An Encounter with Georgia Love: Giving Voice to the Other
I met Georgia Love over a year ago. Our meeting was neither dramatic nor out of the way, it was perhaps inevitable because somewhere in our past we started a journey that would have eventually led to our meeting and connection. Our first encounter was a Saturday morning leadership training programme with the young women of one of Jamaica’s two major political parties, I found that I was drawn to Georgia’s wisdom, she engaged the young women and the rest of us in the room with a certain kind of confidence, I couldn’t define it then but in our subsequent encounters I began to recognize that she was grounded in an authenticity and clarity that could have only come from a very strong belief in herself and her life’s purpose. Our encounters were many, over and over again we, met and shared ideas and experiences around issues related to women’s equality, empowerment and rights.
As fate would have it I was participating in yet another workshop with her as facilitator and it was this encounter that made me recognize that she would be my interview subject. So on the day that Jamaica had its first taste of the hurricane season for 2013 and a first puncture for my new car, I was determined that my planned encounter with Ms. Love would happen. A tyre change and a brief stop at the mechanic allowed me to travel from one end of Kingston to the next, we finally settled down to conversation over Cappuccino and Hot Chocolate. Strangely enough we had done this before, but there was no nostalgia to interrupt this conversation, I was interested in getting to know where the wisdom and confidence which I have come to associate with Georgia Love came from.
Our conversation evolved around finding voice, intergenerational bridging and interrupting the hetero-normativity of the Jamaican women’s movement. Georgia is the Training Coordinator of WMW (formerly Women’s Media Watch) a civil society organization committed to reducing gender-based violence and the promotion of gender equity and gender awareness in media and communications. I asked her how she got involved in the women’s movement in Jamaica and in a calm matter of fact way, she spoke of returning to Jamaica after a five (5) year stint at university in the United States and knowing that her entry into the world of work and a career could not be the typical nine to five. She knew she wanted to do more than just earn a living and needed to be involved in social justice kinds of engagement and having done Political Science at Vassar College with a strong focus on Women’s Studies, she found community and a place to belong in the women’s movement. She spent eight years as a volunteer in different organizations, learning the ‘ins and outs’ of gender work in Jamaica and being involved from different perspectives.
In quite candid manner, Georgia was able to define her place amongst that younger generation of women in advancing the women’s movement. She explained that in the last year and a half or so she has been focused on finding her own voice in the movement, so that even as she embraces the ‘next generation’ mantle she knows that the older generation must be reassured that the movement is “not going to look like it did, but it’s okay and that women’s organizing and gender justice is going to emerge in a different kind of way and it’s going to require us to negotiate power internally within the movement.” She pointed out that perhaps a failing of the movement is that it does not do enough self-examination, it tends to do a lot of the external, looking outside critique rather than a self-critique, for an examination of the dynamics on the inside. In a tentative but decisive voice she speaks of her own contribution to the changing face of the movement, which will continue to primarily be about interjecting ‘the other’ in the pervasive women’s rights dialogue. So she says “over the last year I have made a decision that I am not okay with the underlying hetero -normativity of the women’s movement so my contribution is connecting other kinds of organizing to the women’s movement; LGBT women, HIV infected women connecting their work into a bigger conversation on women’s equality and women’s empowerment.
I explored with Georgia her own connection and commitment to a feminist project which is identifiably Christian and heterosexual and which espouses a particular kind of morality and how she interjects her own identity into that ongoing conversation . She noted that there is a larger social conversation around diversity and sexuality which is changing the national mindset and is making it easier to negotiate these realities. She was careful to point out that the women who have done the work of the movement have always had their own personal politics around sexual orientation and diversity but they have not been able to integrate it into the larger movement which has consequently had a rather narrow field of focus. But while this is going on she says her own work continues in other spaces around art and culture, other spaces where issues of sexual identity are more easily worked out.
Our conversation explored other issues related to movement building and the need to learn lessons from other women, particularly a younger generation of women in Africa who are organizing and contributing to the movement in their own unique way. For Georgia then what she most wants to bring to movement building in Jamaica is a consciousness around questions of sustainability and relevance.
And even as she speaks of the contribution she is now making to the movement Georgia looks forward to her work in preparing another generation of young women to continue the work: “Young women ought to be looking at our movement and be saying that is where the brightest, buzziest, most fascinating women are; so that is where I want to be.”