Saturday, 14 November 2015

Black-lash the everyday experience of terrorism

When we examine the recent bombings and ponder the destined backlash our brown comrades will endure and how to support them through it, do we also reflect on the daily terror that is our lived experiences as Black folks or are we too dark to be worthy?

The Black backlash is everyday, everywhere it is prevalent and persistent. It comes from the dark abyss of white power (in our universities, our workplace, where we volunteer, where our kids go to school), white passing privilege and from people of color who gain access to traditionally white only places of power based on the skin color gradient at the door. Its the social hierarchy of white supremacy that teaches us that the closer you are to whiteness the prettier, smarter, more trustworthy, more qualified, less violent and more reliable you are.

I recently had a well known brown feminist dog me to someone in the nicest, most politically correct way I've heard in a while, by condescendingly commenting on how well my attire fits in/ assimilates (for a Black woman) at a traditionally white only feminist space that she a brown woman holds power in. The compliment it was mean to be was over shadowed by the over sized "but" that followed, then a "...I highly recommend (insert name of white woman) instead."

Sure it hurt, but not as much as the realization that someone who was considered trusted, as an ally is thoroughly infected by the anti-Black racist plague that is so easily visible thus readily diagnosed in white women. Then slowly all the previous feedback received including descriptive words usually used when describing the angry Black Woman trope or the need to sideline Trans women issues all started to make sense. The symptoms where there all along.

As Black women we understand struggle, survival at all cost, we empathize not just for empathy sake but because we have first hand knowledge of a lifetime lived daily as the ultimate kicking stone of our society. Sure we stand in solidarity with the displaced and victimized women around the world, especially in war torn parts of Asia and the Middle East and on unceded land here at home; and firmly oppose to Islamophobia everywhere. We can often be seen supporting if not leading inter-sectional causes with other Black, Indigenous folks and People of Color (BIPOC) everywhere on college campuses, from Blacklives to Plastine, LGBTQ2IA, Sex Worker Rights, Homelessness, AntiPoverty, Fight for $15 and beyond.  

The question are:
  • With white supremacy functioning in all our progressive feminist spaces when will Black women be supported on the merits of our characters and body of our work rather than the amount of melanin in our skin? 
  • Is feminism only for white women and women who closely resemble them in looks and their ability to keep the doors firmly closed on Black women?

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Five key steps to displacing your whiteness

1. Lean in. Sometimes Afrocentric knowledge hurts, and that's when you need to lean in and open up more, decentralizing whiteness is like debriding centuries old wound that is rotten to the core. You will have to work hard and quickly before sepsis sets in.

2. Old habits die hard.
Decentralizing your whiteness is not a gift to People of Color, Decentralizing your whiteness is NOT a gift to People of Color, therefore we do not owe you our labor or knowledge for free.

3. Stay the course. Do not feel berated or discouraged when those oppressed refuse to help for free. While you may not have directly participated in colonization and slavery you have been born into a world where you continually profit from its systemic inequalities. see step 2 above.

4. Double Down. Knowledge is power, so keep reading keep reflecting on how you have unwittingly contributed to the status quo, keep unlearning and then do the work QUIETLY (do not expect an ally ship cookie), donate, show up when needed and collect your friends when their privilege starts leaking (white tears are a valuable asset that signals they might want to start at step 1. above)  

5. Pass it on. If you learn something new you will be expected to clue in your other white friends and family members (this might be hard, so seek support from your community) never forget that while privilege isn't contagious it does leak and even with your new found knowledge you have not arrived at ally-ship mecca.

*ally-ship mecca is the mythical place where you end up after clocking a set amount of allyship hours, once you are there you are not only absolved of all privileges (while still benefiting from them) but you then become immune to ever being guilty of not being a super ally.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

The present past of our forgotten Womyn

Sitting with today's events unable to unpack some that are so heavily steeped in white supremacy, anti-blackness and self hate. The mounting effects of colonialist genocide, patriarchy in all its violent hues, affecting generations of women birthed into slavery; the cycle of violence upon our bodies has been relentlessly consistent and audibly visible on our mother's bodies and her mother before her.

Today I met my 96 year old great grandmother: I saw my daughter in her and heard my mother's voice in her laughter, I felt my grandmothers compassion when she embraced me and for the first time I understood what it meant to be fierce. We sang together, we talked about food and joked about everything including our uncomfortable shared history, but mostly I watched her. I watched her breath with defiant ease, quietly, on purpose and on point, like every breath inhaled is act of war we must not only survive but win.

I have much to unpack, much to learn and share, for now I'll leave you with this: a song that all five generations of Black Xamaycan womyn sang in a small room in East New York one very hot day in August 2015.

Monday, 17 August 2015

The conflicted feminist: Boycotting

In May there was a call to boycott queen mother Megan Murphy - a hateful white feminist who purports to speak for people like me *gulp* but who is in fact the racist transphobic, anti sex working incarnate of a wolf in sheep clothing riding a white savior horse. She is the white pearl clutching feminist your mother should have warned you about because feminism and freedom only looks like what she defines it as, so does consent and what is sexy. cliff notes version: you can only consent to sex under her very privileged defined options, trans women aren't women and women can only do "sexy" in very specific very white centric ways. Did I miss anything? oh yeah you must agree with her or you are aiding the silencing of all women, and any men that disagree with her views especially black men she calls them misogynistic and "bros".

This blog post isn't about the violence perpetrated by the platform of pearl-clutching white savior types or the feminist media who gives them an all out unchecked, unchallenged pulpit.

Instead this blog is for the conflicted feminist who agree that MM is toxic but who are having mixed feelings about the effects of boycotting any woman; after all she is in sheep's clothing.  
"I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." - Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)

Yeahhh I haven't quoted a bible scripture in a while: I was raised a devout Christan (much like glitter and dog hairs some things unfortunately take a lot longer clean up and to get off you) but this one really nails it on many levels.  

Dear conflicted feminist,
The benefits from the 1st boycott for me personally has been solidarity with marginalized sex workers who were not familiar with Rabble's stance on the matter and an invaluable international and local support from all people both sex workers and allys.

I know it can be easy to forget the level of personal impact support can mean, for me personally it felt like my life as a Black woman mattered to not only WOC sex workers but to other feminist who otherwise would not have taken a stance.
Feminist everywhere took a stand, and defended their stand not just for Sex Workers but for the most marginalized of us Trans women, Women of Color especially Black and Indigenous  who experience the severe impact of the vitriolic hate of Rabble's base MM like supporters. 
Indeed it is difficult to support the most marginalized of us and as a seasoned community organizer I understand that victory is rarely swift and sustained success is never won after the first attempt. 
“You can’t dump one cup of sugar into the ocean and expect to get syrup. If everybody sweetened her own cup of water, then things would begin to change.” –Florynce Kennedy
Yes, I will also agree that their has been some divisiveness within those that do support sex workers rights and that is to be expected. Supporting Sex Workers rights while a great umbrella cause isn't protective enough to weather the specific ways in which the most vulnerable sex workers face harms.

Being a great feminist ally who supports the rights of sex workers also means standing firm on a intersectional view of feminism that not only includes but champions the needs to the most marginalized sex workers. It means analyzing the discourse of race, class and transmisogyny in feminist circles. It means not speaking over but also echoing the voices that aren't often heard (Trans, Queer, Poor, informally educated, diffrently-abled, undocumented, migrant). Yes that means that white women must be silent in-order to listen and to create these much needed spaces for the racialized and marginalized of us to be heard.

Yes being silent isn't easy for folks with race, class and educational privilege nor is is easy to hear that your feminism isn't intersectional, needs sharpening and upgrading because both implies that where you are now isn't enough and is in fact damaging; and this is not an easy pill to swallow for the best of us.

For others who are not passive in their intersectional feminist approach, who's love for the movement inspires them to call up / call out other feminist (who support the rights of sex workers) to re-educate and sharpen their approach to not only include but champion the proliferation of voices most marginalized by white supremacy and misogyny.

They are called divisive because they choose not to take the passive, less inclusive path, they are called flawed because their approach is transparent. They are called weak, riddled with guilt and radical because they would rather that paid speaking engagement, space in that popular magazine, grant and spotlight be given away to someone with less privilege, and less opportunities; but personally  I call them allys.

 Ally ship with racialized and other marginalized sex workers is a killer stair-master that requires a lot of continuous work and as such I have nothing but compassion for those who choose to pick their battles carefully and thoughtfully because I also know of the heart wrenching disappointment of having comrades who choose to walk away when the fight gets too tough or too inconvenient for where their conviction on human rights and equity are.
Much like being at a breast cancer rally when one of your friends yells all cancers matter, it can also be embarrassing and feel defeating.

I have a lots of empathy for where you find yourself and while your support isn't contingent on me moving forward with my continued support to boycott It would be more than lovely to count on you as an ally, to have you stand by me and for others like me to make a stance (even if you find it  frivolous) against any magazine that supports hate speech, if for no other reason than that you understand that it is a violent attack on the most marginalized women and your conviction, your feminism wont allow to to idly stand by and watch.

"We demand a discerning voice of equality and equity that respects and values all women including trans women, women of colour and women in the sex industry. Displays of racism, whorephobia and transmisogyny have no place in a progressive publication like Rabble. It is time for Rabble to take responsibility and cease offering a platform for hate in the form of zealous bigotry from Meghan Murphy and others like her." - Boycott MM Petition written and undersigned by feminists, grassroots community groups and organizations that support intersectional feminism.
Maggie's - Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
Black Lives Matter - Toronto
No More Silence
TransPride Toronto
Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform
Southwest Ontario Sex Workers
Stella, L’Amie de Maimie
PACE Society (Vancouver)
Sex Professionals of Canada
Winnipeg Working Group for Sex Workers’ Rights
PIECE Edmonton
Butterfly (Migrant and Asian Sex Workers)
Toronto Migrant Sex Worker Project
ASTT(e)Q : Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec
Shameless Magazine
Desiree Alliance, USA
SHOP (Nfld)
St. John's Status of Women Council
Sex Worker Open University (UK)
Sex Workers Outreach Project - New Orleans (SWOP-NOLA)
Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI)
No One Is Illegal - Toronto
Toronto Trans Alliance
Community and Family Aid Foundation - Ghana
Centre for Women and Trans People - York University
 Pembe Hayat/Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association, Ankara-TURKEY

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

For the love of Black hair

Sitting at an all Black hair salon for the first time in several years, and the entire experience is like communing with my ancestors.  
Why did I wait so long? My stylist grabs the tiny stands of hair at the front of my head and breath in deeply and out reminding myself to pace my breath as she weaves her fingers though my hair revealing my tortured past.
I close my eyes and take another deep breath as I sink lower into my seat hoping to merge into the silhouette my chair and into my soundings.
On the radio 700 club is selling Christian prayers to the tune of someone describing how white Jesus saved him. The latest soap opera is play on the TV as someone yells "she's faking that pregnancy" over the sound of the industrial fan blasting recycled air sweetened with the smell of oil sheen spray. Ladies with manicured nails sit under the hair drier reading the latest fashion and tabloid magazines. The stylist beside me kisses her teeth and while others laugh to the point of tears as I show them the pictures and articles claiming that Marc Jacob invented Banu Knots, another customer exclaimed from the waiting area "did you hear, the Chinese invented steel pan music" every one laughs. I have tears in my eyes but it's not the over whelming sense of community in this shop on a Tuesday morning it's the searing pain from the process of having my hair tightly styled to perfection. In a distance I can hear my grandmother saying "dry those tears, beauty feels no pain" 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Oh Mother!!

Big shout and a warm thank you all the folks who mother without ever been given the title; to those who had to mother themselves;  to the fathers who mother; the folks that fall inbetween and are too often left behind; to the mothers who aren't with us anymore but will never leave our side; to the almost mothers and the never will be mothers who nurture us near and far; to the mothers who's sons and daughters have been taken too soon by state santioned violence, by patriarchy and by white supremacy; To the Mothas who vogue, who care for the motherless within our community, to the Trans women who Motha and Modah and Mother, I see you; and I thank you all for inspiring me to being the best revolutionary mother I can be.
Pick a day any day and take it for yourselves.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Spare the rod: Discipline and our Black children

White supremacy will have us all replicating acts of state sanctioned violence on our own children.

My Dad once yelled at me, told me how disappointed he was in my actions (staying out overnight with my Brother and his friends) 
 His words, tone and the look on his face made me want to dole out lashes on myself in his honor. Even as an adult his words still linger within me.

I've largely been disciplined using words, kind, harsh, truthful, honest words that are forever etched in my psyche.  Once my aunt once tried to physically discipline me, its a moment in our history where she saw me for who I am as an individual with agency; this forever changed our relationship for the better. 

I once threatened to spank my daughter and she put me to my paces, explaining to me how it made her feel in words that made me ashamed, and forced me reflect on: how my own Caribbean upbringing impacted my parenting, the historical significance of how my race, gender and the cultural expectations of how my child should be, act or think based on my parenting.

I've learnt the hard way how to individually parent this child, mostly by fumbling through the dark with her, listening to her and loving myself enough to give her only the best of me. 

Even as a single parent I feel privileged to call her my daughter, to provide a safe place for her to be heard, to be seen, for her to learn, for her to feel loved. 

And when we discuss violence, it's usually within the context of defence of self, community and each other. I am excited to discuss the importance and impact violence had and continues to have within the context of the revolution. 

As for me, I won't shame, shun or applaud the mother seen beating her son who was protesting. He was moved to act for a greater cause and his mother, well she acted out of fear for the life of her son in the only way she knew how. 

But in the vicious never ending cycle of violence on our Black bodies who truly wins when we regurgitate the actions of massa and now sanctioned by a militarized state on our young.