Monday, November 30, 2009

AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio Forces Woman to Give Birth While Shackled

The news team for Telemundo 52 recently reported on Alma Minerva Chacon, a women who was terrorized by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Unfortunately, she is just the latest in a long line of Latinos who have suffered at the hands of the ruthless Sheriff whose personal goal is to rid Arizona of all "illegals" and just maybe, all Latinos. Arpaio has repeatedly stated that he is breaking no laws and just enforcing the constitution by arresting more than 600 Latinos a year. But the problem with his tactics is that less than half of those arrested are even in this country illegally.


The most recent atrocity committed by the self-proclaimed "America's Toughest Sheriff" involves a woman who was detained while 9-months pregnant. Alma Minerva Chacon's case has been receiving media attention due to the brutality with which she was treated. The very same night of her arrest, Chacon went into labor and found herself afraid and alone, being rushed to a local hospital with her hands and legs chained in shackles.


Once she reached the hospital, nurses repeatedly begged the Sheriff's staff to allow them to unchain the mother, but they refused and Chacon was forced to give birth while still shackled to the bed. At one point, the nurse asked for them to release her so that she could be escorted to the bathroom for a urinalysis, but even that request was denied. But the worst came once Chacon gave birth to her baby girl.


Still chained to the bed, Arpaio's police staff refused to allow Chacon to hold her newborn baby and then warned her that if no one came to pick up the child within 72 hours, she would be turned over into state custody. Telemundo 52 sat down with Chacon and let her tell her side of the story.



Check out the interview here and if you don't support Sheriff Arpaio's barbaric practices sign the petition at www.SheriffJoeMustGo.com

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Be Bold Be Re(a)d: The Podcast




3 years ago women of color came together and transformed what it meant to transform terror on Halloween, declaring October 31st Be Bold Be Red Day, a day for women of color and allies to speak out against violence against women. And 30 years ago women of color came together to respond to violence in the same critical and poetic spirit.

Towards the world the we all deserve, fully transformed from the misogyny and internalized racism we face in popular music to the frightening expendability of the lives and bodies of women of color this podcast places the brave voices of women telling the truth about gendered violence over the remixed sounds of Miles Davis. This year we take every sound back, starting with our own voices and the background that seeks to silence them.

Listen with your community, your class, your friends, your study group, your church, your crew, pass the link on or listen by yourself and see, hear and wear red.

listen here

[audio http://brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com/files/2009/10/real-be-bold-be-red-podcast.mp3]

or download here: http://brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com/files/2009/10/real-be-bold-be-red-podcast.mp3

Monday, August 31, 2009

the divine survivors clinic

Screenshot-2

welcome to the divine survivors clinic!

my name is mai’a.

i am offering free reiki treatments to us– the lovers, the fighters, and the survivors. a way to reduce pain, cleanse and strengthen the body, balance the emotions and experience more clarity and vitality in our lives.

the divine survivors clinic began as a vision i had at dawn listening to the fajr call to prayer.

i have seen that many of us as doing amazing life-changing work and yet suffer from long terms and short term illnesses. we do not have the time, money, energy to eat well, laugh, meditate, move, and mother ourselves. we live on the edges of society, enduring and resisting with every breath, the various and connected forms of violence.

reiki is a specific frequency or wave of energy. i tune into this energy. connect with your mind and body (no matter where you are in the world). and then reiki vibrates throughout your being. allowing you to relax, de-stress, and transmutate toxins in the body.

selah.

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.
–Audre Lorde

* is a safe, gentle, non-physical healing practice that reduces stress and promotes relaxation and transformation of all kind of ailments and disease.
* can never act harmfully.
* is not controlled by the practitioner, but by the needs of recipient’s bodymind.
* is not limited by time nor space. and thus can be activated across distances and times, allowing us to commune across oceans, heal the past and create a joyous future.
* transforms toxins and illness in the physical, emotional, and psychological systems.
* is not a religion and belief in reiki is not necessary for it to work.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Podcast!

audredeveaux_alexisjune-jordanVIIB29

Check out this FIRST EVER PODCAST as part of the BrokenBeautiful Press educational campaign "Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind." Black Feminism LIVES by every means necessary.

What does it take to survive a year like 1979?

This first podcast is about the year 1979 and how the world, and black feminism began and ended in some crucial ways that year. With the election of Ronald Reagan, the Boston Murders, the Atlanta Child Murders and the Greensboro Massacre all attacking the the lives, minds and spirits of black women 1979 was a crucial year. This podcast focuses on how Audre Lorde, Alexis DeVeaux, June Jordan and Barbara Smith reach(ed) across time and space to transform the meaning of survival. (And there is some good period appropriate and anachronistic music too!)

[audio http://brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com/files/2009/08/1979.m4a]

download to your itunes here:
http://brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com/files/2009/08/1979.m4a

Please leave comments here!

p.s. Sorry about the moments of outburst distortion. A sista is clearly super exuberantly excited about black feminism and promises to stay a little further away from the mic on podcast number two! :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mami Vs. Mommy, Mami’hood vs Motherhood

Mami Vs. Mommy, Mami’hood vs Motherhood

from mamita mala

Putting the Speak! Zines Together

Hermana, Resist Says:

Like seriously, I’m supposed to explain to someone who doesn’t even get what the difference between Mami and Mommy means, I’m supposed to explain sanewhy my form of media is valid in their movement? I’m supposed to try to sell you on my career?

What career? This is my life, my kids life, our sanity.
And for the record, no we don’t start or “media” after we get funded and no we don’t start working on “media” when we’re up for a sabbatical. No we don’t start any “movement” after our grant gets accepted. Some money might come along the way, some one will donate $10 or $50 or someone gets a scholarship to attend a conference that’ll be critiqued the hell outa.

It gets tiring having to explain Mami vs mommy, mother, mom. I probably shouldn’t frame it as a vs. cuz it’s not like mommy media makers, mom 2.0′ers and mamis are fighting each other. Most of the time we’re ignoring each other. I can’t say exactly why the moms/mommies/mothers ignore radical mami’s of color, especially us single media maker ones, like when at the Women’s Equity Media Summit I had to ask that Mommy be changed to Mami up on the paper in the front of the room, or like when I after I explained why mami (Mami based in my Latina/WOC identity, based in the hypersexualization or the diminishing of my sexuality, based because my mami’hood is a fucking community that I am working every damn moment to create and live in not some marketing tool or playdate), the woman walked away and gave two other mamis and me her back.

“Guess she’s not a mami” one of us said shrugging.

When the two other mamis and I came up with lists, words, stanzas and lyrics about who/what we were (cuz we have a long ass history that Ms. China Martens is gonna help me document by coming to casa mala so I can write ::wink wink::), the people in the room of that Women’s Equity Media Summit fucking cheered. These were some of the ideas that came out of the mami conversations.

Pero when the applause and the patting on the back stops, when the one on one conversations in corners that amount to nothing but some white mujer telling us thanks for doing/saying the things I’m too lazy/privileged to be bothered, where is the support or the “resourcing” that women media makers are supposed to be doing?

Not that we’re holding our breath or anything. When I ignore you, fail to link to you, not attend your conference, think about why.

aniysah

Crossposted from VivirLatino

dsc_03711
Women of color are not paranoid when we say that we fear our children being taken away. It happens all too often.

It happens again and again:

On March 3rd, 2009 six year old Aniysah was taken from her mother’s arms and thrown into a legal shuffle of unaccountability, instability and discrimination. There were no records verifying that she would be taken to a safe living environment or that she was enrolled in school. Questions about her health and well-being went unanswered. That was 150 days ago. To date, Aniysah remains lost in the legal system. A system where black and brown children go missing everyday. A system where black mothers like Aniysah’s are often left to fend for themselves in a brutal, dogged battle just to make sure their children are safe.


It’s time to hold the legal system accountable. Document the Silence asks that you join them in the “Where’s Aniysah?” campaign by posting information about this case on your blogs, online social networks and throughout your community. You can find out more about this campaign to stand against injustices against our children in the legal system by visiting the Document the Silence website .

Where’s Aniysah? What you can do!

* Show up! – Are you going to be in the NYcity area August 24th? Come to Aniysah’s court date and show the judge and the law guardian you care! Even if you can’t make it, invite your friends who can! there’s an attachment below that you can copy and send to your folks! The deets:The next court date is August 24th, 2009 at 11AM and the address is :
IDV Part
Courtroom E-123, Annex Building
Justice Fernando M. Camacho
Queens County IDV Court,
Queens County Supreme Court
Criminal Term 125-01 Queens Blvd
Kew Gardens, New York 11415

* Spread the word!- send this website out to everyone you know. tell them why this is important. post to your facebook account. forward on your many list serves. post Aniysah’s mom youtube clip on your facebook page. write a blog about her story. email everyone you know and don’t know.

* Speak up! – do you know of other children of color who have been lost in the legal shuffle? Let’s document the silence of court sanctioned kidnapping that is happening to black and brown women and children across the country! email us at beboldbered@gmail.com and we will add your story to the website.

motherful

cross posted from littleblackbook

"
The Silent Revolution of the Domestic Worker" Nikki Giovanni, 1975
"Throughly Black Feminism" interview with Barbara Smith, 1983
"An Interview with Audre Lorde," Joseph Beam, 1984
It's A Family Affair: The Real Live of Black Single Mothers, Barbara Omolade, 1986 (Kitchen Table Press, Freedom Organizing Series #4)
"Adolescent Pregnancy: The Perspective of the Sisterhood of Black Single Mothers, Khadijah Matin, 1986
"A Press of Our Own: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press" Barbara Smith, 1989
"Knowing the Danger and Going There Anyway," Cheryl Clarke, 1990
"Brother to Brother: An Interview with Essex Hemphill," 1991
The Black Back Ups, Kate Rushin, 1993
"The Fight is for Political and Economic Justice," Barbara Smith, 1998
"Transferences and Confluences: Black Poetics, the Black Arts Movement and Black Lesbian-Feminism, Cheryl Clarke, 1999
Erasure, Percival Everett, 2001
Erzulie's Skirt, Ana-Maurine Lara, 2006
The Fullness of Everything, Patricia Powell, 2009
"Reproductive Technology, Family Law, and the Postwelfare State: The California Same-Sex Parents' Rights "Victories" of 2005", Anna Marie Smith, 2009
"Race, Gender and Genetic Technologies: A New Reproductive Dystopia?" Dorothy E. Roberts, 2009

In the 1970's and 80's the Sisterhood of Black Single Mothers, an organization created by and for black single mothers, answered the media blitz, and intra-racial debates about the pathology of the "fatherless" home with a poetic question that reframed everything. Fatherless? They ask, Why not Motherful?

Brilliant brilliant brilliant. That one question is also followed up by their innovative programming and their creation of community support systems led by black single mothers, and black single fathers who were inspired by their model! Refusing to define black single mothers, regardless of age as a void, a source of darkness and the end of the world (as people sitting in congress and on war on poverty turned welfare reform boards were indeed insisting) this group of black single mothers made a poetic space for the obvious truth. Black single mother's themselves are the greatest resource for black female-led families. Only a black single mother knows what a black single mother needs. Black single mothers are experts. Act like you know America.

In a moment (right now) where CNN and Essence Magazine (ala Marry Your BabyDaddy Day!!!!) and black radio (Micheal Baisden just said the other day that "real women" need to step back and let a "real man" lead in their families. Yesterday!!! On August 4th 2009) are still selling the narrative that a black woman is incomplete without a patriarchal structure I want to raise the question again. Why not Motherful?

But actually I know why. Corporate media cannot acknowledge the fullness that single mothers, young mothers, mothers of color, co-mothers, grandmothers bring to our families because consumer capitalism is NOT HAVING IT!!! If we acknowledged that young, queer, poor, working-class, disabled, single, and racialized mothers are perfectly good at love and perfectly brilliant at supporting and sustaining life even if (or especially) they decide NOT to be bullied into a c-section by know-it-all doctors, how on earth would we get oppressed people to buy so much stuff despite their negligible disposable income? How would we get people to feel so inadequate about their their whatever"lessness" maybe it's "worthlessness" that they give up on the messy delicious sustenance of honest relationships between people and turn to the refuge of value by proxy...buying cool stuff. Because my people aren't dumb you know...and the only way you get brilliant people to act competely in opposition to their own interests is through a concerted effort to trample their self-esteem and believe that they will be loved. Why would maybeline et.al pay Essence Magazine so much for their adspace if black women were not killing themselves trying to be straight, bouncy and clean enough for some perpetual marriage without which their life means nothing?

No no no. Motherful is dangerous, like the fulness of the erotic, like "no mirrors in my nana's house," like telling little black girls that they are smart. You know...free stuff. Danger us.

And of course the state doesn't want no Motherful propaganda neither. No way. Even though it would totally save billions of dollars to support single poor and working mothers in their efforts to sustain their families instead of pathologizing them for not being able to do the impossible perfectly every second and just waiting with drool and glee to take their children away...just waiting with glee to lock their children up for childlike misjudgements, just licking its lips to the tune of fatherless....the state knows the danger of a motherful household.

What would it look like housesful of mothers, biological and chosen mothers, co-mothers, and mothers from next-door raising amazing children together. Proving the fact that marginalized, young, mothers of color can do anything together...imagine them proving that...right in front of the children. You might get a whole generation of children who are not supposed to be powerful who believe that they are. A whole set of mothers who organize to build and support education and free food and free healthcare in their communities. A whole generation of folks who realize that the state needs them more than they need it and that they are in charge. Nope. They don't want that.

Beware the motherful household.

And the certainly don't want young brothers and sisters like me and my siblings walking around proclaiming proudly that every thing we accomplish with our brazen badass brilliant selves was enabled by the fact that we were raised in a motherful household.

Nope. They don't want no Motherful propaganda.

I guess I have some t-shirts to make.

my mamas words

cross posted from fabmexicana

She used to tell me “Mija, vete de aqui” to leave from the States for a couple years to college. She tried to connect me with an aunt in Morelia, but then she (my mom) became terminally ill. In my 16 year-old perception she did this to expand my world outside of Los Angeles, she specifically pushed Morelia, Mexico City, and Guadalajara (where I had a distant family member and she was Mexican so yea) for me to want actual wings before getting too established after being in one city for too long and doing the college thing to the eventual j-o-b, a car note, a serious relationship, and/or a baby.

She passed away in between her worldly wisdom and advise to my 16 year-old mind and I became pseudo-momma for younger bro. Leaving to Mexico or anywhere over 20 miles from here only happened in dreams and books.

Then when I had a sliver of opportunity (after college) I fell in love hard (like the kind that Mexican ballads sing about) and had a child (pretty quickly) in my early 20s. That married me to L.A. and separation in my mid 20s with active other parent, sealed my marriage to the city for the long haul. You blend with facts and make the best of your choices and the circumstances that come with the package. So what do have, roots that dig too dip, intimate ties to L.A., a pride that freaks nomadic types and solid relationships in such a grand city and your world narrows to the boundaries of it. That’s most of the world you’ve known.

I leave through words and vicarioulsy by those that do say goodbye and on occasion I do escape for short periods of time. I send her kisses and remember her words, I’ll share them with my nena and with others.

She got it though and so I told my good friend this morning, chica vete (leave) as she contemplates to leave or to stay. Home will always be home. Your roots here can only get stronger. We are nomadic by nature, set roots elsewhere do it while you can.*

I became “mi mama” for a second, she was a wise woman. I cherish my homebody L.A. ways but her words echo in my mind, and so I’ll repeat what she saw as a woman who left Mexico when she was 28, my age, a single woman. She was fierce.

*I understand if this appears condescending and valuing leaving over staying. Things are never black vs. white. Never, neither is this entry. But I take ownership for the slant, any questions please feel free to comment or e-mail me.

mommyhood versus mamihood

cross posted from flip flopping joy

I was going to leave this comment on this thread here at feministe (where the totally rawking Plain’s Feminist is guest blogging!)–but I felt like it got too ranty and long and not connected to the actual point of the post, even though it was in a way.

first comment for context:

I was at a conference just a bit ago, and although daycare was provided for the kids, it was clearly marked in the itinerary when children were “allowed” into the big people room–and my kid–who is an older kid, was bullied by one of the conference organizers. I almost left, but other mothers stood by me and we confronted the situation together. But new mothers who are BF aren’t going to go to that space because the “rules” state kids can only be in the space during X times. And this was a feminist space. So if a woman isn’t working for pay and decides to organize instead so that she can get that emotional and intellectual stimulation–what is she supposed to do when she is treated to such unfriendly and hostile spaces like that?

I mean, that feminist space was telling mothers, you’re only wanted here if you make your child and your motherhood as invisible as possible–*we* don’t want anything to do with your motherhood. Which helps to create that “you must be a super mom” mentality, even as feminism is *saying* it’s critiquing it. When a woman isn’t even welcome in feminist spaces what other choice does she have but to sit and stare at her child all day and try not to eat her own tongue from boredom?

second comment that I didn’t post at Feministe:

btw, that feminist space was created by largely white feminists and the feminist who bullied my kid was white. the women who stood by me and said let’s fix this and we’ll walk out if we need to were women of color–some mamis and others not–but all with the analysis that mamihood (rather than mommyhood) is not just left at the door when you walk into a room. That the “real” work of feminist organizing happens when a single mami knows that her child is supported and loved and looked after by everybody in the room, not just her.

Another example: at that conference, the childcare shut down earlier than what I was expecting it to. I didn’t have my phone on, so although the childcare place called me repeatedly, I never got the message. I wasn’t aware ANYTHING was going on until I was walking down the street to go pick up my kids from the childcare and women of color (mamis and non-mamis) were walking towards me with my kids–the women took my kids and were in the process of finding food for everybody.

When I thanked the other women profusely, they all said ‘no big deal, you’d do the same for me.’ and one of the woman without children sort of looked at me like I was crazy and asked “are you kidding me? what would I have done, left them there?” The thought of NOT being responsible to my kids was offensive to her.

Which makes me wonder if that’s why the divide between working and stay at home mamis is just not the same as it is between mainstream largely white moms. When the borders between different spheres in your life aren’t so harshly drawn, it makes less sense for certain women to be isolated from the community.

One of the women in that group is a woman that I call the mother of my children. She has made the choice to take on the role of caretaker and coparent of my children. She has not had biological children, she is partnered to somebody else, but we raise my children together. I have this relationship with two other women of color in my community.

when the core idea of what “woman” is is challenged repeatedly, it makes less sense to say, you had the child, raise it yourself. when the core idea of what “mom” is is challenged repeatedly, it makes less sense to say, you had the child, raise it yourself. when the core idea of what “partnered” is is challenged repeatedly, it makes less sense to say, you had the child, raise it yourself. when “sexuality” and what it is and what it can lead to is constantly challenged, it makes less and less sense to say, you had the child, raise it yourself.

Every mami, every mommy, should be able to feel the feeling that I felt when I saw my kids laughing and joking along in the group of other women/mamis. And I guess the point for me is that books, no matter how good, are not going to teach us all how to build a community where children are being raised collectively–not because of kumbaya dreams that everybody is a parent–but because of practical reality that children are a part of our communities and we owe accountability to them, just as we insist that they are accountable to us.

Learning how to raise children collectively is only going to come through actually doing the work of learning how to trust again–how many people in your life do you know and trust enough to help you raise your children–even if they aren’t the biological parent who is living with you and legally partnered with you?– And by pointing at the *real* problem, which is not so much that AP’ing is stifling and obscene on so many levels (holy jesus, it is)–but that collectively in the U.S., we have no fucking idea what “community” means–but at the same time, we all seem to think that deciding who will stay hidden within the community isn’t one very powerful and violent way of deciding what community really is.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gospel: Body, Deviance and Soul

Greetings Fam,

Check out my review of Samiya Bashir's new book of poetry from independent black gay and lesbian publishing company RedBone Press. Here is an excerpt, please read the full review and join the conversation at Blackademics.org

love,

lex
If the body is a sacred manifestation of spirit in it’s full expression of the vibration of song and the sensation of life, what do the legal, medical and social limits we place on our bodies cost us?

“Topographic Shifts” which gracefully and painfully describes the amputation or “correction” of a baby girl born with twelve fingers and twelve toes, raises key questions as it forces us to imagine the pain of dismemberment without consent.

How is it done-
Remolding body into
Image of body?

Reminding us of Lucille Clifton’s extra digits, which haunt her writing hands like phantom antennae, this poem asks the reader to confront the ethical dilemma of the difference between how the body actually manifests, and the “image of body” what we want it to be. The poem ends with an ironic clichĂ© that uses shallow words of comfort to disturb the reader. After detailing the process of using ether and string and scissors to “…rip. Root. Cauterize.” the “offending” or “wasteful” extra limbs of the newborn, the narrator comments that

This condition
is more common
than you’d think.

If the “condition” is “common” then what is the purpose of the violent imposition of conformity on the body of a baby? What does it mean for your body to be “wrong” from the moment you enter the world? What does it mean when we redefine our own bodies, in their natural diversity, as “offending” and “wasteful”? Whose bodies are usually marked as offending and wasteful? Is this not a question of race and class? Whose genitals are modified by doctors hoping to cure ambiguity in the birthing room? Is this not a question of gender and sexuality?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Forget Hallmark: Why Mother's Day is a Queer Black Left Feminist Thing

The Anti-Social Family by Michele Barrett and Mary McIntosh (1982)
Fear of a Queer Planet ed. Micheal Warner (1999)
Aberrations in Black: Towards a Queer of Color Critique by Roderick Ferguson (2004)
"Of Our Normative Strivings: African American Studies and the Histories of Sexuality" by Roderick Ferguson (2005)
"Queerness as Horizon: Utopian Hermeneutics in the Face of Gay Pragmatism" by Jose E. Munoz (2007)
"A 'New Freedom Movement of Negro Women': Sojourning for Truth, Justice, and Human Rights during the Early Cold War" by Erik S. McDuffie (2008)
Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith (2008)
Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother's Story by Asha Bandele (2009)*



My mother is black. So the means through which I was produced is a matter of national instability. My mother is black. So the trace of slavery waits every moment to ink my body with meaninglessness. My mother is black. So my living is a question of whether or not racism will be reproduced today. My mother is black. This same piece of information threatens my survival. But my mother is black, which is at the same time the only thing that makes my survival possible.

It's early morning. I am a little bit drunk on the sound of rain, but it occurs to me that I should get (you) ready for mother's day. It is very easy to notice that I am obsessed with mothering and mothers. Mother is the single most interesting and confusing word that I know. Next to black.

And here comes mother's day. For me, this year mother's day means a million things. Expectancy, fear, obligation, inspiration, joy, admiration, deep reflection. A few weeks ago my mother told me that she thinks I will be "such a great mother." It struck me that while I have always dreamed of becoming a mother, and intended to become a mother, it still comes as a surprise when anyone affirms that it is something that I can do, SHOULD do even. Because I live in a culture that criminalizes black mothers for creating and loving black children, a culture that criminalizes black kids for being born. And latino kids too. I have been taught that mothering is something that happens to you, and you deal with it, and fight for it, swallowing down shame and living with the threat that the state wants nothing more than to take your kids away from you in every way imaginable.

But it is not my mother who taught me that. My mother repeats again and again that mothering us is her greatest accomplishment, like asha, mothering is her enduring joy and triumph despite everything. And trust, she has other great accomplishments. My mother, not through perfection, not through ease, but through sincere struggle, intense and sometimes even overwhelming love taught us something in her very being. My sister (now an ambitious account exec in New York) once confessed to me that though it might seem unfeminist, the only thing she really cared about, the one thing that she knew she wanted to do for sure in life was to be a good mother. And I told her what I more recently wrote in a poem to one of my feminist theory students, who blessed us by bringing her daughter to class, "mothering is the most feminist act of all." My mother, like every black mother, has been slandered. But we know a lie when we see it. My brother wanted to punch every producer of CNN's disgusting "Black in America" series for daring to suggest that being raised by a black mother was the key liability destroying the life chances of black people. How dare they? How dare they? When our black mother is the only reason we know how to breathe and survive despite the toxic racism filling this world. How dare they?

It is no mystery why it is a cultural truth that talking about a black person's mother is a great way to unleash a universe of anger. Our mothers are slandered every single second of every single day. The media does it like it's its job. And indeed it is.

And here is the risk. All this talk of mothering, all this affirmation and priviliging of mothering puts me at risk, not only in a mainstream narrative working to reproduce a nation built on racial hate and genocide, but also on the academic queer left. It is not very queer of me to keep talking about my mother this way. In fact (as Micheal Warner suggests) the only queer way for a black person to talk about a mother is the "irony" of the house mother in black gay ball culture. CNN is dead to me. The deeper betrayal is that queer studies participates in the slander of the black mother, agreeing with the story that says she should not exist.

Has Warner not considered (as Cathy Cohen makes very clear in Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens) that black mothering is already a queer thing? Because we were never meant to survive. So the Queen Mother in the house movement is not just throwing shade, the queen is doing the necessary work of mothering. Of saying these bodies black and queer almost to redundancy, these spirits that every facet of our society would seek to destroy, MUST survive and WILL transform the meaning of life whether you like it or not. That is what a black mother does. Sincerely. No irony. It is no joke.

So this week I have been picking a bone with a queer theory narrative that sees mothering as the least radical thing one can do, in so much that it becomes irrelevant to the majority of the discourse on queerness. Clearly, like Moynihan, they don't know my mother. Asserting that the labor of mothering is always in collaboration with the a reproductive narrative, reproducing heteronormativity ignores the fact there has been a national consensus for centuries that black people should not be able to mother and every force, from coercive sterlization, to the dismantling of welfare has been mobilized to try to keep them from doing it. Where has dominant (read white) queer theory been while politicians have been ranting and raving about how welfare queens, (which despite the actual statistics becomes a code name for poor and racialized mothers) are going to destroy civilization as we know it by not only creating black surplus children, but by influencing these children with their deviant and risky and scary behavior? And isn't this the organizing desire of queer theory....to destroy civilization as we know it?

I just wish everyone would listen to Cathy Cohen (who by the way is a black co-mother to a beautiful fierce black girl-child) so I wouldn't have to stand here screaming (or more accurately sit here taking, deconstructing and rebuilding the premises of queer theory all week long). But here is the quick and dirty of it...mainstream queer theory as inaugurated by Warner's edited volume and influenced by a Marxist feminst tradition of critiquing the heteropatriarchal family as a complicit force in the reproduction of capitalist oppression throw the black babies out with the bathwater of their universalism. The "tyranny of motherhood" as described by Barrett and McIntosh does not leave room for those other deployments of "mother" and "hood" (excuse me "inner-city") in the American vernacular of culture of poverty discourse.

This is why Hortense Spillers should be required and repeated reading for queer theorists. Four words. Mama's Baby Papa's Maybe. Which means there is no reason that the act of mothering would reproduce patriarchy, or even take place within the confines of patriarchy along normative lines because the practice of American slavery has so fundamentally ripped the work of mothering from the bodies of black mothers (forcing them to do the labor of mothering for white and black children while fully denying them any of the authority of motherhood by killing and selling away and raping and mutilating their biological children and their chosen kin. (I have posted here before about my discovery, while reading slave code, that even a free black mother had no legal right to defend an enslaved daughter from abuse by a slave master.)

The complexity of the term mother (next to black) requires a queer theory that deuniversalizes race and highlights the function of racism in reproducing the heteropatriarcal status quo. Cathy Cohen, Roderick Ferguson and Jose Munoz do this work of reminding us that Third World Feminism and the Third World Gay Liberation movement are an alternative starting point (contemporary with the Marxist feminist arguments that Warner's version of queer theory inherits). Their work is crucial because it says something very obvious. We are people of color. The whole system wakes up every day trying to exterminate our bodies and our spirits. Our very survival is queer.

We were never meant to survive, and if mothers are part of why we are here (and they are), then they are the queerest of us all. But this is not even news. If we remember what black women have been up to in the United States we can just go ahead and let go of the assumption that mothering is conservative or that conserving and nurturing the lives of black children has ever had any validated place in the official American political spectrum.


Eslanda Robeson
Charlotta Bass
Shirley Graham Du Bois
Mary Church Terell
Maude White Katz

Take the fierce black women writers, mothers, publishers, actresses, activists
who would become the Sojourners for Truth and Justice and their work starting in the 1940's to protest the imprisonment of Rosa Lee Ingram, a black mother who was sentenced to death for standing up for herself, and defending herself against a white man who tried to rape her. It was black women activists who changed her sentence to life in prison and then eventually (after 12 years of incarceration) got her released from prison. And always, always the key word in their organizing strategy was "mother." Their understanding of Ingram who was willing to fight to keep this violent man away from her body and away from her children, epitomized the term "mother" for this set of black woman revolutionaries. They framed the state's violence against Ingram as a violence against black mothering itself. How dare this black woman take a stance against rape. Standing against rape is a mothering act. How dare she threaten the perceived truth about what happens to black people, that black bodies are infinitely rapeable. How dare she stand ferocious, daring and teaching. This is what will happen to you if you come at me. This is the act of mothering that mobilized a national movement, black women gathered twenty-five thousands signatures for a petition in 1949...way before the era of the text message e-blast petition. They made it an international human rights issue, contacting every single member nation of the UN. And I need you to know this, remember this if you remember nothing else:

On Mother's Day, exactly 60 years ago the black left internationalist feminists of the Ingram Committee sent TEN THOUSAND MOTHER'S DAY CARDS to the White House and scared Harry S. Truman so bad that he made up an excuse to miss their scheduled meeting the next day.

Ten thousand mother's day cards from black women to the white house. Stolen holiday. No justice, no peace in the form of ten thousand paper-cuts. A floral dare saying: celebrate this. This is what mothering means: organized support for radical self-defense. A complete refusal of rape by any means necessary. Ten thousand Mother's Day cards. A threat saying we are black mothers. We are survivors. Try us.

Forget hallmark.

Have a revolutionary Mother's Day people.




*(Outside of the above timeline, sit Audre Lorde's "Litany for Survival," Cathy Cohen's "Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens" and Hortense Spillers's "Mama's Baby Papa's Maybe" which i did not reread this week...but have completely internalized such that I should be understood to be citing them no matter what I am saying about anything.-apg)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Flamboyance

Hey all. This is a talk I gave yesterday at Radical Intersections a performance studies conference at Northwestern University. Let me know what you think!
love,
lex



Flamboyance: The Queer Survival of Black Feminism

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Dedicated to Pauline McKenzie and Andria Hall

May I begin with an invocation?
This instant. This triumph. Black feminism was never meant to survive. This instant. This triumph. This is ritual. This instant and this triumph. Black feminism was never meant to survive. But here I am. Here we are. That is the queer thing. In 1981 by the time I was in my mother’s womb every explicitly black feminist organization in the United States was defunct, and the black women’s writing publishing trend was effectively over. Some say that black feminism went academic, went textual. Some say black feminism went new age, got touchy feely, stopped taking to the streets. Some say black feminism is anachronistic, useful only as a referent, a supplement, a precedent for something else. Black feminism (remember) is how we got this idea of interlocking systems of oppression, demarginalizing the intersection. But I have not heard anyone talk about the Combahee River Collective here. I have not heard us lift up the name KimberlĂ© Crenshaw yet at this conference about Radical Intersections. Hmm. It seems, black feminism was never meant to survive. And the queer thing is, here we are.

This is how I make my body legible to ancestors who I cannot choose or name. This is how I make my work accountable to swallowed rage in the mouths of people who were not invited. This is how we commune with the forgotten, reframe the possible, this is how we remember that we don’t know where we come from. This is makeshift reverence for pathways that do not meet, a time space that is not continuous. This is what her hand writing has to do with my slow breathing. This is what her late nights have to do with my early mornings. This is what his bitten tongue has to do with my declaration. This method is survival as performance, speech as meditation, memory as clothing, ocean as audience. This room is full of something that I will name black feminism. Tell me when it starts to burn.

Flamboyant. First an architectural term describing the construction of castles with framing blades, the colonial understanding of flowering trees, the Oxford English Dictionary remembers that flamboyant meant many things before it meant us, those of us who do not know better than to hide our brilliance, the transformative ones, burning like hell as we walk the earth. This meditation examines the way that black feminism survives in the queer bodies of work, bone, muscle and breath that remain, invoking the little known work of the Flamboyant Ladies, a performance group created by black lesbian feminists Alexis De Veaux and Gwendolyn Hardwick in their living room. This presentation situates the forgotten work of the Flamboyant Ladies, who created radical t-shirts, performance pieces, salons and a full day presentation about the impact of the nuclear moment on black communities in the 1970’s as a haunting, illegible precedent for the more contemporary work of UBUNTU and BrokenBeautiful Press, two initiatives based in Durham North Carolina that similarly use embodied poetics to respond to systemic violence, against women of color in the wake of the Duke Lacrosse and Dunbar Village cases and the torture and sexual assault of Megan Williams.
Seeking an embodied poetics of queer intergenerationality, a relationship between ancestors, elders and youth that survives by rejecting the social reproduction of oppression, rejecting the assumption that queerness and intergenerationality are mutually exclusive especially given the mandate that some of us are criminalized when we reproduce life and create family, this piece takes Flamboyance, that dangerous, queer stance, as a trajectory for the livelihood of feminism, taking seriously the (often cancerous) impact of the unceasing labor of and punishment for radical feminist work on the bodies of queer elders and ancestors including De Veaux, Hardwick, and collaborators, June Jordan and Audre Lorde. This is a work towards healing and survival. Healing and survival are queer methodologies for oppressed communities because we were never meant to survive. This is a collaborative offering of our bodies across time to the intergenerational work of performing, and making possible, the world we deserve.
The Flamboyant Lady Should Not Exist
Flamboyant Ladies co-founder and radical black lesbian feminist Alexis DeVeaux explains, “By the time Reagan came to power, opportunities for black women writers and artists, began to dry up in drastic kinds of ways. Publishers say ‘we have enough black books.’ The NEA becomes explicitly conservative.” Black women artists cannot support themselves with grants and publishing contracts from a lustful consuming public fascinated by the glamour of the self-articulation of black and feminine subjectivity. The novelty has worn off, it is no longer interesting that someone can be a woman and a black person at the same time. In fact by 1981 the Moynihan’s matriarchy thesis has become law and the danger of black women has become apparent. Reagan has by this time, coined the term welfare queen, that black woman who threatens the new neoliberal economic order by the criminal act of bearing black children, expendable and expensive drains on an increasingly anti-social economy, that black woman who threatens the logic that flesh and labor have differential values by loving black children as if they were priceless, that black woman who threatens the anti-social norms of late capital by raising children that will not consent to the terms of the economy, this crazy black woman who lives as if housing, and education, and food were community concerns. That crazy black woman, with the nerve to survive and to wear bright colors, big hair and a loud mouth while doing it. She is a problem.


The intersection is not a radical sexy place of queer and salient knowledge production at this point. The intersection is the place where June Jordan, Gwendolen Hardwick and Alexis DeVeaux have guns pulled on them by the New York City police occupying black neighborhoods in Brooklyn. That intersection has much more in common with the intersection that Crenshaw actually described, the traumatic scene of a violence that neither the law or the existing anti-oppressive theory could fully address, than with the logic of accumulation that we use to market ourselves as increasingly complicated scholars in an academic industrial complex primed to consume our difference. So maybe what these black feminists created at their particular juncture has something to teach us, now.
*
I never knew that waking up every morning with a new idea and ironing it on to a t-shirt for two years was an apprenticeship. I didn’t know that navigating the issue of socially transformative childcare with the idea that queer folks should dance and prisons should be abolished forever was a vigil I participated in towards the survival of my elders, I didn’t know that enacting healing as performance with a women of color led group of survivors of gendered violence was much older news than I could have imagined. I thought that I and we were, to quote Essex Hemphill, “making ourselves from scratch.” Our stories are not recycled and distributed on the wings of capital, so I became an eclectic priestess, ritualizing cotton, stickers, and the word yes. Experimenting in community with how our needs became analysis. I had no idea that I was an initiate in a practice called black feminism because the mode of black feminism that I practice, that we practice in my community is the forgotten, unpublished part of the story. But here we were speaking the lines, setting the scene, dancing the navigation home.

This is the only way I know how to tell you about the experience I had one day in the files of the African Ancestral Lesbian Archive, files of an archive that no longer exists, held in the all volunteer run brownstone of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. My hand brushed across a flyer, a woman and then that same woman printed twice, partially hidden by the other’s hair, because it was big hair wild hair familiar hair, from my standpoint. Huge earrings, and full open mouths, the Flamboyant Ladies were hosting a performance in their living room to benefit “No More Prisons” a campaign by women to stand in solidarity with women in prison followed by a “women’s only” party with free childcare. I didn’t breathe as I turned to the next sheet with those same mirror image women thanking a community for supporting the daylong festival and t-shirt making initiative they had held about the question of how the anti-nuclear movement impacted black communities in the United States. I found an invitation to a traumatic (playing on the term dramatic) mythic performance designed to ignite healing by examining the sound, feel and timbre of embodied oppression. Alexis DeVeaux who held writing workshops and instigated public performances and self-published anthologies in her living room laughed on the phone when I finally got up the nerve to call her up and ask her how and why she did everything, but I nearly cried, because she was never meant to survive. And I had never expected to make sense.


Alexis DeVeaux uses the language of survival to describe the tactics that she and other black feminists who created their own alternative means of production used during that time period. “We did what we had to do to survive, if white publishers wouldn’t publish us, we would publish ourselves our resistance to being completely silenced was to be deeply creative. We are going to be here.” Looking at the work of the Flamboyant Ladies, an eclectic and radical black feminist performance group that has been almost completely forgotten by black feminist scholars and performance scholars alike, and meditating on the queer way in which that work survives, unintentionally and often unknowingly in the lives of some other, loud, belligerent creative, underfunded radical black women who came late to the game of black feminism, we have the opportunity to meditate on survival as a performance. Survival as a queer echo, a manifest lust in the bodies and work of those of us, who were never meant to survive. I think that this examination is especially crucial in this political and economic moment, which like the Nixon and Reagan eras is characterized by the gutting of social services, the channeling of huge amounts of public funds to the private sector and of course military interventions around the world in the name of so-called democracy. If we would survive, in any material sense, we must take heed of the strategies enacted by these earlier social actors.

So first let us remember that performance is not a stable mode of social reproduction, in fact, like the criminalized black mother, performance can be policed, paid, begged and pleaded with the re-establish the terms of the status quo, but it cannot never be trusted to do so. Homi Bhabha makes a famous distinction between the performative and the pedagogical in the imagination of the social and political unit of the nation reminds us that performance is queer, that is non-reproductive, and as we know the vast majority of performances remain undocumented, like classrooms, moments of possibility that you either witness, hear about after the fact, or miss completely. I have never seen any of the performances of the Flamboyant Ladies, and I never will. And before I was born all the black feminist organizations had fallen apart. And Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Gloria Anzaldua, Barbara Christian, Pat Parker…so many of my strongest feminist ancestors who would barely be elders by now are dead. Never meant to survive. But the queer thing is they do, and that survival is performative and it is happening right now. This performance of survival, the survival itself, protests and makes visible the conditions that make it unlikely, but it also threatens those conditions with the fierce reminder that, as Wahneema Lubiano has said, “Power is never complete.” This form of survival demands a queer rethinking of time and space, a queer reframing of body and memory, a diasporic inhabitation of the temporality of trauma, that our gaps in knowing, our post-dispersion decalage does not mean that our herstories are not everywhere waiting. This is research and it is also ritual because it requires action and faith. Does it burn? This is your part:

Consider the flame. Flickering. Transformative. Changing shape. That heat. That glow around those of us that, according to every story that keeps this anti-social society together, should be burning in hell. What is your flamboyance? That which keeps your flame alive, that which lives on you, bright through you that power had intendend to incinerate. Where on your body, where on your lips, where in your fingertips, where in your hair, does the blackened narrative emerge? What hollowed out remnant do you dance in now and what is the significance of what your longing remembers? Consider the flame. What cannot be forgotten even when it is not known? What will not destroy us even when we are flagrantly ourselves? What will we create instead?

This instant. This triumph. In you, something queer survives.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

from Revolutionary Mother and Vancouver Activist Cynthia Dewi

i am root in rock
waterless
my throat tilted towards sky
throbbing with thirst
for rain
acid rain
small and heavy rain
rain that bullies and breaks apart
rain that trickles in the creases
of your elbows
and eyelids
rain that pounds your skin raw
any rain at all

this room is shrinking
chains grow around my ankles
glass lights shine obstinately
sad substitutes for the sun
making live leaves
that pine for eternal sleep
it is getting harder to breathe

single mother
seventeen
stupid
stigma
sinful
slut

less than 24 hours
before my father was laid to rest
under a pine tree
his life a kaleidoscope of humiliation
dentist disguised as dairy queen server
in the land of dead dreams
where he learned to destroy
mine

i was married off.
i couldn't even eat the cake
my skirt barely fit.

and my father's humiliation became
my heritage.


i don't know how to convey the loneliness that is single motherhood.
where it begins and where it ends, for example.
or whether it is a symptom or root of late modernity.
what are its form and character.
what it takes from you while compelling you to give
of every fiber in your body.
sometimes even more is demanded.

do we have an analysis of loneliness inside our politics? inside our organizing?
i know we have a language around "social isolation",
the "alienation that is produced by colonial and capitalist relations of power"...
i know we have potent, immediate, accurate accounts of oppression
within/across the multiple dimensions of our lives...

but how do we understand
the production of
loneliness? or love?

can we even talk about it?

and please don't misunderstand me.
i am not requesting sympathy.
i am trying to understand my experience.
and part of that is saying this out loud to you,
to have that direct transference of sound waves
from my vocal chords to your ear drums.
because i cannot understand
what i am going through
as an indicator of suffering
in someone else's
policy plans.

summertime
and the livin is easy
fish are jumpin
and the cotton is high
oh your daddy's rich
and your ma is good lookin
so hush little baby
don't you cry


paul's lullaby
as an infant
and a five-year-old
is a total fusion
of tenderness
and enslavement

i am root in rock
planted here by the hands of history
and the mimic of agency
watching the river flow by
arms caught in stone crevices
i am unable to reach
make a cup with my palms
and drink

i cry, beg, plead, scream
seduce, pray, offer sacrifices
but i cannot beckon
that river to change its course

so i learned to make do with the
rock
that is simultaneously
home and
prison

paul was less than a week old when he got diagnosed with acute jaundice
if we had caught it a couple hours later
i would have buried my son
and my dad in the same year
we couldn't find his father anywhere
not then not after
when he learned to walk
to talk
to caress my face
and say,
"Mama, I love you, I love you more than counting stars."

not when i lost my hair
my health
my mind
not when my heart cracked
like a shell
under the onslaught
of a hammer

and to this day i don't understand
what goes through a father's head
when he decides to walk away

i looked for different stories everywhere
stories of survivors turned warriors
and slaves turned liberators
i sought for comfort
and for company
in the arms of audre
of june
of lee

scholarship
politics
poetry
became my battleground

i could not find weight in the world or in the lives of those i loved
so i sought it out in words
research, discuss, debate, relate
organize
as i trade body parts
for partnership
sometimes for employment too
because poverty is not as easily exorcised
as demons

the wind began to splinter my face
and some days it was all i had
to access basic necessities
i could not move
so i repositioned myself

so i turned my head
and cast my gaze
beyond the river

if i had to describe motherhood i'd say it includes at the least the following:
-manic confusion and oh, so many contradictions
-willing and invisible labor
-lots of multitasking
-knowing how stretch a dollar
-a constant state of being interrupted (while working, eating, thinking, conversing, making love)
-a constant process of de-bordering between self and other
-a quest for self-determination inside a dynamic of unequal dependency
-unlimited intimacy
-unreasonable love
-unreasonable faith
-unreasonable joy

do these things have a place in the communities we are building?

and my love
my anchor
i don't know how to raise you to be free
on colonized ground
i don't know how to give you a home
when my soul has not met Belonging
i don't know how to offer you safety
when my heart does not know
how to trust

i can only try
today tonight
this is me trying

single mother
solitude
spiritual
silent
stars


Friday, March 20, 2009

raven's eye is here

so yall know whats up?

Raven’s Eye!!!!!!!!

Beautiful, inspiring, amazing writing and art from us, women and genderqueer folk…

We have been organizing ourselves for years on the internet. We have started blogs, and e-zines, social networking spaces, list serves, conferences, conversations, groups, websites, cd’s and more. We are incredibly prolific, visionary, each of us coming to this space with individual and collective visions of self-expression, survival, sexuality, business, teaching, learning, community, organizing, solidarity,art, dreams, healing, and love.

Check it out.

Every day we will be posting more and more work by us, highlighting the diversity, the community, the changing landscape of our lives.

We are creating a space where our voices, work and lives are centered and celebrated.

Join us. Become a writer with Raven’s Eye. Participate in the conversations. Tell every one you know.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at: ravenseyeblog@gmail.com

Monday, March 9, 2009

SPEAK!: Words of Radical Womyn of Color

Greetings loved ones,
I am THRILLED to let you know about the release of a CD created by SPEAK! a Radical Womyn of Color Media Collective that I have been learning and growing in for the past few years. SPEAK! the self-titled CD is an amazing resource and I'm so proud to be a part of it because I truly believe that it is fierce and transformative in the tradition of This Bridge Called My Back. I know that being part of this process has changed my life.

The CD is available for purchase at www.speakmediacollective.com. The CD is part of a pilot grassroots fundraising project to fund young mothers of color to attend national gatherings within the progressive movement starting with the Allied Media Conference in Detroit this summer.

I am super super proud to be part of this project (even though I am freaked out about the recorded sound of my own voice). One of the featured poems on this CD is "Wishful Thinking" a poem that (as most of you know) I wrote for the National Day of Truthtelling in Durham, NC. I.e. it's a poem a wrote for you.

Your support for this project means everything to me.

love,
lex

p.s. To listen to an interview with Adele...the loving genius diva who first spoke and facilitated the idea that became this CD click here:
http://madamaambi.blogspot.com/2009/03/adele-nieves-speak.html

p.p.s. here is the official press release...SPREAD THE WORD!

SPEAK! WOMEN OF COLOR MEDIA COLLECTIVE RELEASING SELF-TITLED DEBUT CD
UNITED STATES — March 7, 2009– SPEAK! Women of Color Media Collective, a netroots coalition of women of color bloggers and media-makers, is debuting March 7, 2009 with a performance art CD, accompanied by a collaborative zine and classroom curriculum for educators.

Speak! members at the Liquid Words studio

handful of Speak! members at the Liquid Words studio

Compiled and arranged by Liquid Words Productions, the spoken word CD weaves together the stories, poetry, music, and writings of women of color from across the United States. The 20 tracks, ranging from the explosive “Why Do You Speak?” to the reverent “For Those of Us,” grant a unique perspective into the minds of single mothers, arrested queer and trans activists, excited children, borderland dwellers, and exploring dreamers, among many others.

“We want other women of color to know they are not alone in their experiences,” said writer and educator Alexis Pauline Gumbs of Broken Beautiful Press, one of the contributors to the CD. “We want them to know that this CD will give sound, voice and space to the often silenced struggles and dreams of women of color.”

The Speak! collective received grant assistance from the Allied Media Conference coordinators to release a zine complementing the works featured on the CD, as well as a teaching curriculum for educators to incorporate its tracks into the classroom environment.

“Speak! is a testament of struggle, hope, and love,” said blogger Lisa Factora-Borchers of A Woman’s Ecdysis. “Many of the contributors are in the Radical Women of Color blogosphere and will be familiar names… I can guarantee you will have the same reaction as to when I heard them speak, I was mesmerized.”

To promote the initiative, the Speak! collective is coordinating listening parties in communities across United States, creating short YouTube promotions illustrating the CD creation process, and collaborating with organizers and activists online and offline.

The CD is available for online ordering at http://speakmediacollective.com on a sliding scale beginning at $12. All inquiries for review copies should be directed to us at speakcd@gmail.com. Proceeds of this album will go toward funding for mothers and/or financially restricted activists attending the 11th Annual Allied Media Conference in Detroit, MI from July 16-19.

###

Please spread the word on your blogs and websites!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

letter #6

cross posted from my ecdysis

excerpts from Letter #6


Dear Veronica,



....Dr. Liu, in his ever strange ways, seems cheery when I call him, asking him what our next step should be, "Well, just wait until day 35 of the cycle and take a pregnancy test. If you're not pregnant, we'll just up the dosage."

In other words, as he has said it before: quit worrying.

But I am worried.

The face I put on for others is a face of hope and optimism. The words come out of my mouth as I say that I will not be devastated if I cannot have biological children, but the truth is, my darling daughter unborn, I am afraid I will slip into a darkness that will shade me for the rest of my days if that happens. The reality is that life is given to you and there are portions of it which you can exercise control. Most parts, though, are handed to you, as is, and what you do with those parts, what you choose to create or act with it, is entirely up to you. I have trouble coping with that reality.

Someday, I hope, you will sit next to me and we will go over these letters together. I'm sure I will need some prompting about what I was thinking at 29 years of age, and I hope that these words will open a door of memories that will help guide you in your path of choices.

I want to include a picture with this letter. This is a picture of me, your old Mama at twenty years young, with another little girl. Her name is Veronica and she is the little girl you are named after. Taken in 2000, Veronica, now, is around fourteen years old and probably still in barrio Nueva Vida in Managua, Nicaragua.

Back in the old college days, I decided to live in Nicaragua for three months and work in areas that would challenge my ways of thinking. Nicaragua - Veronica - succeeded....


....I want you to remember something, my child, in case you ever forget yourself: all children are created equal and therefore you will all grow into women that are equal. This world will tell you different. It will tell you that since you were born in a certain country with privileges, education, and industry, you are worth more. The world will tell you that your place in society is measured by the size of your wallet, the space of your house, the shine of your car, the interest rates of your stocks, the gleam of your hair, the smell of your breath, the shade of your skin, the mobility of your legs, the speed of your mind..........


....There is nothing greater in this world than the measure of what you will do for liberation and for how far you will go to bring a sense of peace to the places that will never know the quiet of stars because their skies are filled with the noise of bombs and bullets.

I make you sisters and gently remind you to care for one another, even if you never meet. Even if you are separated by everything and you find nothing in common, you are sisters. You are binded by my realization that I cannot sacrifice one without sacrificing the other. You need each other in every sense of the word survival.....

please read the entire incredible letter here


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

art speaks and quick note to self

Art Speaks

Rad Los Angeles art piece image excavate childhood memory for many young Latinas.

See a photo of the piece here.

Last year, I attended a Mujeres de Maiz artist exhibit showcasing women of color artists, this painting took me back to when I was that child gazing at the calendar romanticizing the Aztec Warrior saving the voluptuous beautiful princess. This image decorated the new year calendar that the carniceria (butcher), local Latino market gave out during the holidays. It is a beautiful piece of art honoring indigenous history and Mexican culture. A badge of honor of sorts. It was free too, so it hung on the kitchen wall right by our table. For breakfast, lunch and/or dinner sometimes I looked up towards the image and I wanted to be that beautiful princess getting saved by the handsome strong warrior. Our home was not unique, many Latino families sported the free calendar in their walls. Consequently many young Latinas can easily identify this image, and the symbolism connoted. As an adult I’ve dissected that image of the princess saved by the Aztec, there’s a strong sexualization of their bodies, her voluptuous body, eyes closed, tender tilted face, emphasizes her looks while the Aztec warrior’s fit body accentuates his strength and conviction to save the princess. Feminism 101 ( or for me common sense 101) “female” socialization teaches that our looks are more important than our actions and that we are often times on earth to please heteronormative ideals, so when I stood in front of this image of the woman picking herself up, it brought a “hell yea” in me.

The image is called “Pick Yourself Up, Girl.”

As I dealt with a whirlwind of ups and downs the last couple of weeks, one late nigh walking the dog with an aching heart staring at the cemented sidewalk processing the day’s emotional exhaustion (heart hanging very low) with that image ingrained, I affirmed out loud, “pick yourself up girl.”

The UBUNTU philosophy, I am because we are, is resonating with me more and more lately and it cannot be truer in the journey of transformative healing. That night as I dealt with complex emotions garnering and searching for the tools at reach, that image, Alexis P. Gumbs’ “Wishful Thinking” poetry replaying over and over in my car earlier - the soothing words, the powerful image gave me the strength to reach within to not only get dragged down by the heavy load it became lighter. Their art work, infused life into the dreary terrain of pain. Their art work, helped me carry myself. Walking back home, with my head a little higher, the load lighter, and for that, I am eternally thankful.

and from noemi:

quick note to self

If love is a radical force, the work I do as an non-traditional teacher and storyteller are testimonies to this. Love is radical.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

raven's eye

raven’s eye

February 22, 2009

so i have been dreaming about blogs. the first dream was about a blog called: raven’s eye

and as i have been thinking deeply over the past few days about these dreams and visions, i felt compelled to say this:

we, as women of color, have been organizing ourselves for years on the internet. we have started blogs, and e-zines, social networking spaces, list serves, conferences, conversations, groups, websites, cd’s and more. we are incredibly prolific, visionary, each of us coming to this space with individual and collective visions of self-expression, survival, sexuality, business, teaching, learning, community, organizing, solidarity,art, dreams, healing, and love.

in my visions i kept seeing a women and transfolk of color blog. one that was updated daily with our news, analysis, announcements, personal reflections, conversations, and more. a location on the net where we, from our different perspectives and lives, are able to give voice to us. where we agree and disagree, and stay in conversation.

i see this blog as a part of the ongoing organizing and expression that we do both on- and off-line so well in the midst of our crazy, blessed lives.

and so i am sending this out into the ether asking what you think.

are there others who are interested in building such a space for women and transfolk of color?

i can offer a chance to see if this experiment could work. i have some free time to dedicate to the building of this site. a certain amount of knowledge of software and a willingness to learn more. a connection to some communities of color. and a desire to build with you.

please distribute this where you think appropriate.

and if you are interested please leave a comment at guerrillamamamedicine.wordpress.com

outlaw midwives

outlaw-midwives3


the new site: outlaw midwives is up! yay! please check it out...


We envision anti-violence safer communities where mothers and children heal from reproductive violence, because it is when we are whole and confident in our own leadership, are we able to co-create healthy communities.

Communities in which loyalty to a mother’s choice is 99 percent of being a midwife and in which we define ‘motherhood’ as love by any means necessary.

Communities in which we care for ourselves developing spiritual and physical awareness so that we can hold the space, the energy, the vision for folks to make decisions that center freedom, community and revolutionary love.

We must mother ourselves. Hold ourselves the way that we hold our children. And know that our wisdom is stronger and more knowledgeable and relevant than outside expertise. We must live the lives that are given to us. And trust others to do the same. For the sake of our survival. For the sake of our ancestresses. For the sake of our communities. For the sake of love.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

the invisible mother

xposted from womanist musings

In feminist circles there is often commentary regarding our shared experiences as women. What is ignored is that though certain situations are similar based solely in gender, quite often we experience them differently when there is a race or class intersection. As mothers our capacity to love our children is boundless, but this is not nearly the universalizing experience as presented by most forms of media, or mainstream feminism. All mothers are not created equal. For the middle/upper class white woman, with her mini van and Prada purses there are plenty of visible representations of positive motherhood. If however you are a woman of color, the erasure in the discourse of motherhood is totalizing.

Women of color are not constructed as mothers; they are presented as irresponsible breeders who did not have the decency not to burden society with their offspring. Their right to reproduce is continually challenged because a capitalist economy does not encourage production without an obvious profit. The reality of the situation is, if a child grows in a poor household despite the pull yourself up by the boots rhetoric, they are most likely to grow into poor adults trapped by a system that has refused to give them equal opportunity from birth.

The mother/breeder binary is readily obvious in most parenting magazines. The stories are often written by white women of the privileged class, while the lived experiences of women of color are absent from the pages. Despite the courage and strength of will that is necessary to raise a child, when you exist as a marginalized body your stories are not deemed compelling, or marketable. Women of color are meant to serve as “mothers helpers,” not exist as actual mothers.

As the elite rush off to mommy and me gatherings in between scheduling for their high intensity careers, what is ignored is that the option to pursue such a range of possibility only exists because of the ability to exploit another woman. Poor so-called third world women who are often separated from their families function as an invisible support staff, permitting women of the privileged class to announce that yes Virginia, we can have it all.

read more at womanist musings here

Thursday, February 12, 2009

a different level of hell: family court

xposted from mamita mala

I think someone said that one of the responses to grief is anger and yesterday morning, the morning abuela died, I was angry. I was not angry at death or at abuela pero I was angry porque my ex had decided to in order to pay me child support we needed to do it through court, even though the amount ordered by the magistrate, who not once looked up to see my face, was the same exact amount I had told el chileno mas o menos he would have to pay according to New York State guidelines. Add to that the fact that el chileno has opted for the money to be taken out of his check directly, instead of paid to me, I have to wait and likely won’t have enough for rent for the apartment where his daughter lives.

Next on my journey through levels of hell: Health insurance and food stamps (my case was closed).

(re)thinking walking: bfp's second walk

from brownfemipower at flip flopping joy


It’s only very rarely that it’s a joy to go for a walk here. More often than not, it’s a struggle, a pain, an effort. The closest *real* park (as in, it has birds and trees and wild flowers and leaves and maybe some bunny rabbits or raccoons–as opposed to a small plot of grass with a walkway forced through it) is about a 20 minute car ride into Ann Arbor. I have not been strong enough mentally to try the bus.

To drive out to a nice park where you can’t hear the drone of the freeways is often such a hassle (and expensive–$4 gas anyone?), it’s just not worth it. But walking around the local neighborhood…well…see for yourself.

pc140230

Michigan, day one

pc140231

Michigan, day two

pc140232

Michigan, day three

Notice anything?

Inspired to get outside and take an invigorating, life affirming, healing walk?

I sure wasn’t. And that’s why I didn’t. The fam and I got in the car instead and drove around. We documented our surroundings, became more aware of them.

Michiganders spend a lot of time trying to outrun their surroundings, to make the bleak grayness as blurry as possible so certain things just aren’t noticed anymore.

So that the miles and miles of concrete grayness doesn’t swallow you whole.

***

Saturday, January 31, 2009

audre lorde

"I am defined as other in every group I'm part of...The outsider, both strength and weakness. Yet without community there is certainly no liberation, no future, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression"

stuff and stuff

hey there!

happy belated new year!

i am really behind already this year...obviously...and i am trying to catch up but oh well.

1. noemi created a beautiful brand spanking new site for revolutionary motherhood but i havent had time yet to figure it all out...we will be moving there soon...woohoo!

2. right now we are in cairo, egypt. after being denied entry to israel and spending a few days in israeli detention. ugh. you can read about our experiences here:

day 1
day 2
day 3

3. lex and i created this site: because we still are here

women of color globally

have written and stood

in solidarity with Palestinians for decades.

*******************************************************************

as suheir hammad chants:

if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is

feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip…

there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting

but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will

shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after

rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.

affirm life.
affirm life.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
affirm life.

******************************************************************

you are invited to continue this tradition in the wake of israel’s current massacre of Gazans. to continue this tradition of transnational feminist solidarity with Palestinians. to find breaths, to find words, to co-create the phoenix in the midst of this rubble.

please leave in the comments your words, visions, rants, pictures.

affirm life

4. revolutionary motherhood has a twitter account as well! follow at: revolutionmamis

5. this is not a hotel:

when in israeli prison i try to make a joke with the you monsters. but your english just isnt that good. the american accent sounds like a lazy fold in the heart.

but did you choose this job? or was this the only job left? you yell at me for not leaving the prison but you locked the door from the inside with you still in it.

you have to be ruthless to do this job. you have to be sandpaper. you have to push your eyes into your hands and refuse to admit that you are blind.

this is not a hotel. it is a cemetary. where you the dead guard living with threats and cocked fingers, with gutturral words. the bunk beds are rickety, rusted, rattling. a posada print where the the the prison guards smiles are skeletal papier mache puppets and no one is allowed to burst the pinata. poisoned candy. urine soaked blankets. plastic wrapped food. once a day you come to threaten us. this is a dance with the beloved. spinning. spinning. to find a center. a strain of human dna in the jungle where the monsters are. my daughter stares at you wide eyed.

instead you ask questions you wont let me answer. the heart is always a lonely hunter here. and my daughter and i refuse to be mute. like the tip of the knife, tip of the pen, tip of a bomb, the heart is dangerous in prison

this is a no man’s land. no laws govern us. no heart. no grace. just following orders.

this is a broken version of hell. but you wont break me. i am a witch. back up or get burnt. like a daughter in gaza you are bombing with phosphorous clouds of light billowing into the sky like laundry on the line.

no pens, knives, bags, phone calls, questions, answers, forgiveness, order

you close down gaza. then open a cease fire.

just me and my baby girl locked in a room. bright lights always on. i drape mattress covers around the bunk bed like thick mosquito netting. i tell you we need an angel in this hell. you come back with dead food.

the screams of an eight month pregnant african woman rocking on her hips. this blackness floats around my head–like stars pulling open the center of the sky. nothing here is breathing unless it has to. this heart, my hands are heavy pulling my head to the floor. there is no place to rest the ribcage. it folds into an origami swan and lies on its right wing, cock eyed, with sharp edges.

13 israelis dead
1300 palestinians dead
and a cease fire as stable as a childs paper plane in the wind

i cross my chest and mouth the hail mary.you only let us out of the room to show us how locked in we really are. baby girl spins between the bunk beds singing the alphabet to herself: a.b.r.q.s.z…

she climbs onto the bed. shuts her eyes. takes a couple of deep breaths. and then laughs hard into the belly of her stuffed doll. drags the to doll the floor . pats the doll’s back while whispering–shhh–then tucks the doll under the blankets.

night night.

its time to go to sleep.


6. i have had the incredible privilege of getting to know you awesome mamas...thank you...it has meant so much to me. provided sustenance and helped me to feel a little less alone in this world.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Extended Call for Submissions: Don't Leave Your Friends Behind!

Extended Call for Submissions:

Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: a Handbook for Radical Parenting Allies

New deadline: July 1, 2009!

Don't Leave Your Friends Behind is a book geared toward the non-parent radical community about how to be an ally to the parent(s) in their midst.

This book is going to be a collection of some of the best minds out there. We're looking for activists, allies, and radical parents to submit the most kicking stuff to make this the best book ever for getting down to business: let's make a better world WITHOUT leaving out the mamas (and papas, partners, child-care providers) and children this time!

We are extending the deadline!! We realize that each place we go, we meet more people, hear their experiences, and are referred to even more people whose actions, thoughts and stories we should include. We realize that it is better to take the time for the project to evolve and grow before putting together a book.

Thus, we are restructuring our goals and deadlines while we keep learning, teaching and networking with this exciting work. We do not have a final deadline for the book, but will continue compiling our submissions into a half-yearly zine series.

That said—we have a new and exciting zine available for three dollars (see below for more details). We plan to do another “work in progress” zine—to share more of our submissions as the project evolves-- this summer. The deadline for submissions is July 1st, 2009.

We want to know how you do support children and their caretakers in your collectives, organizations or communities. We are especially interested in experiences that also take into account factors such as race, class, gender, single parenthood, and/or mental health issues.

Word limit is from one sentence suggestions to 5.000 word essays.

Deadline for Zine #3: July. 1, 2009

About the Editors:

Vikki Law is a writer, photographer and mother who has been working on a survey of anarchist mothers for the past two years. She also put out the zine "Mama Sez No War," a compilation of mothers' experiences and activism against the U.S. war on Iraq and is the co-editor of Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison. Her first book Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (resistancebehindbars.org) will be out on PM Press in February 2009.

China Martens is the editor of the long-running zine The Future Generation, started in 1990, and mother of a 21-year-old. Her first book The Future Generation: a zine-book for subculture parents, kids, friends + others is an anthology of 16 years of her zine and is put out by Atomic Book Company. It is also available from AK PRESS

Jessica Mills writes a monthly column for Maximum Rock N Roll, "My Mother Wears Combat Boots" and her book came out on AK Press in November 2007 by the same title. She's a mother of two, sometimes plays sax with Citizen Fish, and is always all about organizing cooperative childcare.

Questions? Feel free to get in touch.

Contact:
China Martens
China410@hotmail.com
P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore MD 21211

or

Vikki Law
vikkimL@yahoo.com
PO Box 20388
Tompkins Square Station
New York, NY 10009