Friday, July 29, 2011

change it she said

my mother used to tell me
there was an energy that destroyed
and an energy that created
these energies exist
in all of us
she said

later i learned of yin and yang
of the masculine principle
            and the feminine principle

later i learned
of single mothers prostitution pornography no childcare violence against women rape weapon of war fgm female feticide bride burnings dowry deaths beauty industries body shame

later i learned
of heads of state presidents prime ministers CEOs heads of corporations oil billionaires bankers profits money makers progress industry conquests occupations empire invasions

later i learned
of earth
     mother earth
and nature
     mother nature

there is a crisis
we have a crisis
we are in a crisis
                  it is now

there are some who see

        mother nature is
       out of balance

      mother earth is

destructive energy run amok
creative energy on its knees
          the life force
                  the captive unicorn

everyone knows creation
requires a mother
                 and a father
a masculine principle
        and a feminine principle
a destructive energy
                    for new life to grow
and a creative energy
                    the womb, the cocoon
a feminine energy to birth
a masculine energy to curb
                                   prune . . .


almost every religion
    in the world


the greatest story ever told
our myths
of creation
shaping psyche
creating reality

erasing feminine
worshiping masculine

the mother
            is dying
bleeding oil
her children crying

the feminine principle
out of balance
in the jaws of her captor

my mother told me
when i was young
there is a creative energy
and a destructive energy
these energies exist in all of us
she said

they are
out of balance
      in our minds
            our bodies
                 our stories
                      our psyches
                            our planet

change it
she said

in your mind
         your body
              your story
                    your psyche

tell everyone
she said

there is a crisis
we have a crisis
we are in a crisis
                   it is now

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Here's Colbert's report on media coverage of the gunman in Norway's recent tragic attack...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Picking From Many Battles

Last week, my ten-year-old came home from camp upset. She said that during a team game, one of her teammates didn't want to hold her hand because "she's a black girl". This was not in the sixties, it was not in the "pre-racial, pre-Obama era" - this was last week.

Normally, I would go to the parents of the child in this situation, just to inform them of what's been said, and hope that they deal with the issue in the best possible way. But I don't know these parents, so I went to management. My daughter will be in this camp for the rest of the summer and deserves to be in a safe, comfortable, non-toxic environment. Not to mention the arm and leg we're paying to have her there.

But this post is about picking your battles - and there are so many to choose from. This morning I learned that, at this same camp (a gymnastics camp), girls are required to wear leotards under their T-shirts and shorts while boys have no clothing restrictions at all. I asked my girls what they've been told the reasoning is behind this rule and they said it's because "when girls do flips and cartwheels, their shirts go up and it's distracting."

None of the girls at this camp are over the age of thirteen. If there are counselors who are "distracted" by a little girl's bellybutton or midriff, those counselors should not be at a camp for children. This is all about accountability. Grown men are responsible for their own actions. What a novel concept!

I grew up in a culture that hammered home the need for "modesty" in girls' and women's dress. God forbid a man should happen to see a naked elbow or ankle and be sent into a mad frenzy of lust at the sight of it. It would be the girl's or woman's fault of course, because, hey, she was told to dress properly. A man shouldn't be expected to take responsibility for how a woman dresses, or his response to her naked parts! And here I am again, in another culture that is hammering home the same message to my girls. As many times as I've encountered this line of logic, it still never ceases to amaze me.

So I'm struggling now with whether I complain again and become That person - the one who complains of everything and has a problem - the one you can discredit and shrug off because, well, next week she'll be complaining of something else - or whether I say nothing and let this one go.

I know, quite clearly, that the issue is not just with this particular camp. The problem is that most of the world is immersed in unchallenged, unexamined racism, sexism, homophobia, and all kinds of other abuses of power - with no accountability at all on the part of the person in the position of power. When you're someone who is not only aware, but actively challenging such power abuses, you become the complainer. Or the trouble-maker. Or the conspiracy theorist. Or the [insert other silencing descriptor here].

I like being happy. I like having joy in my life. I like to laugh and joke around. I HATE having to confront things like racist bullshit and misogyny. Truly - nothing bums me out more than having to go at it with someone wielding unearned power and privilege. A someone who is almost always ignorant of said power and privilege. All I want to do in the morning is drop my kids off at a safe place where they can learn and have fun. And I want to go home, have a nice breakfast and some tea, and get on with my day. Seriously. That's ALL I want to do. I hate complaining. But when you have kids, speaking up or staying silent takes on a whole new significance. Because now I am modeling how to deal (or not deal) with abuses of power. My children are watching what I do and learning from it. Either way, I will have to explain to them why I spoke up, or why I did not, in the face of clear inequality or injustice.

I'm not going to change the current system single-handedly and overnight. But I can at least challenge and question things *in the home*. If I don't, my children think the way things are is they way they ought to be. If the people they trust to protect them and guide them are not challenging "small", everyday infractions like the ones above, then everything is as it should be and the children are simply over-sensitive - they should swallow their pain/anger/fear and move on as if no violation has taken place. In other words, the entire emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact on their psyche becomes their responsibility. And the violator gets away with his/her actions, words, and behaviour, without ever examining it or being accountable in any way.

I haven't yet decided how I will proceed, but at the very least, the girls know there is something to be questioned - something not quite right about the scenario - and that their mother is mulling over how to deal with it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Water, and an Interview

I'm thrilled to be part of Chasing Ray's Summer Blog Blast Tour this week. I was interviewed by Doret at The Happy Nappy Bookseller blog and that post is up today. She asked me some very interesting questions about Jazz In Love, publishing, and dating shady characters. Please check it out if you get a chance!

Speaking of very interesting questions, I came across this very interesting video called The Story of Bottled Water. I highly recommend watching it. There is a counter video on Youtube, but it is rather weak in comparison. Watch both for yourself and see what you think. (Plus, I had NO idea bottled water waste was being sent to India for land fills! Did you?).

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Politics of Story

I have a post up at Hunger Mountain, an arts journal put out by the Vermont College of Fine Arts. In The Politics of Story, I address the idea that only some stories are political and only some stories are message-driven. I argue that ALL stories are political and ALL stories put forth messages.

Here is a brief excerpt:
"Author and poet Suheir Hammad once said, “Writing must always have intention because words have power.” I know well the power of words. I know how a single slur can reduce a person to shame and humiliation . . . and fear. Some words—like racial epithets—have long and brutal histories of violence behind them. They carry with them the power to dehumanize and the inherent threat of attack. In an interview with Al-Jazeera English, Hammad stated, “I think it’s a political decision to leave politics out of your work.” Within a cultural, social and economic structure that advantages and privileges some over others, there is no way to make writing the “other” a non-political act. The very fact that there are “others” means that some perspectives are put forward more frequently and more consistently to create a norm, or dominant narrative. [...]
"As soon as voices of the marginalized are brought front and center, out of the fringes of the dominant narrative and into the center, our stories are automatically politicized. Because “othering” certain segments of the population is a social, political and cultural act. In the same way that leaving certain voices out of a narrative, or certain faces out of a film, book cover, magazine, television show, etc. is a political act, bringing those voices into the spotlight and giving them a platform, assigning them equal value and importance and weight, and listening to what they have to say is also a political act, intentional or not."
You can read the full post at Hunger Mountain. Let me know what you think!