Every Now Has its Before

Active Voice

vveXIQjBQbPG_1WTm10uBIuLEPhgPwTiJ_YGohH81TI

The column below from a couple of weeks ago about the need for a #poorlivesmatter campaign in Jamaica has been getting some attention. #Blacklivesmatter as a rallying call has little traction in Jamaica where if you’re black but middle class or upper class you’re–for all intents and purposes–an honorary white. Social blackness is reserved for those who are black and poor, not just those who may be dark-skinned, regardless of class.

I thought as much when I saw Fabian Thomas’s ‘Black Bodies’ almost a year ago–a play that aimed to “tell the stories and honour the memories of four Jamaicans (Vanessa Kirkland, Jhaneel Goulbourne, Michael Gayle, and Mario Deane) killed by the police or while in police custody” while attempting to draw a somewhat facile connection with the US’s #blacklivesmatter campaign which was then just beginning to gain momentum.

And in a move to rival the truth in strangeness, a…

View original post 926 more words

Advertisements

A 4 AM Conversation with Annie John #blackfeminisms

A 4 AM Conversation with Annie John

by Georgia G.P. Love

JamacaKincaid_AnnieJohn

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid may have been the dark rabbit hole that led me tumbling unconsciously into a world of black feminisms. At 13 years old when many of my classmates had decided it was “nasty” and “weird” because of its explorations of sexuality and intimacy between women, I remember devouring it and feeling an intuitional ease with Annie.

It was set in the Caribbean, the region where I grew up, and her persona and life mirrored mine with her melancholic disposition, stable family home and top tier education all with their lessons about womanhood and separation from inherited legacies. Here I am 22 years later engaged in my own feminist crisis of faith and I return to Annie as I move into a kind of dark night of the soul.

Black Feminisms

When Audre Lorde says “the erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women”, similarly blackness has been libeled and used against black women. Images of black as savage, unfeminine, undesirable and inadequate. From the vantage point of their blackness womanists/feminists astutely pointed out that feminism can’t be a single issue movement as long as we live multi issue lives. The organizers of the Black Feminisms Forum have deliberately pluralized feminisms because black women are night women who often push forward in several different ways with only the moonlight to guide our feet. Black women may never get their due for their contributions to feminism, because as Doreen St. Felix said in her article about Rihanna, to be a black woman and genius, is to be perpetually owed.

Black women help us unsettle binaries and position intersections in social and personal identities as an analytical cornerstone. From this cornerstone we can explore blackness in its breadth and variance in our feminisms. Black women quickly learned that light-less conditions often require patience, to allow our eyes to adjust so we can see. With our hidden secrets tucked in our darkest places to guard our erotic power, it’s our nimbleness in unchartered dark territories, where uncertain futures have been our only birthright and our willingness to engage places of unknowing which fuel our rage against racism and misogyny. We’ve dived into social and intellectual black holes in order “to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible. Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavors, [our] work becomes a conscious decision—a longed-for bed, which [we] enter gracefully and from which [we] rise up empowered.”

Sacred Withdrawal

However, right now while I know I’m still a black feminist, do I feel empowered? I’m not sure. I don’t feel empowered in that triumphant sense, but I hope that my black feminism can be more than an endless chase for triumphs and fixing outward signs of ailments. Given the thankless drudgery of this work we must be allowed periods of sacred withdrawal from our camps of familiarity. It’s my hope that community can enable moments for us to sit with things we don’t want to look at because it’s what we may most need to see.

Like Annie I once enjoyed “special bath(s) in which the barks and flowers of many different trees, [melded] together with all sorts of oils, [as we sat]…in darkened room(s) with strange-smelling candle(s) burning away.” I welcomed those spaces of intimacy to share secrets with my Sisters of The Dark as I found faith within chapels of black women activists. But now I need space to acknowledge that my feminist faith is shaken, and as I search, I hope a Ma Chess (Annie’s grandmother) will find me and hold me in ways that help restore my trust and belief. More so than defeating an enemy, my black feminism must change me and help me navigate tenuous relationships. Audre Lorde said “the true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us”. The oppressor’s wrongdoing is the oppression she inflicts, as well as her certitude and sense of entitlement. We are most in danger of stumbling when we think we know where we’re going.

For centuries black women have shared the generational secrets of using indigo and dyes to transform everyday white cotton into prized deep blue cloth. Most recently I experience my blackness and my black feminism as more indigo than achromatic absolute, stainy and unpredictable like purple dressing or gentian violet. Gentian violet, a rudimentary antiseptic dye used by many Caribbean people for cuts and infections that makes healing a very exposed process. Now I must heal the faith-rattling wounds we all experience when you’re vulnerable, and when you trust and are betrayed. Like Annie I have begun “to feel alternately too big and too small. First, I grew so big that I took up the whole street; then I grew so small that nobody could see me — not even if I cried out.” Just as Annie stood before an endless sea, facing “la noche oscura” she knew that at some point we all need freedom more than we need a home.

What kinds of painful/difficult questions have you grappled with inside your black feminism? How have you dealt with separation and estrangement within your feminist communities? Email Georgia Love at blackjacobines@gmail.com ; Twitter @findmisslove

Read all the entries in our Black Feminisms Blog Carnival here

States of Conscious Anger: Love Poem to Black Unicorns #blackfeminisms

by Angelique V. Nixon

States of Conscious Anger: Love Poem to Black Unicorns

The black unicorn is restless
the black unicorn is unrelenting
the black unicorn is not
free

– Audre Lorde

My rage is genetic memory, fueled through the daily knowing & seeing all the ways our lives are in danger. Interlocking experiences. Submerged in blood & labor.

to be black and female
to be black, female, & queer
to be brown/black while walking
to be young black/brown male and made criminal or enemy
to be sex positive, self loving, aggressive, or confident
to be gay, lesbian, same-sex loving, bisexual, or not straight
to be woman & masculine, to be man & feminine
to be gender non-conforming, refusing labels, existing outside
to not fit into boxes or comfort zones
to walk streets of power hungry, male-dominated whiteness
to be poor, hungry, undernourished
to be unemployed, underemployed
to be a worker, to be underclass
to be forgotten & left out
to be the problem, as if our lives don’t matter
to be any of these & also of color
to be any of these & also a migrant of color
to be any of these…

Too many lives stolen through fear & hate
sometimes our own fingers drip in their/our blood
also from our silence, our fears, our denial
holding onto scraps of privilege/status if you can
but that won’t save you.

I take up my voice, my fists, speak out against injustice
I speak out against systems of control & benevolent empire
I speak out against a prison system that refuses justice
I speak out against silence & fear of difference
I speak out against intolerance & hate
I speak out against unending wars & violence.

I speak out with unrelenting force,
People of Color, our lives matter
Black lives matter
Brown lives matter
Indigenous lives matter
Trans lives matter
Women’s lives matter
Queer lives matter
Poor lives matter
Migrant lives matter

Black Unicorns, where is our magic & fury now?
Are your horns still growing? Where is our collective rage?

Injustice and violence on our bodies,
Our lands, hearts, minds, spirits,
Everyday, it is sometimes
too much to speak, too much to bare,

But we must speak it & know it deeply,
listen to our ancestors, as they rage through us,
in all our bodies & blood ripe with
the weight of lies & distorted truths.

We must claim our truths & tell our stories
so wildly & boldly, they cannot stop us.
We must decolonize our hearts/minds/bodies,
love ourselves & heal from the root.

To love ourselves is radical, to love each other
to love blackness, browness, all-we-shades-colors-mixes
to love difference, is radical,
to love with fyah feeding spirit
to love the feminine in each one of us
to love the earth & every creature we share it with, is radical.

Love Self. Rage More. Make Furious Our Survival.

 

Angelique V. Nixon is an Afro-Caribbean writer, artist, teacher, scholar, activist, and poet – born and raised in The Bahamas. Her research, cultural criticism, and poetry have been published widely. She strives through her activism, writing, and art to disrupt silences and carve spaces for resistance and desire. She is a Lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago.

An earlier version of this poem originally appeared in my creative essay titled “States of Anger: Black Women & Furious Survival” – published in Zora Magazine, Summer 2014, Special Issue, Notes on Anger.  It is republished here as part of ourBlack Feminisms Blog Carnival.

States of Healing Anger: Love Letter to my GirlChildSelf #blackfeminisms

By Angelique V. Nixon

 

States of Healing Anger: Love Letter to my GirlChildSelf

“I want us to get to a place where tenderness is possible”
– June Jordan

It’s time to release pain & transform anger.
It’s time to love yourself & be enough for you.
No one is coming to rescue you. Except for me.
Grown, sexy, fearless, defiant & unafraid of you
or the depths of our sorrow.

It used to feel like if I started crying for you, for myself, I would never stop, but today Spirit spoke to me, reminding me of all the work done to get to here. Time to let it come through me, all that no longer serves me – the sadness, so deep, we could never see the end of it. Spirit told me she can hold all of it and me, and you, and so together in our darkness, we dive deep inside the core of the earth and let go.

I whispered in this place, the center of my being where I hold you.
“I’m sorry for all that you lost (in this life & ones before)
and how lonely this journey has been.”
I stand with you on this full moon and rip into these dark places.
I grasp you tightly with all my heart, releasing the pain, bringing in love & hope,
we scream tears and spill our words, our truth, our stories,
knowing it is better to speak, knowing we were never meant to survive.

To love & be loved—to speak, it is better—that is our resistance.
If others can’t handle our survival or see us—they too must be let go.

We deserve love that is not painful, burning, blinding, unbalanced, or no good for we spirit. I stand with you on this full pensive moon, releasing old harmful patterns.

I journey into heartspace (belly core) healing with conscious desire & rhythms.
I journey with songs of compassion for myself & others.

Being enough. I am enough. My love is enough. I am loveable.
My ancestors are with me & their pain is my strength.

I am strong. I am un/broken. Broken No Longer.
I am reborn, a place of tenderness, where Black love,
Black woman love, Black queer love, and loving openly
is more than possible, it is the place of freedom, of revolution.

Angelique V. Nixon is an Afro-Caribbean writer, artist, teacher, scholar, activist, and poet – born and raised in The Bahamas. Her research, cultural criticism, and poetry have been published widely. She strives through her activism, writing, and art to disrupt silences and carve spaces for resistance and desire. She is a Lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago.

An earlier version of this poem originally appeared in my creative essay titled “States of Anger: Black Women & Furious Survival” – published in Zora Magazine, Summer 2014, Special Issue, Notes on Anger.  It is republished here as part of our Black Feminisms Blog Carnival.

From Wimbledon to Zimbabwe: Watching The Williams Sisters by @fungaijustbeing #blackfeminisms

By Fungai Machirori

I always thought it was Venus who would be the more decorated tennis player of the Williams sisters.

Perhaps it was something to do with the way she was constructed in the media. She was, as I was made to understand all those years ago, the more “lithe” of the two sisters; in other words, even if her skin colour didn’t conform to the normative standard of the time she and Serena entered the fray, her physique approximated better what a conventional tennis player of that time ‘should’ look like.

I felt elated at watching Venus win her first Wimbledon title back in 2000. As she smiled and leapt across the court – having beaten Lindsay Davenport in straight sets – the match commentators all but confirmed her ascent to tennis queendom. The older of the Williams sisters, Venus finally had a Grand Slam title to match that of her sister.  And the Venus Rosewater Dish, her trophy, could not have been more aptly named.

I was 16 years old back then; the greatest of my concerns my mid-year exams, and perhaps a little further down in my line of thought my year-end Ordinary Level exams. Zimbabwe was a different place back then, but already displaying the cracks across its socio-political terrain that would widen over the years into the chasms of dissent and disenchantment that many now know the country for. By 2000, however, the only national broadcaster – which would eventually feature less and less international content in a move to create a more indigenous and insular media – still featured live Wimbledon finals broadcasts, something which has since been dispensed with.

Watching Wimbledon finals had been a tradition for me in my childhood as I became acquainted with the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Jana Novotna, among others. But Wimbledon was the only of the four grand slams that was broadcast live to us. And I wonder if it was given this place of tennis prestige as a result of not only Zimbabwe’s British colonial history, but a strong national inclination towards British sensibilities.  It’s been mentioned before as a contradiction of Zimbabwe’s now fractured relationship with Britain how President Robert Mugabe speaks impeccable ‘Queen’s English’.

Locally, tennis interests had also been piqued through the famous Black family – consisting of Cara, Wayne and Byron –  who had helped grow Zimbabweans’ interest in the sport, competing fiercely at grand slam events and other prestigious international tournaments. But as with other elite sports like rugby, cricket and hockey, high standard performance in tennis in Zimbabwe was almost entirely the preserve of the middle class, with the white middle class predominant.

To watch Venus win Wimbledon, therefore, was to disrupt everything I thought I understood about tennis. To see her prance and twirl across Centre Court was to challenge many things I understood and had internalised about this sport. It was to see myself represented, to feel as though I was there somewhere in that arena, offering an excited ovation, even if I was really thousands of miles away.

One of my most endearing memories as a tennis fan is when in my second year of university, I camped out at a seedy bar to watch the women’s Wimbledon final, again featuring Venus and Davenport. By this time, tennis was no longer being shown on national television anymore and this bar served affordable (read ‘cheap’) drinks and had a satellite television link; a compromised win for me.  And so there I sat, confounding many of the patrons as I sipped slowly on my orders of ginger ale, entirely focused on the large screen overhead. To most of them, this was confounding and a disruption of their perceived ideas of a woman’s ‘role’ or ‘place’ in a bar.

Watching Venus and Serena, their braids and beads sweeping across their sweaty, determined faces as they have fought their way from many places – both personal and professional – that many wouldn’t recover from has been an absolute inspiration.

And watching their recent doubles final win at Wimbledon was particularly emotional.

I wondered how many more of these spectacular moments I would get to witness from these two. How many more moments of this defiant excellence I would get experience in the years to come.

It’s 16 years since that first win that converted me into the tennis enthusiast that I have become. Venus didn’t quite become who the pundits thought she would, but her seven singles slam titles are glorious and memorable. And of course, Serena stands majestic and uncontested at 22 grand slam titles, with the drive and talent to win even more.

Much has changed in my life, and sometimes I yearn for my teenage years when my biggest concern was a slew of assignments and exam papers.

I yearn also for another Zimbabwe; one that might offer stability and nurturing for dreams as big as those the Williams sisters have birthed. And I hope for a world in which black excellence, is less of a novelty, and more of a norm.

Yes, it is 16 years later.

But somehow, some things have remained constant.

 

Fungai Machirori is a Zimbabwean writer with interests in feminism, identity and historicisation. You can follow her on Twitter at @fungaijustbeing. This article is part of the Black Feminisms Forum ahead of the 13th International AWID Forum.

CODE RED for gender justice is hosting a #blackfeminisms blog carnival during August. Submit to us here.

How little girls get crushed #blackfeminisms

So this man is charged with raping a 12 year-old girl repeatedly over more than six months. The prosecution has conclusive DNA evidence and the girl has some familial connection to the rapist. The story is being carried on radio and the DJ asks, could it be a case where he thought she was older???

Could it be a case where he’s a rapist?

Please show me the man who assumes he’s having a mutually satisfying sexual and dating relationship with a sophisticated 35-year-old librarian only to discover that all along he’s been raping a 12-year-old girl? Hasn’t happened. Doesn’t happen. Won’t happen. Ever.

Rapists who prey on girls do so precisely because they know girls have been made vulnerable and devalued by the collective consciousness where it is more comfortable and plausible to assume that a 12-year-old girl has tricked a grown-ass man than to insist that men recognize and respect the humanity and bodily autonomy of girls.

The thoughts I shared on facebook after listening to DJ Envy of the Breakfast Club discuss Jelani Maraj‘s rape charge.

Today I wake up to a new instalment from the popular Trinidadian series Santana shared by producers LEXO TV with the tag line “how little girls crush today.”

The clip they shared on facebook begins at the 4:46 mark and includes the “little girl” who aggressively pursues grown-ass Santana, begs him to swell her belly and for a cellphone and taunts him that his piggy must be small as he runs away from her.

 

If you’ve been a girl in the Caribbean you have no doubt experienced the ubiquitous street harassment and sexual violence that Jamaican writer Nicole Dennis-Benn highlighted in the New York Times recently.

The sexually predatory schoolgirl who entraps hapless men is an enduring Caribbean myth. This Jamaica Gleaner article claims that men are being pushed out of the teaching profession by schoolgirls who solicit sex from them and send them pornographic images via WhatsApp.

Of course, the facts about child sexual abuse and sexual violence against girls say otherwise.

After a 10-year-old girl was raped and impregnated in St. Lucia, a former Minister of Education and current MP argued that she should be excluded from school:

“You would not want a pregnant eleven year old sitting among others in the class because it is going to rub off on them and they may think that is acceptable.”

Newspapers described her as “sexually promiscuous”, told us her mom is a single parent, that it took months before she realised her daughter was pregnant, that the mom has a *gasp* job and is away from home a lot, that the girl comes from a broken home. They did not use the word RAPE. Not once.

 For the record, an 11-year-old girl cannot be sexually promiscuous. She has been raped and victimised multiple times. This is no moral failing on her part. She should not be excluded from school because of rape and pregnancy. The rapist needs to be held accountable.

Do we ever question why we are so quick to condemn and shame girls who have been raped but can’t insist that men NOT rape children? Why is it so difficult to hold men accountable for their actions? Why so difficult to make rape unconscionable? Why would we rather believe that schoolgirls are more predatory and powerful than men than call a rapist a rapist?

CODE RED for gender justice is hosting a #blackfeminisms blog carnival and will be posting EVERYDAY during August ahead of the historic AWID Black Feminisms Forum. Submit to us here

 

Anti-black misogyny thrives in majority black countries #blackfeminisms

Bahamian legislator, Richard Lightbourn, recently proposed that “the country adopt legislation that mandates unwed mothers with more than two children have their “tubes tied” in an effort to curtail the country’s social ills.”

Anti-black racism thrives in majority black countries.

The legislator is suggesting the erasure of poor black Bahamians via the misogynist practice of forced sterilisation.

Let’s break down the anti-black, anti-poor misogyny at work here:

1. Quiet as it’s kept, formal, legal marriage is a minority experience among Afro-Caribbean people. So a phrase like “unmarried women” is bullshit in and of itself. We are not defined by marriage nor in relation to it (and that’s a good thing!).

2. Women decide if and how many children they are going to have and the timing and spacing of these children. That is what’s known as bodily autonomy. Nobody does anything to your body without your consent. Politicians don’t get to write laws to forcibly sterilize women.

3. Violating women’s rights doesn’t prevent crime and poverty. It is a crime!

4. Legislators are supposed to be doing the tough work of making societies more equitable not arguing that they way to reduce poverty is for poor black people not to exist!

View the #blackfeminisms blog carnival entries here and submit your own stories.

Learn more about AWID’s Black Feminisms Forum here.