CREATIVE SPACE #17 of 2020 (uploaded October 9th 2020)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. There are plans for its continued evolution across multiple media platforms. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, and freelancer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on October 7th 2020 in the Daily Observer: CREATIVE SPACE 17 DO THE VIEW FROM HERE in the Daily Observer
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.
If you would like to be featured or to sponsor (i.e. advertise with) a future installment of the jhohadli.wordpress.com online edition of CREATIVE SPACE, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.
CREATIVE SPACE: THE VIEW FROM HERE
Can anti-Blackness exist in predominantly Black spaces? That is the question and as I ponder this question, I am reminded of an incident maybe a couple of years ago now. I went to the Heritage Quay food court, bought a couple of beers, found a chair, and sat for what I hoped would be some uninterrupted people watching, daydreaming, and writing time.
One Wadadli in, a table started jamming the back of my chair and I realized it was the staff of one of the food court businesses. I edged my chair forward. They kept bumping and when that didn’t work insisted that I needed to move. I didn’t. Next thing, a young police officer was summoned to remove me. I explained to him that I was a client of the food court and didn’t need to move. Not that purchase is a requirement to sit in the food court but I had made two purchases. The police officer pushed back. It’s been a while but I remember him saying something like they have the right to set out their tables how they want. The table had been fine when I got there and had even more space after I edged my chair forward. It wasn’t the set out that was the problem but my presence. You might be saying at this point, how is this anti-Blackness? It might interest you to know that this was a cruise ship day, lots of tourists walking up and down. I’d been there long enough to witness the waitress calling them (specifically the white tourists) in from the street and being extra solicitous as she served them. I went from being ignored to being bumped to having the police called on me.
The ground I walk on in Antigua and Barbuda feels like my own because it is home. But an unspoken-ism is that depending on who you are, your presence is not preferred in certain spaces – certain beaches, off-shore islands, service just a tad off in certain businesses even if staycation is part of their brand. Those spaces have grown as we center the tourist dollar over everything else. Of course, now there’s need for more staycation activity to keep things going; so we’ll see how/if that shifts. But when I left home that Saturday to sit somewhere, have a couple of beers, and write, it didn’t occur to me that the most public of food courts in the city might be one of the unwelcome spaces. I’d, also, never had police called on me before.
That’s perhaps what made me call and then email St. John’s Development. They did not seem surprised by my report; making me wonder if they are aware of this anti-Blackness (I would say anti-localness but I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I was a white local). I asked them to do something, so that it wouldn’t happen anymore – to me or others like me. I have no idea if they did.
So can Anti-Blackness exist in predominantly Black spaces? Yes. Whether it’s Black hair in schools, Black bodies on white sand beaches, treatment at ports of entry, policing, incarceration, how we name things, how we treat each other etc. etc. etc. To something as inconsequential, on the surface of it, as who gets to sit where. Battles shaped by a history of slavery, colonialism, and anti-Blackness continue to play out even here, yes, even in Black dominated spaces. That’s how systemic anti-Blackness works. The eruption of conversation around Black Lives Matter globally has shown us that it is historical and pervasive, and there are shades to it. It is baked in to the bread. A legacy of the past is the work we have to do of unlearning both self-rejection and a default that centers the other over the self.
When I first drafted this piece I asked a friend to give me a beta read. She said it didn’t seem to fit with the column but perhaps it could spark conversation. She then made suggestions re the 200 or so words I needed to cut from the original draft. I understood what she meant and even agreed. To a degree. The column has been arts-driven to be sure but it declared in its tagline that it was about local culture as well – that was my out for tackling broader issues that I felt had some bearing on how we live. This was the moment to finally write about this and this was the platform. I’m hoping it will become a conversation starter as I realize that we still are in denial on anti-Blackness here in Wadadli. Speaking of, this post is not sponsored by Wadadli beer.
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