My name is Toni O. The O is for O’Brien.
I guess I owe my unusual existence to Oliver Cromwell. Under his command, the Brits invaded Ireland in 1649 radically altering Irish conditions of possibility. Cromwell hated Catholics and executed as many as he could. He also sent many little wee-ones to the sugar plantations in the West Indies. Depopulated, Ireland fell into the greedy hands of the Brits who systematically burned the land and its crops creating a food shortage. Irish Catholics were treated with distain. The laws for them were different than those for the Protestants creating severe economic hardships that led to hunger. This hunger went on for years. My mom was one of the hungry ones. She lived not far from the Streedagh beach and would often go foraging for food there. While pregnant with me, she nourished herself mainly on seaweed.
Algae kick-started life as we know it because, at a certain point, they began using water during photosynthesis consequently releasing oxygen permitting the evolution of organisms. So we probably wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for algae.
Something magical happened because of my mom eating all that seaweed. I was born with a certain kind of antibody that slowed down my aging process. As I write this, I’ve been alive for 200 years. Now, in 2021, I am beginning to show the signs of aging. But before I die, I want to share important events that I was able to witness first hand.
The history that we’ve been taught is, for the most part, patriarchal propaganda meant to justify the unjustifiable. That’s why you ladies need to read this then get up, stand up for your rights, and don’t give up the fight!
(from “TONI O, The Beholder” 2021 ©)
Related: ‘Shipped for the Barbadoes’: Cromwell and Irish migration to the Caribbean + How Microscopic Algae Kick-Started Life As We Know It + The origins of life on Earth + Get up, stand up: Barbados leader Mia Mottley invokes Marley to goad U.N.