changed the submission deadline!

March 31, 2008 at 6:47 am (anti-classism, anti-heterosexism, anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism, Motherhood, women of color)

hey folks,

so i extended the submission deadline to revolutionary motherhood publication.  now it is april 30th…and i am reposting the call as well…

Revolutionary Motherhood

Call for submissions

Due by April 30th, 2008

We are creating a global multi-media publication called Revolutionary Motherhood inspired by the Incite! 2008 Southwest conference and the workshop entitled: Revolutionary Motherhood.  The intention of this publication is to inspire, connect, and organize women and transfolk of color who perform motherhood and daughterhood to co-create life-affirming, mutually liberating communities.

Please send submissions to mai’a at

Please check out, and for more information.

We are asking for articles, essays, interviews, black and white visual art, photography, poetry, etc .

 Exploring themes and questions such as:

What does it mean to be a mother?  What does it mean to be a daughter?

What does it mean to give birth?  How do we give birth as empowered women and transgendered folk?  What is the transition into motherhood?

What is revolutionary motherhood?  How does our experience and performance as women and transfolk of color intersect with our experience of mothering?

What are the daily acts of resistance in which we engage as mothers and daughters?  How did motherhood change our vision of resistance, revolution, and radical action?  What is our relationship to activism and the activism world through the experience of motherhood?

What is the experience of mothering those who are older than us such as parents, grandparents, etc.?  What is the experience of mothering those who are not biological descendents such as students, godchildren, stepchildren, etc.?

In what ways did our mothers model ‘revolutionary motherhood’? What is revolutionary daughterhood?  As a daughter, how do we relate and engage with the mothers and daughters in our community?  Who and what inspires us as mothers and daughters?

What does it mean to be the revolutionary mother of a boy-child/a son?  What is the experience of being a son?  How do we respond to the demonization of mothers of color who care for boy-children/sons? 

What are the specific ways that violence intersects with the experience of motherhood? In what ways does the anti-violence movement need to be more responsible to the experience of mothers of color?  How do we respond to the violence in the medical establishment in terms of pregnancy, birth, child-rearing, elder-care, etc.?

What are specific ways that the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality play with the acts of mothering and daughtering?

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some san cristobal photos

March 31, 2008 at 4:51 am (chiapas, mexico)


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how not to plan your black history month

March 27, 2008 at 1:29 am (anti-racism)

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brown and out of town

March 26, 2008 at 5:03 am (anti-racism, women of color)

hey folks,

okay i am copying and pasting an article (or two) from one of my favorite sites:

if you havent heard of it let me tell you i can sit for hours (and have) and read article after article on it. it is about pop culture and race with a major emphasis on women of color. this one is by wendi muse a frequent contributor to the site. and since i am saying goodbye to mexico in a week. (oh it has been a gorgeous love affair, dear mexico, troublesome, endearing, eye-opening, frustrating…i will miss you) and i am glad to go see the folks (and my fave haunts from angsty teenager days) this article is precious to describe traveling as a woc.

it is also interesting to read the comments of other poc travelers to the article:

Brown and Out of Town: a POC Traveler’s Guide to Racism

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

Author’s note: Before anyone jumps all over me, I use “brown” here as a general term for people of African or indigenous American descent, not solely South Asians or Central Americans, though the article discusses issues for all POC travelers, not just the ones with darker skin.

Ah, Madrid.

I had decided that for spring break in 2005, instead of going to Memphis as planned, I’d take a week-long trip to Paris and Madrid instead. After all, in a weird twist of fate, the plane tickets to Europe were only about 100 dollars more than those I had bought to go to the place Elvis and I both called home. I figured as I could speak, read, and understand Spanish and French, I’d be fine. I’d been to Paris before, and loved it, and had heard awesome things about Madrid from my friends, so I thought, “Why not? Just breathe, and take a chance.” So I did, though I wasn’t exactly prepared for the less than warm reception in one of the liveliest cities in the Iberian Peninsula.

Paris was no problem, possibly due in part to the city’s expressed love (read: borderline fetishizing) of black folks (Josephine Baker, anyone?) or the running assumption that I was Moroccan/generally North African and not a black American. Most people just treated me like I was French, before I opened my mouth, of course (despite my perfect French accent, my occasional pause to find vocabulary words from my high school French mental database was a dead give-a-way). No one was rude to me or my friend with whom I went out on occasion (who is half white American, half indigenous Mexican, and clearly “of color”).

Madrid, on the other hand, completely did me in.

On a super basic level, I wasn’t a big fan of the traditional Spanish food, and, instead, flocked to the numerous Middle Eastern restaurants like water in a desert mirage. And though I was only there for three days, these little hole-in-the-wall, family-run eateries ended up being my surrogate safe havens as walking around on the street proved, well, difficult. I would say the city, overall, was far from receptive. While I understood having a pride in being Spanish, or a Mardileño, to be more specific, what I did not understand was why that translated into racism. I faced constant stares, and I mean constant, many of which were steeped in anger or confusion, despite my more than proper attire (I was not one of those fanny pack-wearing, head buried in a map, incapable-of-speaking-the-native-language types of tourists, trust me). I was cat-called, a lot, and though I was conditioned to that from having lived in NYC for four years at that point, what I hadn’t been exposed to was the overtly sexual racist epithets thrown my way (none of which I will repeat here). I tried to search the eyes of other people of color for an explanation. People of Asian descent seemed happy, even moreso there than in Paris. And people clearly from Africa also seemed OK, though I am sure their black skin proved problematic at times (look no further than the Madrid soccer related racism or even the recent Formula One racing incident in Barcelona). It was the somewhat racially ambiguous brown folks who seemed to run into trouble.

El Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, and other phentoypically outcast Latin American immigrants (along with black Africans) held lower-echelon jobs and noticeably received stares and a little street harassment as well. Their spoken Spanish was a reminder of Spain’s colonial past that history had erased, glossed over, or simply euphemized, much like textbooks of Japan, the United States, or any nation, and their appearance even more so—typically indigenous and/or African features blending with those of the Spanish conquistadores and settlers of yore rendering many of the Latin American immigrants who had come to Spain in search of work easy to spot. I noticed that Caribbean Latinos and mulatos caught hell too, receiving the same sets of glaring eyes that I did when on public transportation or simply andando a pié.

To put it nicely, it was an awkward existence I led, at best, ceasing my outdoor activities more or less once the sun set because I had been propositioned more than once in the day time, and didn’t want to risk full on sexual assault at night due to my having been assumed to be a prostitute on account of my skin color. The hostel employees (all of Latin American descent) and the falafel bar owners loved me, but they were about the only ones in Madrid who made me feel somewhat human. On the cab ride to the airport, a place where I would later be racially profiled (read: separated from a line of a ton of other people, searched, forced to weigh my carry-on, a small backpack, and made to pay 60 Euros for it being a few kilos overweight on account of an art book I had bought for a friend from the Museo del Prado!), I vowed never to come back and counted down the minutes until I’d return to Paris for my departure to New York.

But during this cab ride, I learned a few things to which I was not initially privy prior to going to Madrid. The cab driver asked me how I liked Madrid, to which I replied, “I liked it, but I don’t think it liked me too much,” which led to our discussing (no kidding) race relations in Spain. The driver, born and raised in Spain, offered a perspective I had not fully considered. He mentioned the abject poverty and limited knowledge of Spanish that plagued African immigrant communities, and in many Spaniards’ minds, the state, as they were paying taxes to support unwelcome refugees. He also discussed the cause for my frequent run-ins with men who had less than Puritan intentions in their approach: that many women from the Dominican Republic and North Africa became prostitutes in Madrid to make ends meet. His explanation for the differing treatment of Asians vs. people of indigenous or African descent boiled down to the ability to assimilate.

“They come here already speaking Spanish,” he said. “. . . and with money” he added. He didn’t agree with how I was treated, and noted that I “seemed fine,” but was sure to note that “a lot of Madrileños aren’t ready for that kind of change. The young people, maybe, but their parents and people my age, not so much. They think they are pure, and forget about the years the Moors were here. They want things to stay the same. Come back in ten years, and maybe things will be better.”

Though I was back in Paris a few hours later, I thought about what he said for a while after that. While comfortably nestled in the plush leather-upholstered seats of the Swiss Air flight back to New York, I wondered if my little trip to Spain would have been different if I possessed a lower level of melanin, or even if I looked noticeably more African instead of bearing an appearance that confused people. Upon returning to the United States, the same friends who had recommended Madrid felt a tinge of regret for not having mentioned “the racism thing” or at least not having forewarned how it may have affected me. In retrospect, they all noted, as whites, they had never thought about it. They had only heard stories, those they had selectively compartmentalized in a place far away in the back of their brains because they didn’t really have to worry about it in Europe or in the United States in the same way, say, someone visually different from the majority would.

The experience and the discussions I had in the aftermath of my time in Madrid made me reflect on the privileges, or lack thereof, we have while traveling. Though I had a bad experience in Madrid, that is not to say every person of color has a comparable story. In fact, I know a few black women who loved Madrid and who have gone back several times, stating that they experienced a few incidents of racism, but mainly that it was more an issue of mistaken national identity than anything else. I think, too, of what the cab driver expressed in relation to his (and, arguably, the city’s) impression of Asians. Even my white friends had expressed a considerable sense of alienation in Madrid at times, not due to language, but mainly in relation to cultural differences or even physical ones (being super tall or Nordic in appearance, you name it). In looking back on the experience and after hearing those of others, I was able to put things more into perspective.

Even I am “privileged” (in a physical sense) in some locations, notably northern and central Brazil, where my appearance did not garner unreasonable attention, many assuming that I was just “one of them.” I even thought of my experiences in the United States. I didn’t feel as if my physically assigned racial characteristics made me stand out in some Brooklyn neighborhoods, whereas my white or Asian-American friends expressed extreme discomfort on account of stares and even statements geared toward them. I find myself losing sight of how powerful my appearance can be at the right place and at the right time, but never forget how much of a burden it can be in other situations.

In reflecting on my previous travel experiences as I prepare for an upcoming trip to Portugal, I began thinking about how many additional things I have to consider as a woman, and, in particular, a person of color before I travel. It’s amazing how many things travel guides leave out when it comes to the treatment a person of color may receive in a certain country, how to react to incidents of racism, or even whether or not what you are experiencing has nothing to do with race and all to do with cultural miscommunication. Though maybe I should expect it by now as many of the travel guide writers are white. Then again, only white people travel, right? (kidding, though on average, whites DO travel more widely and frequently than blacks, at least.. . though, given, this could be due to a series of factors that would lead me into an entirely new post, so I’ll shelve this for now).

Besides consulting the Minority Travel Forum on Rick Steve’s Graffiti Wall with posts from travelers of color (including people involved in interracial relationships, who have adopted children of a different race/ethnicity from their own, etc), which I highly recommend, it’s worth considering the following:

1. The travel guide will most likely leave out information about the reception, or lack thereof, you may experience as a person of color. This includes common words/sayings with which you may not be familiar, but that are actually not racist (i.e. if someone in the Dominican Republic were to call you “negrito” or “indio,” it would not be meant as a racial slur, rather a term of endearment based on your skin color and/or heritage).

2. Expect the unexpected, and don’t go into the situation assuming your experience will match those of your white peers and/or friends and family of color. Your command of the native language, body language, familiarity with the culture, style of dress, etc can alter how you are perceived and treated.

3. Don’t always assume racism is at play. As a result of the history of the United States, people of color and whites alike have been rendered into sensitivity machines, often analyzing things at a level of sociological sophistication that may not be of issue in some other countries. Also, bear in mind that every nation has its own respective history and deals with race and ethnicity accordingly. Don’t attempt to color their history with your own. Think of these things before you jump the gun.

4. Find out what you can do if you ARE a victim of racism. There are several anti-racist groups (i.e. SOS Racismo in Spain and Portugal) that hold workshops and do outreach based on race-related issues. Sites like this may be worth checking out prior to taking a trip.

5. Reconcile your prior experiences with those of the present. The United States and/or your home country more likely than not has witnessed acts of racism, many of which continue. Don’t assume that it’s only the country you are visiting that has problems. If we think of the Amadou Diallo case or the Jena 6 or Vincent Chin, the U.S. is a scary and ugly place for POC too. It doesn’t make racism here or elsewhere any better, but it definitely makes you realize that every country has its problems, so you can’t let a few instances of racism frighten you away.

6. If traveling by yourself and feel threatened as a result of your race/ethnicity, try to remove yourself from the situation, if possible and find a place where you feel more welcome. You may even want to try to get to know other people like yourself in that country, depending on the duration of your stay, to get tips on places to avoid, how to behave in the case of a threat, etc.

7. Do your homework. Before traveling anywhere, ask around and look up information detailing the experiences of people like yourself. As I mentioned before, their experience may not entirely mirror the one in which you are about to partake, but it may offer some helpful advice.

8. Have a good time, despite any adversity you may encounter. If anything, I learned to laugh at the experience in Madrid in retrospect, and in a weird case of Stockholm syndrome, have considered going back one day, though with a friend this time. If you have spent the money to go somewhere else, you might as well try to get as much out of it as you can!

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the power of looking

March 22, 2008 at 7:11 am (aboriginal, chiapas)

the tourists have invaded for the past week and in our humble posada there is not a habitacion left. today we watched jesus being dragged through the street being whipped…

spring is coming over the mountains. chilly nights. it rained yesterday and the temperature dropped into the bones…

some of the things i love and critique about san cristobal: the youth culture here. how it embraces (and exoticizes) its afro-links…afro-cubano, afro-colombiano. the music latino hiphop and reggae. how they lean and embrace the natural beauty of themselves, the crazy mix of cultures born out of slavery colonization voluntary migration…how timeless and influx it feels…

how middle aged couples cuddle in bars and are in love and showing that love that physical love

how tourism runs the economy here

indigenous women their babies slung on their backs wrapped in bright colored rebozos selling bright colored rebozos to tourists.

little children with black plastic shoes carrying hand made belts and bracelets run through the streets laughing steely eyed hawking their wares

how some moments it feels like everyone has something to sell…

the huge ornate churches built to impress and yet it is their dark corners where i can actually imagine mary praying

how mayan spirituality is for sale and mayan zapatista politics is for sale and mayan art culture is for sale and yet the maya are not for sale and how do they keep themselves from being on the market as another commodity?

how everyone comes wanting something from the maya and think that their pesos should cover the cost…

walking into the chamula church and trying to convince myself that it was okay to stare at women praying and not understanding if this was a show they were putting on for the over hundred toursits with their khaki shorts and cameras or if they just didnt see us or if they saw us as being part of the landscape of the church like flies hovering over the candles or if we were disturbing them but they didnt have an economic choice anymore or…and just needing to leave cause in my heart i couldnt watch them pray without denying them some measure of their dignity…

and then talking to others about it and they praised the people in the church. and didnt imagine that tourist were disturbing at all.

and living in a house here, where the owner gave tours of the house and quickly realizing that i and my daughter and our friends were part of the tour and tolerating it and laughing at it and being annoyed by it and hoping that the tours would go away. but also realizing that it was partially that we were interesting to watch was why we were allowed to live there.

and the realization that i came to one day as i was walking through the streets, feeling stared at, that everyone stares at everyone and i had every right to stare back and so i started looking at whatever i wanted for a few minutes (feeling incredibly rude and liberated) and that to look to see is powerful and that to some i am an object and to others a subject.  and that whether or not i am an object or a subject is not solely dependent on the intention of the viewer (for what do i know of others’ intention?) but on the relationship that is created between my look and theirs.   whether or not i want a relationship, or engage the look, and whether they insist upon looking without reading my eyes, my body, my walk.

and how once i was walking in the centro and three guys walked passed me calling : negra at me and i called back : hijo de puta.  and they hung their heads slightly and walked faster out of my sight.

and how foreign white women they kinda shrug their shoulders when i talk about all the extra attention as if they think i might be exaggerating or that if i am going to travel i should get used to it.  as if i should know how strange and exotic i am and maybe i should feel lucky to get extra attention.  or better said: they shrug their shoulders as if to say: its not my fault.  i dont see you that way.  and i cant do anything about how others treat you.

and i hope that my look says back to that shrug: i am not the one playing victim– you are.

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god is dead

March 22, 2008 at 6:26 am (divination)

tonight i am thinking about this convergence of good friday, the full moon, the spring equinox…god is dead…

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im sorry

March 18, 2008 at 4:26 am (aboriginal, anti-oppression, anti-racism)

all opposed to indigenous rights say im sorry

In the last month, two of the four States that opposed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People issued “apology resolutions” for the historical crimes they committed against indigenous people. First it was Australia on February 13th; and then America threw up an apology of it’s own a couple weeks later, on March 1st.

It’s particularly interesting considering how both States continue to utilize the very same policies they claim to be so sorry about. Or perhaps, that’s not why they’re apologizing?

The Australian Apology

Focusing primarily on the “Stolen Generations,” this apology came as the first official act of the recently elected Prime Minister of Australia. It seems to have been relatively well received by indigenous and non-indigenous alike, however it’s been repeatedly stated that any such words must be followed by actions otherwise the apology has no real meaning. Most people are saying the People should be financially compensated; but I for one think a political overhaul is what’s really needed.

As for the apology (video) itself, one couldn’t help but notice the glaring omission of the word GENOCIDE… Adopting Canada’s residential school system, that is precisely what the government committed against the Traditional People of Australia.

It was also impossible to ignore how, before and after the apology, the Government was fully engaged in the “Intervention scheme.” I’m sure you’re familiar with it by now. By all intents and purposes the intervention follows the exact same model used to create the stolen generation.

And did you know the intervention is being presently expanded? WSWS elaborates:

When the Rudd government made a formal apology to the Aboriginal “stolen generations” on February 13, the WSWS warned that all those hailing the apology as a step toward rectifying the historic crimes committed against the indigenous people were carrying out a monstrous deception. We cited the old maxim that when the ruling class apologises for past crimes, it is only in order to better commit those of the present. (See: “Australian federal parliament’s ‘sorry’ resolution: the real agenda”)

On February 27, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin delivered a speech to the National Press Club that confirmed the necessity for that warning. Macklin announced that the two central thrusts of the former Howard government’s police-military intervention against Northern Territory (NT) indigenous townships and camps will be expanded, with slight variations. She outlined plans to extend the “quarantining”, or partial seizure, of welfare payments from the NT to Western Australia, and introduce new means for overturning communal land title to make way for private ownership.

Is this “the new relationship” Rudd was talking about in the sorry speech? If so, then what was the apology if not an epochal farce, perhaps aimed at appeasing the malcontent while lifting the guilt carried by sorry white Australia?

Oops, sorry about that. But I think it’s doubly so (a farce) considering how the logic and intent that carries the intervention–and that fueled the stolen generation–has now become attached to every day Australia. I am now constantly running into reports that talk about the need to take more, stronger measures against indigenous people.

The American Apology

Piggy-backing a health care bill that was approved by the Senate on March 1, the American Apology (pdf) is much the same as the Australian counterpart— though seems to covers a host of different policies (as in ‘deliberately committed atrocities with the expressed intent of committing genocide’) rather than just one.

Shortly after it was approved, Brenda Norrell had an interview with Jimbo Simmons, coordinator of the ongoing 2nd Longest walk . Simmons explained the apology, which practically came out of nowhere,

[… ] is directed at the IRA Indian tribal governments or “puppet governments,” organized under the Indian Reorganization Act, which have caused so much suffering for Indian people.

Simmons said the apology should go to the original treaty signers. His comments were made on the Longest Walk Northern Route’s live broadcast on on Monday morning, March 3.

Simmons pointed out that when the original Longest Walk was making its way across the United States in 1978, a similar diversion was created to diffuse the impact of the walk at that time. Indian representatives came out and told the Long Walkers that their walk was not necessary because the anti-Indian legislation underway would be defeated without their march into Washington.

Now, 30 years later, another effort is underway to diffuse the impact of this Longest Walk.

“The United ‘Snakes’ of America thinks this would be enough for us,” Simmons said. “There are still problems across Indian country. We’re talking much more than just treaty rights.

“It goes beyond human rights and civil rights, we are talking about our natural rights since the beginning of time.

“Our traditional and spiritual leaders have been silenced for so long. The apology should be directed to them.”

Simmons said the IRA Indian tribal governments created by the United States are “puppet governments” which are “victimizing our people.”

“They continue to perpetuate the bureaucracy in Indian country.” [Many also exploit their own People. See for examples]

Regarding the point of the apology being a distraction, that certainly seems to be the case with the Australian Apology as well. And as for the “IRA tribal governments” (which are organized like sub-states within the Westphalian system of States), the fact is the United States Government is doing the exact same thing. Sure, their present-day policies are nowhere near as brutal as they once were, but the fact is they continue to diminish and infringe upon Indigenous Nations and they continue to neglect their treaty obligations ad nauseum.

The International Indian Treaty Council’s Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report, prepared last January (which the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently responded to), provides numerous examples of this. The report mentions situations involving the Goshute, Shoshone, Lakota, Navajo, Winnemmem Wintu, and the Peoples of Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii, among others. Off the top of my head, I could also add the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy, the Apache, The Onondaga, and the Peoples of Colombia.

As heartfelt as the American Apology maybe, in the face of American policy and practice it is no less than an insult to the millions that were raped, burned, scalped, mutilated and killed en masse for doing nothing wrong.

The Politics of Saying Sorry

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories, Apologies began in the mid 16th century as a formal legal defense against an accusation. While in some circumstances they are still used like that, an apology has come to have several uses in ‘western’ culture.

We use them to sympathize with others, to express regret, to console our friends for a loss. We use them to take responsibility for doing things we had no control over (like farting or dropping a cup of juice), to absolve ourselves from taking responsibility (like a man who beats his wife), to punish ourselves, to make ourselves feel better, and to a lesser extent, to mark a fundamental change in the way we live.

Sometimes they’re even used to make others feel ashamed, like the Church did in their apology to the Indigenous People of Australia in 2001. ‘Sorry for doing nothing wrong’, it reads (which is as if to say the People should be sorry the Church failed).

Most of us would never methodically plan out or twist an apology like that—nevertheless they almost always serve as devices to control or redirect a moment. This is especially true for political apologies and those issued on behalf of institutions like the Church.

For example, from 1947-onward, Priests in Canada began apologizing for 5 generations of physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, linguistic and cultural terrorism they and their Churches practiced against Indigenous Children. Some of the apologies were powerful, genuine pleas for forgiveness—but at the same time, many of them read as if they were attempts to absolve the Church. ‘Now let’s just put it all behind us, ok?’

Well I’m sorry, but that’s not gonna happen until all the Churches empirically prove they are not what they were before, during, and after the Residential School Era (which lasted from 1840 to 1970)

To do that, and to get any real sense of forgiveness, the Church must take steps (as outsiders) to replace the historical violence with supportive efforts that help restore the individuals, families, communities, and Nations they disrupted, dispossessed and destroyed. I speak here of Justice.

There are thousands of different things the Church could do—the most important of which would be to leave every single Indigenous Community. I would even go so far as to say all members of any church should be banished from Indigenous lands until they earn the right to return as friends and equals.

This is justice in my eyes. Never mind this financial compensation nonsense because money adds fuel to the fire burning inside Indigenous People because of what Residential Schools did. Why do you think there’s such a big problem with alcohol and substance abuse? Why do you think so many youth today are severely depressed and committing suicide? Why do you think there’s so much poverty and self loathing? Canada is a major part of that, of course, but for those recent 5 generations, the Church was instrumental in advancing Canada’s lofty dream of breaking Indigenous People.

How in the universe is a few thousand bucks going to help with this? Is buying a new tv and a couple pair of socks going to make everything alright? hardly.

When it comes to States, the kind of Justice I speak of must result in no less than policy change. That means altering the way they interact with Indigenous Nations (stopping land encroachment, fulfilling treaty obligations, etc) and making every necessary accommodation to correct history…. This could start, for example, by having every school textbook recalled and replaced with new ones (that indigenous People approve of). I say this especially because violence and subjugation of Indigenous People became a part of Western Culture. It was encouraged, promoted, rewarded, and then made into riveting stories of triumph for sleepy white kids.


Overall, a word cannot undo an action, be it a kick to the chins or a 500-year genocidal assault against a People. An apology can, however, help mark out a framework that can heal us in the present while empowering future generations so they do not augment the ‘mistakes’ of the past.

No Church or State will take steps toward this, so then we are left alone with a word that we can either scathingly reject, or use to help rid ourselves of the burden that’s not ours to carry.

It’s a disappointing truth, but one that echoes far beyond the words “I’m sorry.”


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first independent palestinian lgbtq organization!

March 11, 2008 at 2:45 am (anti-heterosexism, anti-oppression, anti-racism, palestine, west bank)

wow this is amazing.  when i was in palestine before i looked for a west bank queer organization and heard rumors of some, addresses of places that didnt exist, names without phone numbers, etc.

so any of you, especially in the west bank, should check this out and let me know who they are.  what they are up to.   and hey i  learned a new word in arabic: al-qaws means rainbow.


Registration of the First Independent Palestinian LGBTQ Organization
Jerusalem, January, 2007-

Al-Qaws, the Palestinian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) community project of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), has achieved a mile stone development in which it decided to become an independent entity, constituting the first-ever official Palestinian LGBTQ organization. The Al-Qaws (“Rainbow”) project was initiated in December 2001 by the JOH in order to address the special needs of the Palestinian LGBTQ community in Jerusalem . The project was specifically designed to reflect the special nature of one of the most traditional communities in Jerusalem .

During the six years of its existence, Al-Qaws has undergone an all-embracing organizational process of development. What started as a local professional-oriented project has grown into a national community and grassroots organization, with activist leadership.

This major development has been made possible thanks to the leadership group’s determined investment, the deep commitment of Al-Qaws activists and the autonomous space provided to Al-Qaws within the JOH, enabling Al-Qaws to address the needs of the Palestinian LGBTQ community.

This process culminated in the decision of the Al-Qaws’ leadership to secede from the JOH and establish an independent organization.  With this decision, our community begins a new journey with a committed leadership group and widespread local activists, friends and supporters. In November 2007, Al-Qaws received the formal status of a nonprofit organization and a new name: Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in the Palestinian Society.

Haneen Maikey, Al-Qaws Director, commented, “This change is incredibly exciting. This new phase presents new opportunities with promises of growth through self-definition for Palestinian LGBTQs.”

True to its deep commitment to advancing the status of LGBTQ people in Jerusalem , the JOH has provided constant support for Al-Qaws toward this development. This has made the transition period an easy, productive and exciting stage for all those involved. The JOH will continue to host Al-Qaws in its new community center in downtown Jerusalem . The two organizations are committed to exploring wider fields of cooperation in the future towards the advancement of our common goals.

Noa Sattath, JOH Executive Director, stated, “The Palestinian LGBTQ community is fortunate to have such strong and capable leaders. We look forward to working together with the leadership of Al-Qaws for a better future for all our community members.”

For further details, please contact:
Haneen Maikey
Al-Qaws  for Sexual & Gender Diversity in the Palestinian Society +972-2-6250502 ext 128 +972-54-4898062

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transwomen of colore testify to the un on racism in the us

March 11, 2008 at 2:39 am (anti-heterosexism, anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-sexism)



Community Alert: Where in the World are Miss Major & Melenie Eleneke?


Bay Area Transwomen of Color Activists Travel to the U.N. in Geneva to hold the U.S. Accountable for Lack of Economic Opportunities for Transgender Women of Color
See Photos and Miss Major’s & Melenie’s Daily Reports from Geneva at !*/*//*

Geneva , Switzerland February 20, 2008 – The proceedings of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will occur in Geneva , Switzerland on February 21 and 22, where the U.S. State Department and the Department of Justice will defend the Bush Administration’s human rights record. The CERD committee will examine U.S. compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). As an international treaty ratified by the U.S. , the ICERD has the force of law in the United States .

Prominent U.S. transwomen of color activists Miss Major and Melenie Eleneke are in Geneva for the CERD session to advocate for the economic rights of transgender women of color in the U.S. Miss Major and Ms. Eleneke are representing the San Francisco-based NGO the Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP).

TGIJP and two other Bay Area human rights organizations, WILD For Human Rights and Justice Now, recently released a report to the United Nations documenting rampant human rights abuses against women of color in California prisons, in the U.S. agricultural industry, and in the communities where transgender, gender variant and intersex people live. Documented abuses include the coerced sterilization and shackling of people giving birth in women’s prisons, the mortality rate of Latina child laborers on US farms, and the pervasive employment discrimination
against transgender women of color.

You can watch these proceedings unfold and send in your comments! Visit “Demanding Our Rights,” a human rights blog at for more background, reporting from Miss Major and Melenie, and video and photos of the U.N. proceedings!

Questions? Comments? Please contact TGIJP at 415-252-1444, or

Alexander L. Lee, Attorney at Law
TGI Justice Project
1095 Market Street, Suite 308
San Francisco , CA 94103
Voice / 415.252.1444
Fax / 415.252.1554
Email /
Web /

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why we banned legos

March 1, 2008 at 12:31 am (aboriginal, anti-oppression, anti-racism, chiapas, women of color) (, , )   The Movement

for some reason my ability to create links is disabled…damn you wordpress!!!

We had an initial conversation with the children about our decision. “We’re concerned about what was happening in Legotown, with some kids feeling left out and other kids feeling in charge,” Kendra explained. “We don’t want to rebuild Legotown and go back to how things were. Instead, we want to figure out with you a way to build a Legotown that’s fair to all the kids.”

Naturally the children had big feelings and strong opinions to share. During that first day’s discussion, they laid out the big issues that we would pursue over the months to come.

Several times in the discussion, children made reference to “giving” Lego pieces to other children. Kendra pointed out the understanding behind this language: “When you say that some kids ‘gave’ pieces to other kids, that sounds like there are some kids who have most of the power in Legotown — power to decide what pieces kids can use and where they can build.” Kendra’s comment sparked an outcry by Lukas and Carl, two central figures in Legotown:

Carl: “We didn’t ‘give’ the pieces, we found and shared them.”

Lukas: “It’s like giving to charity.”

Carl: “I don’t agree with using words like ‘gave.’ Because when someone wants to move in, we find them a platform and bricks and we build them a house and find them windows and a door.”

These children seemed to squirm at the implications of privilege, wealth, and power that “giving” holds. The children denied their power, framing it as benign and neutral, not something actively sought out and maintained. This early conversation helped us see more clearly the children’s contradictory thinking about power and authority, laying the groundwork for later exploration.

really interesting article about power privilege ownership authority etc. what i find most interesting is the way that the kids at several points construct their own and others power in much the same way that i hear adults/friends/relatives do even though they are much older…and, thus should know better….for instance the way that one of the powerful kids describes that he gave to the younger kids…’like charity’. in which he understands very clearly what giving to charity is (and why i have a high critique of charity-world in a capitalistic system).

and how even at that young age, the powered children are very defensive and in denial that they had more power than others. or that this power may not have been deserved or may have been yielded unfairly. or that the very act of giving can be so disempowering to those to whom you give..

even more so i am interested right now in how do we own something? what makes us an owner legitimately? and what does that ownership entitle us to do? does the ownership of something mean that you can then make up the rules for its use?

for instance, if i own a lego and you own a house…who in the end determines what i get to do with my lego? how much agency do i have, if you can tell me where to put the lego on your house?

i am thinking of this in terms of andrea smith’s book: conquest. about indigenous women and communities and the anti-violence movement. in which she says that all knowledge is not knowable. in other words, simply because someone knows something and has shared this knowledge with you does not mean that you can do whatever you want with this knowledge. you do not own the knowledge in the sense that you have rights or freedoms that come with this knowledge. instead we can think of this as a series of obligations that this knowledge sets upon you. for instance perhaps you can only use this knowledge and share this knowledge in ways that the person who shared this knowledge with you intended.

so lets think about these ideas of intellectual property and how the very knowledge that is gathered stolen from indigenous communities is then used as a weapon to disempower those same communities by denying access to the communities to that which the communities shared with outsiders.

my partner and i were talking today (about christianity) and i said that i thought that we need to stop imagining that we can be omniscient. that the mistakes and oppressions that we commit are not committed because we do not know the right thing to do or the right thing to say, they are committed because we imagine strive for a place a state of being in which we always know the right thing to do or the right thing to say. a state in which we know the right thing to give at the right time. it is this striving to be omniscient or to be as close to omniscient as possible. and the more omniscient we become, the more omnipotent we can act. that white people (in particular) do not need to cast off the erroneous dominant history and take on (know, own) another more accurate and holistic history and make it the dominant paradigm (this better more accurate history making white people even more omniscient) , white people need to stop trying to ‘know’ what is the ‘correct’ history. all knowledge is not knowable.

instead we can come to a place where we deconstruct the dominant history de-legitimize it and then sit in the uncomfortable place of not-knowing. but i can hear you resisting (ah, white folks i know you…i really know you…) asking yourselves: but what would that accomplish? what would be the point of not-knowing? isnt that just giving up and doing nothing?

well, first you would get a teensy experience of how the rest of us live our lives, those of us who are side notes, blips on the screen of dominant history (sidenote: yesterday i once again spent a few minutes answering the questions of where my people were from. answering: from the u.s. is just me teasing them, because i know they are about to ask where my parents and grandparents are from. so i launch into the memorized speech about the descendants of slaves and then he looks me and says: but what about the rest of your family? where are they from? and i talk about 500 years of history and the intermingling of the indigenous and africans…and then he says: so you dont know where they are from? only from the states? this is a conversation you have constantly when you are a sidenote to history) so that we learn histories that cause cognitive dissonance in and of themselves, histories that we cannot relate to, histories that we know to be wrong and yet do not have an alternative history which is acceptable to mainstream society for no other reason than that it is not the dominant history. (ahh…the tautologies of my private and public school education!) and we sit in that (spiritual?) place of not-knowing, of disconnected realities, of uncertainty of our place in the world and we have to act daily. survival compels us. since we were not meant to survive and have. and that is our history.

second, learning to act when you are no longer striving towards omniscience and omnipotence is well, ashe. and even sometimes helpful. i am not just talking about learning how to blithely shrug off responsibility (the ability to respond) with ‘i dont know’. that is copping out. (and i do it all the time) but acting in such a way as to realize that the knowledge that we have can only be utilized in ways that the giver of that knowledge intended and requested. that our primary obligation is to see that knowledge as an obligation between giver and givee and not a right to share or use this knowledge as we see fit.

andrea smith poses these types of questions in her essay: spiritual appropriation as sexual violence. in which she looks at spiritual appropriation through the lens of ‘to know’ in the biblical sense is to have ‘sexual intimacy with’.

so what does it mean to ‘know’ something is that a way to ‘own’ something? and if we ‘own’ it does it mean that we can do what we want with it. (yes, i am asking even those of you who claim to mean well…i mean everyone intends well, means to do the right thing…which is why the road to hell is paved with good intentions…)

can we act, not because we know the right things, the right histories, the right perspectives, but because we have obligations/responsibilities/relationships/rightness (rather than right knowledge) to those who came before us, to those spiritual practices which sustain our survival, to those peoples and communities who have knowledge that we should never know?

and how do we own what we own? and when is it ours? and where do we keep that knowledge? and what do we plan to do with it?

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