Friday, February 29, 2008

Andrea Smith was denied tenure.

INCITE! wrote:

Andy Smith, co-founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, is a brilliant Native American scholar and organizer. Her scholarship, research, and activism has impacted tens of thousands of Indigenous people worldwide (US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern Europe) and her work provides a critical contribution to women of color movement building. Andy is the author of three books on Native American socio-history, and co-editor of the two recently published INCITE! anthologies. The Women's Studies Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she teaches, recently denied her tenure. The students and faculty at U of M are organizing the response below to this decision as well as to the status of women of color in academia. Native Feminism Without Apology! FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 25, 2008

Statement of University of Michigan Students and Faculty in Support of Andrea Smith's Tenure Case

CONTACT: TenureForAndreaSmith@gmail.com

On February 22nd, 2008, University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) issued a negative tenure recommendation for Assistant Professor Andrea Lee Smith. Jointly appointed in the Program in American Culture and the Department of Women's Studies, Dr. Smith's body of scholarship exemplifies scholarly excellence with widely circulated articles in peer-reviewed journals and numerous books in both university and independent presses including Native Americans and the Christian Right published this year by Duke University Press. Dr. Smith is one of the greatest indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time. A nominee for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Smith has an outstanding academic and community record of service that is internationally and nationally recognized. She is a dedicated professor and mentor and she is an integral member of the University of Michigan (UM) intellectual community. Her reputation and pedagogical practices draw undergraduate and graduate students from all over campus and the nation.

Dr. Smith received the news about her tenure case while participating in the United States' hearings before the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Ironically, during those very same hearings, the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that restricted affirmative action policies at UM specifically were cited as violations of international law. At the same time, there is an undeniable link between the Department of Women's Studies and LSA's current tenure recommendations and the long history of institutional restrictions against faculty of color. In 2008, students of color are coming together to protest the way UM's administration has fostered an environment wherein faculty of color are few and far between, Ethnic Studies course offerings have little financial and institutional support, and student services for students of color are decreasing each year. To

Support Professor Andrea Smith: The Provost must hear our responses! Write letters in support of Andrea Smith's tenure case.

Address email letters to ALL of the following:

* Teresa Sullivan, Provost and Executive VP for Academic Affairs, LSA, tsull@umich.edu

* Lester Monts, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, LSA, lmonts@umich.edu

* Mary Sue Coleman, President, PresOff@umich.edu

* TenureForAndreaSmith@gmail.com Write letters in support of Assistant Professor Andrea Smith's tenure case by MARCH 31ST 2008!

Voice your ideas on the web forum at http://www.woclockdown.org/

To Support Women of Color at Michigan and the Crisis of Women's Studies and Ethnic Studies: Attend the student organized March 15th Conference at UM!!!! Campus Lockdown: Women of Color Negotiating the Academic Industrial Complex is free and open to the public.

Speakers include renowned activists and scholars Piya Chatterjee, Angela Davis, Rosa Linda Fregoso, Ruthie Gilmore, Fred Moten, Clarissa Rojas, and Haunani-Kay Trask. For more information and to register, visit: http://www.woclockdown.org/.

TALKING POINTS YOU CAN USE IN YOUR SUPPORT LETTER:

• Smith is author of the following books:

- Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide

- Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances

- Sacred Sites, Sacred Rites

• Smith is editor and/or co-editor of the following anthologies:

- Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology

- The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

- Native Feminisms Without Apology

- Forthcoming on theorizing Indigenous Studies

• She has published 15 peer reviewed articles in widely circulate academic journals including American Quarterly, Feminist Studies, National Women's Studies Association Journal, Hypatia, Meridians, and the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion

• Smith is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards from organizations such as the Lannan Foundation, University of Illinois, Gustavus Myers Foundation, Ford Foundation

• Smith was cited in the U.S. Non-Governmental Organization Consolidated Shadow Report to the United Nations

• A co-founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and the Chicago chapter of Women of All Red Nations, she has been a key thinker behind large-scale national and international efforts to develop remedies for ending violence against women beyond the criminal justice system. As a result of her work, scholars, social service providers, and community-based organizations throughout the United States have shifted from state-focused efforts to more systemic approaches for addressing violence against women. In recognition of her contributions, Smith was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

• As of June 2007, Professor Smith's book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (2005) had sold over 8,000 copies. Three-fourths of these sales have gone to college and university courses. In addition, the leading Native studies organization, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, organized a special panel about this book at their last annual conference (2007). The international impact of Conquest is evidenced by its reprinting in Sami (Sweden) and in Maori Institutions in New Zealand; by Professor Smith's invitation to participate in an academic workshop in Germany based on the book; and by the book's frequent use in Native Studies classrooms in Canada.

• She has also played a key role in contributing social-justice based research, teaching, and community building at the University of Michigan.

• Under Andrea Smith's mentorship, a large number of undergraduate and graduate students have grown as intellectual members of the UM's campus community. FACTS FOR DR. ANDREA SMITH'S TENURE CASE • Her intellectual work contributes to the fields of Native American Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Religious Studies, and American Studies.• Smith is jointly appointed in the Program in American Culture and the Department of Women's Studies at Michigan.

• The Program in American Culture gave a positive recommendation for Smith's tenure, while the Department of Women's Studies gave a negative recommendation. After the tenure recommendations were released from the two departments, the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts reviewed the tenure file and also gave a negative tenure recommendation.

• She is currently the Director of Native American Studies at Michigan.

More blog discussion here:

http://brownfemipower.com/?p=2362

http://brownfemipower.com/?p=2361



Pënz hits New York City!!



I'm actually in New York City for an Astraea Board meeting. Yes, the word is getting out: I'm now on the Astraea Board. I'm very excited to work with this incredible foundation that has been at the forefront of feminist, social justice based philanthropy for the last 30 years. It's an honor, really.

While here, I'm taking the opportunity to perform Pënz, and to visit museums. Today I went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art - which I try to go to when I'm here - and saw the Ghada Amer exhibit. I'm disappointed the museum didn't put out a catalogue of her work, but it was amazing to see her paintings in person - the way the threads hang down like paint across a canvas. She also had photo stills from several installations from around the world. One in which she made a sandbox that spelled out: 70% de los pobres son mujeres - something like that, which was installed on the Rambla Raval in Barcelona.

Beautiful work.

Well, I'm off to eat some sushi from Kiku.

Peace.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

After awaking to the announcement that Castro has officially stepped away from leadership in Cuba, I walked dazed and confused into my kitchen to drink some coffee and contemplate a world without Castro's leadership. I've actually been thinking about this since August 2006, when he first got sick and I was in the D.R. wondering what kinds of shifts and destablizations might arise in the waters around us.

Ultimately, I have concluded in my short life time that the deep seat of radical social change does not rest in placing power with the nation state, but rather with the people. Call it what you want. Anarchy. Socialism. Whatever. I believe in the power of people organizing in small communities. And I don't believe in borders or the nation-state. It's not that I have always stood in this place. I would say I've been here for about 14 years. I used to be a huge nationalist - it came with the political territory in which I was raised. But, after emerging and standing on my own two feet, I have come to determine that the nation-state can only move us so far before it falls into a replication of the colonial framework that gave rise to it in the first place.

Cherrie Moraga's Mexican Medea examines this very tension between political identity and the nation-state, spiritual practice and religious ideology.

I am grateful to Castro for what he set into motion, along with the hundreds of people - including black and indigenous people - that were fighting alongside him. And, I have been disappointed with the Cuban nation-state policies and how they have affected black Cubans, and queer Cubans - best exemplified with the Marielitos. Any reading of history that reaches for truth, I believe must address the complexities, achievements and inadequacies of our deeply human social-political and economic systems. Thanks to Castro and Guevara, and the EZLN and and and all the revolutionaries throughout the continent, we have evidence, models and examples of revolutions against capitalist economic structures. And, still, I believe: we must move into even newer, more radical analyses.


All this passed through my brain as I drank my Bustelo laced with cinnamon. And then I got in my car and the first news report I heard started like this (Renee Montaine - NPR):


"This morning we look at the history of Presidents' slave chefs, and the history of African-Americans cooking for U.S. Presidents."


Huh?


And I heard his name: Hercules. Sharron Conrad goes on to discuss how Hercules cooked for the first president of the United States, George Washington. Jessica Harris states how he was noted for being a dandy (really?). And how, when George Washington returned to Mt Vernon (NY) from Washington DC, Hercules ran away. Well, yeah.


This was after the interview with Zephyr Wright, still living, who cooked for LBJ who, she states, "The first night that I met President Johnson, he was late as usual. He was always late for meals .... Now there have been times that he'd get on the phone himself and call me and ask me how long would it take to get something ready for the whole Cabinet and sometimes he'd walk in with them and you didn't even know he's coming." She goes onto to re-tell how when LBJ moved back to Texas, he expressed his regret that she wouldn't be joining him.


So, are we to remember our rightful place: as cooks in the White House? See, it's more complex than a simple binary reading of history. For one, I think it's fantastic to give name/face and place to the rich legacy of African-American chefs. But, at the same time, knowing the complexity of a time when African-American leadership is still questioned as a viable reality really makes me wonder what the producers at NPR were thinking with this segment.

Hmm...2008 - a year of many, many changes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'm so excited. Last year - this month - I read with Lenelle Moise and now we shall read again in a couple of weeks, in Baton Rouge as part of the Under the Radar speaker series at Lousiana State University. How awesome is that? Not only have we read together, but we're also both poets who have been featured in Torch.

If you're in Baton Rouge on March 7, 2008, you've got to come check us out. The venerable Afro-Latina scholar Solimar Otero will also be with us. Yeah!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The ceremony is stained on my skin
traces of smoke
forming trails in my turning.
Fire sparking night,
your visage just a step
behind the evidence of
your passing. There is a raven
in the coals,
a fly in the coffee.
None of this alters
the infinite pause of gesture
awaiting your arrival.

Thursday, February 14, 2008







In case you ever forget where I come from, take good note of these photos. We cannot underestimate the innovation that comes from limited resources. One day, I might write an ethnography on the contemporary mule: the motorcycle. I might have to dig up the photo I have of two brothers carrying a cow on the back of theirs one dawn (where they got the cow at that hour, I don't want to know!). So, next time you get the urge to put down the urban cowboy, remember that his/her motorcycle is his mule and s/he can get anything anywhere with it.

Back in the days when I had roommates, I always used to say, jokingly, "Don't forget I'm third world." whenever they stared in shock at my use of materials or tools in unexpected ways. And I am. And I appreciate the lessons from my upbringing in places with limited industrial resources (as opposed to natural resources, of which there are usually many). The original recycling. So yeah - here's one for non-linear approaches to problem solving! To innovation and the mother of all inventions: necessity.

Peace.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

So much happening today. The Prime Minister of Australia, PM Kevin Rudd - sworn in on Tuesday - issued an official apology to the Aboriginal Indigenous people of Australia. Here are some excerpts from the Parliamentary speech, which I found on the bbc.com:

Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
We reflect on their past mistreatment.
We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations -

this blemished chapter in our nation's history.
The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of

the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted

profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families,

their communities and their country.
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left

behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and

communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is

offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be

written.
We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all

Australians.
A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to

close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic
opportunity.
A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches

have failed.
A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and

with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

I agree with activists that it can't stop here, with an apology. The change must move from breath into form. And, if Australia can do this, why can't other nations do it? See, it's not too hard.

The weight of this official apology does not escape me. Especially today, following news of the loss of raulsalinas, a leader of the people who fought for most of his life for the dignity of the incarcerated, indigenous peoples, Chicanos/as, people of color and consciousness, and for a more just world.

From breath to form to breath again, we (are) transform(ed).
In tribute to the visionary leader and as Rene Valdez so aptly stated, our tender warrior raulsalinas, who transitioned this morning here in Austin, Tejas.


There are millions of people who
will say, "I knew raulsalinas."
And yes, they will all have known him.
And I have known a man
who welcomed me into this home
his arms open,
saying
we are one, you and I,
we are fighting the same fight
you and I
walk with me
know you and I can walk
with honor
with passion
with tears
with joy
with anger
this is all ours to walk with
remember
we are one
and
we remember
we are one.

I have been informed there is an altar at Resistencia Books. I am grateful.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Super size it, please...

On the way home from yet another random temp gig (which I will write about in ONE second), I was listening to the folks on NPR go on and on about superdelegates. I feel like I generally have a good memory, but why don't I remember superdelegates in prior Democratic primaries? Probably because this electoral process has done more for creating transparency than vinegar does for glass. Or maybe because this is the first time, as an unaffiliated voter, that I can vote in a primary and so I'm actually tuned into the process in a different way.

It's so fascinating.

I was in East Timor in 2000, when he stole the U.S. elections. I remember sitting around with colleagues trying to explain the, eh-hem, embarrassing truth about American electoral politics.

"What do you mean there is no direct representation?"

"Well, you see, you vote and then those votes are what direct representatives to vote and then it's called..."

And they fell out of their chairs laughing.

"You mean to tell us the most democratic country in the world has no direct democracy?"

And then I felt compelled to explain the Prison Industrial Complex and the disenfranchisement of voters of color throughout U.S. history. At which point everyone got very quiet and took small sips from their cans of VB. And then when they asked if I had voted, I had to tell them about how my absentee ballot didn't make it on time...to the New York address. That still didn't take away from the sudden realization that we might all be screwed with dude-as-president.

So, I came home and looked up the superdelegates for Austin, Texas. Not only did I find them here, I found the ones who've already pledged to a candidate, and to whom. There are some who may still be persuadable (so much for direct democracies, right? anyway...), especially those Congresspeople who, alas, are to be accountable to the electoral public. Here we go:

Ruben Hinojosa Congressman Clinton
Silvestre Reyes Congressman Clinton
Henry Cuellar Congressman Clinton
Solomon Ortiz Congressman Clinton
Gene Green Congressman Clinton
Sheila Jackson Lee Congresswoman Clinton
Sue Lovell DNC Clinton
Senfronia Thompson DNC Clinton
Norma Fisher Flores DNC Clinton
David Holmes DNC Clinton
Jim Wright Former Speaker of the House Clinton
Denise Johnson Appointed by DNC Clinton

Moses Mercado Appointed by DNC Obama
Al Green Congressman Obama
Charlie Gonzalez Congressman Obama
Eddie Bernice Johnson Congresswoman Obama

Oscar Soliz County Official Unpledged
Chet Edwards Congressman Unpledged
Nick Lampson Congressman Unpledged
Ciro Rodriguez Congressman Unpledged
Lloyd Doggett Congressman Unpledged

Robert Martinez Appointed by DNC Unpledged
Boyd Richie State party chair Unpledged
Yvonne Davis DNC
Unpledged
Al Edwards DNC Unpledged
Jaime Gonzalez Jr. DNC Unpledged
John Patrick DNC Unpledged
Betty Richie DNC Unpledged
Bob Slagle DNC Unpledged
Bob Strauss Former Chair of DNC Unpledged
Linda Chavez-Thompson Labor Add-on Unpledged
Roy LaVerne Brooks State party vice- chair Unpledged
David Hardt Young Democrats Add-on Unpledged

It changes all the time, so it's a good idea to go here to get updates: 2008 Democratic Convention Watch.

So, of course on the way home from my INCREDIBLY BORING temp gig, I got all fired up by Terri Gross. Hard to imagine, I know. It's a really boring temp gig.

BUT, I must say this: I realized, as I entered data about evil insurance companies in slow, aching streams for hours, that in the past year, my temp gigs have exposed me to all kinds of random information. I've learned a ton about insurance companies and how the stock market and natural disasters, war, epidemics, etc work together. And the loveliest part about it? It's all public information! You can download everything you ever wanted to know about how dividends rise or plummet in value. And you can even find out how many billions of dollars came home in the last quarter of 2007. It's amazing!

Or, like, the business aspects of eating off the backs of poor people who have to work to take care of their children - my job: to handle frantic parents' calls when they missed a payment and didn't know what they were going to do with their child that afternoon. I tried hard to understand the side of the business owners (it goes something like this "This is a private service, and if they don't make the payment, we can't help them. Imagine how much money we would lose if every parent who couldn't afford day care slipped their kids in?"). I think it's why I'm only a good capitalist when I play Monopoly.

Or, packing hookahs. HOOKAHS!! Why do I know how to handle a hookah? I do. Now I do. I swear that I just packed them and shipped them off with lovely scented tobacco. The warehouse employed mostly folks coming out of the criminal justice system (how FREAKING ironic is that?) and a few of us dopes who just ended up working there.

I also have learned about import-export from a purse warehouse: i.e., you're paying too much for that bag that was made by tiny, tiny hands, but anyways...cute bag.

And, lumber. So, one of my gigs was at a lumber company. I learned about seventeen different kinds of hardwoods used in construction, eight different kinds of decking (treated or not), and about where the wood originated. I had nightmares and flashes of barren, stripped forests, but hey - someone needs to supply all the tremendous amounts of construction going on in Austin's gated communities, right? And, I have to admit, I was thinking about 4 cedar log walls of my very own, too...so corruptible! I'm so corruptible!

And, it's not that I'm bitter. Working at a temp gig means I still have space in my brain for thoughts, and I get chunks of time off around particularly important deadlines. I love that about temping. It's just that - what do you do when you're a writer with a deep sense of social justice and you have to pay a light bill (cause, by the way, I don't have solar energy people)? I was in agony on Thursday when I realized that somehow, in some jacked up indirect you work for the man but in a non-committal kinda way, Halliburton is paying my temp gig salary! Excuse me - I have to go barf now.

I am a U.S. citizen living in the heart of empire after all, aren't I?

Yeah, ...in the meantime, I'm just going to keep on collecting random ass information about the world of pseudo work. Maybe write a poem about it all someday.

And this all brings me back:

Go call your Congress people, dammit. Get a semi-sane President in the White House while we have a Democratic Majority in Congress. Get the troops out of Iraq. Shut down Halliburton and put me out of a job! Get social programs refunded and get lots of artists wonderful jobs.
Get green cars and more bikes onto the road so we can get to those jobs. Put some right in the righteousness.

Or somethin'.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Almost off to spend Shabbat with the JJ's: Wow. And might I mentioned Chinese New Year: the Year of the Rat?

I just got word that Samiya Bashir published her Haiku collection, Teasing Crow Haiku, online. Check it out. I read the haiku's while listening to Marvin K White's "In the Village". It was an extraordinary experience. The music, the words...

yes. It's 6pm on a Friday and I am ready for poetry.

Monday, February 04, 2008

It's Black History Month in the U.S. of A. Here are some of the things I've been noticing/thinking about. Some of the amazing things.



Tisa Bryant's book, Unexplained Presence. This book, a collection of cultural criticisms and peeks of fiction woven together has changed the way I view films. Here's what the San Francisco Bay Guardian had to say about it:

Investigating the symbolic construction of identity and myth from the angle of art, Tisa Bryant's Unexplained Presence takes up "black presences in European literature, visual art, and film." Fusing criticism, film theory, and fiction with a keenly poetic ear, Bryant reenters cultural artifacts to open up these symbolically loaded but structurally silenced or backgrounded characters and motifs. Her stories trace the ways in which black subjectivity is distributed or denied within pictures and plots, between viewers and artworks and artists, and in acts of conversation and debate, of queer identification or refusal to see. What is most remarkable is how Bryant transforms these elisions into acts of imagination, restoring or reconfiguring partially glimpsed subjects via fleet and surprising sentences that traverse the distance between representation and meaning.


The language of "unexplained presence" entered my vocabulary - both conceptually and literally - about two years ago when Tisa first started talking about her book. Here's an excerpt to illustrate both from her piece, "In Melville's Jungle":

"The gait of the predator measured in matte fashion. Precise gray two-piece suite, brieff gloss on black leather lace-up shoes, his hand raching up in signature style to hone the edge of his brim. He's sharp, this samouri, a tiger in his solitude. Camouflaged by surfaces, masked by color palette. He lies on the bed in his shirt sleeves, ankles crossed, cupping a hot Gauloises. The walls, sheets, floor, the caged bird singing contentedly, all complement in cool earth tones before the indirect glare of white light obscuring the outer landscape, filling the window frame like a blank movie screen. The only motion we see is a snaky cloud of smoke rising from white shirtsleeves into white light toward a black-shadowed ceiling.

Young Jean-Pierre Grumbach watched White Shadows in the South Seas, listened to the first words ever heard in film: "Civilization. Civilization," and decided that he too would adventure in the human landscape and create worlds."


Add to this that Unexplained Presence was published by Leon Works Press: a press for experimental fiction and new narratives and that Leon Works is run by the brilliant Renee Gladman, author of Juice and The Activist and her new book: Newcomer Can't Swim. Evie Shockley writes:

Imagine yourself in a world in which you have to know who you are to know where you are—or is it the other way around? Welcome to Renee Gladman's Newcomer Can't Swim, a textural world that configures issues of personal agency and social relations in geographical terms. Gladman confronts us with a landscape that is constantly shifts and morphs, sometimes within the space of a sentence. Brilliantly astute witty challenging, Newcomer Can't Swim reenvisions the dangers of living, as Stevie Wonder would say, "just enough for the city."

Uh huh. I also heard that Robbie McCauley's coming to Austin on February 21st at the Off Center, to perform her piece, "Sugar" as part of the Throws Like a Girl Theatre Festival. "Sugar" examines McCauley’s struggle with diabetes as connected to slavery, war, work, romance and food. I want to see the artist who has so inspired Daniel Alexander Jones and Sharon Bridgforth. I can't wait.

Also in Austin will be Wole Soyinka's play "Death and the King's Horseman", showcased by Pro Arts Collective, February 13 - 24th at the Mary Moody Northern Theatre. And down on the Gulf Coast, the Lake Jackson Museum is hosting an exhibit on enslaved Africans in Latin America. I might have to go to the sea.

More to follow. For now, I'm off to do what I'm here to do.

Peace.


Friday, February 01, 2008


"I have no intention of retaliating or looking backwards. We are going to forget the past and look forward to the future." Jomo Kenyatta, 1964 made following Kenya's First National Elections

Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first President and a member of the Kikuyu people was also one of the forces behind the establishment of the Pan-African Federation (along with Kwame Nkrumah).

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o is a Kikuyu novelist in exile from Kenya for both his political work and insistance on writing in his native tongue, Gikuyu. He was first arrested by then Vice-President Daniel arap Moi in 1977 for his play Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want), also written in Gikuyu.

These are two of the visionaries whose narratives are embedded in the language of the Kenyan nation, whose live are inextricably linked to a legacy of revolt against British colonialism. Who suffered, have suffered persecution for their thoughts. I first and foremost bring their names into the circle.

Today I was talking with Mama C. We were talking about Kenya and both the language and reality of ethnic cleansing. That genocide and ethnic cleansing are terms that have entered our language as symptoms of a modern era beginning with the onset of the Spanish Empire 516 years ago is heartbreaking. That we are now faced with the language of ethnic cleansing with regards to yet another African nation is devastating.

How to speak of connections born of chance and circumstance? Having spent a significant part of my childhood in Nairobi, I cannot make claims to understanding the deep intricacies of Kenyan nationality, culture or politics. However, I recall my family's friend A., a member of the Luo people in Western Kenya, calling us to tell us her two eldest sons were dead. They were both poisoned by local Kikuyu authorities after their full scholarships to universities in Sweden became public. And I recall other incidents gathering in the wind, whispered to my parents at parties when the adults thought the children were not listening. Of Luya, Luo intellectuals being poisoned. Of Kikuyu sent in their place. I remember the various trips that we made across the country, and the landscapes the Masai had come to inhabit - by force: dry, arid lands. Savannah covered in flies. This was not Masai native land. The Kalenjin were also displaced by Kikuyu eager to occupy the skeletal remains of British colonialism: the homes and farms of former British merchants.

How then to understand the rage that leads to hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu fleeing Western lands, in the trails of severed limbs and charred remains? Is this a pent up rage released after 30 years of slow, spotted deaths? Who is rushing to Kenya's aide, and with what conditions? Is this a strategic political violence aimed at forcing a shift of power into the hands of another people? Is this violence funded? By whom? Or is this hunger? I repeat, is this hunger?

We cannot accept what the media has given us as truth anymore. We must search for deeper truths and more complex renderings of history. We must, must, must! I rarely speak in imperative terms, but with regards to our information and what we receive, I am becoming increasingly uncompromising about the necessary act of searching for multiple viewpoints and deeper histories.

I cannot help but wonder what will become of the brokered talks and deals proposed by Kofi Annan (to date, I have found no information of his affiliation - reports merely read "former Kofi Annan - is he speaking on behalf of the African Union? the Global Humanitarian Forum? as a member of the Global Elders? or as an independent agent brokering his power?). Will deeper truths come to light? Will the talks uncover the deeper tensions that seem to be a latent symptom of the post-colonial nation state? Will ethnic cleansing be avoided, unlike what occurred in Rwanda? Will Kenya be linked in the imaginaries of the American public to Barack Obama at this critical point in U.S. electoral campaigning in ways that are unconscionable?

Ergh. I would be lying to say I walk into this weekend without Kenya on my mind. I hold peace and a light for truth in my heart for the people of Kenya.