Sunday, December 16, 2007

BrokenBeautiful Press Presents...



So it was an experiment. 11 Duke University students and a double-blind BrokenBeautiful Press agent disguised as a professor simmered for 3 months in a classroom (and on a bus...and in a dining hall) and this is what happen. Brokenbeautiful Press is proud to introduce you to variety of inventive publications, teaching tools, interactive webspaces and upcoming events created by and with the members of the To Be A Problem: Outcast Subjectivity and Black Literary Production class at Duke University. And now it's your problem.

Work it Out

chalkboard image

This workbook was created by the members of the To Be A Problem ENG26 Class at Duke University in Fall 2007. The students explain:

We came together as a class to create this workbook to express our views about black issues, a topic your department focuses on. The classroom theme heightens the effect of our goal, being an appropriate and natural setting where people from diverse backgrounds interact and grow together. We ask that you please support us by sharing this collaborative work of art with your students, fellow faculty members, and any one else you feel would benefit from this. We desire that our example of working together and successfully producing this workbook may inspire others to mobilize and demonstrate their own beliefs and issues they deem important. Silence doesn't benefit anyone. Thank you for taking the time to read this and we hope you continue reading our workbook and help us distribute.

Click here to download your free copy!


The Watermelanin Remix

This zine is a compilation of student poems and prose pieces in conversation with Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle. Remixing the poems in main character Gunnar Kaufman's poetry collection Watermelanin, the students examined their own relationships to racism, gender, family, class, oppression and freedom. This edition also includes literary readings of each poem by fellow students and photos of the poets performing their pieces for an unsuspecting audience of bus-riders. This zine is highly recommended as a teaching tool for any class reading Beatty's important work.

Click here to download your free copy!

Fresh Zines


S.exual E.xperience X.posed is a zine compiled by Chantel Ligget that reveals a diverse array of explicit sexual experiences from the point of view of women and women-identified individuals. Use this zine in your women's organizations to practice the bravery of sexual self-disclosure.

Such a F**king Problem is a poetry zine by POMK, founder of the blog collective of the same name (see This zine uses irony and rage to disrupt assimilation and the blame-the-victim tendency in our society. Read and respond!


Double Consciousness is a poetry zine envisioned and created by Michelle Oyeka with contributions from Elisabeth Michel and Stephanie Darand, using W.E.B. DuBoises 1903 concept of "double consciouness" to examine the art of looking at the present from multiple perspectives.


Infection Confirmed is a 'zine compiled by aspiring medical students of color, seeking to examine inequalities in the healthcare system.


Black Leaders: Misleading the Black Community is a zine by Jade Miller critiquing the actions and inactions of conservative black leaders and drawing on models from Aaron McGruder to Barack Obama to imagine what effective black leadership might look like.

Bold and Beautiful Blogs


Room and Bored: Political Engagement By and For College Students
R&B creator Amanda Turner says: "Even while we young adults pursue our individual goals at institutions across the country it’s important that we remain socially conscious. From politics, education, and current events, to important organizations and programs that concern young people – if it impacts college students I’ll talk about it here. Use R&B to start thinking about the world around you and how to better it now."

Such a F**king Problem: Conflict as a Point for Conversation

This site is an experiment in the possibility of self-expression without the safety of norms. Created by a decidedly UN-likeminded team of bloggers led by POMK, this site even has a space for you to deposit your ignorance! The perfectly imperfect place to practice your bravery. Start now!

New Features:
Check back in January for two related films by Christine Hunt and Stephanie Darand. Hunt's film explores the views of different generations of black women in one family discussing images of black women in the mass media and Darand's film asksmembers of a black student theater collective to think about the role of theater in perpetuating or breaking down stereotypes.

Also check back for tracks produced by Mike Posner and featuring lyricist Pat about hip hop bringing people together!

Upcoming Events:

AND in January, Yessenia Castillo will be hosting a special screening of Aishah Simmon's acclaimed film NO! Rape in the African American Community
and Elisabeth Michel will be coordinating a Haitian arts celebration to raise funds for Hand to Hand, an organization that sponsors education for Haitian children.

Try this one at home:

Inspired by Mendi and Keith Obadike's cyber-installation "Wishful Thinking/My Hands" ( and the locally created Wishes Fulfilled
the members of the To Be A Problem class created their own wishlists in honor of people they love and admire which they are now distributing to their loved ones in this form:


This was our assignment: After reading Mendi Obadike's my hands/wishful thinking and my poem "wishful thinking"
create your own wish list. Mendi's piece was created in response to the police murder of Amadou Diallo and my piece was inspired by her's and created in response to the treatment of black women in Durham during and after the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case. Following the form of these two pieces dedicate your wishes to an individual or group of people (let us know who it is dedicated to) and address your audience in the second person form (i.e. "YOU are powerful" "YOU brave bridges daily") as if your wishes for them were already true.

For example, this is a wishlist that Janeria Pullen created for her family and the city of Trenton, NJ:

Wish List for My Family and My City
1. You are free from all constraints, nothing stands in your way; not ignorance, not sickness. You are boundless.
2. I am no longer considered the one who made it in spite of you; we all know I made it because of you.
3. Your men are strong, powerful, and wise; they choose their own paths.
4. Your women are strong, wise, and loved for their beauty; they also choose their own paths.
5. Your men and women work together; you love and would do anything for each other.
6. Your children can play outside without the fear of losing their lives.
7. Your young men don’t have to form a new family to feel love; for love is abundant and overflowing.
8. Your young women know their worth; they carry themselves like the queens that they truly are.
9. Your family structure has been restored.
10. What’s yours is yours, and yours to share; no one has to take anything from anyone.
11. Your streets have long since forgotten the scent of blood.
12. Your schools are successful, and the press leads the city in praises. Everyone graduates with honors.
13. The bridge now speaks the truth. The world really does take what Trenton makes.
14. When people leave, they cannot wait to return. Everyone gives back to the community.
15. You have all let go of your dirty habits. All of the bars and liquor stores have closed; cigarettes don’t cross into the city limits.
16. Unemployment is a faint memory. We’ve almost forgotten what these words mean.
17. The state prison has been moved. There is no need for a prison in a prisoner-less city.
18. The gangs have laid there flags to rest.
19. We are all one big happy family.

Email with the word "wish" in our subject line to add your wishes to our growing online installation.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Asanas for Megan Williams
i am trying to think about the intentional process of invisibility around the violence acted against Megan Williams. i am still trying to wrap my brain and my heart around this case and what our collective responses could be.

i am trying to think about how trauma stifles my ability to respond to acts of violence in my community and around the world. is it that my trauma stops me from acting when i see other black women traumatized? what do we do next? is it these historical traumas that some how shift my body back to a time when i could not say anything, or bear the same trauma my sista experienced, or worse? is choosing not to act against our historical or contemporary trauma a mechanism for keeping our safe, in some way?

i am trying to think about how i can take back my body from trauma. what does an embodied resistance look like? perhaps, it looks like a body, full of light, harnessing her strength, and refusing to be frozen by trauma. perhaps, it is a body who refuses to have her tongue tied by fear. maybe embodied resistance is a heart that refuses to stop beating, that refuses to have the love pressed out of it.

embodied resistance, could be black women free from heart disease, diabetes, womb disease, mental disease. embodied resistance could be black women freeing their bodies from food, cultural pressures, drugs, alcohol, social pressures... as i write this i am sure embodied resistance is all of these acts and more.

i am trying to think about how to process this trauma against our sista megan williams in an intimate, real, transformative way. i am looking to find a way for individuals to actively participate in a healing movement for Megan Williams no matter whereever they are. here is a call to action for anyone interested in sharing healing evergy with our sista. you don't have to march, protest, write a letter. you don't have to leave your dorm room, you warm living room, you can even do it on the train, at a stop light, on the bus.

i am asking for everyone who reads this post to dedicate one minute of yogic practice, meditation, or breath work to Megan Williams. if you are not a yoga person to do one or two stretches for her. if you are advanced do a head stand or full lotus position for her. take a moment or two out of your day to breath deeply, complete some fire breaths, or kemetic breaths for Megan Williams.

as you are doing this, think about her healing, send out some well wishes for her, her family and our collective healing.

our collective action will shift the energy around this case. we will not be immobilized by trauma.

our embodied resistance is movement is breath meditation is the quest for our collective health and well-being

here is a poem for encouragement

i am a daughter of ntozake
of june of audre of nikki
of sonia of gwendolyn of jayne
of asha of lucille of rhodessa of anna
of ruth of elizabeth of toi of marilyn
of nina of cassandra of ella of fannie
of rosa of nayo of bernice of anjail of aretha
of toni of sapphire of ai of betty of pearl of bertha
of of of of of ofoofffffof fofofff

our collective heat is a back bend that strenghthens our walk
our collective heat is a visualization that wraps us in warmth
our collective heat is a moon salutation that greets the night
our collective heat is slow and concentrated breath deep in the diaphragm
our collective heat is heat is heat supple and pulsing and balancing the universe


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

That's Right

Manju sent this article. These sistas have just replaced Batman as my favorite superhero. Sooo fierce.

India's 'pink' vigilante women
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Banda

They wear pink saris and go after corrupt officials and boorish men with sticks and axes.

The several hundred vigilante women of India's northern Uttar Pradesh state's Banda area proudly call themselves the "gulabi gang" (pink gang), striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and earning the grudging respect of officials.

The pink women of Banda shun political parties and NGOs because, in the words of their feisty leader, Sampat Pal Devi, "they are always looking for kickbacks when they offer to fund us".

Two years after they gave themselves a name and an attire, the women in pink have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives and unearthed corruption in the distribution of grain to the poor.

They have also stormed a police station and attacked a policeman after they took in an untouchable man and refused to register a case.


"Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law in our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers," says Sampat Pal Devi, between teaching a "gang" member on how to use a lathi (traditional Indian stick) in self defence.

We are a gang for justice
Sampat Pal Devi

Banda is at the heart of the blighted region that is Bundelkhand, one of the poorest parts of one of India's most populous states.

It is among the poorest 200 districts in India which were first targeted for the federal government's massive jobs-for-work programme. Over 20% of its 1.6 million people living in 600 villages are lower castes or untouchables. Drought has parched its already arid, single-crop lands.

To make matters worse, women bear the brunt of poverty and discrimination in Banda's highly caste-ridden, feudalistic and male dominated society. Dowry demands and domestic and sexual violence are common.

Locals say it is not surprising that a women's vigilante group has sprung up in this landscape of poverty, discrimination and chauvinism.

Sampat Pal Devi is a wiry woman, wife of an ice cream vendor, mother of five children, and a former government health worker who set up and leads the "pink gang".

"Mind you," she says, "we are not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We are a gang for justice."

'Uproot the corrupt'

Her seeds of rebellion were sown very early on when in face of her parents' resistance to send her to school, she began writing and drawing on the walls, floors and dust-caked village streets.

She finally ended up going to school, but was married off when she was nine in a region where child marriages are common. At 12, she went to live with her husband and at 13 she had her first child.

To keep the home fires burning, Sampat Devi began to work as a government health worker, but she quit after a while because her job was not satisfying enough.

"I wanted to work for the people, not for myself alone. I was already holding meetings with people, networking with women who were ready to fight for a cause, and was ready with a group of women two years ago," she says.

Sitting outside a home in Attara, Sampat Devi waves her calloused hands, breaks into a rousing song to "uproot the corrupt and be self reliant", and animatedly talks to women - and men - who flock to her with their problems.

A mother brings in her weeping daughter who has been thrown out by her husband demanding 20,000 rupees from her parents.

"He married me for the love of money," sobs Malti.

Sampat Devi tells her "gang" that they will soon march to the girl's house and demand an explanation from the husband. "If they don't take her back and keep her well, we will resort to other measures," she says.

'No handouts'

The pink sorority is not exactly a group of male-bashing feminists - they claim they have returned 11 girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses because "women need men to live with".

That is also why men like Jai Prakash Shivhari join the "gulabi" gang and talk with remarkable passion about child marriages, dowry deaths, depleting water resources, farm subsidies and how funds are being stolen in government projects.

"We don't want donations or handouts. We don't want appeasement or affirmative action. Give us work, pay us proper wages and restore our dignity," he says.

The women in the "gulabi gang" echo the same sentiment - but Sampat Devi has a separate agenda for women.

"Village society in India is loaded against women. It refuses to educate them, marries them off too early, barters them for money. Village women need to study and become independent to sort it out themselves," she says.

Where do the pink women go from here?

They already claim to have done some work in combating crime and corruption in the area. Last year, Sampat Devi contested the state polls as an independent candidate and mustered only 2,800 votes.

"Joining politics is not my chosen way to help people. We will keep up our good work, so the state does not take us for granted," she says.

In the badlands of Uttar Pradesh where nothing seems to work for the poor, this itself is a laudable aim.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Calling Black Women for Ethnographic Performance Process

Calling Black Women for Ethnographic Performance Process

Greetings people,

It is that time. I have been in a bit of hibernation while I was cooking up a way to get you involved with a so fresh and so necessary improvisational, sista-circle, healing, performance opportunity.

I am Ebony Golden currently living in Manhattan and attending NYU. I call a few places home, most recently Durham, NC. While living in Durham I had the opportunity to study with and make trouble with some of the flyest sistas around. We made art with the people and shared it with the people. We healed ourselves everyday!

I would not be here at NYU right now if it wasn't for them. I am dedicating this process and this year at NYU to them: Mama Nia, Mama Asantewa, Mama Nayo, Mama Nana, Mama Jaki, Mama-Dr. Ahmad, Mama Pearl, Mama Dimples, Mama Theresa, Sista Kim Arrington, Sista Zachari, Sista Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Sista Jurina, Sista Alisha Gaines, Sista Serena, Sista Kriti, Sista Kai, Sista Shirlette, Sista Emily, Sista Kriti, Sista Kia/Mercedes, Sista Liz, Sista Amaris, Sista Namira, Sista Raina, Sista DeLana, Sista Nikki, Sista Alfreda, Sista Vikki, Sista Michelle, Sista Afyia, Sista Zelda, Sista Dannette, Sista Inga, Sista SimaFlower, Sista Paulette, Sista Manju

This process is in your honor along with my sistas from DC, TX, and in other spaces. You hold me up, thank you.

I am currently facilitating a performance project for Black women as a part of my Master's Thesis in Performance Studies based on black women's processes of healing from trauma, particularly historical and generational trauma. So how are your healing practices different from your mother's? How are they similar?

I am dedicated to my healing, the healing of the women in my family and extended family, and the world. This is a process we are creating everywhere, let's continue to tap in together and see what shifts.

This process that will have a few opportunities for performance, live and virtual, but mostly i am interested in articulating a poetics of womanist performance process and methodology that can be reproduced by us every where to heal ourselves and this world.

I need you to tell our story. A small group of sistas who are not afraid to undertake this work with me, whether they understand exactly where it is headed or not. Sistas who enjoy movement, music, writing, photography, people, good food, performing, making a fuss about us (black women), and who are not afraid to say we (black women) matter anywhere in this world.

1. 5-6 sistas to perform several times next semester
2. videographer/ photographer/ editor
3. choreographer
4. producer
5. stage manager
6. 'zine designer
7. web designer

1. voice recorders, tapes
2. gift cards (Target would be excellent)
3. performance space
4. video recorders, tapes, dvd
5. money, frequent flyer miles, train tickets, gas cards!!!


Your stories. Some of you are far away from me right now. But I would love to interview you about you and your healing process. Let's set up some time for phone interviews. I will be in TEXAS in December and NC in January so we can get together.

Every one is invited to NYC in May 08 to see a pivotal step in this journey. Can't wait.

oh and check out some of these sites to get an idea of what sistas are doing to inspire me:,,,,,,,

Email me if you are interested!
Ebony Golden, MFA
Betty's Daughter Arts Collaborative, Director

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

To Be Re(a)d

Today, Wednesday October 31st 2007, women of color and allies around the country are wearing red as part of a collective healing and revealing process in response to sexual violence against women of color. This collective red is meant to be antidote to shame, a warning sign to those would continue to blame women of color for the outrageous abuses that our society condones against us. This collective red is meant to fill in the missing frame of the black and white of Jena. This red is an invocation of gendered wounds and demands that we remember what Ida B. Wells told us, which is that the lynching of black men and women and the rape of black women and men are twin tools of the same repression. And blood is red.

In 1973, when Toni Morrison published her second novel Sula, she changed black feminist literary criticism forever. In fact, I like to day that black feminists created black feminist literary criticism to deal with Sula, the character and the text. In partnership with her first novel The Bluest Eye, Morrison's Sula does more than insert black female characters into a literary scene that had ignored and caricaturized them. With these two novels Morrison insists that the very form of the novel must bend and bow and breathe and move to witness the experiences of black women and girls. The Bluest Eye could have been the first contemporary black female bildungsroman (coming of age story), except that Pecola, the main character (but not necessarily the protagonist) never grows up. Incestuous rape and violent racism shatter anything that would dare look like growth in that novel. Even the flowers. One could argue that in The Bluest Eye white supremacy (in the voice of the falling apart Dick and Jane reading primers) is the protagonist, and Pecola herself is the antagonist, criminalized for a small attempt at existence and vanguished by the pervasive triumph of racism, as patriarchalism, as capitalism and the death of a soul, the splitting of a mind. The Bluest Eye is Morrison's first major study of what it means to be re(a)d. What happens when we are excluded from the very language we learn to read in? What are the dreadful consequences of an agreed upon social reading of black girls that spells us "worthless"?

Sula could have been the first contemporary black female bildungsroman, except that whereas The Bluest Eye leaves the main character with a split mind, witnessed by the black girls who survive, Sula is an intersubjective novel with two protagonists that cannot exist without each other, Sula and Nel grow apart, but the love between girls is the miracle, hope and home of this novel (a theme Morrison will return to in her most recent novel Love).

Sula arrived well placed in time to become the catalyst that it was and is for black feminist literary criticism. The book was published right when the first black women's lit courses were being taught in newly formed Black Studies and Women's Studies programs in colleges in the NorthEast. The two foundational texts of black feminist literary studies, Mae Gwendolyn Henderson's "Speaking in Tongues: Dialogics, Dialectics and the Black Women Writer's Literary Tradition" and Barbara Smiths "Towards a Black Feminist Criticism" both read Sula as their primary text and as an instance through which to imagine what black feminist literary criticism could be. Even though Morrison wouldn't achieve national recognition until she "manned" up...or won the National Book of the Month Club selection for Song of Solomon (a radical and beautiful and rich book in it's own rite), Sula was the book black feminists clung to. Audre Lorde mentions in an interview that she doesn't care that it was Song of Solomon that Morrison won the award is Sula that "lit me up like a Christmas tree".

And indeed one of the topics we can discuss is why Morrison gained national recognition once she wrote a novel that centered around a black man. It might be helpful to realize that when Morrison won the National Book of the Month Club selection she became the first African-American writer since Richard Wright to do so.

The passages that cause black feminists to canonize Sula are the passages about mutual self invention that occur between Sula and Nel. The most cited passage is the one where the narrator explains the destined friendship of the two girls noting that "having long ago realized they were neither white nor male...they went about creating something else to be." This is a proposition as far reaching as to appear in Afro-Scottish Maud Sulter's description of a art exhibit she curated in England and as long lasting as to reappear as the "different sort of subject" that Hortense Spillers asks for in her 1987 essay "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe". The two other moments of the text that black feminists theorists drew in the sky are Sula's insistence when her grandmother suggests she should settle down and have some babies that "I don't want to make someone else. I want to make myself." This challenge to motherhood completes the critique of heteropatriarchy that allows Barbara Smith to claim Sula as a "lesbian" text alongside the books final revelation that the loss of a husband is nothing compared with the loss of a girl friend. And the book ends with the word that has framed all of my days. Girl, girl, girl, girl, girl.

Spiraling out into this moment, the desperation in that one word, girl speaks the prayer to the only thing that I believe can save us, and that is the love between women and girls of color that fills us with the bravery to make a new world language. When the Irish boys in the novel attempt to attack Nel and Sula, with designs on sexual abuse, Sula cuts of the tip of her finger...shifting the boys' reading of her from prey to predator. Re(a)d is the color of threat. Is the color of blood, of nothing to lose, of everything born to be remade.

So today as I dress myself in re(a)d on behalf of my sisters and my own survival take me as a sign.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CALL OUT: Community Responses to Sexual Assault

Or as June Jordan says.....:when will we seize the whole world with our freedom?"
Yes, I'm calling you out.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
To: undisclosed-recipients

hi all. this is a proposal for an international day of action. its
exciting. lets talk about what we can do in all of our cities, and the
connections we have overseas. how can we make this a big thing? if you
have information or articles to go on the blog, please email them through
to the address below. if you have ideas, you can email them too! or have a
meeting and organise some stuff.

we understand that maybe the date will be around elections, but this can
tie into that in so many ways - our government doesnt give a shit about
sexual assault. i was reading cosmo the other day and there was an
interview with john howard and he said he was dealing with sexual assault
and domestic violence by reducing unemployment with things like
workchoices. amazing. and the northern territory
intervention/invasion/occupation is a really huge thing that is going on
in australia right now, and is really fucked, and is tied up into these
discourses around sexual assault. this is a really important way to show
solidarity with indigenous communities, but also to acknowledge that we in
all of our communities need to be dealing with this stuff. assault is not
an indigenous issue - it is all of our issue.


For Community Responses to Sexual Assault

November 30th 2007

We are calling for people to organise in their own towns and cities to
take action on this day. This means whatever it means to you – maybe
organising in your school, occupying an office or a court or a police
station, holding a rally, making a publication, talking to people, or
anything you can think of.

The government has used sexual assault to justify the military invasion,
removal of land permits, and denial of Indigenous autonomy in the Northern
Territory. But this is not a way of dealing with sexual assault – fear,
intimidation, and military and police presence as a "solution" shows no
understanding of sexual assault or ways of dealing with it. The police
and military have been perpetrators of sexual assault in communities
around Australia, in Iraq, around the world.

The Northern Territory intervention is a racist intervention. It is
ridiculous that our white government thinks that Indigenous communities
are unable to respond to sexual assault themselves, with their own
processes and understandings, especially when we look at the way sexual
assault is dealt with across the rest of Australia, by relying on an
alienating, adversary and difficult to access legal system.

Almost no sexual assaults are reported to police, and most reported cases
result in no conviction. This is not because they are "false claims" but
because the legal system forces someone who has been assaulted to try to
"prove" their claim, doubting them, disbelieving, pressuring them to
relive their assault and undergo invasive medical examinations. Most
assault happens in private – it makes it the survivor's word against the
perpetrator's. The court system is designed so that survivors of sexual
assault are attacked and broken by defence lawyers who only want to win
their case. In the rare case that a perpetrator is convicted, prison does
nothing to confront and challenge the behaviour and underlying assumptions
and understandings that foster a culture of sexual assault.

We want a day of action calling for community – not military, not legal –
responses to sexual assault. Our government shows no interest in trying to
engage with the real issues of sexual assault and how to confront it, so
we need to do it ourselves. We are calling for support for survivors of
sexual assault, and a process of community response that prioritises their
needs and safety. We are calling for processes that try to change the
underlying myths and power dynamics that lead to assault, before it
happens. We want processes that deal with perpetrators in a way that
challenges their beliefs and behaviours, and gets them to take
responsibility for their actions and trying to change.

For more information, or to add your own:


Other links for info on community response, the Northern Territory
intervention, etc:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Without You Who Understand

Two loved ones of mine have had their names added to the long list of victims of the New York Police Department’s everyday every night brutality. And every time this happens it is an assault against my people, whoever they are. People of color, queer people, young people, transgendered people, activists, sex workers, immigrants. Every time this happens is my people locked away.
But these two. These are really my people. This is who I have cried with after break-ups, eaten ice cream with when I should have been studying, this is who sat with me in limbo every semester, unregistered and undocumented because no one believed we’d be able to keep paying for school, least of all us. This is who brought me lemonade and sandwiches when couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t say why, and most importantly these are the people who stayed up all night with me too many times to count, like Pinky and the Brain in pumas with wild hair, plotting and believing in another world. Projecting and practicing freedom. These are the ones who said, yes, we can build that. And we should paint it purple, not blue. And if someone had been tracing our hands as we punctuated every detail about what playgrounds to make out of the rubble of prisons, what mosaics to glue to the empty US mint...if you had been tracing our hands you would have seen that we were spelling blood and water and water and blood. This is what I mean when I say, these are my people.
They are the ones I have trusted to hold my youth and to hand it back to me with a firm nudge if I ever consider selling out. These are the ones I have trusted to sell their vintage sneakers and stolen accessories to hire a lawyer when the state finally notices. We have agreed that this is a morally and strategically better than actually letting each other become lawyers. So these are the ones I trust to break me out of prison, to never forget where I am. To prove the lie of the state when it says no one loves you, you little black girl. You are nothing. No one cares where you are right now. And they have trusted me too, to pawn, to plead, to risk, to witness, to remember. I have agreed to the same.
But I didn’t think it would be today.
As I write this, my people are locked down for keeping their part of the agreement. After months of planning a fundraiser for the Sylvia Rivera Liberation Project my people were ready to celebrate. After gathering queer and trans people of color and allies from all over the tri-state area my people, these two, deserved the peace of bass and the release of rhythm. Late Wednesday night, like every night, my people were dancing. But late Wednesday night, like every night, the state was on the prowl. And right in front of the bright loud colors, right in front of the opening sounds (you see my people dress like confetti parades, my people move like new memories) the NYPD was doing the state, forcing the power of one black man into a space to small for dignity. And my people, though practicing the celebration, though air traffic hailing the future, this night, my people do not forget the moment. This is why my people wear sneakers and flat shoes. They remember what we agreed. So early Thursday morning they stopped the dancing to witness this arrest, one of millions of arrests, (these too my people). And they said with their eyes what we promised we would say. They said
We see you. We remember what you deserve. And when the lie come out that you are not human, that who you are does not matter, we will stand up that moment with the truth. We see you.

And the policemen could not tell who they addressed with their eyes, from the reasonable distance of the sidewalk. The policemen did not know if by “you” their brown eyes meant the person in the handcuffs or the one clanking them shut. So while their brightly clad feet and their hair awake with dancing did not get in anyone’s way, the policemen found their gazes too wide and too loud. So the policemen grabbed them. And closed their own eyes.
These two. My people. And shoved them in the car without warning.
And what I got then was a 2am text message indecipherable and cut short. And 12 hours later an email. They have not been charged. They have not been arraigned.
Because there is no such crime as love in excess. There is no such crime as too bright for 1984. There is no crime called smarter and braver than what day it is. There is no such crime as wanting more.
But they have not been released yet either. Because to place your soul firmly against the blunt edge of lawfulness is to share terror on measured and socialist terms. And police officers cannot afford to remember the neighborhoods they come from and who is now missing, lest their hearts beat and break against the tight armor of the state. And dreamers cannot afford fancy lawyers. So what I got then was a 2 am text message, and 12 hours later an email.
And what I have now is a promise to keep.

Jack Aponte (, 347-247-1526)
Naomi Clark (, 917-907-4870)

Police Brutality Strikes Fifth Anniversary of Sylvia Rivera Law Project

NEW YORK - On the night of Wednesday, September 26, officers from the
9th Precinct of the New York Police Department attacked without
provocation members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and of its
community. Two of our community members were violently arrested, and
others were pepper sprayed in the face without warning or cause.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project ( ) is an organization that
works on behalf of low-income people of color who are transgender,
gender non-conforming, or intersex, providing free legal services and
advocacy among many other initiatives. On Wednesday night, the Sylvia
Rivera Law Project was celebrating its fifth anniversary with a
celebration and fundraising event at a bar in the East Village.

A group of our community members, consisting largely of queer and
transgender people of color, witnessed two officers attempting to
detain a young Black man outside of the bar. Several of our community
members asked the officers why they were making the arrest and using
excessive force. Despite the fact that our community was on the
sidewalk, gathered peacefully and not obstructing foot traffic, the
NYPD chose to forcefully grab two people and arrested them. Without
warning, an officer then sprayed pepper spray across the group in a
wide arc, temporarily blinding many and causing vomiting and intense

"This is the sort of all-too-common police violence and overreaction
towards people of color that happens all the time," said Dean Spade,
founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. "It's ironic that we were
celebrating the work of an organization that specifically opposes
state violence against marginalized communities, and we experienced a
police attack at our celebration."

"We are outraged, and demand that our community members be released
and the police be held accountable for unnecessary use of excessive
force and falsely arresting people," Spade continued.

Damaris Reyes is executive director of GOLES, an organization working
to preserve the Lower East Side. She commented, "I'm extremely
concerned and disappointed by the 9th Precinct's response to the
situation and how it escalated into violence. This kind of aggressive
behavior doesn't do them any good in community-police relations."

Supporters will be gathering at 100 Centre Street tomorrow, where the
two community members will be arraigned. The community calls for
charges to be dropped and to demand the immediate release of those

- END -

Thursday, September 06, 2007

From the mouth of the Lorde

from BLK: September 1990

‘Financial independence does not have to be synonymous with capitalism. How do we go about finding ways in which it’s not, how do we go about implementing those ways? It is possible to start this on a community level? How do we move? But most of all, how do we begin to ask these questions? How do we give ourselves a language in which to ask these questions? ...How do we encourage our young people to start thinking of themselves as members of an international comunity and of the African diaspora? The system is very interested in making sure that they don’t have that consciousness.”

Friday, August 31, 2007

From: Creative Writing @ A&T

Re: The North Carolina A&T State University Lyceum Series Presents

Date: August 30, 2007

For more information contact: Dr. Anjail Rashida Ahmad, Director, Creative Writing @ A&T Telephone: (336) 334-7771, ext. 2370;

For Immediate Release:
The North Carolina A&T State University Lyceum Series and the Creative Writing Program in English Presents:

"Sankofa: Secure Your Future~Culturally Engage Your Past."

Featuring: Righteous AIM Spoken Word Performance Troupe

Amaris Howard – Out of Hampton – Aggie Grad ‘04
Poet/Freedom Fighter/Activist

D. Noble Out of G’boro, formerly of The Collective

Ebony Golden – Out of New York by way of Durham & Houston and DC

3 of America’s hottest, most committed, award winning spoken word poets working on college campuses today. They’ve been featured on Def Jam, Nubian News, For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide…and have toured in DC, Atlanta, Houston & Phoenix.

Their mission is Dedicated to uplifting and empowering individuals and communities through creative expression, social change, and the divine spirit through the arts.

Wednesday, September 19, 7:00 pm, NC A&T Harrison Auditorium ()Corner of Nocho & Bluford Streets. Doors open at 6:30 pm

(Also performing: The Donfolie Dancers & NC A&T Spoken Word Troupe: Poetic Insurgents)

Righteous AIM will conduct several interdisciplinary workshops Tuesday, September 18) with A&T faculty and students. These will be interactive experiences in which participants will explore different examples of self-expression as illustrated by certain genres of the black literary canon. For instance, Claude Brown’s Man Child and the Promise Land and Malcolm X’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X will be discussed as precursors of the hip-hop movement and other contemporary modules for exploring ideas of Black womanhood and the Black male sensibility as expressed toward Black women.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Black August and Joan Little-from Serena

Today, I am remembering the survival, resistance, and liberation of Joan Little (1953-1994):

August 27, 1974 - the half-naked body of Clarence Alligood was found in the Beaufort County Jail in Washington, North Carolina. The white jailer had been stabbed to death with an ice-pick, and his twenty-one year old black female prisoner, Joan Little, was gone. Little surrendered to North Carolina authorities over a week later insisting that she had acted in self-defense against a sexual assault. She was charged with first degree murder, which carried an automatic death sentence if convicted under contemporary North Carolina law.

August 14, 1975 - Joan Little was acquitted after her murder trial captured national attention and made the defendant a symbol for feminists, civil rights activists, and opponents of capital punishment. Using highly sophisticated fundraising techniques, the Joan Little Defense Committee raised over $350,000 nationally and around the world for her defense.

An Article by Angela Davis about Joan Little (note: graphic details of crime scene - possibly triggering content)

{I may have sent this article around a while ago, forgive the repetition if so}
Joan Little: The Dialectics of Rape (1975)

by Angela Davis

No one-not even the men in the mob-had bothered to accuse Cordella Stevenson of committing a crime. She was black and that was reason enough. She was black and a woman, trapped in a society pervaded with myths of white superiority and male supremacy. She could be raped and murdered with absolute impunity. The white mob simply claimed that, a few months earlier, Cordella Stevenson's son had burned down a white man's barn.

It was 60 years ago when this black woman was raped and strung up on a tree. There are many who believe that incidents such as these belong to an era of racist terror now forever buried under the historical progress of the intervening years. But history itself allows only the naive to honestly claim these last 60 years as a time of unequivocal progress-especially when the elimination of racism and male supremacy is used as the yardstick.

Twenty-year-old Joan Little, one of the most recent victims in this racist and sexist tradition, is the cultural grandchild of Cordella Stevenson. She says that she resisted when she was sexually assaulted, but as a result she is currently being tried on charges of first-degree murder. In the event of a conviction, she will automatically get a death sentence and will be placed on North Carolina's death row-the result of a "legal" process, but still too close to the lynch law of the past.

The story begins last August 27, when a guard at the jail in Beaufort County, North Carolina, was found dead in the cell of a missing prisoner. He had been stabbed eleven times with an ice pick, the same ice pick that he had kept in his own desk drawer. The jailer, Clarence Alligood, was white. The missing prisoner was black, and the only woman in the entire jail. Because of a conviction on charges of breaking and entering, larceny, and receiving stolen property, Joan Little was serving a sentence of seven to ten years and had already been kept in the Beaufort County jail for three months at the time of her disappearance.

When the autopsy report was released, it contained this evidence of recent sexual activity on the part of Alligood: "His shoes were in the corridor, his socks on his feet. He was otherwise naked from the waist down. . . . The left arm was under the body and clutching his pants. . . . His right hand contained an icepick. There was blood on the sheet, cell floor, corridor. . . . Beneath his buttocks was a decorated, partially torn woman's kerchief. On the floor was a night gown and on the cell door was a brassiere and night jacket. . . . Extending from his penis to his thigh skin was a stream of what appeared to be seminal fluid. . . . The urethral fluid was loaded with spermatozoa."

After a week of evading police-who conducted their search with riot weapons and helicopters-Joan Little turned herself in, stating nothing publicly about the case except that she did what she had to do in self-defense. At her own insistence, Jerry Paul, the lawyer she contacted, received assurances that she would be incarcerated in the women's prison in Raleigh-not in the jail where the incident took place, and where she feared that she would be subjected to further sexual assault and perhaps even that her life would be in danger. Shortly thereafter, Joan Little was charged with murder in the first degree.

The circumstances surrounding this case deserve careful attention, for they raise fundamental questions about the bringing of murder charges against her. Moreover, they expose conditions and situations many women prisoners must confront, especially in the small-town jails of this country.

1. Joan Little was being detained in a jail in which she was the only woman-among prisoners and guards alike.
2. Like any other prisoner, Sister Joan was being held under lock and key. Only her jailer, Clarence Alligood, had access to the key to her cell that night. Therefore, how could he have been present there against his will? A part of an escape attempt on the part of Joan Little, as the authorities then charged?
3. Alligood was apparently killed by stab wounds inflicted by the same ice pick which he was known to keep in his desk. What was a jail guard doing with an ice pick in the first place? And for what legitimate purpose could he have taken it into a prisoner's cell?
4. Alligood was discovered naked from the waist down. According to Karen Galloway and Jerry Paul, Joan Little's attorneys, the authorities maintained for a full three weeks that Alligood's pants were nowhere to be found. Were they afraid that the public would discover that, although he had been stabbed in the legs, there were no such holes in his pants? Were they afraid people would therefore realize that Alligood had removed his pants before the struggle began? In any case, how could such crucial evidence be allowed to disappear?

In fact, the reality of Joan Little's life as a prisoner, even before the rape, may have been one of sexual exploitation; a fate she consistently resisted. Jerry Paul has said, "One possibility is that she was being kept in Beaufort County Jail for openly sexual purposes."

She should have been moved to the women's prison in Raleigh shortly after her original conviction, but she was never transferred. According to Paul, a TV camera was focused on her cell at all times, leaving her no privacy whatever even when she changed clothes or took a shower. When she used her sheets to block the view, they were taken from her. Joan Little's lawyers have said that on one occasion a highway patrolman visiting the jail on business unrelated to Joan, came into her cell and urinated on the floor.

Essential to a clear perspective on the Joan Little case is an analysis of what might have happened if the situation had been reversed. What if Alligood had overpowered her? What if he had stabbed her with the ice pick-as he may have intended to do if she could not otherwise be raped? What if the sexually violated body of Joan Little had been discovered in that cell on the night of August 27?

There can be little speculation about the turn events would have taken had Joan Little been killed by Alligood. A verdict of "justifiable homicide" would have probably closed the books on such a case.

But she had the courage to fend off her assailant. The price of her resistance was a new threat of death, this time issuing from the government of North Carolina. And so she is being tried-by the same state whose Supreme Court decided, in the 19th century, that no white man could be convicted of fornication with a slave woman.

Joan Little stands accused by a court system which, proportionate to its population, has sentenced more political activists to prison than any other state in the country. The number of state prison units in North Carolina is staggering-more than five times greater than in California, the most populous state in the country. In fact, North Carolina, along with Georgia, can claim more prisoners per capita than any other state-and they include, of course, an enormously disproportionate number of black men and women.

As this article is being written, there are 71 prisoners on death row in North Carolina, making that state Number One in the nation in condemning people to legal death. In the event of a conviction, the state's present sentencing policy could make Sister Joan Little the third woman in the country to be sentenced to death since the Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the death penalty imposed at the discretion of judges and juries was cruel and unusual punishment. North Carolina subsequently mandated that a conviction on a first-degree murder charge automatically carried the death penalty. This procedure was appealed to the Supreme Court in late April. The other two women presently on death row are also in North Carolina-a black and a Native American.

Joan Little's attorneys relate numerous possibilities of judicial bias against her. In Beaufort County, for instance, where families are generations old, virtually everyone knows everyone else. Living in the area are numerous Alligoods. One of these Alligoods sat on the Grand Jury which returned the indictment against Joan Little.

Without exception, every pretrial motion filed, as of this writing, has been flatly denied. Despite inflammatory publicity about Joan Little-including unfounded and malicious charges that she was a prostitute-and in spite of the unconcealed public sympathy for Alligood, the courts have refused to grant a change of venue for the trial.

Although Joan Little is indigent, her motion to have the court assume the costs of expert witnesses has been denied. It was denied even though the court does not have to pay her attorneys' fees, since the lawyers are donating their services.

Efforts to gain access to the evidence, in the form of discovery motions, have also been thwarted. The sheriff at first refused to release a list of female prisoners previously incarcerated in the jail, leading to a belief that the authorities feared the exposure of other sexual assaults by Alligood and his colleagues. Later, after the State Bureau of Investigation had questioned 65 former prisoners, their names were released to Joan Little's lawyers-but even this SBI report stated that some of these inmates claimed Alligood and other jailers made sexual advances toward them.

After the difficulty in locating Alligood's pants, the defense attempted to have all the evidence assembled and placed in protective custody. This was denied.

Although Sister Joan seemed clearly eligible to be released on bail, District Attorney William Griffin employed every trick of his trade to prevent her release. When the defense attorneys attempted to post bail, for instance, Griffin, relying on a technicality, ordered the clerk not to accept the bond. Finally, as a result of a nationwide outcry, she was released in February on bail of $115,000: an amount that is itself clearly exorbitant.

Over the last few years, widespread concern about the increasing incidence of sexual assaults on women has crystallized into a militant campaign against rape. In the Joan Little case, as well as in all other instances of sexual assault, it is essential to place the specific incident in its sociohistorical context. For rape is not one- dimensional and homogeneous-but one feature that does remain constant is the overt and flagrant treatment of women, through rape, as property. Particular rape cases will then express different modes in which women are handled as property.

Thus when a white man rapes a black woman, the underlying meaning of this crime remains inaccessible if one is blind to the historical dimensions of the act. One must consider, for example, that a little more than a hundred years ago, there were few black women who did not have to endure humiliating and violent sexual attacks as an integral feature of their daily lives. Rape was the rule; immunity from rape the exception. On the one hand the slave master made use of his tyrannical possession of slave women as chattel in order to violate their bodies with impunity. On the other hand, rape itself was an essential weapon utilized by the white master to reinforce the authority of his ownership of black women.

Although the immediate victim of rape was the black woman-and it was she who endured its pain and anguish-rape served not only to further her oppression, but also as a means of terrorizing the entire black community. It placed brutal emphasis on the fact that black slaves were indeed the property of the white master.

In conjunction with the sexual exploitation of black women, the stereotypical image of the black woman branded her as a creature motivated by base, animal-like sexual instincts. It was therefore no sin to rape her. This bestial notion of the black woman, incidentally, played and continues to play a significant role in justifying the overexploitation of her labor. For such a woman would hardly be distinguishable from a beast of burden. Again, she is openly defined as property. If rape was, in effect, institutionalized during slavery, essentially the same institutionalized form of rape is present today in such vestiges of slavery as do-mestic work. How many black women working in the homes of white people have not had to confront the "man of the house" as an actual or potential rapist?

The rape of the black woman and its ideological justification are integrally linked to the portrayal of the black man as a bestial rapist of white women-and, of course, the castration and lynching of black men on the basis of such accusations. Struggle against the sexual abuse of black women has demanded at the same time struggle against the cruel manip-ulation of sexual accusations against black men. Black women, therefore, have played a vanguard role, not only in the fight against rape, but also in the movement to end lynching.

For black women, rape perpetrated by white men, like the social stereotype of black men as rapists, must be classed among the brutal paraphernalia of racism.

Whenever a campaign is erected around a black woman who has been raped by a white man, therefore, the content of the campaign must be explicitly antiracist. And, as incorrect as it would be to fail to attack racism, it would be equally incorrect to make light of the antisexist content of the movement. Racism and male supremacy have to be projected in their dialectical unity. In the case of the raped black woman, they are mutually reinforcive.

Joan Little's assailant had probably been exposed to all the racist myths about black women, and was aware of the lack of redress available to victims of white rapists. In the aftermath of the incident, in fact, vicious accusa- tions were hurled at Joan Little: she was called a prostitute and it was claimed that she engaged in sexual activities with jailers.

Of course, the conviction rate for rape is the lowest of all violent crimes -regardless of the victim's ethnic group. Only in those instances where the accused rapist is black and the alleged victim is white can a long prison term or death penalty be antici- pated. From 1930 to 1967, 455 men were executed as a result of rape convictions: 405 of them were black, 48 of them were white, and two were of other ethnic groups. This means that almost 90 percent of all rape executions during this period involved black men.

Courts have established the pattern of either acquitting or not trying the majority of white men who are charged with rape. In New York, for instance, in 1967, 30 percent of all felony indictments ended in convictions, but in only 13 percent of all rape indictments were there convictions.

There must be a reason behind this social and judicial encouragement given to rape. This reason, in turn, must be related to the social and political function of male supremacy in general.

The oppression of women is a vital and integral component of a larger network of oppression which claims as its foremost victims black people, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Asians, Indians, and all poor and working-class people. Just as class exploitation, racism, and imperialist subjugation of peoples abroad serve to nourish this larger system and keep it functioning, so male supremacy is likewise essential to its smooth operation. The larger system, of course, is monopoly capitalism and its overall driving motive is profit.

It is in the interests of the ruling class to cultivate the archaic patriarchal domination of women-based on male ownership of females as property-that flourished during the feudal era. As long as women are oppressed, enormous benefits accrue to the ruling class. Female labor can be even more flagrantly exploited than male labor. (White women's median wages are even lower than black men's and, of course, women of color receive the lowest wages of all workers.)

The social definition of women as housewives provides, as Alva Buxenbaum states, the most effective "rationale for failing to make housework and child care a social responsibility." A list of examples could go on and on. The social incentive given to rape is woven into the logic of the institutions of this society. It is an extremely efficient means of keeping women in a state of fear of rape or of the possibility of it. It is, as Susan Griffin wrote, "a form of mass terrorism." This, in turn, buttresses the general sense of powerlessness and passivity socially inflicted upon women, thus rendering them more easily exploitable. Yet, just as working-class and poor white people who exhibit racist attitudes toward people of color are unconscious agents of a higher power, so rapists (though they may be individually unaware of this) are performing deeds that give sustenance, not to them, but to the existing system.

Joan Little may not only have been the victim of a rape attempt by a white racist jailer; she has truly been raped and wronged many times over by the exploitative and discriminatory institutions of this society. All people who see themselves as members of the existing community of struggle for justice, equality, and progress have a responsibility to fulfill toward Joan Little. Those of us-women and men -who are black or people of color must understand the connection between racism and sexism that is so strikingly manifested in her case. Those of us who are white and women must grasp the issue of male supremacy in relationship to the racism and class bias which complicate and exacerbate it.

Let us be sure that the leitmotif running through every aspect of the campaign is unity. Our ability to achieve unity may mean the difference between life and death for Sister Joan. Let us then forge among ourselves and our movements an indivisible strength and with it, let us halt and then crush the conspiracy against Joan Little's life.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Purple": New Story by the Most Brilliant Writer of Our Generation

If you don't know that Danielle Valore Evans is the Most Brilliant Writer of Our need to know. The youngest student admitted to the prestigious writers workshop at Iowa since Flannery O'Connor, Evans releases timely, crucial and evocative stories that often center around the lives of young black women. Evans' work makes the bottom of your soul drop...or maybe it makes your heart expand. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, (self-proclaimed) beloved friend and (admittedly) fanatic supporter of Evans gushes, "I know how brilliant Danielle is. We've worked, laughed, sighed, lived and dreamed together for more than seven years. However, every time I read a new piece of her work, I am stunned again by grateful awe."

As Lamarr Burton would say...don't take our word for the link below to read "Purple" a story by Danielle Valore Evans in the currrent issue of The L Magazine.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Our Principles-Our Demands: March to Stop Violence Against Women 1978

Okay...I know I'm behaving as if NOW is the only time that I will be able to share information with you ever. But since I know some people who are interested in holding marches to end violence in April sometimes....I thought it might be useful to disperse the demands and principles of a group that coordinated a "March to Stop Violence Against Women" in 1978.
One important thing that I think is missing from the principles of this group is a challenge to the category "woman". Of course I have the benefit of almost 30 years of hindsight and the help of many trans allies...but I think it is important that (at least as I see it) our intention with the Day of Truthtelling was/is to end gendered violence which is importantly distinct from "violence against women". And...we know (or need to to remember) that transgendered people were certainly experiencing at least as much violence in 1978 as they continue to experience today.

Principle and Demands of the March to Stop Violence Against Women

1. Self-Determination for Women: All people have the right to control our own bodies and sexuality. We should not have to restrict our freedom of movement, our bodies or our activities and behavior in order to be safe. We have the right to freedom from violations of our personal autonomy and our physical integrity on the street, in the home and at the workplace.
2. Power for Women: To stop violence against women and to exercise the right to control our own bodies, women need power...Women can become powerful by organizing together to express our will. Women need to break through the barriers of silence that isolate us from each other and to see that an act of violence against one woman is an act of violence against us all.
3. Self-Defense for Women: Women have the right to self-dense. Self-defense it the ability, both physically and psychologically, to defend oneself against violence....
4. Community Censure of Violence Against Women: We promote the idea of community censure of violence against women. People must speak out and condemn rape and battering as they happen. This means no more complicity: We are asking for a public expression of disapproval---that we will not tolerate violence against women.

In addition to responding to many questions such as “What is violence against women?” They ask and answer the questions “Why doesn’t the criminal justice work?” “What do we mean by saying the criminal justice is racist, classist and sexist?”

May the questions continue.

Freedom On Our Own Terms: Towards a Revolutionary Culture

“It is past time that black intellectuals, professionals and so-called black scholars assumed a more active role in the leadership of the liberation struggle, instead of laying back theorizing and writing essays in a vacuum, or in various bourgeois publications.”
-from Message to the Black Movement: a Political Statement from the Black Underground
by the Coordinating Committee of the Black Liberation Army

Duly. Noted. With those words in mind, before another moment passes I want to sneak out some passages from this "Message to the Black Movement" that I found in the belly of the beastly plantation university here in Durham, NC. Though the Black Liberation Army decalres itself to be explicitly anti-sexist..and indeed did some radical work to respond to violence against women within black communities...there is no real mention of gender (or reference to their interventions against sexual assault and domestic vioelnce) in this "Message". However I think that these principles are relevant approaches to some of the questions (How do we respond to violence? What is the role of violence in that response? What is our relationship to the law? (How) do we make demands on anyone?) that I/we are thinking about in community (next to the very university that searches me every time I leave the vault because they know I want to steal the pamphlet make a zillion copies and give them to you.) It should be clear why the Black Liberation Army never publicized the date or location of this publication. Consider the citation above complete.

Please comment by clicking on the link to the At the Kitchen Table Blog

A Relationship to the Law and to Violence

p7 “We therefore do not view the ‘law’ of our class enemies as valid nor do we feel restricted in struggle to his laws. On the other hand, we understand the “tactical” value of using the law and consequently we understand the tactical value of reform in the liberation process. For example, school takeovers by community parents, rent strikes by tenants, labor union takeovers....

“There can be no conditions on our fight for freedom except those set by the oppressed themselves. Those who claim that revolutionary violence gives the enemy the opportunity to repress the movement in general are profoundly mistaken if they think the reactionary government needs such excuses for repression...” (emphasis by Alexis)

On the Creation of a Revolutionary Culture
“In order to break these psychological-class chains of 20th century enslavement, we must build a revolutionary culture.”
"The dominant reactionary culture must be destroyed before any revolutionary culture can truly manifest itself. In other words, it is in the active struggle of the two that the seeds of a revolutionary culture are laid. Not in the passive creation of an alternative culture.”
(emphasis by Alexis)

On (the Hegemony of) Technology
“One such factor that sets our struggle apart from other (third world) struggles is the profound influence of organized technology on our consciousness, social relationships and behavior. People who live in the technologically advanced societies of the west have been programmed to perceive their needs as being one and the same as the technology that created these artificial needs.”

“Technology in the context of capitalism is the ultimate means by which the masses are programmed out of the need for real freedom...we must create a new need within ourselves for freedom, so that we can harness technology on our behalf.”


Monday, July 02, 2007

Fighting Fire

Most of us received Aishah's email about the black lesbians in Newark who are serving jailtime for defending themselves from a homophobic attacker. Today in the library in the archives of a small feminist publication called Feminary (that used to be based right here in Durham and operate through collective potluck meetings...) I found a few more examples of how the law criminalizes black women and women in prison for standing up for themselves. These are all direct quotes:

January 4th 1976

“On June 17, 1975, two Black women, Cheryl S. Todd and Dessie X. Woods, were arrested and charged with murder and armed robbery in Wheeler County, Georgia. The women were defending themselves from a sexual assault by a white man who was posing as a police officer;...This case involves a woman’s righto to defend herself against sexual assault, and has obvious racial implications. A defense committee has been formed....”
March 28th 1976
“On December 27th of last year (1975), a Black woman officer of the Flint, Michigan police force found herself temporarily assigned to patrol car duty with Walter Kalberer, who so opposed the assignment of women to street patrol that he requested in writing never to work with one. Madeline Fletcher was a rookie hired under the city’s affirmative-action program for increasing minority representation on the police force. Fletcher was already in the driver’s seat when Kalberer ordered her to mve over saying he would drive. After obscenities and racial insults, Kalberer said he grapped her by the coat collar and she “fell” on her back and started kicking him. When she allegedly fought back with her night stick, he attacked her with his, claiming to have said, “If you’re going to fight like a man, I’m going to have to treat you like a man” and knocked her night stick out of her hand. Fletcher is described as having run a few steps, drawn her pistol and shot at him, apparently hitting him in the left thigh. According to witnesses, Kalberer returned the fire. Alleging the she threatened to kill them, 3 nearby white male officers fired at her. During the exchange of some 14 shots, one bullet hit her in the chest. largely recovered, she has been charged with “assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder” and is suspended without pay. While he, the instigator, was charged with nothing and is on sick leave while recovering from his thigh wound.
Contributions are requested for the Madeline Fletcher Legal Defense Fund.”
May 23 1976
“The Raleigh Feminists Organized for Action (RFOA), a group that focuses particularly on black women and issues of civil rights enforcement, is currently involved with the Phyllis Ethridge vs. Robert L. Dunnigan case. Dunnigan was acquitted of assault charges brought against him by Ethridge for “striking her with his hands on the buttocks,”. Judge George Barnett dismissed the charges on the grounds that no bodily harm was intended although, in another case, a N.C. court has ruled that “...every batterin touchgin includes an assault, but ever assault does not include a battery...” the RFOA believes, therefore that Barnett’s ruling is contradictory to N.C. law. RFOA is calling on other local organizations and individuals to join in an effort to request a Judicial Standards Review of the judge in this case, and also to support Ethridge’s further appeal...

July 4 1976
"The first mass confrontation at the North Carolina Correction Center for Women between prisoners and guards occurred last summer (1975). Among the issues that the women were peacefully protesting were bad working conditions in the laundry and poor medical care. As you know, the peaceful demonstration ended in ciolence when the prison administration responded to the demands with force. Not only are many of the same conditions that were protested still existing, but many of the inmates who participated are still suffering reprisals. Several of the women who were involved have been writing since the protest, and now their articles, drawings and poems are being organized into a book.
Nine people from two groups Triangle Area Feminists and the North Carolina Hard Times Prison Project---are colecting and printing the book. One thousand dollars is necessary for its publication. This money will cover materials. Labor is being donated....
Break de Chains of Legalized U$ Slavery will be available for $2.00 in the late summer at local bookstores.

What I learn from these examples is that it is possible to fight fire with fire (and I support black women who defend themselves through the law and with physical self-defense), but it is also possible to fight fire with water. To read a zine of responses to violence that reject the law itself read the zine OutLaw Visions: Reclaiming Power, Truth and Justice for Ourselves.
Participants in the workshop that Serena and I led on behalf of UBUNTU at the Allied Media Conference Last Week in Detroit created it in one hour!

You can download your own copy here....

the nympho of info

Monday, June 25, 2007

Talk from the "Hijacking the Master's Tools" Panel at the Allied Media Conference

Stand up if you’ve ever talked to, pleaded with, yelled at or thanked a printer or copy machine.

Stand up if you’ve ever stolen office supplied or made non-work-related copies at your job.

Stand up if you’ve ever gotten away with something because of your good looks.

Stand up if you secretly (or publicly) dream of making a planetary impact in a very non-globalization way.

Stand up if you’ve ever lent someone a book with out expecting to get it back, because the conversation the book made possible was more important than owning it.

Stand up if you have at least one friend who makes you smarter just by being around.

Stand up if you KNOW that you come from a long history of BADASS women of color, even if you don’t know all of their names yet.

They say the trees hold ancestor spirits. And while not always in a position to knock on wood, I believe that. I believe that we release the energy of Audre Lorde, and June Jordan and Gloria Anzaldua and my grandmother, illegal and urgent with every stolen copy we make. This is our victory, dark lifeblood shaped down into font. They say the trees hold ancestor spirits, so of course they chop them down. But this, our triumph, is instantaneous. Our wisdom shredded thin writing paper cuts into skin can only be dispersed. It can never be destroyed.
Good afternoon! I have been imagining your faces for months, so thank you for being here. This talk is dedicated to our ancestors and elders who created networks of women of color as a means of survival. This is dedicated to all of what it means to stand up. This talk is dedicated to you; this talk is dedicated to us. Receive this offering.
My name is Alexis Pauline Gumbs and 6 years ago I founded a publishing initiative called BrokenBeautiful Press based on a simple insistence that freedom should be free, because freedom, like love and time is something that we make, together. Not something that we own, not something that we can buy or sell, freedom is always in the making. BrokenBeautiful Press achieves its simple mission of making love with you by offering worksheets, teaching tools, interactive anthologies, and flyers and stickers for free download (we suggest you print out our workbooks at work, our stickers are designed to be printed on mailing label paper...waiting to be liberated in a supply closet near you.) We offer a do it yourself couture fashion line that basically encourages you to write all over your clothes in permanent marker, but glamorously, we have an online writing group, a poetry exchange and a fundraising portal where community organizations can offer their collaborative publications in exchange for donations. Of course I encourage to go to and play around, and I encourage those of you have created zines, worksheets and teaching tools to make them available for free download publication through our site, but that is the NEXT step.
What made what I want to call the BrokenBeautiful breakthrough possible is basically two things. One, I happen to have friends who make me smarter just by being around and one of these friends is Serena and two, I with Serena am located in a community activated through the urgency of need to deploy every means, physical, emotional, spiritual, and cybernetic to raise a voice that was being slammed into the ground.
That is to say, before UBUNTU formed in Durham North Carolina to respond to one among many instances of women of color survivors of sexual assault being crucified for speaking our own truths I had no idea how to make a blog, how to post a link into an email, or how to make a pdf available for download, I hadn’t the first clue. I had completely abandoned the idea of a BrokenBeautiful Press website because the result of my many hours wrestling with dreamweaver had left me with a website so embarrassing and hideous that rather than direct people to it I would have preferred to ask people to call me on the telephone and write down in pen the full contents of every single publication we made while I read them out loud. This is how analog I am.
But the mass media and a number of independent defenders of white supremacy and patriarchy were sending a murderous message to me, to the women of color and sex workers in my community and to survivors of gendered violence and oppressed people generally. That message was podcasted, broadcasted, v-casted like airborne poison to still the blood. The message was a reinvokation of the shape of our daily pain. The message was so simple we already had it memorized. We recognized it from the lining of the nightmares of our mothers. And this message was everywhere from the hatemail sent to the family residence of a particular mother, student, dancer, black woman in Durham to the nightly news to Saturday Night Live to the campus newspaper and so-called jokes on t-shirts. The message was unambiguous. The message was not metaphorical. The message was this. If you speak, we will kill you.
But thank the Lorde we are not first. And by the Lorde, here and elsewhere I mean Audre Lorde. Thank the Lorde we come from a badass tradition of women who said silence is already a form of death SO IT IS BETTER TO SPEAK, remembering we were never meant to survive. Because remember or find out for the first time that Kitchen Table: Radical Women of Color Press was not founded because Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Merle Woo, Gloria Hull and others wanted something to add to their CV’s. These women created a publishing movement because 12 black women were murdered in Boston within three months and both the police and the mainstream black community tried to say their deaths were inconsequential on the grounds that they may have been prostitutes. Let me be clear, the tradition of radical women of color publishing that comes to us in the forms of anthologies like this Bridge Called My Back and INCITE’s the Color of Violence more recently is NOT an academic surplus (though let me also be clear I am committed to siphoning off every resource from Duke University that they mistakenly give me access to)...the tradition of radical women of color publishing was created not out of professional privilege but out of what it means to be a women of color in public responding to massive routine and state sanctioned violence and facing death every time we speak.
So when UBUNTU hustles together to make a booklet about how to support survivors of sexual violence and BrokenBeautiful Press makes it available for pdf download so that you can print it out at you job and pass it out in your community, we are acting on the precedent that the Boston-based Combahee River Collective (a group of radical black lesbian socialist feminists) set when they made 12,000 copies of a pamphlet called “Six Women Why Did they Die?” and had it reprinted in a national feminist magazine. Because (1) you know they didn’t pay for all those copies so as usual, we inherit the hustle, and two they knew that women of color living outside of Boston needed their analysis, and their boldness as much as they did themselves.
We live in this precedent. I don’t know about Serena, but I personally have cried countless tears of joy because of those women of color, survivors of sexual assault, some of who are in the audience who said “I am a women of color survivor in Texas, thank you for posting the journal of healing that you made. I am thinking about starting my own healing writing circle for survivors here,” or “I can’t come to the National Day of Truthtelling” but I’m lighting candles on my altar because I am with you,” or “I wrote this poem about my process of healing” or just “Thank you. I hear you.” I would have asked those of you who have already viewed or sent comments to the BrokenBeautiful Press and UBUNTU websites or emailed us to stand up in the beginning with the other stand up statements, but I probably would have started crying and been completely useless for at least the 10 minutes of this talk.
The bottom line is that as UBUNTU and BrokenBeautiful Press we engage in web-enabled grass-roots publishing for the obvious reason: connection across space and time. We are committed to remaining tapped in to the legacies of struggle that we know about and those which we are still discovering and we are committed to using every means necessary to remind ourselves and you that we are a movement, we have each other. Our bravery in the face of repression is not sustained by our justified anger; it is sustained by the energy of our ancestors and our love for each other. I am not arguing for the internet as the new cooler, better way to be an activist, because just like the telegram the internet has it’s own limitations...and we are doing the same thing with blogs and web-rings and carnivals that our predecessors were doing with newspaper clippings in letters sent through the postal service in between conferences. I would never say that the internet is the place where the “real” radical girls hang out; because I myself am so analog it’s not funny. I don’t even know how to send a text message.... let alone make a podcast, but I am learning because I believe that sharing skills, fears, insight, and tricks with all of you is the only way to achieve sustainable revolution. I have decided that nothing, not hatemail, not 1000 miles, not the fact that I can’t connect to the internet in my home, not my ridiculous workload and low-tech sensibilities, I have decided that nothing will keep us apart.
So although BrokenBeautiful Press is nothing but a highly coordinated constellation of free blogs, I insist that what we are doing is more than blogging in concert. I insist that this is more.

We are planting trees.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Singing SisterSong

Greetings beloved community! Since I had to fill out this evaluation as a condition of the mother/daughter scholarship my momma and I recieved for the Let's Talk About Sex SisterSong Conference and 10th Year Celebration...I decided to post it for you verbatim...instead of writing a whole new reflection. Color me efficient :)

Name: Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Organization: BrokenBeautiful Press and UBUNTU
Age: 24 Ethnicity: Black/Afro-Caribbean
Gender: Feminine Sexual Orientation: Queer
Have you previously received a scholarship from SisterSong? Y/N No

Below are a few questions about your participation in and impressions of the Let’s Talk About Sex! Conference. Please feel free to be creative with your answers. Thanks for your participation!

What are the 3 most important things that you feel that you have learned through your experiences at the conference?

1. We are warriors and so we can not take life for granted.

2. We are healers and so we have what we need to sustain each other.

3. Midwives are everywhere!

What impact do you think your participation in the conference will have on your work, your community, your family, your self?

I feel spiritually opened by the wisdom that conference participants shared. I was especially inspired by Cara Page’s talk on the Myth of Population Control and her affirmation of our right to our own erotic transformation, our right to risk love. This work will have a direct effect on the ways that we are restructuring our community work in order to prioritize our spiritual and life giving resources over conventional (and explicitly capitalist) measures of success.

Related to this point, I was very struck in the workshop on Depo Provera to learn that many of the conference funders (i.e. the foundations behind our receipt of this very scholarship) were the same people who conducted unethical, violent, genocidal birth control research using the bodies of women of color in the Caribbean. This realization of my own complicity in the violence of capitalism...even at the level of alternative community building, has pushed me to stand for alternatives to foudation funding.

I was also inspired to see sex workers leading workshops on sex work as resistance. I plan to share a DVD that the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center gave to me about the international movement against the “Pledge Against Prostitution) with the other members of UBUNTU, so that our local work can be informed by international sex-worker led actions.

Have you ever been to any other event that was created by and for women of color? Y/N If Yes, what event? YES! My whole life has been created by and for women of color!

How was the LTAS conference different or similar to that event?

I appreciated the way that the LTAS conference gave intentional time to self-help, work among the audience, poetry, song, mourning and visioning. Processing Aishah Simmon’s brilliant film NO! with my mother (who was my self-help partner) really allowed us to move forward in our continual process of the sexual assault that I experienced when I was eighteen.

I love the way that SisterSong transformed the space of the hotel ballroom with visual reminders of our ancestors and our visual methodologies (quilts, batiks, etc). I love that there was constantly available food. I loved the Umoja village, and appreciate SisterSong’s intention in naming it in honor of the survivor-created village in Kenya. I also appreciate SisterSong’s financial support of Africa Loves Babies through the intention of the bags. I heard someone say “I have been able to build with more women of color in the last two days than in my whole life combined,” during the middle of the conference. I might not move to that level of hyperbole..but it was definitely a miracle to meet and be in the presence of so many beautiful brilliant and committed women of color. I cried tears of joy, loss, and new understanding throughout the event.