All posts by Guest Contributor


Straight Outta Compton, Black Women, and Black Lives Matter

By Guest Contributor Marquis Bey

A friend of mine asked, two days before the theatre premier of Straight Outta Compton, what impact I thought the N.W.A. biopic would have on the Black Lives Matter movement. My answer, since I had not seen or read much about the film, was insufficient and characterized by stock hip-hop feminist answers: white viewers and critics of the Movement may very well use the film to say, “See! They’re advocating violence, glorifying it even!”; hopefully it’ll give historically contextual backing to the legacy of violence visited upon Black bodies to which Black Lives Matter is speaking directly; and, of course, as with all things venerating hip-hop, I worry about the gendered violence and erasure of (Black) women.

This last point — the violence and erasure of Black women in particular — is what the conversation in the car ride with a few other Ph.D. students at my graduate school revolved around. And rightly so.

If we are to allow the film to speak to the plight of Black bodies in contemporary America and use it to do the work of Black liberation, then we must honor the aims of the Black Lives Matter Movement—and the three queer Black women who founded the movement—by critiquing the normalization of violence against Black women.
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March to honor Sandra Bland and protest deaths of black women in police custody Minneapolis, Minnesota July 31, 2015 A few hundred people marched through the streets of downtown Minneapolis to honor Sandra Bland and protest the deaths of black women who have died in police custody.

We already know: white liberal racism denies Black personhood

By Guest Contributor Danielle Fuentes Morgan

Trauma often feels inevitable for bodies of color. It is the leitmotif of life in the United States. And regardless of the safeguards we may have, either intentionally-structured or as benefit of birth, the impact is real. We often speak in terms of macroaggressions and microaggressions, terms I hesitate to use because they imply that without hoods and burning crosses the assaults should be tolerated. It feels like another way to discount the feelings of people of color—a nuanced way of telling us to get over it.

I am sitting in the doctor’s office where two older white men are talking very loudly and unabashedly about why Bernie Sanders is the only person with the common sense necessary to save the United States. I’m absorbed in my phone, reading articles on Sandra Bland and searching frantically to find if the rumors that she was already dead in her mug shot have any credence. Suddenly, one of the men says, more loudly than before, “This is the most important conversation. Everyone needs to pay attention. Including this young woman!” thrusting his finger in my direction.
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Racism Made Me Who I Am Today

By Guest Contributor Ellen Oh

When I was a little girl, I was already very aware of what racism was. It felt like the cigarette burn to my flesh by the high school girl who called me a dirty chink. I was eight years old.

Racism has been seared into my psyche, like the shame that filled me when a white boy spat on me as he screamed “Go back to where you belong!” It sounded like the laughter of the crowd of middle school kids, both Black and White, that surrounded me and called me chink and gook. It looked like the jeers and smirks on the faces that pressed close, like nightmare images I couldn’t escape. I was 10 years old.

It was the fear I felt as I held my little sister’s hand tightly as we ran away from a group of Puerto Rican girls who pelted us with rocks and told us that slanty-eyed chinks don’t belong in their neighborhood. I was 11 years old.

It was the pain of my hair being torn out of my head by the middle aged Russian woman who spoke no English but knew every dirty, filthy word that she could use with “ching chong,”when I confronted her for stealing from my parents store. I was 15.

It was having a kind looking white grandmother scream at me to go back to my own country because she didn’t want my kind ruining the USA. I was 22.

It was having the managing partner of my law firm ask me if I had any relatives on the Golden Venture, the smuggler ship that ran aground in NYC with over 200 illegal Chinese immigrants. I was 24 and not Chinese.
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Our histories, Our Selves: Poshida‘s Powerful Portrayal of LGBT Pakistanis

By Guest Contributor Sabah Choudrey

To be honest with you, I was already a little won over. Before watching Poshida, a documentary on LGBT Pakistan I was already moved. As an LGBT Pakistani myself, I felt a connection with this film already, directed by an LGBT Pakistani person. I was feeling excited to rediscover Pakistan and meet my “other” family. Maybe one day my families will meet. This film had already given me hope.

It’s still rare that we are allowed to take claim and pride over our culture. But no matter how hidden it is, pride is something that can still shine through. I think that the mainstream assumes that just because something is hidden, it is something to be ashamed of. Especially when it is involves a number of taboos – religion, sexuality and gender diversity, namely: Islam, Pakistanis and queerness.

It’s rare that we are allowed to write our own histories and document our own lives. To let others see us the way we see ourselves. To take control of the white Western gaze that is constantly dictating our not-so-happy endings. That is why this film is already so important, before even having watched it. I want to thank the director of this film for simply having made it. This is a milestone in our history.
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KGreen13 Family Portrait

Who Gets To Decide? Multiracial Families and the Question of Identity

By Guest Contributor Kristen Green

After talking with a group of writers about my new book—part memoir, part history—I was approached by a white woman who questioned my use of the term multiracial to refer to my husband.

“Is he Black?” she asked. When I said no, she firmly suggested that I “just call him American Indian.”

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John Sims Feature Image

Art as Remembrance and Creative Resistance: John Sims’ Flag Funerals

By Guest Contributor John Sims

We live in troubled times. This story started many scores of years ago with the founding fathers, some of whom may have recognized the toxic contradictions that would poison the future of this great land. Our history reveals constant resistance to social justice and respect: the sabotage/abandonment of Reconstruction, the compromised Civil Rights Movement, thwarted Black Power, silenced affirmative action, with countless lynchings, injustices, and instances of police and state brutality along the way. We are in haunted times, where race and Blackness are debated and presented with sleight of hand, tricking our best minds to think we are in a post-Black/racial epoch. We are in war times: white supremacy, privilege and denial on one side, black poverty, mass incarceration, double-consciousness on the other. Welcome to an American Civil War that started long before General Lee was born.

The wounds of the Civil War continue to sting after 150 years, along the lines of geography, race, and regional heritage, compromising national healing and sometimes civility. In the late 1990s in South Carolina, tensions flared over the placement of the Confederate flag on the capitol dome. Mass demonstrations and counter-demonstrations across the South revealed deep rifts in the reading of the Civil War and its aftermath, how greatly divided we really are as a country, and how this war continues.

In war, flags are important signifiers that mark social, cultural and historical space. While some may believe the Confederate flag is about heritage and not hate, its history and present reality speak otherwise. This flag can never represent the rich diversity and dynamic heritage of Southern folk, where the African American experience has played a central role. To continue to fly this flag is more than passive-aggressive and disrespectful; it promotes visual terrorism. If Black people and sympathetic allies are not in constant resistance and protest of such symbols, we run the risk of sending the wrong signal: that everything is fine and that we don’t matter. So we protest.

If we cannot resolve the issue of the Confederate flag, something we can see and touch, how can we as a nation process the complex things we cannot see? There are cemeteries for Confederates soldiers; where are the national memorials to the victims of slavery, to descendants of African slaves who built the economy that made this country a world power? What can we make of the fact that in WWII, white American soldiers often treated Nazi prisoners of war better than their African American compatriots? The Confederate flag flying, the Fergusons, the Eric Gardners, and the Freddie Grays of America are forceful reminders of this nation’s consistent lack of respect for Black people. And where there is no respect, there is no justice, and there can be no peace.

“Recoloration Proclamation” and “#BuryBuryFlag Artist John Sims.

To mark both the 150th anniversary of the end of Civil War and the conclusion of Recoloration Proclamation (my fifteen-year multi-media art project concerned with the Confederate flag, visual terrorism and the ownership of Southern heritage), I organized The Confederate Flag: 13 Flag Funerals. This was a funeral/burial group performance in each of the 13 states represented by the 13 stars on the Confederate flag. These events, held on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015, were intended to create a space of ceremonial reflection on the desire for the death, burial, and perhaps the burning of all the Confederate flag represents: a symbol of terror, treason, supremacy, a bearer of the message that history is rewriteable, visual terrorism is sustainable and Black Lives Don’t Matter.

Then weeks later, South Carolina happened.

Contrary to much media reporting, this incident is far from unbelievable. It is a product of American racism. The time is now for the Confederate flag to come down in South Carolina, Mississippi, and other places where it flies high. The time is now for federal law prohibiting the use of the Confederate flag in state flags or on governmental property. The time is now to demand that taking the flag down be more than a mere consolation prize, for the time is now to address head on the foundational issues that undermine social justice and respect for all Americans.

The Confederate Flag: A Call to Burn and Bury. Courtesy John Sims.

The Confederate Flag: A Call to Burn and Bury. Courtesy John Sims.

So in response to Charleston as an artist and concerned citizen, I am extending the 13 Flag Funerals Memorial Day project to a countrywide call for the collective burning and burying of the Confederate flag on July 4th, 2015. I am asking all Americans to join together on Independence Day to demonstrate that this symbol of slavery, segregation, subjugation, and a lost war will not divide us further and that the this great American Civil War must come to an end.

John Sims is a multi-media political math artist who creates projects spanning the areas of mathematics, art, text, performance, and political-media activism.  #BurnBuryFlag


On Shia LaBeouf And Appropriation: This Is What Happens When Nobody Knows Your Name

By Guest Contributor DJ Kuttin Kandi

Nearly 20 years after the film Nobody Knows My Name by documentarian Rachel Raimist many of us can still relate to the many stories of the wom*n in Hip Hop that were told in the film. We, the Anomolies crew can most definitely relate as we are just a few of the thousands upon thousands of names you never knew existed.

Anomolies originally started off as an “all female Hip Hop” collective back in 1995 with over 26 members. In the last few years, we have evolved to be inclusive to being a gender justice collective. So, we don’t appreciate the assumptions and the misgendering of any of our crew members. We came together to create a safe space for ourselves within Hip Hop so that we can be all that we are and do what we love without having to worry about ridicule, judgement and overall oppression that many of us so often receive within many patriarchal-dominated Hip Hop spaces. Anomolies’ intentional goal was to support one another and to offer our support to many of us within Hip Hop who are so often marginalized and underrepresented. We started Anomolies because we knew that we had to be our own agents of change because if we didn’t, who else would?

The dictionary definition of the name aNoMoLIES is 1. To deviate from the norm. or 2. Something that occurs once in a lifetime. When you break down the name it spells out No Mo Lies (no more lies). Anomolies dispels myths about our identities in Hip Hop culture. We are proud to deviate from the “norm”, we are proud to question and to challenge myths.

Beyond our own Hip Hop crew, so many of us are Anomolies — trying to break gender norms, defying myths and trying to use Hip Hop as a platform to be heard.

So many of us are local to global wom*n-identified, wom*n of color, black and brown bodies, indigenous, queer, trans, two-spirited, gender non-conforming, disabled, adoptees, (im)migrants, non-working to working class Hip Hop artists and communities that you never knew had skills. So many are the voices that many have never heard of because either they are pretending we don’t exist or they are pretending to be us. We’re either the ones many want to “rachelize” or we’re the ones they want to call “old skool” b*tches and not give us our due props. We’re the ones you would never know about until an actor like Shia LaBeouf shows up on video footage somewhere in the woods reciting some of our verses from one of our songs and “fake the funk” like he was actually freestyling.
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Don’t #AskRachel — She Checked Out Long Ago

By Guest Contributor Dorothy Attakora-Gyan

First things first…wait! I probably shouldn’t open a piece on Rachel Dolezal with the only Iggy Azalea lyric I know. Goodness, let’s try this again.

I advocate letting folks self- identify how they want to—ethically. Rachel Dolezal it seems, has not self- identified ethically and it is fair to hold her accountable and ask her to do better.
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