March signals spring, a rebirth. March is celebrated as International Women’s Month. In March, we observe special days such as World Poetry Day, International Day of Happiness, World Water Day, International Forest Day, and World Wildlife Day. March allows for much celebration and reflection of our collective and intersectional work. This blog post aims to highlight the team behind The Breadfruit Collective and to share about the work each of us are involved in, both in our profession and personal lives. We believe that we do not live single-issue lives and the personal is always political. As young feminists, our work is deeply intertwined with our personal lives. We are often managing professional work with unpaid passion work that does not always get highlighted. For us, Women's History Month is not only celebrated on social media or with purple ribbons in the office; it is embodied through our work and in the spaces we take up daily.
Reflecting on her experience at veterinary school, team member Malika Singh shared that “This trimester I had the pleasure of learning seven courses worth of content. One piqued my interest, ‘Public Health/Epidemiology’, particularly a lecture titled ’Global Health’. The first slide of that lecture defines global health as “...issues, and concerns that transcend national boundaries…”. When I think of global health I think of The Breadfruit Collective. I think of one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Goals – climate change.
Climate change is a global threat, and veterinarians, as public health professionals, have a responsibility to contribute to climate change solutions.
The British Veterinary Association describes veterinary professionals as “sitting at the very intersection of human, animal and environmental health” and I could not have worded that any better. The BVA states that, as a result, veterinary professionals are positioned more than most to advocate for and influence climate change. Most of my days are spent studying for exam after exam, and it is incredibly easy to lose sight of the end goal, which is to be involved in active change. Being a part of TBC is a reminder that writing can be a positive tool for advocacy. It also teaches us to constantly reflect on our work in the larger context of the world.
Women are breaking norms and inspiring others every day, and this was clearly seen through the selection of Christine Samwaroo on the Caribbean Advisory Council for the Global Fund for Women. Being a part of this group of nine persons from across the Caribbean, Christine was able to meet Caribbean and intersectional feminists who she has been working with and admired for years. Christine will be working on reviewing grant proposals from across the Caribbean. This group of women will be responsible for shaping what grant proposals that lead with feminist lens and center climate action look like in the region.
In March, Christine completed her course work with The People’s Forum, a six week course on Revolutionary Feminism. In the class, Christine was able to explore Marxist principles and Guyanese born Walter Rodney’s teaching on the struggle for equality by the middle class across the world.
Although hesitant to speak at first because of the uncertainty of whether her truth would be honored, Christine accepted the invitation to be a part of the panel hosted by The Commonwealth Foundation entitled ‘Critical Conversations: A decade of the Commonwealth Charter: Young Leaders’ Dialogue’. Christine spoke on the importance of being truthful in addressing the harm that is still present in Caribbean countries as a result of colonization. She said that,
“As a young person living in Guyana, my task is not only to speak and mobilize efforts on the climate and gender crisis, but on creating spaces of healing our racial tensions that were birthed through colonization. My ancestors were taken in ships to work the land for European powers who continue to benefit, and now we are at the forefront of the climate crisis.”
Panelists were invited to share one big ask of the Commonwealth Charter in preparation for the next 10 years. Christine noted that she wanted the “Commonwealth institution to use the Charter in the coming decade to work with people on the ground to form a healthy, positive relationship with women, girls, and the environment. These issues are interconnected and intersectional.”
For The Breadfruit Collective, managing school work and passion work is seen as just that work that needs to get done. Iyana Alleyne shared that as her second semester as a law student comes to an end, she unsurprisingly has more questions than answers. Like most of her peers, she wanted to attend law school to “help people”. However, she had no idea what that would actually look like in practice. “It has been so rewarding to learn how to think like a lawyer and be an effective advocate for my client.” She shared that she has also experienced her fair share of disillusionment. The law is often a reflection of the many oppressive systems that shape our society. Iyana noted, “I sometimes feel like it might be futile to consider unraveling our existing paradigms in pursuit of a more just world. Still, at other times, especially when I’m listening to my peers,
"I have so much hope for the future. I want to learn how to use the law to become an effective climate advocate who takes into consideration the intersecting problems that contribute to the complex problem of climate change.”
I’m grateful for the space that TBC provides to help me figure out what that means for me.
Our identity is critical, honoring our ancestors, ourselves and our descendants is part of justice work. In March, Natalia was able to welcome spring by visiting her little village in Guyana. From her house steps, she would often glance into the backdam and have a clear view of the sugarcanes as they swayed with the breeze. She took this moment to be present. Present in the pain, triumph, and growth of Caribbean history. Natalia took this month to journal and redefine her community. Natalia's work is focused on strengthening the community in New York and Berbice by advocating against social injustice in her writing, partnering with like minded organizations and charities, and developing research. She noted that
“The strength of the community is not only those who speak up; it's also those who advocate in their own way. The family that wakes up before dawn to sell in the local market, the single mothers making sure their children are ready for school, and the supporters of TBC who are always sharing and reading new ways to improve their community.”
Natalia extended her gratitude to TBC for creating this community of collectivity that welcomes all.
As intersectional feminists our lives are deeply connected to our passion. Afeefa Richardson shares that sometimes it is easy to feel as though you have not accomplished much. The days go by slowly and before you know it a month has passed and you can barely remember what you did. March was like that for her. Knowing the current challenges we face daily with the climate crisis, there is a feeling of guilt that comes with inaction.
"However, action does not always have to be big events and public displays. ‘Behind the scenes’ work is equally important."
She works with the Caribbean Climate Network and 350.org to bring together people from across the Caribbean to take action and call for equitable adaptation measures to protect the region against the climate crisis. Finding ways to engage new members, sharing our stories with others, and taking time to plan campaigns are some of the things she worked on in March. These are all important actions for keeping our movement strong. She noted that she “sometimes forgets this and in those moments it is easy to feel as though I’m not doing enough.” March ended with lots of rest for Afeefa - albeit not by choice. Having caught the flu, it was a timely reminder that getting rest and taking care of ourselves are important aspects of our work.
Intersectional justice work means knowing when to speak up, when to write it down, when to reflect, when to connect with your community and when to rest. As Caribbean women doing this work, the spirit of International Women’s Day is felt everyday that we work towards equity for all people in the various spaces we take up. Though change may not happen overnight, it is necessary to be bold in our work and to honor all our identities. As we close the chapter on the month of March, it is a reminder to be proud of all that we are carrying and be prepared for what the rest of the year holds for us.