Tag Archives: Sword Awards

NY TIMES Book Review – This Child Will Be Great, by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Madame President

Published: May 15, 2009
In November 2005, Liberian women strapped their babies on their backs and flocked to voting tables all across their war-racked country to elect Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa’s first female president. It was a seminal moment in the political history of not just Liberia but the entire continent, where patriarchal rule has long dominated, leaving African women on the sidelines to fetch water, carry logs, tend farms, sell market wares and bear the children of their rapists, while their menfolk launched one pointless war after another.

Times Topics: Liberia

Now comes “This Child Will Be Great,” a memoir by Johnson Sirleaf, the heiress to this line of long-suffering yet rock-strong women. Her father was a lawyer, a member of the Gola tribe who — as part of a common practice in Liberia — had been reared by one of the elite families descended from the freed American slaves who settled the country in the early 19th century. Her mother was the mixed-race daughter of a German trader who abandoned his Liberian wife and child, and was never heard from again.

In the complex spaghetti of Liberian society, Johnson Sirleaf was considered by outsiders to be from the elite class. She attended one of the country’s best private schools, moved freely within the upper echelons of its social strata, reported religiously to church on Sundays and traveled to America for college. But her native Liberian parentage meant that she also knew the other side of life, the side where a vast majority of Liberians lived for the 150 years before the 1980 military coup that violently splintered the country, ending the rule of the American-Liberian class, and eventually led to 13 years of civil war.

Johnson Sirleaf tells the story of an old man who, within days of her birth, came to visit to pay his respects. The man looked at the baby and turned to her mother “with a strange expression,” telling her, “This child shall be great.” Johnson Sirleaf refers to the anecdote elsewhere in the book, usually with irony; her family would wryly remind her of it when, for instance, she was trapped in a physically abusive marriage, or when she fell into the latrine, or when she was locked up in prison by one of the various madmen who ran Liberia, with no idea whether she would be executed, raped or released.

This is the incredible story of a woman who spent her life talking tough to the lunatics surrounding her. It is an accessible walk through contemporary Liberian history, told by someone who was somehow always in the center of the political storm; during the 1980 coup, Johnson Sirleaf, as the country’s minister of finance, was spared, while 13 colleagues were executed on the beach. After another coup attempt — this one aimed at the military strongman Samuel Doe — Johnson Sirleaf was taken prisoner and threatened with execution by the paranoid Doe. When Charles Taylor invaded Liberia in 1989, Johnson Sirleaf met in the bush with this wide-eyed guerrilla, determining for herself, she says, that he was “not at all grounded in the very real consequences of the path upon which he had embarked.”

“This Child Will Be Great” will most likely not appeal to every­one. Johnson Sirleaf, whom I have interviewed, refrains from the sort of emotional detail that might allow her life’s story to resonate with readers uninterested in the “who’s up, who’s down” scales of Liberian political parties. She throws a lot of abbreviations out there, and even Liberians may have trouble with some of them.

But Johnson Sirleaf admirably conveys the hopelessness of the everyday Liberian who still worships — futilely, it turns out — the United States, waiting for the day when America sweeps in to rescue a country founded by Americans. That day never comes, as “This Child Will Be Great” demonstrates again and again. But perhaps, in electing this no-nonsense, practical technocrat as the first woman to be their president, Liberians are finally ready to make a stab at trying to rescue themselves.

Helene Cooper, the White House correspondent for The Times, is the author of “The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood.”  via nytimes.com

This goes in the must read must post Woman Warrior collection!

Remember the Mirabal Sisters – Day 1 of 16 Days of Activism

Three Mirabal sisters, political activists from the Dominican Republic, “The Unforgettable Butterflies” were assassinated on November 25th, 1960 on the orders of Rafael Trujillo, then leader of the Republic.

16 Days of Activism is a period of global campaigning during which thousands of people and organisations all over the world take a stand against gender-based violence. The period commences on 25 November with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on 10 December, World Human Rights Day. On 25 November we remember the three Mirabal sisters, political activists from the Dominican Republic who were assassinated on that day in 1960.

The 16 Days event, now in its 18th year, was started by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership. The organisation choose the campaign’s beginning and end dates – 25 November and 10 December, Human Rights Day – to highlight that violence against women is a human rights violation.

Scores of diverse groups and individuals – including Amnesty International – now take part in 16 Days, together calling for an end to all types of violence against women. Each year they organise events in more than 130 countries across the globe, including demonstrations, conferences, exhibitions and performances.

This year, Amnesty is calling on people to take action by contacting your local MP and urging her/him to push for sustained and meaningful Government commitment to a National Plan of Action to eliminat

Stop the Violence – Women Speak Out

“If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention!” is my favorite feminist t-shirt (outside of always thinking outside the box), so I don’t know why I’m so shocked at the domestic violence figures recently released. But I am, because it is shocking.

Approx half of ALL homicides in Australia are women murdered at the hands of near and dear ones. It’s apparently hard to get the figures because not all near and dear are married and sometimes death isn’t immediate and if the perpetrator kills themselves then it doesn’t count… statistically that is.

In Memory of Evelina Gavrilovic
Photo and Quote from Sydney Morning Herald article by Ruth Pollard
Symbol of protest … after Evelina Gavrilovic died activists against domestic violence put red roses on the Parliament House fence.

“Our key concern is that the increased number that we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg and that there are a lot more women dying in domestic violence-related fatalities than what we know about,” said Betty Green, the co-ordinator of the NSW Domestic Violence Coalition.
Despite education campaigns, there were still significant misunderstandings about domestic violence in the community and in key services such as police, leading many to miss clear danger signs women and children were at extreme risk, she warned.
“Women do not die by accident, they don’t die because of a mistake, they die because of a culmination of a repeated pattern of violent behaviour,” she said. “There is no passion, there is no love in a domestic violence fatality. It is really, really important that we name it for what it is – in most cases it is premeditated, it is anger, it is revenge and it is the ultimate act of control.”

from Shameful Secret of Our Family Murder Epidemic, SMH by Ruth Pollard

A review of the response to domestic violence by various agencies has been successful in implementing changes which reduce the death toll significantly. Victoria is the first state in Australia to establish a review although the NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, recommended the establishment of a domestic violence review team in 2006.

The NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, first recommended the establishment of a domestic violence review team in 2006, after reviewing police practice in response to domestic violence. Since then dozens more women and children have died, and NSW is no closer to finding out why.
“We can see that looking at … the way families and individuals interact with a range of different government departments and services providers … can give you the benefit, certainly in hindsight, of seeing what you could have done differently,” Mr Barbour said.
“By trying to identify factors that continually crop up where you see fatalities in a domestic situation will help identify risks and allow you to intervene in a relationship earlier, with the obvious benefit of preventing a fatality.”
The review would also help agencies to improve their capacity to respond to potentially fatal situations, he said.

Again an excerpt from another article in SMH by Ruth Pollard

Go Ruth Pollard! 3 SWORD AWARD!

Only this is serious folks. What can we do to prevent women and children dying in NSW? Petition the Hon Verity Firth MP, Minister for Women and chair of The Premier’s Council on Preventing Violence Against Women. Only recently set up and still finding its feet mind!

Donate to the NSW Women’s Refuge Movement directly. And lobby your Federal Minister for catch up funding – more information and letter templates here!

Finally, celebrate 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence! from November 25th to December 10th. I’m totally on board this one! Now, how to celebrate uniquely but … ninjaly.

3 Swords for Stephanie Li?

A masterful performance at Sydney Opera House on Sunday from a 10 year old. Stephanie played with an emotional light and shade usually considered beyond her years.

Much was said on the day of Dr Suzuki’s philosophies and many stories were shared about learning with him. I think he could well be considered the greatest educational philosopher of the 20th century.

Foremost was his feeling that music was simply the expression of the development of a beautiful soul. Many detractors of his music education method look at the great ability shown by the very young and decry Suzuki method as creating rote learnt hothoused musicians… child puppets like chinese gymnasts!

(that’s a whole nother debate i’ll have elsewhere but don’t think china is the only country (usa and australia!) or that gymnastics (hello swimming and diving!) the only sport that exploits children!!!)

Rather Dr Suzuki taught that feeling and listenting were essential and what I think is revolutionary is that he expected children to learn well by being asked to play well, not to play as a ‘child’.

He also felt that learning should be play because beautiful results required beautiful feelings.

Later that night, i watched the end of the First Australians series and think that Koike (Eddie) Mabo is another great educational philosopher and should be lauded for his legacy preserving a disappearing culture and revolutionising the education of torres strait islanders.

Dr Who’s Companions POST SEASON FINALE


Donna Noble: you are now 1 SWORD of awful. You had me going there. For a while, I was thinking 4 SWORDS… maybe this is it, even 5 !!!! then…

Catherine Tate: you have 4 SWORDS of awesome for your rivetingly versatile performance as Donna Noble. You were BATHETIC at the end and became horribly stupidly trivial leaving me in tears. You reminded me of Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Rose Tyler: I’d retract your SWORD AWARD for that horrible last scene, where you find true love with the part human doctor but then, it’s HIS fault. You know who!

Russell T Davies! Wow, I bet the swords have been out for you! I daren’t read the forums. I really love your writing but why can’t you stretch yourself a little bit. Go on and try out more different gender roles.

I guess The Doctor is so lovingly constructed as tragic father figure (western hero) that any other strong figure can not survive in the same series. That’s why I say, “Hey, Russell, try a woman next time! AS THE DOCTOR!

Macromantics and more early hiphop memories

That’s right! I’ve been meaning to listen to more Macromantics cause I like what I’ve heard so far! 2 SWORDS for Romy Hoffman aka Macromantics.

I also dig Sneaky Sound System.

Ladyhawke seems ok too, but overated already?

Anyone remember Sound Unlimited Posse? They were awesome in a kind of daggy way.

Salt-N-Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex in Sydney

Do you remember when? I was always hoping for just a little bit more from these women. But Salt-n-Pepa really were the best around at the start of the hip hop and rap era. There still haven’t been many other challengers. Isn’t that sad!

Speaking of other challengers, I’m way out of date but all I can think of are Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah and Lauryn Hill.

Anyway, I can’t quite bring myself to go along and relive the 80s to 90s but almost… Check out the show at the Enmore Theatre.

Don’t forget this was when AIDS was a very very dirty word! Now if only the debate included prostitution, these girls would get 3 SWORDS but as it is I’m going for 2 SWORDS.