Black Girl, Grad School

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

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.  

curacao1st
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. 

curacao3rdlast

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: https://www.facebook.com/ArtectonikNV/

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:

Curacao2ndlast

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! 

ACS_0947
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 

Curacaolast
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: http://www.yourchildlearns.com/online-atlas/venezuela-map.htm]

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: https://www.vitalthrills.com/2019/02/07/knock-down-the-house-netflix/

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 WeAreMany.org 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 

Books:

“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 

Books:

“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 

Books:

“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

-Tokenization

-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

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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. 

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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:

I DESERVE TO BE HERE.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Sincerely,

Tawm

Late Post 3: Miami Food Finds

Posted on 2018-06-11

“Bubble Tea Miami”

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Vanilla honeydew, with mango bubbles

On Saturday, arch 31st I woke up craving a bubble tea. Instead of going to my favorite weekend spot for bubble tea– SpecialTEA Lounge, I decided to try someplace new instead. That is how I found out about Bubble Tea Miami…and I also saw them on instagram maybe a week prior to visiting. Unlike conventional bubble tea shops, they had differing flavours and they make their tea differently. Bubble Tea Miami is family owned and out from the West Coast– which I did appreciate, but their lack of conventional flavors did present me with a problem. I had to try something not only new, but also very fruity in flavour. Let’s just say that I have not gone back there. The bubble tea that they make just does not sit well with my taste buds. If you like healthier and fruitier bubble tea options, I 100% recommend this place for you!

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The place is nice to come in, sit down and have a drink with friends. When I visited, I wanted to taste their breakfast waffle, however, they were “out.” I’m sure that the food in this place will be bomb– being from the West Coast and all– even if the bubble tea wasn’t the best for me.

“The Salty Donut”

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So, I’m probably a bit biased since I LOVE donuts, but all the hype surrounding The Salty Donut exists for a reason. The selection of donuts as well as the taste of the donuts are UH-MAZING! These donuts are super delicious. I also visited The Salty Donut on a Saturday morning and there was a line. The line moved pretty quickly and the donuts were well worth the wait! I got the Banana Hazelnut donut and a regular glazed one. Both tasted like perfection. If you get here earlier than I did (maybe around 10AM) you can bring your family, friends, or partner, sit down and enjoy your donuts. If you’re a foodie who loves dessert, when you visit Miami you must also visit The Salty Donut.

The selection of donuts are also pretty extensive and if you follow me on instagram and saw my posts/stories, you’d know just how wide the selection is. For now, a sneak peek on the blog will have to suffice.

“107 Coffee & Dessert” (now, “107 Taste”)

ACS_0004I keep telling people that this is my favorite food spot, although i essentially get the same 2-3 items every time I visit: a milk bubble tea, Thai fried rice/scallion pancake, and I did try the 107 waffle once. This place has been a hidden gem that I only discovered in May! Not only do they serve bubble tea and Asian food (Thai, Korean, etc.), but they also serve amazing desserts! The original name was a bit misleading. They do sell coffee and dessert, but they also sell a substantial amount of food and will be adding a beer list soon. I just realized that they changed their name yesterday to 107 taste and it is probably because the original name would not draw people in for a lunch or dessert. If you’re ever in the Tamiami, SW 8 st area, I 100% recommend you go to 107. The inside also gives off city (NYC/Chicago) vibes.

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The 107 waffle. I was only able to finish 1/2, the serving sizes are really filling/big

“Kush by LoKal”

IMG_9218.jpgI finally feel like a true person living in the South, since I’ve eaten chicken and waffles! The food and the locally brewed beer here is good. It is definitely more of a hipster spot, not too far from Wynwood and in a neighborhood being gentrified, but I stumbled upon this gem via a recommendation after protesting in solidarity with those going #RedForEd. On the chicken, the siracha syrup was excellent with a tinge of spices, but for the waffles, regular syrup was necessary. Contrary to my waitresses recommendation, I knew that with my taste buds, siracha on a waffle was a ‘no’ for me. Nonetheless, I did give it a try just in case.

Sincerely,

Tawm

Late Post 2: Montego Bay, Jamaica

Posted on 2018-06-11

IMG_4977Since this is a late post, I should say that I went to Montego Bay Jamaica on April 24th and returned back to Miami on the 29th. So, I was in Jamaica for 5 days and 4 nights and my visit to the country was limited to Montego Bay. Unlike Barbados, you cannot drive the entire island of Jamaica in a Day– and because my stay was not as long as it was in Trinidad and Tobago, I did not do much sight seeing outside of Montego Bay.

That being said, I really enjoyed Montego Bay, although I would not necessarily travel there without company. The streets are not that well lit at night, we did not stay at a resort (I would not travel there with company) and street harassment was rampant (even from boys as young as 10). Montego stood out drastically to me than other Caribbean countries for the aforementioned issues. However, you just have to be smart of course and pay attention to your surroundings and you will be alright! If I had a friend to go with, I would definitely want to go back to MoBay…I should also note that generally, I have yet to solo travel.

The first thing we (and myself who were in JA for the SALISES conference) did upon landing in Jamaica, was checking into our Airbnb accommodation and then went grocery shopping straight after. Whenever I travel, grocery shopping is always a must, especially if you have a kitchen, since it saves money from having to go and eat out. Our bnb accommodation was gorgeous! The colonial legacies of the Caribbean sometimes shows through the architecture and our accommodation was no exception.

Due to the layout of our accommodation, I am 90% sure that it was once a plantation. The “main” building is under construction, and that one is more evidentially so the former “house” of the slave master/ white settler. I did appreciate the architecture nonetheless, and like that for the most part, it is upkept since it serves as a reminder that we’re still here in spite of the atrocities we’ve faced.

IMG_9217Just to end on a lighter and quicker note, since these late posts serve as quick updates into some of my thoughts that have passed: I finally ate at a KFC in the Caribbean! Fried chicken is still not my fave, even though the KFC in the Caribbean does taste fresher than the ones in the US. Whilst in Jamaica, getting around further proved difficult, since we did not rent a car– when you go, RENT A CAR! We rode inside of quick dollar taxis which many people utilized as a hustle and I am so happy that it got us from point A to point B with a low charge.

Whilst in Jamaica, I heavily supported their Red Stripe beer, because the company is doing best practices— in terms of sustainability, employment, and teaching Jamaicans how to brew. I liked that they also give farmers long-term contracts to harvest cassava which will be the new starch in their national alcohol. Red Stripe is now owned by Heineken however which somewhat strips the brand of being truly nationally owned– but as long as they upkeep the good practices, I’m a supporter.

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Sincerely, Tawm