media-justice

You wanna talk about the power of social media and using social media for good, so my ask, my family’s ask, close friends of Sandy’s ask, please keep tweeting. Keep tweeting, keep facebooking, keep instagraming, keep snapchatting, keep utilizing the hashtag #JusticeForSandy, keep utilizing #WhatHappenedToSandraBland, keep utilizing #SandraBland, and my all-time favorite, keep hashtagging #SayHerName. Because the minute that you forget her name, you forget her character and that she was a person. So that is my humble ask, on behalf of me and my family.
—  Sharon Cooper, sister of Sandra Bland, asking that we continue to  #SayHerName
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Queer Rappers: A Post Inspired By Frank Ocean

originally published at my Media Justice column


This isn’t about coming out stories or labeling Frank Ocean a term he does not identify with (as many folks are doing, he never said he was gay, bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, he just said he loved another man). Instead I want to create a post that highlights the out queer identified rappers.

My reason for creating this post is because I think folks are asking the wrong questions when it comes to Frank Ocean’s post about his experiences with love. Folks are often asking why the homophobia and heterosexism in the Hip-Hop genre is present, how it impacts queer rappers, and why queer rappers may not come out. My concern with these queries is that they may isolate and ignore the already out and queer rappers currently. Why don’t folks know of the out queer rappers in the Hip-Hop genre, community, and culture? This is a very different question from “why more rappers won’t/can’t ‘come out’.”

This is not to say that because queer rappers are queer they must speak about queer issues or be that queer artist. It is an aspect of our identities that impacts our perspectives, however, they are artist in a genre that folks claim is extremely toxic to queer artists without recognizing the queer artist that are surviving and moving the genre forward. So my hope is that this list will evolve, you’ll post your favorites not mentioned here, and we’ll collectively support and purchase their music!

I tapped into my community and asked them who are their favorite out queer rappers. Of course folks may remember this Colorlines article highlighting 8 queer identified people in the Hip-Hop genre. That list, like this one, is not exhaustive yet these are continuations! Below are some of the folks and artists people in my community and networks have mentioned. When I can I’ll post their videos just be mindful some of the lyrics may not be “safe” to listen to depending on your location.

Let’s start with one degree of separation from Frank Ocean. He is part of the Odd Future crew, which has out queer artist Syd the Kyd. This year Syd the Kyd (who also goes by Left Brain) was featured in LA Weekly and spoke directly about her sexual orientation and thoughts about folks inquiring about it in an interview. If you haven’t seen her video for the track “Cocaine” check it out below where her “love interest” is another woman. Also keep an eye out for the forms of violence that are represented here.




THEESatisfaction
is a Hip-Hop duo whose most recent track QueenS lit the internets on fiyah! When you check out the video you’ll see why! Everywhere I looked online for a good 3 weeks this video and song was everywhere and none of us minded at all! Thanks to Malik for being the first person to suggest them for this piece!




Malik
also suggested Angel Haze whose upcoming album will be released July 17, 2012. Fader magazine highlighted Angel Haze last year in their piece on up and coming artists, be warned the piece reads extremely sexist and condescending! However, her song “New York” does not and check it out below.




When I asked folks online for suggestions Iyssyboobears said their favorite rapper was Kelow. The first song and video I heard from Kelow was “Haters” and right now I’m really loving this song “Uptwnz Finest.” Kelow has a tumblr page that has most up to date videos and fotos.




Lady Sovereign
was introduced to me in the early 2000s by my homeboy Jerome, who I have created an imaginary Hip-Hop crew with similar to Wu-Tang where we are the core 2 and have a fluctuating 30+ members. From the UK Lady Sovereign has discussed her queerness openly for years.




Azealia Banks
discussed her bisexuality earlier this year and how she’s living life on her own terms and not wanting to be the “lesbian rapper.” It’s really her songs and lyrical content that are grabbing the well deserved attention of many. Her latest song “Liquorice” calls out so much of the fetishization of the Black bodies of women and the men of Color who buy into white supremacy. Check out her video for the song below.




Isralie-born and Detroit raised rapper Invincible has shared that she learned English via US Hip-Hop. Invincible has been put in the same spaces as Lauryn Hill when describing her contributions and flow. She is an activist and openly speaks out about oppressions people all over the world are experiencing and making connections to colonization. Here’s “Ropes”

Ropes

invincible | Myspace Music Videos


My homegirl Becky suggested Cazwell. I dig this song “Rice and Beans” because of the simple fact that Eduardo in the video is a LatiNegro! Ok I also dig that Cazwell talks about how he brought the condoms! And not just that but I also appreciate that although the hook is “take me to your mama’s for dinner” and it assumes that the mama is cooking, I don’t see this as a problem, but rather a way that mama’s of Color support and love their openly queer children and challenges those stereotypes that parents and people of Color are homophobic!

Now, Cazwell is Polish, so his use of men of Color, Spanglish, and other such forms of cultural production by people of Color may be troubling to some, it may be for me I just haven’t spent enough time engaging with his work to make a full analysis, but I want to put it out there that I do see some things coming up for me.




The next several artists were suggested by my online Femme’ily

Siya has been around for a minute. This is one of the many artists that I struggled with which video to post here for ya’ll to watch because I really dig all of their videos! So, I decided to start with “I’m Gone” but def check out Siya’s website for other videos as well!




Le1f’s
“Dark York” you may download and get the song &Gomorrah also below. I’m not completely sure if Le1f identifies as a rapper exclusively as he is creating music in ways beyond lyricism. His myspace page identifies his music as concrete jungle, but I think Hip-Hop evolves and is more inclusive than some folks may want to believe.




Sgt Sass
are a duo from Philidelphia with K.D. and D.T. Formed in 2004 and making music seriously since 2007 and shared that in their song “Faggot Snappin” they desire to embrace and claim a term used by outsiders to harm and isolate them. In “Faggot Snappin” they say “you know who the f*&% we are we aint scared of none of ya’ll” which I really dig. The video is below.




Benni E
is from Philadelphia and has been described as the “blood pulsating through” the heart of Philly’s queer Hip-Hop scene. Below is a video from 2009 in Toronto for the Blockorama Pride event.




MC Jazz
from Toronto is an “anti-swagger, political queer Egyptian rapper & poet, who makes you move while you groove to truth. Welcome to the Queer Hip-Hop Movement; MC Jazz’s lyrics smash the social, sexual and political limitations of today’s Hip-hop. She creates strong messages and promotes inclusive music that speaks for those without a voice. She attacks and tears down stereotypes of “who and what we should be” with a vengeance and brings back the real purpose of the spoken word in Hip-hop. After war, and experiencing daily prejudice based on being the “immigrant”, rap and spoken word became MC Jazz’s most powerful outlet and means of activism” as her Facebook page states. In her song “Boys Like This” she addresses the use of the term “faggot” by heterosexual men. Check out the live performance below.




Mykki Blanco
gives me life on a daily basis! In an Interview feature Mykki speaks of being a Black trans artist and rapper. Below is featured clip that includes an interview and street performance by Mykki. I adore that the young women of Color on the street are loving her and supporting her so openly and completely.




Zebra Katz who, along with Mykki Blanco have gained the attention of many media outlets, especially the BBC who did a story on both of them and the “rise of queer rap.” I was introduced to Zebra Katz earlier this year by his song “Ima Read” featuring Njena Reddd Foxxx which is below. For those of you not in the know, to read is something that stems from queer people of Color cultural production and engagement. Maybe you’ve heard some folks say “The library is open.” Zebra Katz and Njena Reddd Foxxx basically close the library.




Saye Skye
is a 23 year-old Iranian lesbian rapper and activist. Learn more about her work, life, and hear her music at this interview done September of last year. Below is one of her songs “Executing Rights” with lyrics in English on the screen.




There were so many more suggestions that came my way by the time this had to be sent to my editor! Here are some links of the ones that made it in before publication but that I didn’t have too much time to research and get information on. I’m sure there will be more and I’ll leave them in the comments!

Big Freedia




DDm





Bry’Nt





Sissy Nobby





Deep Dickollective





Yo! Majesty





Miz Korona





Jonte





Big Momma





Cakes da Killa





Abstract Random





The Lost Bois




Rainbow Noise



Mz Jonz

6

People need to see women on our currency

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” isn’t just an empty platitude. Visible currency is part of daily life. Children see it, use it, need it, play with it, earn it, save it, spend it, worry about it and hear adults talk about it. The erasure of women from this media is one of the ways that we cultivate visual gender biases that make it possible for the absence of women in the public sphere to be “normal.” People routinely see balance where none exists and think nothing of the near complete absence of women in key areas of the public sphere.

Just because our culture’s education system fails us, generation after generation, doesn’t mean women haven’t always managed to overcome impediments to achieve great things, it just means our cultural influencers ignore women’s accomplishments. It’s a power play, pure and simple. We generally don’t teach children about women, acknowledge the relevance of their labor or give them public recognition. LIKE ON OUR CURRENCY. This is hardly hardly exceptional, however.

And then people ask what girls can do to be more confident and overcome their personal insecurities (#30).

Vote for your choice here at Women on 20s. 

All images copyright Women on 20s, 2015

If you want to maintain innovation, maintain a place where the Internet is an economic driving engine for us and all of our communities throughout the United States, you want to maintain net neutrality … It’s not about protecting Google and Facebook, it’s really about providing conditions for the next Google and Facebook to exist.
— 

Steven Renderos of the Center for Media Justice explains on Democracy Now! in a discussion about why the FCC shouldn’t allow certain Internet service providers “fast lanes,” but rather treat all Internet traffic equality.

One of the cleverest touches in Cornish’s script is the symmetry of Moses gaining a better understanding of the grizzly bear-like aliens (and why they’re attacking him and everyone around him)(*) with Sam gaining a better understanding of her mugger Moses, who’s basically an alien to her.
— 

Jimmy J. Aquino, “Attack the Block is the best summer movie you’ve never heard of”

[Link]

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Apply to the 2013 Media Camp!

Are you a Southern based LGBTQQ Youth of Color interested making your own media?

The 2013 FYRE Media Camp will be a dynamic 4-day/3-night gathering of Southern lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth of color, ages 18-24, reimagining and creating media for our resilience, our lives, and our communities.

Participants will engage in interactive skill shares about reproductive justice, media justice, and art-based activism while gaining the skills needed to create liberatory media to amplify the power of LGBTQ Youth of Color. This year, we’re taking over the airwaves and creating our own radio broadcast!

Click the link to learn more.

Camp dates are August 8 - 11 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Priority deadline to apply is Monday, July 15th. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis after. Space is limited! Apply Here!

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Language As Resistance, Media Literacy & Media Justice

cross posted from my Media Justice column


The language we use and how we use them can be forms of resistance. I understand that not many folks may “get” this and many folks may try (and sometimes succeed) in isolating folks who use language in another form. This article is about how language is a form of resistance, something that is alive and evolving, and a part of media justice. Please don’t confuse this piece on language as resistance with permission to use terms that stem from white supremacist spaces to marginalize groups of people. This article centers marginalized and oppressed people and our use of language to resist that white supremacy, heterosexism, transmisogyny, ableism, and xenophobia. 

This post came about as I started teaching a course that centers women of Color. I spelled the term “woman” with a y as “womyn of Color.” When I provided the syllabus to students, one student said that there was a typo. I laughed thinking “oh my goodness I worked so long and hard on this syllabus of course there is a typo that I didn’t pick up” (because that’s how it always goes sometimes with this kind of stuff). But then the student said the typo was on the first line of the syllabus and I knew it was in response to how the term “womyn” was spelled. 

It was from that space that we began the class. I had already decided to begin with this topic so it was timely and exactly what I had hoped we would explore as a group. We had a great discussion on how people who identify as women have used language to resist and recreate and build community. We discussed examples such as “womyn” and “wimmin” all of which my students had not seen or experienced before. We discussed why there was a need or desire to do this with language.

We did not begin the class discussing what the backlash is to using language as a form of resistance. And there is! Folks are really not open to and are critical of how oppressed people use language and communicate, even if it’s communicating with their communities of practice. 

I’ve written about the use of the @ symbol,  which is a form of resistance and there’s been a lot of critique. Folks have wanted to hold onto traditional forms of discussing and using Spanish language because they are connected to the formal “rules” of language. Yet, who made those rules? Who benefits from challenging the forms of resistance communities use to communicate? What are the benefits by telling oppressed people the ways they communicate are wrong or inaccurate or make others uncomfortable? Why is there not an examination into why that person is invested, what they think they are giving up by seeing language as fluid, or sitting and examining their discomfort? What can be learned by that process?

This is a good time to revisit the Anzaldúa quote of: “So if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.” Let’s be honest, it’s scary for those in and with power when oppressed people and youth take pride in themselves because it represents survival and a revolutionary love for our lives in a way that demands our existance as humans be honored and treated with dignity. 

I’ve been told that my writing is not good enough, been pushed out of degree-seeking programs because my writing wasn’t good (and then went on to have 4 writing gigs, this being one of them!), or was too accessible in that I was writing in a way that brought more folks to the conversation. It doesn’t stop there! I’ve been told (as I’m sure many of you have) that my use of language makes me seem uneducated (and I have 3 degrees so I’m actually over educated but this is most definitely connected to class), young (which is adultist and elitist and speaks to how folks don’t think youth can speak “well”), careless (why would someone so overly educated choose to speak with slang or made up words?), and isolating (why would I choose to speak in a way that will isolate other folks, and “other” in this example include people with power). 

Code-switching has been a part of my life since I was born. Growing up in an immigrant sub/urban home for my first 17 years of life impacted my use of language. One parent speaking limited English, but fluent in Spanish and another parent bilingual in both languages, I grew up in a bilingual home where “Spanglish” was spoken on a regular basis. I’ve been told my use of “Spanglish” terminology is problematic. When I hear this I interpret this as my identity and existance being problematic. I’ve come to a space today where I realize this is not my problem but the reality is that if a person in/with power thinks this way it becomes my problem because that is how systemic forms of discrimination and white supremacy works. 

My response to this has been to remain within my community and find others/move to a space where code-switching from different languages is normalized: New York City. This is a huge privilege to be able to move, it’s also a form of survival to self-isolate for self-care and affirmation that I did not find in other places and spaces. I share this because we do live in a world and country where Spanish is being outlawed in the US southwest; states where the original language spoken was not English (look at the rulings of SB1070 for more information on this). 

We also live in a world where folks are being isolated in “new spaces” (think online) for using and creating their own languages. As language evolves and is used to express and resist there are folks who are hesitant to recognize us and value the ways we exert our power and identities through our languages. Sometimes I say to myself and my community: “how dare someone tell us how to communicate with one another?” Then I realize that folks who want to dictate and tell us we are “wrong” for using language when communicating with one another want us to assimilate and conform to their standards and center them and their (hurt) feelings. 

In the immortal words of Homie the Clown from “In Living Color”: Homie don’t play that. 

Honestly, I’ve lost jobs, building connections, education, and opportunities because folks do not like my use of language are are unwilling to recognize how their power-over antics result in additional oppression. And to be honest, I’m sure I’ll lose more because when someone tells me my identity is wrong or won’t be tolerated because they disagree with it means more work for me to do with them in addition to the work I’m already doing. Usually that work is unpaid and exhausting. To share with someone how I’ve survived and maintained my sanity and humanity through language means reliving traumatic experiences for the benefit of someone else. It means my self-care rituals and healers must be immediately accessible for me; and life doesn’t always work that way. 

I share these stories with readers because it’s important to know these interactions exist and there are choices. I’ve made many choices to walk away from such interactions and I imagine I will again. Doing unpaid work is not my idea of survival for myself. Sometimes I’ll do it when I see it as an important part of building community, but often, and again this comes with some privilege I’ve acquired through age and education, I’ve decided not to do this work and not take the job or opportunity. For me, this is a form of self-care. To keep my dignity and remind myself that I’m worthy even when I don’t get validation from folks in positions of power. 

Your language is worthy as are the communities you are a part of that use them. Your life and existance is valued even when others may disvalue the language you create that is home for you. You are important even when others think your existance challenges theirs, it’s not your fault and it’s ok to turn down doing unpaid work! 

How have others used their language as a form of resistance? How have folks in power used their power-over based on language? I’d imagine so many folks have stories and strategies to share! 

Q: Why Isn’t There A Men’s History Month? Really??

March is Women’s History Month, and some people insist on asking: Why isn’t there a Men’s History Month? This is going to be a long month - there are 26 days left and I’m sharing this to save some of us time.   

30 second A: Because men as a class are not symbolically annihilated in our media.Women’s History Month, like Black History Month, is a pragmatic, short-term response to persistent cultural marginalization and misrepresentation. It’s an antidote to systemic erasure. It’s an attempt to both create representation and explain why it’s important.

Image from: http://mrbelloblog.com/2014/02/15/student-resources/womens-history-month/

10-second answer is: We don’t have a Men’s History Month because we don’t need one. Every month is men’s history month. 

Despite women’s recent gains, our stories are still produced mainly by men, about men, from men’s perspectives, and for men.

So, for example, in coverage of Syrian refugee camps and their destabilizing effects, sexual assault gets almost no coverage in mainstream media, this despite it being one of theprimary reasons identified by people fleeing their country. Or maybe, our immigration reformwhich, until the issue was forced, concerned itself mainly with finding ways to get highly skilled, educated people into the country instead of the more than 75% of immigrants who are women with children and far less likely to be educated in their home countries because of gender discrimination. Did you know that in a natural disaster, such as flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes, girls and woman are 14 times more likely to die than boys and men? I’d be willing to bet a whole lot of money that you didn’t because what we allow the media to portray as “gender neutral” information is anything but. There are thousands of these examples globally every day. Today’s news is tomorrow’s history and today’s history was written in exactly these ways. This media imbalance is unhelpful and discriminatory and continues to support an institutionally sexist and racist status quo. 

Men’s voices, experiences and needs are still widely understood to be representative of humanity and women – our voices and experiences and needs, are not.  And, while it is clearly the case that in this country the history of white men’s deering-dos is the backdrop of our institutional lives, the exact same pattern of sexism replicates itself within the developing cultural memories of minority groups and in globally in countries where race does not inform people’s identity and society’s structure the way it does in the United States.  Last week I walked down the hall of a high school where the walls, in celebration of Black History Month, were plastered with flyers celebrating prominent African American men. It was, on that day, also the celebration of Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison’s birthdays. That week was the week that Barbara Jordan was first elected to office. Not a flyer in sight.  The persistent denial of that fact that men’s history is not “our history” and that “mankind” is not universal term for humanity continues to create everyday social harm. 

But, but, but…”Women didn’t do anything in the past worth writing about.”

So. Much. Bullshit.

Women are and always have been plenty busy, engaged, and ambitious and, in the past, many managed to transcend the manifold obstacles to our success. We have, the world over, thousands of years worth of women philosophersscientistswriterscritics,mathematicians and physicistshistorianstechnological innovatorslabor agitators,politicians and rulerssoldiersdoctorsthinkerspolitical theoristssocial justice leaders, andeducators. Even pirates.

For the most part women have done these things wearing more than our skivvies. It’s just that our work, our lives, our problems, our accomplishments, have been ignored and continue to be excluded.

Women were prohibited from going to school. Barred from voting or running for officeNot allowed to own propertyWere propertySexually preyed upon in state sanctioned ways. Vulnerable to early death, especially through pregnancy and childbirth. Worked to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. Had the fruits of our labor stolen from us in acts of socially sanctioned sexism. Legally denied the right to patent our ideas and inventions.Systemically excluded from public life with malice. Subject to the rule of fathers, husbands, and sons with no recourse to the law. Threatened regularly with violence, as we still areevery day. And routinely censored and bullied simply for having the nerve to express opinions out loud.

But if that’s not evidence enough, here are other places where women are discriminated against:

Of course, the internet is filled with women making content every day and this is good, but the Internet by itself is not enough. While many people assume that new technology is automatically egalitarian and progressive, nothing could be further from the truth. Technology is informed by the people who build and control and populate it. So, for example, Wikipedia, an online reservoir for “history” that is increasingly used by people around the globe, is notoriously gender imbalanced. It is the perfect example of how deeply entrenched and complicated systemic bias is—whatever the medium.

But these imbalances are not even the real problem. This is the real problem:

Forget the big, bad, dangerous Internet. The most influential and harmful media environment that kids find themselves in is schools, where they are exposed to traditional textbooks, history lessons, science programs, and library displays, all of which persistently erase diverse contributions to our history and allow the stories of primarily white men to shape people’s imaginations and ambitions. Each time a child opens a book and reads a womanless history,
 he or she learns that girls and women are worth less.

I am tired of reading: Where are the womenWhere are the women in media? Where are the women in lawmaking? Where are the women in tech? Where are the women in fashion?Where are the women in protests? Where are the women in the administration? Where are the women in film? Where are the women in comedymedicinescienceadvertisingmath?

The question isn’t “Where are the women?” Women are here. In large numbers. The question is “Where are the good men who recognize that equal representation in culture is a moral imperative?” And I say men, because men, as a class, dominate leadership and cultural production, and write history.

Whole post is here: http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2014-03-answer-ridiculous-question-isnt-mens-history-month/

From: http://divasanddorks.com/womens-history-month-celebrating-black-women-in-fashion/ 

Interaction on social media isn’t just human interaction. It’s an important place for political conversation. An ENORMOUS amount of political conversation is happening on social media — and it’s not trivial. It has an impact. Some of that interaction sucks, and some of it is awesome, and a lot of it is in-between. But the fact that it happens on Facebook doesn’t make it trivial. I hear from people all the time who tell me that they changed their minds because of me — and while some of that probably came from my books, most of it came from my work on the Internet. The content of political opinions isn’t lessened when it’s expressed on Facebook. When you tell women, trans people, LGB people, and other marginalized people that Facebook just sucks so we should discount it or abandon it — you’re basically saying, “Your fight to improve the world shouldn’t include one of the central places where the world takes place.” You’re telling us to either isolate ourselves, or suck it up.

Today SPARK will participate in the 2nd Annual Give OUT Day and join more than 500 organizations across the country mobilizing for the fiscal sustainability of our work for social change for LGBTQQ communities.

In 2011, Funders for LGBT Issues found that the U.S. South barely saw 3% of the year’s LGBTQ funding despite the fact that over a third of the U.S. population lives in the 13 states that make up the southern region.  Georgia, for example, received only $526,783 or less than $2 per person that year.

Based in Georgia, SPARK recognizes how essential it is to invest in the leadership and voices of women of color, young parents, and LGBTQQ youth of color in the fight for reproductive justice. Your financial support allows us to ensure that these voices – the ones most impacted by reproductive injustices – can bring their deep understanding of the political conditions of the South to our movements and work. Give OUT Day is your opportunity to demonstrate the power of prioritizing Southern leadership in Southern movements!

SPARK seeks to raise $2,500.00 in our first Give OUT Day campaign to offset the expense of our well-received annual Media Justice Camp for queer and trans youth of color.  This 4th annual 4 day and 3 night program is fully funded by SPARK for youth leaders interested in incorporating the latest in diverse media technologies for their organizing efforts.  Of course, we want to exceed our goal, and this year Give Out Day is ramping up their incentive program with additional funds up to $8000.00 for any organization leading in their drive through the generosity of multiple donors: Bolder Giving/Give OUT Day!

How Can You Help?

  1. Give! You can make your donation RIGHT NOW through our Razoo fundraising page. In order to count towards our goal, all donations must be made between 12AM-11:59PM EST on TODAY, Thursday, May 15th!
  2. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay updated on our progress on Give OUT Day. You can use the hashtag #SPARKRJGIVING to follow our posts.
  3. Spread the word! Forward this email to your family, friends, and colleagues along with a personal note as to why YOU support our work and why they should give!

Stand with us TODAY and let’s demonstrate the power of Southern giving!

Tattooing As Media Making

[wrote this almost a year ago today. folks like to talk shit to me abt how i paint my face but NEVER say the same shit to me re: painting my body. double standard? its revolutionary for me to paint my body but not my face? wtf? anyways, originally published here.)

As summer begins I am often looking forward to the sun kissing all parts of my skin. I can’t wait to visit the beach, which is one of the few spaces I find peace of mind and am reminded that there’s so many bigger things out there and that my problems are just a small speck of something larger. In addition to this ritual beach trip and the sun kissing my skin, I know I must prepare for another type of exposure: showing my ink. 

As a fat sexologist of Color who is also inked and over six feet tall with a disability, there is often an additional element of awareness that my body is being read by others. This is something that has come up for me since I was 18 years old and began to adorn my body with images, words, and symbols that are meaningful to me. As I’ve aged, I’ve continued the journey of using my body as a canvas, it sounds cliché, but it’s true! There have been many issues that have come up for me as someone who is getting older and my multiple identities intersecting in various spaces have resulted in extremely diverse interactions with people and amazing opportunities to share and create knowledge.

One of the reasons I chose to write about tattooing, or ink as I like to call it, is because I believe that tattooing is a form of creating media. As someone who started their first ever tattoo with symbols and words, I’ve had a very interesting path to figuring out why and how I want to choose an image or term and on what part of my body I wish to do so. I know today, that just as I put glitter on my camouflage jacket back in the early 90s, that my tattoos also send a message about who I am, what I wish to represent, and how I choose to move my social justice agenda forward.

I have one large tattoo on my upper left arm, which gets me a lot of attention, especially unwanted attention. I’ve shared this foto with many readers before but as a refresher here it is (this foto is from the Adipositivity Project, read more about why I chose to be an AdiPoser):

While away on a chosen family emergency in my homeland of Puerto Rico last week, there were many people who approached me and had something to say about my ink, specifically this image. It is an image by artist and sex worker Isis Rodriguez. Her series called “My Life As A Comic Stripper,” created in 1997 is where this image, No More! is found. One of the many reasons I chose this piece is because of the amazing detail and thoughtfulness behind the art. Not only does Isis challenge stereotypes about Latina (and women of Color’s sexuality) and the dichotomy we are often forced to fit into (i.e. the virgin/whore dichotomy), but she is also discussing a new way of being a responsible sexual being.

Introducing the series “My Life As A Comic Stripper,” Isis writes on her website:

“My Life as a Comic Stripper” was a cartoon survey that observed the commercial sex industry in relation to society and ourselves. I used cartoons in the editorial manner commenting satirically on exotic dancers, customers, managers and owners, children toy manufacturers and advertisement. Working as an exotic dancer for over 10 years in most of San Francisco’s strip clubs, impacted me as an artist and individual. The strip club was a place where I learned of profound humanity. It was there, that I saw the empowerment, the vulnerability, the rewards, the consequences, the drugs, the exploitation, the determination of everyday people.

The experiences she had as a sex worker and student was one I could relate to on numerous levels. Never had I gone into the sex work industry as an undergraduate, but the fact that I wanted to study sexuality from a sociological and anthropological lens (and not a psychological one that pathologizes people and our choices) there was a huge question of my motivations, goals, desires, and expectations to “make money” in such a field. Under the image No More!, Rodriguez writes:

Be careful what you wish for because that ain’t no p*&%y between her legs! How does a woman in this industry become liberated from societal stereotypes and the ridiculous expectations of a sex worker?

When people stare at this image on my body it is often with a certain assumption. It is rarely the intense and thought provoking ideologies that guided Isis when she began working on this project. Often the main people who approach me to ask me about the tattoo are people whom I read their gender identity as men. They often assume it is a sexualized message about what kind of lover I am or the image may represent. They are not ready for the actual message. When people get a closer look it’s as if that “ah-ha” moment occurs and they each “get it” whether they wanted to or not. Often they don’t want to “get it” and are kind of disappointed they just had to learn something. But that’s what they get!

The reactions I often get from people whose gender identity I understand to be women, is different. It is rare when I get a woman who approaches me and has supporting, encouraging and/or affirmative things to say, although it does happen and when it does I know the work I do is important. Often there is teeth sucking, eye rolling, “hmmphs” shared, and judgment in the tone as they ask me “now, what’s that supposed to mean?” I wonder why there is such a harsh reaction to something that I find so beautiful and affirming. I’m confused how something so liberating is resulting in such rigid disgust. Then I remember that even if the message I am sharing is constructed and that I want to share it in a particular way, that different people have different perspectives. Another principle in media literacy.

There have been a few instances where I have experienced what I would call street harassment. Now I have to admit that it is not often that I find street harassment to be something that I do not desire. I think the fat thing comes into play when people on the street choose to say something to me about the way I look, and often people who speak to me say specific things that are rarely vulgar or unwanted. For example, I have never been told what a person would want to do to me sexually, or that they find a certain body part that is connected to an oversexualized part attractive/desired. Instead, I often have people from the community comment on my hair, my make up, my jewelry, my smile, the way I walk with confidence (and not fear), and of course my ink. I often simply reply with a “thank you” and keep it moving. Rarely have I ever experienced what filmmaker Nuala Cabral has shared and presented in her film “Walking Home.”

With that said, since I have begun to show more skin, The warm weather has always resulted in more eyes on my body reading me. Recently while visiting a friend in Manhattan, a man stood behind me and attempted to take a foto with his iphone without my permission. I can’t begin to explain to you all how upset and violent I instantly became when I noticed he was doing this without my permission. I quickly slapped the iphone out of his hands and yelled to him: “If you had asked me I would have allowed you to take a picture now erase it.” He was so startled and fumbled with trying not to let his cell phone drop that he obliged to my demand quickly and without comment and left in the opposite direction. While in Puerto Rico last week I had a man approach me on the beach asking permission to take a foto of my ink and I granted him that telling him other people have rarely been as honest and courteous as he was.

Then there are the people who think if I have it out people can look and think what they want. I don’t disagree with this ideology, where my concern lies is in such people thinking they have the right to speak to me and share their opinion or thoughts. It sounds harsh, but what do I care what a random stranger may think? What makes people think I care about their opinion about my body? Is it that whole “women are supposed to look a certain way” form of socialization that I’m supposed to care what they think because I should? I’m very privileged to not ever having experienced this in public to feel unsafe. Yet, there have been several times I have felt unsafe when someone is hitting on me in a confined space (i.e. a cab driver). There is also a lot of privilege I have to be inked and have that ink in places where others can see and still keep a job in a certain environment.

How many of your professors have ink? Have you seen their ink? I have double digits and I can hide a majority of those pieces, but not all of them. It is rare when I think that because I have a visible tattoo I may not get a job. It is also rare that I worry that if I show my ink I may risk losing my job. And if you don’t remember I work at a private Catholic college in the Bronx. Privilege, I have a lot of it!

I asked all my followers on Twitter to tell me their tattoo stories, why they chose the ink they did, what they hope to gain from the experience, and how they see the symbolism and messaging of their ink. I did not get into details about their experiences getting the ink or how they chose to pay for it (which is also a form of privilege) and how they found artists they appreciate. My artist is Louis Barak, a Moroccan Jew from Chicago whom I met in NYC and has a degree in fine art. I immediately fell in love with him when I realized he knew the color wheel and what colors would look amazing together!

My homegirl PazEnLaVida, who is currently crafting her first tattoo, shared that she was getting something that represented her radical woman of Colorness. She said she wanted “either an eagle or a snake. I want to get it on my arm. I want it because I want to mark my body with something that represents who I am. It’s something I’m doing for me. To love my identity and link to my community.”

My friend PostModernSexGeek shared that her tattoo on her back is the “image/representation of Coatlicue. To remind me of where I came from but also to remind me that I am powerful in my own life. The message for others? Here be Goddess energy, Proceed with caution ;-)”

My other homegirl Bianca, a tattoo enthusiast who is engaged to a tattoo artist, shared that her first tattoo was one that she wanted to mark a “coming of age” on her 16th birthday. Her second was a matching tattoo she got with her high school best friend and her third marked a change in her life. This third tattoo was during a time when she “had gone thru a really bad depression the year I graduated high school. I got the tat to symbolize the pain I overcame. When I added to it, I was closing a chapter in my life & starting new.”

For me, when I got this arm tattoo it was in the winter. I knew that I wanted to show it off that following summer and it was one of the many ways I began to appreciate my body. Before getting inked there I did not expose my upper arms thinking they were far too fat and unattractive to expose. When the summer came and I knew I had this ink on my body all of that went away. I was proud of what I looked like, how my body moved and what I felt like when the sun kissed it as it was exposed with no clothing covering it. I was sending messages of appreciating and loving my body and people noticed.

I’ve had this experience before with other tattoos that I have. For example, since having my disability I’ve also gotten tattoos that are in the area of my disability and that are representative of the pain and stigma I survive daily. In addition, I’ve inherited what I call“skin tags” from my father. These are small pieces of skin that form extensions of skin off my body and that are attached to a blood vessel. I have them all over my body and one large one at the back of my neck in the center. I chose to have an image of the Mujer de Caguana, the goddess who is believed to have birthed all the people in the Caribbean (which is why she is squatting in a amphibian like position). I asked that the skin tag be positioned in between her legs to act as either an enlarged clitoris or a penis. I like the idea of having her be a gender-bending goddess. I also like that my hair can cover it and I can share this image when I chose to. It was one way I chose to come to terms with having my skin tags and it has worked!

Although my parents constantly tell me that this was probably the “worst decision I’ve ever made in my life” (I’m glad that dedicating my life to a sex-positive agenda is not the first one!), I’m happy with the person I’ve become and the media I continue to make. I do know that there are people who may not see their ink as a form of media, yet I think for many of the people I know and the artists I’ve worked with it is media, it is art, and, as a past lover has said, art is evolving life. I evolve through my media and my media that is with me wherever I go is my ink.

I’ve written in the past on things to consider and how to prepare for new ink especially as a way for surviving and healing scars on our body. To read that article, click here. If you are inked, or if you aren’t, what are your thoughts about consenting to wearing media on our bodies forever?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: News For All The People - Speaker Luncheon

 

Speaker Luncheon with Juan Gonzalez and Joe Torres Benefiting Media Literacy in San Antonio

We here at the Media Justice League have some exciting news to share. Thanks to the generosity of the San Antonio Current and The Twig Bookstore we can now offer our speaker’s luncheon for FREE to the first 50 people to RSVP. Yes, you can save that $20 you had set aside but RSVP soon as seats are sure to fill quickly. You certainly can’t beat the value.

For FREE you can meet our featured speakers Juan Gonzalez and Joe Torres, aurthors of the book, “News for All the People.” Get your personal copy signed. Tour the offices of San Antonio’s favorite alt-weekly, The Current and meet publisher Michael Wagner. Plus, share lunch with some of San Antonio’s finest journalists, public relations professionals and community leaders. Did I mention this is all FREE? Proceeds from the Twig’s book sales will benefit the Media Justice League’s ongoing media literacy programs throughout South Texas.

This is an opportunity for everyone in San Antonio who makes media, consumes media, and cares about media to come together.

October 26, 201111:30 AM Meet the authors, book sales, and signing. Noon-1:00 PM Lunch and Program.

915 Dallas Street, San Antonio, Texas 78215 MAP
Limited Space - RSVP Suggested - LINK TO EVENT: http://bit.ly/pexKvt

More about our speakers:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award for commentary, is a former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He is a columnist for New York’s Daily News, and co-host of the nationally syndicated TV and radio news show Democracy Now! His previous books include Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America, and Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the WorldTrade Center Collapse.

JOSEPH TORRES is the senior advisor for government and external affairs for Free Press, the national media reform organization. Before joining Free Press, he worked as deputy director at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and was a journalist for several years.

The Book: News for All the People offers a sweeping account of the class and racial conflicts in American news media, from the first colonial newspaper to the age of the Internet. Based on years of archival research and up-to-the-minute reporting by veteran journalists and media reform advocates Juan González and Joseph Torres, News for All the People reveals how racial segregation in the media distorted the news and highlights numerous examples of how publishers and broadcasters actually fomented racial violence through their coverage.

Fast-paced, story-driven and replete with portraits of individual journalists and media executives, the book weaves back and forth between the corporate battles and government policies that built our segregated media system—as when Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover gave a radio license to the KKK—and those who rebelled against that system, such as Pittsburgh Courier publisher Robert L. Vann, who led a national campaign to get the black-face comedy Amos ’n’ Andy off the air.

This event is being cosponsored by the San Antonio Current, Democracy Now!, Free Press, and San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists (SAAHJ). Reservations are encouraged. For more information contact DeAnne Cuellar at 210-896-9141 (deannec@texasmep.org) or Leticia Medina at 210-291-8753 (leticiamedinatx@gmail.com).

On Sandra Bland & My Mom.

My mother is a good person. Anyone who has met her will tell you so. She is kind and will go out of her way to help anyone. We all know this, so remember when I tell this story that I love her.

I love her but she is still a slightly-middle-age white woman who struggles with and often denies white privilege. Yes she knows it’s a thing that exists to some extent but discussing her existence within that context is like setting off a bomb and it hurts.

Cecil the Lion was killed earlier this week. My heart went out to him. Like many people I was enraged. I still am and I can’t shake the feeling that no matter what happens to that dentist, it will never actually feel like justice has been served. Later I saw some posts related to the murder that really spoke to me. These posts merely highlighted the fact that more people care about this one lion’s death than the lives of People of Colour.

I’m going to keep it 100 (and tell you how I feel). If you didn’t read about Sandra, if you didn’t spread the word, or publicly demand justice then you just didn’t care enough. Saying you ‘try to avoid negativity in the news’ is no longer an excuse. People are dying because they look like me and you would call yourself my friend. There, I said it and not half as eloquently as others).

So, I brought up the lion with my mom.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I can’t” was her response when I asked if she had heard about him.

Maybe I should have left it at that but I figured since my intention was to bring up the #SandraBland posts it would be okay to continue. In fact I needed to talk about it. I didn’t want to just post the same comments hundreds of others had. I just wanted to express my own pain.

My mom had never even heard of her.

I briefly explained what I knew of Bland and how I had found out. My mom doesn’t use social media and so I understood why she hadn’t heard of #WhatHappenedToSandra but the fact that she hadn’t only further proved my point. We aren’t talking enough about Sandra Bland (and people who don’t care are already tired of the subject).

“I only know about the lion because it was on the news” she interrupted.

That is part of the problem. Sandra Bland’s story should be on the news, the radio, and everywhere else. The lion’s story spread so fast. The shooter is already being held accountable for his actions (at least by the public). When a Black person dies, those responsible get a paid vacation while the victims’ names are dragged through the mud.

There was silence for about a minute and then my mother was upset.

“You asked me to speak about the lion and I sit here and get yelled at”. Her words stung me.

 In no way had I yelled at her. I was extra careful not to use any tones of judgment or accusations mostly because of previous conversations we’d had about race that had gone wrong.  I spoke with passion and I refused to back down from that passion but I made sure I didn’t refer to her in my avowal.

Sure, I shouldn’t hold back while discussing white privilege. When I say ‘white people do __blank___ and that’s racist’, I shouldn’t have to add appeasing comments for the white people around me. If you are white and you don’t do whatever micro-aggression I’m complaining about, you shouldn’t need me to clarify that I am not talking about you as an individual. That’s generally how I feel but she is my mother and so I avoid things that might hurt her feelings as much as possible. That being said, following her response I lost my temper.

“Oh My God. That’s what you’re taking out of this conversation? I didn’t yell at you. This isn’t about you.” She tried to interrupt again with how it’s not her fault she didn’t know anything about it but I wasn’t looking for blame or guilt, I was only looking to talk.

Like many people do, she got defensive. I was challenging and therefore threatening the privilege she has been accustom to living with. It was in no way personal but she cannot separate my comments on white privilege and her place within it. If she was younger and had twitter she would have been hashtagging #AllLivesMatter and #NotAllWhitePeople.

I asked her to stop. This is where “I can’t” because it hurts to talk about it but she didn’t or wouldn’t hear me. She was still feeling defensive and so she went on. I couldn’t tell you what she said. I checked out.

“Please” I said, “I really need you to stop”. Tears were pouring down my face. I was sobbing. “Can we just not talk? Can I have a moment to myself?” It really hurts. If she can’t hold off on her defensive stance over white guilt long enough to see just how much these events hurt her own daughter, how would she ever understand where I was coming from?

Again I want to remind you (and it seems silly to have to do this) that I love my mom but she may never understand how I feel about race. Despite having raised a black child in this society herself, she’ll probably never fully know what it’s like to have a black kid. Or what I go through being mixed.

I guess I’m writing this event down because it shows me how powerful white denial can be.

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Here is some of the best media coverage of Marissa’s release. Thank you to all of the wonderful media advocates & journalists who have covered this case and freedom campaign!