Archive for February, 2009

Oh God


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Tell It WOC Speak

Read it here.

This carnival is our attempt to give voice to our shared issues. We have a strong history of activism and organizing and it is in this vein that we have chosen this space to highlight the various ways we have attempted to carve out a niche in the online world. We shall not be silenced, and our dreams shall be realized. We are women of quality and worth.

Thanks, Renee!

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The internet, she is not my friend this week. It is mostly because of this.

And truly I have been uber busy these days without much time to check out the latest for which I am grateful. It’s been trigger city, folks. Forgive any muddleheadedness that follows. I don’t know what kind of a post this will be or if I will bring these meanderings to a logical conclusion. There is grading to do (always the grading), there is writing and there is research, there is work.

Remember the artist Kiki? She did the art for a t shirt I once had and wore to absolute pieces. It was captioned “Many Strong and Beautiful Women.” It was lovely and I kept it for a long time.


This week my head is full of women… strong and beautiful and maybe not so strong but still beautiful even if they – we – do not know it. I am thinking about women and their/our stories. For the most part it is a happy convergence; I’m teaching women and stories this semester … yesterday in one of my classes we viewed the powerful “The Language You Cry In” – evidence of how blog reading is not procrastinating (at least not all the time) because I found out that film here and it fit in perfectly with what we are thinking/talking/writing about.

On Monday, Cara posted this so I was already thinking about the minimizing and trivializing that happens to those of us who have survived sexual assault in families – we even do it to ourselves.

I hadn’t yet heard the news about the whole Rihanna/Chris Brown thing yet… just some chatter on the radio about why they didn’t show up at the grammy’s or whatever. Then the noise about it increased during the day and I knew that I’d just need to try to stay away from it – I googled a bit at first just to see what people were saying about the situation and … always a mistake to read comments. How do we interrupt the kind of noise that blames a person for being violated because she “probably set him off” by saying something, or because she (and face it, it’s usually she) has the nerve to look a certain way or dress a certain way or what EVER… but usually all it takes is she possesses the identity of female. Be female and it is game on. Be black or brown and female, or transgress prescribed gender boundaries and the right to not be violated is at once absent. I don’t know how much more I want to say about that without doing more thinking than I want to do right now. I know that silence is not the answer. The problem then, is how not to keep being silenced because speaking out costs so much – when there are so many other voices – so much other noise – drowning out the stories that need to be told but are so hard to tell. That internalized, unvoiced pain comes out somehow, somewhere, I believe. Perhaps it is physical body pain, like the pain that is carried in my body on a daily basis, diagnosed as fibromyalgia. Perhaps it is realized in the pain that is in turn inflicted on others. Perhaps it is simply being numb to feeling and actually living life. But as has been said (y)our silence will not protect you/us.

Starting tonight and thru Saturday, I’m participating in a local Monologues production – inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues but anonymously submitted stories of women in this region – women who wrote down the sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, often utterly gut wrenching truths about their lives as women. It has been an incredible experience to carry these stories, to embody them and to speak these words into the air, and to talk with each other about our own stories. These kinds of gatherings are monumental acts of love. It is not only the gathering of stories and placing them in order, assigning the parts and becoming familiar with them and then putting on a show. It is also listening to the words underneath the words and feeling them. It is knowing “I’m not the only one this happened to.” It recognizing a place, a time, a moment, a person that are connected to geographies, histories, communities and honoring that. It is learning to speak. And very very practically – it’s about knitting scarves and making jewelry and collecting silent auction items and selling tickets and making as much money as you possibly can to help women and their children in this community whose backs are up against the wall.

It is this thing called survival.

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PETA uses KKK imagery at dog show protest

Mary Altaffer / AP

photo - Mary Altaffer / AP

h/t Macon D

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Things you should read

Ay – I’ve no time to write so how about I point you to some fabulous stuff other people are writing?

The Black Snob – On Little Black Girls, Beauty and Barbie Dolls.

So with this project I wanted to both bring to light the true beauty of all girls, especially those battling that negativity that destroys self-esteem and makes for a deep sadness of feeling unwanted and unloved. I wanted to not just make a piece of literature to combat ignorance, but a love letter to all those little girls I wanted to embrace. That I wanted to sit down next to and color with. That I want to tell “you are special, if to NO ONE ELSE, but to me.”

Monica at Transgriot has an important post on the dissing LGBT news gets from the African American media.

The messaging of that movement sought to deny segregationists any chance to use negative stereotypes of the African-American community to impede the progress or momentum toward freedom and equality. In the zeal to show that we’re Americans ‘just like you’, the frank discussions and coverage of GLBT issues in Black owned media and newspapers that were taking place in the early 50’s disappeared because of a reluctance to air the community’s ‘dirty laundry’.

I think you can guess what issues became considered the community’s ‘dirty laundry’ as the Civil Rights Movement gathered steam during an era of McCarthyism and increased calls for Black gay peeps like Bayard Rustin to lower their profiles in a movement they helped organize, create strategies and provide funding for.

Go – read.

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Anxious Black Woman has a great post up:

The same year Anderson performed at the Lincoln Memorial, indeed the same month, Billie Holiday recorded for the first time her signature song, Strange Fruit, a song about lynching, which she had called her “personal protest” song.

Both performances are etched in our national conscious, and the black female voice, as cultural studies scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin wrote, “is one of its founding sounds, and the singing black woman is one of its founding spectacles. But because it develops alongside and not fully within the nation, it maintains a critique for space and protest.”

Go read it all – it’s great. Oh – and it’s a Special Lurker Friday Edition post, so leave ABW a comment.

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I’ll Rise

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Feminist Cat Lovers – Unite!

Oh, Renee. There is so much I agree with you on. But on this, I cannot budge. I present to you my Misty.


Let us continue to fight the good fight – feminist cat lovers unite.

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Zora Neale Hurston

A post per day for Black History Month

Because my students are reading Zora Neale Hurston this week, she is on my mind. I honor her for being a woman who was not afraid to speak her mind, who was not ashamed of her culture, who was not afraid concerned with being a “nice lady” – who just didn’t conform. She loved her people – black people. She collected our stories and advocated for them being told. Although she died in obscurity, the revival of her works have gained new generations of admirers.

Zora Neale Hurston was born in 1901 in the town of Eatonville, Florida, an all black town that was incorporated in 1886. As Hurson noted, it was not “the black part” of town, but a black town. Here began the forging of Hurston’s love for black cultural traditions.

In the opening piece to the Zora Neale Hurston reader (I Love Myself When I Am Laughing; And Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive, The Feminist Press, 1979), Alice Walker addresses critical reflections on Hurston’s work that deem it racist or sexist:

Is Hurston the messenger who brings the bad news, or is she the bad news herself? Is Hurston a reflection of ourselves? And if so, is that not, perhaps, part of our “problem” with her? (I Love Myself….pg 2)

The perceived “problem” with Hurston was that she refused to fit into a box, or perhaps more accurately, she determined the dimensions of the box herself.

In the same volume, Mary Helen Washington writes:

The controversy over Hurston’s work and her political views, which surfaced after the publication of Mules and Men in 1935, mushroomed and spread in the forties and fifties as Hurston, typically erratic, continued to make unorthodox and paradoxical assertions on racial issues. She was quoted in one newspaper interview as saying that the Jim Crow system worked, and that blacks were better off in the South because, although there was no social intermingling, blacks had the “equivalent” of everything whites had. (I Love Myself… pg 18.)

Hurston, accused of being a publicity hound and a sell-out, refuted the quote. She is on record as speaking out against the Jim Crow system. She also refused to let on that the North was any better than the South in terms of race relations. She roundly criticized the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education desegregation decision. In her mind, this decision represented the presumed superiority of white schools and white teachers, and the presumed inferiority of black schools and teachers. This she could not abide, as she believed black people were quite wonderful, capable of learning among their own and contributing much to language, poetry, song… to the arts in general.

Hurston also spoke disparagingly of blacks who spoke of “the tragedy of being Negroes.” She famously noted:

But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all but about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more of less. No, I do not weep at the world–I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.


Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.

(How It Feels To Be Colored Me, 1928)

Hurston died on January 28, 1960 in poverty and obscurity. Alice Walker:

Only after she died penniless, still laboring at her craft, still immersed in her work, still following her vision and her road, did it begin to seem to some that yes, perhaps this woman was a serious artist after all, since artists are known to live poor and die broke. But you’re up against a hard game if you have to die to win it, and we must insist that dying in poverty is an unacceptable extreme.

Amen. Rest well, Sister Zora.

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