Monday, December 29, 2008
i am grateful that i hold someone in my heart whose rage is articulate.
i ask that as we hold everyone in Gaza in our hearts we remember this poem by June Jordan:
Apologies to All the People in Lebanon
Dedicated to the 60,000 Palestinian men, women and children who lived in Lebanon from 1948-1983
I didn't know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?
They said you shot the London Ambassador
and when that wasn't true
they said so
They said you shelled their northern villages
and when U.N. forces reported that was not ture
because your side of the cease-fire was holding
since more than a year before
they said so
They said they wanted simply to carve
a 25 mile buffer zone and then
they ravaged your
water supplies your electricity your
hospitals your schools your highways and byways all
the way north to Beirut because they said this
was their quest for peace
They blew up your homes and demolished the grocery
stores and blocked the Red Cross and took away doctors
to jail and they cluster-bombed girls and boys
swelled purple and black into twice the original size
and tore the buttocks from a four month old baby
they said this was brilliant
military accomplishment and this was done
they said in the name of self-defense they said
that is the noblest concept
of mankind isn't that obvious?
They said something about never again and then
they made close to on million human beings homeless
in less than three weeks and they killed or maimed
40,000 of your men and your women and your children
But I didn't know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?
They said they were victims. They said you were
They called your apartments and gardens guerilla
They called the screaming devastation
that they created the rubble.
Then they told you to leave, didn't they?
Didn't you read the leaflets that they dropped
from their hotshot fighter jets?
They told you to go.
One hundred and thirty-five thousand
Palestinians in Beirut and why
didn't you take the hint?
There was Mediterranean: You
could walk into the water and stay
What was the problem?
I didn't know and noboby told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?
Yes, I did know it was the money I earned as a poet that
for the bombs and the planes and the tanks
that they used to massacre your family
But I am not an evil person
The people of my country aren't so bad
You can expect but so much
from those of us who have to pay taxes and watch
You see my point;
I really am sorry.
Throughout her career June Jordan was punished by the US publishing establishment for her refusal to be silent about Isreali aggression against Palestinians and the anti-Arab dehumanization that characterized US foreign engagement with the Middle East. People said she was alienating herself by taking this issue so personally.
I take it personally.
Modelling the form of transnational feminist solidarity that we must aspire towards, June Jordan famously said "I was born a black woman, but now am become Palestinian."
I take it personally that CNN says that Isreal is at war with Hamas, both because it uses the name of an organization to obscure the fact that this attack is launched against the Palestinian people. CNN, like the Israeli state, refuses again and again to even admit that there is such a people as the Palestinian people, that there is such a place as occupied Palestine. This is how genocide works, and I take it personally. I take it personally that in this age a "war" is no longer defined as a military engagement between two nation-states, that we can use the word "war" to describe what an occupying force, in the form of an apartheid state does to the people it has captured in a concentration camp. I am outraged that the only thing we can call for is a cease-fire, as if there is balance. As if these two entities have ever been equal. As if the United States has not been sending most of it's (our) international aid to buy weapons and build walls for the aggressor, the Israeli State. As if the more than 300 Palestinian people killed were equal to the one Israeli person caught by a missile that Hamas launched AFTER 30 missiles hit Gaza.
Would our strategy be to ask for a cease fire between the MOVE organization and the Philadelphia police? Would our strategy be to ask for a cease fire between the Black Panther Party and co-intel pro. "Cease-fire" is a belated and non-sensical term when the resources, the forms of weapons, have already been alloted so disproportionately.
I have a slingshot. When they come for me with a tank will you ask for a cease-fire, ask both sides to calm down?
I am taking this personally. I am not going to calm down.
All you have to do is remember that Palestinians are people like any other people, full of love and hope and beauty and brilliance who can be hurt, even while surviving occupation, racism, attacks against every one of their institutions and the unjust loss over and over again of the lives of their loved ones, of the homes of their skins, of the disrespect of being called out of your name and exiled in your own land again and again. All you have to do it remember that Palestinians are people and the absurdity and tragedy of this situation will fall on your heart and crush it, like mind is crushed today.
But the mass media is asking you to forget, with every word choice transmitted over here about what is going on in occupied Palestine right now. Asking you to forget that simple truth that even without a state (i would say ESPECIALLY without a state) people are people: full of love and priceless.
June Jordan's incisive repetition of "They said/they said so/what" in her poem is an illustration of what we are still being told today. The words of the Israeli state get credit (like the massive amounts of weapon-buying aid that we send them...on credit that they will never have to repay) and when their weak arguments for self defense against a group of people that they have forced into a cage prove to be lies, our media turns away.
All we have to do it to remember that there is no justification for genocide and we will see clearly what justice is. But our media is asking us to forget. Our 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel attending President and our "hail the great state of Israel" President-elect are asking us to forget.
Do not forget.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Due to the huge and affirming response to BrokenBeautiful Press's Summer of Our Lorde we are THRILLED to present the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind, a portable progressive series based in Durham North Carolina in partnership with SpiritHouse, Southerners on New Ground, UBUNTU, the Land and Sustainability Working Group, Kindred Healing Justice Collective and more.
In 1977 the Combahee River Collective wrote a key black feminist manifesta groundbreaking in it’s assertion that the “major systems of oppression are interlocking. You are invited to the first session on the groundbreaking black feminist document The Combahee River Collective Statement. Download it at www.blackfeministmind.wordpress.com
and check out some radical exercises at www.combaheesurvival.wordpress.com
In Durham we'll be discussing it on January 7th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details and feel free to read along wherever you are and comment here!
See you (t)here!!!!!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Inspired by Summer of Our Lorde (which went viral from Durham :) INCITE Bay Area is hosting Autumn of Anzaldua. Next they are reading this article
See the details below if you are in the bay area...or read along wherever you are!
Mark your calenders! The next Autumn of Anzaldua meeting is on Sunday at 3pm in San Francisco at Petra Cafe on Guerrero Street at 17th. If, miraculously, the sun comes out, we can walk a block to Dolores Park and have the meeting there.
I've been getting a lot of questions about membership and if it is closed for the group so let me stress: please feel free to drop in if you haven't been available until this point--the meetings are very chill and there are no rules about 'membership' or participation other than that it is a women of color space. The space is whatever the folks present create from it.
On Sunday we will discuss the attached reading about Anzaldua and how her mental/physical health influenced her work titled "Gloria Anzaldua's Mestiza Pain: Mexican Sacrifice, Chicana Embodiment, and Feminist Politics" by Suzanne Bost which the fabulous Sofia Lee dug up for us. We agreed to all come with one discussion question about the reading.
See you Sunday!,
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
So because I live in Durham I get to be inspired all the time by the brilliance and creativity of people. Not all the brilliant and creative people in the United States live in Durham, it just feels that way sometimes. Like today when a black woman who is a doctor and a mother of 6 came to speak to the Durham School Board and the Durham Public School administration about why students should be able to choose educational alternatives. Or like right now when Durham's Youth Noise Network is broadcasting a voice recording of June Jordan's "On the Night of November 3rd 1992" about the end of the (first) Bush era and speaking about their views on electoral politics.
So I write about Durham...as often as possible...because people act like they don't know about the resilient, resourceful miraculous people living, working and loving here. I wanted to share two examples with you all that are in cyber and book form right now.
First..check out an article I wrote called "The Life of A Poem: Audre Lorde's 'A Litany for Survival' in Post-Lacrosse Durham" for an online journal called Reflections: A Journal of Writing, Service Learning and Community Literacy. It's in blog format so you can post comments..I hope you do!!!!
And THEN....(I am even more excited about this one) get/find/borrow a copy of Abolition Now!: 10 Years of Strategy and Struggle Against the Prison Industrial Complex just out from AK Press!!! This is a book collaboratively edited by the awesome publications committee of Critical Resistance and it features a chapter I wrote called "Freedom Seeds: Growing Abolition in Durham, North Carolina."
I'm so lucky that I get to live here and be inspired by you!!!!!!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Rosa Clemente is one of the most prominent activists of our generation. She is a nationally renowned speaker, writer, and journalist - one of the most important independent journalists covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - and in 2001 was a youth representative at the United Nations World Conference against Xenophobia, Racism, and Related Intolerance. She continues to organize conferences focused on the empowerment of young people of color, working in colleges, community centers, and prisons. In 2008, she accepted the Green Party nomination for vice-president on the Cynthia McKinney presidential ticket. This is an interview conducted by Adele Nieves in mid-October.
p.s. YAAAAAAAAY Adele!
Monday, October 27, 2008
an artifact for survival...
History is not kind to us
we restitch it with living
past memory forward
into the panic articulation
of want without having
or even the promise of getting.
And I dream of our coming together
not only by love
but by lust for a working tomorrow
the flights of this journey
and necessary as water.
October 27, 2008
Gumbo YaYa/ or this is why we speak in tongues travels~~~~south!
It is that time, again. Last year Gumbo YaYa/ or this is why we speak in tongues worked magic in NYC. Almost a year to date, I sent out this email to women for support of this so fresh and so necessary improvisational, sista-circle, healing, performance opportunity.
I am Ebony Golden currently living in Manhattan and working as an arts consultant and performer. Over the last year, I had the wonderful pleasure of working with a beautiful group of women who helped me think through what Womanist Performance Methodology and Practice is about. I had the opportunity to study with, learn from, and make trouble with some of the flyest sistas around. We honored ourselves. We were able to be honest. And we participated as we could. I would not have graduated without them.
I add these sistas to my infinitely growing family of sistas around the country. I am so blessed to work and dream with you all. Thank you Ayanna, Geneva, Joi, Cammile, Chelsea, RonAmber, Crystal, Tonya, Samantha, and everyone else who participated along with the rest of my family in DC, TX, GA, NC, IL CA, LA, and in other spaces. You hold me up, thank you.
It is time to begin the 2nd cycle of Gumbo YaYa! Through the generous funding and support of SpiritHouse-NC, North Carolina Humanities Council, Healing with CAARE the 2nd cycle will happen in Durham, NC.
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 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.
1- Intern interested in arts management, performance, grassroots activism, media relations, and social justice. Applicant must be flexible, a self-starter, and dependable. Applicant must be based in Durham-NC (or close by). Course credit and possible stipend available.
Women and girls to participate. If you know of a school, community center, or pre-existing program who might be interested in collaborating, let me know.
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. sistas to perform several times during a 12-week period and beyond
2. videographer/ photographer/ editor
4. stage manager
5. 'zine designer
6. 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!!!
did I say money? oh, and money!
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 travel often, and maybe we can get together and talk.
Every one is invited to NC in March 09 to see a pivotal step in this journey. Can't wait.
Please take a look at the updated web site and leave poems, videos, letters, and words of encouragement on the Poetic Healing page.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Cool Spirits and Calm Waters,
Ebony N. Golden, MFA, American University
Performance Studies MA, NYU
Gumbo Yaya/or this is why we speak in tongues
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Beloved Survivors, Warriors, Allies, Activists, Organizers, Artists, Healers, Visionaries, Sisters and Friends,
In October 2007 people all over the United States gathered physically and in spirit to speak out against violence against women of color. Some of us wore red all day and explained that we were reclaiming and reframing our bodies as a challenge to the widespread acceptance of violence against women of color. Some of us wrote powerful essays about why we were wearing red and posted them on the internet. Some of us gathered with bold and like-minded folks and took pictures, shared poetry and expressed solidarity.
This year, on the first anniversary of the Be Bold Be Red Campaign, we invite you to make your bold stance against the violence enacted on women and girls of color in our society visible. In D.C., Chicago, Durham, Atlanta and Detroit women of color will be gathering to renew our commitment to creating a world free from racialized and gendered violence, and this time, we'll be using a new technology called CyberQuilting to connect all of these gatherings in real time. To learn more about CyberQuilting, which is a women of color led project to stitch movements together using new web technologies and old traditions of love and nurturing, visit www.cyberquilt.wordpress.com.
This letter is an invitation for you and yours to participate in a gathering in your city (Durham, Detroit, DC, Chicago or Atlanta) on Thursday, October 30th that will be webcast to similar gatherings in other cities. We are calling on you because we recognize and appreciate the work that you and the organizations you work with are doing everyday to make this a more loving and less violent world for women and girls in oppressed communities. Please join us on October 30th so that other warriors in this struggle can be strengthened and affirmed by the energy of our collective ferocity!
For more information see: http://documentthesilence.
Also we are asking once again that people wear Red on October 30, 2008 and send us your Pictures and Stories of RED to email@example.com
Also, we created a new video entitled, How do You Keep a Social Movement Alive: Why We Can't Wait
If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace and Liberation!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I'm a fan. (Can you tell?)
As an outgrowth of the collaborative online community transformation venture Queer Renaissance (www.queerrenaissance.com), and a compelling poetic filmic vision, Julia Wallace is creating Until, a poem crystallized into a short experimental narrative film about friendship, love, secrecy, shame and the possibility of freedom. And I want you to know about it. Because I love you.
After hearing the poem and reading the screenplay for Until I already have a crush on the main character. Pro, a quiet loving earnest college student wants the best for her best friend Hailey. And she's thrilled and gratified when after facing rejection from some guy on campus, Hailey wants her. As always though, it gets complicated when the lights turn on. What will it take for each woman to be true to herself in private and in public?
Y'all, reading this screenplay makes me want to be a better braver person. It scrapes up those moments when we choose our fears over each other, and when we choose each other out of fear...it makes me want to build altars and monuments to those public hand holdings and private yeses that risk everything except our integrity. And to those moments when we almost get there.
There should be a billion films like this, but there aren't, and Julia and the crew are shooting November 14-16 in Atlanta so go here to find out more about Until and how you can support that necessary process of making our love, our questions, our hope and our process visible and tangible.
Friday, October 17, 2008
The Charis Review is an awesome publication born out of the oldest feminist bookstore in the South (which also happens to be the place where I was born into a writer.) The current issue features an interactive on the SONG storysharing project, an awesome piece on "bad poetry" by Dorothy Allison, a beautiful meditation by Shay Youngblood, advice and musings on pasties by Atlanta's most fabulous burlesque dancers, recipies, tomato seed saving advice, stencils, coloring mandala's and more! So get down with it!
So below is the call for submissions. Check out the link on the Circle website: http://www.chariscircle.org/
Call for Submissions (or, How to Become a Charis Review Contributor) :
What do we want?
The Charis Review is a multi-media, multi-generational southern feminist response to culture. It is founded on the belief that sharing knowledge is a feminist principle and that swapping stories is an intrinsic aspect of Southern culture. We believe in the value of all forms of culture and media: "high," "low" and everything in between. This means we want both your poetry and your recipes, your critical essays and your stencils, we are interested in your skills, your passions, the knowledges and stories that enliven your communities and your homes.
Some kinds of things we are hoping to publish:
Fiction, Poetry, Essays, Recipes, Original Games, Paper dolls, How-to articles or drawings, Recommended reading lists, Book Reviews, Pop Culture Criticism, Artwork, Articles on how to be an ally, Anti-oppression organizing tips, Interviews, and more....
When do we want it?
Please send all submissions for our Winter Issue to email@example.com by no later than Dec. 1st, 2008.
Please share the love with your friends and community members. We are interested in showcasing the skills and stories of our overlapping communities. The more the merrier!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Check us out!!!!
Quirky Black Girls is a network of fierce black women. We share our dreams, visions, and thoughts with you by producing the feminist publication QBG (Quirky Black Girls) Magazine, a quarterly ezine focusing on politics, cultural criticism, and social change. QBG Magazine features our art, poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and our ruminations on popular culture and social issues.
QBG Magazine aims to provide a forum for Quirky Black Girls - and those who love them - where feminist dialog is the only norm and following your truth is the the only rule.
Because Audre Lorde looks different in every picture ever taken of her. Because Octavia Butler didn't care. Because Erykah Badu is a patternmaster. Because Macy Gray pimped it and Janelle Monae was ready.
Resolved. Quirky black girls wake up ready to wear a tattered society new on our bodies, to hold fragments of art, culture and trend in our hands like weapons against conformity, to walk on cracks instead of breaking our backs to fit in the mold.
We're here, We're Quirky, Get used to it!
.... Quirky Black girls don't march to the beat of our own drum; we hop, skip, dance, and move to rhythms that are all our own. We make our own drums out of empty lunchboxes, full imaginations and number 3 pencils.
Quirky Black girls are not quirky because they like white shit; rather they understand that because they like it, it is not the sole province of whiteness.
Quirky black girls are the answer to the promise that black means everything, birthing and burning a new world every time.
Sound it out. Quirky, like queer and key, different and priceless, turning and open. Black, not be lack but black one word shot off the tongue like blap, bam, black. Girl, like the curl in a hand turning towards itself to snap, write, hold or emphasize. Quirky. Black. Girl. You see us. Act like you know.
We demand that our audiences say "yes-sir-eee" if they agree and we answer our own question "What good do your words do, if they don't understand you?" by speaking anyway, even if our words are "bruised and misunderstood."
Quirky black girls are hot!
Whether you're ready to see it or not.
Quirky means rejecting a particular type of "value," a certain unreadiness for consumption and subsumption in an economy of black heterocapital. This means that Quirky Black Girls act independently of dominant social norms or standards of beauty. So fierce that others may not be able to appreciate us just yet.
No matter what age we are, we hold onto that girlhood drive for adventure, love for friends, independent spirit, wacky sense of humor, and hope for the future.
Quirky Black Girls resist boxes in favor of over lapping circles with permeable membranes that allow them to ebb and flow through their multiple identities.
Quirky Black Girls- Embrace the quirky!
Sunday, October 05, 2008
(dedicated to the radical beautiful warriors in Durham meeting today to revive, transform and uplift UBUNTU in our community. You know my spirit is in the room!)
We were never meant to survive. None of us. We were never meant to find each other, love each other, remember the warriors that came before. We were never meant to know these histories. We were never meant to turn our trauma into a map for transformation. We were never meant to survive. But we do it anyway.
Break it down. Sur viv al. Life underneath waiting to embrace all of us. Survival is a poem written in a corner, found waiting in a basement, forgotten. Survival is when the timeliness of your word is more important than the longevity of one body. Survival is spirit connected through and past physical containers. Survival is running for your life and then running for Albany city council without consenting to the State. Survival is shaping change while change shapes you. Survival means refusing to believe the obvious. Survival means remembering the illegal insights censored in the mouths of our mothers. Survival is quilt patterns, garden beds. Survival means growing, learning, working it out. Survival is a formerly enslaved black woman planning and leading a battle that freed 750 slaves from inside an institution called the United States Military. Survival is out black lesbians creating a publishing movement despite an interlocking system of silences. Survival is a group of black women recording their own voices, remembering a river, a battle, a warrior and creating a statement to unlock the world. Survival is like that.
We were never meant to survive. And we can do even more. This booklet moves survival to revival, like grounded growth, where seeds seek sun remembering how the people could fly. We are invoking the Combahee River Collective Statement and asking how it lives in our movement now. And the our and the we are key to this as individual gains mean nothing if others suffer.
We were never meant to survive but we will thrive. We want roundness and wholeness, where everyone eats and has time to be creative has time to just be, What tools does it give that are necessary to our survival? What gaps does it leave us to lean into? Black feminism lives, but the last of the originally organized black feminist organizations in the United States were defunct by 1981.
Here we offer and practice a model of survival that is spiritual and impossible and miraculous and everywhere, sometimes pronounced revival. Like it says on the yellow button that came included in the Kitchen Table Press pamphlet version of The Combahee River Collective Statement in 1986 "Black Feminism LIVES!" And therefore all those who were never meant to survive blaze open into a badass future anyway. Meaning something unpredictable and whole.
We were. Never meant. To Survive. And here we are.
And beyond survival, what of that? In 1977 the Combahee River Collective wrote "As Black women we see Black Feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneuos oppressions that all women of color face." They also said "The inclusiveness of our politics makes us concerned with any situation that impinges on the lives of women, Third World and working people." And they concluded: "If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression."
Today we, a sisterhood of young black feminists, mentored in words and deeds by ancestors, elders, peers and babies, assert that by meditating on the survival and transformation of black feminism we can produce insight, strategy and vision for a holistic movement that includes ALL of us. So while this is a project instigated by self-proclaimed (and reclaimed) black feminists, our intention is that it can be shared and changed by everyone who is interested in freedom.
Check it out, form a study group, submit to the zine, do the radical poetic activities at www.combaheesurvival.wordpress.com
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
from my sista Adelenote: I'm posting this in it's entirety here so you can read it without the messed up comments some folks wrote on the original site. This is the link:http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=6b90abf49154b995ca8d7d9de830d805
Community Theatre Teaches ICE Raid Survival Skills
El Mensajero, News Report, Clarisse Céspedes, Translated by Elena Shore, Posted: Aug 09, 2008Editor’s Note: A group of college students in San Jose, Calif., is using interactive theatre to teach immigrants what to do to avoid being arrested by immigration agents. Clarisse Céspedes reports for Spanish-language newspaper El Mensajero in San Francisco.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — From the Aztecs to the Greeks, civilizations around the world have used theatre as their primary means of mass communication. Important messages crucial to the survival of the people were broadcast through plays, something that has been lost with the passage of time. Today, in a city known as the birthplace of high-tech, a group of Hispanic students is resurrecting popular theatre, and using it to help instruct immigrants in an urgent task: protecting them from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
The series was organized by Students Advocates for Higher Education (SAHE) from San Jose State Univesity, COCHITLEHUAL-LI ("dream" in the Mexican indigenous language Nahuatl) from Evergreen Community College, and LULAC (the League of United Latin American Citizens).
In its opening performance, the curtain goes up and various workers appear who are suddenly interrupted by immigration agents asking for their papers. They perform the scene twice: The first time, the workers get arrested; the second time they don’t. The only difference in the two scenes is the way the workers respond to the ICE agents.
The MC, student Luis Ruelas, leads a discussion with the audience, asking them what they would do in real life to avoid falling into the hands of immigration authorities, and the best way to get out of it if they do.
More and more people now carry what they call a “red card,” an information card that can be shown to ICE agents by immigrants who want to avoid saying anything that could incriminate them. The card explains that the worker has the right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. But few people know that they should also have a phone card with them so they can make a call if they are arrested, and a separate piece of paper with the phone numbers of their emergency contacts. “You know this, but in the moment you get nervous and you forget what you have to do. Listening to all of this, I remember and I feel safer,” explains José Antonio, who works in roofing. “You have to speak forcefully, not bow down, if something like this happens,” he adds.
Lawyers Mark Silverman of the Immigrants Legal Resource Center in San Francisco and Richard Hobbs of Santa Clara County tell the audience all the details they need to know, and advise them to learn to fit in and go unnoticed. They suggest that they should maintain their cars in good condition and not drink when they go to parties. “These are difficult times and you have to be more ready than ever,” says Cecilia Tabares, a mother who lives in San Jose.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO OPEN THE DOOR
This is one of the hardest lessons. When the curtain goes up again and shows two women talking in their home, a groan can be heard from the audience. “They even go to your house, with your family… That hurts,” observes Manuel, an audience member.
Raids on people’s homes have been the distinguishing mark of U.S. immigration policy in recent years, opening a wound that does not heal.
The audience learns that nothing in the world can force them to open the door to a stranger because their family is at stake and they don’t want their children to live through the drama of seeing their parents arrested. Even if the agents ask for someone who doesn’t live there, even if they say they are the police, the door should not be opened.
The students ask for a volunteer from the audience and a woman climbs on stage. She knows her role well without being told what to do, and although it appears that the ICE agents are about to knock the door down, she stays calm. She isn’t intimidated by an arrest warrant. She asks them to slip their identification under the door and when they say it doesn’t fit, she asks them to leave.
This concludes the scene that students call "the migraine," the nightmare scenario that will stay with audience members for years to come.
When the curtain goes up again, two students are sitting in their dorm room, in an episode the performers call "Detained Dreams." One of them is talking on the phone to his mother in Mexico.
Immigration agents arrive and ask for someone who isn’t there. In passing, they ask the student who opened the door where he’s from and where his identification is. Telling them that he’s Mexican results in his arrest.
The audience learns that universities and community colleges keep information about their students completely confidential.
When the scene is repeated, the actor who plays the student tells the agents that if they want personal information, they’ll have to go to the university’s administrative office, and the curtain goes down to the sound of applause.
Friday, August 08, 2008
I wrote these haikus during writing group this Monday with Ziyad Busaileh's disappearance heavy on my mind. Baba Ziyad is about my father's age. And the second article is about Herbert Abdul, a Zimbawean immigrant who was taken to Etowah Detention Center. After he returned home, the article says, his four-year-old daughter climbed into bed with her parents just to make sure her father was still there. These Black August haikus are for every parent behind bars.
For background..this is the article Kriti sent to our community a few days ago:
Y'all, this elder lived just down the road in Raleigh. Now he's at the Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama (read the article at the bottom of the email for more information on Etowah - it sounds like a horrendous place). MASF (Muslim American Society Freedom) is working on a "take action" campaign (Khalilah Sabra seems to be the point person on it). I don't know what to tell y'all in the meantime.
Here we are just living in the South. We're surrounded by all these black holes -- places that our people seem to disappear into, like Blackwater headquarters, or the Etowah Detention Center, or the local prison, or the military base down the road. Right here, part of the geography of the south, these places that maps are silent - so eerily silent - about. But they're real places holding real people who have real families. The land between here and there is unbroken - from Durham and Raleigh we could reach Etowah County Alabama, I suppose, by road. When do we go? When do we take back the entirety of this land, reclaim these places that have been fenced off and severed from the whole?
ICE Detains 60-Year-Old Palestinian Cardiac Patient Without Cause
By Dave Kaiser
WASHINGTON (Arab News) Aug. 2, 2008 – An investigation has begun into the detention by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) authorities of Ziyad Busaileh, a 60-year-old Palestinian immigrant residing in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Busaileh was arrested July 22 as he arrived home from a doctor's visit; he is a diabetic and cardiac patient of Carolina Caridiology Consultants, P.A.
"Upon arrest, Busaileh was not allowed to retrieve his eye glasses or medications (he is recovering from a recent surgery), was denied the right to make a phone call, strip searched at the detention center and subjected to a rigorous interrogation by ICE authorities," said Khalilah Sabra, North Carolina director of the Muslim American Society's MAS Freedom (MASF).
Sabra said that Busaileh was not offered legal counsel and was handicapped by a limited command of English (no interpreter was provided).
Busaileh was pressured under the threat of never seeing his family again "for the next five-years," into signing a document he could not possibly have fully comprehended.
Since entering the US, originally seeking treatment for the life-threatening health condition of a triplet son, Busaileh, whose own health began to deteriorate a few years ago, reported for voluntary registration when the 2002 National Security Entry/Exit Registration System was implemented shortly after Sept. 11 attacks.
Subsequent to registration, Busaileh, a tax-paying sandwich shop worker and father of four, checked in periodically by phone to verify his status — being told each time, "not to worry.
ICE officials routinely arrest immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes, or who have outstanding warrants against them, however, prior to his arrest, Busaiyeh had not violated any US law, and received no prior notice requiring him to surrender to ICE authorities.
Busaileh's detainment is one the latest examples of how immigration officials violate the basic rights of persons whom they arrest.
To compound matters, MAS Freedom has learned that on Tuesday, July 29, Busaileh was transferred to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsen, Alabama — a facility known to provide insufficient medical care, restrict necessary dietary needs, violate detainees' rights to legal privilege and attorney-client communication, and for denying detainees the right to make phone calls.
Detainees of the facility have also complained of being subjected to three and four day periods each week of 24-hour lockdown — anyone complaining or talking subsequently punished by having their food placed directly onto the floor of their cell.
All persons, regardless of their status deserve humane and just treatment.
However, Busaileh has been denied the right to receive the prescribed dosage of his life-sustaining diabetes and heart medications.
Despite a July 25 statement provided by his treating physician acknowledging that his condition (ischemic cardiomyopathy) is such that he cannot sustain increased amounts of stress, and further asking that the patient/detainee be released to his home — Busaileh remains at the detention center — his fate and health in certain jeopardy.
MAS Freedom is preparing a letter of vigorous protest to ICE officials in Washington D.C. and North Carolina, as well as officials of the Etowah County Detention Center, and will continue to monitor and report on the Busaileh case as it develops.
Original Story: http://www.masnet.org/
Southern Inhospitality and Alabama's Etowah County Detention Center
Atlanta Magazine writer Steve Fennessy depicts Etowah County Detention as by far the most hostile ICE holding in the country – affirming MAS Freedom's concern for the well-being of Ziyad Busaileh
Among immigrants, the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, has achieved a notorious reputation. Glenn Fogle, an Atlanta immigration attorney, has made the two-hour drive to the Etowah jail many times to meet with clients. "It's the worst place I've ever been to," Fogle says of the jail, not far across the Georgia-Alabama border.
ATLANTA MAGAZINE.COM Hundreds of illegal aliens swept up by Atlanta immigration officers end up at a remote jail in Alabama, where conditions are bleak, the food is meager, and hope fades fast.
Herbert Abdul is an accountant by training, but he hasn't been in that line of work since leaving his native Zimbabwe eight years ago. There, he was a frequent protester of Robert Mugabe, who in 1980 became president of the landlocked southern African country. In recent years, Mugabe has solidified his reputation as a malicious despot—rigging elections to stay in power, destroying 700,000 homes of those who support his opposition, and presiding over a catastrophic economy that has the highest inflation rate in the world. Upwards of 3 million Zimbabweans have fled Mugabe's rule. One of those refugees was Herbert Abdul, who says he was jailed numerous times in Zimbabwe, where police beat the soles of his feet with batons and forced him to sing songs in praise of Mugabe.
In 1999, Abdul came to America. In Cincinnati, where his aunt lived, Abdul met a woman at a party. They married, and he hired an attorney in Ohio to begin the long process of winning a green card. But the marriage soon fell apart, and Abdul moved to Atlanta in 2000, where he reconnected with a woman he'd known from Zimbabwe who was also living here in metro Atlanta. They eventually married, had two children, and settled in Lilburn. Abdul also started a cleaning business, stenciling the name of the business on the side of his pickup.
One morning last November, Abdul was loading his truck in front of his home when he noticed some SUVs cruising slowly down his street. They stopped near his driveway. Three men got out and approached Abdul. At first, they asked about getting a cleaning estimate, but Abdul explained that, despite what was printed on the truck door, he was now in the flooring business. One man asked Abdul his name, and Abdul told him. Then the man produced a badge and explained that they were immigration officers with a warrant for his arrest. Abdul was being picked up because he'd missed an immigration court hearing in Ohio. Federal officials had mailed him a notice of the court date, but it had gone to his old Ohio address, so he never saw it. When he didn't show up in court, Abdul's name went onto a fugitive list kept by immigration officials. Which is how Herbert Abdul found himself handcuffed in his front yard, loaded into an SUV, and driven to Downtown Atlanta, where he became one of the 283,115 aliens detained last year by the federal government.
Alien detainees are not, by definition, criminals. This may seem like a politically loaded statement, given the debate that has sprung up about what to do with the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. But it's true: From a legal perspective, an undocumented alien in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is, quite simply, one party in a civil matter. A crime may have put them in the ICE crosshairs, but for many like Abdul, it is a procedural snafu that lands them behind bars while their cases are resolved. Usually this takes weeks, but it sometimes can take months or, occasionally, years.
One problem with the current system is that ICE officers are basically cops without a jail. There are few, if any, federal facilities devoted to immigrant detainees, so ICE must farm the job out—to county jails, to city lockups, and to privately run prisons. In the five years leading up to 2006, the number of detainees tripled, meaning the U.S. government now relies even more on local lockups. All together, there are 330 facilities nationwide that contract with the feds to house their detainees. One of the most popular is in Stewart County, southwest of Macon. Run by Corrections Corporation of America, the facility houses nothing but detainees. In Atlanta, city officials have found room to house a few hundred at the Atlanta City Detention Center. That's where Herbert Abdul spent the first eight weeks of his detention. ICE rules require that detainees be separated from the criminal population behind bars, so Abdul's jail mates were other immigrants caught up in the ICE web—some were waiting to be transferred to other facilities, others were waiting for ICE to secure them travel papers to their home countries, still others were waiting for their day in immigration court.
Everybody, though, was waiting. Abdul played chess with other inmates. He took part in pickup games of basketball and soccer. From the rec yard, detainees could see the Atlanta skyline. During the day, they could wander in and out of their cells. But it was still jail.
Abdul, who's thirty-four, wears a toothy grin and a cell phone on his hip that chirps every few minutes. His English is impeccable, which makes sense, as it's the primary language spoken in Zimbabwe. Despite assumptions Americans may make from his name, Abdul is a Christian; while he was in jail he took part in informal prayer sessions with other inmates. As the weeks went by behind bars, it was his faith, he says, that kept him sane. "I said to myself, 'I know I'm gonna get out. I'm innocent,'" Abdul says. "I used to pray. I thought, 'Lord, you know I am innocent.'"
The day Abdul was arrested, he shared a booking cell with several other detainees in the basement of 77 Forsyth Street, which houses ICE offices and immigration court. Soon they were split up, but one day in January, as Abdul was getting ready to be transferred to Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama, he recognized an incoming detainee as one of the men he'd shared a cell with months before. Abdul asked him where he was coming from. "Etowah," the man said. "It's not good."
Among immigrants, the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, has achieved a notorious reputation. Glenn Fogle, an Atlanta immigration attorney, has made the two-hour drive to the Etowah jail many times to meet with clients. "It's the worst place I've ever been to," Fogle says of the jail, not far across the Georgia-Alabama border. "To be locked in this tiny cell for twenty-one hours a day is horrendous."
Allison Neal, staff attorney for the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, collects correspondence from detainees at Etowah. One letter, dated February: "We are kept under a 21-hour lockdown; no access to fresh outside air, or outdoor recreational activities . . . Staffs are very verbal[ly] abusive." Another letter, dated May: "I previously requested for transfer several months ago, because of lack of outdoor exercise at Etowah, my request was denied because of a contention that Etowah meets the 'minimum standards.'" Another letter, signed by thirty-two detainees in August, 2004: "The amount of food served us as adults is less than enough for a five-year-old child. The daily servings are beans and cornbread; at times we are served mashed potatoes or rice, but the amount is two tablespoons, or when there is no cornbread, one slice of bread." Detainees have also complained about the cost of using the phones, about being forced into overcrowded cells, about being placed into segregation, and about inadequate medical care. To protest conditions at the jail, detainees have occasionally gone on hunger strikes.
Abdul remembers being led in handcuffs and leg irons into Etowah his first day there. Guards, he says, taunted the new arrivals, taking bets on who would get deported. Abdul was given the khaki uniform of a detainee and a pair of flip-flops. He was crammed into a cell with three other men. There were three hours of freedom each day—one after breakfast, one after lunch, one after dinner. "How do four men spend twenty-one hours a day in a cell?" Abdul says. "I slept and slept. I looked at pictures of my kids. I read the Bible."
After several weeks, Abdul was moved to another unit, where detainees had daytime access to a common area. But when he complained about preferential treatment given to one inmate, he was moved to a unit where the inmates were dressed not in khaki, as he was, but in red. These were the violent detainees, he was told. Abdul was put in a cell with a hulking inmate everyone called Congo. "He was talking to himself. He wouldn't take his eyes off me."
One morning Congo announced that today he was going to kill Abdul. Abdul started rattling the bars of the cell, ringing the buzzer. Guards finally opened the door.
The federal government pays Etowah County $35.12 a day for each detainee at the jail. The contract was hammered out in 2000, when the feds helped finance an $8 million addition to the jail. The contract doesn't expire until 2015. Patrick Simms, the Etowah County CEO, believes that Etowah is among the cheapest, if not the cheapest, facility in the country when it comes to housing inmates. Judging by his voice, this isn't meant as a boast.
"Looking back, I would have advised [county officials] not to get into it," he says. This year, revenues from the contract have brought in about $300,000 to county coffers. "That's about one mile of paved road," Simms says with a rueful chuckle. "The only one who's making a profit here is the sheriff."
The sheriff? In fact, a quirk in Alabama state law allows sheriffs to keep any money that is left over in the food budget after inmates are fed. No, not his office. Him. Personally. For instance, $3 of every $35.12 is set aside for meals, Simms says. If the sheriff can feed a detainee for less than that per day, he can pocket the difference. "It's an incentive for him to go as cheap as possible feeding inmates to maximize profits," Simms says. And because it's personal income, the sheriff is not obligated to disclose how much he profits. Interestingly, the sheriff of Etowah County, James Hayes, gets only $1.75 a day from the state to feed his normal criminal population; the extra $1.25 he gets from the feds to feed ICE detainees is, so to speak, icing on the cake. Hayes's office did not return calls seeking comment.
But according to Abdul, the food for detainees was sometimes worse than the food county inmates got. "The county [inmates] that would come in the unit to fix or replace something were always happy with the food and would talk about pizza and other menus," Abdul wrote in a letter of complaint. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away. In [Etowah], forget about seeing fruit unless you're watching a TV or a [corrections officer] eating." In fact, in the three months Abdul spent at Etowah, he remembers eating one apple—and it was given to him by a guard. Abdul says he lost ten pounds in jail.
Jail conditions for detainees have recently garnered some attention. Last December, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general released a fifty-four-page assessment of five detention facilities (none of them in Georgia or Alabama). Among its findings: Five out of thirty-six detainees on suicide watch weren't monitored sufficiently; at one facility, eight of nine pest control reports indicated evidence of rats and cockroaches; at another jail, detainees were served undercooked poultry; one detainee was given lockdown for wearing a religious head garment. Other findings included slow response time to detainee complaints, insufficient recreation time, and family visits cut off early. In one facility investigated by DHS, officials found that the property officer had stolen more than $300,000 in personal property from detainees. In a San Diego jail, a female detainee said a guard sexually assaulted her; the guard was fired. Despite the inspector general's findings, all five facilities had garnered an "acceptable" ranking during ICE's own inspections.
In July, the General Accounting Office inspected twenty-three detention facilities (again, none in Georgia or Alabama) and found that the phone systems available to detainees often weren't working properly. At one facility, deputies were armed with Tasers, even though ICE standards prohibit the use of them. The study also pointed out that ICE had never severed a contract with a jail for falling short of meeting standards.
The ACLU has filed three lawsuits to improve conditions at jails in Texas and California. In a report it issued in July, the ACLU's National Prisons Project said that since 2004, "it appears that at least twenty individuals have died in ICE custody."
On April 26, Abdul was freed on $25,000 bond. With Fogle as his lawyer, Abdul is seeking political asylum so he can remain in the U.S. with his wife and two children, both of whom are American citizens. Abdul worries that his history of anti-Mugabe activities—he maintains a website that highlights Mugabe's atrocities—have made him a marked man back home. "I know if I go back, in six months I'll be dead," he says.
Unfortunately, Abdul couldn't have picked a worse place in America in which to plead his case. When it comes to asylum cases, Atlanta is, statistically speaking, one of the toughest immigration courts in America.
While he waits, Abdul is rebuilding his flooring business. At night, his four-year-old daughter still climbs into bed with her parents, just to make sure her father is still there.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
"I wrote it because I wanted to talk abut blackwomanslaughter in a way that could not be unfelt or ignored by anyone who heard it with a hope perhaps of each one of us doing something within our immediate living to change to change this destruction."
"We are too important to each other to waste ourselves in silence."
- Audre Lorde in a prefatory essay to Need: A Chorale for Black Woman Voices
In 1979 Barbara Smith sent Audre Lorde a news clipping via snail mail. Yet another black woman in her community in Roxbury had been found dead. Over these four months, during which 12 black women were killed in the black nieghborhods of Boston, black feminists, led by black lesbian feminists built a coalitional movement to respond, using public art, poetry, self-defense, publishing and political education. Barbara Smith and Lorraine Bethel were editing what would become the foundation black feminist collection, Conditions 5: The Black Women's Issue. Audre Lorde wrote Need: A Chorale for Black Woman Voices in response to this wave of murders. The energy and analysis forged in the words and promises exchanged between black feminists at that moment grew into a broad movement that lives, waiting and growing in those of us hungry for the words that were never meant to survive.
This past Monday, not yet 30 years after Barbara Smith's letter to Audre Lorde, Moya sent an email with a link to a news story:
This woman is black
so her blood is shed into silence.
A building full of neighbors heard the screams of this survivor while she was being sexual assaulted in her home, but were at a loss to actually act against this violence in their community. They didn't know how to respond, they didn't want to believe what was happening. So they kept their doors closed. They went to sleep.
This story is important for a number of reasons. As Moya points out it is yet another instance of silence within the black community about violence against a black woman coming on the heels of Megan Williams, Dunbar Village, R. Kelley's Acquittal and more. This is what breaks our backs.
I also think this story, literal silence in the moment of violence, is important for what it demonstrates more generally. Our silence, as oppressed communities about the gendered violence that disproportionately impacts our communities is glaring, harmful, devastating. We generally really feel that in a racist police state, and individualist capitalist state, a fear-filled falling apart place we don't have the resources to respond to violence even when we hear it happening, on the news and in our buildings every night.
But if we have each other, we do have what we need to take care of each other, hold each other accountable, keep each other safe and whole. If we have each other we do.
And I say, thank the Lorde, we have in Need a resource for transformation and a means to open us these impossible conversations about the real costs of gendered violence in our communities. The task of the poet is to say the unsayable, and Audre Lorde, may she never be forgotten, literally gives us the tools to open our mouths.
The UBUNTU Artistic Respons committee which convened in Durham, North Carolina in the midst of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, used Need (in addition to other poems and the documentary NO! by Aishah Simmons) to break open rooms of people and to instigate real discussions about the impact of gendered violence against black women WITHIN black communities, at the hands of other black people.
When my father, a person professionally trained and personally prone to debate and argument read Need he had no arguments to make. He told me that reading the piece was simply a moment in his education. He compared it to a moment in high school when he watched a film that documented all the shaven hair, all the bodily ashes, all the teeth and bones of the victims of the Nazi holocaust. He said that a mass of violence, an unimaginable horror had become visible and real to him in Audre Lorde's words. He said there was no question about whether this was true, whether it was relevant, whether it impacted him. He said now I know. The only question is what we do.
This is the Summer of Our Lorde, when we transform silence into action and power. I want to ask us to read and share Need available for download via:http://letterstoaudre.wordpress.com/need-end-violence-against-women-of-color-now/
with everyone we can share it with. Let us read it with other women in our communities, let us print our copies and give them to our families. Let us build a fire of healing that can ignite our communities into the conversations we need in order to build the trust, connection and analysis that we need to work together for survival, safety and love in our communities.
love always (in the hands of Audre),
p.s. for support and resources as you use Need in your community, email firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Institute for Women's Studies, UGA
Everyone is welcome to this free conference. For information on local
accommodations, registration, and other details, go to http://www.uga.edu/iws/wrp08.html
Athens locals don't miss keynote performance by queer and feminist rock icon
Gretchen Phillips, 6pm Saturday
(http://www.queermusicheritage.us/aug2005.html) and after-conference party
with guest dj Melissa York.
Friday, May 30, Edge Hall, Hugh Hodgson School of Music, UGA
5:00 Opening reception
5:30 Welcome and Introductions
6:00 Fred Maus “52 Girls” A talk on the women of the B52s
7:00 Latin-American Scenes
Lesley Feracho , “Contesting the Nation :Women and Rock in Latin America”
Patricia Vergara “Funkeiras: Transgressing the Place of the Poor, Black, and
Female in Rio de Janeiro”
SATURDAY, May 31, Tasty World, downtown Athens
12:00 Brunch Buffet
1:00 Girls Rock Camps Collective, “Creativity, Community and Confidence
through Rock & Roll: Girls Rock Camps”
2:15 Rocking the Margins
Matt Jones, "(Re)discovering the Music of Judee Sill"
Sarah Cozort, “Women in Experimental Music”
3:15 Stella Pace, “Riot Grrrl Self-Esteem Now: A Multimedia Performance”
4:00 Hip/Hop Feminisms
Ebony Noelle Golden, “Sonic Soul: Erykah Badu's Performance Practice”
Sarah Young Ngoh, “Black Motherhood in Hip/Hop and R&B Music”
Marnie Binfield, “Women’s Contributions to ‘Conscious Rap’”
6:00 Keynote Performance/Presentation Gretchen Phillips
9:00- After-party at Tasty World with special DJ Melissa York, of The Butchies
UGA to host second annual conference on Women, Rock! and Politics
Athens, Ga.—The Institute for Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia is
hosting its second annual conference, Women, Rock and Politics, from Friday,
May 30 to Saturday, May 31.
This year’s conference brings together a great range of talks, images, and
performances on topics ranging from Girls Rock Camps, to hip hop feminism, to
the riot grrrl movement, to women in rock in Latin America.
The conference will begin on Friday at 5:00 p.m. with a reception and
presentations in Edge Hall at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music on the
University of Georgia campus, followed by a talk on the women of the B-52s by
renowned music scholar Fred Maus (UVA). Saturday's presentations and
performances, including keynote performance by rock icon Gretchen Phillips,
and conference after-party with guest dj Melissa York, will be at Tasty World in
downtown Athens. For a full program please visit www.uga.edu/iws.
The conference is free and open to the public. Edge Hall is located in the Hugh
Hodgson School of Music, Third Floor, at 250 River Rd on the eastside of
campus. Tasty World is located at 312 East Broad Street in downtown Athens,
Ga. For more information contact the Institute for Women’s Studies at 706-
Molly Moreland Myers
Public Relations Coordinator
Institute for Women's Studies
University of Georgia
Friday, May 16, 2008
Yesterday, J, my number one comadre, insisted that I stall my strawberry picking adventure in order to cradle her for a 10 minute nap. Powerful woman that she is, spirit healer that she is, listener for another world that she is, I trusted that there was something divine in her whine. I waited. After the nap our mailman knocked on our door with the first package that I've ever had to sign for since we've lived here. And inside were copies of the book you see above the literary journal of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars. MaComere. The word MaComere has no real translation into English...its translation into Spanish would be mi comadre. It is the way women in the French influenced Caribbean name the women who the grew up with, the woman who they tell everything. It means best friend, comrade, sister in everything. To say it literally we have to invent a much needed phrase "my co-mother". Since Audre Lorde said "we can learn to mother ourselves," I believe that MaComere means the way we learn to mother ourselves together.
It is no coincidence that this journal came yesterday in the midst of a period (surrounding Mother's Day) where J and I are struggling with how our relationships to our mothers and their challenges and our difficult memories of their frequent desperation impact each of us and our relationships to each other. It is not a coincidence that this came on a day that I was blessed to sit and talk about how/if we can remember what our grandmothers know with sisters who have been partners with me in the creation of UBUNTU arts--- a comothering process of nuturing, healing, and making space that has forever transformed me and our community and what it means to respond to sexual violence. It is no coincidence that J needed a little mothering in the minutes before the package arrived.
And indeed it is divine that the piece I wrote, a blue airmail letter between myself and my mother and grandmother, between myself and the Caribbean women writers and scholars who have made me possible, between myself and the mother daughter granddaughter characters of Dionne Brand's novel At the Full and Change of the Moon, with footnotes full of overdue shout-outs to my fellow travelers in a graduate seminar on Negritude arrived when it did . Two full years after the scheduled publication...but you know...Caribbean time stretches to dream for those of us living dispersed. It arrived in the mail after I had stopped expecting it, like many of the mother/daughter letters that inspired what I wrote.
I'm honored that my piece appears after (or anywhere near!) a poem called "Hook"
by Olive Senior (THE Olive Senior) about mother's and daughters trying to catch each other through letters and clothing and loss. It is a miracle that my work appears alongside work by Olive Senior and Pamela Mordecai and Ramabai Espinet women whose books sit on my shelf, who I studied for my prelim exams who make me cry and think about everything differently when I hear them read outloud. I am honored for my words to sit beside theirs. Women who have been helping me mother myself even if they don't know it. I am honored that the women who create and recreate the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars (the only academic association that actually feels like home) were generous enough to give my words space, and to insist that my thoughts about diaspora and gender were important and useful to them...those women who given me critical definitions and terms to use, those women whose academic and creative work has reminded me that we exist. Women who have been helping me mother myself intentionally and with love and grace. Women who are always right on time, regardless.
And it is no coincidence that you are reading this on a blog that is made worthwhile for me by the reading eyes and open hearts of everyone, but especially radical womyn of color, comothers with me in a transformed world. Gratitude overflowing.
Thank the Lorde for comothering and the possibility of being reborn together. (And thank you!)
Check out the journal here: http://www.macomerejournal.com/issues/008.html
Thursday, May 15, 2008
This week thanks to some precious advice from Fallon Wilson I have started remembering and recording my dreams.
This is a scene from a dream I remembered on Monday morning:
"and then i met a dark man with a beard. committed to defending the olive trees to the death. but he told me, unashamed, that he would never harm the woman i named, even if she ate every olive."
This affirms what I already know. A free Palestine is an imperative in my life time. The occupation that outlived June Jordan will not survive us. Period.
I think this dream was probably also influenced by what a learned at a progressive and belated passover sader that I was able to attend a couple of weeks ago...which was some insight into the profound impact of the Isreali uprooting of olive trees in Palestine. A friend explained to me that there is no equivalent that explains how important the olive trees and the olives themselves are to the survival, culture, heritage and well being and sustainability of the Palestinian people. I now understand that the uprooting of these olive trees is a violence against the earth and a deep harm to humanity. I remember that I learned to read in Spanish against the backdrop of Lorca's screams about arboles de aceituna. I remember that olive trees are one of the major metaphors in the bible, a teaching tool about what heritage is, about how our actions impact generations. Maybe I should go back and read those parts.
Maybe I was the dark bearded man in the dream. He was ready to die. I think he was ready to kill too. But I asked him about a particular woman (i don't know or remember who) and he said even she ate every olive he would do no violence.
There is something for me to learn here about the relationship between the fruit and the roots. I am being reminded that there is a difference between the cause and the manifestation of violence. I am being reminded to be radical. I am being reminded to go for the root. I am being reminded that there is a place for forgiveness in militancy. I am being reminded that our sustainability is worth more than our individual lives.
I am being reminded to grow.
I am free when Palestine is
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
by K Shalini
Shalini also has another film about the importance of water:
A Drop of Life
And for anyone who hasn't seen OUR garden: www.ubuntugrows.blogspot.com
gardening meeting Wednesday 8:30 on Lex and J's porch!
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Top 10 Reasons to get a copy of American Book Review (just this once!)
1. Audre Lorde's face is on the cover of American Book Review. Enough said.
2. "This Instant and This Triumph" an introductory essay that puts the current women of color publishing movement into historical context by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
3. Profiles of some of the amazing publishing initiatives that women of color are popping off RIGHT NOW!
4. Ernest Hardy's exciting new release from RedBone Press (BloodBeats Vol. 2 The Bootleg Joints) reviewed by the brilliant collar popping scholar ALISHA GAINES!
5. Asha Bandele's contemporary classic The Subtle Art of Breathing reviewed by the inspiring womanist performance diva EBONY GOLDEN!
6. INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence's crucial The Revolution Will Not Be Funded reviewed by the strategically fly organizer PAULINA HERNANDEZ!
7. Girlchild Press's new anthology Just Like A Girl: A Manifesta reviewed by the most talented and necessary fiction writer of our generation DANIELLE EVANS!
8. Hermana Resist's collaborative 'zine The MAIZ Chronicles reviewed by BROWNFEMIPOWER!
9. UBUNTU/BrokenBeautiful Press's interactive anthology Wrong is Not My Name reviewed by the textually incisive KINOHI NISHIKAWA!
10. A bunch of headlines that the guest editor DID NOT APPROVE, but finds amusing nonetheless.
Check it: www.americanbookreview.org
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
shared by zapagringo.blogspot.com
The Next American Revolution
By Grace Lee Boggs
Left Forum Closing Plenary, Cooper Union, New York
March 16, 2008
I have decided to talk about the next American Revolution because I believe it is not only the key to global survival but also the most important step we can take in this period to build a new, more human and more socially and ecologically responsible nation that all of us, in every walk of life, whatever our race, ethnicity, gender, faith or national origin, will be proud to call our own.
I also feel that it would be a shame if we left this historic gathering in this Great Hall, at this pivotal time in our country’s history – when the power structure is obviously unable to resolve the twin crises of global wars and global warming, when millions are losing their jobs and homes, when Obama’s call for change is energizing so many young people and independents, and when white workers in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania are reacting like victims — without discussing the next American revolution.
Since it is hard to struggle for something which you haven’t struggled to define and name, my aim this evening, quite frankly, is to initiate impassioned discussions about the next American revolution everywhere, in groups, small and large.
I begin with some history. Forty years ago my late husband, Jimmy Boggs, and I started Conversations in Maine with our old friends and comrades, Freddy and Lyman Paine, to explore how a revolution in our time in our country would differ from the many revolutions that took place around the world in the early and mid-20th century.
We four had been members of the Johnson-Forest Tendency, a tiny group inside the Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party, led by C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya. Lyman, an architect, and Freddy, a worker and organizer, had been in the radical movement since the 1930s. Jimmy, an African American born and raised in the deep agricultural South, had worked on the line at Chrysler for 28 years and was a labor and community activist and writer. I was an Asian American intellectual who had been inspired by the 1941 March on Washington movement to become a movement activist, and after spending ten years in New York studying Marx and Lenin with CLR and Raya, had moved to Detroit in 1953, married Jimmy Boggs and became involved in the struggles organically developing in the Detroit community.
Our mantra in the Johnson-Forest Tendency had been the famous paragraph in Capital where Marx celebrates “the revolt of the working class always increasing in numbers and united, organized and disciplined by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production.” In the early 60s when the working class was decreasing rather than increasing under the impact of what we then called “automation,” we separated from CLR when he opposed our decision to rethink Marxism.
Our separation freed us to recognize unequivocally that we were coming to the end of the relatively short industrial epoch on which Marx’s epic analysis had been based. We could see clearly that the United States was in the process of transitioning to a new mode of production, based on new informational technologies, and that this transitioning was not only epoch-ending but epoch-opening, with cultural and political ramifications as far-reaching as those involved in the transition from Hunting and Gathering to Agriculture or from Agriculture to Industry.
As movement activists and theoreticians in the tumultuous year of 1968, we were also acutely conscious that in the wake of the civil rights movement, beginning with the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, and the exploding anti-Vietnam war and women’s movements, new and more profound questions of our relationships with one another, with Nature, and with other countries were being raised with a centrality unthinkable in earlier revolutions.
Hence, as our conversations continued, we became increasingly convinced that our revolution in our country in the late 20th century had to be radically different from the revolutions that had taken place in pre-or-non-industrialized countries like Russia, Cuba, China or Vietnam. Those revolutions had been made not only to correct injustices but to achieve rapid economic growth. By contrast, as citizens of a nation which had achieved its rapid economic growth and prosperity at the expense of African Americans, Native Americans, other people of color, and peoples all over the world, our priority had to be correcting the injustices and backwardness of our relationships with one another, with other countries and with the Earth.
In other words, our revolution had to be for the purpose of accelerating our evolution to a higher plateau of humanity. That’s why we called our philosophy “Dialectical Humanism” as contrasted with the “Dialectical Materialism” of Marxism.
Six years later the practical implications of this somewhat abstract concept of an American revolution were spelled out by Jimmy in the chapter entitled “ Dialectics and Revolution” in Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century (Monthly Review Press, 1974).
“The revolution to be made in the United States,” Jimmy wrote, nearly 30 years before 9/11, “will be the first revolution in history to require the masses to make material sacrifices rather than to acquire more material things. We must give up many of the things which this country has enjoyed at the expense of damning over one third of the world into a state of underdevelopment, ignorance, disease and early death.” Until that takes place, “this country will not be safe for the world and revolutionary warfare on an international scale against the United States will remain the wave of the present.”
“It is obviously going to take a tremendous transformation to prepare the people of the United States for these new social goals.” Jimmy continued. “But potential revolutionaries can only become true revolutionaries if they take the side of those who believe that humanity can be transformed.” Thus, the American revolution, at this stage in our history and in the evolution of technology and of the human race, is not about Jobs or health insurance or making it possible for more people to realize the American Dream of upward mobility. It is about acknowledging that we Americans enjoy middle class comforts at the expense of other peoples all over the world. It is about living the kind of lives that will end the galloping inequality both inside this country and between the Global North and the Global South, and also slow down global warming. It is about creating a new American Dream whose goal is a higher humanity instead of the higher standard of living which is dependent upon Empire. About practicing a new more active, global and participatory concept of citizenship. About becoming the change we want to see in the world.
The courage, commitment and strategies required for this kind of revolution are very different from those required to storm the Kremlin or the White House. Instead of viewing the American people as masses to be mobilized in increasingly aggressive struggles for higher wages, better jobs or guaranteed health care, we must have the courage to challenge them and ourselves to engage in activities that build a new and better world by improving the physical, psychological, political and spiritual health of ourselves, our families, our communities, our cities, our world and our planet.
This means that it is not enough to organize mobilizations calling on Congress and the President to end the war in Iraq. We must also challenge the American people to examine why 9/11 happened and why so many people around the world who, while not supporting the terrorists, understand that they were driven to these acts by anger at the U.S. role in the world, e.g. supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, overthrowing or seeking to overthrow democratically-elected governments, and treating whole countries, the world’s peoples and Nature only as a resource enabling us to maintain our middle class way of life.
We have to help the American people find the moral strength to recognize that, although no amount of money can compensate for the countless deaths and indescribable suffering that our criminal invasion and occupation have caused the Iraqi people, we, the American people, have a responsibility to make the material sacrifices that will help them rebuild their infrastructure. We have to help the American people grow their souls (which is not a noun but a verb) enough to recognize that since we, who are only 4% of the world’s population, have been consuming 25% of the planet’s resources, we are the ones who must take the first big steps to reduce greenhouse emissions. We are the ones who must live more simply so that others can simply live.
Moreover, we need to begin creating ways to live more frugally and cooperatively NOW because as times get harder, we “good Americans,” if we view ourselves only as victims, can easily slip into scapegoating the “other” and goose-stepping behind a nationalist leader, as the “good Germans” did in the 1930s, with Hitler.
This vision of an American revolution as transformation is the one projected by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his April 4, 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech. As Vincent Harding, Martin’s close friend and colleague, put it recently on Democracy Now, King was calling on us to redeem the soul of America. Speaking for the weak, the poor, the despairing and the alienated, in our inner cities and in the rice paddies of Vietnam, he was urging us to become a more mature people by making a radical revolution not only against racism but against materialism and militarism. He was challenging us to “rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”
King was assassinated before he could devise concrete ways to move us towards this radical revolution of values. But why haven’t we who think of ourselves as American radicals picked up the torch? Is it because a radical revolution of values against racism, militarism and materialism is beyond our imaginations, even though we are citizens of a nation with 700 military bases whose unbridled consumerism imperil the planet?
In Detroit we are engaged in this “long and beautiful struggle for a new world,” not because of King’s influence (we identified more with Malcolm) but because we have learned through our own experience that just changing the color of those in political power was not enough to stem the devastation of our city resulting from deindustrialization.
I don’t have time this evening to tell you the story of our Detroit-City of Hope campaign. We hosted a panel about it yesterday morning and you can read about it in the Boggs Center broadsheet.
Our campaign involves rebuilding, redefining and respiriting Detroit from the ground up: growing food on abandoned lots, reinventing education to include children in community-building, creating co-operatives to produce local goods for local needs, developing Peace Zones to transform our relationships with one another in our homes and on our streets, replacing punitive justice with Restorative Justice programs to keep non-violent offenders in our communities and out of prisons that not only misspend billions much needed for roads and schools but turn minor offenders into hardened criminals.
It is a multigenerational campaign, involving the very old as well as the very young, and all the inbetweens, especially the Millennial generation, born in the late 1970s and 1980s, whose aptitude with the new communications technology empowers them to be remarkably self-inventive and multi-tasking and to connect and reconnect 24/7 with individuals near and far.
Despite the huge differences in local conditions, our Detroit-City of Hope campaign has more in common with the struggles of the Zapatistas in Chiapas than with the 1917 Russian Revolution because it involves a paradigm shift in the concept of revolution.
One way to understand the paradigm shift is by contrasting our vision of health in a revolutionary America with the health care programs offered by the Democratic presidential front-runners.
Hillary’s and Obama’s “health care” programs are really insurance programs having more to do with feeding the already monstrous medical-industrial complex than with our physical, mental and spiritual health. By contrast, once we understand that our schools are in such crisis because they were created a hundred years ago in the industrial epoch to prepare children to become cogs in the economic machine; once we recognize that our challenge in the 21st century is to engage our children from K-12 in problem-solving and community-building activities, our children and young people will become participants in caring for their own health and that of our families and communities. Eating food they’ve grown for themselves, creating and sharing information from the Net, and organizing health festivals for the community, they will not only be caring for their own health. They will be helping to heal our communities.
This kind of transformation is what the next American revolution is about. It is not a single event but a process. It involves all of us, from many different walks of life, ethnicities, national origins, sexual orientations, faiths. At the same time, based on our experiences in Detroit and the panels I attended at this weekend’s Forum, I see the Millennial generation playing a pivotal role. As Frantz Fanon put it in The Wretched of the Earth, “Each generation, coming out of obscurity, must define its mission and fulfill or betray it.”