THE ALICIA WALLACE COLUMN: Why now there is simply no excuse

How often do you think about the power you have? As a parent, employer, or citizen, you have a certain amount of power that people who are not in the same position do not. If you are a parent, you have an incredible amount of power over your children. You can decide where they will and will not go, what they wear, who they spend time with - the list goes on.

Those who view you as an authority will defer to you, hesitate to defy or contradict you and want to stay on your good side. This is one of the reasons sexual harassment is understood and given consideration in the workplace.

We know a person in authority may abuse their power and the victim may not be in a position to advocate for themselves. A policy must exist and the human resources department has to be prepared to deal with it. With this understanding, let us turn our attention to the case of the immigration officer who faced a rape charge.

Last week, The Tribune reported a senior Immigration Officer refused to acknowledge the inappropriate nature of his behaviour toward a former detainee who had been released into his custody. He argued he did not rape her and that they had consensual sex. Whether or not the woman agreed to sexual activity of any form, it was an abuse of power. Power and authority must be considered here.

How do your children respond when you tell them to do something completely out of the norm? How do your employees respond when directed to perform tasks outside of their job description? How do you respond when a person senior to you gives a directive?

Whether it is right or wrong, fair or unfair, you are sure to need a minute to decide what to do. You do not want to be disrespectful, but you do not want to be disrespected either.

What do you do when an authority figure makes respect a one-way street and can negatively impact your life in some way if you refuse them?

The officer was in a position of power. The woman was in a particularly vulnerable situation. It was improper for her to be in his exclusive custody and unacceptable for a state actor to put her in that position. What were her options in that situation? Was she able to freely give consent to a man who had her in his custody?

The excuse presented by the officer is not acceptable. If he can behave this way against a person in his custody it does not bode well for any of us.


Jodi Minnis’ art exhibition. Photo: Terrel W Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

Enjoying a happy change of plans

Opportunity comes in many different ways and it is sometimes disguised as something else. On Saturday, my day did not go the way I expected. I had a list of things to do and everything was thrown off by one change. I wanted to spend a few hours working on a project, but my workspace was unavailable due to an error that has since been resolved. It meant I had to make a few schedule changes, but also created space for me to do something else.

Jodi Minnis — a young Bahamian artist exploring gender, race and culture through multimedia — had a 24-hour drawing performance at Popop Studios. I had planned to “show my face” for a few minutes after work, but since it had started at 9am, I decided to go during my new “free time” slot. It was a good decision. I met a few people there, and during the three hours I ended up spending, I was able to reconnect with more people I had not seen in a while.

Jodi worked through the entire 24 hours without food or sleep, stopping only for a few minutes between pieces. I arrived during a break of less than five minutes and was there for the next one which I’m sure was even shorter. During the event, Jodi completed eight new charcoal drawings, and they were on display for the Sunday evening opening. If you missed it the first time, I heard there may be another opportunity coming up, so look out for it.

Jodi’s performance highlighted and reminded me of a few important things. First, it was an exercise of discipline. She decided that she wanted to take 24 hours to do the work. She removed almost every distraction, even in the forms of nutrition and rest. Every minute counted, so she gave herself no more time than she needed for the necessary functions to sustain life.

Second, it made clear the importance and purpose of community. In the time I spent there, numerous artists stopped in to watch Jodi work, share photos and videos on social media, encourage her and offer to bring back anything she may have needed. Painters, photographers, fashion designers and writers showed up.

Third, it was a demonstration of turning inspiration into something fresh while acknowledging the origin. In her event description, Jodi explained that hers was not the first of this kind. Similar events had taken place and Popop Studios had been used in similar ways before. Hers may have looked and felt different, but the 24 hour drawing performance was one event in a line of events that made the artist’s work — including the creation of the work — public.

Fourth, I thought about the vulnerability that comes with being watched. We all know that feeling of someone closely monitoring as we make a phone call, assist a customer, prepare a meal or navigate traffic. How much more intense is it to be watched — with curiosity or criticism — for a full day as you make decisions, begin, change your mind, make mistakes, correct mistakes, look at your work, think about it and keep going?

I appreciated the opportunity to watch Jodi work. I’ve only started paying attention to the art scene over the past ten years, but I have always wondered how. How do they do it? How do they come up with the ideas? How do they know where to start? How do they know they can? How long does it take? Saturday did not answer all of my questions, but it fuelled my curiosity even more.

I have the utmost respect for artists and their work, and I’m sure no two artists have identical processes. I enjoyed being able to see a clean slate be worked and reworked to become what the artist intended. I do not know if I would ever expose myself in the same way, but it seems like a good exercise for building community, expanding the comfort zone and creating intimacy between the work and those who consume it, whether or not by purchase.

For a full report and pictrue special, see Weekend in Friday’s Tribune.


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