Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lessons of Hate

Today I had a guest speaker from SIECUS, my homeboy Max, visit my class and students. He shared with us the work he does at SIECUS and showed this film to my class:


Lessons of Hate in the Bible Belt from Stuart Productions on Vimeo.


Have you heard of this issue? Debra Taylor has not been reinstated. One of the things you may notice from watching the video is that the students in the class are from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. Max shared with us that when he spoke with Debra Taylor, she shared that a majority of the youth at the school are Latino, Native, and Black with a sprinkle of White students. Some of the fears among the students in the class who heard the superintendent say he "hated queers" were Latino and some are not documented and do not feel comfortable talking out against someone of his authority and power. I definitely understand that! I can't recall being a very vocal young person to such people in power at my school either.

If our youth have teachers who want to teach respect for all people, but school authorities are pulling the cord on such efforts, if organizations like GLSEN exist, but schools enforce web monitors that filter out sites that have certain words such as "gay," "lesbian," and "bisexual" so students cannot access these spaces, I can't help but wonder if our schools are perpetuating the death of our youth. Many have argued that schools are breeding grounds for incarceration, they can also be breeding grounds for murder, and with abstinence-only programming, as former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, MD states, a breeding ground for child abuse.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A few of my favorite commercials & sex scenes

Here are my favorite commercials. It does not matter how many times I watch them I get a huge chuckle! Not only are they witty and clever, but the first one does some word play on one of my favorite words! The second one makes me laugh so much because it's about confidence, courtship, and a popular man of Color.







Now this sex scene is from the film How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer, a film I had certain expectations for and they were so not met. However, I did like these two scenes of Latinas choosing to have sex, masturbate, and the experiences they share across three generations of women. These were by far the best parts of the film.




Q & A: Bi, why do you hate the film Juno?

When the film Juno came out, people assumed that as a sexologist who works with youth and youth of color, that I would love the film. I didn’t. I still don’t. There were several issues that came up for me while watching the film, not only as a sexologist, but also as someone committed to social justice which includes access to quality care for ALL, media justice, and fair and accurate representations of communities of Color.

Here are my issues with the film:
1. no discussion or examination of class privilege
2. only 4 characters of Color (2 with speaking roles)
3. cultural appropriation (not sure that’s the best term, but I’ll use it for now)

Now, the film is about a young White girl who gets pregnant while still in high school She chooses to maintain her pregnancy and have the child adopted. Ok, fine. Now, I got into a few discussions with folks about what the class status was of Juno and her family. It is clear the adoptive parent(s) she chooses have a different class status than her own. What is not clear is what Juno’s class status is. I argue she is not from a working class family (and I say that knowing the importance of including more people as working class is important to have us acknowledged and fuck with how class is constructed in the capitalist society we live in). I think Juno is from a middle-class family and here’s why (keep in mind I’m viewing this from my particular lens as a working-class person):

1. Her step mother owns her own business (we know that White privilege can play a lot in how folks get loans to open businesses and such)

2. Her father is a skilled laborer, I think a plumber (and this is where a lot of the fuzzy convos about class come up)

3. She has a car she drives to school (it’s a minivan as I recall)

4. Look at all that she has in her bedroom. There are televisions in just about every room she is shown as being in her home.

5. She has money to purchase several home pregnancy tests without having a job (if you don’t know they can each cost up to $10)

6. She has access to wealthy people in her community

7. She's filled with self-entitlement (Yes, I know some working-class and working-poor can have the same sense of entitlement, but the script to me came off as not a witty and clever young teenage girl, but as a self-righteous entitled one!)

When it comes to characters of Color there was a VERY weak attempt to sprinkle us in this film. Look, if this is a film filled with White people and none of us (I mean it already is!), it’s what I expected anyway. But when I saw how they tried to include us in the film, I was instantly turned off and quite disgusted. As a reminder, here are the 4 characters of Color:

1. Valerie Tian plays Su-Chin Qah, a high school student with a very stereotypical accent. We first see her standing in front of the abortion clinic Juno goes to trying to get information and terminate her pregnancy. Tian’s character is shouting in broken English how abortion is murder, she will go to hell, and other religious right anti-choice rhetoric.

2. Once Juno arrives in the clinic, she looks around and sees a young Black woman who is very visibly pregnant (possibly in her second trimester) and has one child at her side who is clearly under 5 years old. She is filling out a form. We are lead to believe that the young mother wants to terminate her current 2nd trimester pregnancy. I read this as 1. Racist (the actress is not even mentioned in the list of characters, we are given the impression she is irresponsible, can’t find childcare for her current child, and just about any other stereotype we know all too well is attached to Black women and our sexuality), 2. Anti-choice (especially against women who choose second trimester procedures). All that and the young women didn’t even speak! She was only on the screen for less than 60 seconds and this is the impression we are left with! When I mention her, some viewers can’t even remember her. How ironic, when I’m the only one of my crew of mostly White sexuality educators who remembers her. PS you can’t take kids to an abortion clinic on the day they are performing terminations (perhaps if it is a medical clinic too providing other care) but usually abortion clinics ask you not to bring children with you.

3. Kaaren de Zilva plays the Ultrasound Technician. She has no speaking part, but plays a role in allowing Juno, her stepmother, friend and adoptive mother to have a first image of the child. A woman of Color played a huge role in the life of this young woman and her chosen adoptive parent(s) for her child and she barely speaks!

4. Aman Johal plays Vijay, the friend to Paulie (aka Juno’s male partner and biological father to their child) and on the track team with him. Vijay has the most speaking lines in the film, unfortunately, the are less than exception. His lines consist of talking about how he wants to grow facial hair to demonstrate his virility, and announce he’s going to “stop wearing underpants” to “raise his sperm count.” Is he not happy that he has not impregnated a young woman like Paulie has, even if it was unplanned? Are we left to think that Vijay wants to be a young father? Is sexually active? Is not using condoms with his partner(s)? Fuck!

I don’t know about ya’ll but I could have done without these 4 characters even being included. They distracted me and definitely gave me a different understanding and view of the film. I didn't read the film initially, or think it would be, anti-choice, but some of these representations lead me to believe that this film did want a level of anti-choice discourse/imagery, unfortunately, all of them where people of Color! What a stereotype!

Finally, the cultural appropriation, again, I don’t know if this is the appropriate term. Perhaps I should say “the performance of Blackness/otherness.” That seems to be a bit more on point for what I had trouble consuming as a viewer. It all began at the market where Juno takes her pregnancy test. The White sales clerk says to Juno something to the effect of “home skillet.” Anyway, Juno’s discussion with her girlfriend about her pregnancy leads into a discussion using a Snoop Dogg use of terminology such as “fo’ shizzle.” I can’t explain why it made me uncomfortable to watch this performance or why it rubbed me the wrong way, but it did. There was an attempt to use language in a way that was fully accessible when we know as a fact that language is not accessible to everyone. Maybe it’s too painful for me to get into and my subconscious is trying to protect me from a breakdown? Maybe I just don’t have the energy. Maybe I just don’t want to fight this battle anymore.

And that is why I'm not a fan of the film Juno.

Opera is sexy!

I've wanted to go to an Opera for about 3 years now. I didn't grow up hearing the genre, and can't remember when I as first exposed to it either. I do remember reading Madame Butterfly in high school and being fascinated by the relationship, sexual desire, and gender identity, expression, and expectations that were presented in the story. I also noticed the problematic aspects of the story, and how a US reading of a story does influence young people.

I shared this on twitter
, that I wanted to see an Opera, and Erika Lopez sent me tons of suggestions. One of the first suggestions she made to me was Ana María Martínez, a Puerto Rican Opera singer. She's a soprano. You can't listen to her and tell me there isn't some kind of sex appeal! If you've never heard of her or have given Opera a try, just listen for four minutes and tell me what you think!





Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Night Common Sense

This quote sticks with me for so many reasons. I've written about it before in the past, and even thought of using it to open up my dissertation on how Latino men from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean learn about intimate sexual relationships.

From Puerto Rican Bronx-born author Abraham Rodriguez, whose book Spidertown won the 1995 American Book Award. My absolutely favorite quote from this book:


The woman is supposed to know where she's at, where she belongs. It was all in his blood. To be the man. The woman just did what the man said. That was respect. Tradition. Yet Miguel was throwing it all away, the ghosts of a hundred million Latin machistas all hanging their heads and cursing him.

"I'm sorry," he whispered in the dark forest of her hair. "I didn't meant' order you around."

"Me neither," she said. They kissed and that was all that mattered in the world.

page 308

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gente, Our Youth Are Dying!

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've been devastated by the number of our youth of Color who have been murdered and who have committed suicide in the past month. You haven't heard of 18 year-old Angie Zapata, 11 year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, or 11 year-old Jaheem Herrera? The lack of media attention to our three youth infuriates me on numerous levels. I've heard too many stores on murdered race horses and a suicide by a big CEO, but nothing about our youth.

Images of Angie Zapata, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, and Jaheem Herrera have stayed with me for the past several weeks (Jaheem recently committed suicide). All three young people were harassed in school and heard anti-gay and anti-trans comments with limited to no teacher intervention/support. Carl and Jaheem, both 11 years-old, did not identify as gay or any other sexual orientation outside of heterosexual, yet the harassment they endured at school lead them both to hang themselves. They did not know one another, they lived in separate states, yet they were targeted and used the same mode of suicide. Angie was brutally murdered last July 2008 by a potential partner who beat her until she was dead because he questioned her biological sex, gender identity, and expression. He has been convicted of murder on all counts.

Transphobia and homophobia killed our youth. It is killing our youth. So why are we not talking about it? Why are we still not questioning what is going on? Maegan la Mamita Mala Oritz from VivirLatino.com asks why Latino media has done less than exceptional on addressing the murder of Angie Zapata. Seriously, why is the murder of a member of our community not enough to report on?

Activists like myself, and others are asking for ways to cope, heal, create, and mobilize around these deaths. I'm not a parent, and I don't plan to be, but that does not mean I think children should be abused, neglected, ignored, or expected anything less than reaching their full potential. I've worked with youth for 15 years and I'm committed to a positive youth development philosophy. As a result I can offer some suggestions for families and activists.

1. Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has chapters all over the United States. They have been following the hangings of Jaheem and Carl. The Colorado chapter, the state where Angie Zapata was murdered, has a great guide with suggestions for how to build a Gay-Straight Alliance, but also activities to promote discussion that you can do with youth in your home or classroom or community. Most of their literature is FREE.

2. Safe School Coalition offers a roundup of all the resources, posters, stickers, language available for free or for a small fee (less than $10) depending on what you are looking for when you click on the source. One of my personal favorites is this poster by the Wildflower Resource Network:


3. Talking With Kids/Habla Con Sus Hijos provides resources for parents, families, mentors, caregivers, foster parents, and other adults in a young person's life on topics from HIV/AIDS to violence to drug and alcohol use and abuse. Tienen informacion en español.

4. Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbian And Gays (PFLAG) provides support services as well as advocacy for people who care for or have a LGBTQ person in their life. This is such an important organization because if you do not know what to do when someone in your life comes "out" to you as LGBTQ, you are not alone. It may have been a process for the LGBTQ person in your life to get to a point where they wanted to "come out" and it may be a process for those of you who also are trying to learn and cope in ways that does not isolate the LGBTQ person in your life. They have chapters all over the US.

5. Know that you are not alone. If you are an activist, educator, young person, whoever you are, there are many of us mourning the deaths and trying to find ways to continue to do the work we do. If you cannot find a tangible space in your community, we are here. There are spaces online and activists online writing about these topics. Find us, reach out, write, cry, talk, dance, meditate, create, do whatever you need to do, but know you are not alone!

Paz, Luz y Amor

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recycle Your Sex Toys on Earth Day & Everyday

Today is Earth Day. It’s raining in NYC, which seems fitting. I’ve read lots, and lots and lots of posts about green sex toys that are currently available. Many of these toys are created by recycled material, have vegan ingredients, or are made of soy products. But, what about if your toy breaks, if you get a new one after ending a relationship, or if you just want to replace one that you are kind of tired of, what do you do with them? There are now options available for sex toy recycling! Below are some options:

1. Sex Toy Recycling.com provides this service. Not only do they recycle the toy for free, you also get a $5 voucher towards another sex toy at a store or at their upcoming online store for each toy you mail. I sent an email to see if they accept toys from outside the continental US, including US territories, as well as if the vouchers or upcoming online store will services those outside the US and haven’t gotten a response yet. I’m sure they will let me know when they can and I’ll update their response here. Read carefully their “How It Works” page, they ask you to wash your toy and mail it in a specific type of mailer. This means you will have to pay for shipping.

2. Recycle Your Sex Toy.com is a program by sex toy seller Dreamscapes. They offer a $10 gift card to their store and those of their affiliates (Vibrator Shopping.com) for every package you mail them. They will not think you are slick if you send 5 packages with 5 different toys to recycle. It kind of defeats the purpose, so instead, make sure you pay one amount and ship as many toys as you can at one time.

3. LoveHoney’s Rabbit Amnesty program is in the UK, where the law is to recycle all electronics, and vibrators fall under that law. To make this service more discrete, Love Honey launched their Rabbit Amnesty program in 2007. They want folks to bring their sex toy to the store for recycling, in exchange they will donate £1 to the World Land Trust, and they also offer 50% off a new rabbit vibrator. They have made an ad which is below and read more about what is actually done when they recycle your toy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sex Positive, Pornography, & Puerto Ricans!

I wrote about being at the Left Forum and on a panel on The Culture Wars and Sexuality this past weekend. A question arose, but it was unfortunately only directed to one person on the panel, Betty Dodson. The question was about the Feminist Sex Wars and pornography and if there could ever be a space for pornography, when it objectifies women, in a sex positive space.

As a woman of Color, a Latina, someone who identifies as a feminist, and sex positive, I admit that I like pornography. I understand a gendered analysis about how pornography objectifies women, and I think pornography, imagery, gender, and sexual expression is so much more complicated than one single issue. I think one of the reasons I feel this way is because I was exposed to pornography in a very specific way. I've also been a part of creating and critiquing pornography from numerous stances. When I was on the panel for a Deep Throat discussion at UM, I was the only woman of Color who discussed the issue of consent being rarely discussed with women of Color beingin the industry. When I teach about pornography I usually send my students to this PBS Frontline documentary: American Porn and the data presented by Violet Blue really demonstrates who is consuming pornography and paying for it, and it's not who you would think it would be!

My first encounters with pornography were with Vanessa del Rio. Not only was Vanessa one of the first women of Color in pornography, but also she was the first one I ever saw. Finding out that she was Puerto Rican only made me closer to her and what she represented. I found and still find pride in her as a Latina. She was powerful. I remember even today watching her on the screen and thinking to myself “I want to be able to walk in a room and be just as powerful and know I can devour anyone in the room.” I still feel this way today. There is something so strong about her presence and about how she represents herself, even if she isn’t behind the camera, she controls her image in ways I have yet to see many female porn stars control.

When Vanessa published her limited release book 50 Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior, I instantly wanted to own it, but the price tag was pretty high. Thanks to some connections I was able to get my hands on a digital copy that I’m still excited about owning.

I think impressions of pornography really can depend on how someone was exposed to the genre. If you were raised in a space where pornography was considered negative and abnormal, then it may be possible that your ideas of pornography may be influenced by such ideas. If you had never been exposed to pornography or desired to watch it and read anti-pornography material without understanding some other viewpoints, then some people may have a particular view of the genre. If you had a pleasant experience like I did with pornography then you may enjoy it more than some folks, even defend its existence.

At the end of the day, I am so thankful for Vanessa del Rio for not just being in pornography, but for always controlling how she represents herself and for being true to her identity, her sexuality, and her body. I hope that in some ways we can all achieve such comfort with who we are and with our choices in our lives. She identifies as a feminist and has a lot to say like in this recent interview she did with my friend Rob Perez.

Vanessa has a YouTube channel, and I found a video she posted about her work on her book. The video is posted below and is not safe for work (NSFW).



Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday Night Common Sense

If you don't know, this past week was the 25th anniversary of the book The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

I've decided to use a quote from an interview with her a few years ago. You can read the full interview here. Cisneros responds to a question about the "women’s idealization of white American or Mexican upper class standards of beauty and success."

I don't see any kind of mirror of power, male power, that is, as a form of liberation. I don't believe in an eye for an eye. I don't believe this is truly freedom. Revenge only engenders violence, not clarity and true peace. I think liberation must come from within. But you’re asking me now at 45 not 25 when I wrote the piece.

STIs with Dave Chappelle

Today I began our class on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) with a clip from The Chappelle Show season 2. This skit stars Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip. I did not show the entire clip, instead I only showed from the 5 minute mark to the ending, when they actually talk about STIs. I can't describe to you how happy and excited I was when Chappelle made this skit. The official name is KneeHigh Park. It is such a great teaching tool!

Other Chappelle skits I've used in my class were the Racial Draft when discussing racial formation and identity politics.

You can watch the full version of KneeHigh Park here. It is not safe for work (NSFW).

You can watch the Racial Draft below.

Chappelle's Show
The Racial Draft
comedycentral.com
Charlie Murphy VideosBuy Chappelle's Show DVDsBlack Comedy

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Left Forum: The Culture Wars & Sexuality

I'm on a panel this coming Sunday at the Left Forum Conference. The panel I am on is called "The Culture Wars & Sexuality" and is held from noon to 2pm. I will be on the panel with the following people:

David Rosen (Chair) - author, "Sex Scandal America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming"

Betty Dodson - long-term women's sexual freedom activist and author of "Orgasm for Two: The Joy of Partnersex"

Richard Kim - The Nation Institute


The panel will be on

"This panel of the 2009 Left Forum, “Sex & the Culture Wars,” will assess the Christian right’s impact on social, political and personal life. It will review the emergence and growth of this powerful movement and will question whether the 2008 election signals the emergence of a new sexual culture."


If you are in the NYC area and want to stop by please do! If you want to attend the full conference there is a sliding scale fee. However, there is no childcare available (another issue to discuss at another time because who has the privilege to find, hire and pay a provider on the weekend?)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why is street life so homophobic? Some Gs and Gents respond

I watch the show From G's to Gents. It is one of two shows on MTV that I still watch. This past week they had the reunion show where all the original men come back and discuss what occurred on the show. One of the reasons why I'm writing about this is because there was an interesting discussion regarding sexual orientation and a specific situation that occurred this season. A handful of the men had targeted and chose to identify a particular member in the house as a gay men. Mr. Bentley asked the men during the reunion show this question:

It seems like the "Gay" word is used when you ultimately want to damage a guys cred. Just period. Like I think that that is just, not about you all, I'm just saying, like just in general, I think that that is a real thing. So I want to open this up to all the gentlemen who are here right now. Why do you think that street life is so homophobic? Anybody can comment. Fahim, you want to go first?


Two men responded to this question. First was Fahim (my favorite for selfish erotic reasons) and Riff Raff. Fahim's response was a bit difficult to follow and I interpreted his comment as a perfect example of how compounded and complicated the topic is among men of Color and working class men. Fahim says:

Where I come from, you don't, you're not comfortable with it, it's not out there, it's not, it's not. See I would do the same thing. It's not right! I would try to correct it, but that's just what it is you know? You can't blame a man cause he's some kind of way, because that's how he's bought up. I ain't scared of shit in this mother fucking world. So there ain't no reason, this "homophobia" word, that word should be crossed out, like a new big word, let's put a new big word. If that's the question you asking, you know.


Next to speak was Riff Raff who shared this:

A lot of my friends is is gay, but they just happen to be females. I got fans who are whatever, whatever they do is whatever on them. I just fuck with strickly females see what I'm saying, so. But if there is someone who is gay or such and such, man that's their lifestyle, man I ain't even trippin on that. So then the way I see is like this, I see it like this: So if somebody's gay, if somebody's gay, that's just one less person I got to worry about pulling the baddest bitch in the club when I'm in that mug


Mr. Bentley responds to these statements by saying:
At the end of the day, I just don't allow discrimination of any sort. Period. End of story. Listen listen listen listen. I think that homophobia really is something that is passing away in urban America. It's abating in the same way that racism did. It went from being legal to illegal. Then it went from something said aloud to onto something that is said in private. And at long last today you see people who understand that it is not just a distraction from the real problems that we all face. But one of the things I can say is, I would like to say thank you to every one of you for being vary honest and for coming up here and putting this out in the open.




Mr. Bentley tried, and I was with him when he said he does not allow discrimination. That's a powerful statement. But then he did the whole color-free discourse I'm not too down with. I'm sure there are extended conversations and comments from others, or maybe that's my hope! But due to editing, all we get are two statements. I find it interesting the times when the audience claps and how 2 of the top 3 men, Blue and Teddy both look while Fahim is responding.

Below is the full reunion show. The conversation on homophobia begins at about 24:00 minute mark. This was the first time I've ever heard such a discussion being facilitated among the community. What do you think?



Thursday, April 16, 2009

Busted!

I've been teaching for over 10 years and it was not until about three years ago that I found the film Busted: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters created by the organization Flex Your Rights. I've used the film in my classes and students have ALWAYS thanked me afterwards for sharing with them the video and the important information. Well, Flex Your Rights has posted the video in full on youtube and I bring it to you here.

I'd also like to point out another feature on the Flex Your Rights site, and that is how to refuse searches on DC Metro, when do I have to show ID, and other frequently asked questions about police encounters.

Two important highlights:
1. Calmly and clearly say: "Officer, I do NOT consent to a search."

2. DO NOT RUN! (seriously, don't do it!)


Please spread the word and the video!


She's A Dancehall Queen For Life

I'm known to be an independent in more than one way, but most especially on the dance floor. I'll dance best believe I'll dance. But I don't want you telling me what to do with my body. So partner dancing where a "man" leads me is not going to happen unless I want it to happen. As a result, I LOVE dancehall. I can do what I want to do with my body and be all glittered up and fake eye lashed out and still be a member of the community and taken seriously! It's a performance that I personally love. When I go to a dancehall, I am in a form of drag, an exaggerated image/representation of what I believe my Caribbean female body can be presented as and I am in control of that image. I control the gaze.

One of my favorite movies EVER is Dancehall Queen. It is one of the first films that I saw that discusses Caribbean women's work. It demonstrates how working class and working poor women and mothers make choices, and it recognizes how dancing is a form of work. It shares how complex and important dancehall is to a community and culture. Plus, the leading female character is strong, has convictions, is complicated, and preservers. When was the last time we saw a Black Caribbean women in such a role?

In any event, I love watching some dancehall videos, especially the ones where women are hired because they can DANCE versus just hop around and throw their asses in the air against a semi-erect or twitching biological male's pelvis. That's why I really appreciated Sean Paul's earlier videos. I love how Sean Paul knows his dance skills are limited (or he chooses not to dance that much) so he 1. hires people who know how to dance, 2. he hires women that look like REAL women and 3. the women can dance. The dancing and the performance are at the center, at least from the lens I use to watch the videos. The women are strong, powerful, and are given space to demonstrate all their strength and abilities. The dance floor becomes a space for sharing creativity and exchanging aspects of power. After all, there are some "battles" in some of the videos on the dance floor.

So, what's dancehall got to do with sexuality? You tell me. I think sex is powerful and strong, just like the women dancing in the video. What do you think?


















Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sexual Baggage & Values

I attended the recent Guttmacher Institute Exchange entitled "Where Do Young People Learn About Sexual Health." There was a panel of six people, four adults and two youth speakers. I'm not going to sit here and rehash the entire panel because you can listen to it online as it was recorded. However, I do want to discuss one specific area that was very much a trigger for me as a sexuality activist, woman of Color, and educator.

The second speaker was William Juzang, the Vice President of Business Development of MEE Productions, a media organization that creates "cost-effective and culturally relevant messages for hard-to-reach urban and ethnic audiences." Juzang presented information from their Black youth sexuality research from 2002 entitled "This is My Reality – The Price of Sex: An Inside Look at Black Youth Sexuality and the Role of the Media." This is a national survey of youth from several cities in the US using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

When I first heard him mention this work I thought "Ok, this research is 7 years old since publication, which means it may be almost 10 years old, but let's see what they found and if anything has changed or stayed the same." I sat and listened to his overview of MEE Productions and how their work is imperative for our community. He addressed how understanding, as educators and communicators, where we are, what our baggage and issues are. I agree with this, but when he said it during his presentation it did not resonate with me until he began to share the findings from the research in their Black youth sexuality research.

On Juzang's second slide which was part of the qualitative focus groups, MEE Productions examined environmental factors that went into how Black youth learn about and are impacted by family, education, media, streets, influence of health care. He read off the list of items youth provided and then he said this:

"Black females are valued by no one."


I can't begin to explain to you the warm feeling I had that filled my body from my head to my toes. I clinched my teeth and tried to hold tears back as I heard him move to his second slide where they examined the statement further. Youth discussed the negative name calling, images seen in videos and other aspects of media, lack of "sisterhood," and women being in limited no win situations.

Data that is almost a decade old and our youth know that Black women are not valued by anyone in their community or outside of it. I've heard so many parents and educators talk about how we want to "protect" our youth from such negative messages, but how is it that regardless of how we raise them there are even more messages they come into contact with that tell the the opposite? How can years and years of work become undone so quickly and in such an intense and stunning way.

I was hurt. I am still hurting. Some may wonder why I am writing about this on a Latino Sexuality website, and that is for several reasons. First, Latinos can be of any race especially with the racial formation that is created and held in the US. Second, do we think this idea and belief (and fact!) that "Black females are valued by no one" excludes any other women of Color? This can clearly be applied to anyone who is considered "Other." Third, this affects all of us. Fourth, I believe we can make the same statement and include men of Color too.

As I listened to the rest of the panel, Juzang being the only Black male on a panel full of White women (the two youth were young people of Color), my palms started to sweat, I found myself restless in my seat, I zoned out and could hear my heart beat through my throbbing ears every time I swallowed my orange juice. i found myself questioning more of the panel's discussions in relation to this one statement Juzang had presented.

When the panel was opened to questions from the audience (there were about 50 people in the room), I put my pen down and put my palms on the side of my legs to absorb the sweat that had been produced. I wondered how I would ask all of my questions, should I comment on what Juzang had mentioned, would someone else bring it up besides me?

Four questions in and nobody brought it up yet. Topics of reaching youth and families who speak Spanish, how to make websites more youth friendly, and ways to reach parents were discussed. I raised my hand and was selected to comment and ask my question.

I warned participants and panelist that I had several questions and one comment. I chose to begin with my comment based on Juzang's research finding. I shared all that I wrote above about not being able to describe the feeling of seeing those words on a screen. I got choked up. I had to pause. I clinched my teeth so that I would not cry or let any tears fall. A few seconds passed and I realized the room was quiet. I looked up and saw Goddesses Rising who had invited me, looking at me with an expression of support, understanding and solidarity. I began to finish my comment and thanked Juzang for reminding me of this no matter how painful it was.

I shared with the group how Juzang's mention of educators and providers needing to understand what baggage we bring to a space resonated with me in a whole new way when this finding was presented. I realized this is my baggage. The fact that in the US I am not valued. My homegirls are not valued. We do not value one another. What kind of educator and activist am I if this is my baggage? How do I try to mask the fact that I know this to my youth? What is available or currently in existence for those of us in this field to regroup, process, and heal so that we can continue to do this work? I realized I do not have such a space and that it is sorely needed (happy hour doesn't count! Plus I'm not a huge drinker).

I've resisted writing this down because it is so painful. To be in a group of people committed to this movement of sexuality and sexual health and to have that ideology at the center of the work I do and there being no discussion of it any further than what I mentioned. I'm hurting.

I don't want to place blame on any one individual, that is not what this is about. It's about how our youth are so much more intuitive and astute than we give them credit for. They know what is going on no matter how much we think they don't. They know more than we think they do. Our youth know.

So, I ask, what is next? What do we do? How does knowing this information change how we work with our youth? How do we change our messaging? Do we discuss how our bodies have been abused, raped, ignored, tested, probed, murdered and how they continue to be? How do we create spaces for us to cope with this reality when we need it to continue the work that we do? I'm open to suggestions as I know a group of activists and educators are in the same situation as I am. We need to preserve not only or spirit, but our bodies, minds, rituals, cultures, families, community. We need to preserve and take care of ourselves and each other. A todo mi gente: I got your back.

Thank you Goddesses Rising for being present when I found myself struggling. Those few seconds gave me all the strength I needed to complete my thoughts and honor our bodies.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Night Common Sense

In the same spirit as I started using quotes and media to help shape the Sunday Night Common Sense, I will use this space. I'm still stunned at the work and labor I lost. So it is with this state of mind that I bring this evening's quote by the amazing Ana Castillo from her book Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanismas:

"Moreover, survival should not be our main objective. Our presence shows our will to survive, to overcome every form of repression known to mankind. Our goal should be to achieve joy."
(p. 146)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Starting Over

Had my hard drive crash. Since I’m away from NYC all my files from my external hard drive are there and not with me. Taking it one day at a time for now. This is a test to see if items will upload properly.

If you want to read past blog posts please visit Latino Sexuality and click on "Blog."

In the meantime enjoy this flashback video.

Paz