Saturday | March 10, 2001
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Antoinette Haughton walks out of meeting


POPULAR RADIO talk show host Antoinette Haughton walked out of the regular weekly meeting of the Kiwanis Club of North St. Andrew on Thursday evening, where she was guest speaker on International Women's Day.

During the vote of thanks by Kiwanian Leon Anderson and before the presentation of a gift, she got up from the head table and left. He described her as a "phenomenal woman", quoting from the poem 'Phenomenal Woman' but she got offended.

The club's immediate past president, Leighton McKnight, followed her out of the room, apologising to his guest for any misunderstanding there might have been. But she seemed adamant about leaving the venue.

Miss Haughton told him that she felt a number of the members of the men-only club had been "ill-mannered and classless". She said the types of questions which came from the floor trivialised the serious issues about which she spoke.

For example, one member said while he acknowledged the problems about which she spoke, he thought she had exaggerated the extent of the problems. She reacted by saying that when she talked about the issues being widespread she meant that the problems existed at the upper, middle and lower class levels of the society.

When one member said that men had their set of problems to deal with as well, Miss Haughton retorted that men were having problems, because 60 per cent of households are headed by women and young men have no male role models in the home.

Mr. McKnight told The Gleaner that he had called Miss Haughton after the meeting and explained that the incident was a misunderstanding.

And the president of the club, Hugh Reid, told The Gleaner that he has drafted an apology to the guest speaker, which he will be delivering by hand.

He said Miss Haughton told Mr. McKnight that her message to the club was not treated with the seriousness that it deserved, because of the questions that were posed. In addition, she thought the vote of thanks was mimicking her efforts to address the serious problems of abuse and incest.

President Reid said: "I think the questions reflected more a lack of knowledge than insensitivity on the part of the members. I think it was a misunderstanding."

Miss Haughton could not be reached for comment as she was said to be off the island.

In her speech Miss Haughton said that the stories about incest and sexual abuse were "unimaginable, unless you had to deal with it up close and personal."

Domestic violence laws have been passed she said, but hastened to add that many police were not aware of the power they had, so many still refused to act.

She went on to say that some women had to choose between sleeping on the streets or at an abusive home because of our failure to provide safe places for women who experience domestic abuse.

"We are a barbaric nation if we sit and do nothing to help," she said.

She recited the poems, Phenomenal Woman and I Rise both by Maya Angelou.

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