Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Eat the Cake, Anna Mae

(moya sent me --sm.)

And she became the most famous, richest black woman in the world. Does that mean anything?

"See, we could fight like Ike and Tina..." -- Alicia Keys, "Unbreakable"
Why is this your opening line, Alicia? And why would this song EVER be your jam?
The other day, a relative of mine asked me (Sum) what my opinion was of the Chris Brown/Rihanna saga. It was a curiously framed question that I didn’t quite understand. It had never dawned on me to have an opinion on the matter. Maybe this was because of the black interest blogs I read. On them, there are people actually choosing a set – Team Rihanna or Team Chris – and repping it. Besides, I had only been paying mild attention to the whole ordeal, and what I did know consisted of rumors and hearsay. And I’m not in the business of forming an opinion based on some shit some niggas might (not) have said. I was a nerd in a black high school for two years. I know how to avoid fistfights.

Though she probably wasn’t, at the time it felt like my relative was asking me pick a camp and join it. Choose which rumors to believe or not, and cast my allegiance accordingly. Misunderstanding or no, the question made me uncomfortable – so much so that I actually squirmed a bit. But it did get me thinking about black people, and (normalized) violence, and how and why the black public sphere reacts to domestic violence the way it does.

If there are any white people reading this (so doubtful), you’ll have to trust me on the following statement. (In this instance, my cultural capital is worth more than yours. Take that, suckas!) Black people – and yes, I mean all black people, including Michelle Obama – know and quote scenes from two movies: What’s Love Got to Do With It? and The Color Purple. On varying levels, both movies are concerned with violence against black women perpetuated by their male partners. To add, Tyler Perry, who is a descendant and beneficiary of the kind of influence these films have on black movie audience and black culture at large, is the most popular black filmmaker of the day; he continues to disseminate and profit from the collateral intimate knowledge of these movies provide. For instance, one of his most recent films, The Family That Preys, features a deliberately unlikeable black female character who, through her insubordination (shout out, moyazb for this line and so much more), emasculates (and therefore disrespects) her black, blue-collar husband. So much so that the climax of the movie is his justifiable reclamation of manhood via smacking the shit out of her. I say justified because members of the primarily black audience I was in the company of (don’t ask why I was in a theater to see a Tyler Perry movie) cheered when it happened. The homie, Maegs had a similar experience. I put up several blue chips that these aren’t statistical aberrations. So, really, what the fuck is this about?

“You told Harpo to beat me,” and “That’s all you got, Ike?” elicit two responses from black folk: laughter and the outward expression of our inner thespians. What we seem to forget in our collective re-enactment of these scenes is the violence against black women at the heart of them. That casual omission seems to suggest, on some level just barely beneath the surface, that domestic violence is not only normal and acceptable, but a source of amusement. I ask, as someone who has participated fully in these exchanges plenty of times, What the fuck makes this shit funny? No, seriously, that is not a rhetorical question. Why the fuck are we laughing? Why are these the lines we memorize?

We have to stop this trend of normalizing violence in the home to the point that it is a stock device that any black comedian can employ to garner a laugh. I see no irony in this, Chris Rock. We have to stop rewarding (NAACP, listen up) and financially supporting a man whose career is based on dressing up in drag and caricaturizing black women, recycling coonery for the 21st century, and perpetuating misogyny and a belief in a patriarchal structure that advocates violence if it means the reclamation of a (tentative-ass black) manliness. We need to check these black interest blogs for the way they deliver this “news” to us. (And I’m not making that last point because nobody is fucking with our shit, despite Sum-n-Saf's blatant genius.)

Most importantly, we have to stop normalizing this violence and responding to it (only) with laughter. My ex used to talk about how ironic it was that the only blacks on television starred in sitcoms, because there really wasn’t much funny about black life in America. Well, there isn’t anything funny about black women getting their ears boxed. And I see no point in choosing sides or turning this Chris Brown/Rihanna mess into t-shirts or Mortal Kombat sketches. I’m over it.

Here’s a dose of penicillin for that ass: How about we stop trying to make light of, debate and justify the actions of victim and/or victimizer of domestic violence, and fucking confront our pathology? WARNING: THIS MEDICINE WILL NOT CAUSE DROWSINESS, AND IT WILL NOT MAKE YOU LAUGH. IF ILLNESS PERSISTS AFTER SEVEN DAYS, CEASE TAKING MEDICINE, AND CONSULT A THERAPIST.

n.b.: This morning, I received this via email. See what I mean?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

raven's eye

raven’s eye

February 22, 2009

so i have been dreaming about blogs. the first dream was about a blog called: raven’s eye

and as i have been thinking deeply over the past few days about these dreams and visions, i felt compelled to say this:

we, as women of color, have been organizing ourselves for years on the internet. we have started blogs, and e-zines, social networking spaces, list serves, conferences, conversations, groups, websites, cd’s and more. we are incredibly prolific, visionary, each of us coming to this space with individual and collective visions of self-expression, survival, sexuality, business, teaching, learning, community, organizing, solidarity,art, dreams, healing, and love.

in my visions i kept seeing a women and transfolk of color blog. one that was updated daily with our news, analysis, announcements, personal reflections, conversations, and more. a location on the net where we, from our different perspectives and lives, are able to give voice to us. where we agree and disagree, and stay in conversation.

i see this blog as a part of the ongoing organizing and expression that we do both on- and off-line so well in the midst of our crazy, blessed lives.

and so i am sending this out into the ether asking what you think.

are there others who are interested in building such a space for women and transfolk of color?

i can offer a chance to see if this experiment could work. i have some free time to dedicate to the building of this site. a certain amount of knowledge of software and a willingness to learn more. a connection to some communities of color. and a desire to build with you.

please distribute this where you think appropriate.

and if you are interested please leave a comment at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Your Hands

Introducing In Your Hands: A Letter Receiving Project
Since love is not scarce, our ancestors bathe us in it every moment that we dare to receive.

I have learned that there are sources of nurturing that are older than us and swifter than our bodies. I am noticing that those who are no longer here in physical form are teachers in the wind, showing us how we must relate to each other, if we want to survive longer than our bodies and longer than a system that denies us.

I have been writing urgent letters to my ancestors since before I knew they were watching and on the cusp of this new year they whispered a suggestion to me. “How about for this new year, as a gift to yourself, you receive some letters from us, the spirits of women that love you from eternity?”

As ever, my answer was yes. These daily letters from the most beloved of my known and chosen ancestors on behalf of all of the ancestors who have sent us love with their lives and dreams without us knowing came at exactly the right time. When I was afraid to trust myself, I was not afriad to trust their guidance for me. I re-learned a shifting methodology of loving myself firstly as their vessel and secondly as their recipient

Here is a letter I received from Octavia Butler (when I thought the project was over!):



Ha! Didn’t think I would show up, did you? Here I am, making room for the difficult, the unsatisfied, the restless creator in yourself. She is the one that will make the hard choices and the new worlds to live on. She is the one who will question everything, down to how life appears.

With all this loving you are doing, and which you must do, don’t disdain your opposition. You would call it the queer thing, the part of you that just wont fit into the terms of this world. It deserves to grow and to shatter everything, even your sense of who you thought you were.

I know I came in and messed up the whole coherence of the project, your whole timeline and pretty picture. And I know you trust me less than the others, that you have never been seduced by my narrative voice. That that is why I showed up here anyway.

What your life and work will be will exceed your expectations, your invitations, your affinity. Life is stranger than anything you would want to imagine, and that’s the good news. Wake up to the reality that survival is a sharp thing, full of edges and decisions and sacrifice. And while you believe in abundance, I will stay here, insisting that everything here is a shell that still needs to be broken through. Acceptance is not what you think it is. Remember me while you learn that

the boundaries will not hold, and whatever safety they provide is strategic at best, but usually false, usually lazy, usually a trick for evading breakthrough.

I do not rest because this world does not warrant it. And it is the restlessness in you that will knock things out of place that should not be set up how they are.

Don’t forget that even your crankiness is bigger than you. And make room for me and for knowing that some things must be destroyed.

Here, watching and waiting, undoing the neat package you thought you had. Remember, gifts are messy.


And my ancestors are socialist, so of course they would ask me to share these intimate insights and gifts with you. Of course they would want me to bring their messages to your waiting ears, but more than that I want to share this practice and encourage that you engage it for yourself.

I don’t know what ancestors speak to you or why and when they do, but I have been asked to ask you to listen, lovingly for what the universe wants you to know.

Can you join me? Think of the people who have influenced you, while they were living or through their written, or retold legacies. Just think about them and let your mind relax, let their energy surround and fill you. Create quiet times in your days in case they have something to say.

I encourage you to add your insights here on the “your letters” page if your feel that what you have received could provide healing and wisdom for the rest of us. I encourage you keep your writings for yourself if you feel that they should remain private. The messages of our living dead are sacred. They transcend the norms of intellectual property, and they should be treasured by your best impulse.

My intention here is to share with you an abiding sustaining faith in presence of those who have gone before and their participation in our everyday.

I invite your observance or participation with love.