28 April 2011

Sharing Knowledge about Caribbean Sexualities

As part of my work with the Caribbean Region of the IRN (International Resource Network), I have organized events and been working on several projects that bring together activists, artists, scholars, and writers who engage with the lives and concerns of sexual minorities in the region and in its diaspora. I have had the great opportunity to build with and support the amazing organizing happening in the region. And I have had the honor to help bring awareness to the complexity of our lives at home and abroad. I have the pleasure of being on the board of the Caribbean IRN since 2008, and I co-chair with my friend and colleague Rosamond King - and we are on the board with Colin Robinson and Natalie Bennett - and our coordination consultant is Vidyaratha Kissoon. This has been some of the most rewarding community work I have been a part of -- work that challenges the divide between academia and community, work that consistently challenges us in the diaspora to ground ourselves in the local/regional, work that reminds us of the common and different struggles we face as sexual minorities -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, queer, and all the names/unnames we give ourselves.

I wanted to spend some time on conscious vibration sharing two of the exciting projects we are in the process of building and bringing to fruition.

1) Open Source (free access) Digital Archive Collection with Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) - in the past two years of collecting resources and sharing information among our networks, the Caribbean IRN has been building a general collection of information, reports, resources, data, creative, and scholarly work on issues related to diverse genders and sexualities in the Caribbean. We are also digitizing and preserving a beautiful collection of materials from the Gay Freedom Movement (GFM) in Jamaica (active from 1974-1983). The general collection is up and available for review on our page on the dLOC website. And the GFM Collection will be available sometime late June. We are also hosting an event to launch the GFM collection on July 21st that will be hosted in Brooklyn and also broadcast on the web with hubs in the region. I will post more details on this important event soon! In the meantime, PLEASE check out and spread the news about these important collections we are building on dLOC.

2) Theorizing Homophobia(s) in the Caribbean Project - articles, essays, non-fiction, fiction, stories, poetry, activist reports, visual art, music, interviews, and other works that will reflect on the complexities of homophobia(s) in the Caribbean and to expand awareness about Caribbean LGBT lives, experiences, and activism in the region and its diaspora. (Deadline for proposals is April 30th!!! - an abstract/description and a bio - see details below.)

Background for this project: During the first Caribbean Sexualities Gathering in Kingston, Jamaica sponsored by the Caribbean IRN in June 2009, we brought together over 30 activists, scholars, and community workers from inside and outside the region. One of the issues raised during our workshop meeting was the need for a defining and re-defining of homophobia in the Caribbean from a variety of perspectives, and more specifically, the need for theorizing about the different kinds of homophobia(s) across the region. A year later, the Caribbean IRN facilitated a workshop on Strategies to Confront Homophobia at the annual Caribbean Studies Association conference. We expanded upon this issue by highlighting the realities of sexual minority organizing, offering possible sites and contexts for exploring this issue, and creating space for scholars, artists, writers, and activists to exchange.

Call for Submissions
The Caribbean Region of the International Resource Network (IRN) seeks to connect academic and community-based researchers, artists, and activists around the Caribbean and in the diaspora in areas related to diverse sexualities and genders. The IRN is housed at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York, funded through the Ford Foundation, and located on the web at http://www.irnweb.org.

Homophobia in the Caribbean has received a lot of given international attention recently. Certain Caribbean countries have been targeted by international organizations because of publicized violence committed against LGBT people and the apparent absence of public condemnation. However, the public and international human rights discourse that describes Caribbean homophobia rarely includes the larger contexts of poverty, structural adjustment, neocolonialism, and violence in general within the region. It has been accepted that homophobia in the Caribbean has its roots in laws, religion, and social perceptions of gendered identity. But LGBT activists and others living in the Caribbean have also recognised that there is a complex range of viewpoints and attitudes that must be accounted for in our defining of homophobia. Some scholars and activists have argued that what we need is a new set of theories, writings, and understandings of the kinds of homophobia(s) that exist across the region, and clear distinctions among Caribbean island-nations in terms of the work being done on the ground and the various cultural landscapes and shifts regarding LGBT identities. These theories, writings, and understandings should necessarily include discussions about gender performance, hetero-sexism, and transphobia that encompass homophobia(s), as well as the economic and social contexts mentioned above.

Questions we hope to address in this project include: How is homophobia perpetrated and experienced in different Caribbean communities? What have been the strategies for organizing against homophobia and homophobic violence? What are the successes and challenges in this work? What new strategies do we need? How is the Caribbean shifting in terms of tolerance and acceptance of diverse genders and sexualities? And why? How do we bridge the gap between theory and practice, home and abroad/diaspora, policies/law and cultural norms?

To that end, we propose a collection of articles, essays, non-fiction, fiction, stories, poetry, activist reports, visual art, music, interviews, and other works that will reflect on the complexities of homophobia(s) in the Caribbean and to expand awareness about Caribbean LGBT lives, experiences, and activism in the region and its diaspora. We seek to disrupt the divide between academia and community, while locating theories and knowledge in multiple sites and discourses.

This collection will be edited by the Caribbean IRN coordination consultant Vidyaratha Kissoon and its board members Natalie Bennett, Rosamond King, Angelique Nixon, and Colin Robinson.

Themes that may be addressed in the collection include:

  • Caribbean Sexual Minorities, Citizenship and the State (Island-Nation)
  • Religion and LGBT citizens in the Caribbean: Condemning the Sin or the Sinner
  • Contextualizing Caribbean Homophobia: Religion, Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Poverty, and/or Structural Violence
  • The Impact of Global LGBTQ Movements on Homophobia and LGBT activism in the Caribbean
  • The Language of Homophobia: Caribbean Nuances, Silences, & Stigmas
  • Politics of “coming out” and being publicly LGBT: concerning safety and visibility inside the Caribbean and its diaspora (Can we be safe and visible?)
  • Symptoms of Homophobia: violence within institutions and popular culture (ex. music specifically Dancehall as scapegoat, often seen as cause of violence itself, without nuance or discussion of other aspects of Caribbean culture, particularly outside the region - i.e. “murder music” campaign)
  • Costs of homophobia in the region: violence, gender-based violence, hyper-masculinity, heterosexism, transphobia, bi-phobia, lesbophobia, etc.
  • Caribbean LGBT anti-violence work, community organizing, and human rights discourse
  • Migration and Diaspora: Politics of Asylum Discourse inside and outside the Caribbean
  • Intersectional Analysis of Caribbean LGBT Violence (relationships among various kinds of violence - patriarchal violence, youth violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, LGBT violence, bullying, etc.)
  • (Emerging) Queer Caribbean Diaspora(s) and its relationship to home
  • Imported Homophobia: how non-Caribbean movements against homophobia are targeting the region
Works can be accepted in digital text format, digital audio (mp3 or OGG format), digital image format or digital video. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be submitted in MS Word or Open Document Format by April 30th with a short bio of the authors/producers. For those submitting creative work (visual, literary, audio, etc,), please send a short description of the creative piece(s) you plan to submit along with a bio. If you have completed pieces, feel free to submit those on April 30th. Please submit proposals via email to caribbeanirn@gmail.com. If accepted for detailed review, the completed work will be due by July 1st and it will be shared/published through our Internet platform in the Fall 2011. Eventually, we plan to approach a journal and/or publisher for a print publication.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We would like to represent as much of the region as possible. We acknowledge the limitations in asking for proposals in English, yet we seek to be inclusive and representative. While the primary language for the collection will be English, we plan to translate the collection into Spanish, Dutch, and French. And we are specifically looking not only for pieces that engage the English speaking Caribbean, but also the Spanish, Dutch, and French speaking. To that end, we are accepting proposal is these languages. Also, we are working on translating this call for submissions into Spanish, French, and Dutch, and we are looking for translators for the final submissions.


Please share & spread the word! 
with peace, light & conscious vibes!

22 April 2011

Defining Earth Democracy & Rights of Mother Earth

Blessings & Healing Vibrations for Earth Day! While so many of us celebrate the earth everyday and live our lives in ways that are sustainable and green, this day should still serve as a collective reminder of how much work there is to do. Given the urgency of this struggle to save the planet (quite literally) from human-made destruction, we must do whatever we can to spread awareness, raise consciousness, and hold leaders accountable. People of color around the world and countries most affected from environmental degradation in the Global South have already taken the lead in these movements for environmental justice.

Democracy Now took time today to reflect on these very issues:
As the world celebrates Earth Day, Bolivia is about to pass the world’s first law that grants nature equal rights with humans. The Bolivian delegation to the United Nations urged the global body to adopt a similar law during this week’s Harmony with Nature conference. This week also marks the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill; next week, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Radiation levels around the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan remain high. As these disasters multiply, Latin American countries such as Bolivia have taken the lead in adopting measures to protect the environment. Ecuador has also adopted a resolution protecting nature.

We speak with two renowned environmental justice activists: Maude Barlow and Vandana Shiva. Maude Barlow is the head of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization. Barlow is also co-founder of the Blue Planet Project and chair of the board of Food and Water Watch. Vandana Shiva, world-renowned environmental leader, feminist and thinker from India, is the author of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development.

Earth Day Special: Vandana Shiva and Maude Barlow on the Rights of Mother Earth

Let's take time to reflect on the work of these amazing women - and honor them and the earth. Let us think about what it means to define the rights of the Earth and what it would really mean to protect these rights or what we can call Earth Democracy. In this interview, Amy Goodman asks Vandana Shiva what "earth democracy" means, and she defines it this way:

For me, earth democracy means, first, recognizing the fundamental fact that we are part of nature, that human rights and nature’s rights are not separate, because we are just one strand in this amazing mystery and miracle that the earth has created in terms of life. But earth democracy also means democracy in the everyday life of people, exercised daily by ordinary people, not the once in a five-year or four-year election, because everywhere around the world, we are seeing, you can bring someone to power, and they don’t represent your will anymore.
So, democracy under corporate control has mutated from "of the people, by the people, for the people" into "of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations." In this country, I watched how Wisconsin suddenly became a playground for destruction of democracy and destruction of the fundamental rights of collective bargaining and public services and public domain, only because there is this corporate pressure on privatizing everything and preventing people from exercising their democratic rights.
So, it’s the democratic rights of the people and the earth versus the fictitious corporate rights that corporations have assigned to themselves, and now they’re costing the earth and people too much. They’re bringing nothing in return. It used to be the case that when General Motors put out a car, it gave employment. It even gave salaries so people could buy that car. Today, the corporations give nothing back to society. They just take from nature, take from society, and want to rubbish this planet and rubbish our lives. And I think people are getting fed up. The entire rising in the Arabic world is part of that fed-upness.

14 April 2011

"after winter... must come spring"

My heart is heavy as I write on my blog for the first time in months... I've been on a blog hiatus... overwhelmed with teaching, writing, deadlines, community work, and everything in between. Since December, it has has been ridiculously hectic for me - and the time has flown by, as it does...  and we are now deep into the double ones (yes that's 2011 :) and there is so much to say... so much to share... and even more importantly so much to do.

(I started writing this on April 1st...  and just finished it today...)

I've been immersed in the news of revolutions and resistance across North Africa and the Middle East since December. I've been devastated over the tsunami and earthquake in Japan... and the nuclear fallout...  So much so that I haven't been able to write about it... only posting news articles on facebook. As I continue to send prayers and healing thoughts to the people of Japan, I am astonished at what is happening... and how quickly this disaster has faded from mainstream news. I consider the differences between Japan and Haiti: clearly there are major differences - they are after all on completely opposite ends of the political and economic spectrum. Nevertheless, both places have been suffered unspeakable loss and pain... yet they are discussed and represented differently. We should ask ourselves why. Why do we use differences to place value and moral judgments? What is at the root of these differing representations and why?

I am thinking about the number of news/opinion pieces on "Why the Japanese don't loot" with comparisons to Haiti and New Orleans. I am thinking about the paternalistic attention / relationship to Haiti in the United States. Perhaps it is what Elizabeth Alexander discusses as "the Black body in pain" being a symbol of both racial conflict and American unity. One could argue that U.S. media is obsessed with the Black body in pain - as it is captivated with the "morality" and culture of Japan. These dichotomies are nevertheless grounded in new forms of racism that still serve white supremacy. 

I feel and hear the pain and loss of our Japanese brothers and sisters... entire communities of people who have lost everything... who churned through dust, rubble, and radiated air to find loved ones... who must be trying to make sense of all this loss and the fears of another nuclear catastrophe...  who wait to identify bodies...  who must fear the mass graves just as our Haitian brothers and sisters did and continue to suffer through the anguish of not being able to properly honor their dead.

I don't want to have a conversation about why Japanese people aren't looting... so that mass media can perpetuate racial stereotypes of model minorities versus looting Black folks...  I don't want to hear the blame conveniently placed on Japanese plants who were somehow supposed to be prepared for a massive earthquake of deadly proportions.  I don't...  and I can't...  (Indeed, there are cultural differences which can account for different responses to disaster, but these exist within larger structural and economic forces and frameworks.)  

divide and conquer still
proliferation of war at the expense of life in the guise of peace
the earth speaking and we turn our backs on her
ignore her, pretend that these catastrophes are natural or unrelated
as she tells us through tremors and waves, heat and ice, 
dead dolphins on beaches, birds falling from the sky,
radiation spilling into air, water, and living cells,
that she is tired

She speaks through our bodies and the land on which we live
She tells us to listen and rise up with the movements & struggles
coursing through her deserts, hills, cities, and oceans

How will we live through these changes?
How can we create a better, livable future?
How do we build community with less and less resources?
How do we take back our lives from corporate interests and war machines?

These are the questions that occupy my consciousness as I keep my ears and heart to the ground. I honor those deep in the struggle and fighting for their very lives. I am humbled to be a witness & warrior.

Revolutions & Uprisings
     Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Iran
Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Cote d'Ivoire
Labor Protests & Attacks on Workers Rights & Women's Rights
     United States - Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Kansas
(Un)natural disasters in Haiti, Chile, Japan

I hold space
prayers, blessings, light
in these dark troubling times

"change will come eventually"

(I'm back from my hiatus... more reflections soon come on conscious vibration...)