Abortion, Reality TV & Women of Color

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

originally posted at my RH Reality Check colum

I’m still surprised I’ve grown up with cable (now I can’t afford it so I watch some shows online) and that Vh1 is one of the main sources where communities of Color, especially women of Color are represented. Vh1 has really changed their image; back in my youth, the channel represented the almost exclusively racially white “soft rock” genre and limited R&B songs by the people to whom I listened. Today, Vh1 represents me, which is a huge shift from what I remember. Not only do they represent me as a woman of Color, but as a LatiNegra. They have more LatiNegras on their shows than any other channel I can think of (i.e. La La’s Full Court LifeBasketball Wives).

This post isn’t about how problematic or limiting these shows are today. That’s been written about by some of my favorite LatiNegra writers and media makers. Although I must share that I really appreciated when Tami and Evelyn went to get mammograms together at their doctor and wished I wrote about that and the importance of this scene at the time. Instead, I want to focus on a new theme I’m seeing emerge on the new show Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. This series is the first time the show has been aired outside of New York. The last several seasons have focused on women of Color who are in the Hip Hop community in some form and residing in NYC.

This new series is in Atlanta. There’s been a lot going on and in just the second episode there is an unplanned pregnancy. One of the women, an up and coming performer named Joseline, who is Latina (not sure if she identifies as a LatiNegra), takes a pregnancy test and it is positive. At the end of episode two she shares that she is pregnant with the baby of her manager/producer/lover who also is in a relationship with another woman and has a child who Joseline knows about and still chose to be “the other woman.”

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Abortions In The Future? Not In The Film “Prometheus”

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

This is not so much an article about the future of abortion, but rather how abortions are presented to us today in films that are set in “the future.” As someone who remembers very well a time when there were no cell phones or internet, for me, I am already living in “the future.” However, I just saw the film Prometheus and there was a scene about pregnancy and abortion (spoilers ahead!).

I’m not going to give a long synopsis of the film Prometheus, I saw it for the old school sci-fi films reference and the cast (ok really just for Idris Elba). As a result I knew there would be a ton of things about the film I would not enjoy, or that would be predictable (which I also don’t enjoy much about films). Briefly, the film takes place in 2093, a group of scientists, engineers, wealthy folks are following/looking for “our creators” as in the folks who came before us in another part of the universe. They are frozen for two years, traveling through other galaxies, and have all this super advanced type of technology.

Alas, the two folks who think they are leading the “exploration” are partners. Since sex does exist in the future, after being awakened as they are approaching their destination, they want and choose to engage in consensual sex. Now, we are told that the woman in the film is infertile and this is something that makes her sad, after all the irony of it: they are looking for their makers but she cannot procreate. Long story short, her partner gets infected with some foreign stuff and because it’s super-alien-fast-growing-magic-stuff, he impregnates his partner. He then dies because of this infection.

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Media Justice Mash-Up

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

There’s been a lot going on over the past week to start off Pride month. Here are a few exciting and interesting stories. Please consider this trigger warning as these stories will be discussing transmisogyny, violence,

CeCe McDonald and Support
If you have yet to hear about CeCe McDonald, I don’t know what to say but get on it! In short, CeCe is a young Black trans woman who is a survivor of racist and transphobic and transmisogynistic comments in her home state of Minnesota which lead to violence. She was attacked by 4 people and fought back for her life. One of her attackers died and she has been incarcerated at a men’s prison for the past year. CeCe pled guilt to manslaughter for a reduced sentence and and was sentenced this week to 41 months in prison with some time served toward her sentence and to pay over $6000 in restitution.

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Remember Sarah Baartman

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

This is the tenth anniversary of Sarah Baartman (also known as Saartjie Baartman)  being returned to her home in South Africa. Sarah is an important woman to me because she reminds me of how bodies of Color, bodies that are feminine, and the sexuality of Black and African women remain devalued in the world we live in today. If you do not know Sarah’s legacy I’ll share a bit of it with you here.

Sarah Baartman was a Khoisian woman from South Africa. Born in the late 1780s (yes, you read that correctly), Sarah was a member of the Khoikhoi community. In 1810 an English doctor on a ship, William Dunlop, met her and convinced her to travel to Europe with him. She agreed and Dunlop took her with him to Europe where she was put on display for others to view and given the name “The Hottentot Venus.” Her body shape and size was seen as oddly disfigured by Europeans and Dunlop. The reality was that her body shape and size were very much characteristics of her being a member of her community and thus not that odd.

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Notes from the Green Festival

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

cross posted from my Media Justice column

I was asked to be on a panel at the Green Festival held in NY last weekend. The panel was titled “The F-Word: Perspectives In Contemporary Feminism” and on the panel were: Misha Clive of Green America, Marianne Schnall of Feminist.com, Aiesha Turman of the Black Girl Project and myself. Our session was described in the festival program as:

“At a time when feminism equates to political, social and economi rights for women, why is it considered the F-word? While women leaders like Michelle Obama and HIlary Clinton are prominent figures in forming public policy, widespread access to healthcare remains controversial and domestic violence a common occurrence. Join this panel of empowered women for a lively discussion on how feminism informs our politics and our lives.”

We had a conference call a week before to discuss the panel. Still, I had not really figured out what to expect as I’d never been to the Green Festival. I was invited on the panel by my friend Tanya Fields of The BLK ProjeK  who was helping to find folks interested in joining. I responded to the request indicating that I could participate on the panel, but that I had to be honest in that I don’t identify as a feminist but as a radical woman of Color and that often when I speak about this, and has been the case recently, women of a certain age and racial group (i.e. white women over 45) usually disagree with me, stand up and leave to show their disapproval. In response to this I was told that these are the types of conversations that were desired on the panel.

One of the main reasons I decided to join wasn’t to just discuss my identity as a radical woman of Color, something that is not new, or different as the people who worked to produce the book: This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color, have led the way for me. I was also interested in seeing what the Green Festival had to offer and being able to offer free tickets to folks in my community.

I admit that when I think of the Green Festival I imagine a bunch of folks handing out granola bars and talking about riding bikes or living “green.” These often exclude me: someone who makes significantly less than 25k a year, because to me “living green” means having the status, money, and access to live in a way that one can eat organically, limit exposure to toxins, using “natural” cleansers, or other things along those lines. Yes, these are some stereotypes. Yet, some of these are true.

Arriving at the Jacob Javits Center North with Aiesha Turman and her daughter was probably the best thing I could have done. We arrived two hours before our panel so we could enjoy the festival. The first booth we encountered: granola bars. We tasted some and took full size samples with us. And that happened throughout the festival. We also saw organic clothing, cleansers, energy efficient light bulbs, “green” vehicles, and a children’s area where we rested for a bit.

When it was time for our panel we introduced one another. Our moderator Misha then asked folks present (about 40 people in total as all of the seats were filled) what were some of their motivations for attending the session. Two folks shared and one indicated they wanted to hear more about eco-feminism and the other shared they would like to hear about international connections and feminisms. Then Misha asked each of us to discuss what feminism means to us.

I shared how some may think I officially came to US feminism in college, but others may think I was raised in a feminist home, with a father who was present during the day and when we came home from school and a mother who worked longer hours. In college I shared how I rarely found a space that felt comfortable for me in US feminisms. It was from this discomfort and recognizing how many US feminists and feminisms all too often exclude folks from my background and experiences. It was then that I started to identify as the women of Color who came before me: Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Nellie Wong.

Nobody really stood up to leave as I spoke. But folks did leave throughout, perhaps more so because we were not discussing the topics they wished to hear. However, we did discuss eco-feminisms. This was a topic I thought folks may have wanted to discuss and shared that on the conference call we had, but we didn’t spend too much time exploring that possibility. So when this person mentioned eco-feminism I was sort of ready. My participation to this topic was connected to environmental racism. Aiesha spoke about food deserts (i.e. not having quality or any foods available for consumption) in her Brooklyn neighborhood and how she has witnessed community members responding in specific ways to end food deserts.

When discussing environmental racism I made connections specifically to my upbringing by parents who were in support of our homeland of Puerto Rico being a sovereign nation, free of US intervention and presence. This is where my understanding of environmental racism emerges: who owns their land and who can work and claim and reap the benefits that it can offer. I connected this to the experiences of indigenous communities in the US. How they have been forcibly removed from their homelands, their sacred burial grounds uprooted and built upon. We see similar things occurring to farmers of Color in the US. Where is our self-determination as colonies of the US, spaces controlled by

I connected these ideas of environmental racism to reproductive justice as well. Since the crowd was over 35 years old I used the term “overpopulation” as that’s a term that was common a few years ago. This term I used to connect to our ideas of “choice” and what “choice” means to people who do not have a “choice” or who practice “agency within constraints” regarding our reproductive health and rights. It is rare when folks really care or listen to how poor communities, people with disabilities, and communities of Color are impacted by “birth control trials.”

This discussion lead me to share how our history haunts us. There is a haunting that I experience when folks discuss the oral birth control pill. A haunting that is connected to the cultural transmission I received from the women in my family. A haunting that is established each time a person questions my purpose in reminding folks that many people, especially poor Puerto Rican women on the island were used without their full consent in oral birth control pill trials. I shared how when discussing that haunting, many “feminists” have attacked me. Have questions about the usefulness of remembering such issues and if that’s reason enough to dismiss the positive outcomes of the oral birth control pill. These responses to my testimonio of this haunting have been very public.

It is these instances when I realize that “feminism” really isn’t about me, my community, my health, or my choices. It is about being “right” in these situations and that’s not what I’m interested in. I shared how these responses from “feminists” have essentially been them telling me to “shut up” about the historical legacy that I carry with me in this world. Now whose voice is being silenced? And speaking of that silence: these discussions on reproductive justice rarely include transgender people or their needs and care. So what bodies are really seen as justifiable, redeemable, and worth of protection? Misha talked more about the needs of trans* communities and reproductive justice.

Aiesha discussed how her experiences are ones that have come with the reminder that as Black women, our bodies have never been our own in the US. They were always used for profit of others versus for our own pleasure and satisfaction.

We ended the panel with Misha asking us what we have always wanted to share on a “feminist” panel but never got the chance to. I wasn’t expecting this question but what I did state was that it’s important to realize we do a lot of important and hard work quietly. Reading, thinking, assessing don’t all need to be done vocally and that is alright. To stand in solidarity with communities that are oppressed will take time, building trust, and sometimes just not even be physically present, because recognizing that maintaining a space that is sacred and healing for many may mean removing oneself from that space, especially if they are an ally or outsider.

Media Justice: Why Citations Matter

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

cross posted from my Media Justice column
by Bianca Laureano

You may want to bookmark this post for future reference. For many of you in school (high school, college, a vocational school) you are most likely going to be expected to write something. Each semester I have students write at least two papers, which is something that we are encouraged to do in an effort to support and expect students to be able to express themselves through writing. With all of the advances in technology, many folks are writing online. When you write, citations are important.

Citations are not just for the reader, but they are also for you, the writer and the folks whose work you find useful. These citations are so important; they shows you have done your research, are open to other perspectives, and can offer ways for the reader to go back and read those citations and make their own opinions. They are also important because naming the people whose thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and work makes them visible. Often youth, working class people, folks with disabilities, who are trans* or people of Color rarely get the attention, support, and simple naming of their work that other folks receive. Our names are powerful and choosing not to name someone, or ignoring their name is a form of erasure. This happens too often, even within and among marginalized groups.

As someone who requires a paper using media literacy skills and examining different forms of media, citations are one area where my students struggle. With the advancements of the Internet, various websites, and social media networks where students find their information, they rarely know how to properly cite them in a paper. This article is for those of you who are trying to figure out how to cite these new forms of information collection! Some of these may change (such as citing Facebook Fan Pages and the like) as new forms of online communication and virtual spaces evolve. So this page will definitely be outdated one day.

I tell my students I don’t care if they use MLA, APA or Chicago Style, as long as they are consistent. An amazing resource online is the Purdue Online Writing Lab.  I encourage you to visit the site and spend some time becoming familiar with what is shared and how it will impact your choice in citations. Below are some examples on how to cite certain forms of print, non-print, and web-based media.

How to Cite a Film
Films need to be cited using the title (in italics), name of the director, studio/distributor, release date and if necessary a list of the cast/performers. A great place to find information about a film or television show is the Internet Movie Database. Let’s use the film Pariah as an example in MLA format:

Pariah. Dir. Dee Rees. Performers Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans and Aasha Davis. Focus Features. 2011. Film.

(You can use the same format for MLA citations of a VHS or DVD just change the “Film” part to the format that the film is in).

Here’s how to cite in a paper:

There are not many films that center the experiences of young Black lesbian women living in Brooklyn in major theaters and the few that do exist rarely are limited release (i.e. Pariah, 2011).

How to Cite a TV Episode
For television series you have to know the name of the episode (this is where IMDb is useful too), title of the show/series, network, original air date, and city and state of the studio or distributor. Depending on the format you may also need to list the writer and director. Here’s an example using the TV series Pretty Little Liars (which my students seem to enjoy watching).

King, I. Marlene (Writer), Shepard, Sara (Writer) & Friedlander, Liz (Director). 2010. The Jenna Thing [Pretty Little Liars]. ABC Family. J. Bank (Producer) & L. Cochran-Nielan (Producer). Burbank, CA: Warner Horizon Television.

Here’s how to cite this in a paper:

In this episode, the clothing of the cast caught my attention and this is where we are introduced to the different styles of each character and how it connects to their personality (Pretty Little Liars, 2010).

How to Cite a Song
Citing a song is often done first by the name of the artist or performers. Included in the citation is the name of artist/performer, title of album (italicized), name of the song (in quotes if used), date of publication, recording manufactures information (i.e. record label), and the format (i.e. CD, MP3, Digital File, etc.). Let’s use Big Freedia’s Hits Album, where she has self-distributed her own album. Here’s MLA examples below:

Big Freedia. Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1, 1999-2010. Big Freedia, 2010. MP3.

Another example of a group I’ve written about who are on a major label and focusing on a specific song includes:

Dead Prez. “Mind Sex.” Let’s Get Free. LOUD Records, 2000. CD.

When you cite this in the paper you do so like this:

When Dead Prez talk about getting to know one another before engaging in sexual activity, they are sending a message that supports abstinence (2000).

How to Cite a Website (Wikipedia is always popular!)
I encourage you to ask your instructor first before citing Wikipedia. Some folks are not in favor of using Wikipedia as a source because as a collective form of documentation, some information can change or not be factual. There are often citations at the bottom of the Wikipedia page and if you can go to the original source you should use those first as citations. Wikipedia has also offered a useful guide to citing their site. 

Let’s use the Wikipedia entry for Advocates For Youth in APA format. The same format that you use to cite a book or printed publication is what you use for online sites. The additional information needed is the year and date of publishing (or just the date of publication), and full web address and date retrieved (make sure you put the location, i.e. Wikipedia, in italics). Here’s an example:

Advocates For Youth. In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advocates_for_youth

To cite in the paper and text, a simple form is often ok; however sometimes when you paraphrase or quote from a particular paragraph on the site you’ll need the title of the heading (i.e. “Programs”) or the number of the paragraph you are citing (“Programs” para. 2). Wikipedia offers a more in-depth discussion of citing specific paragraphs and headings at their site.  For a more general in-text citation do the following:

Advocates For Youth is based in Washington, DC and have US and international programs (“Advocates For Youth,” 2012).

How to Cite a Tweet
Let’s use this Amplify Tweet as an example.

What you need for all forms of citations include: The original tweet, name on/of the account, date the tweet was sent, and the link to the tweet. Below is an example in APA format:

Advocates For Youth. (2012, May 12). Tell the Obama Administration: Stop Endorsing Homophobic and Sexist Program in Our Schools ow.ly/aF8l2. [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/#!/AmplifyTweets/status/197793985740288000

When you want to use this as a reference in your paper you will cite it as name on/of the account followed by the date. Here’s an example:

Advocates For Youth has been vocal about challenging the Obama Administrations endorsements programs in the US schools that they state are homophobic and sexist (Advocates For Youth, 2012).

How to Cite an Personal Interview or Email
For a personal interview or email communication you’ll need the specific date (including day, month and year), the person’s name and the format. Here’s an example if you received an email from me telling you how excited I am to share the link to this post with you and you wish to cite it in MLA format:
Laureano, Bianca. Personal Email. 2 May 2012.

To cite this in text you would do so in the following way:

My first opportunity to hear about a post featuring ways to properly cite virtual spaces and forms of media was when I received a email from the author (Laureano, 2012).

When Language Changes: Using the @ Symbol

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

cross posted from my Media Justice column

“So if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.”

Gloria Anzaldúa, “How To Tame The Wild Tongue” in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 2007. pg. 59.

Earlier this week I created a post on The LatiNegr@s Project about our use of the @ symbol. It stemmed from a question about if this was an appropriate term and form to use in a academic paper by a student in college. I was humbled and thankful to be asked this question and responded by providing this statement so the student could have a citation to support their use of the @ symbol.

Since writing that post many folks have had something to say and shared an opinion. For those of you uncertain about how Tumblr works, you can look to the bottom of the page and see who has responded and in what way, sometimes clicking on a person who has “reblogged” the statement can also show more input. I’ll get into some of their suggestions and thoughts in a moment. Before that I want to make a few things clear: The post I wrote was specific to LatiNegr@s. It discussed the code-switching that occurs, as a first language for some of us, in our daily lives and among LatiNegr@s. As a result, many comments and suggestions asked about other ethnic and racial groups using the @ symbol. I think this is fantastic!

The terms “Latino” and the use of the @ symbol in identifiers such as Chican@, Xican@, Mestiz@, etc. are fairly new terms. This is something that occurs when we speak for ourselves, from the spaces we occupy, and when we claim new and more appropriate and representative self-identifiers. I believe this is not something we need to be scared of or find anger in. I think these are opportunities to be challenged (much like challenging our use of ableist language), be more inclusive, and reflexive of how we use language to include, exclude, and create messages.

Language is at the core of media justice.

Language changes and that is something we may celebrate, especially when it is changing in a way that recognizes and includes people who are experiencing multiple oppressions. The @ symbol does just that by challenging a gender binary and dichotomy that has been implemented to privilege men, masculinity, and maleness especially in romance languages such as Spanish. It is also inclusive of our transgender and gender queer community who are often excluded and omitted on a regular basis.

When someone challenges and questions the use of the @ symbol, claims this is a part of “rewriting language” and who do we think we are to do that, those folks are not yet at a space to understand how language was created and in that creation it can be changed (regardless of how long ago it was created). In addition, these folks are also continuing to erase and isolate people in our community that are the most in need of our support. Finally, they are upholding the misogyny that is present in language, especially in the Spanish language. The process of unlearning can be a struggle for many and one that several may resist.

I ended my above post by stating: “The questions still exist of how to actually speak the @ sign and this has yet to really be resolved. How have others negotiated this?” This is where the most responses were shared and presented. I really loved reading how so many folks considered pronouncing and speaking the @ symbol. People shared some really thoughtful and personal testimonios of using the @ sign and how to speak it when in use.

There’s a lot of food for thought about this particular topic, and I hope it continues. I’d love to hear how others are approaching the use of language, code-switching and speaking new terms such as the @ symbol. How have you negotiated these terms?

Media Maker’s Salon: Hip Hop Is For Lovers

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

cross posted from my Media Justice column

Last year Hip Hop is for Lovers (HH4L) became a live broadcast online. Since then, the expansion and attention HH4L has received is phenomenal. This is expected as the two women who are the driving force, creative energy, and developers of the series are fantastic. I asked Uche and Lenée if I could feature them for the Media Maker’s Salon as their form of media is one that is so accessible! They agreed. I should share that Lenée and I are homegirls, chosen family and that I am a regular listener, tweeter, and fan of HH4L.

Uche and Lenée both identify as 30 something Black women from the US who are English speaking. Lenée identifies as a “queer working class, anti-academic and Spanglish speaking” Black woman and Uche as a “hetero” African American woman. Their identities are important because this impacts the media they create, conversations they have, and education they provide on HH4L.

What is HH4L? When and where did it begin?

Uche: Hiphopis4Lovers.com conception came from a conversation. First it was a microblog on tumblr and was almost a mixtape but now its a full on radio show and now
budding network. We discuss Love, Sex, intimacy and Hip Hop Music every
Wednesday 8pm-10pm and we have The XD Experience every Thursday
9pm-11pm.

What was the motivation for beginning HH4L? What are some goals you have for the project/program?

Uche: The Motivation for HH4L in the beginning was to create a space where people we could talk about sex and Hip Hop in a real adult way. To address the issues in intimacy and sex that the hip hop generations faces on a daily basis.

My ultimate goal would be to change the culture of how sexuality, sex and intimacy is viewed, and discussed in the culture of Hip Hop. To create a space for adults who still engage in the culture of Hip Hop to deal with issues facing them in their personal lives.

How did the two of you meet and what went into collaboration?

Lenée: We met via twitter, actually. I was out at a wine bar in Brooklyn and Uche recognized me from my twitter avatar. We’ve been hanging out ever since. Later, she approached me about taking her microblog series, Hip Hop is for Lovers, to another level by making it a podcast. In May of 2011, we switched the format to include live broadcasts.

Share with us the importance of the naming of your media. How is language important in the projects you create and are a part of?

Uche: With Hip Hop, one of the main identifiers of people engaged in the culture is language. There is a seeded vernacular that in Hip Hop is this always changing but remains universal to the listeners. In Hip Hop is 4 Lovers we are using that language, that semantic to talk about Sex and Love.

Lenée: Language plays a huge part! The radio show is reflective of and steeped in Hip Hop culture and language — the vernacular we utilize from the larger culture are a big part of the sound and tone of the show. Also, we have our own sayings that are part of the show’s fabric. For instance, Uche coined the term “No bueno on the non consensual anal,” in response to the idea that one partner can surprise another with anal sex. We have HH4L quotables on virtually every episode. Also, we name every episode uniquely — usually something humorous — as a way of piquing the interest of potential listeners.

What themes do you seek to discuss/address/present and how are they received by audience?

Lenée: Our subject matter is based on love, sex, intimacy, and relationships. So, we talk about sex itself, sex work, dating, coparenting, child rearing, etc. We talk a lot about personal agency in relationships and sexual encounters, consent, and transparency. I believe what we talk about on the show is very well received by our audience. I do find that sometimes our shows about very juicy (and for some people controversial) topics sometimes get more realtime feedback on twitter.

Uche: We talk about everything sex/ intimacy related. Everything from parenting to the kinds of sex people are having. Addressing topics like Slut Shaming, Self Love, even Polyamory has struck chords with our audience. We also, always put emphasis on consent and full disclosure in intimacies between individuals. Our audience seems to be excited to have a space where the issues that concern them and (even some that don’t) are being discussed.

How are topics and songs selected? Is this an individual process? The two of you? audience suggestions? something else?

Uche: Its both the HH4L team and our audience. We discuss and brainstorm about our topics and even do research to make sure we are giving a full representation of any topic and not just our own personal ideals.

Lenée: The creation of our library was a collaborative effort — we both add to it regularly. We also take suggestions from our audience, and from artists themselves.

What role does race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and location play in the creation of HH4L?

Lenée: Hip Hop, as a culture and as a genre of music, belongs to People of Color (POC). It began in the Bronx, in a community of working and lower middle class black and brown folks and to this day is largely reflective of the lives and experiences, aspirations, goals, and sometimes the suffering of People of Color. Of course, there are white artists who make this music, and I find that the white artists whose work is best received both commercially and critically are people from working class and or poor communities, like Yelawolf. I think class plays a big part because early Hip Hop was self-made entertainment based on the experiences of black and brown youth. Though an abundance of Hip Hop music is driven by men who identify as hetero (or express heterosexual desires), there’s a lot music informed by what we might call alternative viewpoints. Hetero women, queer women, queer men, and trans people make hip hop — some of which is played on both the main HH4L show and the show on our network hosted by The XD Experience. Regarding location, we are NYC based. NYC is the birthplace of Hip Hop music and culture; this means that for a long time the epicenter of the culture was here — some argue that it still is. I think that the urban experience of working class and or poor People of Color is as integral a part of the music of Hip Hop as rhyming itself.

Uche: As a woman (especially a woman of color) who grew up in the culture of Hip Hop and has no fear being identified as such is a big deal. I have met a lot of women who have a love/hate relationship with Hip Hop. Dealing with issues of “where is my place?” is very real for a lot of POC women who grew up listening to a music that at first glance doesn’t seem to value them or acknowledge their place in the culture. I’m sure that goes for other “alternative”(probably not the right word) identified groups that ultimately identify with the culture of Hip Hop. The fact that the majority of the people involved with HH4L are POC women is a big deal as we tend to talk about what affects us more so than our non POC counterparts.

How has HH4L evolved? How would you like to see it evolve in the future? Are there goals for the year?

Uche: We went from being a podcast to a live weekly show. Now we are branching out to becoming a network by adding The XD experience and some other shows that will be announced soon. We have goals of always expanding the audience and growing as a team.

As media makers, what outlets/equipment/training/workshops/tools/etc. do you utilize to create?

UW: HH4L is broadcast right from my home. I did research on a lot of different broadcast sites style sites before settling on Spreaker.com. We also use lots of social media to get the word out about our broadcasts and the happenings of HH4L. I would say that social media is a major tool for us.

Lenée: I think it’s imperative that people who make media understand the intersections of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr) and traditional media (print/ radio/ video). It’s all linked now. Since Twitter is a big part of what we use to communicate and share our media, I think demonstrated ability to navigate and manage social media is as important as knowing how to update a website via platforms like WordPress. Also, it’s a good idea to learn about sites like podomatic, Spreaker, and Soundcloud.

What are some necessary texts, films, images, photography that you think are essential for youth, especially youth of Color, queer youth, and youth who are marginalized in general, to interact with/read/be exposed to? Why these artifacts?

Lenée: I think for young Women of Color — queer and hetero alike — to begin to actualize themselves, it is imperative that they know their experiences do not occur in a vacuum. I recommend Colonize This!,  and Borderlands/ La Frontera  for starters. I also suggest Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery  and Naked be read in tandem. It’s never too early to learn!

For marginalized youth in general, I think it’s important that they utilize the resources they have access to — be they libraries in the community or at school, or even the personal libraries of people they know and trust. When I was 15, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X,  because I thought it was necessary for me to learn exactly how he became an activist. Not everyone is born with a fist in the air — our kids need to know that. I also read Race Matters  by Cornel West (required reading by my school) and found the words I had been seeking all along to explain what I felt when my wealthy white schoolmates expressed not just racism or sexism, but classism in their interactions with me and one another.

Have there been any challenges/obstacles, etc. you’ve encountered in creating your media? Will you share some examples with us?

Uche: I would say that my greatest challenge in creating HH4L is that I didn’t know of anything that existed like it before. I had no guide to tell me how to create a site/radio show that wants to discuss Love, Sex and Hip Hop. Sure there are sites and radio shows that discuss sex and hip hop but not together. So I would say my biggest challenge has been creating this form of media that I didn’t know to exist prior to.

What support systems help you cope with frustration, challenges, obstacles, etc. as POC inclusive media makers?

Uche: I would say our biggest support system has been our growing audience. They have let us know we are doing something needed and wanted by them. That is what I know helps me face any challenges or obstacles I’ve faced.

Lenée: I’m not certain that we’ve faced too many frustrations or challenges as POC inclusive media makers, but I have noticed that sharing with people what I do as co-host and sometimes site contributor to the show can be met with puzzled faces. People really do seem to think that Hip Hop music is all about guns, hoes, drugs, and violence. They’re sometimes surprised… While others think that the music library couldn’t possibly be extensive, as the music within the genre that they like is very singularly minded.

What time management strategies/advice can you share with us about creating media and also finding time for yourself/family/friends?

Uche: There are times that I feel consumed by HH4L. I live it constantly so I make sure to have my down time to “check out.” Its essential for me to create a work/ life balance as it allows my creativity to recharge and grow.

Lenée: We make sure we’re fed and hydrated before the show starts. It’s imperative that we have sufficient nourishment and rest beforehand. HH4L Radio, though it requires a substantial time commitment for me, doesn’t keep me from having quality time with friends and/ or family. I believe Uche has different experiences, though, since she’s the site’s founder and primary content contributor.

Are there any upcoming events planned?

Lenée: With dates TBD, we have a group trip to the Museum of Sex in New York City, and another Lovers Joint!

How may people get in contact with you? listen to the show?

Uche: Tune in to the show on www.hiphopis4lovers.com. Also, find us on Twitter, Tumblr  and Facebook.  If they want to submit music they can do it through the contact section on the website and also sign up for our mailing list.

Lenée: I don’t know specifics, but we’ve got a good following on Facebook and Twitter. Also, the site we broadcast from shows us our stats including unique listeners to each broadcast and how many downloads we get. I’d estimate that we have just under a thousand folks listening to us, which is quite impressive to me considering that we’ve been doing the live shows for just under a year.

Are there any other topics/issues/etc. you’d like to discuss?

Lenée: Check hiphopisforlovers.com for announcements about upcoming events and to stream our latest shows.

An Open Letter to White People in the Sexuality/Sexology Field

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging for the month of March! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

I’m writing this letter regarding a particular interaction I recently had with a racially white person in the field. This person is planning a new program and project of which I was invited. I asked what the demographics were for this space, if there are any people of Color, with disabilities, youth, or trans* people. I was told, right now, there are no people of Color who are a part of the programming identified as “experts” and the demographics of participants is not available. The letter I wrote to this person is one that is filled with the same arguments I, and many other people of Color, have been making to racially white people in the field for years.

My decision to write and share with you this letter comes from my investment in the field (of which I’ve been a part for over a decade), but mostly because I care about the people of Color who wish to join this field, those people of Color who gave their lives to this field, and those of us who are still here doing work.

Have you noted the lack of people of Color in the field? When I’ve brought this to the attention of some of you, your responses have mostly fallen into the category of: “the field is what it is.” This response is problematic on numerous levels. It ignores and erases the people of Color who were a part of the field, helped create it in the US, those of us here today, and those of us to come. This response does not question the colonial legacies and white supremacy of which the US field was created and remains.

The field “is what it is” because of the lives, bodies, and sacrifice of people of Color. From the life of Saartjie Baartman, to the enslaved African women experimented on by “doctors” such as James Marion SimsHenrietta Lacks, Black families in the Tuskegee Experiment, the forcibly sterilized Puerto RicanNative and people with disabilities in the US; Rosie Jimenez, and the nurses, healers, doulas, midwives, and educators of Color save the lives of people every day make the field.

I understand when I write about youth people assume it is always folks under the age of 18. Sometimes this is true. Sometimes the term “youth” is more inclusive. What does remain when people who identify as “professional” or “experts” in the field is the ageism and elitism that isolates and excludes youth of any age. Assuming that youth are not serious about this profession, or cannot understand or put the time in necessary to develop their skills and abilities ignores the amazing work youth have done in their communities, especially as peer educators. Many of the amazing people of Color I know moving the field forward are under 30, several under 25. I have met and mentored peer educators who at the age of 14 are working at a local clinic/health centers or are students in college (because not all of us can afford to go to college or have the ability to attend) and seeking careers in this field. It is them who are on the vanguard of the work and who will remain when we are no longer here. Why are they ignored?

If we truly believe the field in the US must grow, evolve, and change and that we welcome anyone who cares and wants to do the work, we cannot exclude youth. Ever. It seems only certain types of sexuality professionals are seen as being able to grow, evolve and move the field in the US forward. When you think of why people of Color are not attracted to your space, website, services, etc. think about the marketing you implement. Many of the “experts” and professionals that are highlighted or treasured as valuable are all racially white people. Not only are they all racially white, but often the well known, highlighted “experts” are all blonde/light-haired people. Some of the “experts” that are highlighted have made offensive and oppressive remarks that perpetuate anti-Black racism and xenophobia.

When you reach out to those of us who are people of Color in the field, requesting our assistance in reaching our community it is often from a selfish space that is about your profit and advantage, not ours. As a result, we make our own spaces. Many of us are a part of Sister Song and/or the Women of Color Sexual Health Network, a group that was established at the 41st Annual AASECT Conference by 18 women of Color who were present (including myself) and were shocked and saddened by the exclusion of our lives, perspectives, work, experiences, community.

Honestly, at this point, this is the most I wish to help you reach more people of Color, trans* people, and people with disabilities. A internet search will help you find the national and local organizations that are centering the sexual health, and reproductive justice of people of Color. If you do not receive a response from them, know it is not always because we are disinterested, but because the images, language, and message that is a part of the space you wish to build already excludes us.

I have done my share of “helping” racially white people move their ideas, work, projects forward and target people of Color without any reciprocity. How are racially white folks in this field mentored, supported, prepared to succeed in this field and how is it different from how people of Color are prepared, mentored, and expected to succeed? Have those racially white folks considered how they have benefited from the white supremacy in the field that allows them success? How do those of us who are not racially white but in the field find and become successful? What are the barriers that racially white people in the field hold up, ignore, and not question or see that limit those of us of Color in the field? Why do racially white people only hear, what people of Color have said about the field for generations, when a white person says and repeats it?

These are questions I and many of us in the US who are of Color and in the field ask often. We will continue to ask more questions. My time in the field has led me to realize that unless these questions have been examined and attempts are made to shift, unlearn, relearn, heal, and process, I cannot find a space to grow, mentor, and to evolve. As a result, we create and find our own spaces.

My hope is that you consider speaking with your “experts” and those that you actively work to highlight and ask them how they would answer these questions, consider including such a dialogue in your sessions, and actively work to change this so that the field doesn’t remain as it is, but evolves in a way that recognizes the dignity people of Color embody and the safety and respect we too deserve.
Sincerely,

Bianca I Laureano
Sexologist, Educator, Revolutionary
LatinoSexuality.com
Amplify Media Justice Columnist

Media Justice Begins Early: Children’s Books

This is a guest post by Bianca of Latino Sexuality and of The LatiNegr@s Project. I’ll be cross-posting and blogging for the month of March! Read a bit more about me when we introduced The LatiNegr@s Project team.

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to be an Auntie/Tia/Titi. My sister has always wanted a family. When she married her wife last year in Washington, DC, the Big Fat Puerto Rican Lesbian Wedding we had was marvelous! They began to plan for their family and the time is arriving for my nephew to be born. Our families and communities are so excited for his arrival!

As I prepare to become a Tia/Auntie the first thing I looked for were books including same gender parents, mainly women. It was not an easy search. It’s not as rare as it once was, but it’s still a hunt! Because I know how challenging this can be, I’ve decided to share a list of the books I’ve found and purchased for my nephew. These are books that are often still in print, affordable, well-written, and engaging. Children’s books are important forms of media that are also markers of class status. I like to purchase books for children instead of toys because I value them, especially in a time when books are now becoming paperless, I’d like to transmit this value to my nephew. Finding a book that represents our family, struggles, successes, and love is essential to my ideas of media literacy and media justice.

The first challenge was finding a book about two mami’s. It’s not too hard to find a book about two mommy’s but finding one on two women of Color was a whole other challenge. Then, to find a book that had mami’s of Color and children of Color was another challenge. Add to that trying to find a book that had characters of Color, same gender parents, and then ones that had two mami’s raising a son and them being in bilingual in English and Spanish, the search was exhausting! But, they do exist.

Here are the books I purchased for my nephew:

Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio by Rigoberto Gonzalez and Cecilía Alvarez

This book follows Antonio who is creating a Mother’s Day card in his class. He wants to include his mother’s partner, Leslie, but does not want to be made fun of by his classmates. Leslie picks him up from school every day and they spend time together before his mother arrives. I picked this book because it is bilingual (and one of the only ones), discusses a Latino boy (of which my nephew is), and because of how Leslie is described and drawn. She is someone described as being tall and large that she towers over Antonio, she wears baggy overalls that have paint splattered on them because she is an artist, and has short dark hair. Leslie really does look and sound like my sister and her gender expression being more lax with embracing more baggy clothing than her wife. It was the perfect book for our family and I am so excited to have found the book.

The Story of Colors/La Historia de los Colores: A Bilingual Folktale from the Jungles of Chiapas by Subcomandante Marcos and Domitila Domínguez.

I often purchase this book for the new parents in my life. The story is created by Subcomandante Marcos of the Mexican Zapatistas guerilla movement, an indigenous rights and equality movement. The illustrator is Domitila Domínguez, an indigenous artist from Oaxaca, Mexico. This book is so beautiful and shares the story of how colors have come into our world and lives. There are animals that help in sharing the story of how the gods decided to add color to our world. The narrative includes indigenous traditions and rituals, as well as the reality of what indigenous people in Mexico struggle with to maintain and preserve their cultural practices and rituals.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis and Suzanne DeSimone

Based on lived experiences of parent and author Cheryl Kilodavis, we follow the story of a young boy of Color who challenges the way we imagine femininity and masculinity in young children. He enjoys exploring what makes him feel most genuine as each day comes whether it may be “pink and sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses, and sometimes he wears jeans.” One of the few stories for young children that discusses gender, identity, and challenges how we socialize our children. Visit the book website and listen to Kilodavis discuss her book. 

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman and Diana Souza

This was the first children’s book that featured two same gender parents that were lesbians raising a daughter. It is a classic that celebrated it’s 20th anniversary edition in 2009 and is now published in color. My sister specifically requested this book for their library. Author Lesléa Newman has written several books and many are on this list. This book follows Heather and we meet her family which includes Mama Kate, Mama Jane and her dog Midnight. The book centers love that is found in many families regardless of how they are formed.

A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager and Mike Blanc

This book takes place on the beach where two boys have a conversation about their families. A girl nearby listening joins in and we hear how they have questions for the little boy who has two mommies. The boy in the book is a boy of Color, and the two mommies could be women of Color as well, but I read them as racially white. If the child was adopted this is not discussed.

Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr

One of the few books that centers transgender children, Be Who You Are tells the story of Nick. Assigned sex at birth male, Nick sees and believes herself to be a girl. The story follows Nick’s family who is supportive, loving, and works with Nick and her school to create and maintain a supportive environment.

Books To Purchase In The Future

Felicia’s Favorite Story by Lesléa Newman and Adriana Romo

Centers on Felicia who was adopted by her mothers Nessa and Linda. It follows a similar narrative that Newman is famous for: centering love in families. We learn how Felicia’s mama’s went about adopting her from Guatemala

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson

Follows a lesbian couple and their child on a regular day. They go to the park to play, take a bath, have dinner, and a bedtime story. I read one of the parents as a woman of Color, so this is also an interracial book for some families.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole

Based on a true story that took place at the New York City Central Park Zoo about two male penguin’s Roy and Silo. They decide they wish to become parents and find an egg shaped rock to care for. When one zookeeper notices and provides them with an egg that needs attention, Roy and Silo care for their egg until it hatches and they have a daughter. The family is still at the Central Park Zoo!

The Family Book by Todd Parr

This book celebrates the differences and diversity found in families and includes same-gender parents. A picturesque story of how differences are important to recognize and value using the example of family formation.

In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco

Centering on lesbian parents who have a large family, In Our Mother’s House shares a story that we rarely hear. Narrated by a young Black girl who was adopted by two white women she calls Marmee and Meema, she shares how her family evolved to include an Asian brother and red-headed sister. This book is one that shares how the community is supportive and a part of their family. It is the first book that has all the characters age and the ending is one that is epic.

Out of Print & Hard To Find (in the US)

123: A Family Counting Book by Bobbi Combs
Is a counting book up to the number 20. The images depict gay and lesbian parents and their children. The publishing company is a gay and lesbian centric one called Two Lives Publishingwhere online ordering is coming soon.

ABC: A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbi Combs

Similar to the Family Counting Book, this book helps children learn the alphabet featuring gay and lesbian parents. Published by Two Lives publishing online ordering should be available soon, and hopefully it won’t be over $25!

Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin, Michele Paulse and Dawn Lee

Follows Asha, a African-Canadian girl whose family becomes of interest to her teachers and classmates because her parents are lesbians. This book has a more specific and overt homophobic tone as it features Asha’s teachers telling her she can’t have two mothers.

Keesha & Her Two Moms Go Swimming by Monica Bey-Clarke, Cheril N. Clarke, Michelle Hutchinson, and Aiswarya Mukherjee

We follow Keesha as she goes swimming with her parents and meets up with her friend Trevor who has a similar family as she does: two fathers. Keesha is a young girl of Color and she has parents of Color as well.

Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden and Sharon Wooding

Following a similar story found in Antonio’s Card, Molly creates an image of her family featuring her two mothers. When a classmate tells her that she can’t have two mommies Molly doesn’t know how to respond.