Month: October 2011

October 26, 2011 / / black

By Guest Contributor Sonita Moss

I don’t feel safe in Seattle.

Specifically, I don’t feel safe in public.

I love this city. Its many neighborhoods, the “little” big city vibe with a more laid-back pace of life. The expansive mountain ranges and views of ocean waters. Housing so dense it is seemingly stacked on hill after hill of pavement and grass. The skyline at dusk and twilight, travelling both north and south on the I-5. It is unrushed and easy, yet there is some nameless vibrance to this place.

Of course, I’ve been here just shy of 8 weeks.

I’m still a rookie, but I am a maverick of emotion. I don’t feel safe here.

The dueling intersections of my social identities: race, class, gender & age have forged a path of extremely unpleasant, unwelcome events at a rate that I have never experienced in my entire life. Here are the facts, the need-to-know-to-get-it information:

I am black. I am a young woman in my early 20s, but I am frequently presumed to be younger. This is important. I am living below the poverty line.

That is a recipe for disaster.
Read the Post Unsafe In Seattle

October 26, 2011 / / asian
October 25, 2011 / / class

Movie theaters used to hold a special kind of magic.

Lined up with my friends, clutching the occasional purchase of popcorn and a soft drink, or sneaking smuggled in snacks, we would watch in awe and horror as teenagers paraded around on screen, seemingly oblivious to the threat of violence lurking around the corner. When I was about thirteen years old, I sat through the original Scream. The rules of horror movies, as articulated by the character Randy, were clear and concise:

Randy: There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex.
[crowd boos]
Randy: BIG NO NO! BIG NO NO! Sex equals death, okay? Number two: you can never drink or do drugs.
[crowd cheers and raises their bottles]
Randy: The sin factor! It’s a sin. It’s an extension of number one. And number three: never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.” Because you won’t be back.

But there were some rules that we knew that never were articulated.

    1. The black character always dies, normally first. This is normally related to not being lead characters, but easily dispensable side characters. Sure, we had Tales from the Hood, but we knew the score. I think that’s why all of us at the local participatory theater screamed the whole way through I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. “Run, Brandy, Run! You gotta make it because they already killed Mekhi!”

    2. Upper middle class white kids are the stars of these things. In general, no matter how big and bad the villain is, they are still hanging out in pastoral campgrounds or tony neighborhoods, waiting for their victims to sun themselves on their cabanas. The only exception I can think of was Candyman who was black and haunted the Cabrini-Green housing projects. And later, came a few other things we need not name. But in general, horror film villains and heroes alike were in the providence of “not us.”

So when Moses and his crew took to the screen, defending their tower block from alien invasion, my inner fourteen year old wanted to jump up and start yelling.

Unfortunately, my 28 year old self knows we don’t do those things at the Museum of Modern Art, even if we really, really, want to.

[Some light spoilers ahead.]
Read the Post Attack the Block Proves You Don’t Have to be Epic to Be a Hero

October 25, 2011 / / media
October 25, 2011 / / everyday racism
October 24, 2011 / / links
October 24, 2011 / / diversity

By Guest Contributor Caroline Karanja

A fairly amusing episode of Parks and Recreation left me wondering about the effects of de-racializing the civil rights movement into a simple fight for equality. Since when does hetero-normative white society become the victim?

The show centers around quirky and optimistic Leslie Knop, who is devoted to her job at a local government office in Pawnee, Ind. Alongside her is department head Ron Swanson, a sarcastic-yet-lovable nature lover played as a hipster Alpha male. His
Libertarian political philosophy is the foundation of the show’s sarcasm towards big government.

In the episode “Pawnee Rangers,” Leslie is troop leader of the Pawnee Goddesses. They host fun activities; they eat candy and have puppy parties. Ron’s Pawnee Rangers is an outdoors club that’s really out there “roughing it.” They are the kind of boy scouts that dig their own trenches, live in boxes and eat food from a can. In this episode, everyone learns a lesson about equality during wilderness weekend.
Read the Post Parks and Recreation Takes Brown v. Board Of Education Into The Wilderness

October 21, 2011 / / Culturelicious

By Guest Contributor May Lui, cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet

Souvankham Thammavongsa is a Laotian Canadian poet, author of the ReLit-winning Small Arguments and Found. Found was also adapted into a short film by Paramita Nath, which screened at film festivals worldwide including Dok Leipzig and Toronto International Film Festival.

Souvnkham has been published in many literary magazines and journals and has been invited to read at Harbourfront’s International Festival of the Authors 2011. Born in Thailand in 1978, she was raised in Toronto.

May Lui for Black Coffee Poet: Why poetry?

Souvankham Thammavongsa: It’s sort of like swimming in the deep end of a pool. You better know what you are doing there because it’s going to become very clear if you don’t. Looking good in a swimsuit isn’t going to help you out.

ML: Tell us about your writing process.

ST:
I don’t write everyday. Sometimes I try to do anything but write. I work for a financial newspaper full-time and have been there for ten years. I work with numbers all day and this allows me to think in a language that doesn’t have anything to do with words, to remember that sometimes words aren’t everything. No one at work knows I write poetry and I prefer it that way. I like that there’s a place for me there no matter what happens to my writing, whether it fails or if it’s successful. It doesn’t matter. I also owned a used bookstore with my husband and wrote short stories all day when it snowed and we had no customers, except for the ones who told us we weren’t going to make it or asked us what we were doing there or if the knapsack in our window display was for sale. I learned that there are people in the world who want nothing to do with books, that there are those who at the sight of a bookshelf start to slowly back up towards the exit, that there are those who would buy themselves a three-dollar book and tell their curious and bright son they don’t want to buy him a book of his choosing because they’ve already spent more than they’ve wanted. That was a learning experience for writing I don’t think I would have gotten by writing.

Read the Post Interview With Laotian Poet Souvankham Thammavongsa [Culturelicious]