it's like life never changes in the niger delta

dating back to the biafra crisis, the southern region of nigeria known as the niger delta has been in turmoil. funny how that word contains the reason for the continued chaos - oil.

the area is home to the country's ethnic minority groups.

the area was once the breadbasket of the entire african continent, lush and fertile jungle and marshland.

the area is now shell oil fields, blazing fire day and night, awash in slick crude, consumed by fumes. no schools, no hospitals, no roads (only those that service shell operations.)

the really ghastly part is that this situation - complicit governments and corporations stripping the people living in the delta of any/all rights to their resources and the wealth that it generates and violently oppressing those who protest this severe injustice - has been the same for years and years and years.

I believe in my academic life I wrote three essays on the Niger Delta and this new documentary shows nothing has changed, rather the situation has merely worsened.

if you're interested, here's some background -
a national geographic special
pirates or militants???
living in oil pictures
human rights watch summary January 2008 (5p)
human rights watch report March 2008 - politics (60+p)
human rights watch report February 2008 - economics (50+p)

when does war end?

Please visit this site. Get the whole story listening to today's headlines here.


wishing i was somewhere south

you'll note my photo has changed - it is a sign of my daydreams... outside is dreary, dismal, a dull grey, a muted sky that obscures the light and makes outside feel like a heavy sigh.

but elsewhere the sun beats down on sand, waves tumble ashore, skinny palm leave rustle in the heat of the breeze. the air smells like salt, like spices, like sweat. your skin is sticky, sweet - you bathe three times a day, short, cold bursts that invigorate your body in spite of the lazy hanging heat that makes you want to stop, to slow your breathing, your pace, to still your whole body's rhythm because you think that stillness may be cooler - but it isn't, the breeze won't cool you either, the breeze is hot in the day and on the roads it carries dust and reeks of gasoline. but i brought my rag, i keep it in my pocket for bus rides and the constant streaming heat, to wipe my brow, to cover my nose, to douse in water and lay loosely over my hot head.

it's cool in the sea. submerge your ears and listen to the airy hum of the ocean, swishing and bubbling and keeping you float. there's laughter on the beach, shouting, story telling, teeth sucking and wild gestures. but it is still in the water, still and cool and weightless. i want to bathe in the sea everyday. i want to bathe in the sea everyday at different times in the day; in the morning when the water is cool and calm and the beach is quiet. in the day when the sea grows warmer and we bring noise to the beach. and at sunset, when they day is done and beach goers are gone save a few pair of lovers wishing the day would never end and the sun wouldn't disappear under the horizon. but it does and the ocean returns to her original stillness and your body can cut through the salt water gliding in the brief twilight. don't stay too long, it will soon be dark this close to the equator, very soon.

inside the car is cool now but metal anywhere retains the day's heat, so be careful of the seat belt buckle. your salty skin sticks to the upholstery and reminds you that although you just bathed in the sea, you are still a salty, sweaty, sticky mess with sand embedded in your roots and under your nails and within every crevice of your skin - you need yet another icy shower. your body fights the cold at first, then adjusts while you make the appropriate grunts and sighs to diffuse the sharp feeling of frigid water. leave the towel behind, open the louvers and just lay down on the crisp sheets; the evening breeze enters with ease through the wooden shutters and it's a little cooler now. once you're up, put on something loose and I'll mix stiff drinks in a rock glasses (plenty of ice, dark rum, a squeeze of lime, a drop of bitters, a touch of coke) let the ice clatter as the hammock sways and we listen to crickets play. mind you drop asleep outside, mosquitoes are just now starting to buzz about ears and ankles... go inside, crawl under the netting hanging above the bed and sleep, tomorrow the sun will shine again, infuse the day with heat and beat down on our bare backs - a reminder - you are in the tropics, child, the tropics.


big pharma will not lay down - unless we pull, push and throw down...

bill c-51 and 52 were introduced to the canadian parliament in april 2008.

with the growing use of naturapaths, homeopaths and therapies that are not endorsed by your run of the mill GP, pharmaceutical companies are protecting their interests by pushing the appropriate legistation: C-51 and 52. as criticism of western medicine and prescription drugs rises (and rightly so,) and people begin to take their own health in to their hands, the government, their big pharma lobbyists and crooked politicians are getting ready to put up one helluva fight. let's do the same.

There is a march in TO on Saturday... remember marches?
Show your opposition! Meet at 10.30 AM in front of Queen's Park (South Side) March begins at 11:00 AM. We will march South on University to Queen, East on Queen to Yonge, North on Yonge to College & West back to Queens Park. Show your solidarity with marches in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton & Lethbridge.



yesterday was a doozy, i couldn't help myself - post after post after post...

a hypothesis:
i am of a generation with an inordinately developed
sensibility, consciousness, awareness, sensitivity, understanding
"well being" "personal growth" "finding one's self" and introspection in general
from counselors in schools to the self-help movement
this western culture has a new vocabulary around (and therefore affirmation of) the "self" and self discovery
... danger? or savior?

(These days self discovery is taking over the market with dvds and tapes and books - one could buy a book with a title that purports to lift the veil - but don't do it! Buy a regular book with a title that purports nothing but to tell you a story - lessons are in the human experience.)

As a result online we express and share, we blog, we search for its own sake, for understanding, for connectivity. Coincidentally, I am a too often a totally transparent individual (interesting in human relationships) who finds this medium extraordinary - my words are out there, but they are read unbeknownst to me and their effect is a secret for your mind, not mine - i find this freeing. We are giving of ourselves across distances through a technological medium, finding intimacy through machines - how strange and yet how lovely.

But too much of anything is not good; reflection has been a vice of mine for some time and I've always wondered about just how healthy and/or productive that habit is... as the header reads, I'm striving for more action...

my girl reminded me, if our grandmothers had reflected as much as we do on their lives, would they have ever survived?


what did i just do?

i just called my father. i have not previously spoken to my father in my adult life.

sitting quietly at my workstation in toronto, I googled a first and last name, located a number and placed the long distance call to a doctor's office in thunder bay a few hours away.

his assistant answered. here at my desk, I remember that I am also an assistant (not a distraught woman child.) From assistant to assistant, I say, "Hi Donna, how are you today? ... Yes, I'd like to speak with Dr. A... No, I am not a patient; is it possible that I speak with him directly? ... My name is Jamilah, j-a-m-... Yes, he'll know what this is regarding... Yes, thank you."

there is no ring, just an immediate click, "Hello?" - his voice is higher than i expected, more hesitant, less abrupt and not as substantial. "Hello, is this Dr. A.?" I ask. "Yes," comes the reply. "This is Jamilah," and I launch into the meat of the reason for calling for fear that pleasantries might derail or impede the reason for calling: "I was wondering if you will be in Toronto any time soon?", "Oh Toronto, I just came from there, " he sounds relieved - I am not fazed and I continue, "Well, I've just missed you then, but I'm sure you'll be back in the summer and so I'd like to give you my number here. When you come back next I would like a chance to talk to you." Pause. "OK, just a moment, " he concedes and I take a breath before saying slowly, "416..."

I read his doctor ratings online - their are hateful or glowing - I'm glad; I will make sure I get a chance to decide for myself.

I realize afterwards that there were alot of words missing from our conversation: father or daughter, for example. No mention of the number of years passed since I was three and last knew you. No mention of a visit when i was six and thought I knew you. No mention of a letter exchanged when I was twelve and realized I did not know you. Now 25 - who is there to know now?

what do you think?

maybe you think that I am naive.
maybe you think that I am a case.
maybe you think that I am a fool.
or maybe you think that I am a genius.

but I am learning my worth -
as well as the worthlessness of these wonderings...

what i know is the richness of love.
what i know is the oneness of love.

what i have come to learn is not to curse love's fleeting temperament
rather to enjoy it and praise it and live it
by sharing it wholeheartedly and remembering it fondly when it leaves

you see,
i was too young to become jaded by broken hearts
the gravity of love's disastrous ending evaded me and so
i see love as all around and nowhere
i see love as all the time and everywhere
i show love how i came to know love -
smiling, hugging, touching, laughing, soothing, cooing...
i know i will fall in and out of love endless times in this lifetime
i know that romantic love is one of many loves i will share;
children, friends and enemies will teach me love's infinite spectrum
and as a woman, i know that i must strive to be sure love's many faces are not obscured by one single face...

what i have come to learn is that love is no more than a choice.
it comes and goes, you can fall in or throw it away - you choose.
there is no soul mate, no forever, no one person to bank on -
you can fall in love with one of a zillion (or 6 billion) people
in a given circumstance, context, environment... you choose.

don't be afraid, love,
for the one person who cannot know love is he who has lost faith in love, the disbeliever, one whose trust in love has been broken, affronted and betrayed. and you'll forget that love is all around you always, love, always.

no need to fret, love,
for there's enough life for love and purpose. and you'll find purpose has no purpose when it is not shared and full of love for we are humans on this earth merely to love. your purpose will be emboldened by love, will grow in love's light, manifest with greater fervor imbued by love. know that you won't spare anyone (not even yourself) by avoiding love in the hopes of escaping heartache. if you truly live this life, heartache will find you, but love will make it worthwhile.

stay strong, love,
for we should all be congratulated for loving. when love ends, we should feel proud for having loved as long as we have. we should thank each other for having learned through loving. we should try not to be a backside on the way out so as to shelter love in others' eyes, to ensure that we have not spoiled love for those we love most, to ensure that we can all continue to love.

know that i want you to love, love.
love, love, and live live...
(verb, noun, conjunction verb adjective...)

dave died

i used to buy my beedis from the westside tobacco smoke shop on the northeast corner of queen and bathurst. i used to buy them from dave, dave who owned the shop, dave who knew everyone on the four corners of that intersection - even the northwest corner home to derelicts, drunks, homeless, helpless, disturbed and distressed.

since i've lived in toronto, dave's owned the smoke shop. in front of the smoke shop is a 7 foot wooden status of an injun (- get it?) but the laid back timber in dave's tone, the caring in dave's eyes, the youth in dave's face turned the possibly offensive symbol into an endearing touch of satire.

once dave broke up a fight on the corner and cut his hand. it was nothing, dave said.
dave told me once he broke up with his girlfriend. but it was better that way anyway, dave said.

dave was almost always at the shop. and i almost always stop in to say hello even though I don't buy beedis at dave's shop anymore (the price doubled when the bandoloo importer actually started paying duty.) still. he always said something sweet. we always exchanged pleasantries. and i always expected to see him there.

yesterday, i paused only after passing the smokeshop. it took my mind a moment to process what my eyes had deciphered in one glance to the right: locked door, boarded glass and metal grates surrounded by flowers, bouquets and pots of bright spring flowers looking misplaced on the grey gummy pavement below the commemorative writing on the wall: first and last name, date of birth, date of death (April 29, 2008) and a black and white photo - of dave.

mouth open, eyes wide. it was the presence of another body in this smelly-doorway-come-hallowed-memorial ground that brought me back; a pudgy native women edging around my shock, armed with a pen, sniffing out an empty space upon which to scribble goodbye to dave, queen st. corner guardian.

"What happened?" I squeak.
"He died." She said as though she knew that all of these clues still had not quite convinced me.
"But how?" again my disbelief spoke in sharp squeak.
She motioned with her left hand, raised her chin and drew a short, abrupt line across her beaded, wrinkly neck. "He killed himself," she added finally moving past me to write to dave that she'll miss him.

we'll miss you, dave.

a prayer to the sun

yesterday was sunday. it was a cool day but the sun shone anyway.

"why the colors?" they ask. "you're so bright!" they exclaim.

an orange, red, green and blue print ankle length sundress topped with a forest green jacket and wrapped in an orange and red scarf did not seem curious to me until the question was raised by passerbys - so i thought about it and replied,

"well, I am paying homage to the sun.... if you wear it, it will come... this is my prayer to the sun... and it may be cool but She will know I paid my respects to Her today."

Savouring the last pages of a good book,

An excerpt:

"Look at your perfect little face," he says, "your perfect little body, a woman child with deep black skin, all the shades of black in you, what we see and what we don't see, the good and the bad."

Edwidge Danticatt The Farming of Bones