Alison Hinds and Yvette Noel-Schure. Photo credit: The District
Alison Hinds is the soca queen and everyone at Sunday’s Women’s Empowerment Luncheon was exuberant to jump and wine once again to ‘Roll’, ‘Faluma’, ‘Bazodee’, ‘Raggamufffin’, “Pull up to my bumber, boy, and I-yie-yie!” to name a few as she reminded us how extensive, infectious, and intoxicating her discography is – the lawn at Government House has never seen such behaviour from so many floral-dressed (per the theme), and well-heeled ladies.
One of the well-heeled ladies.Photo credit: Aaliyah Rayne
Hinds’ singing was spontaneous and unexpected. She was there only to speak and she had, moving the crowd with her reflections on not only her career of firsts – including first soca queen, first woman to win road march in Barbados, first to fill stadiums across the Caribbean and the world – but her life. In its second year, the event, organized by former Carnival Queen Derri C. Browne, owner of The District (a boutique), offered attendees the opportunity to find fellowship in other women’s company, in their stories, in their bold and vulnerable telling of their stories. In the Bajan superstar’s case, this included how she came to move to Bim after a childhood in the UK and how she blossomed in the Caribbean sunshine, away from the racist shadow of that other world. She was as candid about separating from and reconciling with her dad as she was about how she got in to soca at all. She lifted the veil off of the world of soca to explore some of the challenges particular to women such as inappropriate touching and people writing her off after she married and gave birth to her daughter. She declared first in word and then in action that she isn’t nearly ready to hang it up yet.
Older by more than a decade, Singing Sandra of Trinidad, spoke of the feistiness she had to harness to plant her feet in the male dominated world of calypso. She spoke as well of the ways that women undermine each other; capping it all off with a message of self-love even and especially in the face of obstacles. Then she, who was scheduled to perform, rendered two songs including several audience participation encores of “they go keep their money, ah go keep my honey, and die with my dignity” – with local calypso queen GeeBee getting in on the action and impressing Sandra, who yielded the mic to her at one point.
Video by Aaliyah Rayne
Asher Otto (featured in a previous Creative Space) is an Antiguan island gem with strong pipes and presence worthy of bigger stages. Her set of original songs, including ‘Home’ and ‘Come for Me’, are “catchy” – as described by one young lady in attendance who was previously unfamiliar with Otto and Itchyfeet’s catalogue.
Noreen Philips, she of the show stopping fashion, gave a quick but not insignificant presentation that touched on her philanthropic efforts – specifically as concerned the Clare Vue Hospital, identified beneficiary of proceeds from the event.
Young clinical psychologist Tiffany Smith was impactful in her discussion re mental health issues in the region and our need to acknowledge it; a theme touched on in a very personal way by Yvette Noel-Schure, publicist to celebrities like Beyoncé. The native of Grenada, however, wasn’t there to talk up her star-studded roster but to open up about her mother’s mental health issues and her role as caregiver; and to emphasize the need for self-care – acknowledging you’re not okay, seeking therapeutic help, venting through writing or to a trusted friend, and insisting on personal time, for instance. Her own philanthropic efforts in the African country of Burundi where water is a scarce commodity and girls are especially vulnerable also proved inspiring.
On the point of acknowledging what’s wrong, award winning African American journalist Natasha Alford spoke of her go-go-go mentality even when battling autoimmune disease which finally forced her to stop and take care – an instructive testimony.
Also testifying was entrepreneur Melinda Fletcher, an Antigua-based, St. Lucia born and Barbados raised event planner and property manager. She spoke of the challenges of her single mother and of school becoming a safe haven for her, so much so that she felt cut adrift when her more privileged friends took off for other opportunities while she struggled to find her way. But she did. It was a reminder that it’s not where you start but where you’re going.
All consistent with the vibe of the event. Of course, we had to leave the oasis-like feeling of the event, and real life is what it is, but hopefully we can carry some message from the day and feel empowered as we step back in to the thick of it.
This sponsored post is part of the online edition of Antiguan and Barbudan writer and journalist Joanne C. Hillhouse’s culture-and-arts-focused CREATIVE SPACE series. Businesses are encouraged to support (i.e. advertise with) the series – boosting their brand while boosting local art and culture.