Tag Archives: learning

Residency Reflections Summer 2014

A mother and daughter pair teamed up for a three week stay at the Centre in August, 2014.  Their reflections follow.

By Malkah Darshana Félicité Uzima McNeilly-Abdulhamid

I was in Tobago because my mom, Mosa, was studying with Professor Alexander and she did not want to leave me behind in Canada. She wanted me to come so I could learn with her; so that we could both be students.  I am 11 years old and in sixth grade.

August 25th, 2014: I feel so peaceful here in Tobago. The hot weather is divine; up on the land is spiritual; the ocean is exciting and peaceful and beautiful; the biology is extremely fascinating!

The people are so welcoming and friendly. Every time you’re walking on the street, everyone is greeting you and calling you to come and say “Hi.” Most people seem so happy.

I’ve seen a little creature that looks like a baby wombat up on the land. I’ve seen many birds and found two feathers. I’ve helped plant, weed, water, write, pack up, keep the fire going and identify birds, plus much more. I think I’ve been very helpful.

September 20th, 2014: Everything is so connected in Tobago that if something goes wrong then everything would be in a shambles. If one animal dies then there won’t be food for another animal. And if that one dies, it won’t be food for another animal. And on and on. And if there is a forest fire and the animals’ homes are destroyed, then there will be wars between animals for the land and for homes and for food. Everybody needs food. Everything is connected in some way. One animal is food for the next. Even the top of the food chain might be eaten by something even bigger. The nutrients from one animal can give another strength.

All plants are sacred. They provide food and give us life. If there were no plants there would be no people. If there were no bees there would be no food. Bees are going extinct. We must find homes for them. This is one of the insects that is endangered. One that is very important to us.

Ants are strong little things. They can carry something up to one thousand times their weight. When I was up at the land, the ants carried lots of bits of leaves and flowers and sticks back to where they lived. They were all in a line. It was like one big traffic jam. If they were carrying something too big, they would wobble around and look like they had been at the wedding too long.

We met a man in a taxi who had maybe been at a wedding a bit too long, and could barely walk straight, just like the ants carrying something too big.

What I miss most is the ocean and the food. I miss seeing the fish and the sand and the bright blue colour of the water. I liked going way out deep and then coming back in and feeling the sand on my toes, and the smell of the salt water. I miss the salt fish and bake, the ground provision, all the fresh mangoes, the pineapple, watermelon and sugar cane. We used to get coconut water from a nice old man right at the Pigeon Point junction – and the breadfruit! How could I forget the breadfruit? And the fudge that we bought on the beach from a nice Grandma!!

 

By, Mosa McNeilly.

Mosa is a “celebrant and conjurer of beauty in a thirsty world.”  She is pursuing her MA in Environmental Studies at York University.

. . . The power of the Land makes me vulnerable. I succumb to Her strong presence. My senses heighten and it occurs to me that if I were to surrender, I could accept Her invitation and enter Her realm. With love.  With care.

I marveled at the stillness of vibrant life, the silent sounds of wind, insect and birdsong, the heady fragrance of the forest. In the time it took to climb the winding road up the mountainside, in the distance we covered each day on foot, I came to perceive, in fleeting glimpses, the veils of time parting like the layers and folds in Mama Oya’s skirts, yawning open in the unctuous air, in the caressing motion of the sensuous breeze, then rippling open in the swift dance of the sudden, lively wind. Lizard and hummingbird, caiman and bachac greeted us each day – the gatekeepers, the timekeepers – skittering across the leaf strewn ground; hovering and whizzing through living air; posing motionless in the muck and reed of the river so forlorn; marching relentlessly in the collaborative clockwork of the colony. These totems, they came to greet us, each day, one or the other, or two, or all, at the entrance to the Land, framed by an archway of towering bamboo.  They met us on the curve of the ascending road, deep in this verdant vegetation, at the threshold of timeless time.

They, the timekeepers, time givers away, time tricksters, time masterful makers and we, the welcome visitors, the dutiful stewards, the prayer makers and fire keepers, the laborers of love. Devoted makers of love offered to the Land, to ourselves upon the Land, through the attentive sowing of tiny, robust seeds, gingerly watering tender seedlings, reverently gathering soil, prayerfully weeding, carefully transplanting, singing all the while. We, the celebrants of seed turned to life, of miracles bursting forth, making of our presence on the Land a ceremony each time we came. In this naming and calling in of Spirits who inhabit the Land, in this giving thanks and praises to the Orisas who reign over the elements, in this Sacred communing, this daily honing of Spiritual consciousness, I beheld in Professor Alexander, a vessel of Sacred communion. We, her students, my daughter and myself, were her witnesses. She, Priest, servant, living altar, all at once and over time, at the crossroads of linear and timeless time. . .

Below are the birds which Malkah sighted  at the Center.

Blue-grey Tanager/Blue Jean

Blue-tailed Emerald/Hummingbird

 

 

White-Bearded Manakin

Short-Tailed Pygmy

White-Tailed Sabrewing

 

Smooth-Billed Ani

Amazon Kingfisher

Bran-Coloured Flycatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fork-Tailed Fycatcher

The Tobago Centre at the Lost Lyrics’ Alternative Education Conference

The following article is reposted with permission from the Sway Magazine blog

Lost Lyrics hosts alternative education conference

7 June 2012
By Tendisai Cromwell

This past weekend, the alternative education initiative Lost Lyrics hosted the conference The Roots of the Rose which marked their five-year anniversary. On Saturday June 2, Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre was bustling with attendees eager to share in the discussion on the symposium’s theme: Building an Alternative Education Movement. Ideas were shared through workshops and lectures on hip hop education, indigenous knowledge, understanding money, gender and race, among other topics. This conference facilitated meaningful dialogue between educators, community leaders, artists and community members. It also presented a profound challenge to conventional thought about education and provided the intellectual tools to re-conceptualize it, particularly for people of colour. The following day at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the conference culminated in the Live Report Card presentation by the graduates of the Lost Lyrics program in the form of art, music and dance.


Dr. Darrick Smith is an American educator and founder of the alternative education program TryUMF (Trying to Uplift My Folks).
He gave a passionate lecture where he explored mainstream and alternative forms of education, capitalism and social justice issues with emphasis on the continued struggle of people of colour in navigating the education system.

Spontaneous jam sessions took place outside of the lecture halls and classrooms. Nothing could more naturally embody one of Lost Lyrics’ aims — the marriage of education with various forms of artistic expression.

Pastor David Lewis-Peart and Sarah Beech of Seed II Soil facilitated an interactive workshop exploring the meaning of money. They challenged popular notions and debunked myths about its value with the aim of encouraging critical thought about people’s attitudes towards money.

As part of a course, four former students of University of Toronto Professor Jacqui Alexander (pictured below) were required to pick a plant of personal significance in order to explore diasporic experiences. They each revealed their individual experiences of this process which — in becoming a spiritual journey — transcended their academic goals.

An attendee displays jujube seeds passed around by a speaker as she spoke about what the tree meant for her in the exploration of her Korean ancestry. As an amusing anecdote, she recounted being made to drink jujube tea as a child which her grandmother believed would tame her spirited nature.

Professor Jacqui Alexander (right) expressed complete gratitude for everyone’s attendance explaining in good humour that the dropout rate for her course had been high. She is also the Founding Director of the Tobago Center for the Study and Practice of Indigenous Spirituality and along with a dedicated team, she is currently undertaking a project to grow and catalogue medicinal plants in Tobago.


U of T students make and gift books to The Tobago Center

Students at the University of Toronto in the Department of Women’s Studies have made books on a wide range of medicinal plants.  These books were their final assignments in two courses: Migrations of the Sacred, and Aboriginal, Black and Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars.  The students will present the books as gifts to the Tobago Center in a gathering scheduled for Wednesday, April 4 at 6:00pm.

Update: Read about the presentations and the students’ reflections here