Archive by Author

On Watoto From The Nile- Letter to Lil Wayne

3 Mar

This musical open letter to Lil’ Wayne is getting lots of love!

I want to join the chorus and give a big ol’ YAY to black girls creating media and saying what’s on their minds! Speaking back to Wayne’s misogyny is super important!

That said, I wonder about the limits of such a message.

Steve Harvey’s views on women are not progressive. He’s simply peddling a more respectable sort of black gender relations that still have women in the role of subservient sex goddesses but with a bit more modesty. To set him up as a positive alternative to Wayne misses his own belief in narrow gender roles for men and women. The song disparages Wayne for being single and seems to imply that ideally he should be married or that if he was acting right he would be. Erykah Badu is signaled as a “good” artist despite having worked with Wayne (and she’s single too; tweets is watchin’).

Wayne gets constructed as wholly negative and Lauryn Hill et. al as wholly positive. That good vs. evil split is a little too easy and doesn’t get at the complexity of the issues I have with Wayne’s music. For me it’s not so much the “calling women out their names” as it is his objectification of women that informs his word choice and the earlier trauma in his life that may impact his behavior.

When we are young and maybe a little influenced by our parents, we can go a little too hard in the virtuous/Queen/good black people paint. In speaking back to Wayne and other rappers with misogynistic lyrics we have to be careful we don’t end up creating a new box for women, that is just as limiting if a bit more respectful. The “Madonna” is just as limiting as the “whore”, even if she gets more props.

I ain’t mad at them though and I definitely am sending them love, particularly since they are getting such hateful comments on the video’s Youtube page.

The three black girls embracing each other who made the video giving peace signs to the camera

Congratulations, Watoto From The Nile, for rekindling a conversation that needs to be had!

Praise the Lorde!

18 Feb

Color picture of Audre Lorde laughing

On this day, in 1934, Audre Lorde was born. She named herself “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet warrior” and gave us the words to do the same. Although many quotes will be in circulation today, I’d like to offer this one up, as a particularly good example of Lorde’s crunkness.

All too often the message comes loud and clear to Black women from Black men: “I am the only prize worth having and there are not too many of me, and remember, I can always go elsewhere. So if you want me, you’d better stay in your place which is away from one another, or i will call you ‘lesbian’ and wipe you out.” black women are programmed to define ourselves within this male attention and to compete with each other for it rather than to recognize and move upon our common interests.

-Audre Lorde

Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving

Publised in The Black Scholar, vol. 9 no. 7 1978

 

Can you believe she said this in 78?! That it is still all too relavant today?

h/t to Yolo Akili for the quote.

The Zen of Young Money: Being Present to the Genius of Black Youth

24 Jan

Guest post by Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, friend of CFC, Wonder Twin of me :)

I fly with the stars in the skies,
I am no longer trying to survive,
I believe that life is a prize,
But to live doesn’t mean you’re alive.

Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace, Angel Kyodo Williams
“Over” Drake
“Moment for Life” Nicki Minaj

what am I doing? what am I doing?
oh yeah, that’s right, I’m doing me, I’m doing me
I’m living life right now
and this what I’m a do til its over
til it’s over, but it’s far from over

First:

I am a member of a criminalized generation of black geniuses.

My twenty-something age-mates and the teenagers behind us are often dismissed as materialistic, crass, empty-headed, impulse addicts. Elders mourn our distance from the forms of social movement participation they would have imagined and mass media relates to us as a market to be bought, exploited and sold back to ourselves, ever cheaper.

As a particularly nerdy member of the so-called thoughtless generation, I resent the implication. And I wonder sometimes what it will take to make the forms of social interaction and critique that young black people are engaged in every moment of our high-tech or low-tech days legible to the baby boomers (since we all know that legibility to baby boomers is what makes something real in the United States).

So this rare piece (on my part) of contemporary hip hop commentary is an attempt to provide a specific example for an undercredited belief that is at the basis of my queer intergenerational feminist politic of black love:

As young black people we are experts of our own experiences, we think about the meanings of our lives, the limits of our options and more often than not we choose not to conform, not to consent to an upright and respectable meaning of life. Even in our most nihilistic moments we are tortured artists and mad scientists, living a critique of a dominant society that cannot contain us and does not deserve us. This doesn’t mean that we are always doing the right thing (Spike Lee), but it does mean that any effective transformative politic that is accountable to us, young black people with a variety of intellectual and cultural attractions and modes, will respect us as genius participants in a culture in transition (singularity) instead of incorrectly assuming that we are mindless consumers.

Now:

I take, the example of two songs by two of the most visible young black artists around, members of a hip hop crew/entertainment company that has capitalized on glamourizing a sexualized, hyper-capitalist version of youth energy, chosen family, excess and fun: Nicki Minaj and Drake from the Lil Wayne fronted Young Money Crew.

I happen to have been listening to mainstream radio one day in the car during the week that I was reading Angel Kyodo Williams book Being Black, on the value of Zen principles for black people in the United States, and inexplicably free of the usual defenses and judgments I hold against the most highly marketed versions of hip-pop (no typo) and the self-protection against misogyny and hyper-exploitation that generally causes me to hold back my listening, I actually paid attention to the lyrics.

Of course it was incredibly likely that I would hear songs by Nicki Minaj and Drake since they are routinely rotated. It seems like 2 out of 2 songs that are currently played on the radio star or feature one of these artists. But this time, opened up by Williams’ insights about the value of releasing judgment, I began to wonder whether beyond payola and the corporatization and uniformity of radio the mass appeal of these two artists might actually not only be the attraction of black youth, and young people in general to…(young) money and the alcohol baptized sexually olympic lifestyle advertised to come with young people’s access to money, but also a very different basic need in the lives of young black people, and a central need in my life: accessible technologies for being present to our own lives.

The year after I was born (1983) Lillie Allen created a workshop in Atlanta (as part of a vibrant and inspiring black feminist health movement and environment created by the National Black Women’s Health Project) called Black and Female: What is the Reality? which evolved into a curriculum for self and community empowerment calledBe Present. Could it be that the contemporary moment in hip-pop is keeping the attention of so many young people…including me, not for the predictably offered reasons, but rather as evidence of a deeply held desire to be present to our own lives in a culture too obsessed with progress to allow reflection or stillness?

Because really…what is compelling about the monotone of Drake’s voice in his clearly un-melodic non-chorus on “Over”? Is it only the saturation of media with images of his arrogant attempt to bring light-skinned tall brothers back into style with each other and the rest of the world? Or is it also the thin line between Drake’s monotone and a buddhist chant?

Because if, as Buddha writes in the Ghitassara Sutta, the lack of melody of the chant is designed to train us to release our attachment to sound so that we do not lose the moment behind it, Drake seems to also be accountable to something besides melody. What is it that Drake’s tonelessness offers that compels my generation to listen to it over and over again? Maybe it is the value of the moment behind the sound wanting to be revealed. The reminder to self, a struggle most evident in Drake’s questions and answers to himself:

what am I doing? what am I doing?
oh yeah, that’s right, I’m doing me, I’m doing me
I’m living life right now
and this what I’m a do til its over
til it’s over, but it’s far from over

This chorus seems to me to describe and enact exactly the struggle of my own stillness, my own attempts at meditation and mindful living in the world, the difficulty of escaping evaluation of my own life (especially its productivity), of placing myself on a limited timeline, of not “living life right now.” I wonder if other people, especially other young black people, who may not have recently read the writings of a brilliant black woman on the value of Zen awareness, are attracted to this same process, reflected in Drake’s existential moment, depicted in the music video as sitting on a hotel bed talking to himself charged out of nonchalance into liveliness as soon as he jumps (still seated) and says “oh yeah, that’s right, i’m doing me.” A contextually distant echo of Audre Lorde’s “I am who I am, doing what I came to do,” but an echo nonetheless, with the potential to do what Drake says he is capable of, making the “biggest skeptic a believer.” Could it be that my fellow black young adults and teenagers resonate with this non-song because it is an invitation to let go of some of the skepticism we bring to the value of our lives in their mundane and moving moments and to be present?

The other function of this piece is that while I have peripherally overhead every black feminist who engages with popular culture asked about what Mark Anthony Neal calls “the meaning of Nicki Minaj” in the midst of some kind of valuing or comparison with Lil Kim and the Barbie brand, I have to admit that I had not developed an idea of Nicki Minaj’s meaning or even an attunement to the sound of her voice until I was at Drag Bingo and a very fierce drag queen in a bobbed and banged blond wig did an impressive and well mouthed medley of Nicki Minaj songs and I found the metaphors hilarious (akin to what the smart-assed kid and poet in me is drawn to in the mid-career work of Eminem.) So I started listening to the words when I heard her baby-monster-robot voice on the radio. And when I heard:

In this very moment I’m king,
In this very moment I slay, Goliath with a sling,
This very moment I bring
Put it on everything, that I will retire with the ring,
And I will retire with the crown, Yes!
No I’m not lucky I’m blessed, Yes!
Clap for the heavyweight champ, Me!
But I couldn’t do it all alone, We!

I thought, this is drag performance all over again. A young black woman channeling the energy and poetry of a young Muhammed Ali as seamlessly as Janelle Monae channels the dance possession of James Brown. I listened to “Moment for Life” on youtube several times reflecting on what made the sequence above so affirming, and settled beyond my thrill at a young black woman that other young black women listen to embracing her masculinity and being proud of being a “heavyweight” it was the energetic repetition of “this very moment.” The powerful presence of the sequence places infinite value on the present moment. “This very moment I bring,” rumbles without knowing its embodiment of the energy and clarity of the Combahee River Collective’s “black women are inherently valuable.” What would it mean to affirm that what we bring is the moment, again and again, and that is enough. Period. Minaj literally uses affirmation as a practice in the piece (the repetition of “Yes!”) and the closing trinity of the passage above, divine context (no i’m not lucky i’m blessed. yes!) self-affirmation (clap for the heavyweight champ. me!) and interdependence with community (but I couldn’t do it all alone. we!) is exactly the mix that I use to keep myself centered. Who would have thought?


For a million reasons, most of them related to capitalism, racism and patriarchy it is extremely difficult for us, young black women, to be present to the miracle of our every breath. Usually we are waiting to exhale while the entire society collaborates to devalue and demean our living, our physicality, our impact. What are the possibilities of the resonance of an affirmation that moves beyond gender, that reaches to champion elders, that invokes a divine context and a need for community for all of us?

And more than that, what is the potential of my people, young black folks if we can be present to the value of our existence, and if everyone else can be buddhist about us, let judgment fall away and acknowledge the contribution we are to the universe just by existing as ourselves?

(We won’t be cocky, we’ll be vindicated.)
<3

Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs is freeblack and 28.


Really Regis?!

30 Nov

Dear Regis Philbin,

Please watch this video of YOU, Regis Philbin, co-host of Regis and Kelly, SMACKING NICKI MINAJ’S ASS! I’ll wait…

No I won’t, min 3:40

Other Crunk women of color have waxed poetic about this so I won’t belabour the point.

It doesn’t matter that her last name is Minaj or that she’s black and a “she” so you thought it would be ok, that her ass is awesome, rumored to be fake, that she talks about sex explicity in her music. That’s not an invitation to sexual harassment on national television.

You don’t get a pass because you’re an elder and white and like Lil Wayne.

You don’t put your hands on people!!!

And Kelly, I see you with your not at all innocuous “How BIG is your…waist?”

My friend Cee-Lo Green has some choice words for both of you.

Sincerely,

MB

On #ForColoredGirls *Spoiler Alert*

8 Nov

Production Still of Female Leads in For Colored Girls

I got to see an advanced screening of Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls promoted as a fundraiser for Sistersong and Sisterlove, two of my favorite social justice organizations and collaborators in a campaign called Trust Black Women. Before the film, Loretta Ross, black feminist warrior activist, described their work to get billboards taken down in Atlanta that compared black women’s decisions to terminate their pregnancies with genocide. They represent some of the fiercest women of color reproductive justice organizers in the South and beyond, and like the fierceness of Shange’s original choreopoem, their brilliance was smothered and silenced by a black man who feels like he can tell our stories better than we can. 

If you haven’t seen the movie, I can say the critics got it right. It’s a whole lotta mess: anachronistic, unbelievable, over the top, basically like any other Tyler Perry production. But there are moments, moments where seasoned actors stretch beyond the limitations of the director and a disjointed script to make magic. Can there be an Oscar for colored girls who do the damn thing in a Tyler Perry film when the writing is not enuf? Kimberly Elise FTW and Macy Gray was fire too. And I love me some Anika Noni Rose, even though I always feel like she’s doing the big drama of stage when she’s on the screen (worked nicely though for the choreopoem). In spite of some fabulous performances, For Colored Girls completely misses the original’s tone and message. From Shange’s work we get themes of self-love, pleasure, hurt and healing, decentering men in our lives, etc. Tyler’s framing leaves us with the exact opposite understandings; sex leads to pain, pay more attention to the men in your lives, know your role, and don’t forget you are some how responsible for whatever misery life brings you.

*spoiler alert*

What I really want to talk about is Tyler’s obsession with men who have sex with men. I mean in every film there is always some plot point or dialog that includes a man who looks like he just walked off the set of Noah’s Arc talking about how gay he isn’t. In this film, Janet Jackson, channeling Meryl Streep a la Devil Wears Prada, has a cough (people with HIV cough faintly, didn’t you know?) and a husband who in one of the first scenes is literally caught with his pants down receiving oral sex from a man. Carl is a stock broker who is so emasculated by his wife that he needs to get his submission elsewhere. “Walking down the street holding hands with a man, that’s gay!” he says in total disgust before he goes on to admit to having sex with men.

Though this plot point was apparently penned by Shange herself in her new edition of the text, this scene felt like a window into Tyler Perry’s and a lot of ostensibly straight men’s hearts. Showing genuine affection for another man is a sin but having sex with a man to reclaim your masculinity after being emasculated by women who don’t know their role is another story. There’s no discussion of Carl’s desire here. Bitchy black women are not only responsible for rape (how couldn’t she see the signs that we so clearly see as the audience?), their children being thrown out of windows (if she’d just left him earlier it couldn’t have happened) they are also the reason that black men must “bend” turn to each other for sex. In other words, black men have sex with men because black women won’t play their position, which is one of submission.

The film leaves you with a sense that  there’s something these women should have done, could have done differently to prevent these things from happening to them. What was a choreopoem of colored girls self-redemption becomes a PSA on how black women need to make different choices to forestall the violence that befalls them. The men however are simply reacting to the poor choices made by these women and as such are never truly held accountable for their actions, a posthumous slap to the face and forlorn gaze from a prison cell notwithstanding.

Perry was able to squelch condemnation from the very organizations most able to raise constructive criticism regarding his simplistic narrative by providing an opportunity to screen the film in advance for their benefit. What could have been a powerful moment to add the complexity that Perry missed, instead became an opportunity for Tyler Perry Studios to ask us to spread the For Colored Girls gospel for them as we were implored to tell our friends to go see it opening weekend. A brief talk back that included not one criticism of the film left me feeling confused and disappointed. If these women warriors could (would) not bring much-needed nuance how would other audiences (with less contact with the realities the film attempts to portray) react?

Black people have some healing to do. Tyler in particular needs more than his plays, movies, and TV show to work through his boyhood traumas. Like Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album and subsequent performances, trying to work your sh*t out publicly in your art doesn’t always provide the most liberatory frame through which to process. Self medicating through art may seem better than other more obvious self-destructive drugs of choice but when your own wounds keep you from acknowledging that you are capable of and culpable in inflicting others trauma begets more trauma and a vicious cycle is created (an important point we could have learned through the film itself).

Tyler’s rage at the black women who didn’t protect him comes through in every production he’s been associated with and perhaps his desire to understand their neglect might be better directed in the service of telling his own story, a story of a brown boy who wasn’t man enough for his father but man enough for the mother of a friend who molested him and the THREE men who did the same.  What might it mean for Tyler to tell his own story such that Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande might have had a more receptive public to hear their truths? Tyler’s hurt haunts For Colored Girls, muddling the intricate and multi-layered tapestry that Shange constructed, and leaving this colored girl with little recourse but to reach back for the rainbows of the original.

For Colored Girls Blog Carnival

1 Nov

 

Image of the cast of For Colored Girls hugging
Dear QBG/CFC Bloggers, Friends, colleagues, and more,

 

With the premiere of Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls approaching, we at Quirky Black Girls are planning a blog carnival concerning the movie. A blog carnival consists of hosting a webpage where linked blog posts discuss a similar subject. We know that many people are going to blog about the movie, the way that it relates (or doesn’t) to Shange’s original work, how it represents black women and men, how triflin’ it is, so we decided to create a central location where people could read it all!

If you would like to participate in the carnival, please send us a link to your blog at quirkyblackgirls[at]gmail[dot]com by Friday, November 12, 2010.

Oh and be sure to check out what Real Colored Girls are doing in terms of helping folks organize screenings and discussions in their area! Also, Evelyn Alfred is rocking out with a For Colored Girls twitter book club! Check the #forcoloredgirls for all the awesomeness!

With so much love and rainbows,

QBG’s Fallon & Moya

On ‘The Mean Girls of Morehouse’

14 Oct

Having gone to Morehouse’s (unofficial) sister school I feel compelled to comment on this Vibe Mean Girls article and subsequent fallout. In fact it feels kind of good to once again put this “audacity of parenting” thing on the back burner. Y’all ain’t ready :)

If you haven’t heard, Vibe acknowledged the fact that there are queer black folks in the world (more than CNN could do), let alone at the elite single sex HBCU, Morehouse College. The article profiles queer students who actively blur the binary line of gender and look damn good doing it. They wear their fierce so loud, proud and unapologetically they were dubbed “the plastics” by an ostensibly straight Morehouse brother of theirs.

The article title, while again evocative of a favorite literary device of mine, is sensational. It conflates the appropriated “plastics” moniker to girl identity which none of the students interviewed do themselves. They articulate a reveling in androgyny and gender bending that makes a lot of “straight” dudes uncomfortable, even administrators, hence the infamous dress code barring students from wearing women’s clothing (Read my thoughts on the dress code here). One student is interviewed while shopping in a women’s boutique in Atlanta and a store employee makes her shock regarding his attire known, providing a little more drama for an article already doing a lot by acknowledging the harsh realities of these students. What we don’t learn is how they are treated in the classroom or how daily jabs impact their ability to concentrate on their school work. A lot of them leave. Despite President Franklin’s claim of a Morehouse that accepts all identities, students that too obviously flout gender conventions have a nearly impossible time of making it on campus.

Looking at the comments section made me swear off them for good as it was filled with the most hateful language and threats. I attended school when Gregory Love was attacked in the shower with a baseball bat for supposedly looking at another student. My then ally identified self went 30 deep with other feminist and queer sisters and brothers to a panel at Morehouse that disintegrated into violence when folks tried to discuss the issue. This reaction is not unique to black people but the costs of homophobia in groups that are multiply marginalized are so much higher. If we can’t be at institutions that are on some level supposed to be for us, where do we go?

Morehouse may tout itself as a single sex institution but it is not a single gender one, as much as it may want to be. If female-assigned-at-birth students in the AUC can take classes there, hang out there, spend the night there (covertly :) ) etc. why can’t male-assigned-at-birth students do the same in the same heels and make up? If any group should understand the fallacies of looking a certain way to be treated humanely its black people. And yet, black folks are determined to traffic in a politics of respectability that does little but make some of us tokens for a power structure that not all of us can access. People wonder why King’s beloved community has given way as we increasingly limit the criteria for admittance. If the people who decide who has access are middle class, straight, Christian, black folks, that leaves a lot of people out in the cold.

That said, I get the nihilism and “do you” mentality of so many black folks excluded from “proper” blackness. When you know that people think and treat you as though you are  less than human why continually try to convince them otherwise? Why not just go for self?

The cycles of violence created in the name of “uplift” never cease to amaze me. If we truly want a different world it’s going to take seeing people for who they are not what you want them to be. Morehouse has a unique opportunity to engage students around questions of blackness and gender identity, to craft new black men and more, poised to create a better reality for many communities. We can’t afford to hold on to antiquated notions of gender and blackness. The future is fierce.

Pic of three black men queering masculinity at Atlanta Black Pride 2009

On Eddie Long and #NWNW

30 Sep

Picture of Eddie LongNo Wedding No Womb Logo- wedding bells = image of stick baby

So I’m trying to write a dissertation and support some really amazing disability justice activist friends of mine so I really don’t have time to be messin’ around with this Eddie Long/#NWNW business but…

Here I go.

This will be real quick though. Promise.  Point by point even.

  1. Abusing children ≠ “gay” – I am all for us critiquing and thinking about Eddie Long’s desires for men but the truth is (yes, I think he did it) he abused his power and at least four vulnerable boys, as their age defines them in the “courts of justice.”  There are plenty of people who embrace their same sex desire and incorporate that into their identity or choose to keep that part of themselves to themselves. But they don’t abuse children. That’s what we should be talking about with Eddie Long, lest we equate repressed same sex desire with gay identity and subsequent child sexual abuse. LGBQ people choose to love each other and enter relationships; they don’t coerce vulnerable children with much needed affection and affirmation and prey on them.
  2. “No one man should have all that power.” -The power of the pulpit co-creates these situations with ample collateral damage.  Did you know that absolutely awesome phrase that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” was written about papal power in the Catholic Church? We can all see how relevant it continues to be in that religious context and beyond. When Eddie Long stepped up to the pulpit and put his glasses on to the roar of his congregation I couldn’t help but think of that line from Malcolm X (h/t to Tobias). It didn’t matter what Long said (and he didn’t say he was innocent), the congregation “supports its pastor, period.” The inherent hierarchy of the church exacerbates abuses of power and the fact that we’ve seen iterations of these abuses over and over again doesn’t seem to change the way folks feel about their “prophets.” Regardless of their desire for adult men or lack of desire for adult women, preachers/priests/pastors and self proclaimed bishops’ unfettered access to vulnerable children and the immense amount of power we grant them, should give us pause (no homo).
  3. No Wedding No Womb- I’ll give you that you just picked the title b/c you liked the alliteration (it’s a favorite literary device of mine too), that your inadvertent and untimely use of the word “wedding” amidst the fallout of the prop 8 black people controversy and ongoing debates surrounding same sex marriage is more an issue of semantics than out right heterosexism. Okay. But to act as though a commitment between two people is the solution to men— wait, I take your pass on heterosexism back—dipping out on parental responsibility seems to completely misrepresent what actually is a crisis in infrastructure, resources, and cause to question our reliance on a nuclear model of parenting in the first place. People need community, love, dough (both kinds) to raise kids. Married or partnered parents are not better than other parents.
  4. Solutions – #NWNW has critiqued dissenters for not offering solutions (though I feel like we’ve been offering them) so I’ll be explicit here.
    1. Let men be queer-  I mean let men express emotions that are typically gendered “woman”, like sadness, love, happiness, etc. without saying they are less of a man because of it.  Allow men to shed hypermasculine notions of being in terms of how they dress, behave, etc. How dope would it be if men could shed their cold detached unfeeling personas? This has the effect of allowing men to be emotional beyond the confines of nuclear family and be more loving to other children and women in their lives, regardless of whether or not they’re related. It has the added effect of destigmatizing traits that are read as feminine in men, which in turn might reduce some of the homophobia that energizes the Eddie Long situation and these recent tragic “suicide” deaths of young people. Homophobia Kills.
    2. Demand more infrastructure to support parents- The government owes its people and its children more than its giving. It passes the buck to individual households to do the heavy lifting. The classism and ableism at the heart of the nuclear family has got to be unpacked. Even in married two parent homes there’s not always enough to go around. The assumption that people should be able to do it on their own as a single family unit perpetuates the myth of independence. We all need help to get through life and most of the time we act like we don’t because that supports a capitalistic ethic of individualism.
    3. It takes a village- We see the fallout of thinking that children are the individual responsibility of their parents in #NWNW own posts. In the greatest of ironies, the founder said the crisis of black fatherlessness was responsible for Eddie Long’s indiscretions as opposed to reading his marriage and patriarchal power as an enabler of his behavior and the reason that people thought he was safe. Surely a married, wealthy, pastor with kids who does good things in the community can’t hurt these boys. We remain attached to the myth of the predator “out there” as opposed to examining the conditions that create the power imbalances that cultivate abuse. How might this situation have played out differently if everyone thought of those boys as their “spiritual sons?” What would it mean for all adults to feel accountable to all children in their community? Would individual fathers who weren’t present matter? As is evident in cultures around the world, the primacy of biological parents is not a given. There are a myriad of traditions of child rearing that don’t center biological/nuclear parenting and the kids are more than all right.  Two people, man and woman, even with rings need resources to raise children and to ignore that as well as the accompanying hypermasculine gender expectations for black men in those structures is to miss the issue all together. Perhaps black folks’ ambivalence about marriage signals problems with the institution itself and not with black people.

Check tweets by @shelbygoodwin, @dopegirlfresh, @aliciasanchez and @crunkfeminists for more on #NWNW.

Help Support “To The Other Side of Dreaming”

28 Sep

Mia and Stacey

Support “To The Other Side of Dreaming”

In a flash of bold courage and brave vision Mia Mingus and Stacey Milbern began a journey of possibility the likes of which the world… well at least we’d never seen. “..two queer disabled diasporic Korean women of color in the process moving from the South to the Bay to create home and community with each other”?! While surely such a phenomena cannot be new to the universe, have YOU ever heard of such an amazingly beautiful thing?!

This radical act of love and reclamation cannot be performed alone. The costs of moving from coast to coast is daunting for anyone, yet even more daunted when dealing with the realities of our able-bodied and inaccessible world.

In an effort to lend our support to two of our favorite people we are working to help them raise the $12,000 necessary to make their dream a reality.

Energized by the collective spirit that their move embodies, we are calling on our communities to support their vision by giving what ever you can give!

As Mia writes, “the reality that once we’re there, there aren’t even going to be that many places we can go to, get into, be with people in.  Will we be able to go over to people’s houses to build with them outside of public spaces (the limited accessible public spaces that is)?  the knowledge that what we are doing here is finding not just space for us, but for community as well.  we are finding home to be intimate with people in, to be queer in, to be women of color in.  we are making accessible queer space, accessible queer people of color space, accessible disabled queer people of color space, for all of us; something that i have been yearning for for what seems like forever.  places where we can begin to build past these concrete divides of stairs, money, bathrooms, doorways, reading, speaking…silence and exclusion.”

Don’t you want to be a part of this awesome vision?! Don’t you want to build this amazing inclusive community?!

We thought so!

So here’s how!

Support “To The Other Side of Dreaming” chip in!

http://miamingus.chipin.com/support-to-the-other-side-of-dreaming

$12,000 is  a lot of money but it’s the actual, for real, no frills, cost to get Mia and Stacey to the bay.

  • For Stacey and PA to go out to see a house and/or continue house/housing hunting on next trip flight for two – $750
  • PA gas and tolls to get to Mia’s house in ATL- $150
  • PA food for a week – $125
  • PA pay ($150 x 5 days) – $750
  • For Mia to go out to the bay again to either do the walk through (since the house won’t be ramped yet) or go and continue looking for housing since Stacey won’t be able to go and look at most things to see if they can be modified to be made accessible flight – $300

House alterations (if they get this house):

  • Main ramp: $1,215
  • Home modifications: $500
  • Personal care attendants at 8 hrs a day $15 a hour for 2 months: $7320.  This will be for the 2 months (we hope it’s only 2 months!) when Stacey is moving her state services over to CA.
  • Taxi from airport because of no access to van: $40
  • Extra crip baggage: $50
  • Shipping our stuff: $800

But building collective disability community… priceless!

If you’d like your contribution to correspond with one of the above needs, let us know by leaving us a note with your donation!

And of course, money isn’t the only way you can help! Check out these other creative fundraising ideas that folks have come up with!

If you have other ideas (like you’ve got a moving truck or you and friends can build a ramp) please email us at totheothersideofdreaming@gmail.com!

In radical love,

the Quirky Commune aka 2/3 or simply, Moya & Yolo!

More Musings on Melanin (or lack there of)

26 Aug

Artistic rendering of three black women's faces light and dark

“Depending on the context, an individual may be an oppressor, a member of an oppressed group, or simultaneously oppressor and oppressed.” -Patricia Hill Collins

“The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.” -Audre Lorde

*Mic check*  Is this thing on?  *Dodges balled up brown paper bags*

Hello, all.  First, we’re really grateful for the lively discussion our little polemic has engendered.  We’ve been monitoring the discussion both in the comments section and in Twittropolis, but wanted to let things marinate before we posted again.  (Besides, Moya B. felt ill and Summer had a not so awesome Monday, so we’re just now getting our act together.  Dissertations, after all, cannot write themselves.)  Now that a good few days or so have passed, we’d like to take some time to address some of the more salient points we’ve noticed in the comments section, and also perhaps clarify some things we said in the original post.  We hope this conversation is understood to be just that: a conversation. We are not shutting down light skinned folks for speaking on or about race as it relates to their color; we are asking, however, that these discussions become more nuanced, which, in our estimation, includes pot calling kettle a lighter shade of black.

1.  @Carolyn asked: Light Skin Privilege Checklist? Are you serious?  Yep.  We’re serious.  Admitting privilege is hard but it’s absolutely necessary for liberation. Part of what constitutes race is skin color and phenotype; racism cannot function if you cannot recognize this difference, and subjugate accordingly.  It’s what racial hierarchy is based on.  So, let’s be honest about the color spectrum that exists in between the stark polarities of black and white: one’s proximity to one or the other can play an incredible role in how hard knock one’s life is.  As many have noted in the comments section, we didn’t invent colorism three days ago, and dark skinned black folks are not the only ones who acknowledge this reality.  To argue that light skinned privilege does not exist, that all black people are treated similarly regardless of hue, vehemently denies the validity (and the existence) of all that inspires this age-old skin tone conversation.  Denouncing the existence of light skinned privilege requires one to believe that skin color does not affect how one interprets the racialized world and vice versa.  And that’s just not true.  It’s not.  If you don’t believe us, google it.  Or pay attention to Soledad O’Brien’s entire career.

Plenty of (black) people don’t want to acknowledge the ways that we are privileged above others, and we understand that.  Part of the difficulty of living in a society that constantly espouses punditry that articulates clearly demarcated dichotomous stances is that it leaves no room for gray area, and to occupy such a space is dangerous.  In such circumstances, admitting that one has a certain set of privileges causes others to question whether or not one is at all oppressed.  Admitting that one has privilege, then, often results in having to constantly prove that one is oppressed in other ways.

Furthermore, one of the most humbling experiences is learning to accept the piece of the oppressor within ourselves.  For instance, by virtue of having a non-disabled body in an ableist world, intentionally or not, we are granted certain privileges in our movement through it. We may not have actively done anything to to be granted that privilege, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist–or that we don’t benefit from it through no real “merit” of our own.  Yet acknowledging and understanding our privilege is only part of the work.  Are we willing to leverage our privilege for the sake of each other? Huey answered yes.  So did Angela…and Audre. Will you?

2. In her initial comment to our post, wheelchairdancer wrote that her blog was an “attempt to speak to the whiteness of the disability rights world while maintaining [her] ground as a mixed race woman.” Word. The non-disabled black woman feeling like she could step to wheelchairdancer and that she owed her an answer to  a question is a clear example of ableism at work. But part of what wheelchairdancer seems to be claiming is that disability whitens all the time which, if we may go down the troubled road of personal experience to prove this point, is not always true. Moya’s great-grandmother was a chair user, but her disability did not whiten her because she was dark skinned.  In other words, the fact that wheelchairdancer’s racial identity was questioned seems to have less to do with the wheel chair and more to do with her skin tone.  Disability can only “whiten” if one’s skin allows one to be interpreted as such.  It should be noted, that in her comment, wheelchairdancer identifies as mixed-race.  This identity marker alone requires the benefit of light skin.  Mixed-race folks who don’t look mixed-race don’t necessarily benefit by calling themselves that.  What allows one to identify–or even be mistaken–as mixed-race (and therefore not black) is light skin tone.

3. Thanks to both excerpted authors for trying to engage a dialog rather than shut it down, but a brief word on context and why we chose these blogs.  Our quick and dirty understanding of taking something out of context is when the reader, in this case, infers something from the text that was not intended.  So, in a sense, we did take both redclayscholar’s and wheelchairdancer’s words out of context.  All sarcasm aside, neither one of us thought that either one of these personal ruminations on what it means to be light skinned was attempting to forward deliberately a kind of “Woe is light skinned me,” rhetoric.  But that was never our real point.  Our purpose in deconstructing what was conveyed in these narratives was not to hate on a kind of light skinned melancholia.  Rather, we were interested in the kind of blowback, the implications of constructing these narratives in such a way that privilege is obscured.  What does it mean and what are the stakes of telling a story about the trouble one receives from blacks about being light skinned, without disclaimers or acknowledgment that in general being light skinned is a privilege?

As we said in the original piece, we don’t deny the realities of oppression light skinned black people are experiencing. In other words, light skinned black people are oppressed.  But, as the two epigraphs suggest, oppression does not forgo privilege.  Axises of privilege are not independent of each other; they inflect each other–and, if we are all being honest, we know this. This is why we talk about race, class, and gender.  If class didn’t affect blackness, for example, James Evans would have been the 70s version of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable.  We are asking that we examine race more deeply to see the ways that white supremacy works through each other, intraracially. We must be willing to articulate those differences, that privilege.  If we, as black people, are unwilling to talk about and own the little bit of privilege some of us have amongst each other, how do we expect white heterosexual men to do it?

Besides, light skinned black people aren’t the only black people who are tested about their allegiance to blackness.   Queer people, quirky black girls, black people who play rock music even though we invented it, etc. are perpetually having their blackness questioned.  Our work, if we are committed to blackness, is to proclaim that we, too, are black.  But we need not do that by being appalled by another black person with the audacity to question us.  We also needn’t minimize the aforementioned inflections of blackness–class, gender, sexuality, skin tone–to stake our claims in the muck of monolithic blackness.  We should do the opposite; we should talk about those inflections and nuances of blackness not only as privileges, but rather as that which comprises a richer notion of blackness that has always existed.

4. Yolo made some really fantastic points in his comment, and no one responded to him.  Y’all should read it–again.  (Shout out to Effie and Tasha Fierce for hearing us and to Jah and Crunktastic for holdin’ it down while we got ourselves together)

5.  As many others have said here and in the world (but it feels so good when you rinse and repeat), privilege and oppression are not mutually exclusive. Black people’s reconstructionist visions of 40 acres and a mule silenced the rights of indigenous peoples in their land, just as the Cherokee refusal to recognize their slave descendants silenced another sector of the black community.  If we accept that white supremacy works differently among different racial ethnic groups of color, why do we then imagine that it does not work intraracially? To repeat, part of the way “race” plays out in our community is based on skin color.  SB1070 is about targeting people who look like illegal immigrants, usually of Latino (we know, totally an American construction) origins. As The Daily Show points out, no one is getting riled up about Canadian anchor babies. Irish, Italian and Jewish people have had access to whiteness in large part because of skin tone. Similarly, the hierarchies within other people of color communities speak to these realities as well. As black people who are in relationship with other people of color, we have witnessed the ways in which light is right operates in racial groups other than our own.  It is imperative that we examine this reality amongst ourselves.

6.  Finally, although we’ve spent all of our time here discussing the role oppression has in the construction of black identity, to be clear, we are not arguing that black subjectivity is solely comprised of being denied certain privileges.  That would be a really foolish thing to do, and they would kick us out of grad school if we believed such hogwash about Negroes.

*Drops the mic*

Sincerely,
Two jigaboos (tryna find something to do)

P.S. We didn’t invent the privilege checklist. Check out the OG White Privilege Checklist and another one that has engendered a similar amount of venom as folks dispute the co-constitutive nature of privilege and oppression, the Black Male Privilege Checklist. We’d also like to remind everyone that pretty privilege is a long documented phenomenon. For more on it and more great TV time enjoy The Bubble episode of 30 Rock (h/t to @superfree)

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