Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tonight I had the honor of reading with Sekou Sundiata at Resistencia Bookstore. Pretty incredible experience. Not only because of being in the brilliant presence of Brother Sundiata, but because it happened in the Resistencia space, with so many other brilliant people in the room. There were several of us reading and talking within the format of Sekou's "51st (Dream) State" project. So what it looked like was like this:

Shia Shabazz read her piece "Cyanosis" and we then engaged in a conversation about motherhood and responses to the world around us

Amanda Johnston read her piece "Electric Green" and we then got into a bigger discussion about how to do and how to be with response to the crises in the world around us, how to balance a sense of urgency with pause

Lisa Moore read a really powerful piece (I'm forgetting the title right now) about memory, childhood violence and survival. And we then discussed the role of the artist in generating/preserving/shifting/embodying memory.

I read a new piece from the Lexicon series (more on that later) that I'm working on. And then we discussed spirituality, paradigm shifts and language.

Andy Johnson read from a short fiction piece about a boy's search to remember the smell of rain. We then discussed shifts in the U.S. civil rights movement, the voices of children, and then...

Rene asked us to consider the question of why 9/11 is a relevant/important moment. This is a huge part of Sekou's work with this piece. So the rest of the evening was spent discussing collective trauma, family, genocide, fragility, humanism, personal and collective memory, citizenship, the role of the artist, the role of family, empire, lynching and terror.

Check out photos from the event on Amanda Johnston's blog. We were having a deep, good time.

All thanks to Sekou's intention. So thank you, Sekou, for engaging us - all of us in the room - with this discussion. A deep, deep honor.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Dominican friend of mine shared her experience with me today about an interaction that had to do with Erzulie's Skirt. She was reading the book on the subway, when a Haitian man asked her what she knows about Erzulie. She showed him the book. He got very angry when he found out the author was Dominican, and stated something to the affect that Dominicans cannot write about Erzulie. She attempted a conversation with him about people who are attempting to confront anti-Haitian racism in the Dominican Republic, but she didn't have time. She had to get off the train.

I can't imagine how this experience was for both of them. I do know, however, how poignant it is for me. And I feel that I have to write about this incident, because it involved someone reading a book I wrote and put out in the world. I hope to generate dialogue and present an alternate truth to what we believe about nationality, race and survival on the island of Sto Dgo/Ste Domingue. A young woman at LaGuardia Community College asked me to state what the message of this book is. And on the spot, I had to condense many years of work and craft into a tiny statement. This is what I told her: Erzulie's Skirt is about our ability to love in the most desperate of circumstances. And the power of that love to transform us and each other.

Bottom line, I believe that the Dominican and U.S. governments must recognize the human rights of all peoples living within national boundaries. This includes Haitian migrant workers, the children of Haitian peoples, lesbians, gays and transgenders, poor people, dark people, indigenous people and women. And, that we as the people, must fight for what the nation state does not wish to provide.

I also believe in artists' rights to creative freedom. We must create with clear intentions, deep vulnerability and honoring our craft - and we must do so without falling into the trappings of society's violence and limitations.

And lastly, if we do things out of love for our lives and each other, we will have already changed our chances of survival.

As parting words, at the same time that I received this news from my friend, my mother sent me this article, pasted below. Yet another profound moment of synchronicity.


Dominican-Haitian Activist Hopes Award Will Help Fight Against Discrimination

Sonia Pierre was just 13 when she was arrested and threatened with deportation for leading her fellow residents of Haitian descent in a march for sugar cane-cutters' rights. In the three decades since, that lanky teenager has grown into the 6-foot tall champion of a beleaguered minority in this Caribbean nation. Her tireless work securing citizenship and education for Dominican-born ethnic Haitians has made her the target of threats here, but has earned her recognition from overseas as a fierce defender of human rights. On Friday, November 17, Pierre was to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award at a ceremony in Washington. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million ethnic Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, many in isolated village slums that dot the countryside. Most born here are descendants of Haitians who crossed the border fleeing violence or seeking economic opportunity. In 1976 when Pierre led her fellow Haitian-Dominican neighbors in a march to demand rights for those who cut sugar cane, police arrested her. She was jailed for a day and threatened with deportation to Haiti, where her mother was born. At 43, the towering Pierre's high cheekbones and weary eyes have become a public face of her people. As head of the Dominican-Haitian Women's Movement, she has garnered acclaim from abroad, including a previous award from Amnesty International in 2003. In Pierre's mountain-ringed hometown of Batey Lecheria, an hour's drive north of the capital, her efforts have helped secure government aid, including the installation of running water and electricity. Citrus trees have replaced the state-owned sugar fields where she mobilized residents to demand better pay and housing. Last year, Pierre helped shepherd a landmark case through the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which ruled that all those born in the Caribbean country must be granted citizenship and receive schooling. But as the court does not have authority to alter laws or enforce its decisions in the Dominican Republic, changes have not been implemented and even the plaintiffs are yet to receive their full court-ordered compensation.

SOURCE: International Herald Tribune

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I'm back in Austin after a fabulous week in New York City. Here are some photographs from the wonderful book party hosted by G.C. and K.D. in their lovely home. Thank you to all the beautiful amazing people who were there and in whose light I got to relish.

Lisa C. Moore and I standing up to talk about RedBone Press and Erzulie's Skirt. Note cheesy grins, mile wide. So happy.

This is me reading from Erzulie's Skirt, chapter one.

Ileana Jimenez, the photographer, and me.

Much love and peace.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yes, I am the queen of bi-weekly blog postings. So, here we go.

I am in New York City right now, having a grand time. I was in Kansas City last week, at Creating Change. So many amazing people. Got to sit next to Amber Hollibaugh for a minute (sigh) while we hung out with the folks of Left Bank Books for our signings. I even got to tell Amber how she was *the inspirational motivator* behind a lot of the organizing work I did for many years in Boston. Yes - a rare, beautiful moment. I was psyched.

Also, I got to sit in/moderate/witness incredible workshops and caucuses on issues related to sexual freedom, movement building, capacity building (what is it in the context of movement building?) and anti-Semitism/Islamophobia. Wow. Very powerful. I haven't fully digested all of these lessons and moments yet. Still spinning around many questions having to do with individual authority/organizations/movements and social change. Still digesting the profound exchanges of the anti-Semitism/Islamophobia workshop. Still vibing off of the sexual freedom interactions. I'm feeling incredibly proud and charged by all the brilliance.

On Monday I arrived in New York City in time for my debut NYC reading at LaGuardia Community College. It was a wonderful experience. I loved all the young people I met, from all parts of the world, whose enthused commitment to the moment energized me. It was kind of fun, too, to hear papers rustle as many students followed along with my reading. Not so lonely as the stage is prone to be.

On Wednesday night I read at the Noche Bohemia put on by Yoseli Castillo for the Dominican LGBT community. Beautiful energy, and such sweetness. And, as Lisa C. Moore says, lots of Spanish. It was GALDE's fifth year anniversary, and there were other fantastic performers and writers. I had such a nice time.

What's cool is that I'll have a chance to be back in NYC in February, for a few other events. One at St. John's in Queens, and the other a group reading in Manhattan. Details to follow. And between now and then, I'm going to have a couple of readings in Austin, and I'm going to be working with the fabulous Jaclyn Pryor on her brilliant performance of the year: Pink.

For now, I must work on some edits and get some sleep. SO NEW YORK!!


Monday, November 06, 2006

This past weekend, I had the honor of attending a poetry workshop with Afaa Weaver, beautiful person, wonderful poet and profound teacher. We did a couple of exercises and looked at each others' work. The Gibbous Moon Collective hosted the workshop, and afterwards, we all headed to Sam's BBQ for dinner. Good times, indeed.

*photo by Amanda Johnston

I'm on the road for the next couple of weeks. Heading to Kansas City for Creating Change - NGLTF's yearly conference. There will lots of great people there. And I hope that in addition to a book signing, I'll be doing some sort of open mic with the folks of color...maybe Thursday night.

After Sunday, it's onto NYC for me. Old haunts and all. I'm really excited to see people and to participate in a couple of events. GC was kind enough to offer her home for a book party. I'm really looking forward to that.

November 12, 2006, 12.15 - 1pm
Creating Change/Left-Bank Books Table
Westin Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1 Pershing Ave
Kansas City, MO

November 14, 2006,10.30 am - 12 noon
LaGuardia Community College
The Little Theatre, 31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, N.Y. 11101

November 15, 2006, 7pm - 9pm
Noche Bohemia at the Monkey Room
597 Fort Washington Ave & 187th Street
Washington Heights, NY

December 1, 2006, 7.30pm
Resistencia Bookstore
Austin, TX