19 December 2008

"all I want is my body"

I wrote this poem in the Tongues Afire creative writing workshop. I've been wanting to write this poem for a very long time but I didn't have the words, the courage, da wibe... but the workshop, our synergy, and incredibly powerful space helped me to write this. I also have been sitting in this fantastic course at NYU on Race, Gender, & Sexuality with Gayatri Gopinath - (I presented my research in her class and ended up sitting in for several more class sessions because it was so thought provoking and relavent to my work) - and the readings and conversations added other dimensions to what I had already been grappling with in my head about the body and gender and sexuality. So anyway, here it is:

all I want is my body

I carved in my body
memories of rape and coercion
control and no-other-choice sexual relations

spirits of Black women, Brown women, Yellow women,
women of color, sing to me of blood and torn tissue, and
split psyches, remember, what I had to do, was made to do

breeding (of slaves), denial (of rape), benefits (of war)
unfree being capital, non/being, object of desire and hate
crossing borders woven inside my body, then ripped and divided

I carved on my skin
(re)memories of present and past, out of rhythms and vibrations,
haunted, fibrous sketches of time, spread across earthmemory

Slavery, Internment, Reservations, and so many Wars and Occupations,

I see women of color, praying and organizing
I see women raising fists, voices, & pens against men, power, & state
I see women loving women, as radical, against these silences
(taking back my body)

18 December 2008

odds & ends

The end of a year & beginning of a new one bring much reflection. I have so much to be thankful for this year - graduating, the postdoc at NYU, and the time/space I've needed for my writing, research, & creativity these past four months in New York. And on top of all the intellectual activity at NYU that I've been a part of this fall semester, I've also been very fortunate to be in this amazing creative writing workshop with R. Erica Doyle for the past two months - called Tongues Afire at The Audre Lorde Project in Brooklyn.

I have learned so much... and I feel I have truly improved my creative writing, process, & craft in many ways. We ended the workshop with two readings, which were very inspring, beautiful, and powerful. I feel so grateful to have shared work and space with my brilliant fellow writers in Tongues Afire... I wrote several new poems, revised quite a few others, and started a new project, a collage / graphic novella thingy. I submitted a number of poems for review and possible publication. And I've been writing on my blog somewhat regularly, and one of my goals for the new year is to write weekly on my blog... at the very least biweekly. We'll see how that goes :) I will be teaching and so my schedule will be more hectic... but it will be hella cold in NY so I may become a shut-in outside of teaching and work :-)

I'm home now for the xmas holiday... enjoying time in the warmth, great food, and my crew of family-friends... re-connecting and catchin up wit' all my peoples... remembering all the things I love and being reminded of all the things that are difficult and painful... nevertheless, really happy to be home.

more musings to come & will be sharing some of my new poems very soon on this space of conscious vibration.

p.s. Two of my poems have appeared in the Journal of Caribbean Literatures (Volume 5 Number 3). This is the summer issue, but I recently received my hard copy of the journal about a month ago - so exciting to see my poetry in print! It is so very inspiring and also a much needed incentive to keep getting my poetry out there.

27 November 2008

reality check on thanksgiving

love this cartoon! It's funny, ironic, & flips the script.

So let us remember on this day, even as we enjoy time off, even as we spend time with our families, that if we live in the United States, we live on stolen land. "Thanksgiving" should be a day of national mourning.

It should be day that we remember the genocide of Native Americans, a day that we remember the Native American struggle and the larger indigenous movements (for land, rights, and resources) across the planet. This should be the time we remember... the history we may never know... and take the time to learn & read up on what we don't know.

in the struggle,

24 November 2008

on being invisible

The last few weeks, post-election, have been intriguing & disturbing to me for a number of reasons: the blame game for prop 8 in California with Black people as the scapegoats; the media trying to talk about this issue but failing miserably (for the most part) & pitting 'Blacks' against 'Gays'; and the invisibility of Black LGBTQ people in these debates.

After I read Kai Wright's thought-provoking article "Blaming Blacks for Prop 8" on The Root, I immediately sent it to my friends and posted it on my facebook profile because I thought it did an excellent job of calling out both racism in white LGBTQ communities and homophobia in Black communities, while at the same time pointing out the obvious - there are LGBTQ Black people. I want to take this point further and not only support Wright's call for white LGBTQ communities to do a better job of reaching out to people of color AND also for Black communities to really discuss sexuality, BUT ALSO suggest here that we need to talk about what "civil rights" mean at this particular moment and at the same time deal with the reality of homophobia.

In order to do this work, we must stop referring to civil rights as what Black people have "won" on the one hand and what LGBTQ are still fighting for on the other. This makes it seem as if the struggle for civil rights (for Black people) is over - when this is clearly not the case - AND this does not account for people who experience multiple forms of oppression (i.e. for example, being Black, female, queer, and working class). If we talk about what the struggle for civil rights continue to mean for communities of color and marginalized groups around the United States (and other parts of the world), then we can build/create much needed collaborations (building alliances across difference as the great Audre Lorde says) and make spaces for people who exist in two or more communities.

To do this work, we must also talk about different kinds of oppression and highlight that all oppression is not equal oppression, nor do systems of oppression operate the same. Racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia are NOT the same. Certainly, systems of oppression are inter-connected and feed on each other. But there are differences that must be acknowledged (and privilege must also be recognized, whether it be white, male, class, light-skin, or heterosexual).

If we think about what it means for ALL people to be full and effective citizens in the world (and in the nations where we live), then it may help us to push the boundaries and breakdown the divides that separate us. We need to challenge ourselves and our communities to talk seriously about race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, and nationality. We all have multiple identities even if/when we identify more closely with one over another. And so we may (and will) disagree about many things in terms of our beliefs and ideologies. But is there a way for us who have common & progressive goals and visions for the future to meet, talk, debate, and organize? Let's say we want to fight for jobs, health care, safer neighborhoods, and good schools, then don't we find a way to work across the divides of say religion, race, gender, and/or culture?

Many organizations and communities do this kind of work - meaning set aside differences in terms of beliefs/morals/religion and fight for a specific cause or the bigger picture (human rights, social justice, equality). But this doesn't happen enough and morality along with belief systems can be mobilized to take away rights and work against equality. As a number of articles have pointed out in the past couple weeks, religion and various churches have played major roles in the passing of anti-gay legislation around the country. And some Black communities in particular tend to use religion (Christianity & the Bible) as the reason for homophobia.

So this brings me to some big questions: How can Black communities effectively talk about sexuality, homophobia, and same-sex marriage? (particularly in the face of more pressing issues of education, prison, policing, economic crisis, and the daily realities of racism)? How do we stop the silence and denial? How do we begin the conversation among people who have different beliefs? Can someone be Black, Christian, and straight AND be a LGBTQ ally? Can we all support same-sex marriage as a civil & legal right regardless of our religious or moral beliefs? Can someone be Black and LGBTQ and not "believe" in gay marriage? BUT perhaps still support it in legal terms?

How do those of us who are both Black and LGBTQ become visible? Do we have to be like Wanda Sykes and come out in public ways, meaning in our own communities and families? (Wanda is a celebrity, so her "public" is arguably larger than ours.) Can we be safe and visible? How do we talk about hate crimes and violence happening to 'visible' Black (and of color) gay men, lesbians, and transgenders? Why are so many of these acts of violence coming from Black men? And finally how do we talk about these issues in a diasporic context (thinking about the Caribbean and Africa - with different yet similar issues)?

These are the many questions and debates going on in my head... I have no answers, only more questions... hoping for open & honest conversations that will create and sustain acceptance of difference. I know it will be a struggle. And I struggle with how to be in this struggle as a Black Queer woman who may not be 'visibly' Black & Queer to most. I struggle with how to describe my feminist ideologies and beliefs that sustain me and keep me in the struggle for social justice, which includes an end to sexist, gender, and racial oppression. I struggle with how to explain that I believe feminism will save us as long as it is anti-racist, class-conscious, and queer. I struggle with how to fight against all that marks me as invisible and the fear of being visible.

06 November 2008

Change... can it be?

Obama said "YES WE CAN" and we did... Admittedly, I was a skeptic up until the last moment of truth on November 4th... as much as I wanted to dive in to the Obama-mania of the past year, I resisted the urge because I was scared. I feared for his life and his family. I feared for the ways in which his success would be spun (and is spun) as the end of racism. I feared that he would be a symbol of post-racial Blackness. I feared that he would not be able to live up to all the hopes/dreams/expectations we placed on him. I feared that he would have to give up too much to win the election. I feared that Black people would be left out. And my greatest fear - that poor working class Black people would be forgotten. Twelve years in Florida and distrust of an extremely flawed voting system enhanced my cynicism.

I had many fears and some of these fears remain in spite of my feelings of excitement and joy over this victory, our victory. The victory of so many people who came before us. People whose names are forgotten - our ancestors who fought and resisted slavery and colonization. Black men and women who refused to be treated as second-class citizens, who struggled for civil rights (along with white allies and other coalitions of people of color and other marginalized groups). But (as many voices have been saying) this victory cannot be seen as the final victory.

The struggle is not over. Social justice has yet to be realized. In the United States, 2.3 million people are locked up in an unjust prison system. Their rights are taken away, yet their bodies and labor are owned by the state. The United States is engaged in two unjust wars. Poor working class people around the country do not have equal access to resources and opportunities. Many people are struggling to get by. Poor communities and communities of color are heavily policed and criminalized. LGBTQ people and communities are also criminalized and in the struggle for civil rights. (Thinking especially about the hate crimes forgotten, with little to no media coverage, endured by lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer people especially of color, remember Sakia Gunn; thinking about the bans on same sex marriage across the country, remember California and Florida in this election - voting for change on the one hand and against rights on the other.)

Women of color, LGBTQ people, marginalized groups, communities of color, immigrant communities, and the working poor, working class, are too often pitted against each other. We are encouraged to forget/dismiss our common differences, to fight over the scraps and crumbs left over, to not see our similar struggles. And we forget that these divisions are not set in stone, often times we are ALL these, MANY of these, living in multiple identities, fitting in/to many of these so-called categories, boxes built for division, created to keep us separated, fighting (the divide and rule paradigm still at work).

BUT something happened on November 4th, not just in the United States, but around the world... I felt it as the election results poured in... I felt it when the Obama family walked out on that stage... I felt it during his speech... I felt it as I saw images of people around the world in celebration and in hope of all that is possible... I still feel it as I walk around the streets of New York in post-election bliss, the smiles, the tears of joy, the heads held high, the energy and spirit of this moment... (especially for people of color, especially for people who voted for the first time, especially for people who worked so hard on the Obama campaign and voter registration).

And so, I am full of HOPE and ready for CHANGE. "Yes, we can!"

As I resonate upon these hopes of Election '08, I feel like a believer now, I feel like anything is possible (at least for this moment, at least in the now). I feel such relief that so many people in the United States (born citizens and naturalized citizens who may locate home outside the U.S. but live in the U.S.) participated in the electoral process and made a collective voice heard - a voice that said, we are tired of the present regime.

As a migrant and newly naturalized citizen, this was my first time voting in the United States, and I am happy to say I voted for Obama... even as I critique U.S. empire and imperialism and see the hypocrisy in the so-called democracy of the United States' two party system and mystifying electoral college. I am over joyed that he won, and in spite of all my doubts and fears, I believe.

"We inhabit histories even if we do not understand or know them" -Angela Davis

I was fortunate to hear Professor Davis speak last week (Oct 30th) here in New York... and to be blessed/inspired/lifted by her words of wisdom (her voice of radical change). (Her talk focused on a range of issues - the election, race, gender, civil rights, citizenship, the prison industrial complex, democracy, abolition, and more.) She reminded us that no matter how much the election discourse evaded the question of race (and public discourse generally), histories are always a part of us; she said "they inhabit us." And we cannot disregard how much race has shaped histories in the present. So even as we celebrate Obama's win and the apparent defeat of racial barriers, we must remember there is much work to do.

Professor Davis said that we must shift our focus from the individual to the group, that we must sustain the energy from this election and hold our leaders accountable - push for the change we want/need. Let us not forget that the struggle for social justice and an equal society and world remains. She said, "Don't give up our collective agency to our leaders. Rid ourselves of the Messiah complex." In other words, we must remain active, participate, and BE IN this movement. And we cannot forget the problem of colorblindness & gender blindness - because we do not live in a world that is gender or color blind. She ended her talk with the refrain, "Radical Solutions are needed" and that we must say no to racism, say no to sexism, say no to wars, say no to injustice...

These are the ideas I focus on as we celebrate Obama's win (as our victory, but not the final victory) as the beginning of a movement for real change, a push for radical change, as the start we need to both imagine and create a radically different, socially just, equal, and better world.

with hope that this whisper of revolution transforms into a storm,

27 August 2008

the august escape & fall in new york city

Okay, so I kinda missed august and dropped the ball on my response to part two of the hot mess that was CNN's Black in America on "The Black Man." Luckily I kept my notes and its been in progress. So here it is finally (even though it is beyond late) - just some food for thought and because it will be relevant to some of my future postings... But first, an update on me and my first month in new york city :) I successfully defended my dissertation on July 29th :) packed and moved in August... Strangely but not surprisingly I am missing da'ville... Mostly I miss my peeps, my crew, my community, but we're still with each other in spirit and cyberspace :)

(This posting date says Aug 27th cause I started working on it back then, it is now actually Sept 24th)

Meanwhile, in new york, I am settling in and adjusting to city life. Fall has just arrived and my tropic self is not prepared for winter. But since I have little choice in the matter, I gats to get ready... As colder days approach, I am hard at work on various projects and transitioning from graduate student to post-diss life and postdoctoral research and book proposal. It is crazy, but yeah I am finally on the other end, staring down the long list of more work, more reading, more research, and more writing that will be my career and life as an emerging academic... I am learning/adjusting to life after defense, actually being Dr. Angelique V. Nixon and what that all means, letting it roll off my tongue and hear it out loud and feel it and know it to be true... but the hardest thing is owning it... truly owning it. I am sure it will come with time, and so I am grateful for the postdoc fellowship cause it is giving me that time, as well as giving me time to work on transforming the dissertation into a book (or at least starting the process). I feel inspired by the move and very motivated to do the work. And I plan to focus on my creative writing as well.

I am loving new york city - it is dramatic, daring, and delicious. I am slowly getting the hang of things/tings. There is way too much to do, and yet I am determined to make the most of my year and do as much as I can. In a way, I feel remarkably comfortable in its streets, but at the same time, I feel out of place. Every day though, I feelin more and more in place, mostly on the side lines, driving forward and pushing through.

Part Two response (better late than never... I hope :) and pondering the state of the world

This is clearly late for my part two response... but I've been really busy... and now I am finally getting back to responding to the second part of CNN's Black in America, "The Black Man" - which was not quite as terrible as the first one. I didn't want to scream as much as I did during the first part... Nevertheless, there were problems (multiple in fact). One glaring problem, as with the first one, why is Roland Fryer (an economist) an expert on everything Black??? why was he back on part two??? cause he's also an expert on drugs? this makes no sense... I could go on forever, but I just wanna touch on a couple issues:

- Why begin this segment with crack stories and prison without context for the prison industrial complex or unfair sentencing laws that are racist or any discussion of the drug laws and how they were created.

(But at least they talked about unemployment and the fact that racism still affects Black men getting jobs, racial stereotypes, and fear of the Black man in the United States.)

- The “successful” Black man raising his kids as “white” - We need to break down this notion that Black kids who do well in school are acting white, and the other crazy idea that education is not a black thing. Why didn't they talk about the very long history of Black Intellectuals, Scholars and Educators in the United States?

- Like the first part, this one still had no analysis of issues of class or poverty; and again this notion that there are no role models for young Black men from "the inner city” reinforcing the pathology of "no Black fathers" or the looming question of the segment - “where have all the fathers gone?” - and so they compared two different families but never talk to the women/partners of those "amazing" men who stay in their families. But of course part two was only about Black men, so apparently no need to discuss Black women (even though they talked A LOT about Black men during the "Black women and family" part).

- The show continues to pathologize the "generational problem" of Black men not being fathers, which in turn reinforces all the racialized stereotypes of Black women and the "breakdown of the Black family."

I could go on and on, and let's not even start with the bizarre and highly problematic discussion of hip hop culture and contemporary Black music. I will stop here and just say that the show was inadequate at best and dangerous at worse -reinforcing racialized stereotypes and pathologizing Black people and Black peoples lives. We deserve better. We deserve more complicated readings and studies of our lives. We deserve truly diverse representations of ourselves that account for the DIFFERENCES that comprise Blackness in "America" and beyond (i.e. in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, class, spirituality, family structure, and so on). (for example: The show in NO way dealt with Black migrants from the Caribbean, Latin America, or Africa - in fact, the show did not even account for Soledad's own identity of being mixed and Afro-Cuban.)

Most of all, we deserve to not be reduced to stereotypes and caricatures. Can our human lives have value, as the great Sylvia Wynter theorizes about, in a world where capital and money are the driving forces, not humanity?

I dedicated my dissertation "for the struggle, to be human, Black woman, and free" because this is what preoccupies me now - especially in these regressive moments where it seems people believe we live in a color-blind, gender-equal world, where we can't really talk about race or gender, not to mention class, sex, or sexuality - a world that is increasingly racist, sexist, classist, repressed, xenophobic, and homophobic but there is little to no public discourse about what these actually mean... I've been watching way way too much t.v. since I've been in new york (someone let me have free channels :) and since I haven't watched t.v. regularly in many years, it has been a "learning" experience... This has re-confirmed for me that public discourse and so-called journalists really don't engage at all with these issues. I watched "The View" the other day and the five women on that show (including Barbara Walters) could not define sexism... I knew something was terribly wrong at that moment...

more rantings and musings to follow...
conscious wibes from Angelique in new york...

24 July 2008

response to CNN's "Black in America"

So I watched CNN's special report on "Black in America" last night - the first part on "The Black Woman and Family" with Soledad O'Brian. I figured it would be problematic but it was worse than I had imagined. I expected it to be this expose on "Black America" and for it to help its audience (white America) to "understand" Black people better. I expected that it would be heteronormative and only deal with male/female relationships. And yes - it did all those things, while also perpetuating racialized stereotypes... But it was worse than what I expected because it was incredibly regressive in the sense that it re-presents the Moynihan Report (1965) as the way to understand the Black experience in the United States - with all kinds of new statistics presented in ways that continue to pathologize Black people and Black people's lives. Furthermore, Soledad fails to offer any analysis of her research or any social, political, or historical context for the so-called "struggles and successes of Black America." There are so many issues with the two-hour segment that it could take me all day to write them down and I'd still have more to talk about... so where to begin?

Let's start with the notion that marriage is the answer to Black women's problems: the single mothers in "alarming" numbers who have "children out of wedlock" (we were reminded of this constantly throughout the show - "70% of Black children are born out of wedlock" - with no comparative data to other racial groups in America) and the professional women who in "alarming" numbers are "unmarried and single." ("Alarming" was the key phrase of the show - perpetuating all kinds of fears about "those" single Black mothers and unmarried Black women.)

Problem A: So for the sake of argument, let's assume that Soledad and her CNN producers/writers don't mean ALL Black women, but since they traffic in generalizations and this report is framed as "The Black Woman and Family" - they are in fact lumping Black women together and the implication is that "Black women" in the statistics are all straight and want/desire to be married. Perhaps some of these women in the "45% of Black women have never been married" statistic are not straight! or they just don't want to be married! The idea that some women may not desire marriage and/or are lesbian/bisexual is not even an option. The implication then is that half of Black women in the United States are suffering and in search of a good Black man (who don't exist or are in jail), and when all else fails, they may have to (OH NO!) date outside their race - which of course means date a white man - not a Latino or Asian man, nope.. cause America is just black and white...

Problem B: Married Two-parents households are better than single parent households: the assumption that Black single mothers would be better off (i.e. economically and socially) with the fathers of their kids. Maybe these women don't want to be with the father of their kids. Maybe alternative family structures and extended families are working for these women. That is never explored and the implication here is that children of Black single mothers won't make it and are in the "achievement gap" between Black and white kids (again just Black and white) because they have no fathers and are poor. Then Soledad brings in Harvard economist Roland Fryer to share his "expertise" on educating Black kids... His "experiment" is paying kids to learn - and this "shows" that Black kids just need reinforcement (i.e. money) to do well. Roland says that Black kids in 'the inner city' don't have role models - and this is what they need to do well in school... (WTF!) First of all, this guy is an economist so why in the hell is he talking about education like he's an expert??? Second of all, there are many after-school programs operated by Black (and non-Black) people all over this country that don't pay kids to learn... AND there are many scholars (non-Black and Black) who could have offered more insights and real expertise into education and the disparities in the education system - for example, the show (i.e. Soledad during her ONE YEAR of research) could/should have addressed the lack of resources in schools, segregation that continues in the school system, teachers not getting paid enough, and the fact that the U.S. education system is failing for most kids not just Black poor kids.

As me and a group of my friends watched this last night, I asked the room, how many of us come from Black single parent households and earned college and graduate degrees... most of us raised our hands - because why - believe it or not, some of us are raised by single Black mothers and grandmothers (and fathers, grandfathers, aunties, & uncles), and we have role models in our families (single parent and all...) and we are inspired and encouraged to do well and succeed. And some of us have! On the other hand, this report implies that middle class and upper class children (from two parent households) will make it - as if there is some guarantee... which leads to:

Problem C with the show: lack of any analysis or critique when discussing class, socio-economic status, or colorism (among other topics they tried to address like Health and HIV/AIDS).

There is so much more to say... and there is part two tonight... so expect more rantings from me tomorrow or the next day...

please share your comments and reflections on conscious vibration.

peace & soul,

20 July 2008

Summer 2008 update

It's been a long time... I've missed writing on my blog, but trust when I say I been writing... workin on my dissertation straight through since the beginning of the year... Last fall was hectic cause I was on the job market and working on the diss, and spring was insane cause I was finishing up the diss... and this summer - revisions... and now it is finished! or I should say ready for the defense, which is in a couple weeks. I feel very accomplished, but still thinking about the process and spending time relaxing and getting ready for the defense...

On to other updates - I got a job! a one year postdoctoral fellowship at New York University. So I am moving to NY in mid August - big changes and a major move about to happen. I am thrilled and still can't believe it... everything is happening so fast... somehow it will all come together...

As for my writing - even though I've been out of the blog scene - I have two poems coming out in the Journal of Caribbean Literatures very soon... and I've worked on a few and sent out for submission/review. So the writing scene has been okay - but most of my time has been consumed with the diss - it was an overwhelming process, and I learned a lot about myself as a writer and a scholar - which I will continue working on in the future... So as I wrap up the diss process and graduate :) and then move onto the postdoc, I have big plans for so many t'ings - there is much to write and conversate about! expect some entries soon in the coming weeks...

until then...