Stability, Adventure and Precautions

I’ve moved a lot in my life. By the age of twenty I had moved at least twenty times. I’m very comfortable in chaos. Nothing can really break me. I’ve seen and been through a lot in my twenty four years. However, I seek stability.

About two weeks ago the St. Vincent and Grenadines (SVG) crew and I were evacuated from SVG. This was due to a isolated security concern. I moved back to St. Lucia with only a duffle bag. This was an even bigger down size then what I already came with. The beginning of this week I was told that I would go to Grenada and do some work there until the situation in SVG was solved and we were safe. I have been working in a school in Grenada this past week. I even sworn in in Grenada. Yes, I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer. Yesterday I was giving the news that I must go back to the States for two weeks. After that brief time period I will return to the Caribbean. This is due to precautions that are being taken with our safety and security in mind. More updates when I can give them.

If you want to find me I’ll be back in Chicago for a little while. I’ll probably be eating Ethiopian food, taking photos and volunteering at my old yoga studio. Typical Shae things. I can’t wait to get back into the schools and interact with the beautiful boys and girls of the West Indies. I already miss the Caribbean and can’t wait to get my sense of stability here. The Caribbean, my new home, where my heart and all photography equipment is.

I shall return. The adventure has just begun. I love you EC!

You Remind Me of Someone

The universe (and PC staff) have chosen where I truly belong for the next 2 years. My new home is the beautiful island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The sea is as clear and bright as my future (humble confidence). This is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Everyone I’ve met is like family already. All the animals remind me of my puppy back home. The food feeds not only my body but my soul. I am truly blessed. I hope I have at least half the impact on St. Vincent as it has had on me already.

Since the first day I landed in St. Lucia, about 5 weeks ago, the people of paradise tell me I look familiar. This past Thursday, when I met my Vincentian Host Momma she said, “When I saw your face I knew I wanted you. You remind me of someone.” Every time I get introduced to someone they say something along the lines of, “Haven’t I seen you before?” or “You look like my sister, she’s in the states.” There is a sense of familiarity and acceptance here for me. I have to admit, I love it. I’ve longed for it. I’ve never been able to blend in or fit in. I am very much so at home in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s truly a blessing that I wasn’t searching for when I decided to serve here. Genuine serendipity!

In addition to blending in, I feel embraced. Things about my identity that made me feel less than or awkward back home make me feel appreciated here. With that, my inner empath feels the need to service beyond my best ability. I have been serviced and welcomed with open arms. I am, to my assumption, seen as a Caribbean/Vincentian woman. A part of me is Caribbean (quite literally). A part of me is in every person I encounter in the Eastern Caribbean. Me serving in the Eastern Caribbean is me serving myself. It’s me serving for the girls and boys back home. It’s me serving for Chicago. It’s me serving for the folks like me back in the states.

The diasporic love is real. I am blessed to be able to feel it to this degree. I hope I make you proud St. Vincent. Thank you for my homecoming.

Martin. Like Luther King Jr.

Last weekend I was headed to Soufriere to go to the sulfur pools. On the way there we made various stops. These stops blessed me with diverse angles of the island. Also, may I add, seeing St. Lucia from these contorted angles was absolutely breathe taking. I am still in awe! Anyways, while stopping at one of the many locations I proceeded to whip out my trusty Nikon D5200. With my camera in hands I adjusted my aperture, increased my shutter speed and, captured some of the beauty that lie in front of me.

While shooting I was interrupted by a gentle baritone voice. The voice exclaimed, “Take my picture!” I looked back to the sight a man. The gentleman was about 5’7. His hair was short with a dash of salt and pepper. His complexion was reminiscent of freshly mixed chocolate cake batter. Smooth and flawless. Excited by the demand he made… I took his picture. I snapped about three rough shots then proceeded to converse with the warm St. Lucian man. Here’s a rough transcript:

Me: “What’s your name sir?”

Martin: “Martin”

Me: “Mark?” I said with little confidence in what I thought I heard.

Martin: He shook his head. “Martin. Like Luther King Jr.”

Me: “Oh, MLK. What a powerful name! You are blessed.”

Martin: “I live up to my name sake. What is your name?”

Me: “I’m Shae”

Martin: “What name your parents gave you?”

Me: I responded giggling, “Shaela. My name is Shaela.”

Martin: “Umm. Are you English Shaela?”

At this point I was internally dying of laughter. I have a pretty thick Midwestern Chicago accent. Though I have the ability to, I often I forget to turn it off. I definitely hadn’t turned it off during this conversation. After regaining my composure, the conversation continued something like this:

Me: “Not at all. I’m from the States. North American-” I paused in concern of his expression.

Martin: With a worried look on his face screech “Why do White People hate you all”

Me:  Caught off guard by the conversation switch, I replied, “What exactly are you referencing?”

Martin: “Every time I watch the news I see someone in America being killed by a White police officer. Or, I see Blacks speaking about how White American are racist toward them. Or I hear about American ghettos and Black Lives Matter. Why?”

Me: Reflectively, I replied, “Well Martin. The history in American runs deep. And, to an extent, it similar to St. Lucia. Colonialism, colonization, slavery and murder were all methods Europeans used to gather and control Africans and Indigenous Americans. It is the unfortunate and dark past of the US. The real issues is that history, if not handled, made right, and dealt with accordingly, repeats itself. This is where these microaggressions and acts of discrimination come into play. Racism has never stopped in the state: racism has just surfaced in other ways.”

Martin: “Shaela, where are you from?”

Me: Confused by yet another shift in tone, “The US.”

Martin: “No, where are you from?”

Me: “Oh sorry, I’m from Chicago.”

Martin: “Ummm” kisses teeth “Why do you all hate yourself? All that killing in Chicago. Why?”

Me: I take a long pause “Umm. Martin, I would’ve loved to have you sitting in on some of the conversations I had with my friends back home. Seriously.” Letting out a light chuckle I continue, “But honestly, to answer your question, again, I think it’s the microaggressions and systematic racism. After a while either you start believing what you see, hear, feel, or you fight against it. Personally, I think everything you’re seeing on the news is a reflection of both people fighting against it and people believing it. Me, myself, I’m proving all the racist I’ve been hit by that they are little. They’re wrong. They hold no weight in comparison to my power. That’s that!”

Martin: “Shaela, where are you from?”

Me: Laughing hysterically, I reply, “My father is Haitian, Martin.”

Martin “Welcome home!” We both laugh.

I’ve been thinking about this conversation all week. Social justice is alive and thriving throughout the diaspora. It warms my heart. It also awakens my desire and pursuit of peace. Media representation is worldwide. It is my job to fight for the rights of marginalized groups throughout the diaspora. It is my job to document this fight. It is my job to serve. It is my job to humble myself. It is my job to use my voice.

I am a woman. I am an American. I am first generation American. I am Black. I am from Chicago. I am a product of poverty. I am a product of wealth. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. I am privileged enough to serve. I am humbled. I. AM. CHANGE. And it’s time to get to work!

**P.S. I want my students to embrace risk taking. So, with that said, I’m starting to take more risk in my own writing. I hope you enjoyed this passage. However, if you didn’t, I hope you felt uncomfortable. Discomfort aids in growth.

***P.P.S I might blur out Martin’s face and add the pictures to this post.