I thought I would be a poet and playwright. Those were the two forms I really enjoyed. I made my living as a journalist, of course, but I thought that I would just stick with those and I would become better and better and better. But in ’68 … I was at a dinner — now this is name-dropping, but these were the people — James Baldwin had taken me over to see Jules Feiffer and Jules’ then-wife, Judy Feiffer, and we talked all night, and I really had to work very hard to get a word in because they’re all great raconteurs.
The next day, Judy Feiffer called a man who is still my editor at Random House and said, “If you can get her to write an autobiography, I think you’d have something.” He phoned me a number of times, Robert Loomis, and I said, “No, I’m not interested,” until he said to me, “Well, Ms. Angelou, I guess it’s just as well that you don’t attempt this book because to write autobiography as literature is almost impossible.” So I thought, “Oh, well, in that case, I better try.” Well, I found that’s the form I love. I love autobiography. … It challenges me to try and speak through the first-person singular and mean the third-person plural.
– NPR, 1986
By Guest Contributor Bailey Reid, cross-posted from Medium
Trigger Warning: This piece discusses rape
Last week, we saw incredible mobilization worldwide for the #BringBackOurGirls movement. We had Michelle, Malala, and just about every other person on my Facebook feed sharing the information, demanding action, and questioning the lack of media coverage about this tragedy.
In the midst of this, the RCMP quietly released a second number about missing girls. But rather than the generally accepted 600 Aboriginal missing women, they casually mentioned Canada actually has closer to 1200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. This is not to say at all that Aboriginal women are more important than Nigerian women, or that missing girls in any scenario is acceptable. It isn’t. It is never acceptable to have anyone hurt or missing, simply because of their gender. But Canadians were indignant, horrified, and saddened by the missing Nigerian girls — while our own First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women continue to suffer in silence and isolation.
There was an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Monday to discuss the Nigerian girls. We have yet to see an inquiry about our Stolen Sisters. Why aren’t Canadians demanding action on our own soil about our missing girls? They are being sold into sex slavery too, and the numbers are four times that of the missing Nigerian girls. Why don’t our Indigenous women have their own viral hashtag? Where is the outrage? Where are their memes?
By Arturo R. García
They might be loathe to admit it, but good cheer likely wasn’t the only reason so many people connected to the NBA were so quick to declare Tuesday morning the final chapter in Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s relationship with the league. The problem is, the league’s own mechanics all but ensure that won’t be the case. And that’s just on paper.
By Arturo R. García
Adding to the shock was that Washington, whose work helped uplift her fans and readers and raise necessary conversations about the unfair beauty standards pushed on communities of color, reportedly took her own life at just 22 years of age, after struggling with depression following her mother’s death last year. Her passing has not only inspired conversation about her work, but about the struggle facing many of our communities and mental health.
Black women remain caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of hyperinvisibility and invisibility. Everyone thinks that they know everything there is to know about us, but based on facts alone, very little is actually known. And what we don’t know can hurt us – is hurting us. What we fail to acknowledge is that images of black and brown women drive a startlingly large amount of social policy. Disdain toward supposedly irresponsible black and brown women – welfare queens as those on the right derisively call them – is at the heart of the right’s continued unfeeling push toward austerity. This same disdain toward disproportionately black and brown female wage laborers undoubtedly informs the national resistance to raising the minimum wage. Images of “dastardly” brown women crossing our borders illegally in order to drop anchor babies drives immigration policy.
And the exceptionalism of Michelle Obama and her daughters frankly doesn’t help matters. Black women themselves become complicit in this pushing of ourselves to the background, marshaled there by our mythic belief in our own strength, our unresolved traumas over fathers who failed to meet expectations, our self-sacrificial love for black men, and our deep desires to respectably conform to the American nuclear ideal. Michelle Obama makes many black women long for this return to tradition.
There are no easy answers here. Black and brown men’s needs and lives matter. And I’m glad we have a president sensitive to those needs. But as Mychal Denzel Smith argued, “The path to equality for Black and Brown people [cannot be] to uphold patriarchy.” And as Dani McClainargues, it seems that women and girls simply have no place in this new set of initiatives. Beyond the problems of using personal responsibility and philanthropy as models to solve a deeply systemic set of social problems, the failure to imagine the struggles of men and women of color as linked together is perhaps the most short-sighted aspect of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
– “Black girls’ zero-sum struggle: Why we lose when black boys dominate the discourse” by Brittney Cooper via Salon.com; March 6, 2014
By Arturo R. García
As Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o’s career prospects seemingly expand by the day, so, too, do the discussions surrounding her, with some fans imagining the sight of her stepping into some iconic franchises, and others side-eyeing the increased attention she’s been getting.
By Guest Contributor Rishi Nath, cross-posted from Open City Magazine
[Editor’s Note: This is Open City’s second installment of “Lyrics To Go,” a collaboration between writer Rishi Nath and multimedia journalist Nabil Rahman . The series features conversations with contemporary musicians whose life and work intersects both Asian-American communities and New York City neighborhoods. Click here for DJ Ushka’s special mix for Open City readers.]
These days, DJ Ushka seems to be everywhere at once. She is all over Brooklyn, whether opening for Sundanese vocalist Alsarah in Stuyvesant Heights, deejaying and booking the monthly iBomba party in Williamsburg, or swooping in to save the AAWW PageTurner Festival party after a booked act canceled last minute. She also zig-zags the country, appearing at gigs in Boston, Philadelphia and Oakland. And that’s just weekends. During the day, she is a full-time staff member at the New York Immigration Coalition , where she handles communications and youth development.
Born Thanu Yakupitiyage, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Ushka grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. She attended college in western Massachusetts, where she was turned on to post-colonial theory. From her spacious, dimly lit living room in Crown Heights, she described how that experience, a decade ago, changed her.
“It was the first time that I really started to understand concepts such as Orientalism, through Edward Said,” she said. Her laptop, attached to speakers and headphones, was open and glowing on the coffee table in front of her as she spoke. A poster proclaiming “Stop Racial Profiling,” hung on the wall behind her.