On Violence (From Denver to New York)

There is a suburb outside of Chicago named Aurora.  This is the closest I will probably ever get to the community near Denver that was hit by violence early this morning.

As someone suspended between fandom and archive, this incident is terrifying.  I can’t imagine the unreality of watching one of the darkest superhero movies of our generation, at midnight, and seeing a true villain come through the doors in full combat regalia with three guns and multiple tear gas projectiles.  It would have been traumatizing.  If this had been a practical joke gone wrong, if he’d done nothing but stand there and wave his guns around, it still would have made the news, he still would have been detained, and a psychiatric evaluation would still have been issued.  More than likely, he would have been charged with some misdemeanor for the awful shock he gave moviegoers young and old.  As Alisha Gaines noted on twitter, “it matters that many witnesses first thought is was ‘part of the movie.'”

But for this man to then open fire…in a theatre filled to capacity…in the dark….

I have nightmares around scenarios like this.

And when I heard this was happening in New York, I didn’t feel better.  I felt worse.

There is no question that all of my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the survivors, their kin, and with the city itself.  But there is also no question that in a city where the mayor and police department are under fire for using ‘Stop and Frisk’ to harass, beat, and kill young black and Latin@ residents, increasing the police presence doesn’t make me feel safe.

It makes me feel terrorized.

Who do we think they will target first if they (think they) see something amiss at the movies this weekend?  How many young people will be killed and how many more will be frisked, placed in handcuffs, or publicly intimidated and made to feel violated and shamed in the name of public safety?

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I don’t understand

Byron Spellman, 16, left, Robert Coleman, 15, center, and Elijah West, 16, right, are a few of the local Savannah youths who stood in front of a crowd Saturday at Sacred Heart Church wearing t-shirts implying that they are Troy Davis. Image Credit: Hunter McRae/Savannah Morning News

I’m not sure what it means when we live in a society that applauds for the murder of 246 human beings by the state.

I’m not sure what it means when we celebrate death and see vengeance as a legit and appropriate response.

When did forgiveness become passé?  Or naive.  Or weak.

I don’t understand.  Where is the strength in taking a person’s life?  How does this build community?  Is someone going to get their house out of foreclosure because Davis is dead?  Is there a cure for AIDS involved?  Will his death prevent a young woman from being raped on her way home from work tomorrow–

[Wait.  Skip that one.  That’s for another post.]

I’m so confused.  And I kinda want to vomit.  Or move to Antarctica.

Instead, I write.  And I call.  Via @aliciasanchez:

Troy davis was denied clemency. keep calling if you can— When you call (404) 656-5651 Listen to the menu, press #5 for “Pardons,” Ask for DA Chisolm, Leave a message.

For more information, ask Zora Walker.

#NWNW & the Easy, Sexy Silence of Privilege

Cosby Koolaid Anyone? (H/T @divafeminist for this reference)

In case you decided to forego the interwebs today (or you’re still recovering from the #EddieLong Twitter bonanza that was last Sunday’s social media brunch special–see Jelani Cobb or Dr. Goddess for the recap), last Wednesday saw the internet launch of the No Weddings, No Womb Movement.  The site can feel a bit confusing in part because the founder, Christelyn Denise Karazin is doing a commendable and blog award worthy job of posting both criticism and support–the woman is braver than most Twitterati and I applaud her for it.  But if you want a quick rundown, you can find the FAQs here, the initial announcement here, and follow the citizen-bloggers listed on the site here.

Plenty of critique has been levied at the No Weddings, No Womb “movement.”  Two of my favorites were written by Bené and Sister Toldja but just throw the #NWNW hashtag into a Twitter search and you’ll get slammed with responses.  Nothing gets the blogosphere buzzing like the action going on in a black woman’s womb.

There are also a number of supporters–like Sophia Angeli Nelson who wrote a lovely, non-judgemental post for the Grio.  Some aren’t even turning a pro-marriage stance into an excuse to re-hash old Moynihan-esque arguments full of single mother stigma.  Or offering chastity belts & promise rings to fourteen year old girls to be returned upon completion of their wedding ceremony.

Unfortunately, over the course of the last week, the conversation grew increasingly vicious.  Twitfam were getting blocked and swarmed, misconstrued and misunderstood.  The vitriol came from both sides (Note to Self: Is “Google it if you want to” the new “Meet me outside”?) and none of it is fostered productive and healthy debate.  So I’m going to suggest something unusual and unnatural in this brave new world of 24 hours news and 21st century cyborgs.

Let’s.  Slow.  Down.

Yes, I know:  Your timeline is full of words like #wedding, #marriage, #womb, #singlemother, #blackfatherlessness, or #wedlock.  And I know that when those words appear alongside #black, #African-American #woman or #woc it causes some of you to break out into hives, scream invectives at your computer screen and run to your local library for a copy of Gutman’s, The Black Family in Slavery & Freedom, or perhaps E. Franklin Frazier’s The Black Family in the United States.

And yes, I know:  You are the daughter of a married couple who have remained so despite X number of obstacles –or– you are the daughter of a single mother who made it do what it do despite X number of obstacles.   This issue is personal for you–I hear you.  And yes, I do recognize the extent to which the black/African-American community’s post-civil rights movement-traumatic stress and betrayed expectations of same are feeding into the intense, emotional and physical reaction we are having.

But there have got to be some things we can agree on without jumping down each other’s throats, making personal attacks or using our considerable, 140 characters worth of wit and sarcasm to discredit each other.

For example, and just for argument’s sake, let’s all agree that the “movement” in this case is the health, welfare and well-being of all children born under God’s yellow sun.  Equal access to a safe, quality education.  Equal access to opportunities and resources that will lead them down the professional path of their choice.  Equal access to housing, to communities free of violence, to safe bodies and minds (no rape, no incest, no street harassment) and while we’re at it, we can throw in full bellies in those bodies, literacy to fuel those minds, confident images of themselves and their future in the world, a support network of kin (elders, parents, siblings and all other kin, fictive and real) who are completely committed to their just and whole development.

Is that a decent enough baseline to start with?

If so, the question becomes what did #NWNW leave out that may be causing such a ruckus?  And is there a way for the #NWNW movement (or something similar) to assimilate the things that are missing–or is it just what the detractors are saying it is?  (#Solutions)


1.  Where are the men? This one is easiest.  The #NWNW FAQs clearly state:

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Lex Says…

“To answer death with utopian futurity, to rival the social reproduction of capital on a global scale with a forward dreaming diasporic accountability is a queer thing to do. A strange thing to do. A thing that changes “the family” and “the future forever.” To name oneself mother in a moment where representatives of the state conscripted “black” and “mother” into vile epithets is a queer thing. To insist on an black motherhood despite black cultural nationalist claims to own black women’s wombs and white feminist attempts to use the maternal labor of black women as domestic servants to buy their own freedom (and to implicitly support the use of black women as guinea pigs in their fight to perfect the privilege of sterilization) is an almost illegible thing, an outlawed practice, a queer thing….”

A queer thing, indeed. Guerrilla love.

Read the rest.

What I Think About While Al and Tavis Fight

or, We are still the ones we’ve been waiting for.

This has become our folklore.

Soft, curling words memorializing our mother’s gardens.  Wistful brushes against kitchen tables where grandmothers, mothers and aunties sit, knead hard fingers against water, flour, yeast that they will speak over to make dough–their coughing laughter and hoarse whispers hot enough to make bread rise.  Walks through small towns we’ve never seen with our own eyes but experienced through the tart reach of longing:  “Mami, remember?  Remember when…” enough to send two generations of women into a wonderland of once & then punctuated by sighs, admonishments and warnings.

This is our legacy.  This we give our whole heart to.  But this is not us.

Los afrodescendientes–somos de la tierra. We are a rural people.  Our worldview is steeped in the dirt that we were taken to and dirt that was taken from us; dirt we were forced to mine for sugar, tabac, cotton and rice and dirt that we claimed for ourselves to grow collards, beets, tomatoes, beans and corn.  Dirt that received our blood, our birthing fluids, our shit and our tears; and dirt that we never received because emancipation did not end our alienation within our societies.

But many of us can only pretend that we know those forested valleys, dusty towns or quiet nights.  Somewhere between Reconstruction and the Great Society, Exodus and the Beloved Community, yellow fever and HIV/AIDS–we were born.  By 1968, the U.S. black pop officially stopped being rural and became urban.  Hopeful and hoping mothers baptized us in warm cement, glass and steel.  Concrete jungles sprouted from our hair.  We walked in lands better evoked by Delaney than by DuBois.  We spoke tongues better conceived by Hurston than by Morrison.  We set FIRE!! to Harlem.  Then we set fire to Harlem.  We breathed in smoke but exhaled rhymes and left them strewn for our little brothers and sisters to find, pick up, take a hit.  We fought, fucked and fell from grace; were lifted up, saved and did it again.  We ran.  We’re always running.  We were men and–finally–we were women.  And then we slipped genders like snake skin and vibrated between and defied both.  We were young.  We traversed worlds, space pod people–confused, distant, anxious spores floating apart in summers “down South” but we came back.  And sometimes with a deeper, wider sigh of relief than we wanted to admit.

This here, this is futuristic black folk shitAndroid fucking behavior.

There is no post-racial America.  But there may be a post-South black America that we need to pay very close attention to.

There is a post-segregation America.  And a drug war/prison industrial complex caste society replaced it.

We are an immigrant people.  Forced migration, untold geographies, and diasporic African proclivities run in our blood.

Our history is rich and dense.  We hold it close and continue to move forward, waging war.  But we demand you respect the present.  Respect those cyborg black kids who grew up surrounded by cityscapes and rage, rage, rage against everything they’ve been told they should be able to do but cannot.  Who are still trapped in the throes of a history not of their making and suffer while we argue over kibbles and bits.  Who speak in explosions and gun blasts, who scream on stages and in theaters, who bend, wind, stretch, swing, sweat, spinning to get out, to give way, to give voice to the sprites in their heads, whistling siren songs, to say–

We are here.

PATOIS: State Violence and Community Response

PATOIS: State Violence and Community Response

featuring the World Premiere of Operation Small Axe

Sunday, March 21, 2010
5:00pm – 8:00pm
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center
1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd
New Orleans, LA

Screening of Daggit Gaza and the World Premiere of Operation Small Axe, followed by a panel and discussion about state violence in New Orleans and Oakland, and violent and nonviolent community responses. The legacies of violence against whole populations like the people of Gaza and members of Black communities like Oscar Grant, Adolph Grimes, and the Danziger Bridge families. Nonviolent and Violent community responses, including Lovelle Mixon and Mark Essex. With filmmaker Adimu Madyun, Prisoners of Conscience Committee Minister of Information JR Valrey, and activists and community members from Oakland and New Orleans. Operation Small Axe Description (*WORLD PREMIERE*) Operation Small Axe is a documentary centered on Prisoners of Conscience Committee Minister of Information JR and, Block Report Radio show. This film gives an in-depth account of police terrorism and occupation in Oakland, California. On New Years Day 2009, Oscar Grant was murdered by the police in front of dozens of people at the Fruitvale BART (subway) station in Oakland. Three months later, Lovelle Mixon was murdered after allegedly killing four members of the Oakland Police Department. Two more cases of police unjustifiably murdering citizens were documented in the following weeks. This time instead of the Gaza Strip in the Middle East we’re talking about the MacArthur strip in East Oakland, California. Instead of the occupation force of the Israelis in Palestine or the Americans in Iraq & Afghanistan, the low income Black communities in America are dealing with the police, CIA, FBI, ATF and DEA to name a few. 71m. Directed by Adimu Madyun. Operation Small Axe expresses the sentiments of the people regarding government-sanctioned terrorism. Showing the diversity in the resistance, the choice weapon of the operation is citizen journalism. In the words of the internationally renowned artist Bob Marley, ‘If you are a big tree, we are the small axe, sharpened to cut you down.’ Daggit Gaza Description Daggah is a spicy tomato salad made in Gaza that is traditionally pounded in a mortar and pestle. This short, personal film juxtaposes the making of the salad with a phone conversation with the director’s uncle in Gaza. Literally translated, “Daggit Gazza” means “the pounding of Gaza.” 8m. Directed by Hadeel Assali and Iman Saqr.

via @Neogriot :: Facebook