Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The invisible woman: What's missing from media, conversations on partner/domestic violence? #Rice #NFL #FOX #CNN #Janay

 I saw this video this morning and started to get a little excited. I thought, someone is finally going to make the connections. They are going to expose the plethora of reasons that the media's responses, the NFL's, and many Americans' responses to the Ray-Janay Rice video have been inadequate at best. But, well, watch for yourself.

I applaud Carol's comments. Good try. However... you'd have to be blind not to note the racist subtext of the FOX comments. There's a serious racial stereotype both affirmed by Fox and erased by CNN in the current public conversation on domestic violence. So Ray Rice is just  like Chris Brown? And just like Jay Z and Solange's fight in an elevator? What??? All Black people are violent, that's just how they treat each other??? Hypervisible blackness that still leaves "blackness" "black woman-ness" complete invisible, and lots of subtext. Subtext. Subtext.

So a lot of questions and issues came up for me in the midst of the Rice-NFL scandal, namely around the way black women and violence are presented in media and public discourse generally. I'd frankly thought everything had been said on the matter, but here's what I felt compelled to add. 

Some of you may have come across in your life, academics that talk about or frame instances like this as being about race AND gender. They'll explain that these two aspects of identity are "inextricably" linked. To translate to those not familiar with the terms or for those who are a bit woman's studies phobic, here's what they mean... 

If you are black and female or a female of color, one identity doesn't come before the other, you experience them uniquely as one identity at the same time.  So if you are a black woman, from the working class to the upper middle class, you are fighting on a few different fronts as once, just as part of being alive. If we're not fighting for the "Michael Browns" of the world to be treated like humans, we are  fighting for young black women to value themselves enough to leave a relationship and to stop thinking being a cast member of basketball wives will solve all their problems.  Or we may be countering the psychic violence of news media and entertainment, that sees violence among African Americans and toward each other as a norm. Or we, Black mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, are trying to convince our friends and relatives that their self worth is not measured by whether they are married or partnered.   And others are doing important research to make known the width and breadth of the problem.

This awareness may help explain Janay's response this morning.  Or maybe not. We do not even know who this woman is apart from Mr. Rice. That should tell us a lot.

What is more certain though, is that, this particular instance, with Ray Rice nearly killing his wife and dragging her out like a sack of potatoes, (among many others seen and unseen, involving domestic violence), is an example of how media and public discourse has work to do when it comes to addressing the complexity and dimensions of violence perpetrated against women of color. I argue this work can begin in some public AND private spaces and eventually, have public results.

First. There's a knowledge embedded in the everyday lived experience of women we must be willing to listen to and learn from at these
Making space to tell the story (in your family, community) is key
times. And academics have to serve as translators to remain relevant or we welcome people who doubt the validity of the work we've been doing all these years on gender,race, anti-violence issues. And some academics have to tell of their own experiences...because no space or circumstance is immune.

Some of us use words like "inextricably linked" or "intersectional", that includes me. But what it comes down to is the unique circumstance of women addressing simultaneous oppressions. This is not an oppression olympics. I am not posing the idea that one experience of oppression is worse than another. We simply need to honor, and integrate into our discourse and strategies, the complexity of race and gender. Tons of people who have been doing this work for decades do this and we can learn from the and their work. But we can really learn from women, survivors of violence themselves.  So its connecting and translating...

 What I am saying is certainly not new. This is the same argument, women of color have been making for some time, but frankly many of us have been lazy or afraid to keep making it, speaking it, and bringing it back in from the margins our personal and public dialogues.  Especially with the gendered dimension of the war on black male bodies in this country. So at this time solidarity means being "intersectional" people, or more plainly stated, we should aspire to be a people that recognizes and remains open to adjusting our critique, actions, and support across race, gender, and varied dimensions of oppression. Its not multiculturalism, consensus, or pluralism. Its another step I think. 

Why, does it matter? Because it matters in how we decide to address partner violence in the lives of people we may know. And it also challenges our perceptions of beliefs about people of color. Such an understanding is key to being an effective agent of change and loving support on a micro level, and macro level. 

So who are we talking about? We are talking about you, me, the NFL, media (online/TV), musicfaith communities, its reality TV, its families, its communities of color themselves developing agendas privileging one cause over another when we know they are linked. It is your relatives who send subtly unspoken messages that say, "don't see leaving someone who has gainful employment even if they may be beating them verbally or physically to death. You should be happy to have a man."...there's plenty of reform and transformation to go around here. But it may start by noting the simultaneous reactive, protective, and proactive position women of color are often forced to take. 

After you've done that..do what they used to tell us to do after church service announcements....govern your selves accordingly.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sensing Garifuna Diaspora: History of the Garifuna/Black Caribs—descendants of indigenous Carib, Arawak & West Africans (FILM)

From the Film Project Website:



YURUMEIN (your-o-main) is an important UNTOLD STORY of Carib/Garifuna resistance against slavery that deserves its place in the annals of the African Diaspora. The film recounts the painful past of the Caribs on St Vincent and the extermination of scores of their ancestors at the hands of the British, while building an intimate portrait of Garifuna culture in-transition today. We are given firsthand accounts from both Carib descendants who remain on the island of St Vincent and voices of returning descendants whose ancestors were exiled to Central America—where Garifuna traditional culture was able to survive and flourish.When members of the Diaspora are first reunited and make a collective pilgrimage to the sacred site of Balliceaux (where the genocide occurred) the film reveals the beginnings of a movement among Garifuna people to revitalize traditional language, music, dance, and ritual. This scene features the Garifuna National Folkloric Ballet of Honduras. As Garifuna from around the world come together to remember and celebrate the lives and resilience of their shared ancestors, they also begin to discover possibility and hope for the future of Garifuna culture and a greater worldwide community. The film includes original music by Garifuna artists: Andy Palacio and Rhodel Castillo. Additional music by Abuza from St. Vincent. Original artwork by Garifuna artist Greg Palacio.

Learn even more about the Garifuna culture, at Repeating Islands Blog:

Inspired by stories of cultural revitalization efforts among native groups in the United States and the increasing visibility of Garifuna culture worldwide, St. Vincent’s Garinagu are becoming aware of the communities where the culture of their ancestors is still lived and celebrated, and have begun taking steps toward cultural reclamation. Yurumein captures the efforts of Vincentian Garinagu to recover their unique linguistic, musical, and spiritual heritage as they connect with their brothers and sisters across the Garifuna Diaspora.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Sensing Sanity: Indigenous healing heritages & mental illness (FILM) #Crazywise #Africa #Asia

 I've been a bit on hiatus from blogging due to work on a comprehensive exam, one of several hoops you jump through if you are pursuing a PhD. I came across this video today, and it reminded me of something I wrote in one of my exam essays that frankly, in hindsight, I cannot believe I wrote. So when asked to write about planning and what information and knowledge is valid when engaged in community planning, I wrote this:

"I have a normative orientation toward promoting agency and self-determination among people, because I believe such an approach is the most sustainable, meaningful path toward liberation. Essentially, I support teaching and training communities to go from being the subject of planning to engaged agentive planners themselves (Friedmann 1987). In many cultures, planning is not named  planning, but is instead embedded within very sacred forms of knowledge like spirituals, ritual, or prayer (Vansina 1997; Connerton 1989; Lincoln, Lynham, and Guba 2011). In some cultures, what people in the discipline call planning may be visioning or in others, the process is sometimes part of a prophetic epistemology of hope that informs survival and lifeways (Simms 2000).  For that reason, I view any participation in co-knowledge production as an opportunity to engage in a sacred process. In these spaces, my own constructions of causality, prediction, and variable selection must coexist with differing epistemologies."

Path to spring where ex-slaves met & later founded Shankleville, Texas.


Not all that crazy, I know. But why do I worry how such a statement will make my committee have second thoughts about advancing me toward candidacy (after proposal defense). While there are a few thousand more words that contextualize what I've written, I think it is common worry among scholars of color, anti-positivists, non-quantitative scholars,  that if we don't define and interpret the world in the "western" way, and frame problem solving in terms of reason and numbers,  instead of tradition or faith, then we'll be perceived as illegitimate, or not  real social scientists. No mixing and matching, its one or the other. 

Much of planning is a few years behind realizing, that so called objectivity is not really objectivity at all. There are several exceptions to the rule, but by and large, your average practitioner is  looking for data that can define and solve problems. However, having worked in government and finance I've found that  a number is not just a fact, or reliable predictor all the time. If that were true, we wouldn't allow half of what wall street gets away with, because they deal in nothing but conjecture and relativism. Note that during our most recent  financial crisis, more than $15 trillion (that didn't really exist) propped up our market until 2008. But complex math made it all seem very real and legitimate.

We here in the west have a  very deep seated bias against the sacred, and in some ways for good reason. We don't want a state-sponsored religion controlling our reproductive rights, decisions on whom we marry etc.  However, there is an argument for revisiting the world of the sacred when we talk about big social problems like rebuilding communities and mental illness. Take for instance the new film, Crazywise, which challenges us to examine western medicine's take on the biggest health crisis in America. From the film Kickstarter page:

 "Most of us know someone affected by mental illness, whether through a family member, friend or our own personal experience. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 Americans will suffer from a mental health crisis in their lifetime. Most will occur before the age of 24.
It’s no secret that the vast majority of these friends, neighbors and relatives will never find effective, lasting treatment. It’s a sobering fact that more than half of U.S. prisoners and a quarter of America’s homeless suffer from mental health issues.
To counter this trend, survivor-led activists and advocates are emerging to challenge the current system. These movements include successful treatment approaches like Open Dialogue in Northern Finland. In addition to Open Dialogue, the film explores new organizations and programs including: Peer-to Peer counseling, the National Empowerment Center, Stand Up for Mental Health, the Hearing Voices Network, Patients Like Me and Mad Pride. These programs emphasize hope for recovery, acceptance, mentorship and relationships. 

It struck Phil that this was the same model of mentor-based relationships he’d witnessed and photographed in Africa, Asia and South America among indigenous cultures. He found some of these insights buried deep in the timeless shamanic traditions of remote indigenous cultures around the world."

Watch this wonderful preview below. Its much more than another idealistic, "noble savage" romanticization  of all things indigenous. Its not an either or...  the film, instead, really challenges what we think we know about what heals people:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Can Ferguson Organizers Learn from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike? #MLK #Ferguson

Reveals a lot about false perceptions about blackness, nonviolent protest, and militant protesters. Can Ferguson and so-called black leadership learn from this , one of the early instances of white perceptions complicating coalition and movement building.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ex-Slaves & Black Community Builders in the "Freedom Colonies" of East Texas

5th generation Shankle/Coleman, descendant. 

Learn more  here: http://thelongblackline.org/about/the-organization/

I am on my way back to Shankleville, a settlement founded by ex-slaves, this weekend. This time to attend a "homecoming." Do you have a family homecoming in rural Texas? Please let me know. I'd
love to visit, and include your community in my dissertation. And by the way, not every settlement was a utopia, full of productive land, middle class, or chock full of fancy historic sites. That is fine.Those are the places and people I am most interested in researching, so contact me!

A little about homecomings which are both celebrations and cultural sustainability practice in Black rural Texas in this essay excerpt by  Mellonee Burnim, Guest Cultural Resource Commentator, Professor and Director, Ethnomusicology Institute, Department of
Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

"The tradition of homecomings held in African American churches dates back at least to the turn of the twentieth century. The ritual has both southern and rural roots and, according to the research of Yvonne Jones (1980), among blacks in Gorgus, North Carolina, the earliest of homecomings held in the church were familial rather than church-sponsored events. Documentation exists for a 1937 homecoming in Gorgus, North Carolina, held after the morning worship service at Greymore Chapel Church, so named as a tribute to the founding ancestors of the hamlet of 200 people, on the second Sunday of September. While the minister at this event was an invited “guest,” and the format was a business meeting rather than a religious ceremony, the ritual components of the gathering—out-of-town guests, intergenerational participation, designated guest speaker, special music, and dinner on the grounds—also define church-sponsored homecoming celebrations in both contemporary and historical contexts.
Whereas the Gorgus homecomings celebrated familial kinship within a specific locale, the tradition of African American church homecoming expands the ritual to include those who identify with a community of Christian believers. Ethnographic accounts of homecoming services across the South from North Carolina to Mississippi,* and from Texas to Alabama, uniformly define the homecoming as ecumenical, intergenerational, and communal. That is to say, participation from ministers and members of local churches, whether Primitive Baptist, Missionary Baptist or Methodist (the denominations to which the majority of Southern African American rural Christians belonged), was both welcomed and encouraged. Not every church had its own homecoming, but most definitely everyone, saved or sinner, could participate in the homecoming service of their choice."

And here's more  about another settlement, Mt. Union:

Friday, July 4, 2014

John Lewis: An Icon on the March #AspenInstitute

John Lewis is one of my favorite people on the planet. He is a wonderful, living demonstration of why memory and heritage is so powerful and integral to the future of all justice movements. His stories are incredible and everyone should hear them. I am so pleased to hear that this son of sharecroppers still has his family land.

 I've told my husband that I wanted to do a children's book on John Lewis. Someone beat me to it, but I am glad they did. The book he discusses in the video sounds really wonderful.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why pride matters: Justice Thomas, Gullah culture, and shame # SCOTUS #Diaspora #Gullah

 I came across this very telling segment of an article by Simon Carswell on Gullah/Geechee culture and language featured in the Irish Times. (Why the Irish Times? Read the article. It will make sense.) The article provides powerful insights into the public ramifications of personal shame. In the case of Judge Thomas, his personal shame in his culture and language translated in what shaped his minimalist, conservative approach to serving on the bench. But what's really beneath it all? Is it really conservatism or is it shame?

In 2000, during a questions- and-answers session with high school students, the native of coastal Georgia in the US South East explained how he became accustomed to listening.
  Makes one think about how culture and self esteem have significant ripple effects that can touch us all. Can you imagine hating the sound of your own voice? In the case of Thomas, it influences SCOTUS decisions and his every word, or lack thereof.


Hear the interview about Gullah and history of the repression of the language below: