Tag Archives: Women of Color

Tu(r)ning to Black Love

20 Feb

Whitney Houston with her mother Cissy

This past week, I found myself swept in an emotional whirlwind witnessing Whitney’s homegoing while remembering that she was not even in the ground before the Fox-affiliated shock jocks called her a babbling idiot, bag lady, and a crack ho that should have died years ago. From AM talk radio to morning cable television, a Fox News anchor “jokingly” told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) to “step away from the crack pipe” to squash her criticism of a racist conservative right.  And right as I prepared myself for the first Valentine’s Day unhitched in years, I heard more misogynoir (i.e., hatred of Black women) news from the pimp-like-rapper Too Short who “advised” middle school boys to “turn girls out” in a video posted to the XXL hip hop website.

Where is the love?

This past week, I would have been a Black woman undone if I did not turn to other women of color to savor the soul-stirring, love-filled acts of solidarity in a month that has been so soured by hate.[1]

While folks are giving kudos to a masterful, out-of-character performance by actor Tyler “Madea” Perry, I want to remember Kim Burrell’s loving act to her sistah-friend. The Texas-born gospel singer transformed a song that could serve as the title track for the civil rights movement; she changed Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come to one that not only spoke about Whitney as a daughter, friend, and mother, but it spoke to the lived reality of countless Blackgirls who watched her metallic casket and mourned for the Black girl we know (inside) and for the Black woman she/we dared to be. I believe Burrell’s spirit-driven interpretation will stand as a counter-narrative against the lusty, flesh-bound and career-centric monologues offered by some menfolk. (Side eye to you Clive.)  Kim Burrell might have singlehandedly replaced my Denzel dreamscape and my cinematic memory of Malcolm X’s assassination with her lifting tribute to a fallen (but not forgotten) star.

This past week ended with the debut of a self-proclaimed Black feminist in her cable show simply called, Melissa Harris-Perry.  Let’s just say if Oprah is America’s honorary mother, then Prof. Harris-Perry is slated to be our teacher because she was schooling a national audience about intersections of race and gender, and she provided a much-needed Black feminist perspective, which is often offered by Black men (if included at all). When I tuned in to her show, she warned her audience that we’d enter “nerdland” or the place where political commentary is spliced by definitions, old videos, and graphs to add context to oversimplified, hot-button topics. After an emotional whirlwind, it feels lovely to say I will be (at) home on the weekends where folks can hate (yes, I’m looking at you Cornel West), but I can turn on and turn to Black women-centered love.

Melissa Harris-Perry and Sister Citizen book cover

Melissa Harris-Perry and Sister Citizen book cover copied from blacktieandflipflops

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[1] This past week I was able to trade trash talk and blackgirl giggles, remember-when stories, love-strong hugs, eye-to-eye recognition, and women of color wisdom with Stephanie Troutman, Bettina Love, Elaine Richardson, Elizabeth Mendez Berry, and Joan Morgan. I am enriched by your generosity and your creative, intellectual and politically-grounded work.

Queer Sisters Keep Saving Me: The Brilliantly Selfish Act of Being an Ally

17 Feb

 Guest Post by Black Artemis

Today is the first St. Valentine’s Day in three years in which I write a new blog about what this day means to me. In 2009 I wrote one wherein I recount why St. Valentine was a historical figure worthy of recognition especially in these times and reiterate my support for marriage equality. (These may seem like disparate themes, but trust me, they come together in the blog.) Rather than write a new post, I simply pulled The Spirit of Love and Resistance Behind St. Valentine’s Day from the archives and put it back into circulation every February 14th.

This year is different because St. Valentine’s Day has acquired deeper significance to me. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of this year, I learned that I have breast cancer.For many reasons, it has been challenging to reveal my condition to those I know who love and appreciate me never mind acquaintances, colleagues and virtual strangers who follow me on social media. While I got over the shock of the diagnosis fairly quickly – I had to – accepting this frightening contour to my identity enough to make it public has been more difficult.

So why am I “coming out” today as a person with cancer? I do it to acknowledge all the queer women of color in my life who have stepped up for me since I was diagnosed. Rest assured, I have been showered with heartfelt messages of love and encouragement and genuine offers of support from people of all walks of life. Every one of them has been integral in activating and sustaining my new warrior mode, reminding me of how too blessed I am to not beat this disease. All of these people are soldiers in my quickly formed and ever-growing wellness army.

But there have been certain sister-friends who have played immediate and special roles through the early days of my devastation and terror. Not even weeks after my diagnosis, the woman I affectionately call my Minister of Defense and her husband helped me clean and reorganize my bedroom so that it can be a space much more conducive to my healing, physically, emotionally and spiritually. In fact, she has been fielding the outpouring of concern from our mutual friends and has appointed herself the coordinator of my extended support system – rides, meals, escapes and other things I may need as I undergo treatment. My Minister of Defense and I were supposed to leave for Sundance a few days after I was diagnosed. Not only did she cancel her trip, she let the others we were going to stay with about my condition. Upon receiving the news, those women made time in their hectic festival schedule to pray and chant in community for my recovery.

It was critical for me to not wait until conventional treatment started to take action towards healing myself. I needed to build my sense of agency as well as my immune system, and before I could even take the first step, my Minister of Defense and another friend teamed up to split the cost of having a box of organic fruits and vegetables shipped to my house each week so I can juice every day. I could not afford to do this otherwise. They also take turns accompanying me to my appointments which is not only of comfort to me but to my elderly parents who insist on coming with me. When not taking the copious notes and posing the questions that I may be too overwhelmed or frightened to ask, they are engaging my parents in the language in which they feel most comfortable about anything and everything but the fact that their youngest adult child is facing a life-threatening illness. It helps them, and that in turn, supports me. Another lifelong friend – a doctor who is facing a challenging transition of her own at this time – not only sent me hundreds of dollars in health assessment and improvement kits including immunity-boosting supplements, she flew to New York City so we could have an ol’ fashion slumber party in her hotel room.

In the fight for my life, these women have been on the frontline. Each of them, at one point in her life, has been in a romantic partnership with another woman. Because I had not gone public with my diagnosis, one of the friends who went to Sundance actually sent me an email to ask permission to tell her partner because her wife had a very strong relationship to powerful ancestors who answered her prayers. I have no doubt that she organized the prayer circle for me in Park City even when her primary reason for being at Sundance was to premiere and promote her own film. All this slander against LGBT people, painting them as ungodly, immoral and such, when from where I sit, they are the most spiritual and even prayerful folks I know.

This is not the first time I have written about being an appreciative ally. I am the first to say that heterosexual people especially women owe a tremendous debt to the LGBTQ struggle for some of the sexual freedoms we enjoy. Ironic as it may seem, the boundaries queer people bend and bust at the risk of their own lives in many ways expand our heteronormative privilege. Their radical decision to be simply who they are makes it much safer for the rest of us to redefine who we may want to be. We have a broader range of acceptable sexual expression because of the queer liberation movement for every time they push the envelope, they set a new “normal,” and it’s not even they who benefit the most for their courage. Rather it is those of us whose sexual identity is already validated.

While I admit now that this is an oversimplistic analogy, I liken it to how the presence of Malcolm X made the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. more palatable in a society where his ideas were already deemed radical. Same visions, different philosophies, both to the left of what was considered acceptable and therefore also dangerous and vulnerable to the status quo. They needed each other to survive long enough to make the impact that the rest of us, regardless of what we may believe, continue to enjoy today.

Perhaps I am stretching for meaning behind my receiving the news on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, but one thing remains true. For the longest time I have felt that in many ways I can choose to do with my life and body – have (a certain kind of) sex or not, get married or not, have children or not – because the authentic living of openly queer women make it more permissible for me to make choices that buck the heteronormativity that attempts to govern even my life as a straight woman. What I do or not and why or not is on me, no doubt. But I have more sexual choices that carry less negative repercussions because of their sacrifices as much if not more than any other freedom movement.

And so it is on this St. Valentine’s Day, the lapsed Catholic with breast cancer is reminded yet again in the most visceral way why supporting full equality and acceptance of LGBTQ people is not some noble feat of reneging her privilege. It is a radical act of self-preservation. In more ways than I can count, queer sisters keep saving me. Again, I am humbled, appreciative and grateful to new depths of my being. 

The day after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California affirmed the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8, I sat in a waiting room at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Cancer Center with my parents and a lesbian “sister from another mister.” She reminded me of the previous day’s historic significance. We slapped a high five, and I joked, “If these MFers can’t support marriage equality because they can’t see past their religious dogma that it’s the right thing to do, at least do it because it’s strategic. It’s good fiscal policy!”

“You know how many people would flock to get married?” my friend said. “How much money that would put into the economy?”

 “It’s a recession, yo,” I reminded no one. I reminded myself, however, how lucky I am. Here I face the biggest challenge of my life, and choosing to be on the right side of justice is proving to be one of the most brilliantly selfish things I ever did.

Musings on (the day after) Mother’s Day

9 May

Black baby nurse Gina, holds baby Bryn as Mother Bethenny strokes Bryn's hair.

Happy Mother’s Day to CF’s Asha, Sheri, Rachel, Whitney & Chanel! Happy Mother’s Day to all Mamas!

As a graduate student, with a penchant for procrastination, I watch a lot of reality TV.  In particular, I watch a lot of shows on Bravo that point out the hardships of being rich, white, and woman in a world made for their husbands rich white men. Some of these women are mothers and in light of yesterday’s really awesome holiday turned commercialized grossness, I thought I’d muse on motherhood as represented in these shows.

I’m particularly fond of Bethenny Getting Married now Bethenny Ever After, a show featuring Bethenny Hoppy, a new mother of one.  In one episode she and her recently wed husband discussed childrearing over dinner and her eight month pregnant stomach. They admitted that neither of them had baby sat before nor ever really been around an infant for any length of time. They laughed it off and continued to enjoy their Honeymoon in St. Bart’s.

Fast forward to the baby’s impending arrival; they have a friend introduce them to a baby nurse, a black woman from a different island frequented by American tourists. Gina (who doesn’t even have a cast bio on the show’s website btw) teaches them everything, from how to put in a car seat to changing dirty diapers.  And even with all the help Gina provides, she’s portrayed as trying to get over on them by slacking on the job. Yes, their live-in black nanny who taught them to parent, isn’t a morning person and likes to sleep in. In Bethany’s tongue and cheek words, “[they] work for her.”  A similar joke appeared on NBC’s 30 Rock in which character Jack Donaghy felt he had been out negotiated by his nanny (also a black Caribbean woman)and duped into allowing her to keep her salary. I watch way too much TV.

On the new Bravo show Pregnant in Heels, rich, pregnant, mostly white women consult with self proclaimed baby expert Rosie Pope about all their pregnancy and post partum questions. Many of the women have little to no parenting experience. One mother with a baby due in weeks had never held an infant. Without hired help (and something tells me Rosie is pulling in more than immigrant women of color nannies), these mothers would be unable to complete basic parenting tasks. Yet there’s no stigma attached to their lack of knowledge. The Department of Family and Child Services is not knocking on their doors demanding their children be removed from the home. Young, poor, women of color get their children taking away and are demonized for parenting which is negotiated with far fewer resources. These shows expose the reality of parenting with privilege.

There’s an irony here that has afflicted black and brown women since this country’s illegal founding. Black and brown women are continually disparaged for not being good mothers yet are constantly roped in to taking care of white women’s children, often as a means to try and financially support their own families. Even as they are paid chump change in relation to their employer’s incomes, they are still regarded as con artists scamming altruistic white folks.

These shows illustrate the need for support networks beyond a nuclear family. Even in two parent households, the amount of labor childrearing requires often exceeds what  a mom and dad can hold. That support should be standard and not only accessible to those with financial means and traditional family structures. Take note #NWNWWouldn’t it make sense to have more people trained and prepared to take on these care taking tasks before there’s an actual pregnancy? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we actually supported parents in child rearing as opposed to expecting them to do it all themselves? With news of the amazing sociological project by high school student Gaby Rodriguez and the lovely video circulating giving love to young mamas, the conventional script of women of color mothering is being interrupted but we still have so far to go.

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!

12th Annual Allied Media Conference Report Back

22 Jun

12th Annual Allied Media Conference flyer Yellow sun burst stripes on teal sky with white lettering

This weekend I attended my favorite conference, The Allied Media Conference in Detroit. This year was way more subdued than the last two years I’ve attended. There were less people of color present, I didn’t go to very many sessions, I was on my period, feeling real low energy and  it was still amazing, transformative, and once again reminded me of what I’m here to do in this world. Even with its challenges, the AMC is the kind of conference that has me checking the calendar to make sure I’ve got it on deck for next year.

The most powerful part of the conference for me was being connected to the Creating Collective Access folks, organized in less than a month by some of the fiercest people I know. I was reminded how conferences themselves create a non-sustainable way of folks relating to each other, to themselves and their own needs. On some days the conference schedule was filled from 8am- 2am. Being connected to the collective access folks allowed me to give myself permission to chill, to not push through exhaustion and inattentiveness to be at every session, to not sacrifice a really good slow conversation to make it to a panel presentation on listening. I felt more in my body, more aware of my needs.

Creating Collective Access also had me questioning what collective space looks like and what to do when access may be so different for different people. I went to one of the sessions that was part of the Indigenous Media and Technology track and the presenters were using smoke as a tool in the workshop. I was thinking about folks with disabilities that need scent free spaces and how you hold those things together or if you can’t, what do you do? Are we willing to do what it takes to create or use tools to share across real boundaries?

I was amazed by Adrienne Marie Brown’s Octavia Butler Symposium, people’s overwhelming interest as well as her awesome awesome facilitation skills. Adrienne is so fierce she had the notes up later that day! Check them out here! I was once again struck by folks reluctance and perhaps inability to talk about trauma in our movement and how we heal or don’t from all these –isms that impact our lives.

I feel softer now and sharper at the same time. Refined and focused, recommitted to kindness with direction and more prepared to speak up as an ally for the disability justice movement and the rights of indigenous peoples. I’m full and content and feel myself coming into a new era of myself.  I’m hopeful and it feels really good.

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