Reveling in Bleakness

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally published at PostBourgie

In grad school, I took an elective called Autobiografiction in Black, a course in first-person narratives illustrating a broad pastiche of Black life. The first novel we were asked to read was Sapphire’s Push. I read it in three days, growing more and more uncomfortable by the page. I had to take long, cleansing breaks after certain passages. Other times, I sat covering my mouth in disbelief at the central character’s myriad disfortunes. When the book finally ended, I wanted to hurl it across my apartment. My skin crawled for days and I felt betrayed by my professor. What possible reason could she have had for choosing this novel as the initial reading for her course?

Push is the story of Precious Jones, an obese and illiterate teen whose mother and father are sexually, physically, and emotionally abusing her. As a result of routine father-daughter incest, she is the mother of one child with Down’s Syndrome and is pregnant with a second. These horrifying occurrences are just the beginning of Precious’s troubles, but it’d behoove you to read the book to find out what else is going on.

Suffice it to say: Sapphire is relentless in her portrayal of this girl, who joins a literacy class and begins to slowly peek out from the cracks of her dark, shattered life and find a few rays of light.

People who love this book will tell you that it’s a triumphal story of hope in the face of brutality and despair. And it is. But for me, hope appeared too late in the work and retreated without a satisfying enough redemption for our heroine. I couldn’t stop mourning her abundance of tragedies, no matter what brief victories she won.

So when I found out Push was being adapted for the silver screen, I cringed at the prospect of revisiting Precious’s bleakly rendered world. I dreaded watching in technicolor all the awful things I’d imagined while reading. And I reeeally didn’t want to return to the hollowness that haunted the ending. What possible reason would Hollywood have for further dramatizing an existence as heinous as Precious’s? Continue reading

On The Road in 2009 [Speaking Engagements] + Announcements

Speaking Engagments

Just a quick announcement as to where Carmen and I will be speaking in 2009. We’ll post updates when we add engagements.


February 3, 2009
University of New England – Portland, ME


February 2, 2009
Feminism 2.0 Conference – George Washington University
Panelist: Injecting Feminism into Popular Culture
(Also attending: Veronica Arreola, Melissa Silverstein)

February 5, 2009
Yes Means Yes Reading – Busboys and Poets, Washington DC
(After Party at the Chi Cha Lounge)
Presenter: Reading from “The Not Rape Epidemic”

March 15, 2009
SXSWi – Austin, TX
Panelist: Can Social Media End Racism?
(Also Attending: Jay Smooth, Phil Yu, Kety Esquivel)

March 27 – 29, 2009
WAM!2009 – MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Panelist: Going Group: How Blogging in Numbers Gets It Done
(Also attending: Fatemeh Fakhraie)

April 30 – May 2
Symposium: Race, Ethnicity, and New Media – Texas A & M University
Keynote: How to Talk About Race in a Digital Space (Working Title)
Paper Submission: Ewww – You Got Your Social Justice in My Video Game! Notes on Feminist and Anti-Racist Activism in Gaming


Deesha is still looking for women voices to throw into the mix for “Down to the Wire: An Anthology of Black Thought on HBO’s Greatest Show Ever.” Head over to her website for details.

Sundance Interview: Cherien Dabis, Director of Amreeka

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, orginally published at Women and Hollywood

Cherien Dabis is having one of those dreamlike weeks. She was named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2009, and her film Amreeka had its world premiere at Sundance this past weekend to a standing ovation and positive reviews. Now all she needs to do it sell the film and get an agent.

Not being in Sundance, I haven’t seen the film but if I were there, it would been tops on my list. Here’s the description from the catalog:

Director Cherien Dabis’s auspicious debut feature, Amreeka, is a warm and lighthearted film about one Palestinian family’s tumultuous journey into Diaspora amidst the cultural fallout of America’s war in Iraq. Muna Farah, a Palestinian single mom, struggles to maintain her optimistic spirit in the daily grind of intimidating West Bank checkpoints, the constant nagging of a controlling mother, and the haunting shadows of a failed marriage. Everything changes one day when she receives a letter informing her that her family has been granted a U.S. green card. Reluctant to leave her homeland, but realizing it may be the only way to secure a future for Fadi, her teenage son, Muna decides to quit her job at the bank and visit her relatives in Illinois to see about a new life in a land that gives newcomers a run for their money.Dabis weaves an abundance of humor and levity into this tale of struggle, displacement, and nostalgia and draws an absorbing and irresistibly charming performance from actress Nisreen Faour as Muna, who stands at the heart of this tale. Amreeka glows with the truth and magic of everyday life and signals the arrival of an exciting, new directorial talent.

She took a couple of minutes to discuss the film and her Sundance experience.

Women & Hollywood: What made you want to make this film?

Cherien Dabis: The story is quite personal, inspired by my family and loosely based on true events. I grew up in a small town in Ohio of about 10,000 people. I actually grew up between Ohio and Jordan but most of my time was spent in this small town where as Arab Americans we were isolated because there was no Arab community and not a whole lot of diversity. For a while everything was fine and we fit in relatively well until the first Gulf War when my family was scapegoated and overnight we virtually became the enemy. All kinds of absurd things happened. My father who is a physician lost a lot of his patients because they wouldn’t support an Arab doctor and then it came to a head when the Secret Service came to my high school to investigate a rumor that my 17 year old sister threatened to kill the president.

Continue reading

African-American Transgender History-50’s Style

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally published at TransGriot

One of the beauties of surfing the Net is that from time to time, you’ll stumble across a nugget of history or some photo that you weren’t even aware existed.

I’ve mentioned that JET, EBONY and the now defunct HUE magazines when they first started back in the day served as historical chroniclers of the Black experience in America. Google just negotiated a deal in which they will be digitizing pre-1960’s EBONY and JET magazines so that you can access their content on the Net.

One of the things I discovered to my delight is that in order to fulfill their mission of documenting the Black experience, EBONY and JET also covered events and discussed Black GLBT issues.

In addition to asking pointed questions about the Black GLBT experience, they also covered the New York and Chicago drag balls as well. Continue reading

The Boston Globe asks “Why Should a Journalist’s Race Matter?”

by Latoya Peterson

This could have been a good op-ed.

Reading through Jeff Jacoby’s rant about how some people have the nerve to wonder about racial parity in the press corps, I just kept shaking my head. One could have argued that if journalism, in general, is on the decline it follows logic that minority journalists will be disproportionately affected and start disappearing from the rolls. So, one could then logically argue to fix the racial gaps in the press corps, we would need to start by fixing the foundation of the press corps.

Or, one could have argued that as old notions of district boundaries and “ethnic” enclaves are eroding away, so should the idea of “ghettoizing” correspondents. So, it would be reasonably expected for a white reporter to be able to cover an issue outside of their community with the same level of insight and aplomb as a community insider. (I would say vice versa, but many minority writers, self-included, are expected to be able to “write white” already.)

Or, I could have even accepted yet another “post-racial” America type of commentary where they argue that since whites proved willing to cross the color barrier in voting for Obama, it means that journalists should be able to venture out and cover all issues, regardless of race, because a new level of understanding has been reached. (I would disagree with this, but I could accept it.)

But Jacoby’s piece is the same old, same old.

But why should it matter to anyone but a racist whether a White House reporter is black or white? Well, says Michael Fletcher, a colleague of Kurtz’s, “you would want to have black journalists there to bring a different racial sensibility.” By the same token, more evangelical journalists would presumably bring a different religious sensibility to the White House, more journalists from the Deep South would bring a different regional sensibility, and more Republican journalists would bring a different political sensibility. Do you know of any news organizations that are fretting over the “relative paucity” of evangelicals, Southerners, or Republicans on their payrolls? Me neither.

As if these things were equal. As if evangelicals, Southerners, or Republicans were systematically excluded from society (and the press corps) for years due to institutionalized racism and the pervasive idea of segregation. Continue reading

Another Weird-ass Skittles Commercial

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

A lot of folks have wrote in this week to tell about this really bizarre Skittles commercial, featuring two dudes yelling at each other in Thai and Tagalog. It really makes no sense to me at all. And I don’t know what’s weirder — that the two Asian guys are yelling at each other in different languages, or that the white guy has a multicultural reflection. “Reflect the Rainbow.” Get it? Me neither.

How to Take Your Organization From Culturally Clueless to Diversity Dynamo

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I hope you were able to get on my free call last week, as we had over 500 people registered! Thanks to all of you who wrote in to say how valuable the call was for you.

You should know that on the content-packed call, I also made a special invitation for listeners to join me on my one-time-only, 5-part tele-course starting next week called…

Diversity Career Success:
How to Take Your Organization From Culturally Clueless to Diversity Dynamo (and Skyrocket Your Own Career While You’re At It)

If you’re involved in any way with your organization’s diversity efforts – whether you’re the Chief Diversity Officer or simply a volunteer in your organization’s diversity employee networking group – this course is designed just for you.

The fact is, while diversity training for employees abounds, there’s very little out there for those of you who do diversity work. You’re largely left to go it alone. Your boss may give lip service to the cause, but half the time you’re dancing somewhere between feeling completely unsupported and filling a role that’s little more than a legal checkbox.

If you’re sick of the same old CYA tactics, join me as I show you how to get your ideas taken seriously by senior management and share with you sensible, actionable solutions that actually work in the real world.

At the end of the course, you’ll walk away with a blueprint that you’ve customized based on your organization type, your organization’s needs, and your own role within the organization. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, after all, and what you’re able to accomplish as a junior-level employee is very different than what you can get done when you’re a senior executive.

Many of you already took advantage of our generous 2-pay plan, and while that option has expired, if you’re one of the first 36 people who register, you’ll get as a free gift a 4-CD set of interviews I’ve conducted with some of the nation’s top experts on race and diversity. It’s worth $197, but you would get it with my compliments. I’ll even personalize it for you!

See what I’m offering and reserve your spot now!

Addicted to Race 104: Inauguration and Black Female Bodies

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Addicted to Race is New Demographic’s podcast about America’s obsession with race. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find in this episode:

Why did the mainstream media act as if President Obama’s inauguration was a moment that only African-Americans could celebrate? Now that we have a black family in the White House, who will be able to translate black vernacular and cultural phenomena to non-black folks? And finally, why the ongoing fascination with black women’s behinds?

Got feedback for us? Call 917-720-6348 or email

Andrea (AJ) Plaid runs The Cruel Secretary, where she blogs about race, gender, and sex. Andrea has been quoted in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune regarding the decline of the NAACP, African Americans’ protectiveness toward Senator Barack Obama, and the rift between white feminists and feminists of color in defending Michelle Obama against racist and sexist media attacks. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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