Monday, March 10, 2014

Wow. I stumbled on this tonight, skimming through the TV channels.

What I appreciated was the complexity of the backstory.

I entered on the scene where he tells Mr. Corey (Sammy Davis Jr) threatens to kill the Rifleman (Chuck Connors) for taking the marshal’s badge and robbing him of the opportunity to avenge his father's death.

The Rifleman’s son tries to save his father from Mr. Corey’s threat to kill him. The boy and Mr. Corey speak of an un-marked grave in the cemetery. Lucas states that he plants flowers in the grave; Mr. Corey states that that is his father’s grave. That when he was Lucas’s age, two drunken trail hands showed up and started attacking two Indian women. His father sent him to go get the marshal, and when the marshal saw what was going on, he turned around and let the trail hands continue with what they were doing. The trail hands killed his father. Mr. Corey has come back to avenge his father’s death by killing the marshal.

But the Rifleman – a white man – won’t stand down. They have their face off, and the Rifleman kills Mr. Corey. But not until after the boy stands forward and tells Mr. Corey that he will find him and hunt him down should he kill his father. As Mr. Corey lies dying in the marshal’s arms, he turns to Lucas and says, “Flowers,” and then quickly dies.

From this moment in 2014, it was startling to see this articulation from a show that was aired in 1962. When the cost of black-indian alliances in the face of white authority and negligence, in the context of the American West, were made visible.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Happy 2014!

It's been forever since I've been a regular on blogger. For most of 2013, I was in the Dominican Republic - conducting dissertation research and working hard on planting seeds for the future.

2013 was also a year of mudslides...a lot of changes in my own life, and a lot of changes in the world - some good, some a little not so good.

On the good side: I am now in Eugene, Oregon, all the way in the piney, foggy Northwest. I still feel as though I just arrived yesterday, even though it's been a little over five months. The food here is amazing (love organic!) as is nature. And, soon, I will emerge from the PhD fog and enter local writing life. I am excited to check out the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, as well as all of the author readings and literary events in the area.

So, now that I've had a year to go through some geographic changes, I am on the other side, and ready to let folks in to the upcoming, exciting changes ahead.

It's so exciting!

On the writing front, there are three new exciting publications with which I am both happy and proud:

An excerpt from my second novel came out in the collection, Dialogues Across Diaspora, : Women Writers, Scholars, and Activists of Africana and Latina Descent in Conversation, has been out and circulating. Congratulations to the editors Marion Rohrleitner and Sarah E. Ryan for this awesome collection of Diaspora voices! 

MTorch interview with Natasha Trethewey was re-published in the collection of interviews Conversations with Natasha Trethewey, edited by Joan Wylie Hall. Not only was it an honor to interview Natasha Tretheway in the first place, it's incredible to see all of what she gives to us through all of her interviews. Fellow Cave Canem poet Remica L. Bingham's interview is also included, as are conversations with Rita Dove, Alan Fox and many other folk.   
And, after four years of writing, presenting, editing and hard work, my essay about Sharon Bridgforth's brilliant performance piece, Delta Dandi, is now out and available in the anthology Diasporic Women's Writing of the Black Atlantic: (En)Gendering Literature and Performance, edited by Emilia Maria Duran-Almarz and Esther Alvarez-Lopez. 

In this essay, titled "'i think i might be broken': The Reconstitution of Black Atlantic Bodies and Memories in Sharon Bridgforth's Delta Dandi" I incorporate my interviews with Sharon in a discussion about how she - as a queer black artist - changes our sense of time and place, and how queer black artists, in general, play a role in the regeneration of creation. Check it out!  

And last - but certainly not least by any means, 2014 begins with the guest edited issue of Aster(ix) Journal. In this issue, there are a series of literary pieces, poems and essays by the participants of the Transnational Black Feminist Retreat which took place in the Dominican Republic in March 2013. We did not know how critical this gathering would be, at the time, but since the September 23, 2013 Tribunal Court's ruling in the D.R., now more than ever, these voices provide critical interventions in the tides of history, in the waves of repression and in the new efforts to once again erase our Afro-descended presence from the Dominican Republic's past and future.  

The Aster(ix) issue also includes a calling - in by Dowoti Desir, one of the elders who joined the Mexica delegation that visited the Dominican Republic in August 2012. The Mexica elders are guardians of the traditions of the Mexica/Azteca people in Mexico and the United States. Dowoti is an activist, priestess and guardian of Haitian traditions. Her presence and contributions were profoundly important in the work we did together to establish relationships between Afro-Indigenous communities in the D.R. and these Native communities of the mainland. We are also happy to include her voice in this issue.  

On the a little not so good side...

The September 23, 2013 Tribunal Court ruling in the Dominican Republic was devastating to hundreds of Dominican activists, artists and scholars whose constant work over the past 20 years has focused on the re-construction and restitution of Afro-Dominican identities in history, culture, religious practices and traditions;
on the human and civil rights of dark-skinned Dominicans, particularly those of Haitian descent, but also those of Jamaican and Virgin Island descent, as well as the descendents of nascent maroon communities; on the human and civil rights of Haitian migrant laborers and their children; on the human and civil rights of poor people, agriculturalists and laborers. It's also devastating to the people who are directly affected by the ruling.

There is no other way to say it: the D.R. is currently f**d. The court ruling not only justifies the de-nationalization of thousands of Dominican citizens, it also revoked equal labor rights for women, and permanently criminilized abortion. It sustains a return to a fascist, authoritarian regime, under single party rule, in which the bodies, souls, homes and communites of Afro-descended and indigenous people are once again violated and destroyed, and in which women's bodies are made increasingly vulnerable to the will of the state. Dominican activists are on alert.

And now more than ever, there is a need African Diasporic presence and black witnesses to this new wave of destruction and devastation - not tourists, witnesses. People on the ground don't need the Diaspora to tell them what to do, they need a shoulder, a hand, and eyes. After talking with activists in the D.R. in December, I have heard over and over again that what is needed is best exemplified with the pressure exerted by activists through Caricom. What is needed are statements of solidarity with black Dominicans, and in particular Dominicans of Haitian descent. The collective statement featured in the Aster(ix) issue is a stand in solidarity with those whose lives, livelihoods and futures are deeply affected by the September 2013 ruling.  

The people we met with during the Transnational Black Feminist Retreat in March 2013 were in the midst of the struggle for the human and civil rights of Afro-descended and Haitian descended peoples, as well as in the fight for women. The new issue of Aster(ix) - due out January 16, 2014 - provides only a few momentary insights into a profound, shared experience in which compartiendo with our Afro-descended sisters and brothers in the D.R. was critical.

What lies ahead...

This year, 2014, I will be launching a fundraising campaign for Cantos - my decade long project - in which I am collaborating with visual artist and writer Youmna Chlala and musician John Savage. The entire thing - the manuscript, the visual art and music - will be presented in January 2015...look out for more details.

And, keep a look out for news of my new business - Source Writing & Editing Services. - set to launch later in Spring 2014. I am super excited about it, and can't wait to send out more info. But for now, I'm just happy to be in the New Year!

In any case, this is what's up. I hope to be blogging with greater frequency as I emerge from PhD fog and into the big wide wonderful world.  Hope to see you soon, too.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Big Boi**
            ~for Trayvon Martin

The first time the dog ran free 
it searched the bushes for scraps of meat
perhaps a piece of fruit.
Not that he was hungry, he was simply
a dog.
Victory at the bend: the perfect loot
a rind of watermelon, a pork bone, still warm.

The second time the dog broke loose
he returned to this site of riches.
A man peered through the window
following his every move, noting 
how he growled at squirrels, still 
a dog.
Busy with the chicken bones and bread
he did not notice the man, or the noose.

The third time the dog jumped the gate
he wandered cautiously, left 
the neighborhood ending up 
at the corner store.
He walked home with half 
a hot dog,
mustard flecks on his paw. 
He was fulfilled.

And it was in that moment,
that a dog
a hot dog
that the man called his name, 
called his name
and he turned:
the bullet killed him, instantly

**Big Boi is the name of the dog that threatened George Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie. It was Zimmerman's provocation for purchasing a gun and patrolling the neighborhood. Read more here. This poem was written during a Cave Canem Fellowship Retreat, June 2012.  

This past Sunday afternoon we - a group of colored folk - sat in a park listening to the white DJ - DJ foodstamps (yes, i said dj foodstamps) spin 1980s r & b. In contrast with the white folk around us- some who were hula hoop dancing or just being the white-girl-on-the-stage moving to her own internal "freedom song" we were crowded together around a blanket, talking about the incomprehensible, the unspeakable, the indigestible verdict . Zimmerman was acquitted - on ALL counts. How? Was not so much the question as was Again?  and "He wasn't even a cop?" C., said, "I can't even talk about it, because it hurts too much to think about my baby boys." She instead shared an anecdote about Jame Foxx. The one where he is a young man, younger than Trayvon Martin was, when he went to perform music at a party in a white home in Texas. His grandmother, who was a domestic, had prepared him: "when you are in the presence of white folk, you are nothing more than furniture." Jamie Foxx talks about this moment as a pivotal point in his life, as a moment in which he knew he had to "get out".  This was a necessary lesson. A lesson like watching my friend F., in 2008, show her black son that he was never to look white folk in the eyes.

While we sat in the park speaking through our horror, all around the United States people were marching in protest, but here we were- in our own form, taking space in a world that is - after Saturday - seeming that much less hospitable. The heads and tails of the hydra we know as racism are ever changing. They are vicious, and poisonous. And it is a Herculean task to cut off the heads. I have always sensed this, but have not felt it so clearly until now: until witnessing this moment. This "yet again" moment.

Did I mention that we were sitting in a park in Eugene, Oregon? And that there were two children of color amongst us. One is a little boy wearing a unicorn costume. The other is his older sister, who meticulously sewed, glued, and assembled her costume fashioned after a female superhero. While we spoke about the injustice shaking us to our bones, about our fears for our children, for our nieces and nephews, these two beautiful, innocent children played on the swings. The unicorn boy a protagonist in the superhero's cellphone video. Her baby brother always the biggest hero.

As we drew comparisons, we reflected on our collective memory of other brown-explicitly black- boys and men who had been beaten or executed by cops, the system, white supremacy. We stumbled on this list unexpectedly, searching for one name from the early 1990s that we all knew but could not recall. We shouted out is it "Sean" no. "Amadou" no. "Oscar" no. "Rodney" no. "James" no. "Patrick" no...Somewhere, the case of a Florida black woman who was given 20 years for firing warning shots.

The difference this time was that Zimmerman wasn't even a cop. He wasn't officially part of the system. The system had made him unofficially theirs.  As we were naming, listing, grasping - always first names like "Emmett" - I was recalling images from the photo book I had seen on an acquaintance's table just that morning. The book is called Black Power, Flower Power and it featured photos - juxtaposed images - of black folk in their communities during the 1960s Black power movement, next to images of white folk dancing, high, and laughing, their bodies fluidly entering the camera's gaze- Haight Ashbury or the parks just behind them. I looked around. Here we were - differently colored folk, intensely discussing the shooting of young black man while a white woman danced in a hoop just 50 yards from where we were sitting.

Where the f**k was I?  I took some deep breaths.  

As I entered Eugene, Oregon on Friday, after a 10-day cross country drive, I kept turning the radio dial in the car between different public radio stations. I like public radio, especially when I am driving. And, as we moved in and away from radio towers, I was on the search for the clearest station. In the end, I was listening to two completely different radio conversations. One conversation was about Zimmerman's trial. The second was about Eugene's Oregon Country Fair, started in 1968 by hippies and run by free spirits ever since. Here I was, living the juxtaposition. Eating my nails as the jury went in for deliberations, scratching my head as I listened to folks talk about the great music and dazzling creativity amongst the pine trees. The music was winding down. It turned out, we were the only folk left in the park. New folks had joined us. White folk. So now, the conversation had turned to summer trips and plans for the Fall. I held my heart.

I have had a political conscious my entire life. Don't ask me why or how. Since I was a little girl, I have been aware of injustice. And, as I have grown older, I have developed my analysis and have been challenged and pushed to go deeper, deeper and always deeper. My life's work has continuously centered around the question of what it means to be free. As someone who has experienced a lot of different forms of violence on a personal level, my life's work has also been about balancing cynicism with innocence. About finding beauty in a world that is beautiful, and which we tarnish. I don't want to be cynical. Maybe, I might like the hula hoop. And I would love to be a unicorn, innocent, all the time. But, there is a sense of urgency that pushes into my stomach. Like our small hero that day, the costume comes off, and the movie ends and we return to the reality that our children of color, with all their beauty and brilliance, are deeply vulnerable. They are growing up in an increasingly diverse society, in which the Hydra of White Supremacy has grown new heads. In which black boys cannot look at white folk in the eyes, and in which - at one point or another - our children may run the risk of being shot down with Skittles in their hands by someone who wins on a case of self-defense. A society in which the fabricated identity of "Hispanic" confuses people into thinking that racism is that obvious and complete.  

As I watched the superhero and the unicorn, as I listened to the desperation in all of our voices - all us colored folk in a field of white hippies (and some of us also hippies) far from a critical mass necessary to start our own protest - I struggled to conjure that which had seemingly fallen out of our grasp:Justice. Justice. Justice. Justice. Justice. Just...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Demonstration of the Earth's Sphericity in the 13th century
Gautier de Metz
(Eduardo Galeano - Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone)

Arab maps still showed thes outh on top and the north below, but by the thritenth century Europe had reestablished the natural order of the universe. 
     According to the rules of tha torder, dictated by God, north was up and south was down.
     The world was a body. In the norht lay the limpid countenance, eyes raised to heaven. In the south lay the musky nether parts, populated by filth and by dark beings named antipodes, the reverse image of the luminous inhabitants of the north.
     In the south, rivers ran backwards, summers were cold, day was night, and the devil was God. The sky was black, empty. All the stars had fled north.

Two years ago, I was walking from a pub in New Haven, after having shared a beer with a colleague. We were talking about cartography and the reformulation of time, space and knowing.

"What if, instead of north/south/east/west, the axis of space was red/green. What if time was simply marked by pockets of space and vice versa?"
"You must be smoking."
"No, I'm not actually."

I think, looking back, that what he couldn't believe was that I was suggesting that time and space - cartography - is not the only substance of itself. That these elements are perhaps deeper than history. I was thinking about elders who talked to me about the east being north - that the sun marked the direction of time - and the moon its habits. I was thinking about my own experience of time as seven year cycles, in which geography widened or shortened as dust, trees, hills and valleys see fit. I was thinking about my own discomfort at having to live within the confines of Imperial Cartesian planes: time and space according to colonialists and the Catholic Church - and the zero set to London. I was thinking about how entire cultures are eliminated once you have extinguished their center, their north, their language for time and their geographic space markers.  I was not, actually, smoking.  I was thinking about the process by which time gets reconfigured - shaping our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our memories, our relations to new rhythms. I was thinking about the metronome and the flattening of sound. And, how sound is color is vibration is light. And yeah: what if we understood ourselves in a whole other way? Which some of us do, in fact.

Then today, I stumbled upong Galeano's story, a small selection of a much larger collection of made up stories based on "truth". Another kind of history. Something he is really good at doing. And, I thought to myself: If it's been done before, it can be done again - right? What will time and space and the world look like 100 years from now? Where will its center be? And its edges?

Mappa Mundae (date unknown)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I can´t hold back anymore. I can´t. Halas. So, I am just going to have to say it.

We need a broader lens on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As Israel is bombing Palestine, the U.S. maintains troops in Iraq, deploys more troops to Afghanistan, attacks Pakistan with drones and has prisoners of war locked up on U.S. and foreign territories in the ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom aka the War on Terror. Neither the U.S. nor Israel has formally declared war, however, weapons of mass destruction (including bombs, missiles, and heavy artillery and no I don´t believe that nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction) are involved, and every day there are reports of dozens of people dying as a result of U.S. and Israeli attacks.

In the last two years, numerous countries throughout North Africa and Southwest Asia have experienced political resistance, and military destabilization in places as far apart as Libya, Yemen and Syria. Syria is currently in a Civil War. And, in the midst of all of this there is Occupied Palestine.

There is no coincidence, but rather a long historical trajectory of complicity, anti-Semitism and anti-Arab (most explicitly anti-Muslim) racism going on here. Israel, to me, is an outpost of the ailing British and emerging American empires at the middle of the 20th century. Sure, Zionism was used as the ideological framework for what was really an imperial incursion. When Jews were shipped there to occupy Palestinian territory following the horrors of the Holocaust (because, let´s remember that the neither the U.S. nor Europe was willing to absorb the Jews who were fleeing or survived the concentration camps), Zionism became a really handy tool to justify the displacement of millions of Palestinian families: Christians, Muslims AND Jews who were living there under British occupation. Palestine was a British colony until 1947 (let us remember this). And it is the preceding European anti-Semitism, and Russian anti-Semitism that serves as a grounds for Jews to justify their actions - unjustifiably. That is the first part of what I have to say.

Because I am not for Zionism as it has been used and applied, and I am squarely against the Occupation, but not at the cost of Jews.  The right wing Jews in the U:S (you know who you are ADL) have conflated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism long enough. I say, ¨Maspeek¨, ¨halas¨' ENOUGH. As Jews we cannot be socially irresponsible enough to conflate our Jewish religious and cultural identities with an oppressive, nationalist and imperialist project that at the center of all things, does not have the lives of Jews nor other Semites in mind. That allows the death and displacement of other peoples. That contributes to GENOCIDE. ENOUGH.

It´s like gang wars, people. The only ones who suffer are those of us who live together, the people of color. We kill each other in the interests of those who make money off of our deaths. So, okay - that´s a micro level comparison. Let us get back to the bigger picture.

I say this to all of my friends and loved ones who are protesting the Occupation, and Israel´s abominable violence and genocide against the Palestinians: as U.S. citizens, we are complicit on multiple levels. Our own government has been enacting this same kind of violence for almost 10 years now in Iraq, and over 10 years in Afghanistan. The U.S. has over 100 years occupying Native lands, and we are complicit. We must maintain a clear focus on the injustices occurring in Palestine, while not forgetting that this injustice is part of a larger trajectory of structural violence, militarized imperial expansion, and private elite commercial interests.

Why would Netanyahu have done this without the possibility of thinking he is right in doing so? What are all the components of the machinations in place that has allowed for the Israeli defence minister to say, with a straight face, ¨We are only targeting Hamas, while Palestinians are targeting civilians.¨ I mean, she did. She really did.

So the second part of my rant, my vent is: we need a narrower lens on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We need to understand the daily violences experienced by Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers and citizens. We need to understand the pain of displacement and theft. We need to understand the violence of the bantustan. We need to understand the violence of the wall (built like the U.S. Mexico wall, yes, indeed). We need to understand the violence of the checkpoint. And the missile. And the dead, the dead, the dead. We need to understand the resistance of the Palestinian and Israeli people.

All cannot be handed over to history. We, right now, can make history. We can shape it, make it do something different. To be Jews who hold the moral right of life and justice for all peoples. To be U.S. citizens who hold our government accountable, and demand an immediate withdrawal of troops from around the world, and fair trials for prisoners of war.  To be U.S. citizens and/or Jews who demand that the U.S. government stop its imperial support for an Occupying Israeli state, and that the U.S. government -like the Canadian and Australian government - acknowledge the genocide of the First Nations peoples.

That there be justice is not a a mere fact of history, but rather a conscious act by hundreds and millions of hearts.

Friday, March 02, 2012

I remember a really stupid thing I did back in 1999. Some friends and I were camping on the island of Culebra, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Culebra used to be a US military base (like Vieques) until 1975 when the residents of the island successfully managed to have them removed. The military left, and left behind all of their undetonated charges, their tanks and other good things like that. We knew this, but that didn't stop us from taking a "three hour hike" - which actually turned into 8 hours - around the island's tip. We did run across undetonated charges. We saw lots of other things, too, which were heartbreaking. We also heard the military tests on Vieques that killed Daniel Sanes. We heard them and didn't know yet what they were. But there we were, across the water. Hiking through US military detritus.

And now that the military has moved off of Vieques, destroying the local ecosystem and causing conditions that increased health problems for the local residents, they want to move to the neighboring island of Santo Domingo - Kiskeya - and they want to set up a military base on the isla Saona.

Here are some facts (garnered from the petition):

Saona Island is home to several endemic, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species (Abreu & Guerrero 1997), most notably the Hispaniolan Parrot (Amazona ventralis) and the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). the Hispaniolan Parrot is categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 2010), Currently, the Hispaniolan Parrot is categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 2010), while the Hawksbill Turtle is categorized as Critically Endangered by the same entity.

Over 112 bird species have been found, 8 species are endemic to the island, 11 species endemic to the Caribbean; including the White Crown Pigeon declared as extinict by the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN). Amongst other species of animals in danger of extinction, you can also find the Manati on the Island of Saona.

It is also of extreme importance to highlight that every year, between December and April, around 3,000 humpback whales come to breed in the warm waters off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Until recently it was believed that only 85% of Atlantic humpback whales are born in Dominican waters and return annually to mate and reproduce. But a recent study revealed that all populations of the North Atlantic come to breed in our waters.

My heart is breaking. I couldn't handle the base in Vieques. I remember crying as we climbed over a ridge and spotted a field of abandoned tanks in Culebra. Why does the US need a military base on Isla Saona?