By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: ‘Where is your brother?’ (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, para 211
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee
On November25, the world will observe International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. “Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfilment of women and girls’ human rights. All in all, the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals—to leave no-one behind—cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls” (UN). Such violence manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms.
Nineteen-year-old UWI student, Coryal Sylvester, placed third in CCSJ’s and CYC’s Spoken Word Competition. Her poem below is worth reflecting on as we strive to promote justice for all:
by Coryal Sylvester
Her eyes were an empty canvas,
Blank…as she stared
And my authoritative words continued to fall unto deaf ears
Because she was tuned into another frequency,
One which I could neither speak nor understand…
since my tongue was of an English not a Spanish motherland.
But body language was a universal translation
And blank eyes transformed into tumultuous turrets of terror-induced tears,
From thoughts of traumatic events too fresh to be healed by time.
So in my human nature, I reached out to her
And I felt the quick beat beat beating of her heart
As if she feared another beating
From the dead-beat dad
Who left his family to form another familia with her
Only to leave her with bruises the colour beetroot
Taking advantage of her uprootedness
Because her roots weren’t of this soil
And even though they were replanted
It was only one generation deep.
She came from a land rich in gold.
That was now worth nothing
When compared to a simple toilet paper roll.
She was willing to trade guns to fill her empty stomach
Because to her a belly full of food
Was worth more than a potential body full of bullets.
Bullets that she herself had seen far too often
From the people meant to protect and serve her.
Bullets that pierced the walls of her heart when she realised that she was no longer considered
human but was rather objectified and labelled ‘Venezuelan’
She wasn’t raised to live like this
She didn’t expect this
She didn’t just want to just exist
For some other man’s pleasure
For she was an A-class scholar
But that didn’t matter
When all anybody ever wanted from her
was her garden’s flower.
She had to work for pittance behind closed doors
Because her status was still illegal alien
Even though her work was definitely invaluable
It was made very clear to her that she was replaceable
But she didn’t want to be continuously exploited by some handsy employer
For she still had some dignity left in her.
And there was no use working a job that couldn’t fill your belly
And she needed to make money so she turned a blind eye to her new job’s legality.
Now her entire future was held in my glove-clad hand
I was the God of her situation
Silently seeking her sincere supplication
Because mi casa no es tu casa
My house was not hers
Even though she wanted it to be
And like many, I didn’t wish to share my space with this supposed exotic kind
Of curvy, caramel-skinned, coffee-eyed, cardiac myopathy inducing creature of God’s artistic creation.
She was in immigration detention, illicit arms found in her possession
Never in her wildest imagination
Did she expect to be this close to incarceration
But I saw her desperation
Having been betrayed by her family, not just her nation
Trafficked by her own blood relation.
Now with no-one to trust
She was thrust into the world of being a refugee
Desperate for some semblance of normalcy
And I was about to send her back to her personal hell
Where her survival wasn’t a guarantee
Or… well…. she could stay in this country
But be constantly at the mercy of people who would blame her for their own failed relationships
Or be used and abused by both men and women taking advantage of her lack of citizenship.
Because she would never be considered a Trini.
Her story, sadly wasn’t even a unique one, I’d heard so many just like it
So I couldn’t play favourites
The law dictated that deportation was her verdict
So even though she cried and cried and cried
I simply handed her her plane ticket.