Imagine landing on the beautiful islands of Trinidad & Tobago for a family wedding and walking through the airport, anticipating the fun, sun and island breeze and getting pummeled by fists and later arrested, booked and jailed. Sounds like a vacation from hell right? A real “Brokedown Palace” moment. Well, this very thing happened to a young Black woman named Tameka while she ass traveling with her mother and sister.
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Tameka was simply asking questions of the custom’s officer upon landing when he starting screaming at her with an attitude, talking about forms, calling them illiterate and insulting them verbally. Tameka wasn’t sure what was happening because other travelers were asking similar questions to other customs officers. Before Tamkea knew it, things got violent:
“Suddenly, a man ran up to me and grabbed me by the shoulder/neck area and shouted at me for “inappropriately speaking to a customs officer”. At this moment, he proceeded to punch me twice on my back. Everything happened so quickly, some things are a blur. But my mother, maternal instincts fully kicked in, screamed and cried and struggled to get me away from this man. She assumed he was a robber or some sort of madman. Later on we learned that this man was a plain clothes officer. Please note, this man ran up to me from behind, so I hadn’t seen his face and he did not identify himself/have his badge visible so no one could tell he was a person of authority. (I was told later) There were several witnesses who all thought this officer was a crazy person randomly abusing an innocent girl.”
Once a female officer got hold of Tameka, she consoled her and later denied ever witnessing anything.
“We were detained for the following 8 hours, put under investigation from higher officials. We explained everything that occurred, that it began as such a mere misunderstanding, and we thought the worst was over.”
The worst was not over. Tameka, her mother and her sister were then arrested for the assault of three on-duty officers. They were taken to the local precinct, booked and jailed among severe criminals and held each other tightly through the night, as they were the only women in the dark and dirty cell.
The women were taken to court, where they were told the charges against them had them facing a six month prison sentence with a fine of $13,500 (T&T dollars). While their local relatives were able to put down a $3,000 deposit to get them out on bond, they are currently being held in Trinidad & Tobago until their trial on July 19th.
“In 2013, we are still dealing with those who are supposed to stand by the law and protect the earth’s citizens, abusing their power and subject the innocent to the highest level of degradation and injustice. We are terrified, because we have no idea which way the law will sway. And in the meantime, we are away from our family, away from work and school. We are scraping our last dollars together to get the best lawyer and try to get by the basic cost of living, in a land we don’t belong in. This is a country where tourism is a portion of the nation’s income, yet tourists are clearly not valued, even just enough to answer a simple question. I don’t know how we will get through all of this, emotionally, financially and mentally. But I believe the world needs to know that these experiences are real and they often go unreported.”
When I read this story via a share on Facebook, my heart bled for Tameka and her family. I immediately felt like I needed to do something to help. I reached out to Tameka via email and while she can make no real comment about her case, she is glad that #TeamBeautiful is here to support her. Will you support Tameka too? All we can do now is go to her blog and reach out. If there’s anything you can offer Tameka and her family now, feel free to support.
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