Sunday, June 12, 2011

I was overwhelmed at the Pegasus

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 12 June 2011)

I write my Sunday columns on Friday mornings as my deadline is at noon on this day. This Friday morning I am up early (another jam packed day today) after the world premiere of the “Break Out” Documentary by Sukree Boodram at the Pegasus on Thursday night.

The documentary is Sukree’s story of her brave and silent struggle to survive domestic abuse and alcoholism amidst strict cultural and religious traditions.

Let me start off by saying that the event at the Pegasus blew my mind. We initially asked the staff at the hotel to set up seats for 250 people. However, as time grew close to the event it was obvious that we would need at least 300 seats and the Pegasus staff was kind enough to oblige.

The event was to start with a non-alcoholic cocktail hour at 5:30 pm and the program itself was to start at 6:30 pm. Yet at 4:30 pm the people started to fill the halls as they waited for the doors to open. By the time 5:30 rolled around the crowd had grown so thick it was difficult to navigate through it.

When we opened the doors, the attendees were nice enough to oblige us by stopping quickly and getting some of the food and drinks we had prepared for them, but their primary goal was obviously to find seats quickly – and they did. By 6:00 pm the huge Savannah Suite at the Pegasus was packed and more people continued to come. 

Again, the Pegasus staff found more chairs so no attendees had to stand during the entire event. Flabbergasted at the enthusiasm and size of the crowd, at 6:15 my colleagues and I looked at an audience that was completely seated and ready to get the show on the road, so we decided to go ahead and start the program.

I do not believe an official head count was taken, but I do know the room was entirely packed. Even the back walls were lined with chairs. Moreover, during the entire event, the attendees were engaged and responsive.

After the documentary ended, we opened the floor to questions and there were so many that we unfortunately could not get to all of them. The dialogue was real and heartfelt. The audience stayed for the entire event even though the documentary was lengthy and there were no music artists to entertain them.

My point is this; those who attended the world premiere at the Pegasus did not care about anything else except to address the issues of domestic violence. This was obviously their first and foremost concern.

Again, the event blew my mind because I am not sure that if we had held this same event a year ago that we would have seen this same type of crowd or the same kind of engagement and dialogue. The people of Guyana know full well that it is time to ‘Break the Silence and Say No to Violence’.
Moreover, we did not have only women in attendance. There were quite a few men, some of whom spoke up and declared that they are also victims or that indeed men are victims of domestic violence as well as women.

Our Break the Silence, Stop the Violence Team will continue to show the “Break Out” documentary and hold interactive sessions like the one at the Pegasus for the next week in other places in the nation.

Moreover, we intend to plan more events like this one in places that we have yet to be able to visit. One place I truly want to take this effort is to Essequibo because my husband’s family lived there for a period of time and because I have had domestic violence victims from that area contact me, asking for us to come.

I had one woman at the Pegasus tell me that she never goes out and does anything, but she knew she had to come to this event. She was a victim. There were many victims, some survivors and others who came to support the cause to end the violence so prevalent in society today.

My dear colleague, Varshnie Singh, often talks about how we need to look out for our sisters and brothers. She says as a community we need to care about each other and should not stand by as a sister or brother is being harmed.

I agree with her sentiments, but often feel as she is speaking that this is a futuristic notion and not something that really applies to this very violent present. However, the event at the Pegasus has proved my thinking wrong and proved Varshnie’s right.

There are many, many people who care about the plight of their sisters and brothers who are subjected to domestic violence. I saw the faces of those who care at the Pegasus. There were so very many who want to help in the effort to stop the violence.

After we wrapped up the event on Thursday night (we ran late because we were trying to get to all of the questions), the attendees still did not want to stop the dialogue. They came up in droves to the front and there were even more conversations about addressing domestic violence.

This is a dream come true for our Break the Silence, Stop the Violence Team. We could not have wished for more. In fact, in organising this event, it is apparent that I did not dream big enough from the start because I did not expect such a large and engaged crowd.

Moreover, I viewed this showing of Sukree’s documentary as a way to test the waters to see the response. Instead, Guyana has proven that it is ready to jump into the water head first to stop the violence.

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