Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another jewel from my research on Afro-Latina Lesbians:

What kinds of conversations do we, as black women of the diaspora, need to have that will end these “wasteful errors of recognition”? Do we know the terms of our different migrations? Each others’ work histories? Our different yearnings?... To which genealogy of Pan-African feminism do we lay claim? Which legacy of Pan-African lesbian feminism? These conversations may well have begun. If so, we need to continue them and meet each other eye to eye, black women born in this country, black women from different parts of the continent and from different linguistic and cultural inheritances of the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific who experience and define themselves as black, for there is nothing that can replace the unborrowed truths that lie at the junction of the particularity of our experiences and our confrontation with history.

From Pedagogies of Crossing by M. Jacqui Alexander

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Toni Morrison's Endorsement of Barack Obama, posted yesterday Monday January 29, 2008:

Dear Senator Obama,

This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.

May I describe to you my thoughts?

I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or "new-centrist" ones are allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison

I'm finally posting a photo of the beautiful Rooted crew, from our retreat at Alma de Mujer:

Photo credit: Anel Flores

Standing from Left to Right: Senalka McDonald, Samiya Bashir, Sharon Bridgforth, Matt Richardson. Maria Limon
Sitting from Left to Right: Jennifer Margulies, Wura Ogunji, Ana-Maurine Lara, Cheryl Coward, Anel Flores

And missing is the beautiful Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The new TORCH is out:

And it is beautiful. Featuring the works of brilliant African American women.
Shit'll just come and bite you in the ass every single time. So, I decided to submit an erotica piece to "Ultimate Lesbian Erotica", right. Yeah, and I thought - let me do it under a pseudonym. I don't know why I thought this was a good idea, except that I remembered all the bad, bad, bad erotica I published when I was in my early 20s and thought - maybe I get to have a little distance from my work, and maybe I get to have another identity. My erotica identity.

So the book arrives today (yay!!). The story's in there. Let's not talk about my really bad, bad, bad pseudonym (it's "Scion Tenta" okay? and not after the car, either). But then, Wura says,

"Too bad you published under a pseudonym. Otherwise you might have gotten a bio."

I turn to the back.

"I do have a bio."

And why, WHY is my author's bio there with my pseudonym. So apparently, Scion Tenta published Erzulie's Skirt among other things. After we recovered from laughing so hard that we both fell on the floor and had to call at least five friends, I decided I just needed to take it a step further and just come out with it.

Oww. My ass hurts. In a good way. much for an erotica identity.

By the way, the story's really good.
Picture of the Day:
One wall down. Three to go. Photo from - the knock down of the wall between Palestine and Egypt.
From E-Drum: INTERVIEW: ben okri/amy tan featured in The New Internationalist
============ ========= ==

As part of her BBC radio series Devout Sceptics Bel Mooney interviewed novelists Ben Okri and Amy Tan. They talk here of their eclectic spirituality and how bereavement affected their beliefs.


I was born in the north of Nigeria, but my father and mother are from the mid-west of Nigeria. I came to London around the age of a year and a half. I was here until about seven. While here I lived, in spiritual terms, on three levels. School and its [Christian] religious education. My parents’ [African] traditional and religious beliefs. And then there was the world of my childhood, my reading and thinking...

My own form of spirituality is different from religion. One has to do with an institution, and the other with the self’s quest for the highest meaning that life can offer. It’s also quite eclectic and had to do with travelling between cultures. This made me open myself up to other religions and to other spiritual ways such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism. I took an interest in all these eastern forms. Much later I took an interest in some aspects of Judaism, and Islam, because I found something that runs through all of them and they all seem to resonate with one another.... It’s very hard to know where to seek comfort when great pain, great tragedy falls upon you, because it tends to turn your world upside down, it bursts it wide open. All the certainties that you had, and all the places that you thought could help you, don’t. And many, many things are exposed for not being deep enough in the way they were meant to help us cope with the more extreme vicissitudes of the human experience. When my mother died, for example – it was such an appalling experience, an appalling moment in my life. It was like there’s an earth inside the soul, inside the spirit.

It gets taken away completely and you're standing absolutely on air, on nothing... It is quite the most emptying experience I have ever been through. I remember at the time finding myself having to hold on to solid things like walls and lampposts, and found they weren’t solid enough. I’d lean against a tree and find it wasn’t solid enough.... All the physical things, all the things we
turn to for sustenance and support, I found to be quite hopeless and quite empty.

What it actually did was make me ask questions again about the true sustainers of the human spirit. What is it that, when these things befall us, we can rely on, we can turn to?

And it’s a really difficult question... It stripped me apart utterly, and it began a new and important journey in my spiritual and intellectual life. The religious structures, the church, helped, but not as deeply as I thought it would. This is a terrible thing to say. The reason is because at the time I experienced something very peculiar. I realized that the pastor, the priest who was speaking to me about grief, spoke to me from a book but not from experience, so he could not speak to the grief in me. He couldn’t speak to the emptiness in me because, at the time, he hadn’t gone through it himself. I can say this now with a certain amount of tranquility because about four years later his mother died and he wrote to me and said: ‘Oh my goodness, I didn’t know. That’s what you were going through at the time.’

------------ ------


My father was a Baptist minister, as were my grandfather and all my aunts and uncles. Twelve of them, all evangelists in China... My mother was a typical Chinese woman from Shanghai, meaning that she had an eclectic background of beliefs which I call ‘ultimate pragmatism’. She went to a Catholic girls’ school but also believed in Buddhism, ancestor worship, ghosts, curses, whatever worked. The beliefs that my mother had, particularly in ghosts, were kept hidden from me and she didn’t speak about them in the family until after my father died. Well, actually, when my father and brother became ill with brain tumours. That’s when she believed that the curses had fully come into force in our family, and so she couldn’t help but speak about them...

Up to that point I was very, very much involved with the Church. And I used to go to the beach on Saturdays, to Santa Cruz, and try to recruit children – and other students, teenagers, lying in bikinis, kissing boys – to come and discover a better life...

I think it was a good period of my life to have gone through that experience of absolute faith, as a truth that’s handed to you, because then I can compare with the other experience, when I lost my faith so completely.

I had believed so completely that I actually thought the miracle would happen. I felt the miracle had been promised me, that my father and brother would live... Being 15 years old, I was at that ripe age when I would become a cynic about anything. So religion was the prime thing for me to reject. And I had all the reasons to reject it. When I lost my father and my brother, I realized I
could not trust in any set of beliefs or absolute truths that had simply been handed to me. I had to ask questions too.

I have to discern what the truth is for me. And whatever my truth is, it’s not one I would try to impose on anyone else, because the questions are very, very particular, very specific to me. That’s what I think.

All of us have to pay attention to how we impose our ideas on others in the belief that the consequences will be better for the rest of the world. After 11 September we all know what this means. As Americans, we can see how our views on how to improve the world – which perhaps we have imposed on others – have led to a backlash. As a writer, I don’t have any general beliefs that I would want to give anybody, any bits of advice, any absolute truths.

Reprinted with permission from Devout Sceptics: Conversations on Faith and Doubt with Bel Mooney, by Bel Mooney, Hodder and Stoughton, 2003.

Ben Okri’s books include the Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road, Songs of Enchantment, Dangerous Love, Infinite Riches and Arcadi.

Amy Tan’s books include the international best-selling The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses and The Bonesetter’s Daughter.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Today, MLK's official government-recognized day (the institutionalization of protest demands???), I call out justice for the Jena 6. And I refer folks to Amanda Johnston's posting on the history of voting in the U.S. And lastly, I post word about a performance that asks us to consider exactly what citizenship means in these bodies in this day and age.

NOTE: This performance was post-poned as of Tuesday January 22, 2008!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

So I'm working on a paper (among other things) about Black Latina Lesbians. It's interesting. More on that later. But one of the things I'm considering is the place of the imagination/imaginery (thank you M.R.!!) and I came across this discussion, which was a conversation hosted by the Alternative Law Forum. It's a conversation led by Naisargi Dave, with respondents Surabhi Kukke and Siddharth Narrain. I was so happy to read it, I had to share a few jewels from this wonderful conversation.

ND: People begin to become activists, because they have an ethical orientation to the world. They act because they nurture ethical ideals of what the world ought to look like. By saying that the world ought to look differently than it does, even that one law ought to look differently than it does, is an ethical orientation to the world that imagines an impossibility. They act in part because they desire the practice of new freedoms, relationships, sexual affairs and so on that they can only imagine new models for, but still strive to enable. But the political institutions that activists must engage in order to effect these transformations that they seek are far from conducive to the cultivation of these kinds of radical imaginings.


ND: And he [Arnold Davidson] argues further that Foucault’s work about this ‘aesthetics of existence’ is nowhere more widely brought out than in his daily life, something that did not get enough press – about the radical potential of contemporary homosexual practices. “ Another thing to discuss is the tendency to relate the problem of homosexuality to the problem of ‘who am I?’ what is the truth of myself? What is the secret of my desire? ‘ Perhaps it would be better to ask oneself he said, ‘what relations through my homosexuality can be established invented, multiplied and modulated?. The problem is not to discover in oneself, the truth of one’s sex but to use one’s sexuality henceforth to arrive at a multiplicity of relationships”. i.e. not to figure what relationships one is supposed to have if one is gay, but to use that queerness as a reason and a possibility to invent.


SK: Being queer in the 1990s meant two things. It meant that we partied really hard and that we fought really hard. By fought I mean we were a small group of really angry young people, and to bee queer was to be an activist.


Monday, January 14, 2008

There is something to learn from everyone and everything. This weekend, I learned about deep love from a group of writers/artists/brilliant visionaries as we came together and worked to plan the next stage of our creative processes...more on that later.

For now, if you're going to be in NYC at the end of the month, swing by these off the chain events featuring the works of African-American poets:

Wed. Jan. 30, 2008 - 10 p.m.
2nd Annual Cave Canem Fellows Reading
The Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery, New York, New York
$10 cover charge.
Fellows Michelle Berry, DeLana Dameron, Jacqueline Johnson, LaTasha Nevada Diggs, Krista Franklin, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Richard Hamilton; Myronn Hardy, Randall Horton, Marcus Jackson, Amanda Johnston, Jacqueline Jones LaMon, January O'Neal, Ernesto Mercer, Dante Micheaux, Indigo Moor, Nicole Sealey, Shia Shabazz, Evie Shockley, and Bianca Spriggs take a poetry marathon to New York City’s literary hot spot
Thur. Jan. 31, 2008 - 6 p.m.
The Affrilachian Poets @ The Nuyorican Poets Cafe
236 East 3rd Street, between Avenues B and C
New York, New York
$7 student
$10 general
Featuring: Kelly Norman Ellis, Ellen Hagan, Parneshia Jones, Amanda Johnston, Hao Wang, Mitchell L. H. Douglas, Bianca Spriggs, Natasha Marin, Marta Miranda and special guest Rane Arroyo.
Learn more about the Affrilachian Poets at
Download the flier at:


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

So it's a New Year. 2008. I've figured out that the year is about BALANCE. A Libra year let's say. There are a lot of things to learn about balance.

A child hood friend of mine with whom I recently reconnected shared something with me that has lingered ever since I hung up the phone. She's deaf, was born deaf, but has had hearing aids her entire life. As she's gotten older, there's a hardening of the silica in her ear that has started to affect her balance as well as her hearing. Her age is bringing out new challenges to her physicality. What really blew me away though is that she operates a bike repair shop. And rides bikes. She's always been that way - unstoppable. And completely upfront and direct about stuff, too. So she tells me she's having to learn how to balance again, because of age and the changes it's brought about in her body. And it made me think about my body and physicality and the new things I've had to learn about myself as I get older, too. Balance.

Why do we assume that the only time we learn how to walk is in that first year?