Archive for June, 2008

Yep, we’re gonna kick it old school for this last one… there were way too many to pick from … so this may just roll over into July.

Stevie Wonder – Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – Dancing in the Street

Martha and the Vandellas – Jimmie Mack

Al Green – Take Me to the River

Al Green – I’m So Tired of Being Alone

Gladys Knight & The Pips – Midnight Train to Georgia

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Please go over to Womanist Musings to read about the Saartjie Project, a collective of artists and activists using community theater to explore politics around the black female body.

In the 19th century, Saartjie Baartman, a Khosian woman who became known as the “Hottentot Venus” was put on exhibit in Europe as a freak of nature because of her greatly enlarged buttocks (due to a medical condition) and elongated labia, but also as a representative of black women’s supposedly freakish bodies. While alive, profits were made off of her exhibition, although she had to fight to receive a mere portion of the money being made off of her very flesh. Baartman died in 1815, yet her skeleton, brain and genitals remained on display in a Paris museum until 1974. Her remains were finally returned to South Africa in 2002.

Re: above illustration….Several prints dating from the early nineteenth century illustrate the sensation generated by the spectacle of “The Hottentot Venus.” A French print entitled “La Belle Hottentot,” for example, depicts the Khosian woman standing with her buttocks exposed on a box-like pedestal. Several figures bend straining for a better look, while a male figure at the far right of the image even holds his seeing-eye glass up to better behold the woman’s body. The European observers remark on the woman’s body: “Oh! God Damn what roast beef!” and “Ah! how comical is nature.”

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Okay, wow.


Edited to add: So now there’s this.

Edited again to add CNN’s take (kind of a stupid one, though).

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Happy Pride 2008

To those who participated, those who wanted to but couldn’t, and those who will next time…

Via this dear friend:

Happy Pride Parade 2008

In the name of Peace and Pride
On behalf of The Holy, who is our Divine Beloved
Because WE are Holy
We march today

For those who cannot march
For those who have marched before
For those who have no idea that anyone can march
We march today

For you, if you would like
For ourselves
For the intersection of the sacred and the profane
We march today

To honor the past
To change the future
To live in the present
We march today

Also – check this out.

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Garden blogging….

Gone a couple of days and before we left, the tomato plants were all blossoms:

Get back today to see a couple of these (just a little bigger than a quarter):

We’ll be gone next week, so it looks like neighbors/pet sitters might enjoy the first tomatoes. This guy, however, is getting consumed today:

And yes, you may look all innocent right now, Mr. Squash Blossom…. but we know you and your kind intend to take over the world in several weeks:

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Oooh, a tag.

The guidelines:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

This is corny and obvious, but I love it. When the radio starts playing this one (yeah, I still listen to the radio) summer is here. And remember that Will Smith? With the fade?

Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff – Summertime

Apparently, there’s something about girls and guitars (and fiddles, etc.) that I really like. Checking my itunes revealed I’ve been playing the mess out of these three….

Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine

Tracy Chapman – Baby Can I Hold You

Dixie Chicks – Sin Wagon

And guys with guitars… who sing about cooking rice in the microwave and being long in the tooth…

Travis Tritt

This is just… well…

Me’Shell Ndegeocello – Dreadlocks

Men Without Hats – Safety Dance

Ah, the 80’s. Really, what better motto?

We can dance if we want to… we can leave your friends behind….cuz your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance then they ain’t no friends of mine.

People, there are jesters and dancing chickens in this video. So awesome….

As the previous will attest, I like dance themed songs/videos. Summer in the city….taking it back real old school — this is one of my FAVORITE scenes in one of my FAVORITE movies. Come on… the twist… the frug… the freaking Watusi!!!! Please, people, control yourselves.

Yep, summer’s really all about dancing, peeps.

Okay, that was fun. Come on, everybody play…. I’m not tagging specifically – anyone who’s game – c’mon.

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From bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, (NY: Routledge, 1994).

To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred; who believe that our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin. (13)

When education is the practice of freedom, students are not the only ones who are asked to share, to confess. Engaged pedagogy does not seek simply to empower students. Any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process. That empowerment cannot happen if we refuse to be vulnerable while encouraging students to take risks. Professors who expect students to share confessional narratives but who are themselves unwilling to share are exercising power in a manner that could be coercive. ….When professors bring narratives of their experiences into classroom discussions it eliminates the possibility that we can function as all-knowing, silent interrogators. It is often productive if professors take the first risk, liking confessional narratives to academic discussions so as to show how experience can illuminate and enhance our understanding of academic material. But most professors must practice being vulnerable in the classroom, being wholly present in mind, body, and spirit. (21)

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Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Women of color are especially affected by HIV infection and AIDS. In 2004 (the most recent year for which data are available), HIV infection was

*the leading cause of death for black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years.
*the 3rd leading cause of death for black women aged 35–44 years.
*the 4th leading cause of death for black women aged 45–54 years.
*the 4th leading cause of death for Hispanic women aged 35–44 years.

In the same year, HIV infection was the 5th leading cause of death among all women aged 35–44 years and the 6th leading cause of death among all women aged 25–34 years. The only diseases causing more deaths of women were cancer and heart disease.

Read more.

KnowIt (566948) www.hivtest.org

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Whether you pray, meditate, appeal to the ancestors… whatever you do, do it on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe today.

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Last week Anxious Black Woman posted on Teaching While Black, and then a couple of days later made some reflections on Racism 2.0, or colorblind racism. If you haven’t read those posts, you should. Here are some questions raised:

And when my current crop of students this summer treat me as if I’m an impostor in my own discipline, and that the research and teaching that I do is so not worth their time and tuition dollars, where do we find the grace and the hope to “keep on keeping on,” as Jesse Jackson would say?

If I could ask the Obamas any question – if they read our blogs and if our nation was truly ready to ask honest questions about race and racism – it would be this: “How did you do it? How did you all get through Princeton and Harvard and your law professions, and now running a national campaign, and not lose your freaking minds?”

If I asked them that question, would they be able to answer truthfully before a live American audience? Because most of us who are people of color, we really want to know. We come very close to the brink. And God forbid we exhibit our frustrations with racism, we are immediately labeled “Angry Black Woman” (see this latest Fox News Video – htp Gina from What About Our Daughters).

I have given much consideration to being in this black female body and teaching mostly white students in a societal/cultural context in which all of us (people of color and white people) are taught to think in certain ways about certain people. For many of my students, particularly first and second years, I am the first woman of color they have had in any position of authority over them.

And I am standing before them talking about race, about how race and racial meaning is constructed, about how racism serves to provide power and privilege to the dominant culture (mostly those sitting in the classroom – who as students do not see themselves as having power and privilege – but when called upon they will use it – that’s interesting, don’t you think…)

I make my students uncomfortable. It is part of the journey towards understanding and dismantling oppression. The discomfort is unavoidable and necessary – I believe that it is in those uncomfortable spaces that the most growth takes place – if indeed it will. It is not dissimilar, I think, to the birthing process. I have a midwife friend who has explained to me that the mechanics of birth – that big old baby coming down that little old birth canal, as inefficient and cumbersome as it seems, and by the way as painful as that process can be, it is beneficial to the child in terms of being able to draw that first breath. Now, granted, sometimes things don’t go as planned and birth happens in other ways… for instance, the baby being removed from the mother via cesarean section. And sometimes children come to families in ways other than birth, by foster care or adoption, formal and/or informal. Having experienced all of those ways of building a family, which is an occasion for much joy, I can assure you (along with many other fathers and mothers) that none of them are without pain.

Of course students are not the only ones dealing with discomfort/pain; in fact it is not the student’s pain that Anxious focuses on in her post. Rather it is the pain that we as teachers of color bear. How is it that we sustain ourselves – living in a racist, sexist cultural context, teaching about that context and actively working against it, and then dealing with more of the same in the course of the teaching – because the students we teach come from the same context and have learned from that context? The responses from the students are varied, to be sure. Each response demands its own counter response. Each student needs to be taught, and needs to receive the best that I can give them, no matter how they respond to me. Sometimes that is …. really difficult. But I have to be mindful of not coming off as … the Angry Black Woman.

I teach in a predominately white school, a small liberal arts college of about 1,000 students. In my class on race and ethnicity, there are usually between 35 and 40 students, which is a large class on our campus. Of those that register for the class, about half are there because it is a requirement for their major, or because it is one among a couple of recommended electives in their discipline. Other students are there because they are genuinely interested in the subject (this is also the case for many of those who are required to take the course, although not for all of them), some are there because they think it is going to be an easy class, and some are there simply because they needed the hours to round out their schedules and this particular class fits. Because of our campus demographics, most of the students are white; I may have 6 or 7 students of color at most. (Of those, there may be only 2 or 3 that are U.S. born, adding to the complexity of talking about racial categories and racism in different cultural contexts.) Many (if not all) of the students in the class will be uncomfortable with the content of the class along the way. I make no apologies for this; there is no way to really deal with the subject matter at hand without a measure of pain and some anger. In fact I make note of these dynamics at the first class meeting, although I’m not sure how many of them hear me when I say these words. I have come to anticipate what the really difficult moments along the way will be. By far, the discussions about whiteness and white privilege bring about the most anger from many of the white students (there are also other reactions, such as sadness and guilt… there usually is a combination of responses). Witnessing the anger of the white students, and often their denial about having privilege subsequently brings out the anger of students of color. Much of the time, the pain and anger the students feel then gets directed towards me. Sometimes the students’ feelings are reflected in my evaluations, so the fallout for me (and others in this situation) is not only psychological and emotional as I deal with students’ reactions, but it also has a potential effect on my ability to make a living in the field that I have chosen. I could teach the subject matter in an objective, distanced, “we are the world kumbaya” sort of manner… well – no, actually I could not do that at all.

I am committed to teaching and speaking truth when it comes to something that is literally a matter of life and death for so many people, even in 2008. And so we read about the history of lynching in this country, and why a noose hanging from a tree in the 21st century is not a joke. We talk about whiteness as a political identity, and how the meaning of whiteness and who can be white has changed over the course of the history what has become the United States. And we talk about gender and sexuality and class and physical ability, too, because oppressions intersect and overlap and support and uphold one another.

And through it all I have to listen to and teach them all. I can’t just teach the ones who like what I am saying, or the ones who are willing to set aside what they thought they knew about Group X or Person Y, and work at developing a new understanding of reality, or the ones who are willing to bring their own experiences/questions/intellectual curiosity into the classroom. I also have to teach the ones who tell me they will not read an assignment because it does not fit into their belief system; I have to teach the ones who tell me that I have a chip on my shoulder and racism is over because look, I am their teacher; I have to teach the ones that tell me that Muslims are all going to hell anyway, so why should s/he care if they are mistreated; I have to teach the ones that tell me I’m causing racism by talking about race; I have to teach the ones that tell me illegal immigrants and unqualified blacks are taking “their” jobs; I have to teach the ones that tell me that feminism is for man-hating hairy legged women (which, well, sure, but it’s for everybody else, too). And, it is not only the white students who resist the subject matter of the class. Students of color, for a variety of reasons, can and do push back.

I should say that some – many – of my students respond positively to the work we do in class, and become or remain active on campus working on these issues. Some have come back to me months, or even a couple of years later to tell me how their thinking has changed, or how something they actively, passionately resisted in class now makes sense to them and makes a difference in their lives.

So how do I sustain myself? Many times I’m not so sure. But… there are some things. Belonging to a community of resistance is primary. By community of resistance, I mean that I am in regular contact with people who are committed to doing the work of resisting oppression in all its forms, whether that is teaching, writing, organizing, preaching, working as a community activists, raising anti-racist children, working on immigration reform, etc. These are people that I see on a day-to-day basis or people that I may only get to see once or twice a year. They are people that I know, and people that I know of. They are people whose blogs I read, whose books I read, whose music I listen to. They are people of color and white allies, people from North America and across the globe, men and women, queer and straight, young folks and older ones. Having a broad range of folks to call on means I get to talk to people about this stuff who get it, and helps me maintain perspective – I don’t have to do all the work myself. There are others who have gone before me, there are many who walk with me, and I hope there will be plenty who come along after we get done.

As a person of faith, I look to the s/heroes of my faith tradition, and of other traditions to encourage me and to challenge me (that’s why I’m Harriet’s daughter). I try to let myself be guided by that which is unseen and unknown. I believe with all my being, along with Martin Luther King Jr., that the moral arc of the universe is long, but that it bends towards justice.

I go out with my girlfriends and we get loud and silly… but sometimes that only comes after we shake our heads and cry.

And sometimes I just dance.

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