Revisiting the Civil Rights Era: Condoleezza Rice & James Bonard Fowler

I wrote this on November 16th but was hesitant to post it due to recent comments on this blog that reeked of racism and a general distaste for addressing white privilege. Upon revisiting it, I decided it is better published than sitting in our draft box.

Two articles on my reading list this morning brought me back to the Civil Rights Era in American History. First, Latoya Peterson at Racialicious did a great review of Condoleezza Rice’s new book Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family. Peterson highlighted Rice’s lucid details of the salient threats of violence that ravaged Alabama at this time, while also questioning Rice’s foreign policy more recently.

Then, my attention was brought to Robbie Brown of the New York Times, who reported yesterday that Alabama state trooper James Bonard Fowler finally plead guilty to his “fatal shooting” of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old civil rights activist, in 1965. Fowler considers the shooting self-defense rather than murder. While I write a lot about race in US culture, both articles served as a reminder of how recent this struggle, this violent and contentious time, actually is in our history. Continue reading

Sarah Palin’s ‘feminism’

On November 23, Slate journalist Jessica Grouse wrote a scathing review about Sarah Palin’s new book America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag that had me seething in anger and frustration.


According Grouse, Palin devotes an entire chapter to dissing liberal feminists past and present. She insults Betty Friedan twice; says that Hillary Clinton seems “frozen in an attitude of 1960s-era bra-burning militancy”; calls Gloria Steinem out for saying that “no woman who believes abortion is wrong can call herself a feminist”; argues that today fewer women call themselves feminists because “somewhere along the line feminism went from being pro-woman to effectively anti-woman”; and repeats stereotypes of liberal feminists suggesting that they emphasize women as victims because they’re obsessed with rape and domestic violence and are disdainful of “the joys and fulfillment we find in motherhood.”

I haven’t read the book, and truth be told, I seriously doubt I will. But I have found myself obsessed with reading anything and everything that examines Sarah Palin’s views of feminism and feminist history and discusses the afore mentioned chapter. I’m also obsessed with this whole BloggingHeads.tv phenomenon, so I did a quick search to see what the BloggingHeads were saying about Palin’s feminism and happened upon a series that’s really quite good.

My favorite video features Michelle Goldberg and Rebecca Traister. You can watch that video called “Why Sarah Palin calls herself a feminist” on BloggingHeads.tv.  You can watch part two of that discussion here.

-Nydia Swaby


NY Daily News: Group of Bed-Stuy Men escorts pedestrians in wake of robberies

Members of the group We Make Us Better escort pedestrians home from the subway in the wake of robberies and reach out to young black men. (courtesy Daily News)

via the Daily News.

The idea for the group came about one night a month ago when Varlack, Simms and others swapped horror stories of friends and relatives who had recently been mugged.

For Richard Beavers, 41, the idea for the group hit home after a friend of his called him in the middle of the night after being robbed – one of 300 robberies so far this year in Bed-Stuy’s 81st Precinct, an almost 10% jump from 2009.

“She was on her way home, came out of the Utica Ave. A train station and made it onto her block when a group of young males approached her and robbed her,” recalled Beavers, who owns the House of Art Gallery on Lewis Ave.

“I decided we can’t have these people terrorizing our young women and children, and we’re not speaking up and making our presence felt.”

The group’s organizers hope to set up a mentoring program soon, and are meeting with local community organizations so they can refer people they meet to special services.

But their main strength is a street credibility that comes with being young, successful black men, said co-founder Titus Mitchell.

Read the full article here.

For My Father

My father died of AIDS in 1993. His name was Michael ‘hiv’ Norman, also known as Tanya Ransom. My father was a drag queen, a playwright, an artist, and most importantly to me, he was my father. The AIDS crisis is not over. It is 17 years after his death, and still we are fighting the disease which killed him. Still, people are unable to get medication because the drugs cost far too much. Still, we struggle to educate our youth about a disease which kills relentlessly. Still, there are those who believe that AIDS is a plague for gay people, and is sent by God to purge them from this earth.

AIDS does not discriminate based on age, gender, sexuality or creed. AIDS is preventable by wearing a condom and being knowledgeable your sexual heath.

My father was one of many artists to die in the epidemic; many of my family friends died in the 1990s. My mother attended more funerals than weddings in her 20s, and I still fear for those people I know whose lives are controlled by the disease. This is not the future I hoped for when I began educating people about the disease as a child, this is not the future I want for my children, or for anyone else’s children. This is not the future I want for our world.

Today is World AIDS Day. Get Tested. Act Up, Act Now. Fight AIDS.

– Elsa Sjunneson-Norman

David Wojnarowicz Censored on World AIDS Day

image courtesy of the Queer Cultural Center

Adding insult to injury, I got this news about the censorship of a David Wojnarowicz piece at the National Portrait Museum on World AIDS Day. David Wojnarowicz was an artist who passed away in 1992 due to AIDS-related illness; he used a variety of media, like collage, text, and video, to share his experiences as a working-class prostitute and young, gay man with a world that was largely not ready to hear these stories. He inspired me as a high school student while I attempted to use the art media around me to construct narratives that I didn’t find in the mainstream.

My fellow queer/feminist art enthusiast and librarian pro, Kate Angell, sent me this article by Blake Gopnik at the Washington Post. Gopnik makes great arguments against censorship in art and highlights a different interpretation of Wojnarowicz’s video piece in question, “A Fire in My Belly.” The piece is a 30-minute meditation on Peter Hujar, an artist, colleague, and former lover of Wojnarowicz’s, who also passed away due to AIDS complications. Continue reading

Film Review: A Conversation on Made in Dagenham

by Rosamund Hunter & Kate Wadkins

Based on the true story of the 1968 strike of women working at a Ford plant in Dagenham, England, Made in Dagenham is a story of working women on a mission to receive fair and equal pay.  The film’s protagonist, Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) —a young, married mother of two—is a fictional character meant to represent many characteristics of the real-life sewing machinists.  The machinists successfully took on not only the Ford Company, but the male-dominated labor unions and the state itself. What began as an ambitious attempt to have their work re-classified as “skilled” rather than “unskilled” quickly became a radical move to get equal pay for women.  The repercussions of equal pay had huge implications for Ford: If one plant paid women the same amount as their male counterparts, then all would have to follow.  The real-life strike ultimately culminated in Britain’s Equal Pay Act of 1970.  What follows is a conversation about the film between Kate Wadkins and Rosamund Hunter of the RE/VISIONIST editorial team. Continue reading

“Feministet Në Punë” (Feminists at Work): A Discussion of Interviews with Albanian Women in Kosovo

by Hana Kabashi

In the process of writing a Master’s thesis, what follows is a primary source analysis using the provided links. For the purpose of this step in my work, the original source was edited to focus on the interviews with various women and organizations within Kosovo taken by journalist Peter Lippman in 1998 and 1999.  I also include some of his journal entries that he wrote during his time in Kosovo.

http://balkansnet.org/quiriazi.html
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/balkans/message/325

In 1990, as Serbian nationalist rhetoric became stronger and stronger in the former Yugoslavia with Slobodan Milosevic at the helm, the autonomy granted to Kosovo in the years before was slowly stripped away.  The Serbian government’s first step was to disband the Albanian police force in Kosovo and install a force of over 2,500 Serbian police.[1] Albanians were no longer trusted to police themselves and soon a domino effect would occur.   Albanian men and women in various positions of power or authority in schools, hospitals and governmental positions resigned or were replaced by Serbian counterparts.

The Albanian men that were a part of the Assembly of Kosovo—the governing faction of Kosovo that was represented in the Yugoslavian government—continued to try to counteract the aggressive and destructive legislative moves of the pro-Serbian authority but were repeatedly out-ranked and out-maneuvered.[2] Eventually, all Albanian media sources would be suppressed.  Newspapers and broadcast systems were disbanded or taken over by Serbian workers.  As the Albanian population became increasingly subjugated, a seemingly unanimous decision amongst the population was to not trust or recognize the power of Serbia over them, at least in secret.  Many schools were closed, and those that remained open to Albanian children forced them to learn solely the Serbian language and the Cyrillic alphabet.  Soon  a “parallel”[3] society and government would emerge in Kosovo.  Elections for an illegal, secret government were held in 1992.  Schools and classes were held in homes and other private buildings, paid for by parents and donations from Albanians in the Diaspora community.[4] In the early 1990s, the Albanian community would construct an entire society in secret, while publically trying to stay out of the Serbian government’s way. Continue reading

Raising the RENT: Reflections on Community, Sexuality and Musical Theatre

by Victoria Sollecito

[It’s] this gypsy world of people who are just so appreciative of each other’s individuality! where some people are super-gay and have girlfriends or boyfriends for twenty years, and others swing both ways—or are straight and have a wife but they’re okay with gay men giving them foot massages and don’t freak out. And you’re singing about that: no day but today, and there’s only us and there’s only this, and don’t regret… You can see young couples, old-guy couples, clutching each other, openly sobbing…And you’re singing at them, to them, sobbing too. It’s very cathartic. And it certainly put to rest my weird personal concerns, because there’s a much bigger picture.[1]

- Openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris on his time in the cast of RENT

RENT began as a rock re-imagining of a classic opera created by a precocious up-and-coming musical theatre composer in the early days of his career. What it has become, in the sixteen years since it was first produced, is nothing less than legendary. [2] Set almost exclusively in the East Village neighborhood known as Alphabet City, Jonathan Larson’s RENT follows a group of friends through a single year, from one Christmas Eve to the next, and charts the trajectory of their lives individually and together. Art, love and mortality are at the heart of the show, and creator Jonathan Larson’s script and score explore what those themes meant for Gen X New Yorkers, treating questions of sexuality, drug use, poverty, artistic integrity, isolation, community and, most notably, life and death in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Despite its controversial subject matter, RENT was an almost instant critical and commercial hit. The genesis of its story was in a harsh and dangerous New York; the first production of the show was mounted in 1994, the same year former U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani became mayor. The show’s development and eventual premiere on Broadway unfolded as the new mayor began cracking down, cleaning up and forever changing the landscape of New York City. In 1996, following the sudden death of its creator, the intentionally incendiary show about the struggles of living and dying in New York, became a Tony, Obie, Drama Desk and Pulitzer prize winning musical for a new generation. RENT maintained a dedicated, loyal and extremely enthusiastic fan following well into the new millennium, extending its run several times before finally closing in the fall of 2008.[3] Continue reading