learn or understand what is being said contrary to their own beliefs, simply because it is coming from a woman.

This behavior is insulting.

Havana, Cuba

Posted on 2018-06-11

If you’d like to know more about my day to day life, now would be the time to follow me on instagram.

I will not really write about Cuba in this post since I am tired of it. Cuba is a beautiful country, not unlike other Caribbean countries; however, right-wing Cubans in Miami mad at the fact that I simply visited Cuba has made talking about Cuba almost exhausting. If you would like to see these discussions, follow me on instagram and view the comments under my photos. I’ve returned from Cuba on Thursday (07/06/18). Cuba was a really interesting country in terms of what I was able to see, who I was able to talk and engage with and it shocked me, since it did not appear quite like what Miami indoctrination about the country would have you to believe. To get to Cuba is hard and I was only able to, thanks to a professional meeting. However, if able to, I recommend that all visit the country and see what it is like. From there, you can make an informed, educated, and nuanced opinion– without mere talking points from politics and an old exile community afforded lavish privileges in the US.

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p.s. for more photos, you can shoot me an instagram DM.