Abortion & Black Folks: Call for Submissions

Because life without options is reduced to survival and because choice has never been at odds with life, we invite you to join us in telling our stories as we transform an epidemic of invisibility, secrecy, and shame into a culture of self-love, support, and healing. Rowe Vs. Wade – What’s that got to do with black folks? When is abortion about choice, for whom, and under what circumstances? Choice – a word that implies options – has become automatically linked with the movement for women’s rights to safe and legal abortions.

A project that seeks to answer these question is putting out a CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS of poetry, prose, fiction, photography and other forms of creative expression.

Although legalization might provide one protection from institutional criminalization (jail), does it really equate to safety (emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, political)? What about the lack of resources to help folks process through and heal from abortion? What about making certain that should one choose to give birth, they have adequate resources to raise a healthy child? What about women who choose to terminate pregnancy not being shamed, made to feel guilty, and alienated from their spiritual selves and communities? What about folks not being forced into a decision by their parents, lovers, and/or circumstance? What about information on natural abortions as well as access to loving and caring practitioners? Choice is more than just access to a procedure–it is about wholistic access to resources. This as-of-now untitled work in progress is a project of Urban Healing. It is intended as a literary and creative speak-out honoring our experiences, examining situations, challenging thought processes, and transforming circumstances.

If you’d like to contribute please send all submissions to urbanhealing@hotmail.com and/or Upset Press/ Att: Hermon Getachew/ P.O. Box 200340/ Brooklyn, NY 11220 by April 25th, 2006. Please include a bio detailing your name, age, how you identify, reliable contact information, and whatever else you’d like to share. If you’d like your submission to be anonymous, please note and your information will be kept confidential. Submissions will not be returned.

Urban Healing is a self-healing initiative with emphasis on women of color and our physical, mental, and spiritual health through the study and implementation of nature based/wholistic healing practices. We use herbalism, personal support work, mediation/conflict resolution, bodywork, health education, and other healing arts to transform ailments plaguing us and the world. Although Urban Healing has used these tools to address issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, post and pre abortion trauma, community racial tension and more, we also use these tools to help us embrace and learn ourselves and each other. Urban Healing comes from the belief that we are more than acts of defiance and that the ways in which we transform energy must not be defined by the very circumstances that make that defiance necessary.

Urban Healing is guided by the understanding that the practice of freedom demands the courage to give and accept love while loving demands the courage to heal. Urban Healing is a celebration of self-determination.

An Interview with Steven Fullwood

I first met Steven Fullwood when he was writing for Africana.com (since sold to AOL, and has become a much less interesting website BlackVoices). Steven is a writer and an archivist, heading up the Black Lesbian and Gay Archives at the
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He just interviewed me for his own blog here.

More Notes on Condoleeza Rice

So, this week my Open Letter to Condoleeza Rice was chosen by LiP Magazine as the #1 Media Pick of the Week. (Also Congrats to my friend Kai Wright for making the list as well.)

But I also was listening to Ed Gordon’s NPR show on my iPod (I am all about podcasts!) and heard the pundits talk about a new story that further demonstrates this conversation about Condoleeza that I address in my letter. On a recent visit to Russia, she criticized the Russian government for its role in effectively cutting off natural gas shipments to Ukraine. The leader of the Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky expressed his opinion of her comments to a Russian news outlet called Pravada. In the article entitled Condoleezza Rice’s Anti-Russian Stance Based on Sexual Problems, Zhirinovsky said “Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers. She needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied. On the other hand, she can hardly be satisfied because of her age. This is a complex. She needs to return to her university and teach students there. She could also deal with psychological analysis.” (That is part of a larger rant that you can read in its entirety on the link above. Pravada’s framing of the story is no better than the statement itself.)

Now, does any of this “Black woman as castrating ‘B’who just needs to get laid” sound familiar? And not just laid, but needs dick specifically. And it not just dick, but an “army of soldiers,” obviously implying the threat of rape (while at the same time suggesting that a Black woman could not be raped in this scenario because she “obviously” would “want” it)? And if you have not heard this before, isn’t it the least bit disturbing, regardless of whether you like her politics or not?

There are many things to find disturbing about these comments, but based on some of the comments I have received about my open letter, it really exposes how inequipped (or perhaps dis-interested) the left is in having a complex analysis of Rice, or most politics in general. Some of the feedback I have gotten has suggested I am being “too nice” to Rice. But when I hear shit like this, or hear her referred to as a “skeeza” I gotta think there has to be more than taking sides like elementary school kids. Overall though, I have to say most of the feedback on that letter I have gotten has been pretty positive. But it makes me wonder if I was a Black woman raising some of the same critiques, would I be getting as much attention for it? I feel like Black men who engage issues of sexism get more attention that Black women doing the same, even if the work of the men is actually less critical, comprehensive, or creative as Black women writing on the same subject(s).

But let’s be clear, Black women thinkers really lead the way in raising these kinds of complex critiques that are critical of someone’s politics or professional choices AND at the same time vigilant of the racist, sexist, and homophobic narratives that shape critiques of Black women, whether they’re coming from the Right, the Center, or the Left. I think similar to Condoleeza Rice, many Black women’s writings about Anita Hill during and post the Clarence Thomas hearings demonstrate that it is possible to think critically about these issues. How are Black people (especially Black women and Black queer people) supposed to get behind critiques (though we sometimes do) of Rice when they’re usually so racist, sexist and homophobic? Most recently, Patricia Hill Collins’ book
Black Sexual Politics , Tiffany King’s Open Letter to Iraqi Women(which orginally appeared in a different form online), and bell hooks actually speaks to the ways Rice is talked about in an interview in the Classics Edition of Sisters Of The Yam, and countless others.

Some things I am thinking through…

When the Stars Know Too Much

As dedicated as I am to Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone, I sometime catch up on the Scorpio goings-on from Rob Breszny’s Free Will Astrology. Today, my horoscope from Brezsny for the upcoming week is frighteningly accurate…

SCORPIO (Oct. 23–Nov. 21): In her San Francisco Chronicle column, Leah Garchik reported that a woman shopping at a local Safeway grocery store had heard “Blitzkrieg Bop,” a snarling anthem by the Ramones, playing over the loudspeaker. Was it an unfortunate development that besmirched the integrity of the seminal punk band or a welcome sign that what was once raw rebel squawk is infiltrating the mainstream? You’re ready to entertain an analogous question that pertains to your own personal quest for authenticity, Scorpio. Should you compromise a little so as to inject your influence into a setting where it’s desperately needed? Or should you remain aloof and pure, content to affect mostly just those who already agree with you?

Spoooky, huh?

Black Queer Cinema In New York

LS. Mickens Queer Black Cinema Film Series C/O Our Stories Productions, LLC PO Box 200595 South Ozone Park, NY 11420 qbcpress@yahoo.com

For Immediate Release
December 27, 2005

The Silver Screen gets a “Fierce” Makeover on January 26

New York, NY (ourstoriesproductions.com) – January 2006, is an exciting month for today’s emerging U.S. and international Black LGBTQ filmmakers, producers, screenwriters and artists. Aiming to exhibit independent short and full-length feature films that preserve the legacy, as well as encourage the fresh, powerful, and positive representation of the Black LGBTQ Experience, Queer Black Cinema (QBC) will debut at 6:00 PM on January 26th at the Audre Lorde Project in the artistic, trendy area of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York.

Queer Black Cinema, the brainchild of Our Stories Production’s founder, Angel L. Brown, is a monthly Black LGBTQ film series that strives to entertain and educate audiences with its niche programming. To officially ‘kick-off’ the fresh new series QBC will be screening a plethora of precious groundbreaking films throughout the winter. These films include: Sundance programmer, Roberta Maria Munroe’s classic short film Dani and Alice; Luther Mace’s coming of age short film about young Black teenagers living on the “down low”, On the Low; Faith Trimel’s expose` film on lesbian domestic violence, Black Aura of an Angel; Angel L. Brown’s witty and zealous short about the Black lesbian dating scene called Desperate for Love, plus many more.

In addition to providing a positive atmosphere for independent LBGTQ filmmakers, QBC will also provide similar support to independent musicians and service organizations. Artist and musicians are encouraged to submit their work for the audio enjoyment of QBC’s audience. Brown also plans to educate QBC viewers on healthy living by airing independent public service announcements (PSAs) on health issues in the Black community and trailers of independent filmmaker’s works.

This groundbreaking film series will also advocate Black LGBTQ history through its “Who’s Who?” segment. Audience members will be introduced to interesting facts and noteworthy contributions concerning various members of Black LGBT history. To add, Brown has decided to incorporate a question and answer discussion between participating filmmakers and audience members. Filmmakers will have the opportunity to clarify the defining art of their work. “QBC is not only destined to become the ‘Apollo for today’s talented Black LGBTQ filmmakers,’ it’s an official forum that gives the Black LGBTQ community access to films and other types of entertainment that is not represented on television or film festivals- gay or straight,” says Brown.

As an emerging director, screenwriter and producer herself, Brown is no stranger to “the invisibility” of Black LGBTQ films or directors on the film festival circuit. “I began this quest of providing a venue for Black LGBTQ independent filmmakers to exhibit quality works because there is little or no representation for us in many film festivals- gay, straight, or Black,” Brown passionately proclaims. She asserts that the concept of Queer Black Cinema was not only born to make Black LGBTQ community more visible on screen, but also behind the lens. The series will showcase films that portray the Black LGBTQ community in a more positive light, and expand the networking capability of today’s Black LGBTQ filmmakers and artists.

“The Black LGBTQ community wants to see OURSELVES on the big screen! Why wait for Hollywood, video stores or networks to showcase our stories from our perspective? We must move out our own way and just make it happen -no excuses,” declares Brown, a self-taught filmmaker and entrepreneur, with a background in musical theater.

The south side Jamaica Queens native is not only the creator of Queer Black Cinema, she is the founder of Our Stories Productions: a Black/LGBTQ/woman-owned production company dedicated to producing films, documentaries and music that bridges the gap between the Black straight and gay communities. She encourages more Black LGBTQ filmmakers, writers and producers to make more films knowing that QBC is alive. Quoting filmmaker Yvonne Weldon from Sisters in Cinema, “If we don’t support our images…who will?” Brown candidly expresses. Brown has a vision and knows that the world will soon take notice, as QBC steadily grows stronger and bigger.

QBC has put out an official call for new film, music and trailer submissions for the later half of 2006.

More information about Queer Black Cinema can be access at http://www.queerblackcinema.com and details about Our Stories Productions and it services can be access at http://www.ourstoriesproductions.com.

Open Letter to Secretary Condoleeza Rice

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve already no doubt heard aboutLetters From Young Activists. The book is doing pretty well thanks to your help.

In any case, my letter from the book, an open letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, was just published on another blog. To check it out (and then run to your local bookstore or online shopping site), please read on. Without further ado, Dear Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

Ghanaians, Slavery, Henry L. Gates & The NY Times

One of the things that really annoys me about any conversations about Africans and the slave trade is the “they sold their own people into slavery” shit. Yes, some West African nations were complicit in the slave trade, and I am not trying to make excuses for that, but let’s be clear about who was introl of it. Europeans (and their descendants in the US and wherever else they landed).

I just read a really great critique by Margaret Kimberley of a really horrendous NY Times article about Ghana and the legacy of slavery, and what that means for Black folks in the U.S. You should check it out here.

And after you peep that, you need to dip into that change purse and get Spelman History Professor Anne C. Bailey’s African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Bailey spent many years living in Ghana and documenting the oral history of the slave trade from Ghanaian people. I learned a helluva lot from this book. And anyone who thinks that oral histories are less “accurate” than written accounts can just be damned. This book completely disproves that myth.

Now, back to grad school applications.