30 December 2013

Voices of Dissent -- New WomanSpeak Issue

I have so much to share for my end of year / start of the new year reflections on the blog... and these will come in the next few posts... but for now - wanted to share exciting publishing news -- The latest issue of WomanSpeak, A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women edited by Lynn Sweeting -- Issue 7 -- with Lulu. The issue features 30 contemporary Caribbean women writers and artists -- and includes fiction, poetry, fairy tales, essays and paintings! I just got my copy and feeling very blessed to be part of this collection.

Two of my poems are featured in the beautiful collection themed "Voices of Dissent: Writing and Art to Transform the Culture" -- I wrote both of these pieces with resistance and radical transformation on my tongue and desire for social change and major shifts on my mind/heart/spirit -- making sense of and learning from we histories and herstories. May this collection and our shared creativity continue to offer space for reflection, questioning, sharing, and building the world we dream/imagine.

Here are my offerings:  


Occupying Dissent Long Time
New York, 26 Oct 2011
Angelique V. Nixon

this new moon in october vibrates
through the echos of change, we want now

i obsess over websites, occupy blogs, live streams, and democracy now
in between weekend visits to new york
join the people of color working group at occupy wall street
cause it’s the only space i feel at home in well-meaning whiteness

diving right into work and organizing of this
wondrous and complex movement
transforming like fall leaves
we must be like the wind to keep up

and i ask, as Black mixed-race Caribbean migrant queer woman,
how can we rise as a people (people of color, united in our shared oppression yet
we differences thick and bubbling to the surface every time we meet)

long experienced in lack
marginalization, disenfranchisement, police/state brutality, criminalization,
deportation, displacement, dehumanization, economic and social injustice,
the lingering effects of slavery and colonialism,
globalization and immigration policies,
interlocking systems of oppression,
we have long been occupied.

(Communities of color, the poor and working class, immigrant communities,
formerly & currently incarcerated, trans people, undocumented workers,
and others who are marginalized have long known
what so many people are waking up to now,
yeah, we know this shit ain't right.)

the revolution      is here
the revolution      is now
it is                     more than possible
movements         spreading
like wildfires        of defiant love  
all over               the world
rising                  rising                     rising

out of the lies and false promises of capitalism
out of so-called free trade and free markets
out of corporate wutlessness and greed

out of corporate controlled, puppet-like governments
out of the privatization of natural resources
out of environmental crisis and degradation

out of unemployment and debt
out of poverty
out of state violence
out of the prison industrial complex

out of gender-based and trans violence
out of class exploitation
out of immigrant struggles
out of despair

out of hope
for something better
out of belief in each other
out of belief in community

our world torn and divided by too much
yet the complex unity of this 99%
experiencing myriad levels of inequity and injustice
lack of opportunities, seeing the hierarchies that bind us

raising our fists, hearts, and minds
together in a revolution hard to name
but one that was/is inevitable

talkin' bout a revolution
sounds like a whisper... 
don't you know...
one day we gonna rise up
and take what's ours!

this is our time
this is our world
this is the most important thing

rising up in solidarity
to take back what’s ours
to re-make our world

to re-create in our own image, thought, word
to re-invent, to re-start, to stay woke
people of color, let us occupy this dissent
let us dissent within/through/after this occupation

long after this whisper ends
let us / stay woke #together

all I want is my body
Angelique V. Nixon

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 in unison 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 living capital control, painted as non/being, in lustful hate
crossing borders woven inside my body, slashed and divided

I carved on my skin
sacred symbols of present and past, scars of rhythm and vibration,
haunted, fibrous sketches of time, spread across earthmemory

Enslavement, Indentureship, Reservations, and Occupations
far from over, we are still at war, being female and locked under phallic guns

playing us over and over again, centuries of the same resonate, recent decades spill with perverse comfort—Korea, Vietnam, Haiti, Guatemala, Ciudad Juarez, Zimbabwe, Congo, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan—colonial weapons, neocolonial silences, utensils of war/empire

I see women of color, praying and organizing
I see women raising fists, voices, and pens against patriarchy, power, and state
I see women loving women, as radical, against these silences
(taking back our bodies)

Cover Design by Julia P. Ames features the painting --
"The Butterfly Effect - The Countess" by Claudette Dean

03 December 2013

Visioning Dignity and Freedom - Reflections on Haiti, Migration, and Human Rights

Many people and organizations have responded to the Dominican Republic's recent assault on Dominicans of Haitian ancestry. And in the past few weeks, there have been a number of developments - including CARICOM with strong and necessary statements in protest and suspending the DR's bid for membership. And meanwhile, the mediated talks between Haiti and Dominican Republic are not going well - as reports of deportations and violence along the border make headlines. This is all too disturbing and reeks of the historical tensions and violence between these two countries. I have written about these issues in the past. And was invited to write an article about the recent ruling for Groundation Grenada early in November. Here are some highlights:
In my article titled, "Limbo Citizens or Stateless People?: Human Rights, Migration, and the Future for Dominicans of Haitian Ancestry," I offer some context for understanding the issues, while also discussing the ways Haitian migrants and their children remain vulnerable across the region (specifically making comparisons to the the Bahamas). And I discuss the implications of the ruling: "What we do know is that the ruling places already vulnerable people into a more vulnerable position, and thereby subject to further exploitation as limbo citizens or stateless people are created." 
And I also take up Myriam Chancy's argument that this ruling really creates and reinforces civic death for Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent, and I add for Haitian migrants around the region: "This issue of creating civic death is what we need to most be alarmed about in the face of increasing social and economic inequality, forced migration, and environmental challenges facing the region; we are living in uncertain and dangerous times. And while we don’t want to support or replicate neocolonial paradigms upon each other in the region, we must find ways to hold each other accountable for any violations of human rights; and I would further argue that we must find more ethical ways to deal with migration and rights across the region, especially for our Haitian brothers and sisters." 
I argue that we must develop regional solutions grounded in a shared vision of justice and equality -- fighting against human rights abuses, deportation, statelessness, and legal limbo. I ask: what does regional solidarity look like in the face of our shared and continued struggles? I offer some visioning of a future where we all can live with dignity and in freedom.  "I envision a future where people do not have to flee and escape their homelands out of fear or poverty in search of safety, basic needs, and better opportunities elsewhere. I envision a future where no one experiences civic death or non-being, where we all can live with dignity and in freedom. I envision a future where Caribbean people have created innovative solutions to our economic, political, and environmental problems. I envision a Pan Caribbean future decolonized and grounded in knowledge of our ancestors, histories/herstories, and myths. I envision a socially just and equal future with open borders and a thriving empowered community, where we love and embrace all the parts of ourselves."
See my full article on Groundation Grenada, published on 5 November 2013. (Give thanks to the Groundation Grenada collective for the opportunity and space to share my reflections, and to Nadia Huggins for the haunting and beautiful photographs that were paired with my article.)


Since so much has happened since my article early in November, I wanted to use this blog post to offer some updates and more reflections on these issues. And so the assault continues and it seems that the Dominican Republic's government is holding fast to its decision in spite of CARICOM's response and civil organizations' protests and petitions, violence and mass deportations are on the rise. The plan launched (to enact the ruling) last week gives people just 18 months to request Dominican citizenship for children born to undocumented migrants - but there are no clear requirements outlined yet for this process. Clearly, this is a violation of human rights to citizenship as this birthright is stripped away from people who are most vulnerable and targets Haitian migrants, Haitian Dominicans, and their children. And with this plan, the DR will be able to legally deport Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian ancestry -- which they have already been doing for years - even as they depend on their labor and exploit their limbo/stateless status.

As I discuss in my article, deportations and poor treatment of Haitian migrants happens not only in the DR and the United States, but also in the Bahamas. Last week, on 26 November, a boat capsized with Haitian migrants on board fleeing Haiti through Bahamian waters; over 30 Haitians died and 111 of the survivors have been detained and will be deported back to Haiti. These news reports are devastating - especially knowing that this is not an isolated incident. The articles do a fairly decent job of reporting on this tragedy and offer some context: i.e. attempting to explain why Haitians are fleeing and discussing the earthquake slow recovery, poverty, and economic struggle and dire hardship experienced by many Haitian people. NPR made connections between the DR court ruling and this specific incident in this radio report about Haitians leaving the Dominican Republic. 

The reports of this boat incident in the Bahamas received much headline news coverage I think mostly because of the ruling and its clear violation of human rights. While I appreciate the focus and attention on Haiti at this moment, it's important to know that these deportations happen all the time from the Bahamas and boats capsize and people are detained everyday. I continue to feel great shame - as a Bahamian - over our treatment of Haitian migrants. And in the midst of the debates and politics, even though I know the Bahamas is pressured by the United States to be "tough" on migration, I ask where is our sense of compassion and humanity... How can we continue to deport people in these conditions... When will we take a stronger stand (in the Bahamas, the DR, and broadly across the region) and acknowledge our connections -- and accept that Haiti is part of us and we are part of Haiti -- and take stronger, future oriented, regionally focused, action. 

My heart is heavy as I write all this and offer an overview of what's been going on with these recent events. And so I continue to call for regional solidarity and solutions to these issues. We have to find better ways of dealing with migration, citizenship, regional movement, and labor. And so I keep visioning a better future - one with dignity and freedom for Haiti and Haitians all over the world, for all migrants who have similar experiences, for the Caribbean and all Caribbean people - coming together across our differences to create and build regional solidarity. 

And while I don't have any concrete answers, I know that I must write and use my voice to speak out and say something... and I've also been building with the grassroots healing collective Ayiti Resurrect since the earthquake -- doing what I can to support healing and community building in Haiti. We are preparing for our fourth delegation and fundraising though IndiegogoWe're raising funds to continue the work we've been doing for the past three years in partnership with local Haitian organizations and members of the Komye community in Leogane, Haiti.

With recovery efforts still underway in Haiti post earthquake, this recent assault on Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, mass deportations and poor treatment of Haitian migrants all over, there is still so much work to do. And it is vital that recovery and healing for Haiti led by Haitians is at the center of this work. Ayiti Resurrect's mission and vision has always been one where the community is at the center and heart of what we do - and we support these efforts through diasporic connections and collaborations -- as a collective of people with bloodlines in the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. We are a small grassroots organization - building year by year, project by project, and person to person. This is how I'm visioning dignity and freedom.

with conscious vibes,

"Walk with Spirit" || Oil Pastel Word Art by Angelique V. Nixon

31 October 2013

Epic Journeys, Part Two

Epic Journeys, Part Two - reflections

So I promised to share more about my epic summer journeys... and now I'm deep into fall journeys... Its been a hectic past few months and so I haven't had a chance to get back to the blog and share. Swamped with deadlines, teaching, writing, finishing projects, and working on new ones, I'm feeling incredibly blessed as I reflect on all that I've been up to these past months. And most importantly, finished my scholarly book last month and sent it off to the editor for what I hope and trust will be the final review process. 

Finally coming up for air... and ready to share a bit more about my travels -- a recap through photos and brief descriptions... and just playin catch up on the blog. Still processing my powerful and inspiring time in Ghana for the Yari Yari Ntoaso 3rd International Conference on Literature by Women of African Ancestry. So grateful for all the new connections and intense exchange. And grateful for all those who made this gathering happen (Rosamond King and Jaira Placide especially). I'm still thinking about all brilliance we shared and the beautiful fellowship among so many warrior sistren writers and artists. 

Yari Yari Ntoaso 2013

Highlights for me: spending time and being nourished in light of Angela Davis and Ama Ata Aidoo; connecting with and exchanging books with these fabulous writers - Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, Olumide Popoola, Dorothea Smartt, Zetta Elliot, Gabrielle Civil, and Latasha N. Nevada Diggs; honoring Jayne Cortez who started Yari Yari and OWWA - celebrating her light, knowing she was with us throughout the conference; presenting my community/activist work (focusing on Ayiti Resurrect) on the Authors and Action panel with fierce women (including one of my sheros Eintou Pearl Springer); reading from my book Saltwater Healing as a featured writer at PAWA House; and participating in "Writing through the Body: Performance Art" - piece #1 Led by Wura-Natasha Ogunji - "Mo gbo, mo branch" (that focuses on women, migration, and movement in public spaces). She invited six of us to join her to create this piece in which we each carried vessels of dirt, then spread the dirt onto the ground, making different imprints with our bodies, erasing the imprint and starting again. We did this four times, and then scooped up all the dirt and put it all back into our vessels and walked off in a line carrying the vessels on our heads. For me, the performance spoke of the often invisible and hard labor of women and how women's bodies are seen and move around the world. It also made me think about migration and what we leave when we spend time, live or move to a particular place and what it means to create homespace, leave, and return or not. I was really honored to participate and perform - it was incredibly powerful and spiritual.

Mo gbo, mo branch
Writing the Body - Performance Art, Yari Yari 2013

After the conference, we had an intense day trip to Cape Coast and the Elmina Slave Castle - overwhelming and necessary... poems emerging from these experiences... soon come. Also I got to spend some time in the Du Bois Center and the George Padmore Library. And finally, we took a two day trip to Kumasi and got to see the countryside of Ghana during the drive - and while in Kumasi we visited the markets and the cultural center - getting just a taste of the beautiful city. Spending quality time with friends and sharing in the post conference inspirations. During our drive back to Accra, the supermoon was rising above the mountains, and I spent the night chasing the moon, feeling her power/magic. That moon, the beach in Accra, sharing space with friends, feeling the ancestors, walking with spirit... I treasure those moments and hold them very close... Feeling affirmed and rooted in the work I am here to do because of journeys like these... (Here are my photos of the conference and travels around Ghana: Facebook Album Yari Yari.) 

This summer was all about return for me... I travelled back to places I have been before, and so each place felt comfortable yet new at the same time -- seeing it again with older eyes. Ghana still felt like home, like it did the first time I visited over 10 years ago (for a study abroad). And this time I got to see new places and being there for Yari Yari and sharing the journey with sistren writers and artists made it an incredibly unique experience. Just a week after epic journey to Ghana, I was back in the air traveling to Grenada for the Caribbean Studies Association conference in June. Presented my scholarly work on two panels -- one was a unique double panel in honor of Audre Lorde (led by Lyndon Gill and Alison Donnell) - we built an altar, and I had the great privilege to read Jacqui Alexander's fierce opening remarks! (pure fyah) and then I closed our honoring with my poem Libation, and we had the most beautiful dancers and drummers. It was truly a powerful afternoon and a welcome/needed intervention into the academic space of the conference. It was in many ways an anti-panel. I also did several other things at the conference - discussed the Theorizing Homophobias in the Caribbean collection on a journals roundtable, and I facilitated the sexualities working group meeting. And finally, I read my poetry at the Literary Salon, sharing the stage with the amazing Merle Collins (an incredible honor). I also had the most amazing time at the ARC 7 launch - a really fierce collaboration with Groundation Grenada that featured a reading with Oonya Kempadoo and film screenings. Overall, I had the most productive time in Grenada. Her land/seascape was just what I needed... reminding me how much I miss my Caribbean homespace... And how important Grenada is for all of us... 

The summer continued with a much needed writing retreat with my SPACE collective (what happens at SPACE stays at SPACE). Then I went to Trinidad for the month of July to teach and facilitate the Caribbean IRN's short course on "Critical Sexuality Studies" with my co-chair Rosamond King - in collaboration with the Institute for Gender and Development at UWI and CAISO. I have been to Trinidad before (in 2007 for a conference), and so another return for me... to a place of some of my ancestors and a place that truly feels like home. And so there is so much to share about this... and so that will unfold in future writings... But for now a recap of what I did while there - the work - the teaching, the public events, and more.... See my article on ARC Magazine's blog: "Advancing Perspectives on Caribbean Sexualities."  I am so proud of this work and what we were able to do in such a short amount of time. We brought together different kinds of people to grapple with and engage in discourse about sexuality and sexualities. We did something that I think is vital for radical progressive work - holding and creating spaces that trouble/vex the boundaries and bridge/connect higher education, knowledge production sites, community activism, politics, and art making.

Wall Mural - Bohemia, Port of Spain, Trinidad

More photos of the course and related events are on Facebook. And there are videos of the public events on the IGDS youtube channel. I close with a link of me reading poetry at one of the public events organized with IGDS, CAISO, and Alison Donnell called Sexualities in the Tent. I was honored to share my poetry and talk about sexuality and desire in such an open and loving way.

epic journeys 2013!!! so nourished and so blessed!!! on this all hallow's eve, samhain, dia de los muertos... time of honoring our ancestors and remembering & celebrating those who have passed... I do all that I do because of those who came before... guided by my ancestors...

and the work continues, in the struggle... loving and living...

with conscious wibes dem...
more fyah soon,

29 September 2013

"Grace of Wonder"

Too much to catch up on ...  reporting back on the second part of summer travels in "Epic Journeys, part two" still in progress.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share a poem I wrote last Fall and finished this summer...  

I just got back from a really inspiring time at a conference on Black Sexual Economies: Transforming Black Sexualities Research. And so I decided it was time to share this poem because it feels/sounds like a perfect reflection of what it means for me to think about, represent, and take seriously our erotic and sexual lives as Black people, and Black women particularly.  Making ourselves subject...  being and becoming...  Carving spaces for ourselves to be...  

I saw Grace Jones in concert last October for the first time, and I was in awe and wonder of her being, and so I thought a lot about my mother and her being...  My mother's middle name is Grace and she was a performer too - she danced in a Cabaret show on Paradise Island in the Bahamas in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  But things didn't work out so well for my mother in those spaces and in her life for all kinds of reasons...  and so that's what came out in this poem - imagining what kind of inspiration Grace Jones might have been for my mother.  There were all these moments during the concert that made me think about this -  especially as Grace Jones' son was on the stage playing in her band, and I wondered what it must be like to be her kid...  this made me think of these relationships between sexy empowered mothers and their children even more - and their similarities as fierce and beautiful... misunderstood women... in the context of all the controls over Black women's bodies - also thinking about their differences - Grace Jones as a dark skinned Black women and my mother as a light skinned Black woman...  yet I see something similar in the performance and defiance of their bodies in a time/space we continue to grapple with in the context of our search for sexual freedom.

Grace of Wonder
Angelique V. Nixon

I see you Grace Jones
on this late October evening
blessing us at Roseland, New York City
for two loving hours, gripping us with magical
transformations, dazzling us in the light
bending to your will, smooth and rough,
like your powerful voice,
each hat, each accessory
defying gravity. 

I see her in you, you in her
my mother, Kim Grace Louise,
imagining that she was
or could have been
like you
if only, she had been able
to be
her full self
and thrive.

There is such danger in being a Black woman
in charge of her own self, in love with her own dynamic flesh,
(dangerous loving our black selves, especially in the dark, but we must love our flesh, we must love all our flesh and each others’ flesh in all hues, tones, spaces in between),

she so comfortable in her dark vibrant skin
she so confident in her sexy lifeforce
she so defiant in her raw sassy voice
rock star in freakdom performance,
genius and unafraid

creating rhythms out of chains
people attempt to place, name
and capture you, as you remix them
words sounds movement in brilliant ecstasy.

I see you playfully and subtly
yet forcefully using your voice
as weapon
as choice
as force to be
never contained
living wildly, breaking through, madness
carving space to be more than
exploding categories
the definition of fierce

you are hurricane force winds
escaping from restraints of mind body control
your images have haunted me
reminders ever so slightly of her.

I see you in her, her in you
I wonder if she found you as a teenager
as a dancer with starry dreams
as a young woman growing up as she raised me

looking up to you as a symbol
of freedom
a path to wholeness
amidst the haziness
of never being enough.

I imagine her looking up to you
seeing the grace in you through
her eyes, her voice, her body

I’m a hurricane
Here I come
Eye of the hurricane
The calm before the storm

she was always the storm
raging fyah nestled in love
and ever defiance
she was everything yet nothing like people said
she was outrageous, flamboyant, and (sometimes) free
in the ways she could be

she was graceful fyah
whipping her soul around spreading
herself to thing of desire, dancing
yet reeling herself tightly
into a ball twisting upon self protection
shell exterior tough

with all this Yemanja and Oya power
I see you both casting whips and spells.