The body of a young woman of Asian descent was found under a tree by the savannah on Ash Wednesday; this was the first report that we had of a murder for the carnival, the first inkling of something sinister had marred the festivities. We later were informed via the media sources the name of said victim, Asami Nagakiya, a Japanese tourist who frequented Trinidad's Carnival for a number of years, and an ambassador of sorts of our national instrument, the steel pan. She was an apparent lover of the instrument and it was reported that Ms. Nagakiya participated in several Panorama (steel pan competitions) with the pan side Silver Stars.
My first response was of course sadness for the unnecessary loss of life, and even more so, the loss of an individual who loved another culture so dearly, enough to travel yearly to celebrate it. It feels awful to know that someone from a culture I belong to brought harm and death to her. As terrible as this loss is, the comments made by the Mayor of the city (Port of Spain) in which she was murdered, added insult to injury. Mayor Tim Kee, suggested that somehow, lewd behavior of women with the assistance of men, contributed in some way to this horrendous event, and that ultimately, women are responsible for their safety.
Read links below for News Report of the Murder.
Let me just say now that when I first read his comments it really pissed me the fuck off. It seemed to me that he was implying that she brought this on herself with lewd behavior, that she put herself at risk. And unless he knows something we don't know, he is presuming that she behaved in a manner that was vulgar, and he is assuming that she participated in the certain routines he made reference to. I do not know what these routines are, and unlike him, I do not want to assume. Or maybe he knows more facts than we, the public, have been made aware of. However, based on the information available to me at this stage, I, like many have stated before me, think that no matter what she has on or how she is chooses to carry herself, it is not an excuse for anyone to kill her. She is not asking to be murdered because of her attire or her choice of dance, and as such, blaming the victim is asinine. That's why we have the laws as they are, so that when caught, the perpetrator cannot simply use lewdness as a defense for heinous actions or her clothing.
But the question for me lies with, could the risk of this happening be lowered, and could something have been done to prevent putting her or anyone else for that matter in such a terrible situation? The answer, personally, was a very complicated one, because I think of it in terms of, if she was my daughter or friend what advice would I have given her to keep her safe. I think the answer lies in the truth of how she was murdered, which we do not know yet. If she was killed by a stranger then, yes, maybe there could have been precautions taken like, stay with your crew, don't walk the Savannah by yourself at night etc. But if she were killed by someone she trusted, then how can you prevent such a thing? How can you see that coming?
Again that depends on previous incidents with that individual and if he or she showed any violent tendencies. Truth be told, no matter how safe you try to be, you are never really truly safe: you can have your home locked up and an alarm and you can still be robbed. But would you still take those precautions? Most likely yes, because you would want to lower the risk of it happening. I wish we lived in a utopia where people respected each other's property and bodies, where we respected one another's thoughts and ideas, where anyone could walk down the street naked and not be accosted, but let's face it, we don't. We don't live in an idealistic world. There are depraved characters among us that will steal, rape and kill just for the hell of it, because their brains are wired differently or some childhood abuse short circuited their mind.
In reference to the lewdness displayed by many individuals during the carnival season, both male and female, I am not the biggest fan of the extreme forms of it -- maybe in moderation. I am a moderate person by nature; however, I do not wish to impose my moderate limitations on another person, and for me, carnival is many things: color, diversity, art, creativity, dance, music and unequivocally, freedom. This is the freedom to be whatever and whoever I choose to be, dressing in whatever I feel makes me feel beautiful, dancing to the infectious beat of the drums and soca, whether it be wining up on a man or choosing to jump by myself and have a blast with my friends. Still, the way that that freedom is expressed does not give anyone the green light for murder or rape, as was insinuated by the mayor of Port of Spain.
To others, this freedom may look like something else of course, and I have observed that some young foreigners, especially the ones whose parents are Trinidadian but who were not born there, and get their understanding of carnival from Youtube videos, tend to assume carnival is primarily about scantily clad women who like to get drunk and wine down to the ground. They may think that all Trini women like to wine with any and everybody because this is what certain party brands promote: an unadulterated good time, with no sense of boundaries, and to some people, this is a good time, but it's really not an accurate, multifaceted depiction. Most times, if you see us getting on bad or wild, it's with someone we know, or deem attractive. It's not a free for all, and my ass is not there simply for your entertainment or use; it belongs to me, too, to do with as I see fit, and if you do get a bly and you are neither a partner or someone deemed attractive, most times, it's because we felt bad for you and didn't want to hurt your feelings.
I hope those party brands pay attention and are mindful to the one dimensional image of carnival they are perpetrating. It is not simply a festival of flesh and carnality; they have to be mindful of the energy that brings. These parties are parties where the crew has a good time, the drinks are good and we get a nice head, but we look out for each other to ensure our safety, we are there to make memories and enjoy each other's company, great vibes, and the unity of one people in all their diversity loving the same song or chipping in time to the music together. These parties are successful because at their root, there is friendship, togetherness and love for our fellow man. OK, maybe alcohol plays a part in it too, but like they say, Trinis know how to drink and party because we do it smartly. After every two drinks I drink water or eat something to soak up the alcohol, which keeps my head fairly good, and if I do get slushed, my friends know when to stop me, because nobody wants their fun spoiled because of a stupid drunk friend who stops everyone's fun. Tourists may not understand these little nuances that those of us that grew up there know. To the tourists visiting with ill preconceived notions, please know that there are several layers to any culture, and there is always an underbelly that is not seen but can be sinister, even deadly.