Human Rights Activist Luci Hammans delivered a fiery speech at the local Black Lives Matter protest last Saturday that still has tongues wagging. The poet and theatre arts practitioner delivered a piece called Speaking From The Skin I Am, which dealt with racism, social injustice and a range of issues which resonated with those who were listening.
The 27-year-old, who is also an educator, spoke to an audience of close to 500 people who had marched from Kensington Oval to Independence Square.
And while some murmurs were heard when she first took to the stage, by the end of her delivery those mouths were singing a different tune.
That’s because Luci is a Bajan of mixed-race heritage. At first glance, one would easily say she is a “White girl”. However, during her interview with Bajan Vibes, Luci explained her heritage and why she needed to be a part of the protest.
“I believe in the power of protest. I believe in the power of rallying and assembling to address an issue. When I went to the first march and it was shut down, I went to David Denny and told him if you are doing anything again let me know. I’d like to be involved in whatever way.
“I was asked to give a speech by David Denny and immediately I was questioning: Why me? I am White, or at least I am White passing. My mother is a red skin Bajan woman, my grandfather was a Black man and my father is a White man. I am the lightest of my mother’s children, so it has always been an interesting thing for me in terms of what my identity is.” she said.
Luci, who is passionate about the arts, holds an Associate Degree in Theatre Arts from the Barbados Community College (BCC) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Performance from the Birmingham School of Acting, London.
The activist explained that her upbringing and home life played a vital role in making her the person she is today. She believes conversations about race need to be approached in a nuanced way, as she is of both races but also not 100 per cent of either.
“My parents made an active decision that both me and my younger brother would go to a public school instead of a private school. That active choice greatly impacted the kind of person that I am.”
Her family circle is large but immediately made up of her dad Clive Hammans, mum Marcia Ishmael-Hammans, brothers Christopher Rudder, Dominic Hammans and sister Nerys Rudder.
Luci is a founder of a company called Frenetic Arts which aims to be the leading spoken word organisation in Barbados. The writer wrote her first play in 2017. “Poetry gave me an outline and a way to address the social issues,” she said.
Of the piece she penned and delivered at the protest, she said she enlisted the help of a few friends, Levi King and Salama Patrick, to name a few, to ensure she was connecting and had covered all the major topics.
“I wrote the piece Friday and was back and forth with my friends in terms of getting the finished piece correct. I knew that one of the major criticisms of the march was that Bajans didn’t know why we needed to do this.
Luci admits she was nervous and was still questioning: why me? It was not until she spoke to her mentor Varia Williams that she finally felt settled.
“I got very scared about it. I got nervous. I again questioned why me. I thought there are far more capable Black women who could take the stage. I felt like it was important for us to keep female voices uplifted. I called my mentor and said to her, ‘I am not doing this’ and she said ‘why not?’ I said ‘because of my skin’. She said, ‘well, speak from the skin you are in.”
By the end of her six minutes on stage, Luci was reassured that the piece did what she intended. “The reception was overwhelming and very inspiring. I felt the change of mood before I went on stage to when I had finished. People came up to me and the feedback was very positive. Lots of women came up to me and said the speech touched them. Some even suggested that I enter Parliament.”
Speaking From The Skin I’m In covered a range of topics and Luci skilfully used Bajan dialect, sayings and nuances to get her message across.
“The piece deals with understanding the links between Barbados’ colonial history and US’ reality. What happened here laid the foundation. The slave trade that was created here historically, was taken to America to make the foundation for systemic racism that still exists there. Because Barbados is a Black majority country, overt racism against Blacks cannot exist in the same way it can in America.
“So it is about understanding what covert racism looks like. Covert racism looks like racial segregation and we acknowledge that not all White people can be racists but all White people can benefit from racism. A lot of Barbadians know this to be true.”
She continued: “I spoke also about police brutality and the judicial system dealing with the disparity between punishments. I highlighted the fact that a young Black man or a young Black boy can be imprisoned, arrested, charged for a five bag but yet the drugs can be found on a boat, owned by Whites and then we don’t hear anything else about it.”
Luci had also brought two others on stage with her during the presentation: a past student, Alexandria Harper, who wrote a poem about the issue, and a friend, Empress Zingha who has an amazing piece about revolution.
“I dealt with I’Akobi Maloney’s case and how the Rastafarian community worked so hard to ensure that we remembered his name. The fact too that there are so many young men that we don’t know. So what does that say about our society and how do we tackle that? I spoke about how Black dreadlocked people are targeted and denied professional opportunities.
“The speech looked at social injustice, racial segregation, financial and economic disparity between Whites and Blacks. Why are Black voices so policed? We are talking about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor but we are also talking about the Black lives that need to matter and the active ways that we need to show that they matter in Barbados.
“We can’t have businesses that prioritise White customers or the White dollar over the Black dollar. That is unacceptable in a 2020 Barbados. How do we have stuff like that or the anti-Blackness in schools where people say the wearing of natural hair is untidy? One of the major things too is the colonial imprint. So much of our syllabus is foreign and not regional.”
Luci said essentially the message is that: “Every Black life in Barbados matters, whether you are poor, disabled, gay, a woman or child, a man with dreadlocks or a person with mental health issues… Your life matters.” (IMC)