I am no computer systems geek. So, imagine my consternation on January 25th when I received an email from Yahoo Small Business regarding the latest change in their webhosting services. Since 2007, I have been using their Yahoo SiteBuilder to power my business website, rosalienebacchus.com. The monthly fee for their webhosting services is a good fit for my super-tight budget. With the assistance of Richard Wagner’s book, Yahoo! SiteBuilder for Dummies, I managed to create and maintain my own website. Whatever it lacked in professional appearance, my website attracted numerous visitors for its rich content for those interested in doing business with the United States and Brazil.
Over the years, I survived the disruption and frustration of each upgrade to the Yahoo SiteBuilder editor. That is all in the past now. Beginning this coming March 31, Yahoo will discontinue support for the system powering my website. While I still clung to the old and familiar, the company had moved on to newer website creation tools. They are putting the old editor to rest. My website will become an orphan.
After D-Day, I will no longer be able to edit or update my website. “You must create a new website,” Yahoo informed me. They provided me with two options: make a new business website myself or use a team of experts to build my website. Neither option appealed to me.
After nine days of resisting the inevitable, I emailed Yahoo Small Business enquiring about maintaining my domain name and links to the vast content on my soon-to-be-orphaned website. Both needless concerns: I have received no response to date.
With trepidation a week later, I clicked the link provided to learn more about creating my own website. Fear of the unfamiliar is a terrible master. I can do this, I assured myself. Each breakthrough was cause for celebration. As I got better at creating new pages, I even had fun with the creative process. I had to let go of my international trade content and focus on creating an author’s website. For over six years now, I no longer provide international trade services. The time to move on had long passed.
On February 26th, carefully following Yahoo’s information guide, I successfully published my website using the same domain: www.rosalienebacchus.com. My new author’s website is filled with photographs and empty spaces. The website Menu is also not fixed, which I find a nuisance. My son, an electronic games designer, explained that these features facilitate viewing on the smaller laptops and smart phones.
My Home Page features my journey to becoming a writer as well as a link to an interview with Guyanese-Canadian author Ken Puddicombe in which I share my writing process. I hope that the reviews and praise provided on the page promoting my debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, will entice more readers to buy my book. For those readers wishing to learn more, my website also offers “Behind the Scenes” information about my debut novel.
Snapshots and links to my Short Stories, published on the Guyana Journal website, are also available for free reading. I have yet to determine how I will archive my monthly featured poets on my Poetry Corner. I am still in the learning process. Creating the dropdown box for “Behind the Scenes” was a major achievement. Yay!
My Poetry Corner February 2021 features the poem “Islands” from the poetry collection, The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy, by the Caribbean poet and historian Edward Kamau Brathwaite (1930-2020). Born in Bridgetown, Barbados, into a middle-class family, he won a British scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1953 and gained a diploma in education the following year.
Brathwaite’s illusions of regarding himself as a British citizen were shattered on arrival in the Mother Country. He felt “rootless” and, like other British colonial West Indians of the time, he was ready to become an “Afro-Saxon.” This changed when he took a job as an Education Officer in Ghana, then the West African colony of the Gold Coast. For him, it was a spiritual homecoming. The eight years (1955 to 1962) that he spent travelling to villages across the country also expanded his thinking about history, culture, and ways of perceiving the world.
On returning to the Caribbean, he held teaching posts at the University of the West Indies, first in St. Lucia, and then in Kingston, Jamaica. While working in Jamaica, he began writing Rights of Passage, his first poetry collection, later published in 1967. Set in the Caribbean, the collection traces the movement of the black people’s dispossession of their African homeland, the sufferings of the Middle Passage and slavery, and struggle to find their footing in the new world and beyond. The people lament in “New World A-Comin’”:
It will be a long time before we see
this land again, these trees
again, drifting inland with the sound
of surf, smoke risingIt will be a long time before we see
these farms again, soft wet slow green
again: Aburi, Akwamu,
The psychological toll of being a Black woman and the difficulties this presents in reaching political consciousness and doing political work can never be underestimated. There is a very low value placed upon Black women’s psyches in this society, which is both racist and sexist. […] If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.
The year 2017 marked the fortieth anniversary of the Combahee River Collective Statement, which introduced to the world terms such as “interlocking oppression” and “identity politics.” The Combahee River Collective (CRC) was a radical Black feminist organization formed in 1974, growing out of the antiracist and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It was named after Harriet Tubman’s 1853 raid on the Combahee River in South Carolina that freed 750 enslaved people.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylorwrites on Black politics, social movements, and racial inequality in the United States. Her book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation won the 2016 Lannan Cultural Freedom Award for an Especially Notable Book. Her articles have been published in Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, Jacobin, New Politics, The Guardian, In These Times, Black Agenda Report, Ms., International Socialist Review, and other publications. Taylor is Assistant Professor in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University.
According to the NOAA National Climate Report 2020, issued on January 12, 2021, last year was the most active wildfire year on record across the West. In California, thousands of firefighters battled five of the six largest wildfires in our state’s history. Nearly 10,000 fires burned over 4.2 million acres. The August Complex fire alone burned over 1 million acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. In Colorado, three extensive wildfires, burning over 500,000 acres, also broke the state’s historical record.
For 2020, the average temperature of 54℉ (12.2℃) for the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) ranks as the fifth warmest year in the last 126 years on record. On August 16th, temperatures soared to 130℉ (54.4℃) in California’s Death Valley—the hottest CONUS temperature recorded in 2020. Most of the contiguous U.S. experienced above average temperatures. Ten states across the Southwest, Southeast, and East Coast had their second-warmest year on record.
East Coast residents also faced several record-breaking storm events. Thirty named storms formed in the Atlantic Ocean, breaking the record of 28 set in 2005. Tropical storms Cristobal, Marco, Laura, Delta, and Zeta made landfall in Louisiana, the most storms on record for any state in one year. Hurricane Laura generated a storm surge of over 17 feet (5.16 meters) above ground level, which would be the largest on record for Louisiana.
The Midwest was not spared. In August 2020, the region was hit by a historic derecho, a destructive thunderstorm complex. The derecho raced across the Central States, causing damages estimated at $11 billion, the costliest to hit the region in four decades.
Perhaps, like me, you have not yet experienced loss of property, livelihood, or a loved one due to some climate disaster. Yet, we the working people all suffer the consequences of the economic costs of these weather and climate disasters. America’s annual loss in 2020 exceeded $95 billion, the fourth highest cost on record. Twenty-two of these events caused losses amounting to more than $1 billion each, shattering yet another annual record of 16 events made in 2011 and 2017. The total cost of U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters over the last five years (2016-2020) exceeds a record $600 billion.
Unless we change the way we live and work, these weather and climate disaster events will continue to intensify and cripple our state and local economies, already under stress due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. On the upside, the lockdown and reduced economic activities in the U.S. and worldwide have led to a drop in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But, it is just a short-term reduction.
At the time of completing their Emissions Gap Report 2020, released on December 9, 2020, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that 126 countries, covering just 51 percent of global GHG emissions have net-zero goals that are formally adopted, announced, or under consideration. If the U.S. adopts a net-zero GHG target, as announced by the Biden Administration, the share would increase to 63 percent.
Apart from the USA, only ten other G20 members have set net-zero emission goals by 2050: Argentina, Canada, China (before 2060), European Union, France, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Based on pre-COVID-19 projections, only nine G20 members are on track to achieve their unconditional nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
Without a firm commitment to significantly reduce GHG emissions, as set out in the Paris Climate Agreement, we the people of Earth will face a temperature increase of at least 3℃ (37.4℉) by the end of this century.
As at October 2020, global COVID-19 fiscal spending continued to promote high-carbon economic production. In planning the recovery from COVID-19, governments worldwide have an opportunity to catalyze low-carbon lifestyle changes by disrupting entrenched practices. (Clearing forests to rear cattle for beef consumption comes to mind.) Based on UNEP’s consumption-based accounting, around two-thirds of global emissions are linked to private household activities. Moreover, the richest One Percent of the world’s population account for more than twice the combined share of emissions of the poorest 50 percent. The report further notes that our participation as members of civil society is essential to bring about wider changes in the social, cultural, political, and economic systems in which we live. We have to change our lifestyles if we are to bridge the emissions gap. (Emphasis is mine.)
Watch the UNEP’s video, “Emissions Gap: A Turning Point,” released on December 9, 2020 (duration 1:35 minutes):
Change is inevitable. More so when we set the change into motion. In 2020, COVID-19 forced us into lockdown mode, bringing the global economy to a standstill. In the USA, our inability as a nation to agree on a strategy to combat a highly contagious, mutating, deadly foe will cost us more lives. Our economic recovery will take longer. Meanwhile, time is running out on tackling a global climate crisis that is gathering force with each passing day. Staying safe in place may not be an option.
“It is the policy of my Administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security,” said President Biden.
In his Administration’s commitment to addressing the global climate crisis, he also confirmed the appointment of former Secretary of State John Kerry as America’s first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
Another first will be the establishment of the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Headed by the Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor, the Climate Policy Office will coordinate the domestic policy-making process and monitor its implementation nationwide. The National Climate Adviser will also chair the National Climate Task Force that will be comprised of twenty-one members from across federal agencies and departments. With the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, our youth—who were clamoring for urgent action before the pandemic drove them off the streets—will have the opportunity for training in conservation and climate resilience.
At last, a government-wide approach to addressing the climate crisis!
To achieve a sustainable clean energy economy and meet our commitment of net-zero carbon emissions by no later than 2050, our nation will need millions of construction, manufacturing, engineering, and skilled-trades workers to build new infrastructure.
President Biden noted: “Such jobs will bring opportunity to communities too often left behind—places that have suffered as a result of economic shifts and places that have suffered the most from persistent pollution, including low-income rural and urban communities, communities of color, and Native communities.”
It is my hope that the escalating evidence of Mother Nature’s fury will silence the voice of climate change deniers within the Biden Administration.
My Poetry Corner January 2021 features the poem “No Island Is an Island, & So Forth” from the poetry collection As One Fire Consumes Another (2019) by John Sibley Williams, an award-winning poet, educator, and literary agent. Born in 1978 in Massachusetts, Williams earned his bachelor’s degree at the University at Albany in New York in 2003. Then in 2005, he received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Rivier University in New Hampshire. He moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2009 where he earned a Master of Arts in Book Publishing from Portland State University. He lives in Portland with his partner and twin toddlers.
Williams’ poetry collection As One Fire Consumes Another comes at a critical time in American history with the empowerment of white supremacist and white nationalist groups. Framing his poems in column-like boxes, resembling coffins, the poet confronts the violent side of American history and bears witness as one fire consumes an unending series of fires in our homeland, on our southern border, and in distant lands. In an interview with Jeanne Huff of Idaho Press, Williams confessed that he struggled in exploring the extent of his “personal privilege as a white, CIS, able-bodied male whose labors and strains are so trifling compared to others.”
In the poem, “Everything Must Go,” a house is portrayed with ghost-white covering sheets and that new coffin smell. Its mossed gables are weighed down by a full century. Out-of-synch always with the dark drift of history, and hopeful that these are not self-repeating tragedies, the poet proposes that we must sell off what we fear owning. To remain silent is not atonement for our dark history.
We have become so numb to the cruelty we inflict on others with our unending wars that nothing stirs the / birds from our oak when we learn that six children were killed in Kabul, the poet observes in “When instinct matures into will.” The horizon sits / precisely where we left it. Fat with / faith. Fat, faithful, choosing what to / feel, feeling nothing.
Fire also rages in the homeland. The poem “A Gift of Violence,” in memory of the Charlottesville riots in August 2017, speaks of the racist hatred still alive across generations.
Memories of burning buildings raw
& righteous. A grandfather’s flames
passed down, undimmed. A full set
of knives in the drawer without time
to blunt from underuse. A city never
quite white enough. A city furiously
lit by misremembered histories…
Even Noah’s ark would not be big enough to un- / ruin, no flood more violent than our / own, the poet laments in “Dear Noah.” Like a ghost haunted by itself, / we move along old scars terrified of / what would happen if left to heal.
As a nation, we remain disunited and self-destructive. Call it by its true name: schism, the poet declares in “The Bones of Us.” Before we were a country of / burning buildings & protest & want, / we were the same. A shining city on / a shining hill raised on the silenced / bones of others.
In the featured poem, “No Island Is an Island, & So Forth,” the poet calls on white Americans to consider the role they all play in the hate and violence permeating our society. Holding on to illusions of bygone glories serve only to sever our body politic.
Sign your name to ruined Civil War
forts. Next time, use a Sharpie when
listing your demands to god. Instead
of touching forehead to ground as if
in supplication/ecstasy/grief, set fire
to the old battlefield & let the winds
unsever your strings to the past. In
dust & degrees, redraw boundaries.
This is what happened & this might
be what we let happen again…
When Williams penned these words, did he envisage white insurrectionists carrying the Confederate Flag while they stormed Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021? They fashioned their strings to the past into a Jim Crow-styled noose to hang our Vice President who, they believed, had sold out their cause to hold onto political power.
No island is an island; no body just a
body, & so forth. When the South
rises again, carry your father with the
rebel flag tattoo to the window to
watch the burning. Let the world
laugh at itself. Break from tradition.
To men who want & want & want,
admit you’ve tried so hard not to be
one of them.
Emboldened and incited by their leader in the White House, white supremacists and white nationalists among us have risen to prominence. To men who want & want & want there is no end to the burning. Fire consumes lives and livelihoods—black, brown, and white alike. No island is an island; no body just a / body, & so forth.
Only we can set ourselves free from the coffins, filled with hate and fear, that imprison our bodies and souls. Are we up to the task?
To read the complete featured poem, “No Island Is an Island, & So Forth,” and learn more about the work of the poet John Sibley Williams, go to my Poetry Corner January 2021.
America will not survive the big lie [that Trump had won the election] just because a liar is separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of media and a commitment to facts as a public good. The racism structured into every aspect of the coup attempt is a call to heed our own history. Serious attention to the past helps us to see risks but also suggests future possibility. We cannot be a democratic republic if we tell lies about race, big or small. Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it, neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and counting their votes.
Timothy Snyder is the Levin professor of history at Yale University and the author of Our Malady, On Tyranny, The Road to Unfreedom, Black Earth, and Bloodlands. He has received the literature award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hannah Arendt Prize, and the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding.
My Poetry Corner December 2020, featuring the poem “Poema de Natal” (Christmas Poem) by Brazilian poet and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980), is dedicated to those among us who have lost a loved one this year to COVID-19.
Born in the city of Rio de Janeiro, in Southeast Brazil, Vinicius de Moraes is the poet of love and passion. At twenty years old, he published his first book of poetry. Two years later, his second collection won Brazil’s National Poetry Award. He served as a diplomat during the period 1946 to 1969. His first diplomatic post was as Vice-Consul in Los Angeles (1946-1950) where he immersed himself in North American cinema and jazz.
His featured poem, “Christmas Poem,” written in 1946, appears unconnected with the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in Judea. Instead, as the title suggests, the poem is more like reflections on the passing year. The poet ponders over death and what is truly essential to our lives. Why such somber thoughts during the Christmas festivities? Had the sudden death of a great friend, the year before, unsettled his life? The loss of a loved one has a way of giving us a new perspective of human existence.
You give but little when you give of your possessions. / It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. // There are those who give little of the much which they have—and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. / And there are those who have little and give it all. / These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. // All you have shall some day be given; / Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.
Excerpt from “On Giving” from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, first published 1923, reprinted edition by Alfred A Knopf, New York, USA, 2005.
Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), a poet, philosopher, and artist, was born in Lebanon. At twelve years old, he migrated to the United States with his mother and siblings. The Prophet, written in English, is Gibran’s masterpiece and has become one of the beloved classics of our time. It is considered an expression of the deepest impulses of the human heart and mind.