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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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.

Useful Media for National Women and Girls HIV AIDS Awareness Day

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

The National Women and Girls HIV AIDS Awareness Day is March 10th. I’ve written a lot about HIV for this column, however I have yet to really write anything specific for this coming day and with a focus on gender. I’d like to highlight some of the forms of media available that discusses and represents people who identify as women and how HIV and AIDS impacts our lives. Below are two main forms of media: Public Service Announcements that range from 45 seconds to 5 minutes long and music videos.

The PSAs may be useful to begin a conversation about HIV and AIDS education and prevention. They may also be encouraging to folks who decide to become media makers and create their own PSAs. The music videos fall into a few categories: quality videos and music and not so quality videos and music. The quality pieces focus primarily on HIV versus only having HIV as part of a larger storyline in the song. Some of the songs also blame the women in the songs for becoming infected with HIV versus individual responsibility.

Public Service Announcements

The Black Girl Project director and filmmaker Aiesha Turman  created an HIV and AIDS PSA a few years ago. Her PSA “Prevent, Don’t Manage HIV” can be seen below.

Rosa’s Story from the Ventura AIDS Partnership http://www.vcaidspartnership.org discusses a Latina’s story of HIV infection and how it impacted her family.

Helena Bushong is a 60 year old transgender Black woman living positive and shares her story in the video “Against All Odds: Transgender, African, and HIV Positive” by Josh Lederman. See the video below:

Merle “Conscious” Soden is living positive and identifies as a Black lesbian woman. She has created a one-woman performance of her life story called “I Got Unstuck”  and you may see videos of her story here.

Music Videos

Unfortunately, there are not too many songs that focus exclusively on HIV without there being some kind of problem with the media. For example, TLC “Waterfalls” discusses various challenges and HIV is one of them. Here’s the video and below that are the lyrics connected to one segment on HIV.

Little precious has a natural obsession
For temptation but he just can’t see
She gives him loving that his body can’t handle
But all he can say is baby it’s good to me
One day he goes and takes a glimpse
In the mirror
But he doesn’t recognize his own face
His health is fading and he doesn’t know why
3 letters took him to his final resting place

Now, I like this song for this message. However, it does focus on a heterosexual relationship and it is the woman who encourages her partner not to use a condom when he is prepared to use one. It places blame on the woman as the person who infected him. This may be true in some cases, and the reality remains that for many people whose sex assigned at birth was female their bodies are constructed with more mucus membranes which can tear than those on the bodies of people whose sex assigned at birth was male. This narrative in certain genres is not new.

For example, MC Lyte’s “Lola From The Copa”  focuses on a young woman who she calls a “freak” for having multiple partners and not thinking before drinking and sleeping with her partners. The song ends with Lola being dead. Also, rapper Lil B released a song “I Got AIDS” last year to much critique.

Here he discusses the multiple women partners he was with and how “she gave me AIDS.” Again, we do not hear the perspective of the woman who is living positive. Listen to the song below and this song has profanity so it may not be safe to listen to in certain spaces.

However, not all genres have the same message. I’ve shared some songs that I really enjoy for using in discussions on HIV and other STIs.  For example, The Conscious Daughters, a hip-hop duo from California created “All Caught Up” which discusses HIV and AIDS prevention and education. The song in a user made video is below. The song does have some profanity so it may not be safe to listen to in some places. Thanks to my homeboy Jerome for reminding me of this song.

Choice, another woman rapper, also had a song called “HIV Positive” which was more of a prevention message than a judgement or third person storytelling. Her song can be heard below:

Wu-Tang Clan’s song “AIDS” on the “America is Slowly Dying” album hook is “AIDS kills word up, America is dying slowly.” Although not specific to women or young women, this video of them performing the song live is an important piece of media. I have yet to really see a concert where the songs are all about HIV and the crowd is dancing, feeling the song, paying attention, and getting informed at the same time! Check out the video below:

Reba Mcentire’s: “She Thinks His Name Was John” is a country song that tells the story of a woman who is living positive. The story is that the woman met a man at a party, drank too much, and went home with him and she can’t remember much about him except that he was the person that transmitted HIV to her.

A few of the articles that I’ve written which may be of interest and use in preparing for March 10th include:

Media Maker’s Salon interview with Miss Kings County 2011 Carmen B. Mendoza.
Here I interview Carmen in her role as Miss Kings County (in Brooklyn, NY) and her platform is focused on eliminating the stigma associated with HIV testing. Carmen discusses her choice in choosing this platform issue, challenges and successes with this topic as part of her work in pageantry, and challenging stereotypes about women, pageantry, HIV, and Latinidad.

Myths and Messages about HIV
I wrote last year and discusses the myths and questions I’m often asked when doing HIV and AIDS education and prevention work. I share how some of these questions are connected to myths about HIV and our bodies and how I respond to them.

Conspiracy Theories and HIV 
I focus on what I say and how I discuss HIV when folks present question and believe that HIV is part of a larger conspiracy to get rid of people of Color, queer people, and immigrants.

What are some of the forms of media that you would like to use for National Women and Girls HIV AIDS Awareness Day?