The 'clawt' heard around the country

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, November 22, 2019

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And it came to pass that a youth of exuberant tendency delivered a valedictory oration which culminated in an unexpected release of material. What a preckeh!

Thanks to social media the utterance went viral. The “clawt” and the issuer of said clawt was admonished by some and praised by others in the press, on radio, on TV, and on the corner.

“ 'Low de yout!” “Mek him express himself!” “What's the big deal?” “It's part of our culture!” These were some of the remarks in support of the statement.

“Inappropriate and indecent!” “Di bwoy outta order!” These were words from the detractors.

The young man said his encouragement to his fellow graduates to “Big up unuh b...c... self” was an outpouring of emotion after a four-year-long course of study which had its fair share of challenges.

Someone I know who was present on the night said that the well-crafted speech had been overshadowed by two words, and wondered if all the valid points made were now lost to needless controversy.

The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts was in the spotlight just recently. Not for groundbreaking performances or stellar works of art that inspire, but for discussions of sexual harassment and questions about administrative stewardship.

The students have also been faced with various challenges as they took on studying for a career in a society that undervalues the importance of the arts. Waldane Walker, the valedictorian, addressed some of these matters in his now-infamous speech. The full text is available online for those who may be interested in more than just the sound bite.

Returning to the fabric that was “rent asunder” last Saturday night...

For an older generation of women, that particular “bad wud” is not just random syllables. It is a part of their experience of womanhood, and they have very little exuberance attached to it. Those two words refer to a time when sanitary necessities were not at all convenient. For many, the very discussion is taboo and not fit for public discussion.

Women in many cultures have found that a natural and necessary process of the body has been used against them. In some places, menstruating women are considered unclean and must leave the common space until they are deemed ready to return to the chores and tasks expected of them.

Even in today's advanced era women still bear crosses. Female students have been known to miss school because they are not properly equipped to deal with “the visiting aunt” or whichever euphemism is used, as if even uttering the word will bring further shame. In conversations and arguments, if an individual — male or female — seems irritable or irrational they are cursed with references to “time of the month”.

Supporters say the use of “b....c...” is no big deal and, on this particular occasion, it was said in celebration not condemnation. “Embrace it! It's part of our culture,” they say. There are many things that we have grown up with; legacies and practices that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Questions of the day: Should some of our cultural practices be left in the past? Are all aspects of our heritage relevant to a new society?

Other words from the youth

Young voices took over Parliament on the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The youngsters made it known, in no uncertain terms, that we grown-ups need to do better.

Speaking in a session on violence against children, they spoke of living in fear from all forms of violence. Seven-year-old Ngozi Wright was quoted as saying: “We hate the violence that is making our children so afraid, the violence that is taking their lives.”

We hate it too. We hate that funerals are being held for children who will never know their full potential. We hate that callous criminals think nothing of invading a primary school yard in order to shoot down another human being. We hate that we seem to be unable to find the right answer or approach to solve this problem before more of our children are hurt.

Let us remember their young voices and listen to their concerns. Let us do better for them. They are watching. They are listening. Let us not let them down.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@gmail.com.


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