March252014

As women, when we’re children we’re taught to enter the world with big hearts. Blooming hearts. Hearts bigger than our damn fists. We are taught to forgive - constantly - as opposed to what young boys are taught: Revenge, to get ‘even.’ Our empathy is constantly made appeals to, often demanded for. If we refuse to show kindness, we are reprimanded. We are not good women if we do not crush our bones to make more space for the world, if we do not spread our entire skin over rocks for others to tread on, if we do not kill ourselves in every meaning of the word in the process of making it cozy for everyone else. It is the heat generated by the burning of our bodies with which the world keeps warm. We are taught to sacrifice so much for so little. This is the general principle all over the world.

By the time we are young women, we are tired. Most of us are drained. Some of us enter a lock of silence because of that lethargy. Some of us lash out. When I think of that big, blooming heart we once had, it looks shriveled and worn out now. When I was teaching, I had a young student named Mariam. She was only 11 years old. Some boy pushed her around in class, called her names, broke her spirit for the day. We were sitting under a chestnut tree on a field trip and she asked me if a boy ever hurt me. I told her many did and I destroyed them one by one. I think that’s the first time she ever heard the word ‘destroyed.’ We rarely teach our girls to fight back for the right reasons.

Take up more space as a woman. Take up more time. Take your time. You are taught to hide, censor, move about without messing up decorum for a man’s comfort. Whether it’s said or not, you’re taught balance. Forget that. Displease. Disappoint. Destroy. Be loud, be righteous, be messy. Mess up and it’s fine – you are learning to unlearn. Do not see yourself like glass. Like you could get dirty and clean. You are flesh. You are not constant. You change. Society teaches women to maintain balance and that robs us of our volatility. Our mercurial hearts. Calm and chaos. Love only when needed; preserve otherwise.

Do not be a moth near the light; be the light itself. Do not let a man’s ocean-big ego swallow you up. Know what you want. Ask yourself first. Decide your own pace. Decide your own path. Be cruel when needed. Be gentle only when needed. Collapse and then re-construct. When someone says you are being obscene, say yes I am. When they say you are being wrong, say yes I am. When they say you are being selfish, say yes I am. Why shouldn’t I be? How do you expect a woman to stand on her two feet if you keep striking her at the ankles.

There are multiple lessons we must teach our young girls so that they render themselves their own pillars instead of keeping male approval as the focal point of their lives. It is so important to state your feelings of inconvenience as a woman. We are instructed to tailor ourselves and our discomfort - constantly told that we are ‘whining’ and ‘nagging’ and ‘complaining too much.’ That kind of silence is horribly violent, that kind of insistence upon uniformly nodding in agreement to your own despair, and smiling emptily so no man is ever uncomfortable around us. Male-entitlement dictates a woman’s silence. If we could see the mimetic model of the erasure of a woman’s voice, it would be an incredibly bloody sight.

On a breezy July night, my mother and I were sleeping under the open sky. Before dozing off, I told her that I think there is a special place in heaven where all wounded women bury their broken hearts and their hearts grow into trees that only give fruit to the good and poison to the bad. She smiled and said Ameen. Then she closed her eyes.

A Woman of War by Mehreen Kasana (via pbnpineapples)

(via joshunda)

February252014
jvictoriawrites:

“The time is gone forever when black people felt limited by themselves. We realize that we are, as ourselves, unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”
“I have endeavored to live my life by my terms & that means I am a renegade, an outlaw, a pagan…& there is no reason not to rebel.”
“Resistance to tyranny is the secret of joy. It means that the joy is in the struggle against whatever is keeping you from being your true self. You have to fight it. You cannot expect to have happiness in an intolerable situation where you are thoroughly oppressed and violated. There is no greater joy that being who you are and what you are and truly that.”
Manna from some universe called heaven. That’s what Alice Walker’s words about art, life and freedom mean to me. Whenever I struggle with words, with the images of black women in the world, the dismissal of black women writers, I go to Alice Walker’s work. So reading these interviews with various interviewees, including one of my favorite people and mentors, Evelyn C. White, is affirming and uplifting in several ways. She is a truly a model for any young scribe, women of color in particular. I love that she started several circles for women of color, starting with The Sisterhood which included Toni Morrison, June Jordan and Ntozake Shange. I would’ve just passed out when I crossed the threshold.

jvictoriawrites:

“The time is gone forever when black people felt limited by themselves. We realize that we are, as ourselves, unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”

“I have endeavored to live my life by my terms & that means I am a renegade, an outlaw, a pagan…& there is no reason not to rebel.”

“Resistance to tyranny is the secret of joy. It means that the joy is in the struggle against whatever is keeping you from being your true self. You have to fight it. You cannot expect to have happiness in an intolerable situation where you are thoroughly oppressed and violated. There is no greater joy that being who you are and what you are and truly that.”

Manna from some universe called heaven. That’s what Alice Walker’s words about art, life and freedom mean to me. Whenever I struggle with words, with the images of black women in the world, the dismissal of black women writers, I go to Alice Walker’s work. So reading these interviews with various interviewees, including one of my favorite people and mentors, Evelyn C. White, is affirming and uplifting in several ways. She is a truly a model for any young scribe, women of color in particular. I love that she started several circles for women of color, starting with The Sisterhood which included Toni Morrison, June Jordan and Ntozake Shange. I would’ve just passed out when I crossed the threshold.

12PM

Laverne Cox: Transforming Hollywood
The trailblazing Orange is the New Black star has become a powerful voice for trans people, including CeCe McDonald.
As Sophia Burset, the only trans character in Orange is the New Black—the hit Netflix show about a women’s prison—Laverne Cox is breaking new ground as a transgender actor in a field where trans women are still rare. But Cox is also gaining fame for her powerful off-screen politics as she advocates for transgender rights.
Most recently, Cox has lent both her star power and her organizing power to the case ofCeCe McDonald, an African-American trans woman sentenced to 41 months in prison for a killing she says occurred in self-defense. In 2011, a group of white people taunted McDonald and her friends with racist and transphobic epithets outside a bar in Minneapolis. In the ensuing altercation, McDonald defended herself with scissors from her purse. She was wounded and a white man, Dean Schmitz, was killed. McDonald was convicted of second-degree murder.
McDonald’s case became a flash point for trans activists because of several perceived injustices in her trial and sentencing. First, the judge barred expert testimony about the everyday violence faced by trans people, which would have been used to support the case for self-defense. Then McDonald was sent to a men’s prison—where trans women face not only a high risk of violence, but also the trauma of being stripped of their gender.
When McDonald was released early on parole this January, Cox was among those waiting to greet her. Cox is working withdirector Jacqueline Gares on Free CeCe, a film documenting McDonald’s first year out of prison.
Cox spoke with In These Times about why McDonald’s case moved her, the future of trans acting and activism, and what’s next for Orange is the New Black.
What inspired you to make a documentary about CeCe McDonald?
I became aware of CeCe’s case a few weeks after it happened. Her case spoke so much to me because I could very easily have been her. CeCe was just walking down the street with a group of her friends when she was attacked. Often, I’ve been just walking down the street and heard anti-trans and racist slurs, and I was even kicked on the street once. So many trans women don’t survive these kinds of attacks. In 2012, 53 percent of homicides in the LGBTQ community were trans women, and 73 percent [of all homicides] are people of color. So the film is also about the culture of violence against trans women as an epidemic.
Advocating for her case wasn’t hard for me because this woman is a survivor. She did not want to die that day. I asked CeCe, during my interview with her, “Do you think if you had not pulled those scissors out, that he would have killed you?” And she said, “Yes.” He was charging and lunging at her with hate in his eyes and—not to retry the case—but this is a white supremacist with a swastika tattooed on his chest, and she feared for her life.
Yet the initial media coverage was sympathetic to Schmitz and not McDonald. Why do you think that is?
The coverage was transphobic and transmisogynistic and racist. What Billy Navarro, one of her major advocates, said to me when I interviewed him was, “The media was so upset with CeCe because she had the audacity to survive.”
I think the media is really comfortable reading about trans women of color as victims after they die, but if we have the audacity to survive, we are immediately criminalized; that is what the system does. The intersecting transphobia, transmisogyny, racism and classism in the criminal justice system—all of that converged in her story. CeCe was arrested on the spot that night; no one else was arrested. It took them [nearly] a year to arrest the person who smashed a glass into CeCe’s face. Because I’m on a show that looks at the injustice of the criminal justice system, it’s a no-brainer for me to be involved in this project.
You’ve talked about these issues on Katie Couric’s show. How do you go about making these complicated analyses to general audiences who are more used to, as you point out, feeling sorry for trans people who die than advocating for survivors?
I’ve been so inspired by folks at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Audre Lorde Project, Queers for Economic Justice (which doesn’t exist anymore) and so many radical folks who have spoken about intersectionality. My Black identity doesn’t go away because I’m trans, and the forces of racism don’t go away because I’m trans; they actually are compounded by transphobia and transmisogyny. I’d be doing myself and my community a disservice if I didn’t speak in an intersectional way.
I hope to challenge the LGBTQ community as a whole to look at its transphobia, to look at its racism. Speaking from the truth of my own experience, I think that the LGBTQ community needs to be a social justice movement in general, and I don’t think it has been, in its mainstream incarnation.
You are one of the few trans actors, period. You’ve talked about the need for nuanced trans characters, instead of the usual stereotypical and problematic ones. But does nuanced always have to mean a good person? Can you play, for instance, a murderer?
Looking at the evolution of Black representation in the media, or of gay and lesbian representation, it’s difficult and it takes time. I’ve always believed it’s about having multiple stories out there about different kinds of people. I’m against the idea of positive versus negative representation. I would love to play a really interesting, complicated murderer. Those are the roles I live for.
We’ve seen actors who are cisgender (not trans) playing trans characters in film and television. Are we nearing a time when a trans actor might, for instance, play a cisgender woman?
I absolutely believe it’s possible. It starts with directors, writers and producers saying, “Laverne is a wonderful actress and she’s right for this part, so let’s cast her” [laughs]. I’ve played a couple of roles onstage, and a character in a film called The Exhibitionists, that weren’t written for trans actors.
You met CeCe McDonald face-to-face for the first time just after she was released. What was it like to meet the woman for whom you’d been advocating?
CeCe is a young, vibrant, remarkable woman. She’d heard Beyoncé’s album in prison, but she hadn’t seen the video, so two hours after she got out of prison we were watching it and talking about Beyoncé and jamming in this diner. She said that in [the men’s] prison, they were trying to strip her of her womanhood and her trans life, so she just wants to celebrate those things when she gets out, and she’s doing that.
Would you describe yourself as a prison abolitionist?
That’s something I’ve sort of gone back and forth with. From talking to CeCe and her supporters, it does seem like abolishing prisons is the way to go. But then, for the folks who are already serving time: What can we do to make their time more humane and more safe? The people inside need help now; they need support, policies and advocacy.
What do you think needs to fundamentally shift in the LGBTQ mainstream movement, so that it takes trans issues, and especially prison issues, into consideration?
Most of it is actually having trans people, particularly trans people of color, in leadership positions in LGBTQ organizations, [beyond] tokenizing. It’s also important for each and every one of us, no matter who we are, to interrogate our own internalized transphobia, homophobia, racism and classism. And also to get resources to the folks who are doing the work on the ground—like Katie Burgess and other grassroots activists in Minneapolis, who brought CeCe’s story to international audiences and advocated fiercely for her. They did that with basically no resources; what could they do if they actually had money to advocate?
On that note, how can people support your film?
We’re probably looking at another year of production, and we need funding. People can donate via Indiegogo or at FreeCeceDocumentary.net.
Can you tell us anything about the next season of Orange is the New Black?
Oh my, it’s really, really juicy. It’s really fantastic. All that I can say without giving too much away is that [actor] Lorraine Toussaint has joined our cast, and Lorraine is major [laughs]. Her character really stirs the pot. Expect the unexpected with this season.
source
Laverne Cox: Transforming Hollywood

The trailblazing Orange is the New Black star has become a powerful voice for trans people, including CeCe McDonald.

As Sophia Burset, the only trans character in Orange is the New Black—the hit Netflix show about a women’s prison—Laverne Cox is breaking new ground as a transgender actor in a field where trans women are still rare. But Cox is also gaining fame for her powerful off-screen politics as she advocates for transgender rights.

Most recently, Cox has lent both her star power and her organizing power to the case ofCeCe McDonald, an African-American trans woman sentenced to 41 months in prison for a killing she says occurred in self-defense. In 2011, a group of white people taunted McDonald and her friends with racist and transphobic epithets outside a bar in Minneapolis. In the ensuing altercation, McDonald defended herself with scissors from her purse. She was wounded and a white man, Dean Schmitz, was killed. McDonald was convicted of second-degree murder.

McDonald’s case became a flash point for trans activists because of several perceived injustices in her trial and sentencing. First, the judge barred expert testimony about the everyday violence faced by trans people, which would have been used to support the case for self-defense. Then McDonald was sent to a men’s prison—where trans women face not only a high risk of violence, but also the trauma of being stripped of their gender.

When McDonald was released early on parole this January, Cox was among those waiting to greet her. Cox is working withdirector Jacqueline Gares on Free CeCe, a film documenting McDonald’s first year out of prison.

Cox spoke with In These Times about why McDonald’s case moved her, the future of trans acting and activism, and what’s next for Orange is the New Black.

What inspired you to make a documentary about CeCe McDonald?

I became aware of CeCe’s case a few weeks after it happened. Her case spoke so much to me because I could very easily have been her. CeCe was just walking down the street with a group of her friends when she was attacked. Often, I’ve been just walking down the street and heard anti-trans and racist slurs, and I was even kicked on the street once. So many trans women don’t survive these kinds of attacks. In 2012, 53 percent of homicides in the LGBTQ community were trans women, and 73 percent [of all homicides] are people of color. So the film is also about the culture of violence against trans women as an epidemic.

Advocating for her case wasn’t hard for me because this woman is a survivor. She did not want to die that day. I asked CeCe, during my interview with her, “Do you think if you had not pulled those scissors out, that he would have killed you?” And she said, “Yes.” He was charging and lunging at her with hate in his eyes and—not to retry the case—but this is a white supremacist with a swastika tattooed on his chest, and she feared for her life.

Yet the initial media coverage was sympathetic to Schmitz and not McDonald. Why do you think that is?

The coverage was transphobic and transmisogynistic and racist. What Billy Navarro, one of her major advocates, said to me when I interviewed him was, “The media was so upset with CeCe because she had the audacity to survive.”

I think the media is really comfortable reading about trans women of color as victims after they die, but if we have the audacity to survive, we are immediately criminalized; that is what the system does. The intersecting transphobia, transmisogyny, racism and classism in the criminal justice system—all of that converged in her story. CeCe was arrested on the spot that night; no one else was arrested. It took them [nearly] a year to arrest the person who smashed a glass into CeCe’s face. Because I’m on a show that looks at the injustice of the criminal justice system, it’s a no-brainer for me to be involved in this project.

You’ve talked about these issues on Katie Couric’s show. How do you go about making these complicated analyses to general audiences who are more used to, as you point out, feeling sorry for trans people who die than advocating for survivors?

I’ve been so inspired by folks at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Audre Lorde Project, Queers for Economic Justice (which doesn’t exist anymore) and so many radical folks who have spoken about intersectionality. My Black identity doesn’t go away because I’m trans, and the forces of racism don’t go away because I’m trans; they actually are compounded by transphobia and transmisogyny. I’d be doing myself and my community a disservice if I didn’t speak in an intersectional way.

I hope to challenge the LGBTQ community as a whole to look at its transphobia, to look at its racism. Speaking from the truth of my own experience, I think that the LGBTQ community needs to be a social justice movement in general, and I don’t think it has been, in its mainstream incarnation.

You are one of the few trans actors, period. You’ve talked about the need for nuanced trans characters, instead of the usual stereotypical and problematic ones. But does nuanced always have to mean a good person? Can you play, for instance, a murderer?

Looking at the evolution of Black representation in the media, or of gay and lesbian representation, it’s difficult and it takes time. I’ve always believed it’s about having multiple stories out there about different kinds of people. I’m against the idea of positive versus negative representation. I would love to play a really interesting, complicated murderer. Those are the roles I live for.

We’ve seen actors who are cisgender (not trans) playing trans characters in film and television. Are we nearing a time when a trans actor might, for instance, play a cisgender woman?

I absolutely believe it’s possible. It starts with directors, writers and producers saying, “Laverne is a wonderful actress and she’s right for this part, so let’s cast her” [laughs]. I’ve played a couple of roles onstage, and a character in a film called The Exhibitionists, that weren’t written for trans actors.

You met CeCe McDonald face-to-face for the first time just after she was released. What was it like to meet the woman for whom you’d been advocating?

CeCe is a young, vibrant, remarkable woman. She’d heard Beyoncé’s album in prison, but she hadn’t seen the video, so two hours after she got out of prison we were watching it and talking about Beyoncé and jamming in this diner. She said that in [the men’s] prison, they were trying to strip her of her womanhood and her trans life, so she just wants to celebrate those things when she gets out, and she’s doing that.

Would you describe yourself as a prison abolitionist?

That’s something I’ve sort of gone back and forth with. From talking to CeCe and her supporters, it does seem like abolishing prisons is the way to go. But then, for the folks who are already serving time: What can we do to make their time more humane and more safe? The people inside need help now; they need support, policies and advocacy.

What do you think needs to fundamentally shift in the LGBTQ mainstream movement, so that it takes trans issues, and especially prison issues, into consideration?

Most of it is actually having trans people, particularly trans people of color, in leadership positions in LGBTQ organizations, [beyond] tokenizing. It’s also important for each and every one of us, no matter who we are, to interrogate our own internalized transphobia, homophobia, racism and classism. And also to get resources to the folks who are doing the work on the ground—like Katie Burgess and other grassroots activists in Minneapolis, who brought CeCe’s story to international audiences and advocated fiercely for her. They did that with basically no resources; what could they do if they actually had money to advocate?

On that note, how can people support your film?

We’re probably looking at another year of production, and we need funding. People can donate via Indiegogo or at FreeCeceDocumentary.net.

Can you tell us anything about the next season of Orange is the New Black?

Oh my, it’s really, really juicy. It’s really fantastic. All that I can say without giving too much away is that [actor] Lorraine Toussaint has joined our cast, and Lorraine is major [laughs]. Her character really stirs the pot. Expect the unexpected with this season.

source

(Source: face--the--strange, via newmodelminority)

December162013

stoptellingwomentosmile:

Diana, Chicago, 2013

(via localcreature)

December92013
November232013
November102013

The Most Beautiful City in the World

joshunda:

I do not want to write about leaving Austin.

I don’t want to write about it because it feels like generalizing. Because, as someone noted, African Americans are the most vocal minority in Austin to be such a tiny group — 8 percent in a city with an estimated 843,000 folks. Because writing about it suggests ambivalence or ambiguity and I feel neither.

But I’m writing because I think there might be other black women living in Austin or considering living in Austin who might find some recognition in my observations after living here for 8 years - both in Austin and in Texas. These sentiments can probably be extrapolated to other groups and ethnicities but the black woman component is unique and to me, uniquely significant.

Read More

October82013
September112013
2PM
“How many celebrated white writers have written characters who were not exactly like them? William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, Pearl S. Buck, Colum McCann, Yann Martel, and Arthur Golden immediately come to mind. In a society masquerading as post-racial, it is still only the white man who can speak authoritatively for every man. People of color, on the other hand, are expected to speak only for themselves.” The One Thing White Writers Get Away With, But Authors of Color Don’t (via joshunda)

(via joshunda)

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