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.

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