Recently I traveled to Dominica, West Indies to speak at VF Inc’s Fourth Phenomenal Caribbean Women Symposium, held Saturday, January 26th, 2013, at Cabrits National Park, Portsmouth, Dominica.
Organized by Dr. Valda Henry, CEO of V F Inc, the 4th Phenomenal Caribbean Women Symposium, in collaboration with the Bureau of Gender Affairs, and sponsored by the Ministry of Social Services, Community Development (among others,) attracted 150 women of all ages and walks of life from Dominica and neighbouring Caribbean islands.
My participation was fully sponsored by the Dominican Bureau of Gender Affairs, which is headed by Ms. Rosie Browne, Director.
With my presentation entitled, “Heeding the call of the Ancestor Spirits to unravel the secrets and shames and heal the wounds of our immigrant mothers, to liberate my inner Maroon Warrioress,” I shared my story of how I, “traveling the wrong way,” came home to my roots – my self – in Jamaica. It was a dynamic, interactive storytelling, in words, music and song, of my spiritual and physical journey and how, with art, creativity and lots of laughter, I overcame life’s obstacles and liberated my inner “Maroon Warrioress,” along the way.
Welcoming remarks were given by Dr. Valda Henry, Rosie Browne, and Vanya David, President of the Dominica National Council of Women, and the Keynote Address was presented by Minister of Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs, the Honourable Gloria Shillingford.
Including myself, there were four Phenomenal Caribbean Women Speakers at the Symposium representing three countries. I represented Jamaica, Karen Hinds, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Mrs. Annette St. Hilarie and Gloria Walsh both represented Dominica. This year’s theme was, “What You Conceive You Can Achieve Because God Has the Power to Deliver What He Promises.” The conference’s main objectives were to:
- Celebrate the successes of our Caribbean women.
- Hear Caribbean women tell their stories of success, triumph over adversity, challenges, pain, joy and blessings.
- Inspire women, especially young women to determine and achieve their life purpose.
- Show that achieving one’s “Life Purpose” is possible.
- Prepare a Personal Action Plan towards achieving one’s life purpose.
We Caribbean women speakers recounted different stories, our own stories, in our own words, and yet it was wholly evident that we were telling women’s stories.
I do believe that we all have a story to tell. The ancients, our ancestors, knew this. They were well aware that the need to be heard (to be truly listened to,) is inherent in all humans. To be heard is to belong. To belong is to be loved. I was honoured and delighted to have a rapt audience of so many Phenomenal Caribbean Women listen to my story and I was humbled to hear that my tale and songs – my truth – had touched them deeply and provided them inspiration.
I, and my inner “Maroon Warrioress,” were liberated, and loved, in Dominica.
Here is an excerpt of my talk:
“In truth, only I hear what I hear. Only I know what I know. But do I dare?
They are talking to me, willing me, whispering to me. It is my story they – the ancestors – want me to tell. It is my story they wish me to write, to live. For it is my story that will set them free, set me free; set my mother free (she who left Jamaica for a better life, to become a better person, whitewashed – a proper English lady,) set we phenomenal Caribbean women free. But do I dare? Do I have the courage to walk alone, all one?
I did dare. I did find the courage. And it hurt. And it was lonely. And lonely and hurt entwined and became a physical being, a rough, jagged stone that lodged in my heart, suffocating me, that no matter how hard I tried I could not expel. But as I learned to listen, really listen, and know and trust my truth. As I met each challenge that confronted me, threatened to derail me from my path, but didn’t, that rock became smooth, weathered, beautiful, black, radiant – me.
You must mine your own heart, meet your own self – the good, the bad and the ugly – accept that it is true and love you, all of you. Inside all of the muck is your gift, your purpose, your reason for being here on this earth, at this time. Only you can unearth it, only you can set it free, though the spirits, the ancestors, they are guiding you, cheering you on, encouraging you, supporting you. They live in your imagination, in your creativity, your craft, your art, your voice, your laughter. They live in your loneliness. Embrace them to set you free.”