Category Archives: culture

A Muslimah’s Guide to Rocking the World

By Guest Contributor Amina Jabbar, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

Growing up as a queer-identified South Asian Muslimah and a survivor of domestic violence, I’ve occasionally felt that merely existing was, in and of itself, an act of rebellion. But I’ve been fortunate. I’ve not only survived, but thrived, now living the life of a resident physician.

I can’t take all the credit for where I am because, simply put, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. Through my life, I’ve consistently found media depictions of Muslim women and others engaging in daily acts of resistance to subvert and redefine the predominant discourses about Muslim women. These people and stories form a series of lessons to which I give credit for the awesome trajectory of my life. Here, then, are my seven lessons for a Muslimah’s guide to rocking the world.

Lesson #1: Our commitment to social justice reflects our commitment to faith.

It’s easy, I think, to get lost in the textual analyses of faith alone. The Qu’ran and hadiths are, after all, rich, deep, and complicated. But in an incredible interview on Vimeo, Amina Wadud makes a distinction between being a servant of God and an agent of God.  She talks about how her focus on the Qu’ranic meanings alone wasn’t enough; that being an agent implies an obligation to actively live in ways that are consistent with principles of social justice. Wherever and whenever there is injustice, we’re obligated to challenge the status quo.

Activist Fanta Ongoiba. Image via The Star.

Lesson #2: Some principles are worth being unwaveringly unapologetic about.

Our social and political positions may not always be popular. In general, I’m all for compromise but, occasionally, there are principles that are and should be “non-negotiable.” With the non-negotiables of life, even when the going gets tough, there should be no sidelining, shifting, or redrafting of the message. Easy to say, difficult to do. But Fanta Ongoiba, executive director of Africans in Partnership Against AIDS in Toronto, makes it look slick. Sexual health and HIV remain hushed, tabooed  topics within many Muslim communities. Ongoiba’s work , recently honored by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, provides real space and fills a real need, no matter the response from religious leaders. As a Toronto Star article put it, “at an international conference, one sheik called her a ‘troublemaker,’ a label she embraced” and to which she also responded “ I’d prefer to be a troublemaker to wake you up.”

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An Open Letter to Mike Babchik: I Am Not For Sale

By Guest Contributor Diana Pho, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

TRIGGER WARNING FOR THIS POST

Photo of Mike Babchik and ‘Man Banter’ crew at NY Comic Con. Credit: Bethany Maddock

Dear Mr. Mike Babchik of Man Banter,

You thought you were having fun last month at New York Comic Con when you and your film crew gained access to the convention using your job credentials at SiriusXM Radio. You thought this would be a great opportunity to provide footage for your YouTube show (now defunct, thankfully). You thought it would make great television to pull me aside, to put your mic in my face, to drive your camera’s light in my eyes and to ask if you could buy me.

You thought it was just a joke when you said you wanted to buy an umbrella with an Asian girl — because I was holding a parasol.

You thought you were being clever by mistaking me for a geisha girl, like the many submissive, diminutive women you’ve seen on TV or on the Internet or in movies.

You thought that because I was small and female and Asian, it gave you the right to ridicule my existence.

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Día De Los Muertos Video Special

By Arturo R. García

With All Saints Day & Día De Los Muertos approaching, Mayitzin’s 2012 look at the holiday is worth a look for anybody curious about how the tradition has evolved into the day of rememberance we know today. (Also, the musical selection that opens the video, the 4th Movement of “Noche de los Mayas” (Noche de encantamiento) as performed by Mexico City’s Philharmonic Orchestra, is definitely a compelling choice.)

Meanwhile, Pocho.com’s Sara Inés Calderón prepared a quick, 3-step process for doing your nails calavera-style, as part of her recent series of videos centering on Halloween.

Lastly, because the legend of La Llorona still rings out around this time of year, two versions of the song that bears her name, beginning with Chavela Vargas:

And a rendition by Lila Downs:

Images: Encampment for Deported Immigrants, Tijuana, BC, Mexico

By Guest Contributor Brooke Binkowski, cross-posted from Brooke Binkowski.com

Volunteers from Angels Without Borders offer free haircuts to people living on the campsite in Plaza Constitución in Tijuana, Mexico. All images by Brooke Binkowski.

In early August, Mexico’s government destroyed the encampments in Tijuana’s riverbed after the notorious “El Bordo,” where homeless people had been living for years, became international news. A tent city soon sprang up nearby, in Tijuana’s Plaza Constitucion, and has housed homeless migrants, largely deportees, since.

Of these deportees, almost 40 percent have lived in the United States for several years and identify as at least partly American; at least 5 percent identify as indigenous Mexican and speak very little Spanish; many need mental health care or addiction treatment, and nobody wants to be there.

The encampment is administered by volunteers from Angeles Sin Fronteras, Angels Without Borders. They offer food, a temporary place to stay, bathrooms and makeshift showers, and free haircuts to those looking for work.

There are very few places that offer such services for the homeless and the “segun deportados,” the twice deported, who have absolutely nowhere else to go. The ones that do exist subsist on very little support from the Mexican government.

Everywhere, handwritten signs are tacked up that read: “No militarizar la frontera” – Don’t militarize the border.
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Spirit Day Special: Women and the Word Takes The Show On The Road

By Arturo R. García

The documentary Women and the Word would be worth spotlighting any day, but it’s an especially good time to consider it on Spirit Day. The all-woman project spotlights a group of queer women artists as they hit the road for a series of shows that, as the trailer promises, has “an energy, an attitude, a swag, that’s never been seen before in literary art.”

Filmmakers Andrea Boston and Sekiya Dorsett’s follow visual artist Elizah Turner, musicians Be Steadwell and Jonquille “SolSis” Rice and poet (also known as Dappho the Flow-Er), T’ai Freedom Ford, as well as executive producer and “tour mastermind” Jade Foster, who called the nine-city series of shows “The Revival,” after a 2009 gathering that gave Foster the idea to put it together as a showcase and safe space for queer women of color. The film also features interviews with Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Kim Katrin Crosby, and members of the Earth Pearl Collective, among others.

The project is also currently raising funds on Kickstarter to cover the final $15,000 in post-production costs, an all-or-nothing campaign that ends on November 12.

“A successful Kickstarter campaign is critical, not only for the creation of our film, but for the advancement of queerwomen of color,” Dorsett says. “Our beautiful stories should be included in the cultural discussion and shared by members of our community and beyond. We exist. And our voices must be heard.”

Race + Tech: Watch Black Girls Code’s Kimberly Bryant’s TED Talk

By Arturo R. García

The opening of Kimberly Bryant’s video lays it out: “Just to say the words ‘Black Girls’ is revolutionary.”

In this presentation from a TED Talks event in Kansas City in August 2013, Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant takes us through not just the development of BGC, but her own upbringing in Memphis, a hub of social change in its own right.

“As a child of the ’60s, I like to think that revolution and radical action was running through my veins, from the time I set foot on the Earth,” she explains. What she has built, she says, is a movement not just for the nerdy girl she was growing up, but for girls like her daughter, and girls “who believe the revolution of this generation is, indeed, technology.”

Quoted: Comedian Dean Obeidallah On Right-Wing Islamophobia

And then there’s The Washington Times. They whine that the movie is just a parade of liberals mocking conservatives. To be honest, they are correct. We do have some great progressive voices in the film including The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Russell Simmons, Rep. Keith Ellison [D-MN], and comedians like Lewis Black, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, etc.

But here’s the thing The Washington Times didn’t include in their article, because they didn’t contact us for a comment: We invited numerous conservatives to be in the film. To be specific, we asked Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Judge Napolitano, and Pat Robertson through their representatives. We even invited some of the most notorious Muslim haters. (I won’t list their names because they don’t merit the attention.)

One guess how they all responded? They, of course, said no. Why? You have to ask them but it’s clear that many on the right don’t want to be challenged when selling their rancid bill of goods to the public about Muslims.

But here’s the truth that some on the right will hate to hear: We will prevail. And when I say “we,” I don’t mean Muslims. I mean American values. How can I say that? Our nation’s history makes it clear how this will end for the Muslim bashers.
- From The Daily Beast

#POC4culturalenrichment: The Racialicious Interview

By Arturo R. García

All tweets posted with permission of Suey Park.

Colorado State University graduate student Suey Park opened up another welcome Twitter discussion into diversity and race relations over the weekend when she coined the tag #POC4culturalenrichment, which picked up steam within a day of her beginning to recount her own experiences. But rather than try to sum up the story, we contacted Park — who has also blogged about the #KeepVeronicaHome campaign — to get her account of what led her to delve into the topic, and where it led her.

AG: From what I could tell — and please, correct me if I’m mistaken — the tweet above was your first tweet that used the tag. But let’s talk about what led you to coin it and begin to elaborate on your experiences.

SP: It’s been building up for a while, honestly. It seems I’m only allowed to talk about racism if I center my world around the feelings, power, and learning of white people. I have consistently been reprimanded from both people of power who have progressed within a white heteopatriachal system and white folks that the pathway to success is playing your cards the right way. That is, acting like the focus of racial justice should be centering our work around developing white allies and reinforcing hurtful power dynamics. It also means shifting from focusing on baseline survival of people of color to the self-improvement of white folks who want to challenge biases to feel less guilty. This doesn’t actually fix the situation, it gives white people a free pass for letting racism continue by letting them point to and identify something might be racist, why deflecting any personal responsibility. And although it’s cliche to say, people totally think people of color should still pull themselves up by their bootstraps to some extent. Even the first lady and President talking about the “personal responsibility” of people of color to improve their situations, but we never talk about the personal responsibility of white folks to do something very simple: to educate themselves.

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