Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Latino Heritage Month Meets Reproductive Justice & Sexual Health: Focus on Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Cross posted from my RH Reality Check Blog

For Latino Heritage Month I’d like to try to expand our understanding and conversations about Latino sexuality during this month. Read previous people highlighted: Gloria Anzaldúa and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.

Dr. Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Activist

Activist and Guatemalean k’iche’ woman, Dr. Rigoberta Menchú has been a figure of resistance for many people in the Americas, especially indigenous communities. As some people my age, I was first introduced to Menchú through her book: Me llamo Rigoberta Menchu y asi me nacio la conciencia/II, Rigoberta Menchú. An Indian Woman in Guatemala published in 1983 when she was in her early twenties (and published in over 10 different languages).

At the time that I was assigned to read her book, almost twenty years ago, I did not completely appreciate the work she had done so early in her life. There were times when I actually complained about having to read her text, and I think that may have been connected to my own ignorance about the various forms of oppressions that occur(ed) in the Americas. I was also not really trying to hear all the Simón Bolívar Pan-American ideologies because I thought it too easily excluded Pan-African ideologies and that meant excluding me.

Today, I realize that her story continues to remind us that young people are powerful, and able to create and achieve social change. Having survived the murder of her parents, the Civil War in Guatemala that lasted over three decades (1960-1996), taught herself Spanish and other indigenous languages, and being the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner (awarded in 1992), Menchú is an amazing force for change. I’m reminded that youth can endure an amazing amount of terror and trauma and still heal. Often as adults, we need to remember this because sometimes we forget and project our ways of coping and healing onto youth, which may not be what they need.

As one of the founding members of the Nobel Women's Initiative, Menchú is one of six women from all over the world who have received the Nobel Peace Prize. The mission of the Nobel Women’s Initiative is described as follows:

It is the heartfelt mission of the Nobel Women's Initiative to work together as women Nobel Peace Prize Laureates to use the visibility and prestige of the Nobel prize to promote, spotlight, and amplify the work of women's rights activists, researchers, and organizations worldwide addressing the root causes of violence, in a way that strengthens and expands the global movement to advance nonviolence, peace, justice and equality. We accomplish this mission through three main strategies: convening, shaping the conversation, and spotlighting and promoting.

The Vision of the Nobel Women's Initiative is a world transformed, a nonviolent world of security, equality and well-being for all.

She’s been awarded over 30 honorary degrees from universities all over the world. But most importantly, and how I see her fitting into conversations of reproductive justice and sexual health, is how she shared the story of her community in her autobiography and how she responded to the criticisms.

When anthropologist David Stoll decided to research and disprove some inaccuracies of Menchú’s story, his argument was set in the ideology that we can only speak about things we have experienced intimately. When Stoll discovered that some of Menchú’s testimonio was not completely true, he failed to recognize the importance of the collective narrative and testimonio. Menchú has stated numerous times that her story is the story of her people. I very much appreciate this response to his critique and it really has impacted my work in ethnography and research as well.

Although many may be on the same page with Stoll not recognizing the importance of a shared narrative, many of us still refuse to recognize how imperative it remains. I’ve noticed that when people share their own testimonios, even those that we know are not unique to just one person, people still attempt to debunk in those narratives. For some reason people have more to say about people’s personal stories than about any other stories. All I need to do is look at the articles I’ve written here where I’ve gotten the most responses and they are all personal testimonios.

How will our ability to do intake, research, and create programs for communities expand when we embrace the reality that for many people, sharing a narrative is also a way of sharing the story and history of their community? How will this bring up new challenges in how to embrace these shared stories? How can we do this yet refrain from essentializing a community and recognize the differences and complexities for each individual? Finally, when will we in the reproductive justice movement recognize that government violence is not something that happens outside US borders, it happens here at “home” too? We have a collective history of governmental violence and violation that we have inherited. How are we making sure we recognize this history and work to maintain such oppressions do not find themselves here again?

As Menchú has stated: “We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism.”

Foto credit: Fundación Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Support “To The Other Side of Dreaming”

Support “To The Other Side of Dreaming”

In a flash of bold courage and brave vision Mia Mingus and Stacey Milbern began a journey of possibility the likes of which the world... well at least we’d never seen. “..two queer disabled diasporic Korean women of color in the process moving from the South to the Bay to create home and community with each other”?! While surely such a phenomena cannot be new to the universe, have YOU ever heard of such an amazingly beautiful thing?!

This radical act of love and reclamation cannot be performed alone. The costs of moving from coast to coast is daunting for anyone, yet even more daunted when dealing with the realities of our able-bodied and inaccessible world.

In an effort to lend our support to two of our favorite people we are working to help them raise the $12,000 necessary to make their dream a reality.

Energized by the collective spirit that their move embodies, we are calling on our communities to support their vision by giving what ever you can give!

Let’s put our money where our Disability Justice rhetoric is!

As Mia writes, “the reality that once we're there, there aren't even going to be that many places we can go to, get into, be with people in. Will we be able to go over to people's houses to build with them outside of public spaces (the limited accessible public spaces that is)? the knowledge that what we are doing here is finding not just space for us, but for community as well. we are finding home to be intimate with people in, to be queer in, to be women of color in. we are making accessible queer space, accessible queer people of color space, accessible disabled queer people of color space, for all of us; something that i have been yearning for for what seems like forever. places where we can begin to build past these concrete divides of stairs, money, bathrooms, doorways, reading, speaking...silence and exclusion.”

Don’t you want to be a part of this awesome vision?! Don’t you want to build this amazing inclusive community?!

We thought so! So here’s how!

Chip In!

$12,000 is a lot of money but it’s the actual, for real, no frills, cost to get Mia and Stacey to the bay.

* For Stacey and PA to go out to see a house and/or continue house/housing hunting on next trip flight for two - $750
* PA gas and tolls to get to Mia’s house in ATL- $150
* PA food for a week - $125
* PA pay ($150 x 5 days) - $750
* For Mia to go out to the bay again to either do the walk through (since the house won't be ramped yet) or go and continue looking for housing since Stacey won't be able to go and look at most things to see if they can be modified to be made accessible flight - $300

House alterations (if they get this house):

* Main ramp: $1,215
* Home modifications: $500

* Personal care attendants at 8 hrs a day $15 a hour for 2 months: $7320. This will be for the 2 months (we hope it's only 2 months!) when Stacey is moving her state services over to CA.
* Taxi from airport because of no access to van: $40
* Extra crip baggage: $50
* Shipping our stuff: $800

But building collective disability community... priceless!

If you’d like your contribution to correspond with one of the above needs, let us know by leaving us a note with your donation!

And of course, money isn’t the only way you can help! Check out these other creative fundraising ideas that folks have come up with!

* Etsy Sale - Join Teukie Jae in creating jewelry to sell w/ all proceeds going to The other side of dreaming
* Thaura Zine Distro Sale for The Other Side of Dreaming - people are selling books from their personal libraries to make it happen!

If you have other ideas (like you’ve got a moving truck or you and friends can build a ramp) please email us at totheothersideofdreaming@gmail.com!

In radical love,

the Quirky Commune aka 2/3 or simply, Moya & Yolo

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Beautiful Ones

After having a convo with my homegirl Sparkle, I have realized there is some kind of pattern: men of Color are not valuing themselves, are not putting their healing as a priority, and thus are not willing to give themselves permission to accept and receive the love we, radical women of Color, have to give them.

The Beautiful Ones always smash the picture; always; every time.

So why do these beautiful men of Color that we love and adore limit their transformation and healing? Better yet, what does this resistance result in for each of us? How are we changed? Unchanged?

The Beautiful Ones you always seem to lose.

I hope these beautiful men of Color do not allow themselves to be lost. And when they are ready they find another radical woman of Color who is willing to fill them with all the love, support, and acceptance and nourishment they need but did not allow themselves to accept from us. I hope someone is present for them in the ways they need.

Maybe they know too well that our love is exactly what they need but are not ready to transform for whatever reason. Maybe they know exactly what they are doing by resisting us, but are unaware of the consequences.

You were so hard to find.

Maybe they have no idea how rare it is that radical women of Color like Sparkle and I are filled with such love, affection, loyalty, and desire for one person in such a way that they don't realize the amazing and unique gift it is.

I may not know where I'm going, I may not know what I need, One thing's for certain, I know what I want.

I want you.

We want you. But you got to want to be wanted. You got to want to transform and heal with us, not for us.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Latino Heritage Month Meets Reproductive Justice & Sexual Health: Focus on Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Cross posted from my RH Reality Check Blog

For Latino Heritage Month I’d like to try to expand our understanding and conversations about Latino sexuality during this month. Read my last post that highlighted Gloria Anzaldúa.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
, PhD
Professor, Sociologist, Activist

In 2005 when I was pursuing a PhD in Women’s Studies I read a book in a graduate seminar I took at the University of Maryland with Dr. Patricia Hill Collins. Dr. Collins had been appointed to the Sociology Department and our class was called Critical Race Theory and included 15 graduate students. It was a small intimate class that met for 3 hours once a week. It was in that class that I was introduced to the work of Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.

His book Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States has been a book that I’ve gone back to again and again while doing work in sexual health and reproductive justice. Bonilla-Silva is an Afro-Puerto Rican scholar living in the US and focusing his work on racial stratification. His original goals for his research may not be centered in reproductive justice, but his findings have an impact on the work we are doing.

As a faculty member at Duke University, Bonilla-Silva has continued the work he has begun with Racism Without Racists and I remember vividly when I received his latest book, an anthology with Tukufu Zuberi, in the mail: White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology. This anthology is an amazing contribution to the field of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods data collection. Not only does it provide a critical analysis of how methodology limits certain narratives and experiences from being examined and collected, it also highlights how scholars of Color are forging a space to make methodology work in ways that are more inclusive and less oppressive. I wonder how many, if any, researchers and writers at major inter/national reproductive and sexual health organizations have read this text prior to continuing to collect and examine data.

In Racism Without Racists, Bonilla-Silva conducts several interviews over a period of time about people’s thoughts regarding race and “race relations” in the US. One part of his research is devoted to talking with White people from various class backgrounds and geographic locations. What draws me to his work again and again are his findings on/with working class White women in the US. He writes:

“…[Y]oung, working-class women** are the most likely candidates to be racial progressives. This finding contradicts the claims of most of the media and scholars (from Theodore Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality onward), who contend “racists” are poor or working-class whites. These commentators contend poor whites project their fears, their sense of losing out, and their concerns with demographic, civil, and political changes in America onto racial minorities” (p. 132).

I can't recall where or who told me, but I do remember being told that working-class and working-poor White people were rarely on television or interviewed in the media because they do not have the knowledge or ability to mask their bias and racism. The stereotype that working-class and working-poor Whites are all racists regardless of geographic location is erroneous when utilizing a gendered lens, especially based on what Bonilla-Silva found. When I read Bonilla-Silva’s book I realized this stereotype is deep and still oppressive. He states, “[p]reliminary analysis of survey and interview data from these two projects suggest that younger, educated, middle-class people are more likely than older, less-educated, working-class people to make full use of the resources of color-blind racism***” (p. 71). This is a great example of how power is misused and affects us all.

If we recognize this in the work we are doing with White youth, how does our work shift with the conversations around reproductive justice and sexual health? Are we addressing the ideas of the “younger, educated, middle-class” people taking more advantage of race neutrality than their “older, less-educated, working-class people”? This is a shift when “younger, educated, middle-class” White people were who helped push a Civil Rights and Human Rights agenda forward decades ago. What would a program dedicated to “older, less-educated, working-class” white people look like and how would it be received by a provider/doctor/practitioner/educator of Color? Would it be similar to how Dr. Woodrow Myers, a Black male doctor, was received in 1987 who discussed HIV and AIDS in the US on an Oprah in West Virginia? What would happen if nationally supported comprehensive sexuality education curricula recognized class, ethnicity, race, immigration status, and how they intersect versus only focusing on sexual orientation and gender diversity?

Bonilla-Silva states that among respondents, most of them “admitted they had problems with interracial marriage in the interviews brandished a laissez-faire or color-blind view on love.” He discusses interracial marriage and dating in depth and states:

“Love was described as a matter of personal choice between two people and, thus, as no one else’s business because ‘love conquers all obstacles’… Yet, this endorsement of color blindness in romantic relationships cannot be interpreted in a straightforward manner. Most respondents qualified their support in such a way or lived such segregated lifestyles and their laissez-faire positions on this subject seem empty. Furthermore, too many whites express an aversion for blackness (‘negrophobia’) that casts doubt on their professed color blindness.” (p. 117, emphasis in original)

What assumptions do we as providers/educators/practitioners make about how and with whom our clients partner? One finding that Bonilla-Silva explores in depth after his interviews is the idea of working-class White women as committing “racial treason” because they are the most racially progressive of their cohorts.

“In this chapter I profiled white racial progressives…I found that young, working-class women are more likely than any other segment of the white community to be racially progressive. They were more likely to support affirmative action and interracial marriage, have close personal relations with minorities in general and blacks in particular, and understand that discrimination is a central factor shaping the life chances of minorities in this country. Most also admitted that being white is an advantage in this country” (p.144).

How have our experiences trying to build community and resources across race and ethnicity in the reproductive justice movement worked (or not worked)? I know I have very specific experiences which continue to this day, and I wonder how this ideology of racial treason, but in professionally and activist circles the practical part of this may get tangled. More so, how have some of us, people of Color, embraced a race neutral discourse in the movement? How do we begin to hold one another accountable while also building with one another at the same time?

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has given us information, frameworks, and tools to begin conversations to create and build change, how can we use them in our movement? How are we limited or limiting ourselves?

** Bonilla-Silva’s qualitative interviews included transgender women and their beliefs and values are included in these findings.

***I am not a fan of the ablest term “color-blind racism” as it positions people with disabilities as being the “same” as people who embrace a race neutral ideology, which is a form of racism. I use the term because it is a direct quote. Instead, I will use the term “race neutral/ality.”

foto credit: Afro Presencia

Open Letter To Tyler Perry

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

Dear Tyler Perry,

I hope you are doing well because I really don’t want to even write this letter. I’ve actually delayed in writing you because I really do love writing and sending letters and fun things in the mail to my friends. As my homegirl Erika Lopez wrote in her book Flaming Iguanas: “It’s almost love, and sometimes it really is love. It means someone thought of you for more than the fifteen seconds it took to dial your number and leave the message for you to call them back.” Snail mail is a dying form of media and I seek to keep it going for as long as I can!

And I want to be clear that I don’t love you in the ways that the mail I send often transmits to its recipients. I do love you as a man of Color who is a survivor and a media maker. I don’t love the media that you make. It’s just not the media I need in my life to help me find affirmation, support, courage, and a desire to continue the work I am doing. I do find in your media more work for me to do. I’ve used some of your films in conversations, yet often those conversations are to deconstruct and critically examine the manipulation of gender, race, class, ethnicity, location, religion and choice as presented in your films.

So let me be clear: Please don’t (continue to) misuse your power. You’ve built an empire in the institution of “Hollywood” which is rare and a huge accomplishment. There is a lot of power that you have and whether you like it or not, that means that you may have power over people too. In building your empire (and history has shown us that “every empire eventually cease to be” as the Welfare Poets noted on their track “Color Me Red”), you’ve created what my homegirl Sparkle has called a “one stop shop.”

Unfortunately, the choices that one stop shop has made have been less than exceptional. I mean the posters for the film are horrendous! And why did you make the decision to have all the characters have their hair straightened (minus Whoopi who wears a head scarf for what seems to be the entire time)? For WHY?

When I thought about completing the writing of this letter it was because I began to reread a book that I did not enjoy on my first read: Avery Gordon’s “Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination.” Gordon writes about the idea of complex personhood and it really helped me to figure out why the work you do is important to so many people. As my homegirl Aiesha, aka Super Hussy, mentioned several months ago on Twitter (I’m paraphrasing): “Tyler Perry films fill a specific need for some people.” She describes complex personhood as the following:

“complex personhood is the second dimension of the theoretical statement that life is complicated. Complex personhood means that all people (albeit in specific forms whose specificity is sometimes everything) remember and forget, are beset by contradiction, and recognize and misrecognize themselves and others. Complex personhood means that people suffer graciously and selfishly too, get stuck in the symptoms of their troubles, and also transform themselves. Complex personhood means that even those called ‘Other’ are never never that. Complex personhood means that the stories people tell about themselves, about their troubles, about their social worlds, and about their society’s problems are entangled and weave between what is immediately available as a story and what their imaginations are reaching toward. Complex personhood means that people get tired and some are just plain lazy. Complex personhood means that groups of people will act together, that they will vehemently disagree with and sometimes harm each other, and that they will do both at the same time and expect the rest of us to figure it out for ourselves, intervening and withdrawing as the situation requires. Complex personhood means that even those who haunt our dominat institutions and their systems of value are haunted too by things they sometimes have names for and sometimes do not. At the very least, complex personhood is about conferring the respect on others that comes from presuming that life and people’s lives are simultaneously straightforward and full of enormously subtle meaning” (p. 4-5).

So in the spirit of complexity, I’m trying to meet you where you are at, or where you allow me to meet you at.

There have been many people in my life who have written about you and what you are doing and I see no need to redo what has already been done. I do want to thank you for at least two things: recognizing that people of Color, especially Black people’s stories are important and valuable. I also thank you for reminding me that I must embrace completely texts that changed my life and the life of so many people I surround myself with on a regular basis. “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Was Enuf” is a text and piece of art I used to teach and now I’m going to continue to do so because it’s important for everyone to be exposed to the artifact and let it speak to them on their terms versus having the text constructed for them in a particular way.

Power with, not power over.


For those of you who have yet to see the trailer for this film check it out below:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

National Sexual Freedom Day

Today, September 23, is the first annual National Sexual Freedom Day. It is also the 144th anniversary of the Grito de Lares. There is so much irony in this day being held on the same day as Puerto Rico’s only attempt at independence.

When I think of a colonized body, how we put restrictions on what we, and other people can do with their own bodies, this, to me, speaks to the purpose of the Grito de Lares. I also think to the ideas of decency and what is proper, and how US presence shifted those ideologies in Puerto Rico and scholar Eileen J. Suárez Findlay writes about in her book Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico, 1870-1920. Findlay discusses how Whiteness was/is valued and connected to ideas of decency and respectability in a gendered and elitist way.

For me there is very little sexual freedom that can be experienced from a space that is still rooted in a colonial legacy. How can I find freedom if the homeland that I want to be a part of is not sovereign? I cannot “go back to where I came from” because the US will not give up our homeland. Wherever I go, the mainland of Puerto Rico or the US, there is no escaping the cultural imperialism that has been a part of the history, which I’ve inherited.

What does sexual freedom mean to me? It means the same thing when I think of what Puerto Rico libre means to me:
• Having a home to go to.
• Having a home that is safe for everyone.
• Self-determination.
• Affirmation of identity and rituals.
• An end to oppressions.
• Freedom to be and identify as anything other than racially White and not be criminalized or targeted.
• Dedication to communication, listening, and speaking.
• Supporting families in whatever form they are.
• Reshifting our ideas on poverty and attempting to eliminate it.

I don’t only hope for these things for Puerto Rico, I hope them for all of us. Sexual freedom is complex and interdisciplinary. There is no way for me to discuss sexual freedom without recognizing all that makes the ideas of freedom a challenge and struggle, yet one that many of us have dedicated our lives to.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reflecting On HIV With Oprah

This is a video of Oprah reflecting on HIV and AIDS in the US from 1987.

Click here to find out where to get an HIV test.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Latino Heritage Month Meets Reproductive Justice & Sexual Health: Focus on Gloria Anzaldúa

Cross posted from my RH Reality Check blog

The first week of Latino Heritage Month has passed and there are three more to go. As someone who does not often “celebrate” this month in “traditional” ways expected for educators and some activists, I’d like to try to expand our understanding and conversations about Latino sexuality during this month.

As a result my goal is to discuss the work of a few people whose research in the field of sexuality, reproductive justice, and sexual science intersects with Latino studies in the US and internationally. I’d like to see this as a series highlighting a few folks each week whose existence and work has made it possible for my peers and me to continue to do the work that we are doing. In addition, I hope that the conversations that often happen during this month: “Latino vs. Hispanic,” “Representations of Latinos in Media,” and “Latinos and Higher Education” can shift to focus on and include reproductive justice and topics of sexuality that are not often on the high list of conversations to have during this month.

If you are seeking other outlets and sources of information to help you expand your efforts and recognition of Latino heritage Month, I’d like to suggest some sites. Each of these offer resources and opportunities for people to contribute, expand their knowledge, and read other’s opinions/testimonies about their Latinidad. My good friend Maegan La Mamita Mala Ortiz began the 30 Days of Latino Heritage Tumblr page encouraging people to contribute to sharing what they consider to be necessary to celebrate during this time. I, along with several other activists, were inspired by Maegan’s work and we began the LatiNegr@’s Tumblr page where we expand ideas of Blackness and include a conversation and affirmation of Blackness and African identity among Latinos. You may also submit to the LatiNegr@’s Tumblr page as well.

I want to start with a few folks who many may already be familiar with and I hope that in being reminded of them, discussions can further in new ways.

Gloria Anzaldúa, PhD
Scholar, Poet, Writer, Activist

It seems fitting to me, someone who adores theory, but does more “practical” work, to begin with Gloria Anzaldúa. It was at the time of her death over 5 years ago that I began to write online and blog about sexuality and our community. I had read This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, and had just finished readings parts of This Bride We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation for part of a doctoral program I was in when I heard of her death. It was May 18, 2004, four days after her death, when I wrote my first online post for the world to see. And they did see. I shared how her death had affected me.

but anzaldua means more to me, i am a chicana feminist, a puerto rican, a woman of color, a border crosser. her writings, and i'm not just talking her creative pieces, but i'm talking her theory; have been irreplaceable in my ethnic/racial/sexual/social identity. when i think of how i see myself as not just puerto rican, but as latino, as chicana, as part of la raza, anzaldua's work it what helped me achieve that acceptance of community difference, need, change and mobility is paramount….i waited too long and missed out on making my physical connection. i've learned from and decided that i am going to make contact with those i believe to be influential, important, essential, and fierce leaders in my community, in our community now, instead of later. i encourage us all to do the same, don't wait for somebody to come at you, go to them. viva la lucha de luz, paz y amor viva la memoria de los revolucionarios viva puerto rico libre

Paramount to my consciousness as someone, who at that time identified as a feminist, and today who does not but as a radical woman of Color, I often felt lost in US feminisms. There was something that just kept telling me I wasn’t welcome (and this remains true today, and I know what it is). I found myself wondering, “why are all the Latina feminist thought we are exposed to focusing on Chicana identity?” I felt I had to choose to be a Latina Feminist and that was odd to me because I felt more Caribbean than I did Latina. After all I was raised in a Caribbean home, not a Latino one. It was not until I read Borderlands/La Frontera that I realized there was a place for me in Anzaldúa work. Anzaldúa writes:

The first time I heard two women, a Puerto Rican and a Cuban, say the word “nostoras,” I was shocked. I had not known the word existed. Chicanas used nosotros whether we’re male or plural. Language is a male discourse.

To this day, when I read that passage, the note I wrote in the margin “Caribe Women” means more to me than any paper I wrote, any book I read, and any lecture any of my Women’s Studies professors gave. Anzaldúa called out negative aspects of "machismo," while realizing that it does not always translate in the same way for all of us as I’ve shared before. This was so important, because it allowed me the opportunity to still love my father without feeling guilty or wrong because he loved me. His love for me did not mirror what I was reading in the literature and supposed to realize was oppressive.

Anzaldúa was one of the first out Lesbian Chicana writers in the US. Her contributions to examining the intersections of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, location, ethnicity, and language have changed the way we think and speak about feminisms in the US, especially Latin@ feminisms, and oppressions in general. Her work on spiritual activism is one that I find imperative to the work many of us want, choose, and continue to do in the field of reproductive justice and sexual health. The language and terms she’s given us allow our conversations and goals to expand and cross borders, just as our bodies have. Take for example her term “nepantleras” which she has described in the Preface of This Bride We Call Home as:

“Whenver I glimpse the arch of this bridge my breath catches. Bridges are thresholds to other realities, archetypal, primal symbols of shifting consciousness. They are passageways, conduits, and connectors that connote transitioning, crossing borders, and changing perspectives. Bridges span liminal (threshold) spaces between worlds, spaces I call nepantla*, a Nahutl word meaning tierra entre medio. Transformations occur in this in-between space, an unstable, unpredictable, precarious, always-in-transition space lacking clear boundaries. Nepantla es tierra desconocida, and living in this liminal zone means being in a constant state of displacement—an uncomfortable, even alarming feeling. Most of us dwell in nepantla so much of the time it’s become a sort of “home.” Though this state links us to other ideas, people, and worlds, we feel threatened by these new connections and the change they engender. I think of how feminist ideas and movements are attacked, called unnatural by the ruling powers, when in fact they are ideas whose time has come, ideas as relentless as the waves carving and later eroding stone arches. Change is inevitable; no bridge lasts forever.

*I use the word nepantla to theorize liminality and to talk about those who facilitate passages between worlds, whom I’ve named nepantleras. I associate nepantla with states of mind that question old ideas and beliefs, acquire new perspectives, change worldviews, and shift from one world to another.”

How does our work shift or gain new meaning when we realize, as Anzaldúa says, todas somos nos/otras (we are all one/another (it always sounds and reads better in Spanish). Before she died she was working towards a doctorate degree in Literature and a year after her death she was awarded it posthumously by the University of California at Santa Cruz. Anzaldúa work demonstrates the power and importance of the public intellectual and independent scholar.

In what ways do you see Anzaldúa having left us with a legacy? How do you see incorporating her ideologies into the work you are doing? What are the many ways we can incorporate her work into our curriculums with youth?

foto credit: UC Santa Cruz

Friday, September 17, 2010

AAP's "Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media:" What's Included and What's Missing?

Cross posted from my RH Reality Check Blog

Before school was back in session for the fall, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) released a revised statement regarding youth, sexuality, contraception and media consumption. The statement was published online on August 30, 2010 and in print on September 3, 2010 in the Pediatrics journal. “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media” with lead author Victor C. Strasburger, MD, is not a new discussion for the AAP, as they made a similar statement, with the same title, almost 10 years ago.

In short, the AAP, states that the media (television, music, movies, magazines, and the Internet) impacts the perspectives and education youth receive regarding birth control, sexuality, and choices in general. They make eight recommendations for what pediatricians can do to be more useful and effective sources of information and care for their clients. The eight recommendations include:

1. Include at least two questions about the media during intake.

2. Pediatricians should (yes they used that term) counsel parents and guardians on the importance/impact of the media, helping them recognize the access their child has not only to TV, but the Internet and social networking sites.

3. Pediatricians and other groups should advocate and demand media create messages that are more responsible in their representations of sexual and reproductive health.

4. Pediatricians should encourage schools to incorporate comprehensive sexuality education and media literacy into their curricula.

5. Pediatricians should also advocate for the advertisement of birth control including emergency contraception.

6. Pediatricians should advocate that advertisements for erectile dysfunction ads on television be limited after 10pm.

7. Pediatricians should advocate to the broadcast media to provide “healthy” messages of sex and sexuality in their programming.

8. Pediatricians should partner with various non-governmental organizations, community organizations and the government to do further research on the impact of the media on youth and their sexual health choices.

I’ll admit that I was not expecting too much from the AAP. One of the main reasons I didn’t have high expectations is because often when membership organizations make statements about issues that may intersect with their field, they don’t always “get it” right. To be honest, the main thing that stood out to me about this list of recommendations and the overall statement was the incorporation of media literacy. For me, there is media literacy and then there is media justice. AAP is making a good first step in recognizing the importance of having our youth be literate and critical consumers of media. As an educator, I often include media literacy in my syllabus and have done so in all of my syllabi over the past 4 years. Yet, do they consider a media justice approach for the future?

I’m also impressed at the encouragement AAP provides its members to become activists in their community with educators, and schools, but also nationally and internationally with reaching out to media representatives. Areas that I think is not addressed are issues of access and class. How are youth who do not have access to certain types of media not being reached in general? If we are to look at how certain media is being used, how MTV is now partnering with social media outlets or the Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline is incorporating, these require 1. access to cable television (MTV specifically), 2. access to the Internet, and 3. access to a cell phone.

Last week I introduced theory to my sociology students. We discussed modernism and post-modernism and one of the ways I explained post-modernism was “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” (Ride with me all you post-modernists, I’m trying to give them a flavor of various theories, attract them to it). If we assume that more “choices” leads to more “freedom” does it really matter when those choices don’t even reach the most under-resourced groups? What does the “freedom” of those communities not reached look like if they aren’t even given the choice in the first place?

I write that to connect this idea of reaching youth in various ways, specifically the media, and to examine what types of media may not be included. Just as the AAP has argued emergency contraception rarely, if ever (I’ve never seen an ad on TV), gets airtime on television, there are many types of media that do not reach our youth. There is also an odd link to the direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies that is supported in this suggestion. The suggestion to limit erectile dysfunction advertisement may not be the most supported recommendation as many physicians who do such work may still be associated, invested, and paid by pharmaceutical companies. I also wonder what the AAP may think of the net neutrality debate, where it may take a position on such issues that may arise. Would they support a open Internet or a regulated one?

What Do We Expect From a Sexual Attitudes Reassessment Workshop?

Cross posted from my RH Reality Check Blog

Earlier this summer I received a letter that I wrote to myself after a training I took last year. The training was a SAR (Sexual Attitudes Reassessment) at the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) annual conference. When this (love) letter arrived I had several memories that were triggered; not all of them were positive.

When I attended my first AASECT conference it was with the goal of becoming a certified sexuality educator in the US. I spent over $1000 to travel to Arizona, get a hotel room, pay for conference registration and pay for the SAR I had to participate in to complete the application process to become certified. Let me be clear, this all came out of pocket and I’m still paying off most of this that was put on a credit card. After my experience at the SAR, which occurred before the conference, I knew this was not an organization that had a space for me.

Not only was the conference overwhelmingly White, but it was extremely elitist. As a working class person of Color I immediately felt out of place. It did not help that the registration desk didn’t have my information or packet when I had spent well over $700 to attend. I wrote about my experience there in a three part series, my triptych. But I want to focus more on my experience in the SAR more than anything else. I’m not against having to attend the SAR, I was looking forward to the experience and to being challenged and affirmed in the work I am doing.

Unfortunately, that was not what occurred. I’m in support of encouraging those who wish to enter or work in the sexuality field to attend a SAR. What I’m concerned about is the content of the SARs. A SAR is supposed to help participants examine and interrogate their level of comfort and awareness around multiple issues and topics that are a part of our sexuality. The exercise takes place in a group setting, where people do individual, paired, or group activities of discussion/sharing and/or education over a period of about 10-15 hours. The SAR is also an opportunity to understand what our limitations may be as providers and to recognize them and when to provide referrals for clients and for ourselves. My SAR was a two-day experience, and left me upset at having to pay so much for the less than exceptional experience.

I wonder what goes into creating a SAR for some people who provide them. Not only was the data and information introduced and provided to us over two decades old, yes data from 1990 was used, it was also extremely isolating and othering. The topics covered included: sexual health, culture and sexuality, positive sexuality (which focused on sexuality over the lifespan), body image, human sexual response, and challenges/ranges of sexual behaviors. The images that were presented were primarily of racially White able-bodied heterosexual people. Only when sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability were presented did we see different representations. There were a handful, literally less than 8 images out of over 50 and some videos, which had people of Color. Of those images of people of Color they were specifically introduced when discussing culture. The bodies of the people, even the people with disabilities and their partners, did not range in size, to be clear: there was only one image of a “body of size” or a “fat body.”

The discussion of culture and sexuality was ridiculous. All of the “culture” that was presented was outside US borders and society. We saw images of Pygmy communities, berdache/two-spirit communities (the same foto that is used in every discussion was used in our slideshow), and all the other images and representations I’m almost positive I blocked out to save my sanity over the two days. Let me be clear: when it came to “culture” in sexuality, we were taken outside the US, as if there is not any difference or culture that people must understand and interact with in the US or even in the group we formed!

As a person of Color, a fat woman, and someone who paid out of pocket for the SAR, I did not get the opportunity to explore my professional challenges or see myself as a sexuality educator presented. The conversations I was a part of were extremely superficial and many of the older White people I shared my space and time with were condescending (one woman told me I had a “baby face” when I said I love the idea of aging to not be questioned by older sexuality professionals), and dismissive (when one man spoke of his experience in the kink community as being racially inclusive, I mentioned how race play is one area in the kink community where I don’t see too much support for the people who consent to such experiences, he rolled his eyes and sighed heavily as I spoke).

I quickly realized the SAR is not about sexual or reproductive justice, it’s not about social justice, it’s not about examining our –isms or how our –isms may make others lose respect for us as professionals. I shared this and more on my feedback form at the end of each session. I left the SAR wondering: what would this look like if it centered justice and transformation? How would my experiences and those of my peers be different? I’ve realized there is a need, a very real need for SARs that are inclusive in ways that many sexuality professionals have yet to even consider.

I know this may not have been anything near the same experience for the 40 plus participants that attended the same SAR I did. For those of you who have attended a SAR or who are planning to create one, what have been your experiences?

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Love MACHETE, I Hate The Discourse

cross posted from my media justice column


The new film by Robert Rodriguez, MACHETE, is a story about an undocumented Mexican immigrant who becomes a vigilante fighting for social justice and revenge against the Mexican drug lord who killed his family. To the surprise of no one I was too excited to see the film. Not only do I adore character actors because they usually make films bearable, but I also wanted to see a Latino film that has national distribution and marketing support. Danny Trejo, one of the most popular Latino character actor next to Luis Guzman, plays the lead and he is joined by an all star cast: Michelle Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Jeff Fahey, Don Johnson, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan and Cheech Marin. Over the first weekend of its national release, MACHETE has made millions of dollars.

Numerous communities have received the film in a multitude of ways and there are a few trends that I’m getting tired of reading about. This is a critique on the conversations that are occurring, not so much a review of the film, which I did write and you can read here. I’ll share my bias up front, I do love this film. I see it as a cultural artifact of which I must own when it is available on DVD. I’m also a fan of Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jeff Fahey, and the three of them in a film together that centers Latino struggles in the US is going to win me over. There is also recognition of complementary healing practices in the film, which also wins me over every time!

My homegirl and doula mentor, Sparkle, often shares this quote that I find appropriate to begin this discussion: “I carry a machete in the folds of my skirt.” Sparkle shares this as one facet of the Orisha (a spiritual deity in many belief and spiritual systems) Yemaya, an Orisha of water, protection, and motherhood. I find it extremely fitting for this discussion as it gives power to women, it’s a recognition of the work we do, honors the many ways we may express our gender identity, and embraces the African and indigenous aspects of our communities and cultures.

First thing I’m tired of reading: that many of the lead characters and the director don’t speak Spanish. This critique and conversation is drenched in the idea that there is only a handful of ways to demonstrate that someone is a “True Latino®” or a “Real Latino®.” Yes, I am being flip in copywriting those two terms, but that is the direction such thought processes will lead us towards. This argument is ridiculous for numerous reasons that I hopefully don’t have to spell out for too many readers. If we allow ourselves to get hung up on what is “True” or “Real,” that perpetuates a dichotomy of the Truth and the Untruth (I purposely avoided choosing a term that is antonymous to “Truth”). The opportunity for us to value subjectivity and recognize that many of us have different realities we may all learn from is thus lost in this idea.

We are not only a language; a language that many of our ancestors and us were forced by overseers to learn, a language that was an attempt to replace the rites of passages we attempted to protect. Language is not the only thing that unites us, it is also one of the many things that also can divide us, as this example provides. If one is going to argue that someone is not Latin@ enough because they don’t speak Spanish, not too far behind is the “you are too Black to be Latin@” and hopefully everyone knows how I feel about that already.

Another aspect that is connected to language is the use of language in writing a review or discussing the film. There has been an abundance of writers using terms such as “illegal” (and not in quotes) to discuss characters and the lived reality of many people living in the US. The term “undocumented” is my preferred term and yes I do understand folks who choose to use a term who are coming from a criminology standpoint. At the same time, I can’t comfortably use the term “illegal” to assign to a person. Especially when we live in a world where many illegal activities are validated, affirmed, unquestioned, and supported when targeting particular groups, especially those people who are racialized in a particular way. Same gender marriage is not the only thing President Obama has not followed through on. Immigration reform is also on that list,immigration reform also affects queer and transgender communities, and that is often not included in the discussion as it must be! Language affects us all, and this choice in language affects more people than many may be comfortable comprehending.

When will people realize how language can, and does hurt? Language is also, as my homegirl cripchick says: “youth of color hardly have any (institutional) power. taking away our language is taking away one of the few things we have control over.” So there is control over language, and using a term that is based in oppression and institutional violence, and violence in general, is something folks really need to consider, especially with word choice.

Speaking of violence, there’s also a discussion of too much violence represented in the film. I want to be more specific with this: there is too much violence against racially White people living in the US who are US citizens. I’ve read some articles that discuss the film as perpetuating, inspiring and instigating a “race war.” Now, I wonder if folks really know what a race war is, because the last race war I recall following was France 2005 among immigrant Muslim youth. MACHETE, the film, is NOT, I repeat it is NOT a race war. It’s a film. Now you want to consider how some White supremacists are planning protests to boycott the film and they want to bring their machetes as a “race war?” You’ll first have to realize how this has already happened in this country to various degrees. We already know this would happen, we are just interested in how the film MACHETE is the trigger.

The fear and ideas about the violence toward racially White characters who have US citizenship means a race war is going to occur miss the point. Interestingly, it is the non-White writers who do “get it” and don’t “miss the point.” Or maybe the point that is feared is that we know that when oppressed communities share a common goal of ending that collective oppression, it can end. Now, what I do not hear being discussed is how the violence represented by those of the racially White characters is actually what occurs today. It is the reality for many. We see Don Johnson’s character, Lieutenant Stillman, shamelessly shoot and murder a Mexican immigrant. We watch as he supports and encourages Robert De Niro’s character, Senator McLaughlin, in shooting and murdering a pregnant Mexican woman. The violence that we see Latin@ characters engage in, the set-up of murdering Senator McLaughlin (which doesn’t occur), the self-defense and the I’ve-got-to-murder-you-before-you-murder-me by Machete is pretty fantastic and something that we all know cannot be humanly possible; hence the Latino super hero storyline.

The institutionalized violence is also something that is presented and yet not questioned. The “let’s set up a undocumented Mexican immigrant for killing or harming someone to perpetuate and invoke fear into a community” is still very much present in our reality. The idea that even when attempting to recover in a hospital room after a crime has been committed against someone who is undocumented, they can still be arrested, abused, not given medical treatment, and their attackers can find them, is real. The fact that many governments, even those that many immigrants are trying to seek refuge from, have chosen to make the lives of the people they are supposed to represent miserable, and the US has supported such misery, is historical and current fact (go check out that civil war in El Salvador link I have below, or look into the politics of what occurred in Nicaragua, Chile, and Puerto Rico to name a few).

Limited conversations about how women utilize and claim violence is also not discussed. I’ll be honest, that I’m not one of those people who will ever really say and believe that violence is unnecessary. I find that for many oppressed communities, and for many women, claiming violence and being violent is a form of survival. I’m not going to say I validate all forms of violence, because I do not. Don’t get this twisted. I’m saying that for many women to use violence to survive is a form of power. It is power that we rarely see. When was the last time you saw a female solider from outside the US or Israel? When was the last time you saw a woman fight back her abuser/attacker/rapist/etc.? We often don’t always see these representations, and when we do there is often the narrative of “temporary insanity” and mental health issues. I do not believe that Michelle Rodriguez’s character, She, is mentally ill. Yet, I can see how many may see her as such because why would any woman want to get into heavy artillery, hide it, create a covert operation of The Network to help undocumented people become contributing members of their new society and then fight in a war in that same country they risked their lives to get into? Yet, will people question Jessica Alba’s character, an ICE agent, who openly walks around with a weapon, uses her heels as a weapon, and expects nothing less because she is a government employee? They both claim a level of violence and being violent, yet one form is validated. Do we not see the paradox?

“I carry a machete in the folds of my skirt.”

Finally, when was the last time you saw a film that centered liberation theology? For me, quite honestly, it was when Raul Julia was Archbishop Óscar Romero in El Salvador during one of their civil wars in the film Romero. For those of you who are unaware of what liberation theology is about, let me give you a real life example: I am employed in the Sociology department at a private Catholic college in the Bronx and they love me. Now when folks try to understand how a “heathen” like me who is a sexologist, a person of Color, a non-Catholic, a queer-identified femme who helps her students examine ways to destroy and deconstruct the Ivory Tower, it is because the school centers liberation theology. They center social justice, a focus on poverty and how it disproportionately affects specific communities, and understand how all forms of oppression are wrong. And for those of you who don’t know there are many liberation theologist’s who are pro-choice, Catholic, and STILL remain active in their vows as Monks and Sisters!

What I find fascinating is that in all the reviews and issues of the film that I’ve read, not one has discussed liberation theology. Yes, this includes my own review as well, and honestly there is no good reason for that omission, it got to the point where my review was four pages long (much like this article) and I knew I had to wrap it up! As I was talking to my homeboy Hugo about the film, you remember him, he made an interesting connection to some of the imagery, especially the role of Lindsey Lohan. Hugo writes:

I REALLLY liked the Lindsay Lohan character, it[‘s] weird thinking about it...At first, she is this gringa sexualized being. then after daddy got capped she dons a religious uniform and starts blasting on a rebirthed sense of higher justice, order, and vengeance. the juxtapositions. but when she was highly sexualized, she carried herself with a sense of innocence about her website and the images. sexual/innocent - pissed/religious, but the whole image of 'purity' is thrown in an inside out thing. reverse malinche?

I’d also argue, that Lohan’s character also represents how in our US society racially White women are more easily redeemable than any other women. The character of Cheech Marin is also a priest who is Machete’s brother. He embodies an interesting representation of some aspects of liberation theology: the church being armed, protecting their space, encouraging community members to do the same. Now, there are some aspects about Marin’s character that are presented that do not overlap with liberation theology and I hope for viewers those are clear.

Of all the atrocities that have occurred surrounding this film, the tired arguments on Latinidad, the hatred and xenophobia projected onto the film by hate groups, and the uncritical eye to what can be pulled out of the film, I’m happy there is conversation. Starting a conversation is fabulous, yet having a critical and thoughtful one is imperative. There is so much to build upon from this film, I just don’t see it moving forward in any new ways just yet. That’s what I’m hoping those of you who have seen the film will attempt to do. Yet, I do have to say, in comparison to the tired discussions, I’m more offended that the Macarena is being revived by these White actors wearing their Snuggies in this Snuggie® commercial:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Media Makers Salon: Nezua

Cross posted from my media justice column

Media Justice is often something people talk about but find it hard to do. I’ve been fortunate enough to have amazing media makers in my life and wanted to share with you their projects and how you can get involved! I’d like to introduce you to my homeboy, who is a scholar, father, activist, and media maker: Nezua. He is the creator of The Unapologetic Mexican, co-creator/founder of The Sanctuary, creator of News With Nezua and writes fiction and more “personal stuff” online. He agreed to answer some questions about the projects he is a part of, how he came to become a media maker, ways to get YOU involved, and future projects.

Here’s one of Nezua’s most retweeted and shared video of the summer; a documentary of the mock checkpoint created by several activists (including Nezua) at this year’s Netroots Nation which racially profiled “European immigrants and their descendants, and required them to show papers that proved they had a right to trespass on native land.”

News With Nezua | The Illegal Europeans from nezua on Vimeo.

How do you want to be identified (name, title, etc.)

Nezua is my professional and screen name. My given name is Joaquín Ramón Herrera. I am an artist in multiple mediums, including paint, ink, music, word, film, & video.

What identities/social location do you embody? (race, class, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, primary language, ability, age, etc.)

Mexican American male, with Eastern European blood as well (Romanian, German, Polish). I come from poor and scrabbly origins, so while I don’t think of myself as of a “class,” I generally get along easier with others who come from humble beginnings and don’t reek of financial privilege. But I draw no hard lines because life is always surprising you.

I’m generally heterosexual, was born in the city of angels, and speak English mostly. Though I do have certain challenges physically and mentally, I have no “disability” that stands out beyond the normal human condition, and so I do not consider myself “disabled.” (Truth is, I don’t naturally think that way. We all have gifts and curses/challenges—some apparent, some invisible—and that’s how I tend to think about it.)

I am 41 and still get carded far too often for such an old man!

When did you create The Unapologetic Mexican? What were/are your motivations?

I created the blog in May of 2006. My motivations were to stop hiding, stop holding back, and start shouting. I wanted to give my spin on politics and culture, and my people, as I see it and as I live it. I was tired of the lies. And of the stream of derision, unanswered.

I did have very specific goals. I wanted people to be able to Google and find my writings when they looked for commentary on topics that would affect me or that I care about. I wanted to enjoin the conversation, I wanted to find solidarity out there, I wanted to strongly challenge and confront the hate, and I wanted there to be no doubt of my pride in my ethnicity.

Share with us the importance of the naming of your media. How is language important in the projects you create and are a part of?

Language is extremely important. So is naming. Any title should be thought over for a while. Names immediately tell the viewer/reader both how you see the work as well as introduce a framing through which to view the work. Beyond that, they resonate with energy. That matters. That rides along with all the work you do under that name, in that milieu.

Related, language also carries many resonances about power, community, geography, philosophy and politics. We must be aware of this, so that we can consciously craft our energies and messages. If we are not aware, the energy is scattered, uncontrolled, possibly unconscious, and will not only dilute and distract our purpose and power, but like a poorly-wielded laser beam, may strike out and damage where we do not intend.

Finally, though a bit more practical still also very important, we have to consider Google and other search engines when we name things. For example, I chose the name of my blog very carefully (as I do all work that I name) for a few reasons. The vibe (it lets you know right away this ain’t a place you are gonna push your hate around without a fight, and I’ve lived up to that, but I’d like to think it also has a bit of humor to it as well); the ability to show up in search results that involve Mexicans, and I wanted to help the world learn how to spell “apologetic.” ;)

Tell us about The Unapologetic Mexican. (goals, objectives, origins, events, how you define “Mexican,” “Chican@”)

Honestly, I don’t have any more goals for UMX. Then again, I didn’t begin with many, and look what happened! I met a lot of very cool people through writing it, I explored my heritage and what it means to be Xicano in today’s USA. I found work, I entered contests and won (like representing Oregon for MTV’s Street Team 2008 and many others), I won immigration scholarships to attend national conventions, I reinforced other vatos and vatas who needed it, I met community, I received accolades, I influenced newer media makers, I became a person repeatedly asked to speak on certain issues...and I never intended any of that! I simply couldn’t stay quiet anymore. I needed to get my voice out there, and take a stand for gente. The results of speaking from the heart with passion can yield so much, and that’s what happened here.

I define Mexican as someone who is of Mexico. Technically and popularly, the word refers to Mexican Nationals. But I chose the title “Mexican” in my blog because that is the very word and idea that I had shrunk from in my youth. I learned early on, as a child, that it was a word that made people uncomfortable. I stopped answering “Mexico” when people asked “where are you from?” (Actually, I named states like “California” when they asked me that, so they often pressed on with something like “What’s your nationality, though?” meaning “ethnicity,” of course.)

So when I turned ‘round to stand proud, I grabbed the word and owned it. No more flinching. No more lies. No apologies.

Chicano/a (and for newer generations than my father, we use Xican@ and the explanation for that “@” symbol is here) simply means a Mexican American who is political about their culture, and involved in some way in standing up for it.

How do you choose to include various aspects of media in your site/work? How has your site evolved/grown since such inclusion?

I like to use as many tools as I can to communicate. I paint and draw, and often feature this in my News With Nezua videos, as I do my guitar or conga foolery. My site has always featured my forays into digital art, so when I began my News With Nezua series (it was a year August 28 of this month) it seemed a natural way to incorporate other elements. I find this very satisfying! What I also love about blogging is how you are not held to any written standard, and so you can eschew formal journalisticky type writing completely and lapse into poetic shapes if that suits you better. (It often suits me better!)

Here’s the 1 year anniversary video:

As a media maker, what outlets/equipment/training/workshops/tools/etc. do you utilize to create?

Well, it would depend on what media that person wants to use. I have been training in art for quite a long time. That is the sort of thing you simply have an interest in or not. I was also extremely lucky to be able to attend one of the world’s top film schools, and before that I majored in Art as well as Photo in a community college. Aside from this, I use many tools in my free time as I love art. It’s simply been a major, if not the major, interest in my life since I was a boy.

But a lot can be learned by apprenticing. I’m a big believer in the Master/Student relationship, even if you call it something else. Hands-on. By now, I see formal schooling (as far as the degree system, not so much random courses you might take) very much as a scam, even if legitimate and valuable training can be found in those places.

I suggest a budding media maker desiring instruction in their area of interest find approachable living and practicing artists/people she admires, or who make work he admires, and get close to them, let them know. Arrange a way to pay them for their time, or barter. Let them know you are inspired by them and would do a great deal to be able to receive their instruction. Do not ask for free time or help. Any master in an area has put in a lot of time and sweat to gain proficiency. It only tells them that you are ignorant of the work required and lack respect for them to suggest they give it away.

Do not be too proud to do this, to seek a mentor or master in craft. You only hurt yourself and waste years that you could be learning at an accelerated rate.

Tools are dependent on what you want to make. I use pad and pen when conceptualizing a script. I might type it out and print it later if I have ink in my printer (often I don’t!). I use many tools. From computer to microphone (lav mic) to camera, lights, flags, bounce cards, editing software like Final Cut Pro (pretty expensive), congas, guitar, paint, pencil, paper, and so on. But again, I’ve spent decades putting together the package of gear I own. It’s no small endeavor. For those who don’t have decades, talk to someone who has! For those with no cash...stick to writing blogs or drawing with pencil! I’m kidding, but making a point: unfortunately, much media creation requires resources that can cost a lot of money. But there is always a way around that. Start by finding people you can share with or borrow from. They have been there, where you are. They will understand if you can’t afford gear. If they can’t help you directly, they may be able to point you to others who can share. Again, this is where the mentor/master relationship can help you a lot.

Was there a specific event, person, place, artifact, encounter that led you to creating media?

I’d guess the first thing that inspired me to create media aside from art that I draw was my mother, who once handed me a recorder and microphone. I was about five years old. I was absolutely amazed by the functions of a tape recorder. Children are so much more savvy today. My own four-year-old daughter understands the filming process and even shoots her own photos and video with a digital camera. But for me, this was magic—this device that captured events, and stuck your voice to a tape, like mystical flypaper. This, to me, was time traveling. Not much later, I paid a kid in kindergarten 50¢ (my lunch and milk money) to take home his mono tape recorder, but my mother made me give it back. Before I did, I was huddling under a table in class, playing it so low to my ear...watching the little wheels turn. There is no doubt that the cassette recorder started me on my path.

As a teen, I listened back to those early tapes, and this cemented my fascination further. I became obsessed with recording and collecting those recordings, and in my closet now are boxes of cassettes (hundreds of them) from a tape diary that I kept since 18 years old. I used those to make collages of sound, pasting together phone calls, arguments, soliloquies, and random recordings into montages that communicated a point, or were just fun to listen to, with names like “Headcold” and “Shaking the Box” and “Phone-y People.” They were works that lacked a genre to fit into...my father called it audio poetry or something like that and took a couple into his college courses to share with his poetry students. I was about 19 then.

Video cameras were not big on the scene until I was older. At 25 I got a job in a video store, and began playing with their video cameras. The rest is history. ☺

What are some necessary texts, films, images, photography that you think are essential for youth, especially youth of Color, queer youth, and youth who are marginalized in general, to interact with/read/be exposed to? Why these artifacts?

I can’t give you a list (honestly, that would take another day or two to mull over), but I think what is most useful to communicate here is that groups and persons who are not celebrated by the dominant culture (and often are objects of hatred and ridicule by that culture) do, indeed, need to find films that offer an alternate view. I can’t stress this enough.

Film is an incredibly powerful medium, as is Television, as are books. If we see ourselves portrayed as bad people, deviants, or losers, we will accept these roles and fill them. We will accept abuse and we will hate ourselves and find ways to kill ourselves. Slow and fast, and in myriad ways, sometimes hard to discern, but deadly.

This is your world. You were born to tell a story. Tell that story, but first cleanse your mind and heart.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I grew up poisoned in the mind and heart from all the media I absorbed. TV and movies told me that as a male of Mexican descent, I was by necessity criminal, lazy, destructive, hated, stupid, second place if lucky, but more likely simply worthless or dangerous or both. The cleverness and frequency with which this messaging zeroed in on my formative mind and self-image was tantamount to having weaponry trained on you all the young days of your life, and fired into your psyche daily. Why not shy away from your heritage and family and anything related to your ethnicity, if this is how the world sees you? Why not carry that hateful torch and turn it on your own people?

So it is very important for us to create our own literature, our own cinema, our own languages, our own signals and symbols and values. For a few reasons: To reaffirm what we are, in truth. And to clear the path for tomorrow’s leaders, today’s children. To give them a better shot at loving themselves and feeling they own the space they take up, and rightfully so.

But (and I stress this more than once for a reason) first we must make sure we have decolonized our minds as much as possible so that we do not simply pass along the same messages we’ve been trained to see as real. For one thing, you can’t be very original until then. For another, you’ll do harm.

Many people I talk to regularly these days are well aware. But there was a time, perhaps, when most of them were not. For myself, there was a long time I was proficient in technique and hue and line...yet, I was propagating the standing order’s messaging on many things. People who do this often have no idea at all that they’ve been brainwashed. The ideas we propose, the images we create, even when wrong, can feel right, and natural if in line with the dominant culture’s ubiquitous messaging.

So the first step is becoming awake. Once we have become awake, we then must use our skills and power to destroy what feels right and natural to the dominant culture in most if not all cases. We must turn these values on their head. It is our job as conscientious makers to make something new.

Have there been any challenges/obstacles, etc. you’ve encountered in creating your media? Will you share some examples with us?

There’s been more than I can think of right now! Firstly, you have your own resistance. Laziness. Fear. Doubt. Procrastination. Then, you have to deal with the push back you’ll get. Obviously, if you are wrecking things (concepts, values, ideas, words) that the standing order considers valid and valuable, (things like racist lenses, sexist lenses, etc) then you are going to feel the full fury of those who would die to defend that order. And over time, coming from many angles, and often with a murderous and ugly shape, this can wear you down. So you have to learn to take good care of yourself. That is why many of my videos incorporate the message of tending your soul, enjoying days or moments of pause; of rest, beauty, stillness, and healing. That is directly related to the pushback I get, as well as the overall energy of reading and thinking about the ugly forces in play today.

What support systems help you cope with frustration, challenges, obstacles, etc. as a Mexican/Male-identified/Father media maker?

Dance. Music. Whiskey. A few close friends (people of color) who are political, with whom I can talk to. I train in Taekwondo 4 – 5 days a week and this lets me channel a whole lot of energy, as well as discipline my wild self. And moments of meditation or otherwise connecting to the plasma state, the core, the unchanging, the rejuvenating spring that flows within all of us.

Aside from that, I’m a very willful person! I know how to get through. I know how to keep going. And I know, too, how to let go and walk away. I grew up with many forces trying to either hurt me or shut me down. This has been my path. I could tell stories that would last all night. But the bottom line is I’ve been there for me, and I’ve known me at my lowest and highest moments, and I’ve learned to give myself love and care. So I trust myself and the impulses I might have, despite who approves or not. This is an audacity we must adopt if we are to not only survive, but survive whole.

How has being a father, educator, partner, writer impacted the work you do and are planning to do/create?

Everything I have done and am influences what I make. The “how” of that would take a very long time to lay out, obviously! It’s a broad question. But I’d say in general that the more situations one is in, the richer her work will be.

What time management strategies/advice can you share with us about creating media and also finding time for yourself/family/friends?

I’m perhaps a bad person to ask about this! I am disproportionately skewed toward my art. I value it over most relationships, and there’s evidence of this in my life. Relationships I’m still learning about. In fact, I’m learning a lot about them recently. And that’s good. As long as I’m growing in my art and in my self, I’m happy about my life on earth.

On making time for me: I get lost in the world of self very often and easily. My “self” is my art, so there’s no problem there. That isn’t meant to sound pretentious....the state I enter when creating is a blissful, in-the-now, ego-free state. So I don’t need to “make time for me.” But I do need to make time for being lazy! I don’t have enough lazy time in my life. This is one of the possible downfalls when you are doing what you love to do for money. It’s easy to work yourself very very hard. Too hard.

But when I can find moments, I sit in front of the TV, watch spooky movies or Kung Fu flicks, and sip on a beer or something.

Are there upcoming projects you are planning?

I am the Creative Director of a brand new software company based in Vancouver, B.C. It is called Digital Stoneworks and I work with a handful of extremely intelligent, conscious, and fun vatos. We are working on our first iPhone/iPad game for children, and it’s called Garden Day. We don’t have a site or any materials to pass around quite yet, but those will be coming soon. I’m very excited about this team, and the work we are doing. As I said earlier, we have to be there for children, children of color, and for the young women of color and we need to replace the toxic stories and images offered them in so much of the current media. So this agenda and this type of thinking drives our work. We’re just getting off the ground, but as soon as I have a site or other ways of connecting to or supporting our efforts and products, I’ll drop you a line.

Where can people find you on the web, social media?

You can read my political blog (which is where all my News With Nezua vids appear, as well as the rare piece of writing I do anymore) at http://theunapologeticmexican.org/elmachete

You can find only the News With Nezua videos at http://bit.ly/NewsWithNezua

You can read my longwinded and pretentious Twitter page here, and decide if you want to hop on board.

Also, note at my blog that in the upper right corner is an array of social media buttons, where you can find Tumblr, Flickr, Facebook accounts and more.

What else would you like to share with us?

Thank you for asking me these questions, and for sharing my ideas with others.

Thursday, September 2, 2010