Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kwanzaa and the Ghettoizing of Otherness

On Salon: "It is just so wrong, disrespectful (and yes that was done with a full frontal Aretha-esque finger snap!)"

...Along with the ecstasy of being 'special' when you are of a non-dominant group, comes the agony of being boxed into that identity--essentialism. Must every person of African descent enjoy/celebrate Kwanzaa? W Kamau Bell takes a look.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

on objectivity, neutrality, and biases

"i run on feelings fuck your facts/deception is the truest act."

On reactionism vs. cooptation/adaptation: postcolonial strategies

Mobutu vs. Moped: "Authenticité has made us discover our personality by reaching into the depths of our past for the rich cultural heritage left to us by our ancestors. We have no intention of blindly returning to all ancestral customs; rather. We would like to choose those that adapt themselves well to modern life, those that encourage progress, and those that create a way of life and thought that are essentially ours."
OK, so that's if you believe there is such a thing as 'essentially ours.'

See also: Vice Guide to Faschion


Das Racist is my jam.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Matika's Ambitious Project: Abolishing Negative Stereotypes

Matika Wilbur Project 562. Reppin Natives.

sorority princess cutouts

the prank that never was: the white princess cutouts on the lawn of a local sorority, painted brown/tan. my husband's silent protest against the reigning ideal of white beauty and its effect on women of color.

Gentrification, Segregation in art + life

I've recently had the pleasurable agony (?) of stage managing a play for a friend Tyrone Brown-his company Brownbox Productions (a Seattle-based theatre company dedicated to the creation, development, and production of re-imagined Black theatre). It's called The Negro Passion Play--asking the question, "What if Jesus had been born black and in the Jim Crow era Southern US?"

One notable thing about it is the literal suspension of disbelief when it comes to segregation.

We seat the white audience first in house right, and then the black audience separately, second, in house left. Then for the second act, there is an announcement that the audience is allowed to desegregate. The first two nights, nary one or two black souls drifted over from house left to house right. Yet, the white audience quickly moved over to the black side.

I am totally reading into it more than needs to be read into it--but that's what art historian-theorist-pretentious people like me do--it brought to mind this general idea of gentrification, segregation in our city and culture, and 'white' art spaces vs 'black' art spaces--the difference between going to a theatre event in North Seattle vs one in South Seattle--the fact that a friend of mine went to a 'controversial' theatre reading and not a single soul mentioned anything about race, in a primarily white audience in north Seattle (U-district, which really isn't that white, but North vs. South generally moves from mostly white to much nonwhite)--the dynamics are so obvious. When I attend an event at Langston Hughes Cultural Center, I know what or whom to expect; when I attend a non-black event, I know what or whom to expect (generally, white folks).

What happens when Drake crosses over into Lily White Turrell-territory?
What happens when country musicians incorporate rap into their songs?

How do we move beyond these entrenched spaces and places that are race-based, or can we? As a non-black, non-white person, where/do I belong in either of those spaces?

Respectability Politics, working within the system, and nuances of Ban Bossy

The more you make radical ideas "palatable," consumable to the mainstream and status quo, the less it's going to be about movement or revolution and the more it's going to be about stasis and staying-the-same-tion.

We have a right to be Malcom X angry and radical. It may not be a sustainable way to be so wrapped up in the pain of the world, but we(some of us) need to let off steam--consider it as a safety valve/slow release of anger, catharsis, rather than a passive-aggressive, submerged activism.

Concerning all this, about the Ban Bossy campaign, which is about striking using the word "bossy" (especially in relation to females taking leadership and authority) in order to enact gender parity (I think?)...I don't feel particularly angry about the campaign or anything. But in discussion with my rad woc solidarity friend Dana, we discussed a Facebook thread amongst our friends.

In response to Dana's posting of local black Feminist and new Stranger WOC (Represent!) Danielle Henderson's thoughts here...some of our friends disagreed with Henderson, more in favor of the Ban Bossy method (So I gathered from a cursory glance at the posts).

In response to the Friends' response to Danielle's response to Ban Bossy.... I personally think that to protect all potentially assertive women from pain (or criticism!) through thought and word policing may not be building in them the character and "fuck you" attitude that comes with having been roughed up, bullied, as well as the empathy and compassion from being in a marginalized position.

In other words, if the system is corrupt, rather than say "hey let's not talk about its corruption by protecting the vulnerable (delicate, floral? Hmm) women" I say, let's muck things up, fuck things up, and riff/revolution/jam til the system gets better.
And that's just my personal opinion/perspective/method. Thoughts?

To Read: Glissant/Opacity

From Frieze: "By emphasizing language and literature, Glissant gave his global political project of creolization an aesthetic dimension. At the same time, he provided the concepts of French Post-structuralism-rhizome, difference, alterity-with a fresh playground and an exemplary story: the diaspora of African slaves, the archipelago, the 'Creole garden' where, in contrast to the monocultural plantation, a diverse range of plants protect and support one another...
( I love that idea.)

...'The Thinking of the Opacity of the World’ – is the eleventh chapter in Glissant’s last major publication Philosophie de la Relation. Poésie en étendue (Philosophy of the Relation. Poetry in extension, 2009). The 150-page book – an extension of his earlier Poétique de la Relation (1990; Poetics of Relation, 1997) – was celebrated by French critics as the culmination of a lifetime of thinking, writing, resisting. Throughout, Glissant uses not only the eponymous philosophy and poetry but also aphorisms, quotations, chronicles, recitations, even conversations."

Yes-Annette Lu @ Town Hall

Thanks to Dana for the info and invite! I hope I can make it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ponying for power in an unjust situation

Ponying for power in an unjust situation

Native Appropriation of Hipster Culture/real america

Shout out to Zachary Stocks for introducing me to the awesome work of Steven Paul Judd, some viewable here.

"The 3rd in my NDN GQ Hipster series. Mixing photo's from the 1800's (in this case Black Horn - Hunkpapa - 1872) with pictures from today. Looking good then and now." - Steven Paul Judd

Statue of Liberty in Jingle Dress by Steven Paul Judd.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

chase your dreams, says Spike Lee

Echoing one of my favorite songs(Sit tight-@2:28, 4:20) at the time I decided to chase my dreams in a more, say, sacrificial manner very recently (i.e. cutting off financial security from myself) it was a pleasure to see Spike Lee encourage emerging adults at today's amazing Solid Ground community building luncheon, which took place on the day Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

The director's tenor was jovial, funny, and quite a bit less acerbic than I expected; inspirational, because though he cited sad truths (e.g. the school to prison pipeline for brown and black men) he also encouraged new generations of dreamers and artists to live bigger than their practical, protective folks would wish for them. It hearkens back to this recent article that has inspired me as well about San Francisco's old Chinese chasing buses:

no such perfect intersectional justice | why i seek POCinema

My tendency to tear everyone down for whatever way they are contributing to or indicative of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, etc. is complicated by the general intersections and nuances people naturally have in their personalities, associations, and tastes.

1) Local Seattle artists of color such as Wanz are supporting, touring and making music with Macklemore, who through no fault of his own has raised my rankles (because despite his catchy songs, for many of us his Grammy wins are emblematic of white supremacy). If you just watch how different the performances at the Grammys (read:comfortable white space) were from those at the NBA All-Star Games (read:comfortable brown space), it is notable how Jay-Z, Pharrell, and other black superstars didn't seem to care at all about the Grammys and did lackluster performances, yet at the NBA All-Star games, their performances were outstandingly brilliant and confident.

2) Picasso annoys me because people praise him despite to me what seems especially considering his affairs and philandery reputation, very violent and objectifying of women--just within the visual content of some of his artwork. And yet, Spike Lee's grandmother, as I learned today--a woman of African descent taught (in a Jim Crow south, segregated school) art for fifty years, and her favorite artist was Picasso. A somewhat circular multicultural artistic influence, considering how inspired Picasso was by African sculpture.

That's collage/pastiche, baby.

3) I dislike and judge Heidegger for his Nazi associations, but love the fact that my theologian friend's spiritual awakening occurred through through Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude, TS Eliot's The Waste Land,and Heidegger. i.e. there must be something redeeming (literally) there.

4) I am tempted to write off Bill Murray completely for stomping on a white guy dressed up as an indigenous person for a sports game. But The Royal Tenenbaums and Groundhog Day are so incredibly good, and he employs a rakish, embittered Bill Murray-ness I can relate to so perfectly in both!

5) Esther Leslie's sarcastic commentary on our shared writer-hero Walter Benjamin in her biography of his life. He was progressive and lovely in thought, yet clearly believed in male dominance/superiority in some small quips in his writings.

6) I h-h-h-hate it when snooty progressives say basically they're too good for hip-hop because it's so misogynistic, materialistic, and homophobic when they have noooo connection to or interest in the culture and have never tried, but I'm probably giving hip-hop the benefit of the doubt instead of calling those that need to be called out--I'm hesitant to judge, say, the glorification of wealth, abundance, and barbecues when it comes from a place of lack (as opposed to a Wolf of Wall Street type situation). Speaking of rap music, that reminds me of Nelly raising blood for his sister on a campus where sisters on campus were protesting his music video. He was trying to do good. They were trying to do good.

If you think about this, it's really not that complicated to think that you can love someone and they can be flawed. Art and people and the people who make art are the same in this way. But/and--as a woman of color, I love finding artists that speak to me artistically and in a way that empowers--i.e. that don't disappoint me and bring me and other marginalized groups down in some way. So, would I rather watch a film made by people of color starring people of color than your garden variety white male artistic production? Yeah, maybe. Does that make me biased against white male art? Yeah, maybe. But, can I seek art that represents me and those like me instead of passively accepting dominance by an unspoken "norm" of white straight cis maleness, in an endless vast sea of power, privilege, education, status, of said group? Um, I think so. I don't want to perpetually be invisible or at the margins of every story, because by definition I cannot be in my real life story. Why should I be relegated to the edges in my artistic endeavors and consumption?

call and response

the response to bearing witness to massive and continued injustice is art. Trauma births beauty and shit fertilizes roses. And it feels good to channel the pathos.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

teachable moments

As a person who thirsts for justice and righteousness though imperfectly, when viewing say-small acts of prejudice and or ignorance, online or in person, you have to pick and choose your battles. Otherwise you will get crushed under the weight of the burden of teaching every ignorant thought action and deed you are witness to. Not that it's not worth trying--just know that there's a practical way to go about it without getting burned out and that generally is, choosing which moments are a time to teach and which moments are a time to trust that the prejudiced act will be encountered by another person or situation(and not take on the responsibility yourself). Learning self-care when you want to sacrifice self for others is imperative to keep on keepin' on in the struggle. A friend told me, you need to feed yourself and rest so you can get up and fight the next day (and the next one..etc.)


When we judge one anothers' life work or intentions we undermine the solidarity and bridges we can build across cultures, politics, socioeconomics, etc. Artists and activists encountering each other: If you don't like someone's art or way they're going about their social activism, you can state it, respectfully, but don't tear them down or question their right to do things in the way they feel called to do them. Support each other while holding each other accountable for self-destructive or generally destructive methods.

Careerism and Vocation and Power

Rhyming with and riffing on thoughts from bell hooks Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, furthering one's career and prestige by climbing on top of others seems at times a hindrance to living values of love and respect for peoples' humanity. A career and accumulation of power and influence can be exciting and come with many benefits, but often at the cost of relationships based in truly mutual affirmation. If the normative way to gain success is through accumulation of wealth, power, domination, and hierarchy, I want nothing to do with it.

Here's to dreaming and pioneering even when it's outside the normative mode, coming from another immigrant kid and kindred free spirit: "So by 30, I quit my corporate job, sold my possessions, and went traveling for three months. Three months turned into three years. I lived on organic farms and communes; I taught English at a monastery on the Burmese border; I studied Buddhism in Tibet, yoga in Indonesia, and boys in Australia. It was awesome. I was alive. And I came back to California saying things like, 'Let’s just trust the universe and let the gifts come.' And I actually meant it." from Christy Chan on the cultural roots of ballsy aunts and uncles.

writing as poison/cure

I've been thinking of Derrida's writings on the pharmakon while recently feeling the birth pangs of writing and understanding its simultaneously poisonous and medicinal effects. "The ‘essence’ of the pharmakon lies in the way in which, having no stable essence, no ‘proper’ characteristics, it is not, in any sense (metaphysical, physical, chemical, alchemical) of the word, a substance." Writing is hard.