Amidst rising crime, usually perpetrated by young men who have just peaked past adolescence, one young woman made it her mandate to guide her younger brothers in the right direction.
“I wanted to dissuade bad habits, behaviours and thought patterns without seeming like an overbearing big sister,” was Chadia Mathurin’s reasoning for starting a compilation of letters to her brothers in 2014. This would be the perfect way to express love and extend wisdom without the usual “assaults of kisses and hugs” which now seemed to embarrass her brothers.
Chadia, therefore, embarked on a journey of writing letters for all of her brothers: “The ones in Christ, the ones who aren’t in Christ, the ones who are lost, and the ones who are found”. Characteristic of a true journey, Chadia would make some personal discoveries, especially during her term as Assistant Youth Leader in her church. This inspired her to also write letters to her sisters. Indeed, she was further writing these letters to herself as a means of “seeking concrete shapes of who and what I was as a woman”.
Even after working on two separate projects, it still did not seem like enough, since Chadia had discovered a community of young Christians who also sought answers to a barrage of questions. Their Facebook discussions covered social, economic, political and religious issues and, based on this, Chadia found it fitting to recruit this group’s dynamic Caribbean writers who already enjoyed the power of writing; and so #TheLettersProject was properly conceived.
Trinidadian poets Katrina McIntosh, Omavi Langevine and Léel Arlene Bain joined St Lucian Chadia Mathurin to create a series of books, each focussing on a different sector of society. The initial fruits of Chadia’s labour, ‘Letters to my Brothers’ and ‘Letters to my Sisters’ would become part of a collection which also included ‘Letters to Honest Folk’, ‘Letters to the Broken, Healing and Healed’ and ‘Letters to All: Sincerely, A Nudist. A Naked Soul. A Naked Flame.’
In nurturing a small and developing project, some hurdles are expected and, for ‘The Letters Project’, it came in the form of many failed investments. When two investors were unable to fulfill their promises, the small band of authors decided to pool their own funds in order to finally publish their work. With other personal hurdles including “death, depression and unplanned financial expenses”, the team finally sought help from the wider public. After setting up a GoFundMe page and surpassing the initial goal, ‘The Letters Project’ was finally in a position
to be distributed to paying supporters.
Each book in ‘The Letters Project’ focusses on sharing experiences and words of wisdom with “a tinge of humour and embrace of Caribbean parlance”. Religious experiences also influence the writing but are in no way overwhelming or forced on the reader. True to Chadia’s description of taking on issues in a ‘bold manner’, certain topics that are usually overlooked in society are brought to the forefront in ‘The Letters Project’.
In ‘Letters to my Brothers’ Chadia addresses male body image in the chapter ‘True Beauty’: “Love handles, abs and all, you are beautiful. Crooked smile, brace-straightened teeth and all, you are beautiful. I want for you to feel secure in whatever package your beautiful heart is ensconced in because the type of beauty I want to speak of has nothing to do with the externals.”
In ‘Letters to the Broken’ Katrina McIntosh is adamant in the chapter ‘A Verbal Letter from My Vagina’: “I am woman. A well spring of nature and grace. I have been bent before but I do not desire worship, just respect.”
‘The Letters Project’ is the product of a true Caribbean collective. It is the brain child of Chadia Mathurin, and nurtured and developed by other Caribbean writers. It is a bountiful source of advice, encouragement and overall wisdom. What started as a way of cautioning her brothers as they entered adulthood has become Chadia’s successful venture to “heal hearts and bless lives”.