Friday, March 28, 2008

Last night, Angie Cruz, Nelly Rosario and I read as part of the Hemann Sweatt Symposium at UT-Austin. From Island to Mainland: Three Authors from the Dominican Diaspora in Texas. The Symposium is focused on relations between Black Americans and Latin@s in the U.S., particularly in Texas. For me, this was a very special event - it was a moment to sit in our politics, and our visions as artists in the world.

But, one of the questions that stuck with me actually came from a comment Angie made right before we started. She was talking about asking her students to identify major events from their lifetimes - aka the 1990s - and today, I spent the entire day recalling major world events from the 1990s. So here's my challenge to you: today, name 10 major world events from the 1990s that you recall. I'll give you my list, too:

1. The First Gulf War (1991)
2. The assassination of Rabin (1995)
3. The Rodney King beating & L.A. Uprising(1992)
4. Internet boom (1998 - 2000)
5. HIV Drug Cocktails (1996)
6. Contract on America (1996)
7. Ollie North ran for office
8. Rwanda (1994)
9. Mandela was freed (1994)
10. East Timor declared its independence (1999)

Go on - what do you remember?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Small victories loom large:

PHILADELPHIA - A federal appeals court on Thursday said former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal cannot be executed for murdering a Philadelphia police officer without a new penalty hearing.

by KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press Writer

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What I did this past weekend:

Garden at Alma de Mujer
Gardens need a lot of love and tending and attention. This past weekend, on March 22, 2008, about 15 students (and their friends as well as their professor) from UT-Austin came out to Alma and worked their butts off. I've posted some "before and after" shots so you can see all the work that was accomplished:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ana-Maurine Lara, Lenelle Moise, Solimar Otero
photo by Eddie Harris

It's been a little over a week since I returned from Baton Rouge, where I read at LSU along with Lenelle Moise & Solimar Otero, fierce phenomenal women poets/performers/scholars/thinkers. It was such a great time. Our hosts: Myriam Chancy & Kristen Hogan showed us around Baton Rouge, and I even had the opportunity to watch a performance of Eduardo Machado's Broken Eggs, directed by Femi Eumi.

Myriam Chancy Kristen Hogan

photos by Eddie Harris

Now, the amazing thing about Baton Rouge itself is - and this was my first visit there ever - the way in which the city sleeps next to the Mississippi, its trees sagging and dripping over the streets and colonial style houses. Near the Capitol building the trees were covered in
Mardi Gras beads.

Photo by Alex Brandon, AP

The beads could have easily been misconstrued as trash, but something about the way they looked made me think of lights and bottles in trees - which I like. I like the ways lights look in trees. And I like the way the beads look in the trees. Like magic. Weeks after Mardi Gras, and shining in the rain.

That was on our way back from going up to the deck in th
e Capitol building, from where we could look out over Baton Rouge. Over the Mississippi River, over the oil refinery and its clouds - all the way out to LSU. There, we discovered stuffed animals - tigers, alligators (no panthers), and a decks of playing cards. There was a row of them: Civil War Regalia, Civil War Battle Sites, etc., etc. At the very end of the row was a set titled "Black Women in American History". The older Black gentleman behind the counter informed us, after we asked him if it was any good, that "Sure it is - if you don't know your Black History."

Pënz, Art Day 17, Twilight

So, this past week, just yesterday actually, I went to the Jorge Macchi show at the Blanton. I had learned about it from Jen's blog, and decided to go check it out. And I'm SO GLAD I did.

I love conceptual art. Whether its in the form of words, music, visual material, video, etc, I LOVE IT!!! And Jorge Macchi is brilliant at conceptual art. He's obsessed with the infinite. As with parallel realities, which could possibly be read as a non-Euclidean application of theories of the infinite. I couldn't decide what thrilled me more (as an artist and an audience): his music box piece - a continuous loop of cars on a highway, in which the cars formed "notes" on the "score" put to sound OR his piece "Parallel Lives" in which he broke two pieces of glass - and their breaks are identical. Say what?!

So yeah. That's the goings on along the road. This coming week is the Spring Equinox, and with it, the world will shift again.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

From Mama C. And no, not late at all.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Eight. Seven. Thousands. Millions. I'm losing count. I know I shouldn't. I know that Yom Hashoah will soon be upon us, and the names will be read so that we do not forget. But I'm losing count. Of all the bodies becoming sand, becoming mortar and sedimentary layers to this bloody colonial and post-colonial history. How could the earth not revolt with all the blood feeding its soils, soils which are then quickly cemented over like tombs? How could the skies not open up with all the ashes of ancestors reaching for the Sun, like faces turned to warmth in the darkness? How could the water not revolt, with all the weights in its depths.

I haven't lost sight of my ideals. A world where everyone can have food to eat...more importantly, that we all have a space of land in which to grow this food. Clean water. A shelter that keeps us warm. Access to the wonders of knowledge, history, art and human exchanges. Healers to tend to our wounds. These are not, at first glance, seemingly impossible. And then I recall Israel-Palestine. Lebanon. Iraq. Afghanistan. The Sudan. South Africa. Nigeria. Colombia. Haiti. The occupied United States. And I remember the thousands. millions (I'm losing count) of people without food, clean water, shelter, or access to knowledge, history, art or healing medicine. For whom these ideals don't just feel impossible, but right now, actually are.

I wish my heart's desires could outweigh the desires of those who wage war in my name. Yes, this is the idealist in me. But, I'm also clear it's just a wish.

How to restore the spirit? I learned from a wise friend, that sometimes, in addition to the fight, I must also remember the celebration.

Last night, I went to a talk with Analouise Keating - someone who has arduously documented and discussed the works of Gloria Anzaldua. Last night she spoke of "status quo stories" and "nepantla". Keating came up with the notion of "status quo stories" - stories/narratives that are spoken to justify things as they have always been. Like, "We've always used water from that well (even though now it's toxic) because that's just the way it's always been." And then she spoke of Anzaldua's "nepantla" - a Nahuatl word for the site, the body, the space in which bridge-crossing happens, in which transformation becomes possible, in which borders are crossed. Keating was discussing the need for a transformation in (inter)disciplinary thinking in the academy. But I think her concepts are useful in life: when do we make the choice to retreat behind our borders, and when do we choose to cross into an un-defined center, a space in which all is possible?

This talk came at a time when I am finally able to put language to my aesthetic: My aesthetic is that of transgression. Transgression of rules, norms, forms, expectations, history, and all of that. An aesthetic that lives in the undefined cracks. Yes. That's where I like to live. I'm finally clear about that.

After Keating's talk, I went to a student production of Machado's "Broken Eggs". It was a hard play to watch, here in Baton Rouge. Knowing that the Director, Femi Euba - a highly lauded Nigerian Director - had probably struggled with the young, white cast for a basic respectability. His staging was fantastic. The play's text is brilliant - highly critical of class, gender, heterosexuality, race, anti-Semitism and nationalism. Yet, I sat in my chair aware that the actors were not able to be vulnerable enough to give the Latin@ characters dignity. And that the audience was laughing at moments of anti-Semitism that were actually not intended to be funny, but rather, were moments meant to illuminate and critique the ways in which whiteness has been constructed in this country.

Oh, I could go on, but my hosts here in Baton Rouge are preparing an egg salad sandwich and I'm going to go help them make it. And try to keep my idealism in tact. Even though I've lost count. I've lost count.