Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Open Thank You to the Women Who Passed Through the Shelter in Lake Andes South Dakota



Domestic abuse was not foreign to me. It was not something that was hearsay for me. I’d seen it. I’d heard it. I knew domestic abuse well. I knew that abuse came in numerous forms. Those forms could be physical, mental, emotional, and sometimes even spiritual. I’d seen that form of abuse as early as age six when one of my aunts had a husband who insisted on using her as a punching bag. I’d seen it thereafter with another aunt. I’d heard tales of it with cousins in the past and other family members. Thus, when I embarked on a journey, of sorts, to the middle of nowhere South Dakota I figured I knew what I was in for. I figured I understood domestic abuse enough to handle the internship on a Native American reservation in a rural area. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Cause Is Not Your Cause

My cause is not yours. I cannot lay it to the wayside and focus on other elements such as who is dating who in the celebrity world and gossip because I am bored. My cause is not yours! I am Black, I am a woman, I am a part of the LGBTQ community, I am the face of the working poor. You can only attempt to understand the complexities of that. But my cause is not one I could put down; it is the very fabric of who I am. I am the blend of my mother who picked cotton and my father who drove long distance trucks dream blended with my own. My cause is not yours.

- My own words after attending the National Black Justice Coalition’s OUT on the Hill


Upon the 22nd of September, I embarked on a road trip that I’ll never forget. A friend and I decided that we would go to National Black Justice Coalition’s (NBJC) OUT on the Hill 2012. She had registered and wanted to be there for the entire week of events. I, on the other hand, contemplated taking the trip since it was a bit out of my price range at the time. I had bills to take care (who knew?). But opportunity knocked when she decided that she wanted to drive instead and I could go along with her. Hello, Opportunity! I hadn’t embarked to D.C. since the Summer of 2011 during which I enjoyed two days of a hell of a lot of walking and sightseeing. Not to mention I’d spent some time enjoying the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgendered, Queer) nightlife in the “Chocolate City”. This time, however, was not so enjoyable.

I had a hellish eight-hour train ride from West Palm Beach to Deland and had to wake up the next morning for a thirteen hour car ride to D.C. What transpired that weekend had me contemplating my place within the Black LGBTQ community and had me contemplating my place among my own people.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bitch Bad. Queen Good. Goddess Better.



Yes. The title needs some work, but give me a break. The point was to put a bit of a twist to the chorus of Lupe Fiasco’s Bitch Bad single. I have been a staunch supporter of Lupe since I was an undergraduate student. At first, I did brush him off as a nerdy weirdo when I heard Kick, Push (he was a black rapper rapping about skating for goodness sakes!), but he reeled me in with Daydreamin’. When I heard Paris, Tokyo, from his second album, I was in love—I mean I became a fan of his music. I went out and bought both albums soon after and then began collecting his mixtapes. I became an official supporter of Mr. Fiasco.

When Lupe came out with his third studio album, Lasers, and everyone said he had dumbed down the music (even Lupe admitted as much) and had become a sell-out, I still bought the album to discern for myself. I thought it was pretty good. Sure, it was a different style of music than Food & Liquor and The Cool, but it was not as if he was talking about money and fucking a bunch of random women. It was actually a very political album. So I am very certain that people will be very critical of his fourth upcoming album, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album. His former fan base will be waiting to see if he goes back to the so-called old Lupe (which is impossible) and his newly acquired fan base will be waiting for more of the same as from Lasers (which is more likely). 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jim Crow 2012?

 
 
 

The Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 and enacted by the 89th United States Congress. The President felt inclined to bring about the Act because of the blood shed that occurred during that year and the martyrs that were born because of it. Additionally, the Act was the result of the hostilities of those who felt African-Americans should not have the right to vote. Anti-discrimination laws were in place at the time, however, they were not enough to combat the resistance of state officials when it came to the 15th amendment. Prior to the Voting Rights Act, poll taxes and literacy test were imposed upon voters who would otherwise be able to vote. Terror was also a tool used to stop the African-American vote (and it still is).
 
The Act was extended in 2006 by President George W. Bush for another 25 years. (Although why the Act should ever have to be extended is far beyond my intelligent grasp. If you can give me a legitimate reason, then I’ll wait) By the end of 1965, over 250,000 Black voters had been registered to vote because of the Voters Rights Act. The years of harassment, intimidation and brutality were supposed to end. The years of sacrifice because of the effort on the part of those who thought it an African-American’s God given right to vote, were supposed to end right? Right. ("Voter Suppression by State," 2012).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gene Patenting: The Commodification of Nature

The ensuing biotechnology gold rush saw thousands of patents being granted over human genes, viruses, proteins, and the processes of their biological manufacture, and it had become evident that perhaps things had gone too far.
- Luigi Palombi
Remember reading about the Human Genome Project (HGP) back in Science class in middle school? If you were like me, then you probably barely retained any of the information while skimming the chapter (just enough to bullshit your way through a pop quiz and just enough to pass a test). If you were like me, then you probably overlooked the section in the chapter that mentioned the HGP was an ongoing project that had been initiated since about the time of your birth. And if you were like me, then you probably did not even recognize the relationship between genomics and genetics until years later in your Biology class in high school. Unbeknownst to me (and you apparently), there existed this complex world of genetics...and that world was trying to patent me (us).

OK, so maybe that was an exaggeration.

No one is literally attempting to patent humans ("they're" working on it), but genetic researches are patenting human genes along with plant and animal genes. Confused? Let us go back to Science class in middle school where you—we—should have been paying attention instead of goofing off with our friends. In 1865, an Austrian priest by the name of Gregor Johann Mendel discovered that certain traits are passed from one generation to another while conducting hybridization experiments on garden peas (World Health Organization, 2005). Today, we know the passing of these traits as hereditary or genetic inheritances also known as Mendelian inheritance or Mendelian genetics. Delving even deeper, molecular biologist, James Dewey Watson, along with his partner Frances Crick discovered deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), or rather, the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953. DNA is the equivalent to a set of instructions in each cell in an organism that causes them to grow and develop as they do (Koepsell, 2009). For instance, humans have their own set of DNA as do monkeys, birds, and fish. That is why fish look like...fish and humans look like...humans.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Does a Black Lesbian Look Like?


Black women that look like me don't engage in relationships like that. 

- Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll


When Jennifer Carroll was asked about an incident in which she was allegedly found in a compromising position with a female staff member the above was her response (view video response here). The response ignited a firestorm of criticism (as it should have) and prompted me to wonder what exactly was a Black lesbian supposed to look like? Are we supposed to be ugly, or not married, unfaithful, etc? Is our sexuality labeled as some form of abhorrent behavior? As a response to the statement the hashtag on twitter #whatablacklesbianlookslke went viral. And after much debate I decided to write a letter to the Lt. Governor myself in which you all will be able to see below. I figured some of my frustrations are quite similar to my sisters around the world.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Henrietta Lacks: Unwitting Contributor to Medicine

HeLa will live forever, perhaps. The dance of HeLa continues; they're all dancing out there somewhere...the stage is very broad and wide, and the curtain has by no means gone down on them. The music plays on.  
- George Gey

It’s an early Wednesday morning and you are procrastinating to get out of bed for that appointment you have at the lab. Several weeks ago, you met with your doctor (after waiting 45 minutes past your scheduled appointment time) for those nasty headaches you’ve been having only to be told that she was going to send you to get some blood work done...somewhere else. Grrrrr. So here you are being prodded by a complete stranger who is failing at attempting to make you comfortable (what happened to the other girl who usually worked there?). The only that is on your mind at that point is how much blood is being drawn from your arm. Do they really need that much? Now they need a urine sample. Great. After that (traumatic) ordeal you are told that the results will be sent to your doctor. Another appointment....

We are all familiar with this scene, right? Those annoying doctor’s visits that make us wish we just treated ourselves at home with some aspirin instead of doing the run-a-round from one medical facility to another. There is the random people poking and prodding at us that make us want to scream (unless the person is a total hottie...then they can poke and prod all they want). And of course there is the incessant collection of our bodily fluids and cells. But do any of us actually stop and think about what is being done with our “parts.” Are they only being used for diagnoses or is there something else going on behind the scenes that we are unaware of? What was that? You never thought about it? Well that goes for you and millions of other people. We put a lot of trust into someone wearing a uniform authority whether it is a navy blue police uniform or a starch, white lab coat.

HeLa and the Immortal Cell Line

From the Black woman came life, and as much as some would like to forget that it is an undoubted truth. We are a beautiful people.

- My mother, 1997 (The year she passed from breast cancer)


The most amazing thing about Henrietta Lacks is that very few people know about her. I can include myself in such a statement as I had to do a little research and digging about Mrs. Lacks. She had only been discussed briefly in a biology course of mine (I can credit my H.B.C.U. to that). However, I did not know to what extent Mrs. Lacks contributed to science and to the study of cells. For those of you who are as ignorant as I was about Henrietta Lacks I’ll proceed to giving you all a bit of a history lesson.

Henrietta Lacks was a rather poor tobacco farmer in Virginia. She was married and had five children. After the birth of her fifth child she noticed a knot in her stomach. Family members thought this to be the signal that she was pregnant again, however she knew this to be different. Lacks sought out medical attention and after going to her local doctor she was referred to John Hopkins Hospital as they were the only hospital in her area that treated African Americans at the time. Unknowingly, two samples of her cervix were removed and sent to lab to study. Mrs. Lacks passed on from cervical cancer at age 31. However, the cells from her tumor were given to George Gey. Unlike any other cells studied prior to Mrs. Lacks, her cells stayed alive. Her cells were put into production to make a vaccine for polio and her cells brought about the first ever cell production plant. However, her family remained poor not knowing what had happened to their mother or grandmother’s cells. Recently a book was been published pertaining to this. (The book)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Multiple Black (Male) Ideologies



Many (male) African-American leaders have risen throughout the years with their own "school of thought" on how to best improve the life of the “negro.” Each had their own particular viewpoint and/or drew upon the ideologies of each other. They managed to gain large followings in their own rights (which, if you ask me, show how desperate the black community was/is for “guidance”). The most prominent of these men were Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. It is not possible to talk about all of these great men unless I plan on writing an entire book; instead, I will focus on several of these leaders whose ideologies I find quite interesting (but may not actually agree with): Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X.

Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915). Washington was born in Virginia to an enslaved mother and an unidentified white father (a plantation owner perhaps?). He received public attention after he spoke at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. Washington’s speech, known as the Atlanta Address of 1895 or Atlanta Compromise, was inherently a public agreement that blacks would submit to white supremacy in exchange for basic education. If I were a white racist during that time I would love that agreement as well. Give the niggers a little money to get a bit of education (vocational only, of course) and they agree not to disturb the status quo by fighting for their equal rights? Score!

Pluralism in the Black Consciousness

W.E.B. Du Bois was one uppity Negro.

- An old professor
What does it mean to be of African descent or a descendent of the African diaspora living in the Americas? Is the term African American negating pluralism? Are we as a people going to maintain our traditions while assimilating into this American culture? Or have we so interwoven into the history of the culture that it is as much our culture as anyone else’s? Furthermore given that there have been dual (And quite possibly more than dual) ideologies about what it means to be of African descent in America, which one is right? Which one is relevant?

 

The debate of Malcolm vs. Martin Luther King Jr. was one that was always heated within the academic walls of HBCUs. What the debate always boiled down to was the coexistence argument/ fight to be seen as equal vs. the separatist/ fight to be seen as equal and or superior argument. What few failed to realize is that prior to Malcolm vs. Martin Luther King Jr. this spanned back to Dubois vs. Booker T. Washington. The real question, however, is did anything actually sink in within the souls of Black folk when it comes to consciousness from any of these brothers? Furthermore, where are the mentions of ideas from sisters like Ella Baker and Angela Davis? Were there contributions not equally important? Were these streams of Black consciousness sexist in nature? (Well hell yeah they were) With all these questions it’s a bit hard to pinpoint exactly where to begin in this debate or acknowledgement of ideologies. I’ll focus on those of Ella Baker and those of Angela Davis to throw everybody off. Both of them are my (S)heroes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Subtle Influence of the Media


Have you ever gone shopping for a certain product and you end up buying the product whose commercial was the last one you saw while walking out the house? The commercial was probably funny. Perhaps it convinced you that a certain brand was the best amongst others. Realistically, the generic brand would work just as well, but you are convinced that the name-brand is a better. This is how the world of media (television, radio, magazines, newspapers, internet) affects us subconsciously. We would all like to believe that the media has no effect on us (while sporting $600 Louboutin shoes), but they do. You think you developed your political views on your own. Your views are likely the work of CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News (Dear Lord Baby Jesus!). Whether it is television, radio, print or internet publications, someone is attempting to shape our thoughts, ideas, and the way we view the world. Sometimes the outcomes are positive and other times they are negative.

K.I.S.S.

You know what K.I.S.S. stands for? Keep it simple so they can stay stupid.  
- Dr. Cheryl Hardison Dayton

I recall my mentor writing the acronym K.I.S.S. on a chalkboard as I sat in my Women in History course. She explained to us how our distractions as college students with all things media was keeping us dumbed down. How we’d been so preoccupied with whatever the hell it meant to be Black in college that we were fitting into every negative stereotype that had been set before us. I had no idea that her words would have such a lasting impression on me, or that she wouldn’t be around to reiterate them much longer.

I consider myself one of the last generations of individuals who use to play outside or spent more time outside than in doors. In my generation, we had latch key kids, and all that jazz. However, we still had more important things to do and more adventures to take part in than sitting in front of the television nonstop. What can be said now for a generation of children who have seemingly everything and yet are so desensitized and completely dependent upon media? From social networks to that dastardly FOX news station. Is there any hope for them?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reclaim "Slut"? You Can Keep That!

The organisers [of SlutWalk] claim that celebrating the word "slut", and promoting sluttishness in general, will help women achieve full autonomy over their sexuality. But the focus on "reclaiming" the word slut fails to address the real issue. The term slut is so deeply rooted in the patriarchal "madonna/whore" view of women's sexuality that it is beyond redemption.  
- Gail Dines & Wendy J. Murphy, from theguardian
“I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this—however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized.” I doubt Constable Michael Sanguinetti could have foretold that this comment which he uttered at a safety forum at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School would have sparked such a world-wide protest like SlutWalk. His comment (which was apalling to say the least) infuriated young women because it placed the blame for rape on the victim as opposed to the offender. SlutWalk co-founders, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis, wanted to redeem or reclaim the world “slut,” hence, the name SlutWalk.

The protests were organized in the form of marches where many (but not all) young women opted to purposely dress in revealing clothes even though they were asked to dress in regular clothing to show that women could be the victims of sexual assault no matter what they wore. (Most of the pictures you find from the marches will be of scantily clad women since they are the ones that capture the attention of the public the most.) The first protest was on April 3, 2011 in Queen’s Park in Toronto where over 3,000 people (men included) participated. It was not long before the protests began to spread from Canada to the U.S. to Europe to Australia and even India. Women everywhere were tired of the blame-the-victim game.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why I Didn't and Won't Be Participating in Any "Slut"Walk

Friend: Danni slutwalk is monumental, as a feminist I don’t get how you don’t want to be a part of this revolution. I participated, it was monumental.

Me: Exactly whose revolution is it given that Black women have been called sluts, whores and bitches for centuries and given that ignorant feminist can walk around with signs quoting “Woman is the nigger of the world”? Guess that makes Black women double niggers or something right? Were you there when that sign was proudly held by that ignorant girl who wondered why anyone should feel offended? Feminism in and of itself excluded Black women and women of lower classes, and good grief if you were both because then you didn’t matter at all. lost your damn mind if you think I’m going to be a part of that.

*silence at the posh dinner table in New York*

- A conversation between a friend and I about slutwalk


I recall walking away from my friend’s home after our conversation about SlutWalk. She could not possibly believe that I, as a feminist, would not want to be a part of such an "amazing" event. I’d hopped on an international flight to come back to the States to engage in a roundtable discussion about feminism among friends and other scholars from New York University. I recall the feeling that overtook me as I walked further and further away from her home. She was as appalled about me not wanting to be a part of SlutWalk as much as I was appalled that she wanted me to be a part of it. Furthermore, I coundn't believe that she assumed because I was a feminist I was going to jump on board the movement.

Monday, May 28, 2012

American Diet: Killing Ourselves Softly with Chemicals


A year ago, my road to becoming health conscious was nonexistent. It was hidden beneath bushes of fast food, fried meals, sweets, and anything else that held no nutritional value but tasted good. It was not until I noticed my parents battling multiple health conditions (that were quite preventable) that I realized I was in dire need of changing my diet. Both of my parents have high blood pressure, diabetes (my father has Type 1) and my mother has been developing a glomus tumor in her brain over her right ear for the past unknown number of years while my father has issues with his digestive system. I was online one day researching diabetes and high blood pressure and happened to come across a link that led me to the alternative health and news site, Natural News. It was love at first click. The Internet Gods had placed a blessing upon me. There were articles on everything from common health ailments to natural remedies to coverage of current events (and the editor was sarcastic and funny). While reading their articles and conducting searches on other sites, it dawned on me that my family’s health problems were the result of the foods they ate. There are several common foods that people consume on a daily basis that is causing a number of health problems: meat, dairy, junk food, and soda.

100% Beef...Growth Hormones...and Carcinogens

By now, most of us have heard that meat is not very healthy; red meat in particular, should be consumed in moderation (very moderate). Few of us will adhere to this advice though. For the most part, we have grown up eating meat and do not plan on cutting back until death. I can say that meat is a staple of the American diet. It is very difficult changing habits that have taken a lifetime developing. Until we begin experiencing health complications caused by our diets, we rarely change our eating habits voluntarily (we take better care of our cars than our bodies).

Eating Organic in Today's Recession

I’d like you to give some thought to vegetarianism. Anyone who I’m with should at least give thought to the lifestyle that I am a part of. If you knew the toxins you were putting in your body then you would truly understand.  
- My Ex (And one of the many reasons why my Ex is my Ex, insert eyes rolling here. PROUD OMNIVORE)
I’m not going to start off on a personal rant about vegetarianism; it’s just something I chose not to be a part of. The only reason I made reference to that bold statement was because I found out there really were numerous toxins that I was putting into my body. This knowledge evaded me before I moved to South Dakota upon last year for an internship. I thought fast food, fried food, and even the “healthier alternatives” from Wally World (Wal-Mart) were fine to eat. Late night college style runs to the nearest fast food joint because it had slipped my mind to eat were not out of the ordinary either. My life was on a one track railroad to diabetes, and or stroke and any difficulties that eating such food would bring me. Things didn’t change for me until my internship.

I recall getting off the airplane at this small airport and being the only Black woman there. I walked up and down the airport to find the intern coordinator for my new job and my new life in the middle of nowhere. (I purposely chose the spot because it was the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE) Once I located her (as she was the only Native American woman in the airport, and seemingly the ONLY other minority), we got into the car and she asked me if I needed to go to Wally World for anything. I, of course, needed to get my hot pocket fix. I figured I’d get the family pack so they would last longer. After that, I got a “tour” of the town (which were a Post Office, Bank, small four aisled grocery store, two gas stations, no stop lights, and pharmacy/craft store). I knew my life was going to drastically change. I didn’t however know how much. Needless to say, I shared my huge score of hot pockets and they were gone in less than two days. I was forced to shop around and hunt for food on my small budget.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Black (American) Women are Not the Only Ones Facing Socioeconomic Disadvantages

As a black feminist, I understand the tendency to discuss (whine and complain) the status of black women in the United States. I cannot deny that black women are indeed marginalized in this society. Not only do we constantly concern ourselves with racism but we also have to worry about sexism. Include the matter of ethnicity and immigrant status for some and the load gets heavier (like yours truly who is Haitian). But in the midst of our self-pity we forget that there is a whole world out there full of women who are marginalized and do not enjoy a decent socioeconomic status.

The term socioeconomic advantages, or disadvantages, includes access to, or lack of access to, education, health, employment and income as well as the geographic location one calls home. Studies show that socioeconomic status affects prenatal and childhood development, determines ones education and income, shapes health habits, determines exposure violence and abuse, determines access to health care and social services, affects savings patterns, and contributes to the rich-poor gap (Moss, 2000). Readers should be replying with a resounding “Duh!” All of those things are interconnected including political stability in any given area.

When it comes to the socioeconomic status of black women in the U.S. they are definitely at the bottom of the totem pole. A majority of black women are living at poverty level. Black women are more likely to be exposed to the violence of poor, urban neighborhoods. Black women are more likely to drop out of high school and enter low-paying jobs. Black women are more likely to head single-headed households since America is attempting to arrest every single black man in the vicinity. Black women are more likely to suffer from obesity, heart problems, and breast cancer. And black women are being incarcerated at alarming rates compared to black men, white women, and white men. Well, at least this is gloomy picture that society paints for us and black women eat it up. Not that the statistics are not true to a certain extent (especially the part about incarcerating black males and the rising incarceration rates of black women), but the black woman is being made into the poster child for poverty, violence, drugs, unintelligence, and poor health.

Socioeconomic Disadvantages of Minority Women

It seems more often times than none that if you are born into the right socioeconomic strata that numerous opportunities are available to you and if you aren’t then you’re fighting to get to a place that others are born into. This is the place people tell you that you can get to with hard work. How hard was it for them to be born privileged?  
-Me

A socioeconomic disadvantage involves being disadvantaged on two levels. One level is a social level and the other economically. Thus socioeconomic status is measured as income, education, occupation, and where an individual or family stands as far as social classes. When gender is brought into the equation then there is an intersectionality (Feminist sociological theory, Kimberle Crenshaw) Research has shown that race and ethnicity in terms of stratification often determine a person’s socioeconomic status (House & Williams, 2000). Socioeconomic status can affect different of life as well; aspects of life such as education, health, the increase in chances of being raped and homicide.

On an international spectrum women who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage are more prone to be raped or to have less access or none to education, justice, or employment. (Whitman, 2012) However what people fail to realize is that while there is quite a bit of injustice on the international spectrum pertaining to minority women who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage, such is in our back yards too. To be born as a minority women in the United States for instance does not merit an easy life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Swept Under the Rug: The Incarceration of Black Women

Largely as a result of the war on drugs, women of all races—great numbers of them low-level offenders—have been swept up into the nation's correctional system, often for long mandatory sentences.

-Elliott Currie
Society is very concerned with the number of black men who are incarcerated in the justice system. Truthfully, when you look at the statistics, it is rather alarming. Black men comprised approximately 39.4% of the total prison and jail population in 2009 (Cadet, 2011). Black men are also imprisoned at a rate that is six times higher than white men and three times higher than Latino men (Cadet, 2011). Take into account that there are more black men “in prison, or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began” and it paints a very grim picture for the state of the black males indeed (Price, 2012, para. 1).

But there is another group whose incarceration rates have been steadily increasing for the past several decades as well: black women. Due to the policies created through the War on Drugs, black women make up the fastest growing prison population (Russel-Brown, 2004; Marable, Steinberg, & Middlemass, 2007). Yet, rising incarceration of black women is rarely talked about in order to focus on incarcerated black men and white women (as usual).

There have always been racial disparities of the incarceration rate of black women (and men). As early as 1910, the incarceration rate of black women was six times higher than white women and between 1926 and 1946, 31% of the incarcerated female population was black women (Russel-Brown, 2004). But it was not until the 1980s that an obvious and deliberate attack on black women was initiated (Currie, 1998; Merlo, 2006; Marable et al., 2007; Jordan-Zachery, 2009).

Black Women and Incarceration Rates

The shackles of slavery endured into other eras, including convict leasing systems and chain gangs. In order to sustain these systems, de-humanizing stereotypes of black women were created to maintain the difference between white and African American women. Black girls are still dealing with racial and gendered stereotypes that were used to justify punishment.

-Priscilla Ocen, professor at UCLA’s Critical Race Studies


While white women make up most of the prison population overall at 45.5 % (Compared to Blacks at 32.6%, and Hispanics at 16%) Blacks women are disproportionately represent in incarceration rates. For every 100,000 Black women, 349 are incarcerated while for every 100,000 white women, 93 are incarcerated (Institute on Women and Criminal Justice, n.d.) From a theoretical context, those in prison who are represented that are women are white and those in prison who are represented as Black are male. Little attention is paid to the Black woman. Particularly Black women with a double or triple biased against them. (For some race and gender, and for others race, gender, and socioeconomic class) Considering the United States has its own form of caste system those who fall into the category of triple biased often times than not are forgotten faces within our prison systems.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Yet Another View on the Trayvon Martin Case

Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman


For the past couple of months, you could not help but to hear about the murder of Trayvon Martin. You may not know the name of the parties involved, but you may know about the “kid that got shot in Florida by the neighborhood watch guy.” I am 100% certain that I do not have to go into detail about what happened. Information about the case is literally everywhere (check out the case’s timeline on Central Florida 13 News). Once the mainstream media caught wind of the Martin case, they latched on and went in full throttle.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it did not take long before they began digging into the teen’s background in an attempt to smear his image. At first we all became accustomed to the sweet-faced picture of Martin that was used alongside Zimmerman’s. But the media did not want that. A black teen simply cannot be innocent. It was not long before we began seeing pictures of Martin with his pants sagged super low, hearing about him getting suspended for drug possession, and people breaking into his e-mail account would have also hacked into his Twitter account had it not been deleted (the Wagist blog has a post contributing to the smearing of Martin’s image).

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Poem Inspired by Trayvon Martin


Given the recent events pertaining to Trayvon Martin, I as I always tend to do when extreme emotion arises, took frustration out on paper. With over a month a half of time having gone by before Zimmerman was even brought up on charges, it is quite evident that racism is still alive and well within the Americas and abroad. This was even more so evident with distasteful jabs on Trayvon's character as the world waited for something, anything to be done pertaining to Zimmerman. I, living in the middle of nowhere at the moment, waited with the rest of the world while signing numerous petitions and of course calling law makers in Florida to act (I have Florida residency). For those of you who may have been living under a rock this past month and a half, Trayvon was a young, African-American male who went to the store to go and get a family member some skittles and tea. He was seen as a "suspicious person" by Zimmerman and was shot because of it. Suspicious meaning Black in America. The public outrage came as Zimmerman was not charged in the death of Trayvon Martin prior to now, nor was he was he detained at the police station (Florida's Stand Your Ground Law being his defense). The following poem is my public outcry. Trayvon Martin after all is my generations Emmett Till.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Invisible Women: Black Women in the Military

The movie, Red Tails (2012), is a fictional story about the Tuskegee Airmen, who were a group of black United States Army Air Force servicemen who fought during the time of World War II (WWII) (1939-1945). Red Tails was directed by Anthony Hemingway, produced by George Lucas, and the screenplay was by John Ridley. The cast includes Terence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and the adorable Elijah Kelley. The film follows these black men as they face racial discrimination in the military even as they were fighting for a country that devalued their worth. I have yet to see the film for myself, but I have been reading that black women are pretty much non-existent in it, which is not surprising. The film sounds as if it glosses over the crucial role that black women played during the war. The contributions of black women in history have always been ignored in order to focus on white masculinity and valor, white femininity, and black masculinity, valor, and hardships.

Willa B. Brown
The most ironic part about black women’s exclusion from Red Tails is that the Tuskegee Airmen existed because of Willa Brown...a black woman. Brown was the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license in 1937 (Ann, 2011). As one of the founding members of the National Airmen Association of America, her efforts led to Congress integrating the U.S. Army Air Corps leading to the creation of the Tuskegee Airmen (Ann, 2011). If it was not for Brown, the Tuskegee Airmen would not have existed or it would not have existed at that time to become such an integral part of American history. And yet, Red Tails does not even bother to mention her (even though her husband, Cornelius Coffey, was one of the real Tuskegee Airmen) along with the black women who risked their lives.

The Struggle of Minority Women in the Military

The first colored troops did not receive any pay for eighteen months, and the men had to depend wholly on what they received from the commissary...their wives were obliged to support themselves and children by washing for the officers, and making cakes and pies which they sold to the boys in camp. Finally, in 1863, the government decided to give them half pay, but the men would accept none of this... They preferred rather to give their services to the state, which they did until 1864, when the government granted them full pay, with all back due pay.  
- Mrs. Susie King Taylor, African American Civil War Nurse

The desegregation of the Armed Forces by Executive Order 9981 officially occurred on July 26, 1948, though minorities served in numerous branches of the military prior to that time period. Executive Order 9981 given by President Harry Truman forbade discriminating against military personnel because of race, color, religion, or national origin. According to data in the Defense Department minorities are over represented in enlisting ranks and underrepresented in the officer ranks. Minority women encounter a double whammy being that they face issues in reference to race and gender.

While there is no documentation of minority women serving in the American Revolution there were as many as 181 black nurses who served in convalescent and US government hospitals in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina during the war. Having this knowledge about the military I decided to probe a little deeper to see if the treatment of minority women in the military today compared to the mistreatment of minority women of today in the military. I interviewed three women in two different branches of the military to see whether or not the ill-treatment of minority women had dissipated, remained the same, or gotten worse now compared to the past.

Here are their words:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Where'd She Go?: The Absence of the Female Rapper and MC

Female emcees are treated by audiences and participants in hip-hop culture alike as trivial, salacious accessories to all that is misogynistic and chauvinist about the music.
-MC Devynity, from The Crisis
Nicki Minaj
“You a, you a stupid hoe,” says Nicki Minaj in the chorus to her laters single, Stupid Hoe, off her yet to be released sophomore album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. As a fan, I was very much disappointed by the track not to mention insulted and a bit embarassed...for her. Then again, what was I expecting, right? Her debut album, Pink Friday, was hardly any different. (Her mixtapes before that were just a tad better.) Minaj is simply getting bolder as a response to the positive feedback she has gotten from her earlier antics from her newly acquired fanbase. Her earlier fanbase can hardly recognize her from the days of her Playtime Is Over mixtape. Minaj has never produced thought-provoking lyrics. She is little more than a modern Lil’ Kim reincarnation (although she, and everyone around her, seems to be in denial of that truth).

Although Minaj has been stirring up a sense of repulsion in me as of late (including her Grammy 2012 performance), I originally gravitated towards her because of the limited number of female rappers and MCs in the mainstream hip-hop industry. No one else was there to catch my attention. Although many of her opponents would beg to differ, there is not much that is wrong with Minaj and the type of music she chooses to make, but she is proof of the problem in hip-hop today: Why is she the only popular female rapper? Where are all the other female rappers and MCs? In addition to Nicki (and similar rappers like her, such as Diamond, Trina, Khia, and Jackie-O who are below the radar), there has to be a variety of female rappers and MCs who bring to the table different perspectives of the black female.

Death of the Female MC: Hip Hop Has Lost Its Way

Lyte as a Rock, or I should say a boulder 
Rolling down your neck, pounding on your shoulders  
Never shall I be an emcee, called a wannabe  
I am the Lyte, L-Y-T-E This is the way it is, don't ever forget  
Hear the rhyme by someone else and you know they get  
All in the way, just little obstacles  
Chew em up, spit em out, just like popsicles  
Suckers out of my way, we're not on the same wavelength  
I show stability, potential and strength  
On the other hand, you are weak and unruly  
Could never be a spy, cause you're just a plain stoolie”  
-MC Lyte “Light As a Rock”
I remember bouncing my head up and down to the song “Light as a rock” as a kid. I had a Walkman and I wore that overpriced and ugly little yellow tape player out. I adored MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Salt N Peppa, Sha Rock, and Lady of Rage, and Bahamadia. They represented hip hop to me because hip hop wasn’t just a few lyrics thrown together over a tight beat. It was an expression of a generation that came before me. It was the middle ground between disco and hard core rap. And while anything can be seen as an aesthetic, hip hop was that for me as I continued to grow and come into self. I remember distinctly listening to songs such as the one above and being blow away by Queen Latifah’s “Unity”. After all, the song sent a clear message that Black women were indeed beautiful and that labels such as “bitch or hoe” could never encompass a Black woman’s beauty (rather that term was used in bullshit admiration or in a derogatory sense as a opposed to a term of endearment among females today).

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Confusion of FEMINISMS

Many women in this society do have choices (as inadequate as they are); therefore exploitation and discrimination are words that more accurately describe the lot of women collectively in the United States.  
- bell hooks, In Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
I remember a while back when I first created my Twitter account, I tweeted to the world know that I was a feminist. I had been reading a lot of books by my favorite gal, bell hooks, and I was like “Right on, girl!” I prematurely took on the identity of something that I had not studied in depth simply because I shared the same experiences with one feminist (also a cultural critic) writer and I understood what she was implying about the power struggle within the relationships between femininity and masculinity. At the time, I aligned myself with a movement that I understood partially. To make matters worse, I also mentioned that I did not hate men and was not a lesbian in the tweet since those were the two erroneous stereotypes about feminists. By making such a statement, it was obvious that I was not prepared to really be a feminist. I have no desire to recant my statement, but I would like to rephrase it. But before I get to that, let us talk a little bit about feminism.

Feminism was first coined in France during the 1880s as fĂ©minisme from the combination of the word woman, femme, and the suffix –isme, meaning a social movement or political ideology (Freedman, 2002; Tandon, 2008). Loosely put, feminism is the fight to end women’s oppression. People most commonly aware of feminism in North America occurring in waves. In the 1800s, first wave feminism, also known as “the women’s movement,” was mainly concerned with attaining suffrage rights for women (Freedman, 2002; Tandon, 2008). Second wave feminism, also known as “women's liberation,” took place around the 1960s to the 1980s and was more focused on attaining equal rights for women in relation to social laws (Tandon, 2008). Finally, third wave feminism occurred from the 1990s up to today because second wave feminism was deemed a failure (Tandon, 2008).

Black Feminism: Feminism's Exclusion of Non-White Women

Feminism excluded scores of minority women and none were more excluded in that movement than the African American woman. So when people ask me if I’m a feminist I proudly say no, though everything about me screams feminist.  
- The late Dr. Cheryl Hardison-Dayton
Merriam-Webster defines the term feminist as “The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” (“Feminism”, n.d.). Feminism sprang forth as a separation from the patriarchal society that many women found themselves having to deal with. The difference between the white feminists who usually come from privilege and the Black feminist who usually doesn’t come from privilege is the amount of struggle faced. For instance, for some feminists the only issue is deciding what can and can’t be done over one’s body and personal life choices. For others it is the fight to be seen as human and non-inferior along with the other issues already mentioned. The dynamics of struggle are quite different and socio-economic status, race, and other factors have to be taken into account when persons use the term feminist so loosely.

History of Feminism in America

In 1848 the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY (Let it be noted that not ALL women were invited, nor were the needs of ALL women addressed) (Imbornoni, n.d.). By 1869 organizations such as the National Woman Suffrage Association sprang forth because of persons like Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Imbornoni, n.d.). By December 10 of that year the first women’s suffrage law was passed (Imbornoni, n.d.). (whoop dee doo...if you were WHITE!) Due to clear and evident ostracism from the movement, the National Association of Colored Women was formed in 1869 by women like Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell and Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (Imbornoni, n.d.). In 1920, the 19th Amendment of the Constitution granted women the right to vote (Well some women anyway) (Imbornoni, n.d). From then on numerous groups sprang forth and feminism continued to exclude women of color in the movement.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Classism and Residential Segregation

Whether a city is a metropolitan center or a suburb; whether it is in the North or South; whether the Negro population is large or small—in every case, white and Negro households are highly segregated from each other.  
- from Residential Segregation and Neighborhood Change
Homes in a lower class neighborhood
The neighborhood in which I lived most of my teen years is in a state of...varied development to say the least. I suppose the neighborhood could be described as the “hood” or the "projects" or the “ghetto.” Either way, it is marked by poverty. Slowly but surely the groups of once-inhabited old homes are being torn down and new ones are being built or being replaced by huge apartment communities. It is a wonderful thing to see, but who exactly are these homes and apartment communities being built for? They do not look like anything the people in my neighborhood could afford to buy or rent.

To the east of the neighborhood, the city erected the new $480 million Amway Arena less than 15 minutes away. The only thing separating the arena from the rest of the neighborhood is a two-lane street (literally). I wonder how long it will be before the homes on the other side of the street are vacated and demolished to make way for more attractive venues. A couple of clothing stores, perhaps? Maybe some nice restaurants (Thai please!)?

Classism, the Not So New Form of Discrimination

I understand that you work in the grassroots, nonprofit sector but what money can be made there? What good is your degree going to do you when you are out there? Your degree will mean nothing if you don’t’ have the proper job to back the degree Danni.  
- from a conversation with a friend who currently graduated from Law School
After dealing with racism and sexism most of my life, classism had truly been put on the back burner. It was not until I attended a HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) that the issue once again reared its ugly head. I had to wrap my mind around this particular form of discrimination. It was after all painfully evident that some of us came from money (students) and others of didn’t. Some students had the luxury of not worrying about having to survive on a Ramen noodle diet. Others discovered exactly what constituted a staple food diet. As I fulfilled a full time course load (as well as held down a job...and participated in a work study program) my mind began to consider what role classism played in my adult life as well as how classism was affecting the African American community.

Then I got into a rather interesting conversation with a fellow classmate at his newly purchased home (purchased by his parents) before one of his infamous parties. Some of his words still stick with me almost three years later: “I don’t deal with low class people, because everything about them is just that, low class. I mean can a person even appreciate the finer things in life if they haven’t had them? Can they truly enjoy it? No, right? Ya feel me? My parents are high class and high maintenance, so I know how to appreciate the finer things.” (That awkward moment...) I politely looked at him and pondered his foolish words and politely told him that he could take his bourgeois Negro self and jump in front of a semi-truck on I-95.