Archive for the ‘social justice’ Category

Fyah links Friday

indexHey Fyah Family, this week has been full of stuff. Good stuff, bad stuff and all that lies in between. For the bad and in-between I found some internet inspiration. I hope you enjoy it as well.

1) My younger sister is a boss. Caring, funny and smart, she is the true super-star and heart of my family. She also happens to have special needs. When I read about Aaron Philip in the NY Times it automatically thought of her and her bravery and strength navigating this world that sadly does not appreciate her skills and contributions.  Read this story about Aaron and check and follow his tumblr.

2) I came across this listing of photographs depicting  love/love stories and even my jaded icebox of a heart went all warm and mushy. Awwww 🙂

3) So, life as a grad student is  something I think you have to experience to believe. Readings, grades, assignments, schedules, a shit load more readings and assignments, working as a TA, working on a thesis, looking for a job that pays cus this tuition is expensive, more readings and assignments, weight gain, and then it all seems worth it  for the times when I am reminded that it is pretty great to be a grad student. Yes, it actually is that frenetic. I was sitting at my desk staring at about 6 student emails about something or the other  and during one of my Facebook breaks , I came across this hilariously revealing post.  Fellow grad schoolers or recent grads, let me know if this resonates.

Have a great weekend!

Fyah Friday links

malala

1. October 2013 marks one year since Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen – her “crime”, to have spoken up for the right of girls to be educated in a blog that she was managing anonymously for a few years.  This is the first in depth interview she has given since the attack and she has some very interesting views on how she believes peace can be attained with the Taliban through discussions.

Two things stood out to me:

  • The treatment of women and girls by the Taliban was used as a reason for intervention and military action. I took some time to look for what has been done to attempt to learn about some of the plans to achieve this objective and was unsuccessful. I certainly found out a lot about military engagement though.
  • Malala believes that the US (hmmm) and ambiguous governments are the ones responsible for brokering peace with the Taliban. She hopes to take an active role in this in the future as she aspires to hold political office.  I hope that she can continue to bring a voice to girls in her region but her sources of that hope give me pause.

2. Since the tragic shooting in Newton CT. late last year, the public discussions around dealing with people living with mental illness has been really difficult to sit through. Laws that significantly compromise confidentiality in mental health care and stigmatize those in treatment or who may have been treated in the past have been rolled out in a frenzy to appease some unfounded urge to save ‘us’ from them ‘them’

This Atlantic article shows are ill-prepared police officers are to deal with mental illness in times of crisis, relating the the recent shooting death by the police of a woman at Capitol Hill

I was reminded about attempts to facilitate gender training sessions with police and immigration officers . I left those sessions knowing that most officers were only there because they had be and were less than concerned about the subject matter. Additionally, the  fact that these sessions were being as one-off sessions and not part of comprehensive mandatory training , made me even less hopeful that the change I was hoping for would be realized.

images3.  Sigh. Why does the Dominican Republic want to manufacture more hardship for people of Haitian descent? The Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo has ruled in favor of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929. Really? Really now?  Here, PJ Patterson, former Jamaican PM is asking that CARICOM take a stand to strongly condemn this ruling.  What does strongly condemn really mean? I don’t know. But hopefully enough negative attention on this matter will force the D.R to pull this foolishness back.

Conversations – Repost

A few years ago, I heard about a man who had been stuck in an elevator in Manhattan for five days because he refused to call for help. He was an undocumented worker who chose to stay in a dark, dangling and dangerous elevator rather than use the emergency call button. It he very well could have died in that elevator, and it appeared that he was willing to die before being sent back. That story has stayed with me over the years.

It was on my mind recently when I spent a much longer time than I wanted to discussing cases of human trafficking that have been in the local media in the past year with a dear cousin who is chronically concerned about my feminist ways.

She rolled her eyes as I shared the stories of young women and girls lured with promises, flattery, gifts and glamorous lifestyles. I explained that these women are fed fantasies of the extreme and non-stop partying that they can be a part of if they come to Antigua to dance at a bar or restaurant.

What do they expect?”

“I would never leave my country under those circumstances.”

“They are already whores where they come from.”

When they get here, these women are in instant debt. The plane ticket that was once free, now costs $3,000. Rent must be paid for meagre shared accommodations at $500/week. Food must be bought from the club at $80/day. Clothing and shoes too, at $350/outfit. All owed to the club that brought them here.

The parties are indeed non-stop but you are the entertainment, you need to make money to pay your debts and of course you want to have some money for yourself. The going rate of $50 for a dance and $300-$500 for sex can only go so far. Additionally, your passport is confiscated by your no-longer-gracious host, so even if one of these women wanted to leave, where can you go in this strange new country?

”Well, I would never give anyone my passport.”

”I told you they are whores; they are accustomed to that.”

”How could anyone be that stupid?”

My mind goes back to the man in the elevator. Like him, these women often live in horrendous situations that lead them to make desperate and risky choices. Add someone who is able and willing to exploit that desperation and you have the perfect scenario for human trafficking- modern day slavery.

Are you still trying to convince me that they don’t know what they really come here for?”

Quite honestly, I don’t care.Whether or not she anticipates that she will be a sex worker when she gets here is of little consequence to the greater issue: that she is being deprived of choice, denied of freedom of movement, and criminally exploited in general. Like I said,modern day slavery. To over look this because we’re uneasy about sex work is pretty ridiculous to me.

I left that conversation feeling misunderstood and judged. I shudder to think about what is must be like to be a woman trying to escape a trafficking situation, who can she speak to that will understand? How long will she remain dangling dangerously in her own proverbial elevator?

fyah fridays- occupying space

one billion risingAre you rising on the 14th February? I will be. So will many around the world. Much of my writing, reading and some of my working has been around raising awareness around sexual violence. 1 Billion is a large number, find a rising near you…. learn the dance (debbie allen’s teaching) or create your own but make that day and the days to come one/ones in which you rise against sexual violence. Big up to igds at Cave Hill in Barbados.

Speaking of taking over spaces. Qui Dorian says take over yoga studios this year! I’m all for it… well I would be if it
yoga matdidn’t cost so much. That’s why I’m uber thankful for Brown Girl’s yoga for making a space that feels comfortable and accessible for people who look like me to practice.  I can’t do headstands, I’m not dreaming that far ahead… and the thought of one day being able to do the crow pose makes me simultaneously giddy and frustrated… but I do believe the practice helps me. I pay attention to my body, and for 20-60 minutes there’s nothing else to do but be with me. It for me has been a gift.


I was raped t shirtNnzinga Job’s TEDx Port of Spain talk on Love, rape and sex
.  She talks as a survivor, a believer and a dreamer. What stood out to me most was her sharing that her realisation that we create the meaning of sex has in our lives, once we do this it is so much easier to say no. Journal people, our, all our journeys are worth documenting. Towards the end she shares tips for a healthy sex life. I was going to list my favourite but I actually love them all: 

#2 take the time to know what you like and dislike sexually and why

#3 have sex only to celebrate and commemorate never to forget

#4 get physically fit and flexible and practice sexual expressiveness through dance

#5 save money into a sex fund

Completely off topic but had my cracking up. Artists who need to stop making crappy music. I disagree with Erykah making the list. I loved New microphoneAmerkyah Volume 2. But everyone else, so feeling their place on the list plus I think it’s hilarious that Alicia Keys isn’t on the list b/c we have to accept her albums have never really cut it to start with. lol

black power booksClosing off, 100 books by black women everyone should read. I’ve read about a third of them; and it’s not nearly as straight and African-American as I thought it would be. Shout out to all the queer, African and Caribbean (and their intersections) authors on the list. Check it out- Nalo Hopkinson, audre lorde, Jamaica Kincaid, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Stacey Ann Chinn, Octavia Butler, Shirley Chisolm…. come one, you know you’re intrigued.

fyah links- self care, feminism and vulnerability (all the same thing really)

audre lorde- self careMy self-care was going well up until the end of November.  I was exercising, cooking, eating right, wining while flossing, and the usual,  following a schedule… life was good. pieces2peace came to visit and I used that blip in the routine to introduce mayhem to my life. I came across this wonderful list of things one blogger does to take care of herself. One I already do: go to dinner alone. One I need to do: think/ speak positively about myself. One that’s fun: dance fights! 🙂

I got into a facebook conversation about this article. My comments are plentiful, but as a self-This is what a feminist looks likeidentified feminist who I think in many ways could be read a black hipster feminist I took plenty issue with this article. These comments will the most sense of you read the article: Her concerns re: the appropriation of African culture through fashion with Solange and others are pretty complicated. Definitely it’s a little uncomfortable getting kente clothes from American Apparel, not necessarily a route I’d take… but I struggle with the use of the term appropriation for people who are descendents of enslaved and displaced African people. As a light-skinned woman I definitely understand the privilege around the choice of this fashion being more likely read as a statement vs. an identity but it’s complicated.

A Caribbean man talking about feminist issues without derailing them… actually as an ally without a million caveats. Impossible you say? Shout out to groundation grenada. 🙂

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this here b4 but a great friend of mine posted this on my wall awhile back and it resonated with me so deeply. It’s a little on the long side at 20 mins but the speaker highlights her research findings around what makes people feel worthy and why we hold on to shame. I have another friend who says we often do things we shouldn’t b/c we lime with shame and pride too much and “them fockers could talk”. That still making me laugh. Anyway, she speaks about the power of being vulnerable and what we do to avoid it- we numb it, we make that which is uncertain, certain, we pretend… give it watch. It’s about a year old but she came out with a part two that’s also pretty good, not as good as the 1st but still pretty good.

Django Unhinged

popcornDisclaimer:

  1. I have been steadily consuming all movies of QT since I was first introduced to Pulp Fiction by my aunt who is a QT junkie some 12 years ago. I think I largely enjoyed watching obscene amounts of violence, clever wit and swearing being actively endorsed by an adult… and the stories were for the most part intriguing.
  2. I have recently read three pretty good fiction books about the lives of enslaved African people in the diaspora- the Caribbean, the USA and Canada.
  3. I identify as a Caribbean womon of African descent whose African ancestors were enslaved people.
  4. I had my reservations about seeing this movie primarily because the combination of #3 and my waning interest in violence. I have become terribly concerned with what I consider entertainment these days. More specifically, how frightening it is that I have become numb to large amount of violence both for “entertainment” and in real life; and I don’t care what people say, there is a correlation. Entertainment affects how you interpret the world, it’s the reason media is so powerful.

So when QT takes his time to graphically depict two enslaved African men having to fight to death in a fancy colonial style home while two white enslavers sit down and drink liquor… I have to wonder what makes us in the cinema who are watching the reproduction of this so different to the white men at the time who were watching it at that time in the room for entertainment as well? Is it entertaining because we are shaking our heads at the obscenity of it all? While still watching it?

Now I’m not saying that it is the same, but there is something unsettling for me about the unnecessary graphic detail. Was it to demonstrate the gravity of the situation? Directors, good directors of which QT is one can convey gravity without me having to watch two black men fight literally to see another day at the whim of rich white men. Professional sport parallels anyone?

vs. Inglorious Basterds

When I saw Inglorious Basterds I was in Trinidad and the audience cheered excitedly as the Nazis were outsmarted, outstrategised and killed. I was a little confused because I was unaware of what the audience’s investment in this history was. It historywas of course a combination of things

  • the graphic and often near comic violence
  • the wit
  • the effective demonization of Nazis in history
  • the typically audience commentary that comes with that cinema.

… but I had to wonder, if I saw a similar movie about slavery would the audience be cheering the same way.

Django Unchained is not a similar movie. Inglorious Basterds was a revisionist history, it was creative and imagined something systemic that would have made a difference to the world. Django Unchained is the story of one man looking out for one man and his wife who happens to have been enslaved at various points throughout the movie. This story of the solitary hero in no way seeks to address the systemic-ness of enslavement. Please note that I do not think this was the character’s job, I’m highlighting the difference in story.

taking up the enslavement of African people

EmancipationThe enslavement of African people in this part of the world was largely physical, but the mental control imposed on this forcibly displaced people has in my opinion has been captured far better in literature. There are hints but when you don’t depict what life is like on a plantation for people in any real way… you’re doing an injustice. Yes, we saw some punishments where QT didn’t hesitate to show naked black bodies but for me it’s the day in day out… the drudgery, the uncertainty, the constant threat of violence, the fear…

In Octavia Butler’s Kindred her protagonist is transported between being enslaved in the 1700s/1800s in the USA to 1970s (then present day). She only gets back to present day just before she about to die. In one scene she’s an enslaved person, and she is being whipped for something and soon after it commences, the pain, the agony… she wakes up in present day in so much pain, the scars of our history.

Later on in the novel she’s back to being an enslaved person, she is being whipped again and she soon expects to be transported again to present day… she doesn’t. She’s still an enslaved person. You know what happened? She thought she would die the first time, the second time, she knew she wouldn’t, that this was just her life… now that’s some heavy shit. Depict that

taking up womyn

Speaking of black womyn who were enslaved… I’m happy Kerry Washington got top billing in a movie where she only had 3 lines.

probably b/c we're invisible anyway...

probably b/c we’re invisible anyway…

But really, let’s talk about misogyny and sexism. QT has a great record with these two. But even this was over the top. The silencing of black womyn was beyond beyond.

  1. Women weren’t being traded that much were they?
  2. Most times we saw black womyn they were comfort womyn. And yes, I get there are all sorts of things attached to that, forced sex work is rape but where were the women working on the field, like most of them were?
  3. Why all these women had long, straight/ loosely curled hair?

What stuck with me most though was the fact that Kerry Washington was the sole motivation for the main character and yet we know nothing about her, except of course what makes her special:

She’s a wife- it’s not right for her to be a comfort woman

+

She speaks German- therefore identifiable

+

She’s pretty- light skinned, speaks well (little evidence of this, seeing that she had so few lines) “nice” hair

= woman worth saving

battle vs. war

Sesa WorubanSpoiler alert, how dare QT make one of the more personally violent vengence scenes occur between Django and Samuel L. Jackson’s (SLJ) character. Yes, I get the that the HHNIC is depicted as the most despised black person. But I maintain, only two types of people survived slavery- the lucky and the scampish. And SLJ was a super scamp, venomous even, but you see that’s what’s make this story so much about a hero as though he’s fighting an individual battle vs. an institution.

Because this was a movie about a battle we see Django “get back” at SLJ in a very real way. And because QT didn’t bother to make this a revisionist history we’re supposed to get some satisfaction with Django’s battle wins

  1. knowing well and good that it’s only a matter of time before his luck runs out and
  2. forget about all the other enslaved people who I guess will not be quite forever trapped because it is 1858 but definitely of no concern to our hero.
  3. I was left sadder… more despondent

A white man of  this time writes the most personally violent and antagonistic scene  between two black characters. Far too unsettling… White privilege and white supremacy are real when a white man can write this “entertaining” piece of film and be celebrated for his wit, satire and genius this “new” world.

If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
-Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland 1970s

Conversations

human rightsA few years ago, I heard about a man who had been stuck in an elevator in Manhattan for five days because he refused to call for help. He was an undocumented worker who chose to stay in a dark, dangling and dangerous elevator rather than use the emergency call button. It he very well could have died in that elevator, and it appeared that he was willing to die before being sent back. That story has stayed with me over the years.

It was on my mind recently when I spent a much longer time than I wanted to discussing cases of human trafficking that have been in the local media in the past year with a dear cousin who is chronically concerned about my feminist ways.

She rolled her eyes as I shared the stories of young women and girls lured with promises, flattery, gifts and glamorous lifestyles. I explained that these women are fed fantasies of the extreme and non-stop partying that they can be a part of if they come to Antigua to dance at a bar or restaurant.

What do they expect?”

“I would never leave my country under those circumstances.”

“They are already whores where they come from.”

When they get here, these women are in instant debt. The plane ticket that was once free, now costs $3,000. Rent must be paid for meagre shared accommodations at $500/week. Food must be bought from the club at $80/day. Clothing and shoes too, at $350/outfit. All owed to the club that brought them here.

The parties are indeed non-stop but you are the entertainment, you need to make money to pay your debts and of course you want to have some money for yourself. The going rate of $50 for a dance and $300-$500 for sex can only go so far. Additionally, your passport is confiscated by your no-longer-gracious host, so even if one of these women wanted to leave, where can you go in this strange new country?

”Well, I would never give anyone my passport.”

”I told you they are whores; they are accustomed to that.”

”How could anyone be that stupid?”

My mind goes back to the man in the elevator. Like him, these women often live in horrendous situations that lead them to make desperate and risky choices. Add someone who is able and willing to exploit that desperation and you have the perfect scenario for human trafficking- modern day slavery.

Are you still trying to convince me that they don’t know what they really come here for?”

Quite honestly, I don’t care.Whether or not she anticipates that she will be a sex worker when she gets here is of little consequence to the greater issue: that she is being deprived of choice, denied of freedom of movement, and criminally exploited in general. Like I said,modern day slavery. To over look this because we’re uneasy about sex work is pretty ridiculous to me.

I left that conversation feeling misunderstood and judged. I shudder to think about what is must be like to be a woman trying to escape a trafficking situation, who can she speak to that will understand? How long will she remain dangling dangerously in her own proverbial elevator?

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