Monday, March 30, 2009

Things I've Missed the Last Few Weeks...

Jimmy Kimmel makes a "ho" joke when he's supposed to be talking about First Lady Michelle Obama's starting a new garden. And since he said, "the first time a ho has been used" since Clinton was in the White House, no, I don't think he was talking about Bill Clinton. (When it comes to sex, we know who gets "used" and labeled a "ho.")

Gwyneth Paltrow advising Joaquin Phoenix to "go live in the projects for a few years" to lend his rapping career some authenticy. But, 'sokay if she dispenses such advice cuz she has a black rapper friend, according to the article!

The passing of Dr. John Hope Franklin. I just showed my survey class his clip from "The War," called "Everything but Color" in which he talks about how he was ready to serve the country during WWII but was informed that he had all the right credentials, except color. According to Dr. Franklin, he determined that his country, "would not get me," that the U.S. did not deserve his service if that was how he was to be regarded. Every time I watch that clip, leaf through my old copy of From Slavery to Freedom, or read his words and thoughts, I love him a little more. Goodbye to a beautiful, brilliant, brave man.

A sweet tribute to him is here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Almost Free...

The OAH is this weekend.

It will mark the end, for me, of the worst March in recent history. I won't detail what all this month entailed for me, but I will publicly rejoice that is nearly over.

Mayhap I shall return and produce a prosaic-yet-poetic post that will knock your socks off.

More than likely, I will come back and whine about writer's block and end of semester rush and the spring fever I have that makes me want to take my classes to every Women's History Month presentation and every guest speaker and every other event on campus. I'm tired of the four walls.

In any case, cross your fingers for me. I don't feel nervous so far, but it is the OAH and my former advisor will be there along with women from my dissertator group and a commentator whose work I respect beyond measure.

See y'all soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

100 Facts about Elle (27)

Apparently, I don't love all chocolate.

I buy Hostess cupcakes, peel off and eat the fudgy icing, spoon the cream out of the middle, and throw the cake away.

Similarly, if I eat Oreos, I prefer double-stuff, because I lick the cream out of the middle and throw the cookies away. My cousin Tren, who has elevated Oreos and ice cream to a food group, refuses to share her Oreos with me for this reason.

Wasting Oreos, it seems, is akin to sacrilege.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Things Seen 15

Traveling through east Texas on my way back home Sunday, I saw this image on a Navajo Trucking rig.

I just could not believe those eyes, y'all, just could not. Now, I don't know how much of the rest of the image is authentic (her headdress and the coils around her neck, for example), but I am skeptical.

As I stared at that image, I wondered why in the world the company portrayed a Navajo woman with blue eyes. It occured to me later that it is for the same reasons PoC are encouraged to take on, or prized for being born with, "European" features IRL.

In theory, such features bring us closer to a standard of beauty that most people of European descent can't even achieve. They make us "stand out," "more beautiful," "different."

But I wasn't thinking of any of those descriptors as that truck rolled by me. I was thinking, "How sad." It isn't enough that Navajo Trucking appropriated names and images of a people to "represent" their company. They altered those images to conform to a certain aesthetic, perpetuating a long-standing pattern of trying to own and control the bodies of WoC and how our bodies will be represented.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


*March 7, 2009*

SPEAK! Women of Color Media Collective, a netroots coalition of women of color bloggers and media-makers, is debuting March 7, 2009 with a performance art CD, accompanied by a collaborative zine and classroom curriculum for educators.

Compiled and arranged by Liquid Words Productions, the spoken word CD weaves together the stories, poetry, music, and writings of women of color
from across the United States. The 20 tracks, ranging from the explosive
"Why Do You Speak?" to the reverent "For Those of Us," grant a unique
perspective into the minds of single mothers, arrested queer and trans activists, excited children, borderland dwellers, and exploring dreamers, among
many others.

"We want other women of color to know they are not alone in their
experiences," said writer and educator Alexis Pauline Gumbs, one of
the contributors to the CD. "We want them to know that this CD will
give sound, voice and space to the often silenced struggles and dreams of
womenof color."

The Speak! collective received grant assistance from the Allied Media
Conference coordinators to release a zine complementing the works featured
on the CD, as well as a teaching curriculum for educators to incorporate its
tracks into the classroom environment.

"*Speak!* is a testament of struggle, hope, and love," said blogger
Lisa Factora-Borchers of A Woman's Ecdysis. "Many of the contributors are
in the Radical Women of Color blogosphere and will be familiar names... I
can guarantee you will have the same reaction as to when I heard them
speak, I was mesmerized."

To promote the initiative, the Speak! collective is coordinating
listening parties in communities across America, creating short YouTube
illustrating the CD creation process, and collaborating with organizers and activists online and offline.

The CD is available for online ordering at the SPEAK! Media Collective site on a sliding scale, beginning at $12.

All inquiries for review copies should be directed to us at Proceeds of this album will go toward funding for mothers
and/or financially restricted activists attending the 11th Annual
*Allied Media Conference* in Detroit, MI from July 16-19.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Still Trying to Find the "Mysteriously Missing Word, Rape"

Yesterday (Tuesday March 3), Chester Arthur Stiles was convicted of sexually assaulting a two-year-old and a six-year-old.

He videotaped his sexual assault of the two-year-old.

But when I opened up my AOL home page, here is how the case was described:

That link takes you to the article linked in the first line, which has the cleaned-up title "Man Convicted in Toddler Video Case," though the URL still contains "man-convicted-in-toddler-sex-video."

Over at Shakesville, Liss has written a lot about the media's refusal to call rape what it is (two* examples). I don't have much to add, but I was particularly struck (and angered) by this.

(crossposted at Shakesville)
* My title references this post

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Things Seen 14

It may seem that I talk a lot about how products geared for children reinforce and perpetuate ideas instilled by living under the kyriarchy, but, damn, I'm continually astounded.

We were shopping for summer clothes. My son, avowed lover of graphic shirts, thought this was funny:

I told him I didn't like it, then tried to explain why.*

"He's saying his sister is so annoying, he was happy she was kidnapped."

He understood that part, but the back took a little more.

"This is based on a stereotype that girls and women talk a lot, that their talk is annoying, and that what they say isn't important."

A debate ensued, which he began with, "Mama... some girls do talk a lot."

He kept looking at the shirts, then said, "You are really not going to like this one!"

He was, of course, right.**

*Sorry for the (camera phone) picture quality. The shirt says "The Flying Monkeys Stole My Sister... But They Brought Her Back for TALKING TOO MUCH."

**The front of the shirt features a smiling boy holding duct tape. "I have no idea where my sister is," he says. On the sleeve is his unsmiling sister, restrained with the duct tape.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Other Louisiana

Some time ago, I asked what Louisiana does Senator David Vitter, who opposed the S-Chip reauthorization in 2007, live in.

After Bobby Jindal's speech and his rejection of some of the stimulus funds, I have to ask the same of him.

I am really at the point where I can't utter much more than, "How dare his ruthlessly ambitious, selfish, trying-to-score-a-political point ass do that?"

From my micro-viewpoint of the north-central/northeastern portion of the state, I'd just like to point out people in Louisiana are suffering. There have already been budget cuts and guess where those disproportionately occur?

Higher (public) education and health care. This is a result of politics as usual in Louisiana:
Over the years, lawmakers have locked more than half the state's income into specific programs -- everything from elementary and secondary education dollars to wildlife and fisheries funds -- making the money largely protected from budget cuts. When the state faces a deficit, the governor and lawmakers have little discretion to cut those shielded programs.

That situation leaves Louisiana's public colleges and health care programs to take the largest hit in tight budget years. They are the two largest areas of unprotected spending.


Higher education and health care could lose more than $380 million each in budget cuts next year because the state is expected to bring in $1.2 billion less in state general fund revenue in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
If you look at that Vitter post you can see some of the dismal statistics re: health care (and access to it) in Louisiana. But here is a summary from LPB's Louisiana Public Square January "Backgrounder" entitled "Guarded Condition: Healthcare in Louisiana":
Louisiana is one state away from leading the nation in:

- Infant mortality, with an average of 10 infant deaths per 1000 live births;

- Cancer deaths, which kill 223 out of every 100,000 Louisianans; and

- Premature death, where poor preventive care practices annually kill 11,000 of our citizens before their time.

Health outcomes like these have placed the state either 49th or 50th in the United Health Foundation’s national health rankings for the last 17 years.
Medicaid and CHIP are (again) underfunded in Louisiana. According to FamiliesUSA, that has translated into a reduction in the number of monthly prescriptions covered by Medicaid for most adults, "delayed implementation of programs that provide services to certain seniors and people with disabilities," and "reducing how much providers who participate in the programs are paid for their services."

As if it is not already difficult enough to find providers willing to accept Medicaid.*

On the education side, Louisiana's public universities have already had $55 million trimmed from their budgets.

What that means in my North-Central Louisiana home area is this:

Louisiana Tech has had to lay off 30 employees and had $2.65 million cut from its budget.

UL-M has frozen hiring and had $2.38 million cut from its budget.

Grambling has had $1.33 million cut from its budget.

Friday, I talked to a colleague at LA Tech who asked me about going to the Organization of American Historians' Conference at the end of this month. Someone from his department was going to go, he said, but then travel funds were frozen. I read somewhere that such is the case on many campuses. And adjuncts, already in a tenuous position, are being fired.

The University of Louisiana System could have as much as $116 million cut from its budget next year. That particular scenario:
would result in the loss of approximately 60 academic programs, 1,500 jobs, 3,000 furloughed employees and a possible drop in enrollment of 12,000 students.
The technical colleges are hurting, too. As noted on the Louisiana Community and Technical College System website
LCTCS institutions have the lowest tuition rates throughout the state per full-time equivalent student, and are the most reliant on state funding. Therefore, across the board cuts have a far greater impact on our ability to serve students.
The restrictions are not enough for some Louisiana lawmakers, though, who actually want to see some of the schools close.

Gotta love our priorities.

Lower levels of education are affected too, of course. mrs. o's high school is probably closing in May, after a bitter, protracted fight. She and I both find it ironic that one of the selling points of closing the school and combining it with the larger high school in the parish seat is the availibility of the dual enrollment program at the local technical college. Budget cuts means there is a lack of funding for the program!

The summer program that I usually work, funded by the Louisiana Department of Education, is cut. I'm not sure if its school year existence (when it is held as an after-school program) is in jeopardy or not.

And then, late last week came the news that Pilgrim's Pride plants in Farmerville and El Dorado are closing. The direct impacts of the loss of the Farmerville plant in North Louisiana, according to that article, are 1,300 in-plant jobs gone by summer and 290 contract growers (and my God, their situation merits a posting of its own) in limbo. I'm not sure the article took into account the Louisianans who cross the state line to work in Arkansas. I've already written about how earlier reductions hurt the region. This will be devastating. As mrs. o told me Friday night, by summer, neither she nor her husband will have a job.

This is the context in which Bobby Jindal takes it upon himself to turn down money. And that speech he gave--I'll be honest and say that I focused, horrorstruck, on that image he tried to paint of Louisiana as "regenerated" in the aftermath of Katrina.

A Louisiana to which many people can't come home (not that they're wanted to come back, of course) because of lack of housing** and health*** and social services.

A Louisiana (particularly New Orleans) in which he admits to abandoning the public school system brags about "opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice."

A Louisiana in which state agencies still report delays, loss, and confusion as a result of the 2005 hurricanes. My own experience has reflected this. Just one example: in September 2007, I sent my son's birth certificate to the Louisiana Vital Records Registry for a change. In April of 2008, I called them. The alteration had just been assigned to someone in February, an employee told. She specifically connected the backlog to Katrina. In June, I received a letter requesting that I send in a new check as the previous one was "outdated." I said forget it and went to a local health unit and paid for another copy. I have never received the original back.****

Many Louisianans are poorly educated, in poor health, have little economic opportunity, and little job security. The fact that Jindal can stand there with his fake grin, crafting tales, and declaring "Americans can do anything" while marginalized Louisianans, ill-equipped to withstand the realities of this recession, are hurting, is disturbing. He's keeping his eye on the big picture, though, right? Too bad for the residents of a little state whose realities are getting in the way of the story he wants to be able to tell.
*One of the things that strikes me most about the "Oh, no, universal health care is a socialist evil!!!" arguments is the one that says people might have to wait long periods for health care. Not desirable, but totally based upon the experiences of a certain class. Poor people already wait long periods and the health care they receive is often inadequate. The waiting times at "charity" hospitals (I am most familiar with the LSU hospitals in Monroe and Shreveport and the stories of Ben Taub in Houston) are unbelievable. People sit for hours and hours in ER waiting rooms. Getting in for routine, preventative care at the LSU Hospitals or the Parish Health Units often requires trying to schedule months (even a year) in advance. But as long as it's poor people waiting...

**Click through that whole presentation!

*** Though the shortage of healthcare providers is not nearly as acute as it was as late as 2007, there are still issues surrounding access to healthcare.

**** The other major issues for me, as a historian, have been research related.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

An Update on the NJ4 and a Call to Action

via free the new jersey four:
For Immediate Release February 27, 2009

Contact: Kimma Walker 973.676.9813

Queer and Trans Demonstrators Confront District Attorney
One of the NJ4 Appears in Court Next Week
National NJ4 Solidarity Committee Demands and End to All Prosecution Against Renata Hill and Immediate Release of Patreese Johnson from Prison

What: RALLY: The National NJ4 Solidarity Committee rally in support Renata Hill and self defense for all marginalized queers, transfolks, women and people of color.

When: 12:00 Noon

Monday, March 2 2009

Where: Office of the District Attorney

1 Hogan Place

Manhattan, NY

Who: The NJ4 Solidarity Committee, comprised of such groups as FIERCE, Gay Shame SF, LAGAI — Queer Insurrection, Bash Back, Resistance in Brooklyn and Queers for Economic Justice.

Why: On August 16, 2006, seven young black lesbians were in New York’s West Village and were accosted by Dwayne Buckle, who eventually grabbed one of them, and a fight ensued. The seven women were arrested and charged with crimes such as “gang assault.” Three of them took plea agreements.

The other four lesbians Terrain Dandridge, Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, and Venice Brown were put on trial in 2007. In the trial and the surrounding media they were dehumanized, villified, and called a “lesbian wolf-pack.” The prosecution and trial were so biased that in an unprecedented move the First District Appellate Court reversed all of Terrain’s convictions, and dismissed the indictment with prejudice, although by that time she had served almost two years in jail/prison. In October of 2008, a retrial was granted on the felony gang assault charges against Renata and Venice, and they both got out on bail after serving more than two years. Patreese’s sentence was reduced to 8 from 11 years, but not overturned. Assistant District Attorney Lanita K. Hobbs is demanding that Renata be returned to prison, or face another trial.

Many diverse communities have rallied to the case, seeing the DA’s prosecution of the lesbians as a denial of their right to defend themselves and each other. “If we are killed or raped, we are mourned as victims, or supported as survivors. But if we fight back successfully, we are imprisoned. The district attorney is leaving us no options when we are attacked on the street,” said spokesperson Ralowe of the NJ4 Solidarity Committee. “It is time for the district attorney to stop persecuting these lesbians and let them get on with their lives.”

The Committee will be not only be demanding that the D.A. drop the case against Renata, but also to help secure Patreese Johnson’s immediate release.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...