Blood Red Rain: A Mother’s Pain

Emotions are running high as more murders have been reported over the last two days. Two of those have been the murders of two youths.

The pain of a mother’s loss was recorded and circulated via social media. Those gut wrenching cries are capable of eliciting tears even from one whose tear ducts have become depleted.

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The pain of a nation is reflected in the outrage expressed via the same social media.

We all seem to have the answers and wonder why the authorities are failing to take action.

Yet when I examined some of the comments on various posts of these incidents, I became acutely aware of how each of us is also contributing to the ridiculous level of crime.

Comments are laced with hatred, disgust at other persons’ viewpoints. There are comments about retribution killings, about intolerance and comments crafted with colourful language.

While we personally cannot do the work needed to remove the guns, prevent the firearm trade, arrest and convict criminals, there are other things that we can do. In this context, we is used meaning we who are not law enforcement officers or National Security personnel or Government Ministers for example.

We can begin by honing our basic conflict resolution skills. Those who know me prior to the incident of 2013, would gasp in horror that I write on this topic.

You see, I had a bad temper from very young. It took many years before I could successfully manage anger. In fact, it is still a work in progress but thankfully temper comes out rarely these days.

So I know how difficult it can seem to encounter conflict and not to react in haste and with anger. On the flip side, I also know how easy it can be to not lash out when irked; all it takes is conscious practice.

Knowing and acknowledging your weakness, your angry response, is the first step in managing conflict properly.

While this may seem trivial against the backdrop of red that is currently on the stage of our beloved island, it is one of the vital elements needed to chart the future.

We ought not to be swayed by the emotion of anger during conflict. Likewise, we should not let our emotions call us to action only for a fleeting instant to be gone as the ink on the headlines dries, returning only when the breath of another Trinbagonian is snuffed out.

Instead we need to inculcate discipline in our thoughts, words and actions. There must be synchronized movement toward the reduction of the violence that is overshadowing our nation.

We must call continuously for change; an unfaltering, steadfast call is needed: a call  for our leaders to take action.

Blinders must be removed so that we do not allow politics, race, religion or other biases prevent us from demanding the type of law enforcement, policy changes or resources desperately needed for a more peaceful country.

In unison, putting aside differences of all types, we must demand more commitment to reducing current levels of gun violence. Together we can let our voices be heard for effective patrolling of our borders. If we shout loudly enough as one voice, perhaps international help can be garnered.

If individually we demand integrity of ourselves and those in our sphere of influence perhaps we can collectively bring down corruption levels among our leaders and those responsible for our security.

Yes, we cannot hide from the pain of a mother whose child is unnaturally ripped away from this earthly abode. Every woman feels that deep rooted hurt. Every citizen’s security is threatened and their hearts bleed for the loss of potential and life. Yes, emotions are part of who we are.

But, they do not define us unless we allow them. We must transform those emotions, harness their energy and use it to build the momentum for sustainable, peaceful development.

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Presentations from Beyond the Bullet 2

One more presentation was made available to me yesterday. Of course, as is the case with good power point presentations, most of the “meat” of the speech was off script. However, you may still be able to glean some benefit from it.

Those who attended most likely will have the maximum benefit.

Whether you attended or not, I hope that you are able to use some of the information to guide your actions, decisions and thought processes.

Here is one link for the presentation from Ms. Elizabeth Solomon, executive director at Dispute Resolution Centre and here is the other.

 

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Please let me know if the links work.

All the best as we work together to understand and reduce gun violence. Comments and/or suggestions are most welcomed.

Presentations from Beyond the Bullet (part 1)

As promised, as I receive the presentations, I will make them available for anyone to access. In this way more persons will benefit from the conference, Beyond the Bullet: Understanding and Reducing Gun Violence in Trinidad and Tobago, held on Monday 28 May at UTT Chaguanas Campus jointly by ICPS UTT and Project R.A.R.E.

The two I have received today are from WINAD, Women’s Institute for Alternative Development and VSF, Victim Support Foundation of T&T.

Ms. Susan Alfonso, a past president of WINAD, represented WINAD on the morning whilst Mrs. Loverne Henry, co-founder of VSF, did their presentation.

Below are the links for each of the presentations.

WINAD’s presentation.

VSF’s presentation.

It is our hope that this information will help inform or direct your work in some way.

Please indicate in the comments or via message if you are unable to access the files.

Beyond the Bullet: Understanding and Reducing Gun Violence in T&T

I have been swamped with work. Lots of preparations for this week of activities advocating for peace and against gun violence. Some activities are on a much smaller scale than others.

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One of the major events passed smoothly on Monday. Last November I had approached Professor Kevin Haines of the Institute of Criminology and Public Safety, University of Trinidad and Tobago, to collaborate with my not for profit organization, Project R.A.R.E.

I had the vision of hosting a forum for bringing together experts in the field of gun violence in Trinidad and Tobago to enlighten our ground workers on causes, factors, gender issues, international and national security perspectives that affect gun violence in our beloved country.

The mission was to have the information made available in one space so that more groups will have access to data that could help inform the decisions they make and the actions they take in their work against gun violence.

The scourge of gun violence has taken a turn for the worse in our country. The apparent reasons for the commission of some of these criminal acts are horrifyingly unbelievable. A watermelon vendor was shot fatally yesterday for allegedly selling a customer two pounds short on his watermelon.

What have we come to? What motivates someone to do such disproportionate harm in revenge for a perceived hurt? I read one person’s comment and it reflects the general feeling in the country: “There is no hope for this country. #reality.”

But the truth is we cannot lose hope. If we lose hope, then we essentially throw our hands up into the air and give up. If we give up then there can be no chance for transformation to be initiated or continued.

So Project R.A.R.E. did its part in beginning or for some, continuing the work against gun violence. Together with ICPS, UTT the conference Beyond the Bullet was organized. To ensure it does not become another talk shop, the presentations will be made available to the wider public by posting to a site that anyone can access.

Unfortunately, despite all the talk by various sectors in the community, many who did RSVP, did not turn up for the conference. This included 16 members of the law enforcement agency, two from each of the eight divisions. Hopefully, they were engaged in active duty solving some of the many unsolved murders/shooting incidents or acting to protect some innocent citizen.

I have posted here a video of the list of speakers and their respective presentations as well as a news paper article written by one of the speakers, Dr. Gabrielle Hosein.

http://newsday.co.tt/2018/05/29/beyond-the-bullet/

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I must mention that the keynote at this conference was a keynote with a big difference. We asked another Not for Profit, The Roots Foundation to prepare two of their young men to do a presentation. This was to address gun violence from a youth perspective.

The young men were from the El Socorro Servol Life Centre and East Mucurapo Secondary School. One had lost his brother through the gun some time ago. The other lost a cousin through gun violence the night BEFORE the conference. Stirring presentations indeed.

These are the types of stakeholder collaborations we need to encourage positive forward movement and for addressing social reform. We had representation from  tertiary education institutions, national security, gender and development issues, young persons, a pastor and several NGOs.

Another highlight was a presentation by Her Excellency, Liliana Edgerton Picado, the Ambassador of Costa Rica. She presented on the abolition of their army. For the record Costa Rica has not had a standing army for the past seventy years.

Have we lost all hope? I do not think so. The situation is bad. We are being held hostage by criminals armed with firearms but we can never stop trying to re-shape our landscape and culture into one that is more peaceful and disciplined. When we stop trying is when all hope will be lost.

Photos from Beyond the Bullet may be viewed here.

 

Faith not Fear

I have not posted for quite a while on this blog. Today, after the morning experienced at Church for Mother’s Day, I feel compelled to write.

I brought the message at the Corinth Presbyterian Church this morning. My message was “Faith not Fear: the Faithfulness of Mother in a Crime Filled World.”

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The Scripture was 2 Corinthians 4:6-10:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.“7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side,but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

Essentially what I did was to share my story, relating it to the passage and emphasizing the power of collective faith and shifting to an inner and unseen focus.

The selected passage has eight pronouns in five verses: we, us, our. No mention is made of I. Using the context of Paul’s persecution, I examined how he spoke of dealing with difficulties, working as a team, with his travelling companions.

Then I used my story to illustrate how it could relate to our current times.

I spoke about welcoming trials as they lead to maturation.

Most important this morning though, was the inspiration that I received from being with that congregation. The people were warm and friendly. They allowed the young persons to lead the service (kudos to them).

The men had organized gifts and breakfast for the women for Mother’s Day and at the end of the service, they announced that they did not want to see any of the women doing anything for the serving of the breakfast.

There is hope. There are still a lot of good people with loving dispositions. The challenge now is to mobilize these people to unite and work for our collective good.

The peace I have experienced at this service is lingering still.

Do you think there is still hope for this crime filled world to become more peace-loving?

 

Domestic Violence & Firearms

Domestic violence refers to acts of abuse, physical or emotional for example, against one person by the other in a mutual relationship such as a spouse or intimate partner. But it may also involve acts against parents or children. In the majority of cases, it involves acts perpetrated against females, but this does not mean that men are never victims.

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In terms of physical abuse, methods could include using fists or some type of weapon to inflict hurt and pain to the victim. The choice of weapon can include a knife, cutlass, piece of furniture, a bat, a household tool, acid, a stone, a gun or almost anything on which the assailant can lay his or her hand.

According to Trinidadian criminologist, Dr. Randy Seepersad,  domestic violence “includes, but is not limited to, kicking, shoving, pushing, slapping, clubbing, stabbing, shooting, or verbal and psychological terrorization of the individual concerned. As well as causing physical damage, domestic violence can lead to psychological distress and trauma, with effects possibly lasting a lifetime.”

Classification of physical trauma may include blunt force trauma or penetrating trauma.

The first, blunt force trauma refers to injuries that occur at the surface of the body but which may or may not lead to deeper levels of injury including bone fractures.

Penetrating trauma is injury that occurs when an external object breaks the surface of the skin and enters the body, for example when a bullet bores into someone.

Penetrating trauma is associated with the use of firearms. Firearms are weapons that can be carried by hand and inflict wounds by utilizing missiles or small projectiles such as bullets or fragments that possess sufficient kinetic energy to penetrate living tissue.

The type and extent of injury inflicted depends two main factors: the dynamics of the projectile and the local reaction of the tissue under attack.

Generally all firearms are made up with a tube of variable length called the barrel. Within the barrel is an area, called the chamber, that contains the cartridge of ammunition, the bullet, a propellant and a primer.

When the trigger is pulled, the propellant undergoes combustion, a reaction that is highly exothermic ( a lot of energy is given off). This helps to develop a high pressure due to the presence of expanding gases in the chamber and causes the bullet to be accelerated down the barrel.

As the bullet leaves the firearm, it spins and yaws (moves from side to side along the main axis of the trajectory). The amount of kinetic energy transferred by the bullet to the tissue and the angle at which the bullet enters the tissue determine the extent and nature of the injury.

The types of injuries received by women as a result of domestic violence result from some of the most gruesome violent attacks. The statistics internationally on acts against women are staggering. [Please note that this is not a comprehensive study on domestic violence but one that focuses on the use of firearms to commit acts of domestic violence.]

Strangulation seems to be a common means for murder in this context. Beatings by hand or the use of some other tool, use of acid or knife may leave the victim with significant signs of battering. The victim may end up in the hospital needing stitches, painkillers, surgery and other medical assistance.

The use of firearms in domestic violence raises the bar. With a gun or firearm, the capacity to kill is greatly enhanced.

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Empirical evidence provided by American criminologist, Franklin Zimring, points to the conclusion that whether a victim lives or dies in an attack depends on the lethality of the weapon with which the first two strikes are made.

A firearm is a tool designed for destruction. Any tool that makes a task easier will encourage that task to be done more frequently and with greater probability of success.

Thus, the ready availability of firearms, internationally and locally, make them an increasingly more popular choice for domestic violence with the accompanying more appalling and lethal results.

What this says then, is that violence with the use of a firearm is heavily weighted in favour of murder as opposed to violence using weapons with less capacity to kill.

Violence of any type is unwanted and unnecessary. Domestic violence, violence against “loved” ones, is abhorrent. Domestic violence with the use of a firearm is sure to result in critical wounding or fatality.

We must make efforts to stem the tide of violence resulting from frustration, anger, lack of coping skills and the need for control and immediate acquisition of wealth or property.

We need to do all that we can as a nation to remove firearms from our streets and homes, to make them less easily accessible.

It is alarming that the man on the street who may be experiencing domestic problems or who is either a criminal or potential criminal can easily obtain an illegal firearm while persons seeking through legitimate channels to obtain licensed firearms have great difficulty accessing same.

I do not endorse the possession of firearms, legally or illegally.

Reducing the volume of available guns, reduces the chance of violence that results in fatalities.

Saturating every aspect of school life with character development programmes is highly recommended for long term and sustainable crime prevention. This can lead to reduction in anger, frustration, self-absorption and lack of respect for self, others and life and to an increase in modes of conflict management, leading to decreased violent responses.

Christmas time again

It has been some time since I wrote here…yet it seems that the time has sped past so quickly.

Today one of our local radio talk show hosts and political activist, Barrington “Skippy” Thomas is at hospital. He was shot in both legs during a robbery last night.

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Our beloved country is a haven for indiscriminate acts of violence by criminals. Men with guns have acquired a false sense of courage with this extension of their manhood.

Take away the gun and watch how easily they will whimper at the slightest threat, perceived or real.

I am saddened that it has come to this but we cannot lose hope that every positive action can still have a significant effect.

These criminals need to experience justice in its true form, not the perfunctory attempt at it that seems to be the case in Trinidad.

Beyond that we need to be able to reach our young men and women so that we can offer them alternatives to crime and violence that are meaningful. Alternatives that show them how their negative actions can redound to their own family members.

This post was not intended to be about gun violence but it seems that, much as I try to compartmentalize my different functions, I am unable to disconnect them.

My intention today was to remind you folks about my two books that are so great as Christmas gifts. These two books explore the effects of gun violence in the life of a victim. They are both written to imbue hope and to inspire others into change processes.

One of the books, Bounce Back Better, provides valuable guidance for persons seeking to rebuild their lives after experiencing some life setbacks. It is also the foundational text for a crime prevention programme, Touching Minds, Saving Lives.

If you are concerned about the spiraling statistics for violence, particularly gun violence, then take a leap of faith and be a part of the solution.

Purchase a copy or copies of each of the two books, From Lion to Lamb and Bounce Back Better as gifts for young persons especially or for someone who is going through a tough time.

You may call me at 1-868-370-4086 or buy them online at amazon.com

 

Peace not Violence

We have all been in conflict at some time, with someone. Conflict is not unusual. In fact our very individuality is what leads to conflict. Differences in beliefs, values, customs, cultures or opinions are bound to occur because of our unique combinations of personality, intellect, emotions and spirituality.

This is not a bad thing. Conflict however, becomes a problem if we do not learn or know how to manage it. In managing conflict we are able to agree to disagree as the saying goes. Unbridled conflict on the other hand, can easily become unmanageable and lead to violence.

To avoid violence arising from conflict that is not tempered with reason and compassion, we need to resort to a variety of skills and talents, some of which can be taught and learnt.

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Skills to side step violence and lead to peaceful resolutions include critical thinking, thinking before acting, listening compassionately, responding with respect even if you are in disagreement with someone and of course, genuine love for people that overrides the urge to dislike or hate a person because of a difference in opinion.

As Martin Luther King Jr. elegantly put it, “You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

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Adopt an attitude of love, compassion, humility, respect and peace today. Refuse to hate anyone because they are different than you.

 

 

 

Bounce Back Better: Build Social Networks

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites have large followings. This is a reflection of the basic need of human beings for love and fellowship as well as the need to feel as part of something bigger than ourselves.

We are social creatures. We need each other, to form strong bonds. We need the safety net of social support systems when other areas of our lives come crashing down.

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Several years ago a home was burnt to ashes, leaving the family with no possessions. All clothing, food, school supplies, appliances and everything else in the house were destroyed.

There was an outpouring of love from a variety of persons. This love was practical, consisting of donations of food and other supplies. It came from other relatives, community members, friends and well-wishers, their children’s school fraternities, local government representatives and churches.

The family had all the support they needed to survive, eventually re-build a home and to carry on with life in a relatively short time. The ability of that family to withstand and overcome their adverse situation was greatly enhanced by their external support systems.

Similarly, when natural disasters strike, nations come together to assist those undergoing the misfortune. When Haiti and the Dominican Republic were hit by separate hurricanes some years ago, the Government and people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago graciously and generously assisted them.

The point is that we do not exist in isolation. We need to support each other and we need support from others to survive and thrive.

By working and playing together, our bodies produce hormones such as dopamine and serotonin that promote feelings of well being.

Supportive networks help us differentiate between what is and is not important.

Through our interactions with diverse people, we learn and improve skills that help us stay afloat during difficult times.

Just as we are advised to back up our computer systems, we need to build relationships as our human back-up systems  when tragedy strikes.

Tell me, do you have a strong support network?

6 Ways to Feel Great, Even When Things Are Not So Great.

We all have good days and bad. Some of us spend many hours lost in the mental haze of sadness, exclusion and depression.

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At critical points in our lives, we experience the heartache of a breakup, loss of a loved one, loss of a house or car or job.

It may even be that we become terminally ill or have a chronic disease or become seriously injured through an accident or crime.

Yet some people seem to be energized whether things are going good or bad. How do they do it?

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Apparently apart from adopting a positive attitude, there are ways that we can ensure we feel good although our situation may not be good.

I have found this works for me (when I do follow it). Sometimes though it is easy to lapse into laziness or complacency and not practice the steps diligently. This takes away from the feeling of being on top of the world in spite of all that may be going wrong in your corner.

  1. Eating properly

Most of us know in theory what types of foods our bodies need. The question is how many of us actually take our high school nutritional education into account when eating?

We all need to eat from the following main food groups – fresh fruits and vegetables; fish, meat products and eggs or soy products for vegans; peas and beans;  whole grain or high fiber cereals; ground provisions; and milk and milk products or substitutes.

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Of importance, is the need for us to blend our foods in the correct proportions for optimum uptake of nutrients for cellular requirements.

 

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2.  Supplementing your diet

Over the many years of farming agricultural land, soils have become severely depleted.

So the fresh foods available to us in these times are in many instances, highly fertilized and treated with herbicides, pesticides and other potentially toxic chemicals.

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Our so called fresh foods are lacking in key and trace nutrients. To be proactive and take responsibility for your nutritional health, consider supplementing your diet.

Dietary supplements include:

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • herbals and botanicals which provide phytonutrients
  • amino acids
  • enzymes.

Important questions to consider when supplementing would include, what to take, when to take it, in what combinations should supplements be taken and the use of water rather than other liquids for consuming them.

3.  Hydrating

Many of us, I know I do, forget to drink sufficient water during the course of the day. Our bodies are made up mostly of water. So it is vital that we drink water to replace what is lost through perspiration or excretion for example.

But not only water is lost during these processes. Electrolytes are those vital chemicals needed for proper functioning of our heart, kidneys, nervous and muscular systems among other functions. These electrolytes are soluble in water. This means that when we lose water from the body, we lose electrolytes.

It is vital for us to replace the electrolytes as well as the water.

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When hydrating the body, we need to drink lots of water as well as electrolytes. An extremely good isotonic drink or good natural source of electrolytes is coconut water.

4.  Fasting occasionally

Eating and drinking are critical for life. However sometimes the body becomes overworked and overloaded.

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To compensate for these times, controlled fasting is necessary. Fasting times help eliminate toxins and gives the body time to recover after periods of “abuse”.

5.  Sufficient rest and sleep

We live in times where we never seem to have enough  time to do the things we feel we have to do. This leads to sacrificing our sleep time to complete tasks, watch television, catch up on social media or meet deadlines.

But, our bodies are like machines. They need to be cared for like we look after our cars or computers. One of the ways to keep the machinery well oiled for us is to get sufficient rest and proper sleep.

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Different people have different sleep needs. Determine your optimum amount and strive to attain that everyday.

6.  Exercise

Finally, having eaten, supplemented, drank, fasted and rested properly, we need to exercise.

Exercise produces “feel good” hormones. It eliminates toxins. It tones our muscles and increases our energy levels. It may also be a time for socialization or reflection.

Exercise should include cardiovascular activities, resistance training and flexibility training.

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Of course if you are over forty, like I am, consult a professional before beginning a new programme of exercise.

For more information on these steps, you may read Chapter 4 in my book, Bounce Back Better, 10+1 Key Steps for Building Resilience.

Let me know if you feel great even when you are not so great.