Monday, May 26, 2008

Homophobia in Jamaica: Thoughts Intersecting Current Politics, Dancehall, Colonialism, Religion, Slavery & Jamaican Patriarchy.

Last week, Prime Minister Bruce Golding of Jamaica stated on a BBC talk show that he has no intentions of lifting the "buggery" laws that outlaw man to man sex, and that he would never have a homosexual in his cabinet. I would post the BBC link, but they refer to Jamaica as probably being "the most murderous country in the world" which is some pretty racist effed up shyte if you ask me, especially coming from one of the most militarized countries in the world besides the USA.

I digress.

Canada is responding by calling for a tourism ban on Jamaica, which would be a considerable blow to the Jamaican economy. Just tourism from Toronto alone to Jamaica is huge. There is a Jamaican myspace page called fReE sPeEcH which features perspectives on the Canada ban, and reggae songs (including written lyrics) which support the Prime Minister in his choices, and calls for gay folks to expatriate asap to countries that do not illegalize same sex love.

Personally, I don't think this tourism ban is a good idea. For me, it would be like finding a domestic abuse situation, and then cutting off food supply to everyone related to the couple until the abuser stops. If anything, this tactic would most likely escalate blame and abuse. Which is precisely what JFLAG, Jamaica's sole LGBTQ advocacy group feels. They have released an official statement rejecting the tourism bans. JFLAG essentially operates like an underground railroad for queer folks in Jamaica, and they state on the web page, "
Due to the potential for violent retribution, we cannot publish the exact location [of our office]."

The issue of homophobic lyrics in dancehall has been in the international limelight for probably at least a decade now. Dancehall artists have been banned in various countries. Estimated losses in revenues exceed 5 million dollars. Some dancehall artists have however actually issued statements condemning homophobia in dancehall. 2 years ago, Sean Paul issued a statement of his own free will criticizing homophobia in dancehall. And some of the somewhat larger perpetrators of "burn battyman" music, Capelton, Sizzla and Beenie Man signed the Reggae Compassionate Act drawn up by the Stop Murder Music campaign. Though this is considered to be a large step in terms of dealing with homophobia in dancehall, it is felt in Jamaica and other places that this particular action may well have been strategic, since the financial blow has been so hard to these artists. If anything, they may be under some pressure in local performances to show how they are still "burning the flame" to "burn sodomites" despite pressures from "white foreign people."

Race becomes an issue when people note that Eminem seems to be able to say homophobic things and still enjoy international tours. He has a pretty "interesting" defense too. It also becomes an issue when people who have homophobia in their own countries choose to vilify us Jamaicans. I would hope that the energy that the Canadian government is taking with Jamaica, that they are using the same energy, if not more to look at the homophobia that exists in Canada, and to do some radical things about it.

I am definitely against the homophobic lyrics in Jamaican music, and i am a member of the straight and gay alliance group Love Liberation Collective, which is comprised mostly of Caribbean descended folks. As a dj, you will not hear me play these tunes, no matter how popular they are. For me, it is sad to know that black people, my people, are so energetically pursuing ways to oppress each other instead of building together. I had on online argument with another Jamaican who was telling me i was in league with Satan for defending queer rights. I told him
he is required to believe in Satan, hence giving Satan power, so he can enjoy him; and that he might as well join the Ku Klux Klan, because they are also a group of people that would like to see black people dead, queer and straight. There is also a very common way that a lot of homophobic people tend to conflate homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia that is also pretty maddening. So many times, i have had to say slowly "we are talking about consenting adult humans who love each other." There does not seem to be overwhelming concern that because some people are heterosexual, we should be worried as to whether we will automatically become child molesters and over run barnyards with insatiable lust. I am also confused by the "its not natural" statement, as if gay folks are synthetically designed and programmed androids engineered in laboratories. Love is natural, and always has been.

The religion piece is big in Jamaica. Trying to have a rational conversation on this subject when someone is backing up their argument with faith based points gets nowhere fast. This is not to say that Christians and Rastas are essentially not rational, i am just underlining the dynamic where some may quote the bible as if it weren't a belief system, but was fact set in stone like 1 + 1 = 2. "The Bible says, x, y and z, so that's all there is to it!" This drives me mad. The Bible has beautiful universal truths in it, but it is also a 2,000 year old book with 2,000 year old customs and morals, written by men for a patriarchal religion. Patriarchy does not benefit women or LGBT people.

Many adherents to the Bible know that there is much that cannot be taken literally, and much that is no longer applicable to our times. Yet the example of Sodom and Gomorrah (in which heterosexuals also perished) and other biblical examples that can be interpreted to denounce gays are used as proof that homosexuality is an "abomination". Should death also be sentenced to those who break the sabbath by cooking on Sunday? The Bible says we should.
(Exodus 31:14-15.) The Bible was also used to approve an institution that i would hope most Jamaicans now find to have been a real abomination to humanity. Slavery. During slavery, slaveowners and their Christian supporters would quote this from the pulpit:

If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property. - Exodus 21:20-21

As i mentioned in a previous post, I strongly believe that a) being colonized by the very Christian, very Victorian "sex is dirty, and so is the body" British (ie, Jamaicans still retain the colonial British jargon of "buggery" in the legislation), in combination with b) having a particular experience of slavery that had only men on the plantations for decades- I believe these two factors largely contributed to our particular brand of homophobia. Our men were worked to death on plantations, raped and violated as boys by slaveowners, and realistically only be able to have sex with other enslaved African men (voluntarily or forced). At some point, slaveowners decided that it may be more profitable to have forced reproduction on the plantations, and brought women over for slave labor, as well as to be "breeding grounds" for more "property" (roots of which also feed into our particular brand of sexism and objectification of women). It is my very strong belief that Jamaicans have a collective unconscious trauma that associates men being together sexually with the nightmare of slavery. I believe that the rage against the atrocities that happened to us has been misdirected towards gay folks. The rage targets men who are with other men, and women who would make such an anti-patriarchal move as to withhold sex from men, and love each other instead. The trauma is deep, and the religion that came with slavery and colonization adds fuel to the fire, as most interpretations justify and encourage the rage. Old leftover colonial era British "buggery" laws seal it in, legitimizing the misguided rage.

Slavery mercilessly degraded girlhood, womanhood, boyhood and manhood. Under patriarchy, all of us in Jamaica are subject to the acting out of men who are still in recovery from the passed down legacy of degraded manhood, in a society that grants men more privilege and power. The trauma of poverty and the sense of powerlessness that can evoke may exacerbate historical traumas. Historically, we were subjected to institutionalized domination. Acting out may then display itself in "hyper-masculine" forms, using dominance as a way to reclaim manhood. Donna P. Hope, a noted Jamaican feminist scholar, makes this statement about an aspect of Jamaican masculinity and dancehall:

In Jamaica, the use of sex and sexual symbols to create a highly sexual(ised) masculinity is dominant as a site of empowerment, to assert manhood and symbolise a particular type of masculinity. In the male-dominated dancehall, this is translated into the courting, conquering and/or dominance of female sexuality, femininity and women.

I would further this to say that for some of the more homophobically minded and re-traumatized Jamaican men, the femininity that must be dominated is the feminine inside us all. There are many definitions and experiences of masculinity and femininity, but one of them bequeaths masculinity to the "penetrator" and femininity to the "penetrated" (i prefer "penetrator" and "engulfer" myself, more equalizing of power), and for a man to allow himself to be penetrated becomes unacceptable to re-traumatized men who are trying to reclaim power and masculinity. This can become an all encompassing way of being, including needing to be emotionally "unpenetratable" to feel as if one has an intact masculinity. Sadly and ironically, one of the more toxic markers of the more violent masculinities is to dominate and "feminize" other men by violently penetrating them with words that question their masculinity... and by penetrating other men with bullets. Truly, the male dominated concept of war can essentially be distilled down to a
dysfunctional urge to penetrate men, women and children to death. How people can support war (the unconsenting penetration and destruction of millions), and cannot support consenting penetration and love between two adults baffles me. I pray for healing and transformation.

In near closing, I will mention some things I learned when i was travelling in West Africa. I was refreshingly schooled on a new perspective in Ghana, where i was surprised to see men walking down the street holding hands. And i mean little boys holding hands, and adult men holding hands too, regardless of sexuality. I also saw this in Senegal- it was so incredible to see grown men in business suits walking to work hand in hand! I am used to seeing women be physically close in public, but there is so much armoring around men and physical closeness in the communities I grew up in. In Jamaica, we don't even slap hands and do the back pat greeting as brothas in the States do... we pound closed fists together, minimizing intimacy and connection of open palms. Oh yes, back to what i was schooled on though- In Ghana (which is not without their own brand of homophobia) homosexuality is seen as something someone does, not something you are. The distinction was refreshing, making sense. It wasn't considered a marker of identity. There wasn't a word for a person who was in a same sex relationship, it was simply seen as something that someone does. "Oh yes, there are people who do that." That was the perspective in Kumasi, Ghana anyways.

Many Jamaicans are descended from Ghanaians. Seeing how our not so distant relatives embody masculinities, and the relatively relaxed approach to same sex love they seem to have, it makes me even more certain that slavery is a large component for us Jamaicans and our masculinities and brand of homophobia. I have a feeling that there may have even been some shameful, degrading ritual that enslaved Jamaican men were subjected to by the power drunk plantocracy, something so underground and unspeakable that it has been erased from memories and books. Something that would keep this fire burning til now. It is my hope and prayer that we may heal from this historical trauma and see that we are truly all brothers and sisters of value who want to love and be loved. I believe that some deep decolonization therapy is needed. And i don't mean that people need to discard their religion to do this. I think the words of brotherly and sisterly love are already in the holy texts. Surely it is wrong to withhold love from our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, because of who they love, while others chat on the mike about shooting and killing. Is it more acceptable to have a gunman for a child, or a gay person? I am not sure what a poll in The Gleaner would say to answer that question. I hold the strong belief that only shedding slavery mentalities can facilitate our transcending to our true greatness. This little island of Jamaica has already impacted the world with Marcus Garvey, Rastafari, Robert Nesta Marley, reggae music and more. I dare to imagine a new, positive impact we could have on the planet and ourselves once we have moved past this divisive issue, into a new era of healing and community.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tribute To A Family Matriarch

Hello peoples. I haven't blogged in a week or so, I had to fly to Florida for my maternal grandmother's funeral. It seems fitting to start blogging again paying homage to this pioneering, strong Jamaican woman, without whose struggles and life I would not be here writing this.

Sylvia Witter died of old age on May 14th at the age of 95. That in itself seems like a blessing, to die of old age, in a time when so many illnesses take our elders away. She was definitely ready to go though, her body refusing to do the things she would always do for herself way into her 80's and early 90's. When i would ask her how she is doing, she would always respond "i am still here." I would take that as a testimony to her strength, as well as an acknowledgment that she had done her work on this plane.

in the 1940's, Sylvia Witter saved enough money to go to the United States from the parish of St. Elizabeth in rural Jamaica. It was hard for her (and others) to go alone and leave family behind, but she had a vision and ambition. Through doing hard domestic labor and later becoming a nurses assistant in New York City, she established herself as the waystation for other family members to come to the US. She would send for people, and send them money as well. Because of her, at least 50 people thrive and live successful lives here. At her funeral, we gave thanks to her, my sister recalling grandma diluting her tea til it was lukewarm so it wouldn't burn my sister, and my older cousin happily recalling receiving clothes and toys in the mail "from foreign" at Christmas time from my grandmother while he still lived in St. Elizabeth. It was a beautiful service, with dragonflies flitting about while we sang "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art".

Grandma was a stern woman of few words. But she was very generous. She had every reason to be stern though... I cannot imagine what it was like for her to leave Jamaica and come to work in apartheid America. Her struggle echoes the struggle of so many immigrant women of color who worked hard in alienating and often degrading circumstances just to get by, and for the survival of family. It is an honor to come from such an independent, pioneering, strong woman.

Now, this picture is on my ancestor altar, with a lit candle next to it. Please send Sylvia Witter some light and love as she travels. She worked hard, and deserves peace. And while you are at it... might be nice to call out the names of those who worked so hard to get you where you are now too. Those people who are the reason you are even able to sit there reading this.

Rest in Peace, Power and Love Grandma.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

"There Is No Homosexuality In Iran": Gender Reassignment Surgery as a Solution To Illegalized Homosexual Activity.

I can be amazed with how the constructs of race, gender and sexuality manifest with such diversity around the world. On a personal account tip, my amazement was more like shock when I was travelling in West Africa, and Ghanaians would refer to me as... white. Apparently, a lot of the way that race is constructed there is that a drop of white blood makes you white. That got my head spinning. Also, by being from the United States, which is considered to be predominantly a "white culture", (and a culture of affluence), by default, all citizens of the United States are considered to be relatively rich- and culturally white. It was pretty shocking for my black butt to finally get to the motherland and then be called white, that's for sure. But it also definitely cemented the fact that these social assignments (in this case, race) are concepts that we create as we go along, whatever culture we are in. In a lot of the West, we have decided to believe that a drop of black blood makes you black. Shoo, in apartheid South Africa, Chinese were applying to be reassigned as Japanese so they could gain privilege, and more recently have been fighting to be considered black.

I say that to preface this phenomenon in Iran, where homosexuality is considered an illegal offense punishable by death- and gender reassignment surgery is encouraged to create the appearance of heterosexual unions. These unions are recognized by the government and society. So while the Supreme Court decision that was passed in California a couple days ago would not fly anytime soon in Iran, there are laws there that give transfolks the same status as biological men and women- and biological women gain a lot of privilege becoming what we call transmen. Last year President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran shocked many when he said at Columbia University, “In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country.” But because of how gender and sexuality is constructed in Iran, essentially President Ahmadinejad was speaking a culturally determined truth.

Jessica Mosby of the Women's International Perspective writes about this, and the film covering this phenomenon called Be Like Others. Really a very interesting and enlightening read

In further research on the subject, I found a document called State Sponsored Homophobia that lists the laws in almost 100 countries that illegalize sex between consenting same sex adults. My own beloved Jamaica is in the list of course. The laws in Jamaica use leftover British colonial jargon like "buggery" and actually only criminalize men having sex with each other. If you ask me, which is a muuuuuuch larger conversation, the Jamaican brand of homophobia is directly related to a) being colonized by the Christian and Victorian "sex is dirty" British b) having a particularly harrowing version of slavery that included only having African men work on the plantations. After decades of men being worked to death, being raped as boys, and basically only really being able to have sex with other men (voluntary or forced), the plantocracy considered it to be more "profitable" to bring African women to the plantations as well, and having forced reproduction of slave labor instead. In my opinion, these two factors created misguided rage towards men who have sex with each other (and women who would dream of witholding sex from men), and til today there is an association in the collective unconscious that correlates the nightmare of slavery with homosexuality, making it something that needs to be "burned".

hmm. That will be another post discussed more in depth for sure.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriage!

Wow...!! A historical Supreme Court decision grants all consenting adults who love each other the right to get married!! This is huge!! I think its gonna be a bigger party than usual at Pride this year..! Congratulations and love to my queer brothers and sisters who have won a privilege/right that I can definitely take for granted. See the Equality California website for details, including copies of the Supreme Court documents.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What Is One Sexist Thing You Are Trying To Unlearn?

Hey peoples. Thought I would write something that called for some real dialogue and participation. I am psyched to see that i am getting 20-50 hits a day from all over the world (officially at least one person from every continent as of last week! glad to see my Caribbean fambly deh bout too), but would really love to get some of those global perspectives down into some real talk! And this includes everyone, cuz no matter what gender or sex we are, we all have sexism to unlearn.

I'll start.

One thing that I have been noticing during some of my "dry spells" of dating, is that I have been known to start grumbling about how all the non-communicative, insensitive and misogynist guys seem to have girlfriends, but ain't nobody interested in my ass. Don't women want to date a sensitive, communicative, guy with feminist principles? a blah blah blah? I would say this to women too. Its kinda come to my consciousness that this is actually some "cookie seeking" of the most icky kind. It reminds me of a creepier version of Adam Sandler's SNL character who has ideas for cheap Halloween costumes- "Look! I have a sneaker on my hand! I'm crazy sneaker hand man! Gimme some candy!" (the link will give you more than enough examples) Except in my case, its more like "Look at me! I'm all feminist and stuff! I can communicate my feelings! And listen to yours too! Gimme some ass!" (altogether now, ewwwwww.)

I strongly believe that everyone deserves love. But no one "deserves" sex. Granted, sometimes I am missing the love more than the sex, and vice versa. But I can see that I can subconsciously and consciously start believing that i "should" be hooking up for various reasons. Which teeters very close to the very problematic idea that a woman owes sex to a man. Personally, I don't care if y'all are married, nobody has rights to anyone's body. The institution that built this empire and gave some people rights to other people's bodies was abolished over 100 years ago. And basically, No Means No (as once quoted by a construction worker dude :) .

So yes, when I am lonely and/or not gettin' any, I plan to not complain about that specifically in relation to my sensitivity and politics. As it is, there are a gazillion other ways to complain about these issues without bringing those factors in.

Your turn!!

In closing, i wanted to post a video. Jackson Katz has a good short video called Tough Guise: Violence, Media & The Crisis In Masculinity. I find that when I hear him speak that i appreciate 90% of what he has to say, but feel wierdish when he starts talking about the experience of men of color (he is white, most likely Jewish), and that he also basically calls for women to support feministically inclined men by rejecting men who put on the "tough guise" and dating us instead. hmm. I mean, i'm all for building conscious community, and unions that would raise conscious children, but its just weird to hear a guy tell women to to date him "for the struggle". you know? thots?

Men's Story Project : Submission Deadline Extended to May 22nd

Heads up! There is still time to submit to Jocelyn Lehrer's Men's Story Project! The deadline has been extended to May 22nd. Lehrer also submitted this statement to me:
Amongst many life experiences, I'm hoping we will be able to find men who can speak about experiences with fatherhood, prison, gang violence, fighting in a war, coming to the US "illegally" from Central America, and active participation in the civil rights movement (all with the framing focus on masculinity). If you know such men, of any age, please encourage them - several participants are writing now for the first time and this is not just for seasoned "writers."
Ya heard? Bring those stories! Check here for details.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

National Organization for Men Against Sexism's 33rd Annual Conference - Call For Proposals


On August 21-23, 2008 the National Organization for Men Against Sexism will hold its 33rd annual conference "Addressing Violence in Our Homes and in Our Communities" and the 20th annual Men's Studies Association Meeting at the University of Utah. This conference will be hosted by South Valley Sanctuary, a domestic violence shelter in West Jordan, Utah, and is co-sponsored by the University of Utah's Women's Resource Center, the Utah Pride Center, the Rape Recovery Center, Up the River Endeavors, the Inclusion Center (formerly NCCJ), the University of Utah's Interpersonal Violence Research Group, and the Salt Lake Area Domestic Violence Coalition.

NOMAS is now inviting and accepting workshop, panel, and presentation proposals that address all aspects of community violence and resiliency, and/or explore current advances in the field of men's studies and examines diverse ways in which the lives of men and women might be enhanced through an exploration of gender identity, roles and social justice. All proposals will be considered; however, we are particularly looking for proposals that address the following topics: Domestic Violence in the LGBT community, Men's Role in Domestic Violence Work, Anti-Racist, anti-sexist community organizing models, Domestic Violence and Addiction/Substance Use, Immigration Laws and Protecting/Empowering Undocumented Survivors, Co-Option of Shelter Services/Dilemmas/Challenges in Domestic Violence Shelters, Multicultural Feminist Counseling Models, Working with Youth Exposed to Violence, Women and Poverty, Cultural Competency Models for working with/sheltering traumatized individuals. Workshops will last for one hour and 45 minutes.

Please submit proposals that include: 1) brief title; 2) presenter(s) name(s); 3) 25-word bio(s); 4) 70-word description; 5) a/v equipment or any special considerations. Please e-mail submissions to; deadline is June 15, 2008.

*The National Organization for Men Against Sexism is an activist organization of men and women supporting positive changes for men. NOMAS advocates a perspective that is pro-feminist, gay affirmative, anti-racist, dedicated to enhancing men's lives, and committed to justice on a broad range of social issues including class, age, religion, and physical abilities. We affirm that working to make this nation's ideals of equality substantive is the finest expression of what it means to be men. For more information, please visit

Heather Masterton, M.A.
Executive Director
South Valley Sanctuary

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sexism, Strength & Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films.

This is a good short film about how boys and men are gendered in the Disney films a lot of us grew up on. Its scary that new generations of kids continue to absorb these images. The film also makes comparisons with how girls and women are portrayed.

Another short film, Reel Bad Arabs, deals with the Islamophobia and anti-Arab images in Disney and Hollywood, and also underscores how pervasive Islamophobia has become in US culture since 9/11. What blew my mind was some of the lyrics for the opening theme of Disney's "Alladin". I quote:

Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face/its barbaric/but hey, its home!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Miss Landmine Angola 2008

I think its fair to say that the institution of the Beauty Pageant has had quite a dubious history in terms of objectifying women and defining "beauty" with standards that are not very inclusive. Sometimes, the politics can blur, as it did last year when Jamaica crowned Zahra Redwood Miss Jamaica Universe, making her the first dark skinned, dreadlocked Rastawoman to ever win that title. It was deemed a triumph by some, considering that in Jamaica there are a lot of images and conditioning that place value on lighter skin and straight/ened hair, and also because, contrary to what a lot of non-Jamaicans might think, Rastas experience a lot of social stigma in Jamaica. It was simultaneously deemed to be problematic because... did Rastas want to have a representative in this Babylonian affair? To have a Rasta Queen objectified like all the rest? For the world to see her in a swimsuit and pumps? The issues commingled and complexified.

Then I heard about Miss Landmine Angola (thanks Larena!). Wow. There is a slogan for this pageant, it says "everyone deserves to be beautiful.*" Here, the Beauty Pageant becomes a vehicle to bring awareness to what landmines are doing in the world, while promoting disability pride, and diversifying images of beauty. Pretty amazing.

*on a related note, i am SO ready to see Margaret Cho's "Beautiful" show.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Upstream : A Prosem About Being An Ally

Hey folks! wassup. So yes, I was inspired by The Angry Black Woman's Carnival Of Allies to write a piece about what it means to be an ally. It ended up feeling somewhere between philosophical prose and image evoking poetry, so... lets call it prosetry. Apparently that's a real term in the canon of literature, I had only heard my longtime bredrin Steve Urchin use it before! Thought he made it up. Before going into it, wanna thank another key bredrin and key sistren, parami10 and Aimee Suzara for reading my drafts and lending me their invaluable insights as accomplished wordsmiths. I love where my piece evolved to under their guidance. I also want to thank another key sistren who inspired me because she brought that fire when my sexism showed up. You know who you are, and like i told you, i will inhale lava for you anytime.

ok, time for a prosem.



an ally

is someone willing to swim upstream.

so easy to relax and let the current take you.
and you can.
you’ve done it your whole life.

those of us targeted by oppression
spend our lives swimming upstream.
a lot of us drown.
most of us survive, and become strong swimmers
because there is

when you exercise your choice to be my ally
you choose to also become an active upstream swimmer.
(this cannot be a hobby)
we won’t have the same struggles
but you will feel the ache of shoulder sockets and fatigue of thigh muscles
from pushing against all you have learned.

when you swim upstream
there will be those of your privilege who will not appreciate the splashing.
you will need a community of dedicated swimmers who share your privilege.
because it cannot be my job, our job
to link tired arms under your shoulders
and hold you when you feel vulnerable and unappreciated.
there is but so much we can teach you about how to swim upstream.
there is but so much energy we have to teach you how to swim,
while swimming the marathon that is this life.

i may see you slipping,
see you deep in reverie
strokes lagging, hesitating
your kicking feet growing languid.
i may see you
your body again relaxing into the flow
seduced downstream by cooling waters
distancing you to the point that you cannot hear me,
cannot understand me

even when i shout.
your ears are full of the calming streamsong
the lulling currents that have carried you and shaped your life
for so long.

you cannot hear me.
and when this happens
i shout louder.
i may grow furious.
and the fact that i am shouting, angry
has to be ok.
because when you step to me as an ally
you must step with a form of revolutionary love.
a love that means
you cannot fully love yourself
or say that you love others
knowing that we swim upstream so you can float.
when you awake from your lullabies of nostalgic streamsong
you must not dwell in the self indulgent eddies of guilt.
feeling bad while floating downstream does nothing for anyone.
you must act, and swim with revolutionary love.
let it fill your breast with warm purpose.

and as in any relationship fueled by love
when trust is broken
when one is not heard
when you forget about the power that this world gives you
there will be anger.
in fact, the anger of the very people you are swimming in alliance with
will be another current for you to navigate
like thick hot lava cascading over you as you swim upstream.
you will have to learn how to breathe red and yellow streams of lava,
acrid sulphur in your nostrils
steaming rivulets transfusing into your veins.
you will feel the reality of our valid rage
giving you essential lessons,
tempering you.

you will have to learn to inhale lava
through open lungs eyes and ears
and exhale through your heart and throat.
inhale lava
and exhale acknowledgment and humility
inhale lava
and exhale apologies, ownership of bias
inhale lava
and exhale resolve to keep swimming,
exhale resolve to take this lesson
and never to forget what we went through to get here
and you must act so that neither of us need to taste
this particular blend of hot, salted, molten earth again.

because if you think its rough to inhale lava sometimes,
try exhaling it from the depths of your historical oppression

and me?
i too have had to learn to inhale lava
as a gesture of revolutionary love.
i am still learning
how to listen
while my tongue tastes of burnt matches.
i too have had to learn to inhale lava
as a gesture of revolutionary love,
i have felt words like a molten bowling ball of simmering magma
in the pit of my belly.
i too have had to learn to inhale lava
as a gesture of revolutionary love,
and the truth is...
there are lulling waters
where i too can listen to old streamsong lullabies
and continue to float downstream.

until the day
that all humans on the planet
can drift downstream together
smiling, knowing that it isn’t at the expense of another
then equality must look like this
community swimming upstream


Friday, May 2, 2008

Margaret Cho's "Beautiful" Tour: Just 10 Shows Left

Margaret Cho on Beauty:

I want to explore the nature of beauty. What is funny and scary about it, why we often don't feel beautiful because our society's standards are so rigid and unattainable. A DJ once asked me, "If you woke up tomorrow and you were beautiful, what would you do? If you were, blonde, blue-eyed, 5 foot 11, and weighed 100 pounds, what would you do?!?" Well, I probably wouldn't get up in that case, because I'd be too weak to stand. If that is his only idea of beauty then I feel really sorry for him. I want everyone to feel beautiful and I want to do it with laughter. Why not feel good about ourselves?

I wasn't the DJ who asked that question, i'm proud to say. Grab tickets while you can! I myself have never seen her live, and i'm really looking forward to it! Here is her tour schedule, and her fabulous, brilliant blog. Anyone else going to Santa Rosa?

YBCA Presents: The Women In Hip Hop Summit

Hope you can read this gif! Meh... Probably better to check this link. But I still like the graphic. This Saturday the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco) will host a town hall style convo on Women In Hip Hop. Its free too.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The 1st Carnival Of Allies!

I was WONDERING why a lot of the prominent progressive blogs all happen to be talking about what it means to be an ally all at the same time! The Angry Black Woman is hosting the 1st Carnival Of Allies. ABW goes on to say:

This got me thinking about those white folks who exist in that liminal space where they are against racism but don’t understand how it works and get defensive, hurt, and freaked out when folks point out how they benefit from it without trying. We saw a lot of that on the Thank You thread before the others showed up. I am wondering how you turn that kind of person into an ally. I’m wondering if maybe I cannot simply because, when they read my words, they are so filled with defensiveness and perhaps guilt, nothing I say can get through. If they can’t listen to me, can they maybe listen to other White people?

I call a Carnival. The Carnival of Allies. Where self-identified allies write to other people like themselves about why this or that oppression and prejudice is wrong. Why they are allies. Why the usual excuses are not good enough. I figure allies probably know full well all the many and various arguments people throw up to make prejudice and oppression okay. Things that someone on the other side of the fence may not hear. Address those things and more besides.

And when I say allies, I’m talking about any and every type. PoC can be (and should be) allies to other PoC, or to LGBTQ people if they are straight, or any number of other combinations. If you feel like you’re an ally and have something to say about that, you should submit to this carnival.

She is taking submissions up until May 5th, so if you are interested you better jump to it! I myself, being relatively new to the blogosphere had never heard of the blog phenomenon of carnivals... she explains it briefly in an ETA here.

Hope to see you at the carnival!