We are each entitled to our own opinions and values and I SHOULD start this blog with a disclaimer that there might be triggers; that there might be things I say that you will not accept - or even understand.
I want you to know that this is precisely what I started BGM for - to create a safe place where you can interact with others, sharing the same issues. If you are here and a member, I encourage you to use this as an avenue to reach out to someone you do not necessarily agree with (even if that’s me!). I hope that at the very most - you will compromise; and at the very least, you will each be able to see what makes their opinion different from your own.
That is the beauty of diversity.
That word, itself, is a descriptor of Melanesia, in a nutshell; beautifully vast - and linguistically, culturally, and physically diverse. For us in Solomon Islands, that ranges from our Micronesians and Polynesians with their fair complexion and long dark hair; to our Melanesian Malaitans with their blonde hair and melanated skin; to our dark skinned beauties of the Western Province.
We are a proud people with strong and diverse cultures, in familial societies that are extremely aware of the deep-rooted sense of community our cultures give us. We embraced that and continued on with life as we know it, even despite the COVID-19 outbreaks and the state of emergency being declared in Solomon Islands despite not having any actual COVID cases.
A few examples to illustrate what I mean by this? Sure...
Have a child, but unsure whether or not to bring them to get-togethers? Easy. There are more than enough willing hands (old and young) to take your child off you and keep them occupied with games and stories while you and the other adults chat.
Need a tree (or twelve), cut in your yard? Also easy. There is one Solomon Island culture that says, “If you want help from your village, you first plant a garden”. Counter-intuitive? Let’s see… When your garden is ready for harvest, you can now call your village to come help you as you have the food to feed them, in return. Modern twist to that? Host a BBQ or ‘motu’ (ground oven) and call the youngsters around to your house to lend a hand.
When you lose a loved one? I’m sorry for your loss, but in retrospect, think of the way your nuclear and extended families come out in full force to help you. They run the show feeding those who will come to pay their respects before and after the funeral; organising everything from the grave-site and funeral, to the daily workings of keeping [sometimes up to 100’s of] people fed, while we grieve together.
My husband has lost his father and many close relatives and for me, growing up in a nuclear family without the anchor of a community as we lived in town - this sense of community literally takes my breath away. I take immense pride in it and being a part of it has shaped me into a better person, I think.
This is why nothing has broken my heart more, than reading about what happened to the beautiful Jenelyn Kennedy (“Say her name!”) last weekend. We have all read it - every gruesome detail, in horror - but we all know it too well too. That is WHY it has hit us all particularly hard. That is why we want the perpetrator (he does not deserve to be remembered like she does), brought to justice.
How many of us have also had a relative, a friend, maybe even themselves; gone through the silent hell of domestic abuse? I think it’s safe to say we all know of it - there are too many.
To the men (and women) of PNG - your Solomon sisters and brothers, and the rest of the Pacific, are not only watching you. We are with you in this fight for #JusticeForJenelyn.
While the global #BlackLivesMatter movement increases in momentum, particularly in the wake of George Floyd’s deaths; while the snarky comments at the ‘Karens’ of this world are increasing in regularity across our social media feeds… while these are all very REAL and very tangible issues happening elsewhere, we should not discount what has also been happening in our societies.
Clarity and brevity first. This is not an All Lives Matter argument.
I am very aware this is starting to angle towards that diatribe, but hear me out.
This is ALSO a #BlackLivesMatter post, on the premise of our Pacific identities within the black community. What I do not want this to be mistaken for, is the passion that entails jumping onto the #BLM bandwagon, that burns every good intention we had because of that fanaticism… and all because #BLM is suddenly trending on social media.
That is not my intention. Just like I would never touch the TikTok app with a ten-foot pole, because I don’t jump onto every trend; I made a conscious decision to write this blog because I feel we oh so desperately need to address the harsh reality of our [mostly] patriarchal societies.
Someday, when I can take a break from my ‘mummying’, ‘blogging’, ‘wife-ing’, ‘working’ life - I want to go back to university and discover this in further detail.
I started BGM because I needed a creative outlet, not a political platform, but the tragedy that befell Jenelyn is not something I can walk past [in good conscience], without stating an opinion - or a call to action.
Because while the State of Emergency is happening in our countries (here in Solomon Islands and in PNG), I think the real SOE is this silent killer of domestic abuse, that is spreading its pervasive, insidious influence in our societies today.
I am young. I may not have been around long enough to experience firsthand the long-term effects of real developmental change. Other, much more weathered and savvy gender advocates, have said they have seen some small wins but gender largely remains at an uneasy status quo in the Pacific, despite these wins.
That may be true, but again I speak for myself, and I have seen some sparks of real change - for one: domestic violence and gender-based violence are now discussed openly and are not considered ‘taboo’ subjects.
Can that be said twenty years ago whenever we heard our neighbours arguing and a woman crying? I’m not sure because I would have been too young to understand - but still, I think change comes in increments: ripples, waves, then torrents, then an ocean.
I saw this in programs I managed, that were accepted from the outset by local stakeholders, driven from the start because of that buy-in - we can save that for another blog post.
And I am seeing this now from our wantoks in PNG, who are all fighting to bring a very troubled, angry young man to justice for a heinous crime.
This is the beginnings towards the crux of the problem. Why are our men angry? So angry, they will hurt their girlfriends and wives - the mothers of their children - the very portion of society largely incapable of matching them physically in an actual fight? Let’s re-visit this in Part II of this series .