Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leggings and Lunacy: The Quirky Superhero's Anthem

i understand the cape,
the leggings, the whole
ball of wax.
you can trust me,
there is no planet stranger
than the one i'm from.

-from Lucille Clifton's "note, passed to superman"

Superheroes are very weird. Their clothes are strange. Their day-jobs are just a front to allow them to do what they really want to be doing with their time. They seem to attract other weirdos and, this is the really strange thing...they believe that they can save the world! Quirky Black Girls, if you haven't noticed yet, every comic book, every animated series, every cliched movie, every superhero everything is about us.

We are that strange tribe of visibly dressed visionaries, fly and flying with skills and powers that nobody even thought were useful until they witnessed us, saving our own lives. But this is complicated. As cranky and brilliant Black feminist Michele Wallace points out superwoman is a myth, an internalized expectation drawn from the fact that everyone exploits Black women and forces us to do the world-making physical, domestic, emotional and spiritual labor that they don't want to do. Sometimes we identify so heavily with the idea of the superwoman that we don't take care of ourselves and run out of adrenaline, and the buildings we made out of our best intentions come crashing down on our heads.

But, as the Superfriends, Captain Planet, the Amazons, Queen Nzinga's court, the crew of black women who travelled across the Atlantic to see Anna Julia Cooper awarded her PhD, the Combahee River Collective, the lifetime of letters between Audre Lorde and Pat Parker, Batman's lasting love for Robin, and the Crunk Feminist Collective (crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com) remind us, our superpowers are not individual, they are collective, activated in community when we recognize the priceless power each of us is holding, when we nuture the miraculous possibility that each of us will be our badass, transformative self! When like, Lucille Clifton's note to a fellow superhero, we reassure each other. I get it. This strange planet thirsts for our transformative quirkiness. For more on Lucille Clifton and superpower's check out this week's Lucille Clifton Rebirth Broadcast here: http://vimeo.com/13643586

So hail the Quirky Black Girls, superhero tribe fierce on the planet. Tell us about some of your superpowers and the feats you have witnessed from your fellow quirky black girls! Or join the convo on writing and tapping into divine superpowers already strated by QBG Shonell: http://grou.ps/quirkyblackgirls/blogs/item/claiming-our-divine-supe...
Here we go!

And speaking of going....here we went!!!! 720 of us have moved onto our new free social network the money that y'all donated towards the move has been returned.

Please help with the transition by moving your photos, uploading videos and making the new site feel like home by filling it with your superquirky shine!!!

Also if you created a group on the old site (you inspiring organizer you!) upload an image for it here on the new site. (Ooh I think I need to go do that myself for the QBG Writer's Salon.)

And QBG's around the world avail yourself of the brilliance of Quirky Exemplar Janelle Monae during her nationwide tour...just announced and let us know of any QBG meet-ups:

If you will be in the Durham Area the weekend of August 21st...please do sign up for the Lucille Clifton ShapeShifter Poetry Intensive to share your superpowers: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3LH6G9J

And QBG's in the SouthEast don't forget to save the dates Sept 3-5th for splendid quirkiness in Atlanta during the Black Pride festival...

AND if you are really on top of your calendar game save the first weekend in January for MotherOurselves Bootcamp in Durham, NC. More details to come!

I love you! You rock! You are saving my day, and its about so much more than that wild outfit you have on.

Love always,

Administrator of Quirky Black Girls sent you this message. To visit the group: http://grou.ps/quirkyblackgirls

Monday, July 26, 2010

Link city


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via Enough by tyrone on 7/26/10

Hello! Did anyone else feel a little demolished by Detroit? Amazing but exhausting. But I underwent a transformation at the U.S. Social Forum (at first I thought it was just regular emotional meltdown, but now I'm reconceptualizing it as transformation in honor of the USSF), a result of not eating or sleeping enough, doing too [...]


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The King Wants Rings Redux


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via Black Youth Project by Summer M. on 7/26/10

The other day, I was talking to my so-not-a-sports fan friend, rrrr about the LeBron James situation.  I mentioned how people took real issue with the slavery as analogy aspect of the whole debate.  I know I said something about the plantation model in my previous post about LBJ, but I wanted to return to it here.

One thing I failed to mention in my LeBron James/plantation model discussion was his financial impact on Miami. I just read something about a restaurant in Miami offering a Lebron Burger,  and a spa offering "The LeBroyal Treatment."  Thinking about this in conjunction with the how financially hurt Cleveland will be with James' departure reminds me that the economic viability of these small institutions is directly affected by and reliant upon LeBron James' body, his literal presence in the city. If LeBron doesn't succeed in Miami, if he doesn't play–and play well– or if he leaves, then not simply the Heat, but these other businesses are in some trouble.

They all have a financial stake in his brand, which is essentially his body, his physical performance. How are we not supposed to be reminded of the plantation model, slavery etc. when we discuss this?  Would it be acceptable to suggest that although athletes are not at all slaves, the economic structure–not condition–they operate under is reminiscent of the plantation model, because it is a situation where they've, until recently, exhibited comparably limited agency, and where their bodily labor greatly benefits the(ir) white owners?  And how might we connect the public's general opinion that these athletes are greedy to the fact that the labor forces of the NFL (where contracts are not guaranteed and athletes are in the most danger) and NBA are overwhelmingly black?  And that, in generating opinions about LeBron's (dis)loyalty to Cleveland we did, in effect, forget that he was an employee, and that our understanding of his decision to leave on some level must acknowledge that this was one of few times where we got to witness an athlete exercise all of his agency?  (And such agency is fleeting, and thoroughly dependent on those knees go.)

What would be a different, less sensitive discourse that would better help delineate and understand this narrative?

I've recently become fascinated by boxing, I have a book list and everything; it's the most difficult and scariest sport I've ever tried.  A few years ago, a professor mine told his class that you could tell a society's most subordinate group by watching boxing.  There have always been black boxers.  I think we can use sports to discuss larger social issues.  And I think the LeBron James case is an opportunity to talk about the ways in which the plantation model endures.  How can we begin with the caveat that athletes are not slaves, nor are they like slaves and still access this conversation?  Or is it completely impossible?


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Listen Harder. Look Longer.


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via The Crunk Feminist Collective by rboylorn on 7/25/10

"every 3 minutes a woman is beaten/every five minutes a woman is raped/every ten minutes a little girl is molested" –ntozake shange (with no immediate cause)

Ntozake shange's poem, with no immediate cause, begins with statistics that push us into awareness about the perpetual nature of violence against women in our communities.  And while I know, from personal witnessing and experiencing (and knowing somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who has been beaten/raped/molested) how far reaching these pathologies are, it was not until this past week that I became fully conscious and aware of the responsibility that comes with awareness.  And the power that comes with experience.

At 18 my naïveté led to particular vulnerabilities, specifically those associated with men and lies and (so called) love.  I found myself somehow infatuated with a boy who was slowly murdering my self esteem and with it my ability to walk away from him.  He played on my insecurities and isolated me from my family and friends.  He used the same sweet voice that coaxed me into infatuation to berate and threaten me.  And I held on to his anger like a secret, knowing that any confiding I did would result in me having to defend him, in order to defend myself, against everyone who didn't understand why he did the things he did and why I stayed.

Thankfully (and undoubtedly as a result of my mama's prayers), I grew out of wanting/needing him and escaped the situation before physical harm met the emotional damage he had already done. 

Five days ago I found myself staring into the eyes of two beautiful young women (in their early twenties) who are survivors of physically violent romantic relationships.  When I said "I didn't know," they looked at me in a way that made me feel out of touch.  And despite their confusion at my surprise, if not for their confessions turned testimonies, I would have never known.  And it occurred to me (as if for the first time) that women who have or are currently enduring abuse don't always look like victims. 

They may be well dressed. Well spoken. Precocious. Charming. Elegant. Intelligent. Strongblackwomen.  Handling their business. Raising children (alone). Going to school. Taking care of themselves. Taking care of you (encouraging to others). Activists. Advocates.

I remember being all those things in the middle of my surviving…but I was not self-loving at the time.  And that, it feels, is what caused me to finally walk away from a man who tried to murder me with words. Loving myself…finally. 

When I introduce Shange's poem (with no immediate cause) in class, it is oftentimes alongside "a nite with beau willie brown" (See for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enough) and we discuss how women are vulnerable, even in relationships, to violence. We also talk about how being aware does not have to mean being scared. Yet, as I sat at the table with the beautiful young women I was scared. For them. For myself. For the nameless faces of other women being abused (whether physically, emotionally, psychologically, etc.) in the name of love. For the sake of love. And I wished for a way to teach them what only experience and time had taught me—that the often repeated phrase is utterly true…love does NOT hurt.  And we have to learn to stop loving men more than we love ourselves.

Reflecting on shange's poem and remembering stories and moments that perhaps could have served as signs and calls for help, I feel compelled to listen harder and look longer at the young women in my life. And if I see something (wrong)—I will say something! And if I hear something (alarming)—I will do something!  There may be something in the manner with which she speaks, something in the way that she carries herself in the world, that serves as a sign or a notice that something is wrong.  I want to be newly aware.

Pearl Cleage says that "the facts indicate that we are under siege, incredibly vulnerable, totally unprepared and too busy denying the truth to collectively figure out what to do about it." In Mad at Miles she echoes Shange's sentiment and offers warning signals as a way of anticipating violence in order to avoid it if at all possible.  I list here five of the "early warning signals" she shares:  

  1. shouting, hollering, excessive cursing, name calling, sarcasm;
  2. finger pointing or fist waving, especially in and around your face;
  3. arm or wrist grabbing or twisting.
  4. throwing or breaking things;
  5. threatening to do violent things to you

Awareness brings with it responsibility.  To ourselves (in our relationships) and to others (in theirs). And while these situations remain hidden beneath long sleeves and dark shades, we have to bring them to the forefront.


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Sunday, July 25, 2010

for colored girl’s who’ve considered therapy when life is just too much


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via This Side Of The Wall on 7/24/10


"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood." –Audre Lorde

Yesterday I had an epiphany.

There is far too much weight placed on these shoulders. Although they are broad, and I'm a grown woman, I'm tired of carrying it alone.  So I've decided to see a therapist.

Ok, so that's not exactly earth-shattering. But this is kind of a big deal.

Yesterday I was reading, Jo's essay about patriarchy and how it can literally kill, and it just brought so many thoughts to the forefront of my mind. Her argument centered around the fact that not allowing yourself to be vulnerable can be detrimental to yourself and others. Stay with me.

You see, Brooklyn boy and I are still talking. Despite our decision to step back a few weeks ago, we have kept up our discourse. The other night we had a particularly thorny conversation and I held my tongue, in the interest of keeping the peace (Or keeping a piece for myself, which I have always done). But I went to bed cursing. After reading her piece, however, I saw how…unproductive keeping shit bottled up can be and I just spilled. My mind spilled all over the email and he responded in the same manner. Vulnerable. No fear of being open. No fear of not looking good or being judged. Just. Open.

That got me to thinking.

I tend to live inside my head. I will over-think things to DEATH. I have conversations inside my head, and respond to people, passionately (in my head), but won't do so in person. It's almost like I have dual parts of myself. The "real" Britni, who's all passion and fire and quirks, and the calm, aloof, too-cool-for-school Britni who is quick witted and is able to hide behind a silver tongue. Both of these are parts of the whole, but rarely does the "real" Britni show herself, bare and uncaring of what others think.

The other thing Jo's essay brought up is the fact I have some unresolved issues with Beloved. This thing with Brooklyn Boy, the fact that after years of not speaking, we are this close this fast says a lot about what I need and want. Beloved and I have been disconnected for nearly a year. He is in solitary and cannot make calls. He rarely writes, and the last time I saw him was February. It's been hard. This situation with Brooklyn Boy came at THE worst and THE best time. Worst because it's easier for me to fall, have real feelings. Best because I need(ed) the intimacy of having someone get to know me, care about me, be worried about ME for once. This Brookly Boy conundrum has also highlighted the fact that, although I love Beloved with my whole heart, I have some unresolved anger at him. It is because of his choices that I'm forced to live this abnormal life. His decisions put us here. And that pisses me off.

All of these things swirl around in my head. They rarely gain escape save for a few confessional-type blog post or poems. But I have not and do not speak them aloud. I'm starting to see that this is not how life should work. I don't want to resent Beloved. I don't want to walk around, mind full, waiting to explode. I don't want to constantly question if my decisions are good or if I'm just crazy. What I want is a normal life. A normal load. The ability to be my whole self, no matter how weird, or how quirky, or how Punky Brewster I may be. I want to be me. And not care what people say or think.

Deciding to call a therapist is big. It's scary. But it's also the first step in getting to the life I want. So I'm going to jump at it and hold on.



have you been to therapy?

did it help/hurt?

have you thought about going? what's stopping you?

*shout out to all of you guys who were SO supportive of my decision to seek help when i tweeted about it. y'all are AH-MAY-ZING! 


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thischickdoesit: jadedhippy: blackamazon: (via...


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jadedhippy: wocsurvivalkit: Dara Mathis is the Content...


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via maia medicine on 7/24/10



Dara Mathis is the Content Director of Pangea's Garden, an online community, website, and brand that promotes beautiful, natural black women in the nude.


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we are worth the ocean


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via Leaving Evidence by Mia Mingus on 7/24/10

i used to be steady.  i used to be steady as a rock.  nothing could move me, rattle me, shake my vision.  sometimes to a fault.

i miss her, i miss my fearless self.  she was younger, stronger, braver–so sure.  and now i feel like i have become a bundle of fears, worrying about other people more than myself, and seeing where i'm wrong.  and maybe this is what happens to women of color, we get our strength beaten out of us by a world that would rather see us as shadows.  maybe i am mourning for something that will never come back.  maybe this is better, now i can see all sides of something.  almost too well.

what am i afraid of?  maybe this is what happens after you've lost some things.  and that losing never really leaves you.  maybe this is what happens after you've seen the damage that fearlessness can do.  maybe.

but still, the question bubbles up inside of me, rolls around my head, slinks behind my every move: what am i afraid of?  there is nothing left to lose now, except the thin illusion of the shell of safety.  i am standing by the ocean asking it to promise not to drag me down before i dare to enter.  that is not how the ocean works.  it is not answering.  it is laughing at me, mocking me, pittying me.

and the horizon lies in front of me, the land at my back.  or is it the other way around?  how do you know when it is time to leave?  maybe that's where she has gone, my fearless self, maybe she has gone to the horizon.  maybe she is not lost at all.  maybe she is just waiting for me.  calling me to come back to her, after all, she must miss me, as she rides the sea foam of each wave.  she must miss the rawness of my pain and the thunderous beats of my heart.

i miss her.

she is worth swimming against the current for.  she is worth the ocean.  we are.


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Friday, July 23, 2010

IMF Cancels Haiti's $268 Million Debt

Wonders never cease!!!


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via Colorlines by Jamilah King on 7/23/10

IMF Cancels Haiti's $268 Million Debt

There's finally good news in Haitian relief efforts: The International Monetary Fund announced that it's canceling the country's $268 million debt. The move may allow the country to start the arduous process of long-term structural readjustment after this year's devastating earthquake, which killed 230,000 people and decimated Port-au-Prince's already fragile infrastructure.

In addition to canceling the debt, the IMF pledged an additional $60 million to help with reconstruction.

"Donors must start delivering on their promises to Haiti quickly, so reconstruction can be accelerated, living standards quickly improved and social tensions soothed," IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said in a statement.

Relief efforts have already proven difficult. Even though 60 countries pledged upwards of $9.9 billion to aid in recovery efforts, less than 2 percent -- or $534 million-- of that money has actually been delivered. The AP reports that most of the money is mired in "bureaucracy and politics" of the countries that pledged to help.

PHOTO: PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - JULY 12: A dump truck kicks up dust as it passes through in the Fort National neighborhood on July 12, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Six months after an earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people, many Haitians are struggling to rebuild their lives. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)


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Shirley Sherrod’s Victory: A Teachable Moment on Talking Race


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via The Crunk Feminist Collective by crunktastic on 7/23/10

Family, here's the follow-up to Wednesday's piece Shirley Sherrod's War.

Shirley Sherrod should retire from the USDA, get her book deal, and tell her story. I certainly would not want to work for a group of people that were so quick to hang me out to dry. But seriously, Ms. Sherrod should pick the options that are best for her, because one of the many victories in this whole sordid situation is that she is now a Black woman with options.

Since the news of Andrew Breitbart's sloppy and opportunistic editorial hatchet job on Sherrod's career became apparent three days ago, everyone's been tossing around the term, "teachable moment." I've heard it repeatedly throughout this ordeal: "this is a teachable moment on race, on media, on government." While many see the "teachable moments" here as being about taking more care and time when handling sensitive information, and about the willingness of the most extreme members of the right to jettison integrity and basic truthfulness for political capital, there is something much more fundamental at stake. That is, we need to stop trying to be anti-racial and focus on being anti-racist. There is a critical difference between the two.

In Shirley Sherrod's speech, she talked about the emergence of white supremacist ideology as a way to divide and conquer similarly positioned poor black and white indentured servants. That information speaks to a more fundamental truth, namely the ways in which the ideology of racism and white supremacy is built into the fundamental fabric of these United States. We will not get beyond "race" then until we deal with racism itself.

Folks however keep putting the cart before the horse. Dealing with racism is a much more difficult proposition than dealing with race. Confronting racism means confronting privilege. It means confronting the reality of power, and the possibility of a redistribution of resources. In a society in which white privilege grants most white folks the right to believe wholeheartedly in the myth of meritocracy, the idea that they have everything they have solely based on their own merit and hardwork, rather than having a huge help from centuries of racial privilege, dealing with racism is a veritable nightmare. So rather than do that, we keep talking about "race."

To read the rest of this piece, please visit our good friends over at Race-Talk.


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end of the week random links…


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via guerrilla mama medicine by mama on 7/23/10

some random notes:

cuntastic blog linked to this awesome looking childbirth education class in florida.  has me dreaming about creating a radical childbirth education course.

The POWERful classes are innovative and off the beaten path of standard childbirth classes because they serve a dual purpose. The first is to share information with women about their pregnancy, birth and postpartum so that they can make informed and empowered decisions about their health and the health of their baby. The second purpose is to introduce women to social justice organizing so that they can impact positive change as leaders in their communities.

The classes, which were also offered last year at Power U, will cover topics ranging from birthing options, nutrition and breastfeeding to reducing toxic housing conditions, improving neighborhood schools and negotiating fair rent prices.

"I feel more respected in these classes," stated one class participant, who is also a teen mom.

–this weekend i am doing the printable pdf for outlaw midwives zine.  pulling out my geometry brain…any help in this arena would be much appreciated…

–aza insists on being called: princess mafina or amira mafina.  but not aza.  definitely not aza.

–midwife pamela on fb linked to this article:

Don't Judge Pregnant Women Based on Junk Science

This is especially true when it comes to pregnant drug using women. For nearly two decades popular media claimed that any illegal drugs used by pregnant women would inevitably and significantly damage their babies.

The actual scientific research contradicts this assumption. Carefully constructed, unbiased scientific research has not found that prenatal exposure to any of the illegal drugs causes unique or even inevitable harm. This research is so clear that that courts and leading federal agencies have concluded that what most people heard was "essentially a myth." As the National Institute for Drug Abuse explains, "babies born to mothers who used crack cocaine while pregnant, were at one time written off by many as a lost generation. . . .  It was later found that this was a gross exaggeration."

–some of these notes may develop into blog post.  or maybe not.

–i am basically nanowrimo-ing a memoir and then after a couple of weeks seeing if it is worth working on.  i had just figured that i didnt have the emotional energy to do it.  but i hate having something sitting there undone staring at me.  me, unsure if it works or it doesnt.  so i am writing my ass off and then when i am done, i can see what the next step would be.

anyways the writing reminded me of living in the woods reading the peace pilgrim.  and how reading her little book really did act as a guide for how to live in this world as a free person no matter what.

–oh there are a couple of awesome posts on checking dilation during labor without a vaginal exam.  lovely.

this one…

and this one…

–i will write soon about the viva palestina september/october convoy to deliver aid to gaza.  but here is the link to it for now…

–while the more that i learn about the placenta, the more amazed i am by it, i am not sure if i could knowingly eat placenta lasagna.

–aza is running around with a can of tuna.  habibi is cooking potatoes.  it is july in cairo and the heat swims in the air like a prayer.  i can drink smoothies all day.  mornings are chaos here.


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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Who the hell you calling fat? … I hope it was me!


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via The Crunk Feminist Collective by wpeeps on 7/22/10

What y'all know 'bout big girls in sassy outfits, swinging hips from left to right and daring anybody to say a damn thing about it? If ya don't know and you want to, this post is for you. Let me introduce to the world of fatshionistas.

Fatshionistas are reclaiming their right to enjoy their bodies and the clothes they put on them. They make up a growing movement of women who are instituting a new conversation about fat, size, women's bodies and fashion, all through blogging. From posts on the summer or fall line of a particular designer to posts that call out racism in the fat acceptance movement, these bloggers and their blogs enter the weight debate from a variety of places. Some are dedicated almost exclusively to fashion, or as they call it fatshion, while others are more explicitly concerned with cultural criticism and the politics of bodies, diet culture and fat hating. In the end, regardless of focus, they all push for an expansion of the boundaries around women's bodies, beauty and fat! For me they strike a chord because, simply put, they reminded me that my body is not my enemy and, as a matter of fact, that my relationship to it can be and is fun and celebratory.

Now, as a card-carrying feminist, I know that I am supposed to already know these things. But feminism doesn't make us immune to the bullshit it just gives us some extra resources for fighting it. As a Black woman born, raised and living in the south my round body has always been a source of compliment as much as, if not more than, it's been a source of ridicule or shame. Lately, however the jeans have been a little more snug and the stairs have started to become my enemy so I decided it might be time to get on that dreaded weight loss band wagon once again. But with the diet culture we're all bombarded with and the fat hating, obesity-fearing messages we get on a daily basis, I sometimes find myself walking a fine line between a little slimming down and all out body hating madness! So, I have to find ways to counteract the latter and encourage the former.

Enter the wonderful world of fatshion!

These women are fierce and absolutely revolutionary, at least in my book! Armed with laptops and digital cameras, they have parlayed flickr and WordPress into platforms for resistance and redefinition and they look damn good while doing it! Or, as one fatshionista put it, she's "Not a photographer or style icon, but shit, she works it out." And, work it out they do! They are complicating the relationship between feminism, fat and fashion. For some, fashion is always a part of a hierarchical and oppressive machine that dictates narrow standards of beauty. Fatshionistas are challenging that kind of hegemony by declaring their right to name their own standards. They are reclaiming language, refusing to let words like fat be used as weapons against them. They are providing new versions and new visions of what bodily acceptance and self-care can look like!  Now if that ain't crunk, I'm not sure what is…

So if you haven't been introduced to the fatshionista game yet, let me help you out with a mini blog roll:

Young Fat and Fabulous: http://www.youngfatandfabulous.com/

Musings of a Fatshionista: http://www.musingsofafatshionista.com/

Fatshionable: http://fatshionable.com/

Saks in the City: http://saksinthecity.blogspot.com/

Fatshionista: http://www.fatshionista.com/cms/

Corazones Rojos: http://corazonesrojos.tumblr.com/

Big Beauty: http://www.leblogdebigbeauty.com/

Corpulent: http://corpulent.wordpress.com/

Check them out, get inspired and, if you're like me, reintroduce yourself to your body … but this time on friendly terms!

So, who's a Fatshionista? I know I'm damn sure trying to be one!


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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Survey Participants Needed for a Study on Black Women's Spirituality and Hip-Hop Music

 Survey Participants Needed for a Study on Black Women's Spirituality and Hip-Hop Music


My name is Anaya McMurray and I am a graduate student at the University of
Maryland, College Park. As a candidate seeking a PhD in Women¹s Studies I am
conducting research to explore the impact of spirituality on black women¹s
processes of creating and interpreting music. My goal is to learn more about
the meaning and significance of spirituality in the lives of black women in
the hip-hop generation.

Participation in the current phase of research would require anonymously
completing a survey. This survey is designed to gather opinions on
spirituality and music from black women in the hip-hop generation.

I am especially interested in the generation of black women born in a year
from 1971 through 1982 and raised in the U.S.

If you know someone who may be interested in participating please forward
this message and/or direct the person to the following link, where they can
complete and submit an online survey:

If there is a preference to complete a paper copy of the survey, it can be
downloaded at http://web.me.com/anayamc/Spirituality_and_Music, printed, and
mailed to Anaya McMurray P.O. Box 29104 Chicago, Ill 60629-0104.

If you are interested in learning more about this study visit
http://web.me.com/anayamc/Spirituality_and_Music for a more detailed
description of my project: ŒTHE WHOLE AND NOT THE HALF OF IT¹: BLACK WOMEN¹S

Thank You,
Anaya McMurray

Reflections from Detroit: Oh Octavia


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Continuing our Reflections from Detroit series, Alexis Pauline Gumbs shares her experiences at the Octavia Butler Symposium at the Allied Media Conference.

Oh Octavia
by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler came to me in a dream once.   Did she advise me to get my water-purifying pills ready for 2012?  Did she offer to assist my lover and I Oonkali style? Did she shift into a million earth-life forms right before my eyes?

Nope.  She smiled and told me she hated me.  Then she lovingly played with my hair, and moved on to discuss mosquitoes.

And the thing is Octavia Butler must hate me and probably a whole bunch of us…with my incessant belief in the essential good nature of human beings despite the incriminating evidence of genocide, war and all other forms of oppression, and my tireless work towards accountability with people who sometimes seem not to care, but a especially.

Octavia Butler, in my dreams, and in the nightmare mid-apocalyptic settings of most of her books is a reminder that some things cannot be saved, and the changes our ecosystem and solar system are about to put us through are even more radical than we think we are.    So in an urgent time of terrifying complacency Octavia Butler's work is crucial for those of us who feel the world changing in our communities and in our bodies.

Adrienne Maree Brown, long time student and teacher of Octavia Butler's work and all-around divaliscious genuis, knows this.   And she acts accordingly.  So she learned how to bake bread, and she convened the Octavia Butler Symposium at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit this June where so many of us were gathered to collate our intentions for another world.

The room filled with participants.  People who had read all of Octavia Butler's books, people who had read one book or series and were still in shock.  People whose friends had been telling them to read Octavia for years and who had one of her books sitting on a desk neglected and unread because of all their frantic activist work.

Adrienne designed the session so that everyone could speak and learn from the bodacious body of work of Ms. Octavia by creating a fishbowl exercise where people spoke in four chairs in the middle of the room to each other until someone in the erstwhile audience tagged them out to add their take on the questions Adrienne asked about why Octavia Butler's work was revelant in our specific work?  Why the work was important for this time in history? Etc.   People expressed their dreams and fears, their views that the capitalist anarchy that Butler prophesies in the Parable series is already upon us, questions about whether representations of sexuality in Fledgling and the Patternist Series provide us with new ways of responding to abuse, thoughts on the function of science fiction in general in our time, claims that Butler's work is much more fact than fiction to begin with.

Bloodchild, by Octavia Butler

With all of these questions dancing in the air we split into break out groups to brainstorm visionary questions for a reader for social justice visionaries for the each of Octavia Butler's series of novels, the Patternist series, the Parable series, the Xenogenesis series and her collection of short stories, Bloodchild. This gave us the opportunity to develop specific critical questions and to share more deeply with each other.  I was in the group that discussed Bloodchild and in our addition to our critical questions about the stories and Butler's reflections on the work of writing, we spoke of our own dreams, our own prophecies that we have watched come true, and the sacred fulfillment of our connection to each other.

In other words…it was deep y'all.  I would definitely attend a whole day or a weekend or a week of inquiry like that.   Looking forward to the reader!!!

See the raw notes from the symposium here: http://adriennemareebrown.net/blog/?p=1471

Be transformed!

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is the instigator of Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind (www.blackfeministmind.wordpress.com).  Alexis, Moya Bailey, Renina Jarmon and Summer McDonald will be speaking on a panel about Octavia Butler and Queer Futures at the conference Critical Ethnic Studies and the Future of Genocide: Settler Colonialism, Heteropatriarchy, White Supremacy Conference at University of California, Riverside March 2011.

Octavia Butler


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Shirley Sherrod’s War: When Keepin It Racially Real Goes Wrong


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via The Crunk Feminist Collective by crunktastic on 7/21/10

It's ironic how much time the daughters of Rosa Parks spend under the bus these days.  The administration's willingness not to take a stand on behalf of Shirley Sherrod's is the latest evidence that when it comes to race we are long on cowardice and short on integrity. This week, Sherrod, an employee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture was pressured to resign her post, after spliced and editd video surfaced of her giving a talk at an NAACP banquet in March. See full video here.   In that speech, she recounts an experience working with a poor white farmer and his family in 1986 who were in danger of losing everything. She discusses her perception of the farmer's racism and condescending attitude toward her, and the fact that this caused her not to give him the "full force of what" she could do. In any case, Sherrod is single-handedly credited, by the family, no less, with saving the family farm.

Our inability to understand what exactly racism is, namely a systematically conferred power to discriminate based upon race, and racial privilege, the unmerited advantages conferred upon the racially powerful continues to obfuscate and obviate any productive conversations about race.  These circumstances are nothing new. What is more disturbing is the rush-to-judgment by  NAACP president Benjamin Jealous who lambasted Shirley Sherrod in the press, only to have to come back later and recant his statement.

But I agree with Sherrod's assessment: she was the sacrificial lamb in the feud between the NAACP and the Tea Party. Last week, Jealous vigorously critiqued the continuing racist discourse emanating from the Tea Party's ranks. Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams retaliated against Jealous by penning and posting an ill-conceived, ill-informed satirical letter from Jealous to President Lincoln renouncing African Americans desire for freedom and calling the organization racist.

Enter Shirley Sherrod, the featured banquet speaker at a local NAACP event in March. During her speech, she recounted her interaction with a racist, but poor farmer, who needed her help.  She was honest in admitting that his racial arrogance was off-putting, especially since she was aware of many Black farmers who could use her help. And apparently it is her mere admission of (justified) racial skepticism that constitutes racism in the minds of the American public and her boss Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.

In the liberal grand narrative of Black racial self-sacrifice that frames the work of the NAACP, she discusses rising above his pettiness and short-sightedness to help him anyway, in part because she had the good sense to know that this was not merely about race, but also about class. She provided historical context for this argument by citing the fact that racial ideology had been used by the elite against indentured servants to undercut a burgeoning labor movement.  She concluded from this information that she should "get beyond race" and consider the effects of class, and that Black folks should begin to understand the struggle as one between the haves and have-nots.  The all-encompassing nature of racial discourse definitely tends to obscure the ways that class impedes life chances and outcomes. But what Sherrod has been reminded of is the very particular ways in which class will never trump race, of the ways in which Black women are always forced to confront the quagmire of race and class and gender, always together, never separate.

It is unfortunate that the NAACP chose to back its own play for relevance literally on the back of Black woman, but as intraracial politics go, it's not exactly a new strategy.  Rather than using this moment of publicity as an opportunity to actively advance conversations about the connections between race, political desire, and civil discourse, Jealous took the cowardly route and jumped on the bandwagon to unfairly rob this Black woman of her career. From what I can gather, he thought like so many that his willingness to critique the allegedly racially problematic discourse of a Black person would give more integrity to his original claims.  Even though he's apologetic, the same kinds of issues will continue to arise until we get smart in talking about race, and until we refuse to let the Right hijack the conversation with incendiary but vacuous rhetoric.  It's time to stop falling for the racial okey doke; let's find our ground and stand there.

And I would be remiss if I didn't point out the problematic gender politics here. Why is it that Joe Biden can make racially problematic comments and become Vice President for the very person that the comments referred to?! Why is it that Harry Reid can use racially problematic discourse and keep his job? Surely, Sherrod's comments were more useful for a liberal agenda of racial unity than anything Reid and Biden have done or said.

And given the rush-to-judgment of Ben Jealous and Roland Martin, Black male political discourse also does not escape the need for critique.  The less well known history of the Civil Rights movement in this country is one in which Black men choose their own fame, and supposedly the rationality and objectivity of their arguments over the bodies and lives of Black women, each and every time. Lest we forget, Black women were not allowed to speak at the March on Washington. They were told that their concerns would be represented by other organizations, and Dorothy Height was given a seat, but no voice, on the platform. Lest we forget, Stokely Carmichael's famous declaration that the "only position for a woman in the Revolution was prone." And perhaps we should go back even further to the founding of the NAACP, when the venerable W.E.B. DuBois himself chose to leave Ida B. Wells-Barnett's name off the original list of the Founding Forty, so that he could include another much less prominent race man. The gender politics of Black anti-racist movements ain't sexy at all.

Now Shirley Sherrod joins a growing list of Black women who become political casualties of war. Among them are Lani Guinier, Jocelyn Elders, Sistah Souljah,  and Desiree Rogers. Each of these Black women were social change agents. Each of them came into contact with a Presidential administration that got credit for its diversity initiatives, while quickly becoming cowardly at the first sign of difficulty. This, however, can be a defining moment for race relations, one in which we put our "full force" in service of honest, responsive, proactive racial discourse and policy, beginning with a reinstatement and apology for Ms. Sherrod.


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