There’s been a lot going on over the past week to start off Pride month. Here are a few exciting and interesting stories. Please consider this trigger warning as these stories will be discussing transmisogyny, violence,
CeCe McDonald and Support
If you have yet to hear about CeCe McDonald, I don’t know what to say but get on it! In short, CeCe is a young Black trans woman who is a survivor of racist and transphobic and transmisogynistic comments in her home state of Minnesota which lead to violence. She was attacked by 4 people and fought back for her life. One of her attackers died and she has been incarcerated at a men’s prison for the past year. CeCe pled guilt to manslaughter for a reduced sentence and and was sentenced this week to 41 months in prison with some time served toward her sentence and to pay over $6000 in restitution.
CeCe has an amazing support time working to help her legally, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically during her incarceration. There are book clubs, letter writing campaigns, fundraising, and movement building that you can participate in today! Visit this site as the main space to find more information and official updates from her team (there have been some unapproved CeCe petitions and such going around) and follow them on tumblr.
Leslie Feinberg Arrested
Author and activist Leslie Feinberg was arrested on June 4, 2012 the day CeCe McDonald was sentenced. One of the things I find incredibly important to be reminded of is from Feinberg’s official statement after arrest which reads in part:
As a white, working-class, Jewish, transgender lesbian revolutionary I will not be silent as this injustice continues! I know from the lessons of histories what is means when the state—in a period of capitalist economic crisis—enacts apartheid passbook laws, bounds up and deports immigrant works, and gives a green light to e white supremacists, fascist attacks on Black peoples—from Sanford, Florida, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The prosecutor and the judge are upholding the intent of the infamous white supremacist Dred Scott ruling of 1857.
The same year Fredrick Douglass concluded: “Without struggle, there is no progress!”
CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison during the month of Juneteeth: celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation—the formal Abolitionist of “legal” enslavement of peoples of African descent. The Emancipation Proclamation specifically spelled out the right of Black people to self-defense against racist violence.
Yet, the judge, the prosecutor, and the jailers are continuing the violent and bigoted hate crimes begun by the group of white supremacists who carried out a fascist attack on CeCe McDonald and her friends.
CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison in June—the month when the Stonewall Rebellion ignited in the streets of Greenwich Village in 1969. From the Compton’s Uprising to the Stonewall Rebellion, defense against oppression is a law of survival.
Ms. USA 2012
I’ve written about beauty pageants before, especially during my Media Maker’s Salon interview with Ms. Kings County 2011 Carmen B. Mendoza. Now, I didn’t watch the Ms. USA 2012 pageant that was aired this past weekend, however the winner, Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island, is making news. I’m most intrigued by her answer to her interview question (which is poorly worded) and generated via Twitter: “would it be fair if a transgender woman were to win the Miss USA title over a natural-born woman?” See the video below for her answer which begins at the 1:30 mark.
She responds "I do think that that would be fair, but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road because there is a tradition of natural-born women, but today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it's a free country.”
So, there’s a LOT going on in this answer. It is clear she is showing support for trans women as contestants, which has gained some attention recently, and believes that freedom and liberation are elements of the US that apply to all people. At the same time there is a connection to trans women must have surgery of some sort for them to be contestants. I think this response is telling to the limited knowledge of the needs and experiences of trans* communities, especially trans women. My hope is that folks realize no trans* person needs any form of surgery or medical intervention to be considered a real person regardless of their gender. The elitism and classism connected to these ideas need to be challenged because no surgery in our society is affordable! What do you think about her comments?
There’s been a ton of talk about the work nuns (also referred to as sisters) have been a part of creating to help some of the most vulnerable populations in our societies. Their work is not often seen as valuable, especially in a society like the US where communities of Color, people with disabilities, working poor people, and people who are chronically ill are not valued as much as others, this is troubling. Yet, for generations sisters have been working to end racism, ableism, elitism, classism and create a power-with approach versus power-over approach to working within communities. Here is a great in-depth report (with videos) about what is currently going on among sisters in the US working on various social justice agendas that are not considered appropriate and even called “radical feminist.” Yes, we do live in a country where name-calling occurs and where “radical” and “feminist” are used as slurs, and where name-calling is used as a form of abuse, where women’s work no matter what form is questioned and deemed invaluable.
New Research on Biology and Race
Author and professor of Biology and Gender studies, Anne Fausto-Sterling reviews three new books that discuss biology and race. Her thorough review published this week in the Boston Review is amazing. She reviews Dorothy Roberts “Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century,” which examines breast cancer fatalities and experiences based on race in the US. Ann Morning’s “The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference,” looks into how academics in anthropology, biology and current undergraduates are taught about race. Richard C. Francis “Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance” which discusses research that argues stress can impact a person’s physiology in such a great way that they can transmit that to their offspring, thus becoming inherited and a part of our genes that are passed down and could be a way to understand Alzheimer's and diabetes (to name a few). The review is long, but that’s what I expect. Fausto-Sterling’s writing is somewhat accessible, but she is an academic and so there are larger words and some field-specific terms that I did not know. She leaves us with an interesting statement to conclude:
“The question of what exactly race is may be with us for while. But if we are dedicated to delivering social services and doing the right kind of laboratory research, we can, right now, address the comparative ill health of people of color, the poor, and the medically underserved.”
Sisterhood Summit Call for Proposals
The Black Girl Project’s 2nd Annual Sisterhood Summit is in the planning stages and there is a call for proposals. As many of you know I’m a board member of The Black Girl Project, so this is something close to my heart. After last year’s Sisterhood Summit, the feedback from the young women present was overwhelmingly: we need to talk more about sex and sexuality! This year’s session is focused on all aspects of sexuality from abstinence, intimacy, anatomy, sexual orientation, safety, consent, and communication. This year there is also a track for parents who wish to attend who may also wish to accompany their child, or who desires to learn more ways to talk with their child, create messages that are appropriate and reflective of their values, and to gain more knowledge! Submit something today and keep an eye out for registration as the Sisterhood Summit is scheduled for mid-October.
Eryka Badu Talks Art
I was really excited to see this shared online, a video of artist Eryka Badu being interviewed about her process of creating art, her connection to her work, values, and how she finds peace of mind. She has some fascinating things to share and I hope soon there will be a transcript, but for now there is not. Check out the video below: