28 November 2010

HAITI IN:SIGHT - A Soulful Benefit for Healing in Haiti - Dec 11th NYC

Here is what I've been up to: hard at work on co-producing and co-organizing a beautiful benefit for healing work in Haiti. I'm blessed to be working with some of the most amazing people on this project and planning the benefit. For all my NY peeps - get your tickets ASAP here: https://www.wepay.com/tickets/view/1298. We have an extraordinary evening planned - multimedia performances, live music, spoken word, live art, silent auction of our featured visual artists, and dancing - while bringing our awareness and attention back to Haiti in time for the January anniversary of the earthquake. We will also be highlighting the work of our partners on the ground in Haiti with recorded audio and visual updates. I will also be featuring a prose poem about my time in Haiti giving some context for this unnatural disaster and what has happened post-quake.  I am so thankful for my main partners in the planning of this event - especially Donna, Naima, and Beatrice - grateful for them and our growth in this process.

For all my peeps not in New York, you can still support this work by making an offering on our donation page through wepay:  https://www.wepay.com/public/view/15171. And for more info about the project itself, check out the Ayiti Resurrect website.

Here are all the details (flier designed by Naima Penniman):

Brief Description of the Work:

Ayiti Resurrect and Ayiti Cherie Healing Project have a shared vision to facilitate 
psychological & spiritual healing for Haiti's quake-survivors based on principles 
of solidarity, creativity, and collective resilience. Recognizing mental heath as a 
human right, we are organizing to travel to Haiti as a grassroots delegation of visionary 
artists, community builders, mental health specialists, and holistic healers with 
bloodlines in the Caribbean and African Diaspora. In collaboration with 
local organizations and individuals, Ayiti Resurrect and Ayiti Cherie 
delegates will create a sanctuary in Leogane for trauma recovery through cultural 
activities and creative expression, grassroots organizing and community building, 
skill-sharing and trainings, and mental wellness and stress relief workshops.

20 November 2010

"never again"

This is the first poem I wrote about my mother... a year after she passed away (in 1996)...  it took me years to finish it...  and it marks for me the beginning of my journey as a poet...  It was accepted for publication by WomanSpeak (Caribbean Women's Journal of Writing & Art published in The Bahamas) - and the issue has finally been published after years of hard work!!!  Congrats to WomanSpeak Issue 5 2010 and the editor Lynn Sweeting for a beautiful journal!!! I just got my copy and wanted to share this now published piece on conscious vibration.

never again
Angelique V. Nixon

once I felt ashamed of being my mother’s daughter
but I am not her, and what I have from her is all I needed.
I let all the other things about her I dare not say,
go far away, as her spirit seeks rest and hunts for peace.

once I felt ashamed of being a woman,
because I saw the woman my mother was,
she was all that I did not want to be,
I ran from her and the person she revealed to me.

so ashamed
living over da hill, filling empty stomachs with stories on walks to the well,
draping worn sheets over broken windows,
growing into the teenager who lied about these things.

so scared
the boyfriend who beat our windows and her,
mood swings tested my faith in her words and god,
rat bat nights into endless rows making gramma vex.

so angry
leaving me long before
she died, hiding the bruises,
her distance grew wider with each inch I grew taller.

resentment soaks through the girl child who has seen too much,
distrust settles hearing another broken promise,
the walls grow wet and porous
like sand castles at dusk, in between knowing and fear.

watching my mother waste away, tore at my walls,
the last time I saw her—recognition meandered in her vacant eyes
and the wonder if she really knew it was me, hung in the air,
this puzzle sticks like a hungry potcake following me home.

memories remain opaque, held in vaults of shame,
locked away, until I broke through,
outside the perceived, in troubled shadows,
I found place, a space to breathe.

now, I feel myself (me) being a woman,
being the woman my mother wanted me to be,
strong like saltwater, defiant like moon tides,
independent like the sun, cool like summer rain.

    and now, no matter my wish to save her,
    I am never ashamed.


06 November 2010

Haiti, the earthquake, & environmental justice

I've taken a long break from my blog...  too long... since my last posting, I've had a whirlwind of fall deadlines and intense teaching and community work. I also went to Haiti in August - doing groundwork and building for a healing project (Ayiti Resurrect) that I am helping to organize with a team of artists, healers, and community workers. As soon as I got back, my fall semester of teaching and other commitments began. The months have flown by and it seems there is less and less time for my creative writing. Nevertheless I remain dedicated to my craft even as I spend most of my writing time in an academic / teaching / focusing on scholarly book project space. But I bring my creative into the academic.  

I was invited to speak at a symposium on Black Environmental Thought and the Future of African American Studies at Indiana University Bloomington in October - specifically because of my work in the Caribbean and to bring a Diasporic perspective into the conversation. And as I prepared for that in September, I decided to focus on Haiti for my presentation - titled "Exiles in Paradise: Towards a Green Caribbean Future" - particularly because of my trip and the fact that Haiti has severe environmental degradation created and exacerbated through neocolonialism. I wanted to compare this to the tourism destinations of the region like Jamaica - to discuss how the environment suffers in the name of so-called development at each end of the paradise spectrum (i.e. represented from 'heavenly' to 'dangerous'). I wrote bits and pieces of poetry and prose while I was in Haiti and I ended up using that to begin my reflections.

I decided to share this today on my blog as I read reports about Hurricane Tomas bringing rain into Leogone and the fears that flooding will make the recent cholera epidemic worse...  all this on top of the catastrophe still happening post earthquake...  all this within the same context of human-made disaster(s).

Work in Progress: "Exiles in Paradise"

I made a promise to the stars
under a night sky in Ayiti
That I would remember
what it looks like to be an exile in your own country
what it must feel like to be excised from citizenship
what struggle sounds like
what survival is

and the cost of producing/being paradise for everyone but yourself
in this land of revolutionary dreams and broken results
I made a promise to bear witness

Under an August full moon after dusk, I walked through the largest tent camp in Croix De Bouquet and made this promise (where over 10,000 people are living - displaced because of the earthquake – relocated from other tent camps in Port Au Prince damaged by rain and wind, from one set of temporary housing to another). Over 1 million people in Haiti remain displaced and living in temporary shelters or tents – nine months later.

I was humbled by the strength and resilience of my Haitian sisters and brothers – who have created living spaces out of tents, gravel, sheets, tarp, wood, and metal. All across Port Au Prince into Leogone (the hardest hit area), I saw Haitian people making do with what they could – bringing depth and new meanings to the tenants of environmentalism – reduce, reuse, and recycle.

I traveled to Haiti as part of a grassroots collective and organizing team in order to initiate a healing project that we plan to facilitate with Haitian partners on the ground. We went there to learn, ask questions, and build relationships with specific communities through the principles of solidarity, creativity, and collective resilience.

Post-earthquake... everything has changed – I heard this over and over again... in the context of this “natural disaster”... But there is nothing natural about what happened in Haiti after the earthquake. A country already devastated socially, politically, economically, and environmentally through slavery, colonialism, debt for so-called independence, new imperial powers enacted through occupations, guns, free trade zones, medical testing, transnational manufacturing and textile plants, and the devastation and inequities produced by globalization.

There is nothing natural about poverty and unemployment produced under the choking hold of neocolonialism, IMF and World Bank debt, and structural adjustment.

There is nothing natural about “peace-keeping troops” that occupy military style... preventing growth while supporting the elite, dictatorships, and coups.

There is nothing natural about mass deforestation... and the soil erosion and land degradation that happens after forests are stripped because people have so few choices – forced to sell and use natural resources faster than the land can handle...  nothing natural about the lack of trees and roots to suck up water in the rainy and hurricane seasons that bring mudslides and massive flooding.

Nothing natural about small farmers moving from the countryside into crowded cities because there is no room for their crops in market places where they are cut out… in so called free trade.

Nothing natural about families who cannot feed their children...  nothing natural about the accumulation of debt at the expense of life… in a global economy that values profit over human need.

There is nothing natural about lack of infrastructure and poorly constructed buildings put up too quickly in the name of progress and modernization.

There is nothing natural about the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti - mass graves, bodies still under rubble, tent cities with no protection for women and children – who are the most vulnerable in these moments of crisis – and the lack of social services in a country whose government depended on too many NGOs to provide for its people...

And so people will do what they must in order to survive... what I saw in Haiti was resilience and resourcefulness.  I saw an entirely new level of what it means to Recycle Out of Need...  re-cycling through re-using what you have, creating new things out of old.  This is a part of life in the Global South – especially for poor and working class people.  Recycling, re-using and reducing are part of the daily fabric of living.  This is a different relationship with one's environment.  The Global South is currently demonized for its pollution production and lack of environmental policies, but rarely do we consider how the Global South has been toxic waste dump for the Global North while also finding new and innovative ways to recycle and reuse what is thrown out in the Global North and by upper-class and elite located in the Global South. And Haiti – along with other countries in the Caribbean have long endured the environmental degradation and injustices created through unsustainable development.

prayers and blessings for Ayiti

11 August 2010

Restorying & Imagining in The Bahamas

31 July 2010 || Nassau, The Bahamas

I spent most of July at home in The Bahamas teaching for BWSI's second year (Bahamas Writers Summer Institute) - which is a Caribbean-centered creative writing program - founded by Bahamian writers Marion Bethel and Helen Klonaris. I have been honored to be a part of the BWSI faculty for the past two years. It was an incredibly rich and moving experience to teach, read, and reason with fellow Bahamian writers. I taught a course on Caribbean Literature titled The Caribbean Literary Imagination. We delved into Caribbean history and culture, the intersections among race, gender, class, and sexuality, and how we define the Bahamian literary imagination within the larger Caribbean. The theme this year was "Restorying the Bahamian Imaginal Landscape" - and in addition to seminars and workshops for participants, BWSI also hosted the Writers in Community Series which included readings and panel discussions open to the public.

I was on the panel titled "Writing from Away" with Helen Klonaris, Ian Strachan, Maria Govan, and Nakia Pearson moderated by Marion Bethel. We each read some of our work and then had a conversation about writing abroad. It was an intense and heated discussion about the politics of home and feelings of exile while having and sustaining a deep commitment to home. Each of us defined home and what it meant to leave and return - some of us on the panel are still away and some have returned - and what it means to write both at home and away. I have been long fascinated with how Caribbean writers engage with home while being abroad. There are so many variant degrees of longing and desire for home represented in the works of our most beloved and famous writers across the region. How we imagine and define home helps us to define ourselves no matter how long we have lived away or whether we return or not. And through the various and at times difficult relations to home (from George Lamming in Pleasures of Exile to Michelle Cliff in If I Could Write This In Fire), it is clear - home is always in our blood, in our pens, and in our hearts & minds. I struggle with this often - my relationship to home... but no matter the years that go by... I remain a migrant soul deeply connected to home in all ways... I continue to define and make home(s) & homespaces wherever I live... but yet & still - home for me is always The Bahamas. I take my roots with me and lay them down through my words, my work, my light.

I believe that we must build and nurture community wherever we live. And as a writer and community worker, I also believe in sustaining rootedness to/through/in home. For me, this has meant returning home to visit and spend time as often as possible. It has also meant for me - writing about home, keeping connected and finding ways to do work on the ground in spite of the distance. This is why BWSI has been such an important experience for me. And I look forward to many more years and being a part of all the growth that will surely happen with BWSI.

We ended the BWSI's Writers in Community Series with a conversation about "The Shape of Things to Come" and it was an important way to wrap up the series. I moderated this panel which included Marion Bethel, Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming, Obediah Smith, Philip Armbrister, Thea Rutherford, and Travolta Cooper. I asked each of the writers in their introductions to say briefly what they saw as "the shape of things to come" - and each offered provocative and insightful comments about the future of Bahamian writing. We discussed at length the state of Bahamian literature and culture, the potential and rise of Bahamian film in terms of culture, and how to fuel and sustain the Bahamian imagination. Manoo-Rahming said that we must think about "the thing we are going to shape" - that is the question - "what is the thing?" - and we all exhaled and pondered her deep question. Rutherford said that since so many of us don't learn about our Bahamian cultural producers, we must start there --educating ourselves and the youth about all that we did not know about ourselves and our history.

Caribbean writers and intellectuals have long said this in many different ways--from Marcus Garvey's famous quote about roots to Erna Brodber's re-writing of history to understand the present in order to create a better future. These all resonate with the West African Adinkra symbol - Sankofa - which means in order to move forward you must know your past. M. Nourbese Philip says that since as we have lost our history and our word that we must take control of creating our own images and words. Therefore, our writing must not only be decolonized but also create annd re-create our histories/herstories. We must be in a constant battle to take back our imaginations and use them to inspire and sustain our subjectivity. Searching, defining, building... the thing.

In the meantime, I'm working on restorying and imagining from far far away... still dreaming of home--summer fruit, the ocean, moonlight nights, sunsets, and time with my people.

15 July 2010


Here is a poem I wrote & worked on in the spring time... and now I'm ready to share on conscious vibrationThis poem is inspired by one of the hottest dance parties in NYC - Libation at The Sullivan Room - along with the magic of affirming a growing relationship. As it so happens in writing poetry - the poem took on a life of its own - led by the moon and the goddess Erzuli (loa of beauty & love, sometimes described as the female energy of Legba in the Vodoun Pantheon, and understood to be of Dahomean in origin, although some scholars trace her contemporary description/worship securely in the Caribbean). 

I begin with a quote from Audre Lorde - one of her last interviews - where she defines Blackness as an approach - "a way of taking in the world" - this has long been on my mind...  really thinking about what this means. And so I decided to use this as the epigraph of my poem after I wrote & revised it because it captures the essence of what I wanted to conjure.

I would love to get feedback and comments! 

by Angelique V. Nixon

“Blackness is an approach, a way of taking in the world”
 ~Audre Lorde

Cocoa butter sweat on my neck
enraptured fingertips carry spirits
tracing ice water down your lower back
I see extraordinary pathways
radiant hues of gold & green light float between us
bursting flames like healing aloe plants rise
I am flying with
tendrils of charged air
soaring under me.

I remember you conjuring with an island moon
she is heavy with earth’s magic & revival
a new year’s promise
to catch this freak rhythm
grown sexy intellectual vibe
just in time
for libation.

Cocoa butter sweat on my fingertips
led by the soul drum & pull of the bass line
I take your hands in mine
we rise to an explosive rain
current of memory
I trace each movement in your thighs
succulent heat spilling from pores
ice cubes & water vapor dance
between our lips.

I am flying with spirits of warrior women
they glide around my hips
moving me into your fyah
each kiss feels like saltwater healing
the goddess Erzuli whispers to me
it is time & she is grace
make an offering.

Tongues ablaze in tune with mystic
sacred shoulders rock beats in circles
exquisite female energies of color
who speak through a canopy of touch
dancing bodies worship & let go
I feel time as it slows
pulses beneath skin
a groove in rebellious sync
with this afro-beat & house love of soul.

I surrender to you
with intention
for balance & goodness
sweet like sapodilla in summer
nourishing like callaloo & rum
refreshing as a sea bath under the full moon
here in this fyah
we can be reborn
we rise.

30 June 2010

Environmental Racism & Oil

The BP Oil deep water Rupture/Spill in the Gulf of Mexico has dominated the news media for the past two months - rightfully so... this is an environmental catastrophe that will affect us all for years to come. It's almost too much... thinking about the thousands of barrels of oil gushing out of the ocean... and the ridiculous mess BP has made of their supposed clean-up efforts. It is bewildering to see how much power multi-national oil companies have... to see how difficult it is to hold them accountable.

Democracy Now has done an amazing job as usual to get at the heart of the issue - highlighting the communities who are most affected by this oil spill and spreading awareness about the class and race dynamics at work. The June 7th show on how the oil spill is affecting indigenous communities in Louisiana broke down the similarities between this oil spill and the Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska over 22 years ago. The interviewees critiqued the corporate control of resources/land and the poor management and disastrous attempts at clean up. 

A more recent show - June 16th - engaged a roundtable of guests - (Monique Harden, New Orleans attorney and co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human RightsAmory Lovins, co-founder, chairman and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado; Michael Brune, executive director of The Sierra Club) - in order to discuss the BP Oil Spill and the future of green energy in the United States. Monique Harden raised important concerns about how often environmental injustice occurs in poor communities of color, with a focus on how African American communities in New Orleans & other communities in the gulf are affected by the oil spill, offshore drilling generally, and toxic production. The major discussion of the roundtable included ways we can work towards a future of green energy.

Meanwhile - across the Atlantic - in the Niger Delta - communities there have been dealing with oil spills, exploitation by multinational oil giants Shell & Chevron, human rights violations, and so much more... for decades.... Democracy Now has also covered these atrocities over the past ten years - check out their page of stories: "The True Cost of Oil" - and just last year, Shell paid out $15.5 million dollars in settlement rather than go to trial for human rights violations in the Niger Delta (The case was brought on behalf of ten plaintiffs who accused Shell of complicity in the 1995 executions of Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others.)

Here is the entire show covering the settlement - June 9, 2009:

Also, for more info about the trial - and the documentary "Drilling and Killing: Chevron & Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship" - here is a link to the October 28, 2008 show.

The stories and environmental disasters in the Global South never get the attention they deserve - we know this and we know why. A recent article in The Observer - Guardian UK points out this very disturbing fact and discusses the Niger Delta's many environmental catastrophes - "Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US & Europe ignore it" - by John Vidal - published 30 May 2010.

The most recent news from the Niger Delta as reported in this article:
On 1 May this year a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline in the state of Akwa Ibom spilled more than a million gallons into the delta over seven days before the leak was stopped. Local people demonstrated against the company but say they were attacked by security guards. Community leaders are now demanding $1bn in compensation for the illness and loss of livelihood they suffered. Few expect they will succeed. In the meantime, thick balls of tar are being washed up along the coast. ...
With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from pollution. "If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention," said the writer Ben Ikari, a member of the Ogoni people. "This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta."
This latest spill in the delta happened only two months ago - and it got little to no media attention... sadly this is the state of affairs - everyday for the communities living in the Niger Delta. And since this article, other news reports are surfacing -- as some journalists report on other oil exploitations happening around the world. (Check out the recent article about oil exploration - also published in The Observer, "Anger grows across the world at the real price of 'frontier' oil" on 20 June 2010.)

On May 28th 2010, Democracy Now covered the Chevron Annual Shareholders meeting - where five activists were arrested and barred entry from the meeting. They interviewed Emem Okon, an activist from Nigeria and the founder and executive director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center in the Niger Delta, who explained why she came to the meeting in protest:
I came to tell Chevron that they have oppressed in the Niger Delta region with impunity for the past fifty years, poisoning our waters, devastating our environment, killing the fish we eat, burning poison gas through gas flares in the Niger Delta that has caused cancer, asthma, corroding our roofs. And they have not done anything to alleviate the sufferings of the people as a result of their activities. And what they did on Wednesday was a demonstration of the fact that they are not ready to change their mode of oppression in the Niger Delta region, and they are not ready to recognize and respect the human rights of the people, and they are not ready to change the inhumane way they treat the communities in which they oppress. I am surprised at the attention that the BP oil spill has attracted in the United States, and I expect that the condition in the Niger Delta should attract the same coverage and that the international community should impress it on Chevron and every other oil community to stop their inhuman activity and abuse of human rights in the Niger Delta region. 
Emem Okon's description of the environmental injustice long happening in the Niger Delta resonates so clearly within the silences of neocolonial exploitation - still so prevalent in the Global South - all in the name of "progress" and capitalism. We must unearth these silences. 

And so as we raise awareness about what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico... as we think about how to create green energy for the future... as we keep ourselves in the know about cleanup efforts... as we agitate & organize to create change and hold BP accountable... LET US ALSO think about the Niger Delta and all the other communities in the Global South affected by environmental catastrophes and exploitation by multinational corporations who care more about money than people. Let us spread our knowledge and find out about what communities and grassroots organizations are doing to create change (ex. check out the Chevron Campaign led by Global Exchange). Let us all think seriously about a green future and ensure that people of color and communities most affected by climate change and environmental racism and injustice are leading this future.

17 June 2010

Meditations on Tourism, Sexuality & Violence

The months are flying by... summer is here :)  May brought me many blessings and travels - which is why I haven't written on my blog... sadly... BUT I'm working this month on getting it together... and so I now report on my goings on - May was hectic with preparing for the Caribbean Studies Association conference - held last week of May in Barbados. The conference was intense, productive, and at times really hard. The theme was on the everyday occurrence of violence in the Caribbean - and given the violence in Jamaica that began at the same time - the panels and discussions had an even more urgent tone. The conversations were heated and important... yet nothing could stop the pain so many of us felt - the helplessness...  all some could do was share news, dispel un-truths/mis-perceptions, and offer another perspective to what was/is happening in Tivoli Gardens.

I appreciated those who spoke up about dispossession and feelings of alienation that many in Tivoli feel - specifically the class dynamics that many want to ignore. This all made me think deeply about class violence and the violence of poverty - and how a community can be so easily excised from citizenship and political representation. And even within the conversations about the Tivoli community - what was/is left out - the silences about everyday class-based racial violence, the violence enacted through language and discourse, and issues of gender and sexuality that are silenced in the name of other fights and causes. I believe even more now in what Franz Fanon told us so many years ago - that the process of decolonization will necessarily be a violent one - because slavery and colonialism were so very violent. We are still in this struggle.

All these conversations about violence made me think about the space on which the conference was hosted - at an all inclusive resort - Almond Beach - which is on the site of a former sugar plantation. This fact is described in the hotel advertisements as something positive. And as we Caribbean academics, writers, scholars, teachers, artists, and activists all descended upon this site, I couldn't help but wonder over and over again throughout the week as the conference progressed - what did this "site" do to us spiritually...  My friend and colleague who I roomed with at the hotel expressed his discomfort and anxiety with the space repeatedly - especially as we walked by the old sugar mill - where (straight) people get married... it was disturbing and yet it was strangely familiar to me because so many hotels across the region are located on such sites or at the very least use colonial images and rhetoric. It was surreal though - the site, the "village" theme of the hotel, and the stoic looks of hotel workers. I am so familiar with such sites, themes, and looks - being from and raised in The Bahamas - and a former worker in the tourist industry - I know all these far too well. Therefore, it was both comfortable and disturbing for me even as I enjoyed my time, the work, and the beach. I was constantly reminded of the history, our history, the price we pay, and our lack of choices within the double bind of tourism. I've been doing scholarly research and writing on tourism for a while and even with all of my critiques and personal experience, it remains very difficult to challenge tourism - because tourism itself is a form of violence. We live, work, eat, smell, and breathe tourism, which is sustained through the violence of slavery and colonialism. And yet and still... it is our livelihood... It is our bread and butter... It is how we live and don't live. It is how we can move and not move... travel and not travel...

I took this picture of the eerie sugar mill - haunted still by the blood and sweat of our ancestors - to remind me of how I felt walking by this sugar mill every morning and evening on the Almond Beach / sugar plantation / hotel resort. Inside there is a wedding arch... the tragic irony of it all... This picture tells a different story though... The moon grew full while I was there - and a huge gray'ish purple circle around the moon emerged on the night of the full moon, a kind of halo... Perhaps the moon spoke through this circle... I was obsessed with the moon and took many pictures with my digital camera - trying to capture my melancholy about the space even as I took in the moon's magic and the ocean's energizing spirit.

The conference was also challenging on another level - within the panels and discussions about sexuality - and the participation by openly LGBTQ / sexual minority Caribbeans. We represented in personal, political, and academic terms. We challenged the hetero-normative and hetero-sexist dynamics of the conference space... but of course there is more work to be done. I co-facilitated a Caribbean IRN workshop on Caribbean Sexualities and strategies to confront homophobia (& we continued our IRN work from the last CSA conference and the first Caribbean Sexualities Gathering in Kingston last June). This year, I presented on some ways to address and theorize about "homophobia(s)" in the region. I also talked about how we need to build coalitions and new languages and praxis. My co-facilitators presented on specific forms of activism and politics inside and outside the region, anti-violence work, current campaigns, and networking. We had excellent conversations and exchange about ideas and future work. We deliberated on the need for language that includes trans-phobia and addresses gender performance. We discussed the work of a Sexualities Working Group within CSA (which is now officially established)- and how to sustain Caribbean Sexuality Studies. We connected and networked about activism in the region. We forged new alliances and possibilities for collaborations. But we were too ambitious with the time we had... so we didn't get to everything... nevertheless it was a good workshop - productive and energetic. And I feel renewed to do the work and keep our projects going. But more on that later.

My meditations on tourism and violence during the conference have pushed me to make stronger and more explicit connections in my work about sexual and cultural identities. I am thinking more and more about my idea of "resisting paradise" and how this resonates deeply with anti-violence work broadly and within sexual minority activism inside & outside the region. I return to Audre Lorde over and over again - and her argument that we can not fight one form of violence without addressing all forms of violence.

30 April 2010

catch up time

The past few months have flown by...  winter blues into the promise of spring... I've been immersed in teaching and organizing...  too busy for words...  The devastation in Haiti and my work with Haitian-Bahamian Solidarity has occupied much of my mental space and writing time outside of teaching.  All worth it and necessary. 

So many things have happened. So many things to write about and to engage with...  that I've been at a loss for words. Writing has been hard for me lately. Not sure why. I've been on a long hiatus from my blog writing... and its been rough... I've missed this space... and I have started a few different pieces but never got the chance or made the time to finish them... and so I need to play catch up...  need to reconnect with my public writing space.

I've had a number of really successful ventures, readings, events, and such - particularly in March. I went home for a much needed, over-due visit with my fam/friends. At the same time, I was fortunate to be featured in a cross-disciplinary exhibition at The Hub - called "A Sudden & Violent Change" - which paired 10 literary and 10 visual artists in a project dedicated to envisioning change - as part of the Annual Transforming Spaces Art Tour in Nassau. My two sister poems on Haiti, migration, and Haitian Bahamians ("Unrest" & "Sip n' Talk") were featured, and the Haitian-Bahamian visual artist Jackson Petit responded to them. He created the a brilliant video response to my poems using water, his body, and other elements. It was truly inspiring to see what my poetry evoked from Jackson. And I was honored to have our work on exhibit together. I attended the opening and got to experience people's engagement with the work. The entire exhibit was powerful, unique, and really moving. A number of writers engaged with Haiti in the context of The Bahamas. It was groundbreaking in many ways.  A book from the exhibit with the artwork and the literary work was published by Poinciana Press. Here are a couple photos from the opening night. The second photo includes a shot of Jackson's video stills titled "San" 1 min 14 sec.

Also in March, I had the great fortune of opening for Martin Espada at University of Connecticut for an event called "Political Poetics: Contemplating Kazi Islam Nazrul’s Legacy" - to contextualize the socially conscious and politically active work of the late Rebel Poet Nazrul for the annual lecture held at UConn. This was incredible - and such an honor to share the stage with the brilliant poet Espada - whose work continues to inspire me. All of this sharing of my work has made me focused on revision and really engaging with performance. I also organized an event for NYU's Africana Studies - the final part of a 3 part series on Race, Identity, and Blackness in the U.S. - titled "Tangled Origins" - which included both conversation and performance. I worked really hard to make sure this event vexed the boundaries of academic and my vision was set to trouble the division between the academic and the creative. The event was a success - with a really productive conversation and exchange among writers, musicians, activists, teachers, scholars, and poets. It was really beautiful. And I plan to keep doing this work.

There is more to share and more to say. I just got back from the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars Conference - in Baton Rouge, where I did a performance panel with two friends/colleagues. And this was my first time doing a performance piece in a group. It was called "Points of Encounter: The Body as Text in Caribbean Women's Performance Art" - and it was something very new for the conference itself - and new for me in many ways. I feel as if I'm certainly building and forging a space for myself in between all the spaces  in which I exist. But more on that later...

In the mean time, I'm back on my conscious vibration writing! Summer soon come!

25 January 2010

Supporting Haiti: Relief Aid & Migration Rights

It's been too many days and relief efforts in Haiti seem beyond slow and not enough. The global community has responded, people have donated / are still donating money, organizations are rallying for more and more support, aid is pouring into the airport, yet the people of Haiti are still suffering and dying... A number of journalists have written about the slow movement of relief aid, the frustration of Haitian people on the ground, and the militarization of aid. Friday's Democracy Now revealed some of the reasons for the slow distribution and how days after the quake, so many Haitians are still waiting for food and water and still waiting for medical treatment.

U.S. media has created frenzy over fears of violence, and the United Nations and U.S. Military keep blaming "violence" and "looting" for the slow distribution of aid. But as a number of journalists keep reporting, the "violence" has been minimal and most of it understandable given that people are hungry and desperate. Furthermore, reports about the prisoners escaping have also fueled concerns about violence, but Democracy Now did an excellent report about this very issue - speaking with a local Human Rights Lawyer who explained that about 60-80% of the people locked up were never charged with anything. It is alarming to consider the similarities between the slow response and frantic media coverage of New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina and what is now happening in Haiti post-earthquake. A great op-ed piece highlights this very issue - "More than Aid, Haiti needs Allies" - pointing out these similarities and arguing why Haiti needs allies in this struggle for immediate relief but also in the long term re-building efforts.

Relief Efforts - How to Help!
Donate if you can, and/or spread the word about these organizations:
Partners in Health - they have worked for over 20 year in Haiti with Haitian doctors and health care workers.
International Action Center - they have a campaign against the militarization of aid in Haiti: "Food not Troops" - sign the petition! - and read their statement of solidarity with Haiti calling for debt cancellation, and self determination for Haiti, not military occupation.
Yele Haiti - they have an up-to-date news blog with what Yele is doing in Haiti day by day to help people and get relief aid into communities. They are also discussing some of the towns and cities near Port-Au- Prince that haven't gotten as much attention - like Jacmel.
Lambi Fund of Haiti - "recovery extends beyond relief" - they are focusing on the long term and focusing on how to help re-build Haiti from within - helping people who need it the most.
Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR) was founded by Haitian women in 1992 to respond to the refugee crisis faced by Haitian immigrants in the U.S. and Guantanamo Bay. HWHR has worked to provide solidarity and relief to past humanitaritan crisis in Haiti, including past flood disaster relief for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and provides cultural programs that include popular education and community organizing. HWHR, Lakou New York, and MUDHA Movement of Dominican Haitian Women are organizing an immediate delivery of first aid relief to the Dominican/Haitian border, to quickly reach affected areas. Donations are being accepted through Pastors for Peace at -http://www.ifconews.org/node/723.
Dwa Fanm (meaning "Women's Rights" in Creole) is a human rights organization started in 1999 by Haitian and American women who share a commitment to women's rights as well as to social and legal equality, justice, peace and democracy. Dwa Fanm has activated an emergency response in collaboration with the Brooklyn Tabernacle to send doctors, nurses and community health workers to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas in Haiti that have been hardest hit.

Migration Rights
A year ago, I wrote a piece titled "Migrations Rights as Human Rights" here on conscious vibration responding to ongoing debates at home in the Bahamas about Haitian immigration. These debates have certainly continued over the past year, but since the earthquake, they have taken on a greater sense of urgency. There is now worldwide attention on Haiti and on the immediate needs of Haitian people. Given the devastation, it makes sense that a number of countries are granting status to Haitian migrants and promising not to deport Haitians back to a country in unimaginable crisis (particularly at the moment when people and countries around the world are helping Haiti through relief efforts). And while the United States has granted "Temporary Protected Status" to all Haitians migrants living in the U.S. for 18 months, they have indicated that new migrants post-earthquake will not be given this same status. This is unacceptable, yet falls in line with the deplorable U.S. policy towards Haitian migration - their refuge is not considered "political" - even during moments of intense political crisis. 

In the Caribbean, there have been various responses to the issue of migration: Jamaica has offered help and status to Haitian migrants leaving Haiti after the earthquake. In the Bahamas, our Prime Minister has said that no deportations will happen right now and detainees were released and given temporary status. I applaud the decision to release detainees and give them status, but what about other "undocumented" Haitian migrants? And what about those who may be seeking asylum/refuge from the devastation after the earthquake? Prime Minister Ingraham has indicated that they will be detained and perhaps locked up until they can be deported. This is unacceptable. Our Haitian brothers and sisters need our help, they need our compassion, and they need our support. 

I'm re-posting / re-framing parts of my letter here to highlight (and remember) some of our common histories and regional connections - and why we should all care about Haiti. While the focus of this letter is on the Bahamas, I think it resonates with the inhumane migration policies of the United States towards Haitians, as well as other countries who treat/frame any group of people who seek refuge / political asylum as "illegal" and then detain them with the threat of deportation / repatriation. We must rally for social justice and migration rights particularly at this time, in this moment, wherever we live. We must support migration rights now and into the future.

In the Bahamas, our immigration policy towards Haitians has long been shameful and it's time for us to make serious change. It's time for us to create and implement a sensible immigration policy for Haitians and Haitian Bahamians. We need to remember that Haitians have long migrated into the Bahamas and have LONG time been a part of the Bahamas and Bahamian culture. If one supports migration rights and human rights, then we cannot support our government's policy towards Haitians, and we cannot support the statelessness of Haitian Bahamians. During this time of crisis and into the future, we must continue to call on our government to offer more assistance to Haiti and Haitian people. We need to recognize the problems in Haiti are our problems too – people are suffering and dying. We should not discuss the “return” of Haitian migrants until Port-Au-Prince is re-built AND serious efforts are made to truly support and help free Haiti from the chains of debt and poverty (these efforts should be led by the Bahamas along with other countries in the region). This should not be seen as a handout, but as genuine regional solidarity and public acknowledgment of our commonalities and complicated histories.

Haiti does not exist in a vacuum. It did not suddenly become destitute or mismanage resources on its own. There are many reasons: tied to all the ways in which global capitalism works and how the Global South feeds/sustains and keeps wealthy the Global North. There are many reasons why Haiti is in political and economic crisis, why it remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Some of these reasons have to do with the violent dictatorships and corrupt governments since the 1960s, BUT many have to do with regimes of power (like IMF & World Bank), United States imperialism and their support of dictatorships, and a long history of interference. A history and silenced past much too long and complicated to recount here, but some important moments that many of us who study Caribbean history and culture know. Some of these historical silences are being discussed in progressive news reports and even in some mainstream news: particularly a discussion of the Haitian Revolution in 1804, which sparked intense fear across the Caribbean, in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. As a result, Europe and the United States worked to destabilize Haiti; to name a few examples: France demanded 150 million in gold to recognize Haiti as a nation; the U.S. Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934; Haiti not fully recognized as a republic until well into the 1900s; United States through their Munroe Doctrine continuously interfering in Haiti’s economic and political landscape for their own military and resource interests for over one hundred years.

Haiti like the rest of the (post)colonial world has a context – slavery, colonialism, and new forms of colonialism. This historical/political/social context must be taken into account as we try to understand the present, and as we work towards a better future. A future where we embrace each other regardless of our differences, a future where we love and support each other, a future where we can all be human and free.

To push this conversation forward and to initiate a call to action, I created a Facebook group "Haitian-Bahamian Solidarity" with fellow Bahamians who are deeply concerned with how Haitians are being and will be treated in the Bahamas. We started a letter writing campaign - (for more info, check out the Facebook Group and website). The aim is to create space for Bahamians to discuss the important issue of migration and create a long term vision of exchange and solidarity among Haitians and Bahamians. The first goal / call to action is our letter writing campaign to the government of the Bahamas (see the website - bahatiansolidarity.wordpress.com - for all the details and how you can participate). Fellow Caribbeans and the larger global community are invited to participate in our letter writing campaign. But we also ask that you also write your own letters to your government/leaders calling for similar support.

Supporting Haiti and the people of Haiti means not only responding right now, but also thinking of the future, sustainable and locally-led development in Haiti, and progressive migration rights.