“What is a soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.” ~ Ray Charles.
The history of words and language in Jamaica is very complicated, having ingredients from many continents, and left to stew over many centuries. There is a saying in Jamaica, when describing someone who is outgoing, effervescent, lively, we say they are ‘too nuff’. This is a negative, a way of saying someone should tone themselves down, especially if it is a child. When you use the word ‘nuff’ to describe a quantity, you are not saying there is enough, you are saying there is plenty! Way more than enough. So of course, if a person is too nuff, they are ‘too show-off’; ‘extra’; or (no idea of the derivation here) ‘eggs-up’.
Many of us had personalities as children that we outgrew, or had to learn to diminish. Being polite, respectful, having manners often meant that spontaneous wit or lively commentary would be ‘shushed’, frowned upon. I suppose that comedians and actors persisted despite the worried looks of the older folk, perhaps getting encouragement from people other than their parents. When I was seven and learned that my family was relocating all the way across the world, from the UK to Jamaica, I decided I had to give a ‘farewell speech’ at the going away party. I don’t think any of my older siblings felt they needed to do anything of the sort. Perhaps I was ‘too nuff’!!
In the natural world, especially in the bird family, it is the male of the species who are allowed to show off their bright colors, to strut their stuff to catch the shy mate. The females, in their less brilliant hues act disinterested, coy, play hard-to-get. Perhaps this exists in the human world as well, women not wanting to outshine the men, waiting politely in the shadows for their turn. It is one of the wonderful things about living in the 20th and 21st centuries, that women have at last recognized that they need no one’s permission to shine, to speak out and speak up, dressing as outrageously as Grace Jones (if they wish), advocating for themselves even if they have suffered abuse at the hands of a man, like Tina Turner.
It is sad that when women do put themselves in the limelight, whether in politics or activism, they are often judged much more harshly than men. A man is confident; a woman arrogant. A man is strong; a woman shrill. A man has righteous rage; a woman is an angry @#$%&.
In this information age, where social media amplifies truths and untruths with equal force, the world can become very small. I recently heard an interview with a woman who for a brief moment was chair of a small committee created to disseminate ‘good’ information, to counter the kilos of disinformation that abounds. Whether it was about COVID or the election; the committee created fact-checked information to counter the untruths that circulated. In no time did a certain ‘news’ network zero in on the committee, accusing it of ‘censoring’ freedom of speech, and then turned their focus on the woman who chaired it, describing her as a ‘bimbo’; and a ‘disinformation czaress’.
During the interview she used the word ‘doxing’ which I later had to look up. Apparently it is the act of downloading documents (docs) that reveal crucial information about a person: their home address; family’s names, etc., etc. Thanks to this campaign she and her family received death threats, (deemed a credible risk), and she soon took herself off of social media, as the trolls would even go after anyone whose post she commented on. And she was pregnant at the time. I cannot imagine how you live a normal life under those circumstances.
A similar thing has happened to one of the Capitol policemen who has been visible since the January 6th insurrection. He has gone on multiple TV shows to talk about the aftermath, the mental and emotional trauma that many are still experiencing as they still can vividly relive the brutal attack. He is looking for accountability, not only for the people who carried out the attack, but also for those who fomented it and those who to this day act as if it was no big thing, just a protest that got a little rowdy.
We must be thankful for the people who are ‘too nuff’, who put themselves out there despite the verbal attacks and physical threats. They have to believe so strongly in their cause that they get up each day and fight on. In my extended family I have two relatives of the next generation who have put themselves out there in local politics, doing more than voting for what they believe in, they are in the fray, speaking on behalf of others. So brave.
But whether it is in politics, in activism, or just in the way we live in this world, we should not feel as if we have to hide our light for fear of what others think or say. For each light that shines gives permission to others to shine, and pretty soon the whole world is shining! There is much to be joyful about, much for us to celebrate and rejoice in. Just like the flamboyant poinciana who shows off her radiant reds against an iron grey bank of clouds, we too can shine our brightest when things appear to be at their darkest.
This weekend there are twin celebrations of my Jamaican high school taking place in New York and Atlanta. I know that everyone will be there in their brightest colors and being their most ‘eggs-up’ and ‘show-off’, living with abandon. Whether you shine your light by your outfit or your personality, I hope that you will feel compelled to be radiant, for you never know when ‘some poor fainting, struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save’.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!