Every Day, Chip Away At De-Centering Whiteness

8 Aug

I really want to say, take big chunks; take a sledge hammer and demo away at that center.  But, I know de-centering whiteness will take time. As I vision in my head another dimension of existence that we have not yet lived here in the United States, as I imagine our world without “white culture” as the norm, or center, two aspects of centered whiteness come to mind:

First is the unconscious existence of white people to not notice that we are at the center of everything in this country. Yet, we engineered it to be so. Because of that we have the luxury to not notice that we can move through this world so fluidly. We can take for granted, and we do, how easily we can live where we want to live, work where we want to work, go to school where we want to go to school, and spend our leisure time where we want to. And, for the most part, we can do all of this surrounded by mostly other white people. We can live, work, and play in mostly white spaces where we feel comfortable surrounded by people who look like us. And our museums, and movies, and our news channels, will reflect all of this back to us, and tell us that our existence this way is real, and it is good. It is our normal.

The second is the centering of whiteness in order to [Read more…]

If I Die And Come Back As A White Man, I Want To Come Back As Anthony Bourdain

19 Jun

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain Eating in Hue Vietnamphoto credit: David S. Holloway/CNN

If I die and come back as a white man, I want to come back as Anthony Bourdain.

Since the June 8th death, a suicide, at age 61 of the famed chef, author and host of the popular television show, Parts Unknown, there has been an outpouring of love for this man. Out of all the news bits, social media articles, and postings from friends, every single comment has been positive. Every. Single. One. People loved Anthony Bourdain so, so much. Whether Black, White, Latino, Asian–whatever race, ethnicity, gender–everyone loved him. But I don’t want to come back as him because I want everyone to love me even though I do want everyone to love me and am too much of a people pleaser because of that, but that’s for my therapy sessions, not you all. I want to come back as Anthony Bourdain for the [Read more…]

The 10th Annual Black Lavender Experience At Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre

11 May

Travis Alabanza Black Lavender Experience

Travis Alabanza, The Black Lavender Experience

In April I went to two performances at Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre. The shows were part of the theater’s 10th annual Black Lavender Experience, a series of plays, folkthoughts (post-performance talks), and workshops, led by nationally and internationally recognized artists of color from the LGBTQ community. The Department of Africana Studies’ Rites and Reason Theatre is a research and developmental theatre dedicated to giving expression to the diverse cultures and traditions of continental and diasporic Africans and the vast Africana experience. Artistic Director of Rites and Reason Theatre, Elmo Terry-Morgan created the Black Lavender Experience in the spring semester of 1998 in response to students’ request for plays with Black LGBTQ+ content.

The Pink Dress

The first play I attended, The Pink Dress, was written and originally performed by members of the drama club at  Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women’s (LCIW).   The Black Lavender production was performed by local actresses, who were either students currently involved with, or alumni of, Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre. The actresses were Anna Hunt, April Brown, Elyssa Perez, Sylvia Ann Soares, Weitong Zhang, and Uchechukwu Onwunaka. Rites and Reason Director-in-Residence, Connie Crawford, directed this production. The play’s title refers to a pink sheath that prison staff used as punishment for women prisoners who presented themselves in a “too masculine way” by altering their state issued uniform: an oversize T-shirt, baggy jeans, and sneakers. The thought was that to wear the sheer, shapeless dress through which your undergarments could be seen,would shame and humiliate the women.

The play, a series of vignettes, celebrated the features and parts of  a woman’s body through word and movement, and was originally directed and choreographed by Ausettua Amor Amankum and Kathy Randels, co-directors of the Drama Club at the LCIW. Odes to their hips, hands, and feet, were akin to a poetic dance celebrating both womanhood and sisterhood. The play’s latter act took place in a dress shop named, “Pinky’s Boutique,” and highlighted the self-doubt a gender non-conforming ex-prisoner faced when looking for work at the shop post prison-release. Actresses posing as mannequins wearing paper doll cut-out tabbed pink dresses, came alive to first, mock, and then empathize with the woman. Is was as if they too, seemed constricted by their roles as mannequins being told what to wear, and how to perform their roles. After facing discrimination for her manner of dress from a co-worker, the woman finds acceptance with the shop’s owner, who focuses on the woman’s strengths instead of her attire preferences and prison record. With the recognition of her humanity, we see the woman’s belief in self begin to grow.

We learned during the folkthought talk, that the vignettes were inspired by [Read more…]

Wake Up And Change The Racism, (insert: White) People!

23 Apr

Rashon Nelson, Donte Peterson

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson

I almost used the cliché title of: Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, People, but that’s weak. Like, instant coffee weak. But enough with the clichés and play on words, as I reflect on what happened in the Philadelphia Starbucks last week, and if you don’t know, then you do need to wake up.

Two young real estate entrepreneurs, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, went to a Starbucks in the well-to-do Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia to meet with business colleague, Andrew Yaffe, to talk about a deal they all were working on together. While waiting for Yaffe, who happens to be white, to arrive, the two men were deemed suspicious by [Read more…]

It’s Been 2 Years, Since You Left Us, And Still…Nothing Compares 2 U, Prince

21 Apr

Wearing my Prince t-shirt today, and listening to The Current app (get it!) that a friend shared with me. It’s a Minneapolis NPR music station,and inside the app, there is a station called The Purple Current, which explores the musical universe of Prince. Today they are playing all Prince for a straight 24-hours, in remembrance of the 2nd anniversary of his passing.

Still missed by millions around the world, perhaps we all can take a pause and pay our respects, in a way that feels right to each one of us. If you’re looking for suggestions:

 

Download The Current app, and click on The Purple Current station:

https://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2018/01/21/download-the-current-app

 

 

Wear something purple <3

 

Read my tribute to Prince, first posted at the time of his passing:

Nothing Compares 2 Prince

 

Watch this beautiful video of never before seen rehearsal footage from 1984 which just surfaced yesterday of Prince’s first recording of Nothing Compares 2 U. Something so special about seeing an artist in their early days. Of course, Prince already shines his otherworldly brightness and genius here:

 

 

 

 

Finally, just go dance your royal Purple ass off today. The Purple Highness would surely appreciate it. <3

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SOURCE:

www.youtube.com, Prince, Nothing Compares 2 U

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. Always and Forever

10 Apr

In honor of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. who was taken from us 50 years ago. All I can say is this:

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARTIN

 

50 years

like yesterday

motel. balcony. sky.

remembrance of reading book

was it elementary school when

I turned pages

got queasy from

birds-eye view of crew cut

blond bristles exposing pale skull

eye glasses, gun rising

hands up don’t shoot

didn’t see it coming

except night before

you intimated

we’d have to

go on without you

but how

when you led us

mountaintop full of hope

dashed

thine eyes have

seen the glory

dashed

grateful, reverent

reverend king

dream not deferred

dashed

what would you preach today

what salve soothes

seeing arms not linked, but

not german shepherds

hoses spraying in selma, but

hands up don’t shoot

 

instead: teargas, tanks, rubber bullets

over ferguson

bodies of young men,

boys, women

falling from balconies

armed with dreams

of living while

walking while black

dreams of

not being

pulled over

felled not by

officers with dogs

but officers with real bullets

now you have birds-eye view

you see the voices of

the unheard

rise up

once again

you see fannie

pass the baton to

alicia, patrisse, opal

you see your principles

in action in streets

across this make

america great again nation

and see the jail letter

still holds water

salt water tears

stream down cheeks

us missing you martin

live on everlasting promise of

promised land

I promised you

I wouldn’t forget

and told my daughters

to promise

to remember

when they march

the streets

arms linked

with fellow students

so that one day

your dream for them

comes true

 

When The Photo You Want To Use For Your Blog Post Belongs To A Racist Photographer

28 Feb

Young Protestors, Ferguson, Missouri, Photo credit: IB Times

I wanted to find a lead photo to go with my most recent blog post, Let Us Listen To All Of Our Young People’s Cries For Help To End Gun Violence, and I wanted the photo to represent black and brown youth who cried out in pain over the unjust deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin in Florida, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland. I wanted to represent the black and brown youth who have worried for years about gun violence in their neighborhoods, and have had to carry a fear heavier than their backpacks, as they pray to make it to and from school without being shot. I wanted to represent the black and brown youth who have been crying out for years when no one was watching or listening. Though the nation watched on television only when the protests took to the streets in Ferguson, and in Baltimore, there has never been the swell of support like we see now for the young people in Florida who have risen up in the midst of the Parkland school shooting. And, while I, and as I have gleaned that many black people and people of color, too, have great admiration and stand by these rising, young activists, the lack of inclusion of the gun violence issues faced by black and brown young people in their communities is sadly noted.

As I searched online for the photo to accompany the post, I found one of young black children with a placard that read, We Are The Village. It was a deep and beautiful photograph. I downloaded it. I looked up the photographer, who turned out to be a white man, and emailed him through his website to ask permission to use the photograph. Then I searched his site because he seemed to be a prolific artist–a photographer, journalist, and author. I clicked on his Essays tab, and landed on a piece he wrote, titled, The Negro Racist. I began to read: [Read more…]

Let Us Listen To All Of Our Young People’s Cries For Help To End Gun Violence

21 Feb

photo credit: IBTimes UK

While this nation mourns the losses of the lives of the seventeen students and teachers who were killed by a former student with an AR-15 assault rifle on Valentines Day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the nation is also inspired by the student survivors who are speaking out and taking action.

I am inspired by their passion, conviction, and ability to rise up after the devastation and trauma they experienced just last week. These brilliant young people have had enough, and are calling on the adults to keep them safe so that what happened at Parkland never happens again. And, yes, it is a pity that the adults who possess the political power to create better gun control laws, and to ban assault rifles, have thus far done nothing to heed the calls for change–not after Columbine, 19 years ago, not after Virginia Tech, not after Sandy Hook,  not after the Florida night club, not after Las Vegas, and not after Parkland.

Through tweets to the President, and videos gone viral, our young people know how to use social media to mobilize, and to gain widespread attention. The young students at Parkland, out of self-proclaimed necessity, have become overnight anti-gun violence activists. Student Emma Gonzalez’s 10-minute brave and direct speech, has been seen by over 1 million people. Reporters and journalists are contacting and following the students’ activities, which include a planned National March Against Gun Violence in Washington D.C. on March 24th. Here is Emma’s inspirational speech, if you have not yet seen it: [Read more…]

The Crack Cocaine Center Of Excellence

2 Feb

Crack Vials Candy Jernigan

From the art piece, Found Dope II, by Candy Jernigan, 308 crack vials and caps she found over a period of 16 days during her walks in mid-eighties East Village, NYC. Photo Credit: Susannah Breslin

The Crack Cocaine Center Of Excellence. You can picture it right? Oh, wait, you’re saying you can’t? But, here in Rhode Island, established in 2016, are our first, Opioid Centers of Excellence, or certified treatment facilities that “meet or exceed established requirement for providing medication-assisted treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers, heroin and other opioids. Certified facilities are authorized to provide the treatment to residents with opioid use disorders, including those enrolled in Medicaid.”

Our governor, Gina Raimondo, who has been working with health officials on a plan to combat what is being called “the opioid crisis” said this at the time of the opening of the first center: “Rhode Island’s first Center of Excellence will make it easier for patients struggling with opioid use disorders to get treatment, and will help healthcare providers on the front lines to best support their patients on the path to recovery.”

This makes me mad. Why would I, or anyone, be mad about this effort to help those addicted to heroin and other opioids?  I am not mad at these current efforts. I am mad about the following. [Read more…]

2017 Showed A Lot Of Ugly. And How White People Can Do Better In 2018

1 Jan

We made it through a year of this current administration’s agenda which stood for the hatred of those they consider “other” and a threat to their “making America Great again” dream. We became angry, and our hearts broke, over and over again, with each dismissal of a case of a police officer who got off after killing an unarmed Black person. We watched Puerto Rico’s call for assistance be placated with thrown paper towels. We saw our sisters and brothers from other countries who have lived and worked here trying to build their own versions of the American Dream be torn away from their families and deported, all to make us “safer.” We just learned that all the members of the White House Advisory HIV/AIDS Counsel were fired. I could go on and on, but you get it. You lived through it, too.

In my own life in 2017, I strove to go beyond “waking up” and to take committed action to fight racism, and break down the systems of structural racism that exist in our lives at even what may seem, the smallest of levels. Day to day, I work to model what it means to question the micro-aggressions I witness, to share what I’ve learned about how structural and institutional racism works so that when someone brings up things like “the everyone should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps like my immigrant family (with white skin–that part left out) did line..” I can respond to that notion.

As, I’ve mentioned here before, one of the main things I focus on in regards to race and cross-racial connections, is how white-centered many physical spaces are, and how white European-centric everything–workplace employment, policies and norms; arts spaces; educational institutions; businesses, is. Every day, pretty much every minute of the day, I am looking at life through an inclusion/exclusion lens. When I came across the following, of course, it gave me pause: [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: