3 Women helping to change Bequia

By Admin. Updated 5:08 a.m., Monday, March 8, 2021, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).

An organisation based on the Grenadine island of Bequia is working to positively influence the youth of the island and to uplift creativity and advance culture.

One News SVG and Ignite! had some questions for three of the Directors of The Hub Collective for an International Women’s Day highlight. The women – Holly Bynoe, Jessica Jaja, and Danielle Collinson – addressed the challenges and successes of the organisation while mapping out the history of the organisation, its programming and current innovations being brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Describe The Hub Collective

The Hub Collective is an inclusive arts education nonprofit organization located in Port Elizabeth, Bequia. We have a passion to build creative confidence and intergenerational exchange across Bequia’s communities. Our pillars address the need for holistic community engagement and inclusivity through: Music, Arts, Culture, Wellness and Environment.
The Hub operates out of its Creative Arts Centre, open six days per week, and includes a training space, a music studio and a shop selling locally-made products.

2. When was The Hub founded and why was it necessary to start this initiative?

The organization was founded in 2017 by a group of creatives, entrepreneurs and social activists. It arose out of the realization that while there are numerous challenges young people face on Bequia, that there is so much talent, culture and innovation that could be built upon to create sustainable and healthy communities. We wanted to get involved with the youth on the island, provide mentorship opportunities, and create safe spaces to growth and develop.
We see The Hub functioning as a place akin to a home, where we can bring out latent and nascent talent by fostering dialogue and building trust on the grounds of mutual respect. It is a place for day dreaming and dreaming more widely, where youth in their free time can form new bonds – friends, mentors, elders, etc. – while also working on their artistic and personal aspirations.

The Hub Collective addresses the gaps within the education system, and our methodologies are like “unschooling” which advocates for learner-chosen activities, and here youth have the freedom to engage and express themselves in a way that is more connected to their essence and sense of selfhood. This alternative, safe learning environment lends to the development of self in a more holistic, natural manner leading to well-rounded youth, capable of embracing what life can throw to them in more nimble ways.

Positive Vibes models posing for a photo.

3. What has been the impact of The Hub Collective so far?

The impacts of the organisation can be seen in the social, educational and vocational advancement of Bequia. Even though we are small, our contributions have done a lot to lift the spirit and the will of the youth and other parts of our demographic. The Hub Collective’s core strengths include having a wide network of partners locally who view the organisation as one that they can trust. Our community engagement and strategies have been fortified over the years and we have been able to garner the trust of youth and their parents, which has led to the Creative Arts Centre being one of the only community sanctuaries on the island that is apolitical and not connected to any religious institution.

The work that we have been engaging in over the course of the last five years works to combat the losses that our communities have been undergoing as it relates to traditions, rituals and customs. It also provides nurturing support to Bequia youth giving them more focus and time to hone in and build their talents. Through the various arms of the organisation, young and emerging artists and craftspeople nationwide also have a retail outlet where their works are cared for, displayed, articulated and shared with visitors as well as the wider Vincentian and Caribbean publics in the region and diaspora.

These outlets combat the lack of value and livelihood deprivation that artists and creatives have felt for decades across our small islands. It is also important to highlight the role of mentorship within the organisation as at The Hub we are mindful of how socio-economic issues have impacted families and personal security and development. Creative spaces like The Hub have been shown worldwide to have a positive impact on the development of social, creative and personal skills. This added awareness into how the individual is impacted causes a ripple effect throughout our self, families, village, communities and nations.

One of the Directors Jessica Jaja (center-front) teaching filmmaking skills to participants of one of the Hub’s programs.

4. What are notable challenges and successes you’ve encountered within the organisation?

Non-profit arts organisations are having numerous challenges worldwide and this isn’t unique to us. Over the years we have encountered various challenges not limited to maintaining consistent engagement from volunteers, and commitment, dedication and follow through from youth and adults. With the advent and advance of technology we have begun to notice behavioural patterns with youth being highly distracted and disengaged combined with limited parent and family involvement as most families are facing economic and other hardships.
All around, given our smallness and our continued limited resources in the Grenadines there is a lack of leadership and training opportunities combined with limited legislative and funding incentives around developing capacity for organisations like ours. This is compounded with the crab-in-barrel mentality that connects back to a mindset of scarcity. Finally, there has been little room for the development of the Culture and Creative Industries (CCIs) across SVG. This has led to Culture being treated as an unwanted child and mostly forgotten and thus there is little governmental assistance in the form of grants, initiatives, training, etc. to help us advance towards sustainability.

And while this might seem like a lot, these are typical challenges faced across a large cross section of small island nations where our financial and economic prowess remains weak and under developed.
Our successes have come in spite of the challenges faced. In 2018, we undertook the acquisition and renovation of Creative Arts Centre–with little funding and mostly volunteer efforts from core members. To date the Hub Shop currently features 30 local artists, all of them making 100% Vincy artisanal arts and crafts. We have seen the growth, development and transformation of young people through mentorship and training sessions which lead to the advent of our annual Positive Vibes Festival. The festival and our commitment to encouraging young talent has led to young people winning awards as well as writing and recording original music through The Hub Studio.

We have managed to form a deep engagement within the community–online and in person–and a deeper understanding of what we are striving for. To date we have executed four Positive Vibes Festivals and engaged over 90 performers (including singers, dancers, musicians and spoken word poets), which is no easy feat. And in late 2020, we were awarded a small cultural grant from two international organisations to study the importance of Traditional Knowledge and bush medicine across Bequia and St. Vincent.

5. Where do you envision the organization in 5 years?

Directors Jessica Jaja and Danielle Collinson at The Hub’s shop.

At The Hub Collective, we are dreaming big. This dreaming is a part of the decolonial mission which includes being able to chart our own path, autonomies, stories and to create infrastructure that will secure Bequia’s heritage and creativity for generations to come.

Some of our goals in the next five years include:

● Develop a robust roster of year-round programming, incorporating mentorship (e.g., Big Brother, Big Sister), artistic development, and the launching of monthly community film screenings with a particular focus Caribbean cinema in collaboration with various regional and international film festivals;
● Further develop our Music pillar including the in-house studio, the signing of emerging regional artists, monetization of tracks and performances through different online platforms, and enhancing local performance opportunities through the acquisition of events equipment;
● Expanding The Hub Shop and our commerce potentiality to help create more income-generating opportunities for local artists and the organization;
● The launching of The Hub’s Radio Station which will broadcast community-centered content and creative outputs produced by The Hub;
● Establish the first community-friendly green space on Bequia, including a free Wifi zone, wayfinding, community murals, notice boards, outside seating and a communal area outside the Creative Arts Centre to bolster public engagement and diversify Bequia’s tourism product;
● Achieve financial sustainability through long-term partnerships with funders, capital fundraising campaigns, stakeholders and the further development of the social-entreprise wings of the organisation.
● And last but not least, to acquire land to secure the future of the Centre and Collective.

Dreaming big is an essential part and a cornerstone of the organisation’s approach to the thriving of Bequia’s youth, culture and awakening.

6. How has the pandemic impacted you and how have the operations been coping or adjusting?

Director Holly Bynoe doing Yoga.

As a result of the pandemic, The Hub made the difficult decision to halt group programming which included painting, drumming and yoga. The Centre itself and our Shop have remained open, following strict measures in accordance with the WHO to keep our staff and communities safe.

The Hub Collective’s leadership chose to see this pause as a strategic opportunity to further develop the framework and structure of the organization. In mid-2020 we declared a new Board of Directors and added more pillars to our mission including Wellness and the Environment.

In September 2020, our Centre Manager was certified in Permaculture Design in partnership with Richmond Vale Academy and in October 2020, the Creative Director was awarded a six-week Music Production and Training course through the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA).
By the end of 2020 we focused on developing a communications strategy, and continue to help build engagement with our growing online community of artists, supporters and Bequians at home and in the diaspora. Administratively we have given focus to more local, regional and international granting opportunities to work towards the sustainability of the organization.

In early 2021 we were awarded a small cultural grant from the Prince Claus Fund and the Goethe-Institut under the theme “Cultural and Artistic Responses to Environmental Change.” For one year, The Hub will be engaging communities across Bequia to realise the intergenerational, archiving and reactivation project “Bush Medicine Revival” safeguarding traditional bush medicines, elder stories and ecological knowledge across all Bequia communities.

We are eager to resume and build upon our in-person programming with youth and creatives in the community once the pandemic subsides and we are also starting to plan for more virtual engagements.

7. What does progress – professional, personal and otherwise – mean to you as women?

Titles, hierarchy and capitalist markers of progress aren’t things that we think about. We see that there are so many other ways to measure success and progress that aren’t solely geared towards social and corporate climbing, establishing one’s career, and other markers that fit within the context of our current society’s mandate of competition and comparison.

We measure progress differently, we measure it in personal ways that also factor in the success and the elevation of the people around us, our communities and villages.
This philosophy is inspired by Ubuntu, which is an African philosophy that places emphasis on ‘being self through others’. It is a form of humanism which can be expressed in the phrases ‘I am, because we are.’
We measure progress in more holistic ways of living where you have your freedom because you are able to be as expressive and as fulfilled as possible. Progress also means that as women we can do the things that we want to do without being limited by someone else’s expectations or conditions. This leads to freedom as there is deep self awareness involved in how we see ourselves and how we walk in this world. When we elevate and rise in our consciousness, we bring everyone with us and we don’t leave anyone behind.

8. What advice do you have for other women social entrepreneurs or those thinking about pursuing a path in social entrepreneurship?

We acknowledge that we live in a complex and changing world, while operating within an intergenerational context that is deep and profound. Our experiences have been shaped by our difficult histories, families, communities and the places that we have lived. We exist because those before us fought to create a more equitable world for us to exist and flourish in. Even though we are far from living in a world that honors experience – especially the experiences of Black and brown women who have had little or at time no experience with generational wealth and fair working conditions – the thing that we hope to transmit to other women is the importance of creativity, integrity and freedom within the scope of our lives.
To that, always ensure that your passion is placed within your purpose. Do not be afraid to take risks and to walk outside of the carefully curated line or box that women have been put in for centuries. Don’t be afraid to live the life that you want, and to succeed at it. There is no shame in success. When women elevate they take their families, communities, villages and countries with them.

In today’s world, we see a lot of women being plagued by Western conditioning and ideals which makes them attach to scarcity rather than the abundance that is around us. In our Small Island Developing States, we suffer from cultural insecurities that lead us to question and doubt ourselves. This imposter syndrome is a plague across our region and world, and the quicker we can lay eyes on it, to see how it is operational within our own bodies and minds the greater the chance we have to see the damage and to heal from the stranglehold of respectability and performing. Women entrepreneurs must undo this thinking and action. We must set an example and be unflinching and upright in our approach.

Mistakes will be made, but that is a part of the journey of elevation. Women who are aware of their power, position and passion can start to undo the great economic and social inequities that we have faced for generations.

9. What do you and your fellow directors think can be done at the community level to develop future women leaders and entrepreneurs?

There needs to be true and genuine support for women based on where they are in their lives. We need to be more honest with each other, especially with the struggles that we face. This honesty is needed in our homes, communities and across social and professional spaces. Being human in our engagement and in our interaction can bring a leveling of our playing field as we now lead by example when we become vulnerable, open and human.
There needs to be more vocational opportunities along with formal opportunities for women to get training in leadership along with community-based mentorship programs.

The language of Sisterhood (blood and choosen) needs to be injected as something that holds utmost importance for women’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Women are central in our communities and if we don’t have the necessary support it puts pressure on the entire societal ecosystem.

Women need to look out for each other more. Women need to have access to safe spaces/sanctuaries where we can be our true self, where we can be expressive, creative, authentic and nurturing.

10. The International Women’s Day Campaign theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. A challenged world is an alert world and we can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. How do you think we can better celebrate women’s achievements and increase their visibility in the community and in SVG as a whole?

choosetochallengedomesticabuse #choosetochallengemisogyny #choosetochallengeunpaidlabour #choosetochallengesilencing #choosetochallengegaslighting ##choosetochallengeinvisibility #choosetochallengerape #choosetochallengeincest #choosetochallengepedophilia #choosetochallengeassault #choosetochallengegenderbias #choosetochallengegenderdiscrimination #choosetochallengegenderpaygap #choosetochallengeclassism #choosetochallengeelitism #choosetochallengeracism

Our core values are representative of the commitment to the mission and vision of the organisation and without women, including our grandmothers and youth, our work ahead will be impossible. At The Hub, we are committed to building and fostering:
Community: We value art and artists as a means to strengthen and enrich the fabric of community life.
Inclusivity and Equity: We create a safe space in which all people (regardless of race, gender, culture, mental and physical ability and socioeconomic status) feel valued, seen and respected.

Mentorship: We intentionally foster Brotherhood and Sisterhood in an effort to help individuals shape the direction of their own lives in community-based settings.

Accountability: We take ownership of both successes and failures while behaving with integrity and fostering an environment of responsibility for positive outcomes.

Intergenerational Exchange: We reinforce a sustainable island by looking at our heritage, the passing down of knowledge from our Grandmothers and Grandfathers to future generations.

11. Why do you think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s day in a big way in SVG?

Gender discrimation, violence and widespread gendered disparities are still very much social issues that plague all Vincentians. No woman in SVG is immune to this and as such, we need to develop best practices and ethics that can create fundamental change across our nation. This isn’t something that any one NGO or group of people can do. It can start at the community level, but there must be legislation developed that presents clear ways in which we can target issues of inequity and inequality.
Right now in SVG and across the Caribbean there are compounded issues that lead to Women’s Day being seen as just that, a day. It isn’t a lifestyle and it is still a fight. Being a woman isn’t widely viewed across the nation as a marker of honour. We aren’t saying that there should be gender hierarchy, or that women should be elevated over men, but gender parity. For us in SVG, we need to think about and value the work that women, particularly Black Women, have had on the development of our nation. If you look back at our short post-colonial history, you will see the exclusion and dismissal of that work.
We have to start undoing this. Undoing this means we find new ways to tell our stories, to celebrate our accomplishments and to dismantle the patriarchal framework that has led to the disavowal of women in the first place.

Young girls, boys, men and women coming up now need national women heroes to look at for guidance. We need to honour our elders, our grandmothers, across our communities and villages. This will empower the upcoming generations to understand their place in the bigger picture and the work that they have to do to ensure that the fight to parity and justice continues.

How can the public support the work you are doing?

To follow our journey you can visit: http://www.thehubsvg.com
Follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thehubcollective and on Instagram http://www.instagram.com/thehubcollective
Donate: Monthly or one-time donations can be made securely on our website using PayPal. Donations can also be made via US, UK and Canadian charities for donors to receive charitable tax receipts.

Join our Play-It-Forward campaign: We are looking for used or new guitars, bass guitars, microphones, keyboards, drums and other percussions for our various music programs.

You can volunteer or lead a workshop by emailing info@thehubsvg.com or calling 1-784-530-9185

Buy 100% local from The Hub Shop, which is open Monday to Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM.

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