Lesley-Ann Brown’s tribute is published in The Repeater Book of Heroism (2022). Her new memoir, Blackgirl on Mars, was published in February 2023. Both Blackgirl on Mars & Lesley-Ann’s other title Decolonial Daughter: Letters from a Black Woman to her European Son are on sale right now as a part of our International Women’s Day Sale!
Gillian Goddard is a woman who, in her own words, wears many hats. She knows a lot about subjects I have only been contemplating — land, plants, history, oppression and so much more. During my stay in Trinidad, I would come to have many conversations with Goddard. I find her approach to life refreshing. She is not caught up in all of the middle-class trappings that seem to be all around me. She seems deeply committed to social change, and by the fruits of her labour, it’s not all talk. Gillian Goddard is a brave activist who works in her community, a daring mother who refused to send her children to be institutionalised in a white supremacist school system, a woman who is applying solutions to local challenges, but most of all, she is a woman dedicated to her own growth and that of the community to which she belongs. For me, Gillian Goddard is more than a hero, she is a friend.
“Land is power, land is wealth, and, more importantly, land is about race and class. The relationship to land — who owns it, who works it and who cares for it — reflects obscene levels of inequality and legacies of colonialism and white supremacy in the United States, and also the world. Wealth accumulation always goes hand-in-hand with exploitation and dispossession.”
I’ve often wondered what my life would have looked like if my parents had not left the country of their birth, the twin- island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. If, rather than becoming immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, they had insisted on staying natives. But even that is a tenuous situation, as the descendants of enslaved Africans, indentured servants and subdued Caribs. What really is our land, our country, our nation, anyway? Nevertheless, it is the closest thing to home many of us have ever known.
What would my life have been like if they had passed down to me this citizenship, this right to claim nationhood of this former British colony (which was so much more even before that!), rather than give birth to me in a country foreign to them both and a new kind of empire? What if they had resisted the pull of modernity, first from rural to urban, then from motherland to imperial power; the draw from poverty to the (semi- )promise of becoming middle class (or appearing to be)? I am often left to lament the landlessness that further renders me, in my Black womanhood, so vulnerable.
An urbanite, born in Brooklyn, far from the country of my ancestors, I’ve often wondered what the land was like, the land that my ancestors once knew intimately and treated with a respect that is not allowed in our corporatized capitalist world. The land that some of them were forced to toil. But also, I know it wasn’t all like that. I have some faint recollection of the loving alliance that was definitely once forged between them and the earth. No one on this planet would still be here if any of our ancestors were as thoughtless as our culture now seems to be, inherited from Europe, no less.
I often try to re- imagine what the landscape was like before colonisation. I think of the damming of the rivers as a metaphor for the damming of our memories. My great-grandmother was Carib, and although I do not remember her name, I know she is from the village of Sangre Grande, which I will soon learn from Gillian Goddard, the person I’m about to meet, means “Big Blood” — it was the scene of the largest war between the Caribs and the Spanish.
What were the plants used for medicine, like the bush tea my grandmother praised, the fruits and vegetables I grew up with like dasheen, bodi, guava… ? It seems as if I know nothing about what is indigenous to this land and what was brought from far away.
It didn’t seem that anyone I knew in Trinidad had access to land either, and even those that appeared to farmed industrially, not organically and in a rehabilitory fashion that I intuited was necessary given the extent agriculture had been implemented, from cocoa plantations to the growing of sugarcane. From former classmates to family, all seemed to live in suburbs, many of them gated, and locked their car doors as they spoke about “crime in Trinidad bad!” So, it was with a heavy heart that I sat at the side of my grandparents’ home in Diamond Vale (that social experiment of concrete that seemed to harden our hearts towards our neighbours, eroding the spirit of communality and reciprocity that ensured our ancestors’ survival), watching the pandemonium of parrots fly towards the sun that descended behind the hills that hugged the valley in which I found myself. I had been there to bury my grandmother, whom I would never see again, and was in a country that I had inherited from her but that seemed so far outside my reach.
But this was all about to change a little, I hoped, as I took a yellow and white maxi taxi from Deygo (Diego Martin) into tong (town/Port-of-Spain) to meet Gillian Goddard. Finally, I thought, the ancestors had heard my pleas for some guidance in a country that, with every sound and smell, seemed to recall the presence of my grandmother. But it was also as foreign to me as any place could be, and bouts of alienation seemed to pounce upon me at regular intervals, reminding me that I could never get too comfortable. “Both/and” is a duality I learned from Keiko Kubo, a Japanese-American activist in Oakland, and I try to exercise it as much as I can.
It is the first time I am going to venture into town alone since leaving Trinidad as a teenager. I receive ample warnings from my family — Trinidad change, they tell me, it not the same. Horror stories of brutal crimes are repeated like American news cycles. But I know that I have to break out of the crippling fear that seems to imprison so many, like the metal bars that are installed over windows to keep burglars out, only seeming to cage me in. Imagine, an island that sometimes could be as beautiful as paradise, where the inhabitants are afraid to leave their concrete homes. This is the reality for many there.
But not everyone. When I arrive, I see the car almost immediately, parked at the side of the road, across the street from the Savannah, that giant expanse of green that I once walked along on school days, from Belmont into tong. I find Gillian Goddard, waiting in a beaten -up sedan that will take us both to the land. Once I’ve made my way to the car, I see it is full of various items that show an enterprising spirit: gardening tools and gadgets that only a woman who uses her hands would ever need, a box full of empty mason jars, a pair of rubber boots. This is the first time that we are meeting in person, and I immediately feel at home in her presence. I slide into the passenger seat, feeling for the first time since I landed in Trinidad, some kind of ease. Today, we’ll be driving about an hour away from Port-of- Spain into the mountains of St. Joseph, Maracas. Finally, I will see the land, which funnily enough is always hugging my vision, the vast expanse of the northern range always there, always holding me, always calling to me. Goddard’s eyes are intense, her skin a golden brown. Her smile is open and warm like the sun that shines on most days here.
It’s the first time I’m in Trinidad in over ten years, and I’m curious about what is happening in this twin-island nation. She seems to be a great person to ask. Historically, Trinidad and Tobago, like many of the other islands in the Caribbean, was once inhabited by the Indigenous of this region — the Caribs and the Arawaks. The end of their world would seem to occur with the arrival of the Spanish. Passed around like women in the patriarchy, the islands shifted between colonial European hands. It was Trinidad and Tobago’s fate to be British subjects for extraction — from the forced labour of enslaved Africans and their descendants, to the rebranding of this system called “indentureship” under the recommendation of a sugar plantation owner in Guiana, John Gladstone, whose last name, ironically enough, my East Indian grandfather bore as his middle name.
In a way, the violence of plantation life can still be felt on the island, from what many perceive and interpret as a sort of lawlessness, the archaic prison that I walked past every day on Frederick Street, and, even as in my grandfather’s case, the carrying of foreign names that seem as out-of-place here as an Enid Blyton book (which is still read here in this mostly Black country). Fast forward and Trinidad and Tobago develops a pretty robust economy thanks to another form of extraction: crude oil. Unlike so many other Caribbean nations, Trinidad and Tobago has managed to sustain a relatively large middle class. Upward mobility is available to some, usually among certain skin tones, although not exclusively so, and the overwhelmingly poor demographics seem to still be the descendants of enslaved Africans and indentured Indians. This country hasn’t been buffered from many of the symptoms of late-stage capitalism, however, especially how it pertains to Black and Indigenous communities. As we drive by colourful street stands, and vast fields of green, with periods of traffic congestion, Gillian responds.
“I don’t think you can separate our situation here in Trinidad from what’s happening globally. Maybe there was a time in history that you could look at parts of the world and their situation might be much more different from each other. But it’s not like that now.” She goes on to tell me about the evidence that there have been people living in both Trinidad and Tobago for thousands of years. Goddard drives expertly through the congestion of traffic that a country that has more cars than people inadvertently produces. She tells me about the pottery she often finds on the land she and a collective of others are currently rehabilitating, and that the pieces are hundreds of years old. According to Goddard, these early inhabitants had probably moved up from South America, expanding into the Caribbean both permanently and temporarily. But the difference between them and us, Goddard maintains, is that “Indigenous people are not dumb. They developed thinking over hundreds of thousands of years. They had time to play and to figure it out. Then they make that into a culture. And there are certain behaviours that help that culture to be able to sustain itself in that land base and with neighbouring cultures. And so, people make decisions based on this. But right now, what we’re doing is not culture-building.” Part of this knowledge/culture they exercised, she says, was not keeping permanent, densely populated land base settlements.
But, Goddard continues, this is something we are not practicing now. “These decisions that we make in our culture have absolutely nothing to do with the needs and limitations of our land base. We are making decision after decision in a vacuum and our feedback loop is coming from other humans living in civilization instead of the land which is such an absolutely unintelligent way to have a feedback loop.”
And Goddard loves feedback loops. “I think about it all the time. If I do something, I want the feedback to come back to me really, really fast. I want to feel it. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I don’t use things to stop feeling the feedback loop. I try to feel it. So, if I do something in the morning, I want to feel the flow of it, I want to feel if it’s making sense.”
Our bodies, Goddard says, are the most sophisticated instruments that can be used to tune us into these feedback loops. “Our bodies give us information all the time, but you have to be in a state to hear it, to feel it. If there’s too much going on or if we have had the skill of listening to our bodies overridden by authoritarian figures such as parents, teachers, political systems, cultural norms; then we start to lose our ability to tune into the intelligence of our own bodies. This is what schools do, for example. It teaches us to not listen to our own bodies…”
CIVILIZATION IS NOT SCIENCE-BASED
“You could call it what you want to call it, but it’s not science. Science is something that actually looks at evidence and then makes conclusions based on evidence, of processes that are naturally happening.” According to Goddard, the controlled processes that our culture does in the name of science, including treating animals horribly in order to obtain data, “is the most unsophisticated and short-sighted form of science that you could ever find. You go and you look at terra preta soil in the Amazon rainforest, and how the Indigenous population were able to grow things there by creating fertility, by making biochar in their soil with burnt pottery that allowed them to plant in infertile areas.” They did this because the soil in the rainforest is not very fertile, so they created the conditions needed to support populations larger than those that could be supported by what was there naturally. Thousands of years later, says Goddard, the soil is still there, still fertile. Yet, she marvels, we look at them as lesser beings, lesser cultures, unsophisticated. “Just because you can’t read a language doesn’t mean the language isn’t saying something, and that’s fundamentally what it comes down to. That the people who had encounters with these groups, the people coming from Europe, were clueless. They didn’t and still don’t know how to interpret what’s going on. They actually thought forests were untouched when they came to North America. But the forests were tightly collaborated with. We have to be careful of the world ‘managed’ because that’s not really the way that culture operated.”
For Goddard, this has so much to do with human supremacy. She admits that she, too, is a human supremacist — that no one can really escape it in the West. “The level of stupidity of ignoring feedback loops has gotten us to the point where we actually have a planet where our stupidity has now created global problems of instability of temperature and rainfall, when we actually got this thing that was working fairly well.” She tells me about the people who once lived at the mouth of the Seattle River who didn’t have to be nomadic because there was so much food there. “They were eating things that we go to the most expensive restaurants to eat. And they were there munching down on all kinds of seafood. Many, many groups were doing that all over the place.” And if there was one thing the Europeans were right about, it is that in multiple documents from initial contact these people were described as “happy”. That is certainly something to think about.
Goddard, who home-schooled both her children, is not just about articulating what many would term controversial ideas. And if you’re the type to think of home -schooling as a dirty word, her oldest is faring quite well at a prestigious East Coast university. Goddard gets her hands, literally, in the dirt. Take, for example, the land that we’re on our way to see. A large part of the project is to re-establish the earth, to return it to its quality before the human cultivation of crops stripped it of its fertility. While there, I help her shovel the biochar that she and her community are in the process of producing so that it can be used to revitalise the earth.
Goddard returns to the subject of the consequences of losing the ability to use our bodies as the sophisticated instruments that they are built to be. “So, after a while, you stop knowing what nonsense sounds like, whether somebody is appropriate to be around, whether they are making good decisions, whether your body needs more food in it, whether it’s time to go to the bathroom, whether you’re feeling some sort of sexual desire, whether the weather means you have to move to another place. Our bodies are no longer available as an instrument. There is no instrument that we can have access to that is as sensitive, and full of ability to take in information, measure it, and give you the results, the feedback loop, as our body. It’s made for that. It’s sophisticated.” She goes on to say that our bodies are not binoculars, not a hearing aid, or even a temperature sensor. “It’s all of these things and more. We have those abilities inside of our body.” But when we have lost the skill to use our bodies in this way, “you’re making decisions based on ‘are you going to get a raise? Are you going to get in trouble? Is somebody going to like you?’ Those are all different ways to make decisions and those are not necessarily the best way. In that sense, the whole system is set up for us to ignore our bodies.”
Goddard has a chocolate company that offers support to communities to (re)learn the art of chocolate making, whilst Goddard and her crew also support them to have their own businesses. Building local economies is something that Goddard takes very seriously, and she is quick to remind me that it was in the markets in Africa that our foremothers traded in future markets, way before Wall Street was even conceived. “I love how capitalism has failed here in Trinidad,” she tells me, as she drives the car effortlessly through the bacchanalian city traffic. “It’s failure has forced us to have actual relationships with each other just for survival.” She goes on to explain that she rarely ever buys anything directly other than food. “That’s why I love living in what they call the ‘Third World’. We have an elaborate and inclusive way of doing business.”
There is something about the decaying vibe of Port-of-Spain that I find to be an honest reflection of the global economy. I’ve been traveling for a few months at this point, throughout the US mostly, and one of the things I noticed almost immediately was the vast volume of businesses being shuttered, even before the pandemic. There is something about the general neglect of Port-of-Spain, the souls left to wander and live on the streets, that says everything that we need to know about how colonisation continues to leave its mark on this island.
Goddard has also been passionately involved in organising local organic farmers to deliver fresh, organic and plastic-free food products to customers. When she realised that the challenge wasn’t only about making chocolate, but getting it to market, “We founded a group, which we call an NGO. We now have about ten communities collaborating throughout the Caribbean region, called the Alliance of Rural Communities. In Trinidad we offer a local organic produce box that we sell a couple of times a month.” Her projects include revitalising trades like cocoa farming and processing in rural villages throughout the Caribbean and ensuring that skills that were once lost are being used towards the benefit of the villagers, as opposed to their exploitation.
Her chocolate company is called Sun Eaters, which she says is a reference to the fact that everything we eat comes from the sun’s energy. Goddard’s foray into chocolate-making was not something she had planned. In fact, she says, it happened by accident. At the time, she and her partner were drying bananas to help a friend when she realised that Trinidad had been importing all of its cocoa products, including cocoa nibs. This was surprising for her to learn, especially since Trinidad was once home to multiple cocoa plantations. Seeing an opportunity, Goddard taught herself how to make cocoa nibs in order to supply the market. And since she now had nibs, it seemed natural to progress into making chocolate. This all happened, she says, within a six-month period. Once she started making chocolate, she and her partner realised how crazy the situation actually was.
The car has come to a stop at a busy intersection. There are street vendors hawking various wares — oranges that are green; newspapers with violent headlines; mangoes cut up in plastic bags ( chow ). The sun is at the apex of its heat and I am thankful that we at least have the benefit of the passing breeze when the car is in motion. Goddard beckons to a young lady who is selling oranges. She looks young, a teenager still, her posture tells the story of a dignity that cannot be stifled. Goddard exchanges some pleasantries as well as some brightly coloured bills for a bag of oranges. As the girl smiles in gratitude and makes her way back amongst the traffic, Goddard continues, “Can you imagine every day, having to come out here in the hot sun to try and scrape together some money? And her whole family is probably depending on her for that.” Goddard has a look in her eyes that seem to be smouldering with passion, which matches the way in which she sees things. The poor are not invisible to her, as they seem to be for so many others. “Our culture has a very abusive relationship to how we treat our poor,” she concludes, not unreasonably.
Back in the car, she continues to tell me the story of how she got into chocolate. “We thought that our friends who are farmers should be making chocolate instead of selling beans.” Realising that it was now a “lost knowledge”, she and her partner set out to teach others how to make chocolate. That was about four and a half years ago. All of this is perhaps why she confesses to me that she feels she is not a very focused person. But I have to disagree. I see the myriad projects and interests that she’s involved in as being very focused on the process of restoring balance to what the West has labelled the “ecosystem”, but which is the ancient, delicate and sacred relationship we have and have had with our Earth; the one that has been so violated by colonialism, capitalism and corporatization.
“A lot of my interest is in non- human forms of life and being an ally as a human. Right now, we’re in a situation where this thing we call civilization, which we think is such a beautiful and wonderful thing, that is so full of such great achievements, is actually destroying our planet. We have not paid attention to the price of civilization. We haven’t paid attention to the feedback loop. For me, in my internal language, which is the only one I could understand, I have a contrast between Indigeneity, which is rooted in your land-base, and civilization which is rooted in dense human communities.”
Goddard explains that over the years she’s read and explored on her own this idea of civilization and she’s discovered a pattern. “I’ve seen that these dense human communities are things that intelligent indigenous cultures would often have for short periods of time. The waste that a dense community produces and the needs that it has, for food, shelter, materials, are almost impossible to sustain over long periods of time.” In this way, she explains, a group might spend some time together, in a particular geographical space, for maximum a couple of hundred years. “Tops. But this ongoing idea, that we in the West have, that you could actually live for centuries in these dense communities where you’re growing nothing, you’re not providing your own water, you’re doing all these other things that somebody else has to do for you and the land base has to do for you.”
Her words seem particularly haunting to me now, as 2007 was the year that the UN estimated that, for the first time in history, there are more people living in urban areas than rural. “This idea is so arrogant, that we actually think that we can live in dense communities for hundreds of years. Have operas and cathedrals and all of these things…” She shakes her head in disbelief as the car is on an incline and makes its way up through the bush and up the hills.
The more Goddard read the more she realised that our ancestors knew much more than we do when it came to community and culture-building. “They would settle in different areas for periods of time and then move on. But this thing that we’re doing on and on and on and now we’re, like, addicted to it. We think that this is actually a rational way to live.” And this of course has consequences. “People who don’t have as much power are forced to go places,” like into cities, which further exacerbates the imbalance. “And now, we’re trying to build machines to replace the people in rural communities so we could keep extracting.”
It’s hard to believe that Gillian Goddard was on her way to leaving Trinidad, like so many others who are offered a way out. Like so many of us, she had found herself running from the very origin of her existence, to be a woman, to be Black and to be poor. “I had kind of convinced myself that I was middle-class. I screened out the things that contradicted that. That’s what we do here. We don’t look at the things, or don’t include them in our lives, that contradict this thing that we don’t want to be. And we only include the things that prove our point of who we are (or who we believe ourselves to be.) I had done that for a long time. I was in elite schools; I was around people who had more privilege.”
Until one day, when she was in the middle of a counselling session at her university and the counsellor looked at her and asked, “But you don’t have very much, do you? And that was the beginning of a very big tailspin. Clearly, I had not convinced people, at least this person, as much as I thought I had. When I realised that my education was taking me away from where I came from, that’s when I turned all my efforts to learning how I could best assist in strengthening poor, vulnerable Black women. My mother was poor and Black, her mother was poor and Black. This is my lineage and I own it.” She realised that, although she had been given privilege, she was not going to turn her back and walk away from her own community. She made a conscious decision to take her skills back to where she came from. It has not always been easy, Goddard admits.
“We convince ourselves that we are something other than our historical foundation. That was a very pivotal step for me in really coming back home, class wise. Not denying the fact that I had been given so -called privilege because of skin colour, hair texture, but being very clear who is my group. So, when I’m doing something, I’m not doing something to or for poor people, or to poor communities, even though I have taken on the accent and sometimes the posture of people with privilege. I’m very, very clear, that this is my community. This is who my people are. That was important.”
Finally, we arrive at the top of the mountain. When we get out of the car, the vast expanse of green that is below us is mesmerising. We passed a few houses on our way here, but it is far from being as congested as it tends to be in the city. There are trees and plants all around us, and as I take in the cool of the bush, Goddard reminds me, “Imagine, the whole of Trinidad used to be like this”.
“The thing is, even the people within my working-class community were rooting for me to get out, so after I started shifting back, it was very traumatic for people, my family members, or other people who saw getting out as your salvation. So, it wasn’t like people felt there was a choice, right? Like if you’re given the opportunity, to escape from this powerless situation of oppression, you should take it. And I remember once talking to some relatives about it.” She had confronted them that they hadn’t known what they had to give up for the newfound material wealth to be found through migrating to the States or wherever else opportunity seemed to beckon. “This is not a trade -off for nothing, all these myths, right, stories and religious books, about being given money, like the devil giving you money, that’s how I felt it was. You’re getting wealth and privilege, but you were losing something. So now, the thing is I have seen the range. I have been in situations where I have seen some of the wealthiest people in the world and I have been in some really financially deprived situations. So, I know it’s not this privileged life that you move to and suddenly it’s like all peaches. There are a lot of horrible things there, horrible values of selfishness and egotism. There is a lot of denial of your own humanity in order to survive in those worlds, and I’m just not prepared to do it. It’s not a trade-off for me at all at this point.” Goddard goes on to encourage me to look at how the most wealthy treat their children. “They send their children away — can you imagine what type of human beings that creates? That your parents don’t even want you around?!”
Through Gillian Goddard, I was able to meet the land — learn a bit about the possibilities for not only Trinidad and Tobago, but the entire planet. During my visit, students from secondary schools were taking to the streets, joining the global movement of children protesting the state of the environment, thanks to a civilization that, as Goddard would put it, has grown either unable or unwilling to listen to feedback loops. “We need new systems,” she tells me, as we take turns, turning the glowing coconut husks in very much the same way people who first came from South America perhaps once did in order to revitalize the land. While I was in Trinidad there was an influx of Venezuelans, fleeing god only knows, not too far from our shores. The tone in which they were written about, spoken about was horrifying. Especially if one is to consider that there has been movement between what we call “Venezuela” and “Trinidad” (and the rest of the islands for that matter) for ever. At the time, many Venezuelans at the detention centre were on a hunger strike to protest the conditions they were forced to live in. It was sombre reminder that it is not only white supremacy that is our enemy, but that there is something darker at play — and again, Goddard was helpful in helping me understand and even articulate this dynamic. “I like to use words like ‘oppressor role’ — it’s the role of a person who has the power in that interaction, or situation, and who also has power in the same system, so that they can get away with it.”
Goddard says that in her “change work”, i.e., the work that she has to personally engage in to be that difference, she finds it “extremely useful to notice where I take on the oppressor role. Whether it’s giving people the support needed to not be afraid of money — which is something you’ll often find in communities where the money is tight. Or giving people support in collaborating with each other, where, in a place with the plantation history we have here, of really heavy oppression, people were taught to rat on each other. So, it’s really hard for people to collaborate. Through all of that type of work, I found that it’s really helpful for me to look at how I behave in an oppressor role and to understand that.”
Goddard uses the example of her children to drive her point home. “I have two children living in my house, and I behave oppressively towards them in individual ways and in systemic ways. I think understanding how oppressors behave, it’s helped me to notice how hard it is to view yourself as an oppressor. How intertwined it is to a victim role. That being called out as an oppressor, as the person who is abusing power, there is also an automatic response of victim feeling. So, when my children call me out for talking to them in a certain tone of voice or choosing to live in a certain place where they don’t want to live, or not distributing enough money in the household, I feel hurt. I feel like I’m the victim. This helped me when I’m confronting people, when I’m saying to them, ‘hey, you’re behaving patriarchal, or you’re behaving like a white racist’, that I know that the first response from them is going to be the feeling that they are being blamed, victimized. ‘I’m a victim’, we think, because that’s what I do, when somebody calls me out for it, that’s my first reaction.”
Goddard shares with me her ideas about parenting, which I find refreshing. She says that the way we parent in our culture is to train our children to live in an oppressive society. “That’s the current world. The whole way that young people are brought up is really horrible. But we love our children. Now often when we can feel the love, which is always so funny to me, is when they’re sleeping. We look at them asleep and we feel such an outpouring of love for them. When they are not being children. We also love our parents after they’re dead. We absolutely love that. But we can’t handle them in real life. That’s fundamentally a big piece of what it comes down to. We, as civilization, are being taught to actually be necrophiliacs — that’s the word that I’ve been using. We like our chair, but we don’t like the tree. We choose the dead form over the living.”
“One of the groups that I learn a lot from about my activism is the Sami. They’re supposed to be white, but they’re treated like crap. It’s not just about whiteness, it’s about Indigeneity and biophilia — there’s a hatred of biophilic culture. If a culture is close to life, and is close to the rhythms of life, and treats life, learning, and animals, with respect, and moves around and is not tied into institutions, the land base, then we treat them badly. Currently, the Sami are being persecuted horribly, and the rate of suicide in the Sami communities is incredibly high.”
“When we say European, let’s talk about civilized Europeans. Let’s not lump the indigenous European, rare as they are, in the sentence. I feel the same way about humans. People say humans are like that; no, civilized humans are like that. This is not saying that Indigenous humans are to be worshipped like if there is no challenge in the way that they’re organized. But if you’re studying Indigenous people, please don’t give me any data about Indigenous people who have been contacted by civilization in any intense way. Those are amongst the most traumatized populations in the world, the loss of their biophilic culture and how these necrophiliacs are acting so insanely that they almost go mentally ill.”
In the end, however, Goddard is optimistic. I asked her about Afro-optimism — a word I had been playing around with for some time to counter “Afropessimism”. “I’m an optimist at heart, and some of that is growing up from a history of poverty, historical poverty. People survived, and they found ways to make it, so there must be some optimism that’s maybe even inherited. We keep expecting that we’re going to make it, or we keep trying to make it. I think that I trust DNA, and I trust life. Climate change is a feedback loop, so we’re actually getting a chance to check ourselves. If I were to say I had a religion, I would say it’s the religion of feedback loops. Imagine we are so lucky to have feedback loops. Could you imagine if you just do things and you never get any feedback? You would have no clue. So, strengthening feedback loops is really useful. Let’s give people the ability to really strengthen and act based on feedback loops.”
You can purchase Lesley-Ann Brown’s new book Blackgirl On Mars on our site, alongside her previous title Decolonial Daughter: Letters from a Black Woman to her European Son, which is on sale as part of our International Women’s Day sale.