Wed | Mar 22, 2017

Lorenzo Smith | Tambourine Army and radical advocacy - are we ready for it?

Published:Sunday | March 19, 2017 | 3:00 AM
Even these girls have stepped forward to signal their support for the Tambourine Army movement.
Entertainer Tanya Stephens (left) and Shelly-Ann Weeks, newspaper columnist, at a Tambourine Army event recently.
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Over the past two weeks or so, there has been much criticism, scepticism and general lack of understanding about the aims and objectives of the #TambourineArmy. Much of this lack of understanding was displayed on social media, particularly Twitter.

Twitter is, ironically, the same space where several members would voice their displeasure with an issue and would go as far as to call for a revolution. But do we understand the trappings of a revolution, or better, are we ready for it?

It is clear that the #TambourineArmy understands and is ready to lead the revolution (however arguable this may be) a revolution for social change, particularly gender-based violence.

So what is the #TambourineArmy? The Army states, as per its Facebook page, that it is a radical social-justice movement committed to uprooting the scourge of sexual violence and safeguarding the rights of women and girls. A close examination of that statement proves that the Army is not your ordinary diplomatic sit-and-talk advocacy group. It is clear that the Army is all about disturbing the status quo.

Let's examine the American civil-rights movement. In the civil-rights movement, there were pacifist, or non-violent activists, and in the latter part, the movement was introduced to radical advocacy through the likes of Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael.

When Malcolm X, and, more so, the Black Power movement came on the scene, they were chastised by members of the old guard. They were considered too radical. The old guard thought Malcolm and the Black Power movement would erase the 'gains' made by Martin Luther King Jr et al. The truth is, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), of which Carmichael was a member, became disillusioned with the integrationist approach.

It must be noted that the supporters of King Jr, namely, the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, were considered conservatives. Some argue that they were playing into the hands of the government at the time. MLK was considered a puppet of John F. Kennedy. The young people at time were upset with the 'diplomacy', upset with the talks, and wanted to shake things up (literally!).

People like Carmichael moved from conservative activism to a more radical one. This movement was more attractive to the youth at the time, as they wanted change and they wanted it immediately. Malcolm drove fear into the whites. He was different from the mainstream civil rights leaders. He opposed a non-violent approach and asked, "How could you have a revolution by turning the other cheek?" Malcolm, like Carmichael, wasn't liked by the old guard. This type of in-your-face advocacy was new to them; this type of advocacy apologised to no one.

It is uncanny how we romanticise protests/marches and radicalism, yet when we are confronted with some sort of radicalism, protest and or march we question its utility. The#TambourineArmy, in my view, is a shift in advocacy certainly one that we are not accustomed to. It's a shift that is making noise and causing the usually quiet to be uncomfortable (which is what advocacy needs to do (sometimes?). A shift that is causing us to look into ourselves.

The #TambourineArmy is forcing us to challenge our idiosyncrasies. Radicalism is not pleasant; it will step on many toes. It will shake us at our core. It's not for the faint of heart, and, yes, the conservatives will oppose.

Jaevion Nelson suggests in his article "Be Bold for Change - A revolution is coming that we need" (Gleaner, March 14, 2017) that this revolution is led by fiercely courageous women who are not burdened by years of pushing for greater gender parity and who are unapologetic about what they stand for and represent. This is a revolution that will get people to understand that there is, in fact, a problem.

The Tambourine Army best represents that kind of rebirth and renewal, particularly around the issues of rape, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls.

Like Carmichael, the Army has been traumatised by incidents of rape and domestic violence, particularly towards our women and girls. The Army is embittered and traumatised by the culture of cover-up. They are embittered and traumatised by the lack of safe spaces for women who are victims of gender-based violence, and as such, they are committed to uprooting the scourge from the social landscape of Jamaica.

Now when I examine the term 'uproot' it does not speak to diplomacy. It is aggressive, it is strong, and the Army is saying that we need a firm approach to the issues of rape and domestic violence.

Am I inviting violence? No, I'm simply saying that the strategies and tactics of old cannot be employed today. We have been using the same strategies and not achieving much success, while our women and children continue to suffer. The Army is saying that enough is enough!

Let us not be quick to dismiss radical advocacy and activism. Let us give the army a listening ear. #TambourineArmy forward! March!

- Lorenzo Smith is a history teacher at Hillel Academy with an avid interest in social justice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and lorenzsmitt@gmail.com.