The Caribbean has always been a fascinating part of the world, in my opinion. I launched GabarIskuFilan to document my solo female travel experiences across the African diaspora.
Since traveling to Colombia, I’ve learned about the resistance of Afro-Colombians as they liberate themselves from the modern-day legacy of enslavement and its racial caste system. In February 2020, I embarked on a solo trip to Trinidad & Tobago to further expand my purview. I chose Trinidad & Tobago because of its unique positioning. Unlike its neighbors, Trinidad & Tobago is a Caribbean country that does not rely on tourism.
Since 1833, Trinbagonians have been celebrating the emancipation of slavery. I feel extremely grateful to have experienced Trinidad Carnival. I really am. I have a US passport, but I didn’t have to carry a pregnancy or rely on a man to obtain one. I feel very fortunate to have the freedom to go anywhere in the world by myself. I am often asked if I felt safe in Trinidad & Tobago, and I am proud to respond that I felt safer in Trinidad & Tobago than I do in the US.
The Caribbean is a site for exploitation. Prior to FDA approval, the birth control pill was tested on Puerto Rican women during an experimental trial that paralleled the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Many of them died due to criminally high doses. Sex tourism is a major problem in the Caribbean—notably in the Dominican Republic. We’ve normalized sex tourism by promoting shows like 90 Day Fiancé. The allure of “discovery” and “conquest” of foreign lands reinforces the dehumanization of women surviving military occupation, gender-based violence, and reproductive oppression.
There’s a saying: Carnival is woman. 65% of masqueraders are women. Carnival is about Black women loving Black women. I’ve never felt more supported than during Trinidad Carnival. Carnival is a time for women to move freely, dance, and be uninhibited without fear of violence. This is how it should be. Audre Lorde once said: “For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered. It is this real connection, which is so feared by a patriarchal world.” During Trinidad Carnival, we celebrated the abolition of slavery, but we still need to end gender-based violence. Women are not free to exist without gender-based violence, unequal pay, or external control over their reproductive decision-making power.
Why did I choose Trinidad & Tobago? Well, Trinidad Carnival is a celebration of Black liberation. The Black liberation movement in Trinidad & Tobago began in 1970 and mirrored the uprisings led by Angela Davis, Kwame Ture and Marcus Garvey happening across the US. I’ve always believed the Black civil rights movement in the US was a direct catalyst for movements across the continent and the Caribbean. Both the Black Civil Rights movement in Trinidad & Tobago and the US ignored the intersectional nature of Black women’s issues regarding labor, reproductive rights, and gender-based violence.
We’re expected to be “race-first,” but I disagree. #SayHerName is a necessary movement because of the lack of coverage Black women who are killed by police brutality receive. Intimate partner violence is the #1 killer of Black women. Am I supposed to ignore that to further the rights of Black men? These are the same people who believe feminism is destroying the Black liberation movement. No, femicide, homophobia, and transphobia are destroying the Black liberation movement. Communities reenact violence which is why Black men do what the police do to them, to us.
To be continued…