As Latoya mentioned at the time, we dealt with not only the holidays but some technical glitches to close out the year. Those are in the past now, thank goodness (and some folks who offered their help).
We’ll be rolling out new content throughout the week–expect a Django double-feature on Wednesday–but to get us started, check out this Moyers & Company interview with Junot Díaz, in which he not only revisits many of the themes of his keynote speech at Facing Race, but also touches on the choices in Star Wars that resonated with his immigrant experience and his wishes for the next four years of the Obama administration. A full transcript can be found here, but a small excerpt of the conversation is under the cut. Read the Post Video: Kicking Off Our New Year With Some Junot Diaz
We’ll finish posting the plenaries from Facing Race 2012 Friday, but collected below are some impressions of the conference from members of the Racialicious team, including:
–Racialicious Owner and Editor Latoya Peterson –Associate Editor Andrea Plaid –Arts & Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour –Guest Contributors Kendra James and Tressie McMillan Cottom
What were the highlights of the conference for you?
Andrea: “No Justice, No Peas,” “What’s Faith Got To Do With It,” and “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” were the stand-out panels for me.
I loved the first one because, unlike the other “green” panel I attended, “Energy Democracy For All,” I never had to ask “but what about the basic disconnect between this idea/policy and people/communities of color, namely that quite a few people of color still think ‘green’ as a whites-only thing.” The presenters made plain the idea that food justice goes far beyond just eating organic foods at vegan restaurants but the racial injustice undergirding the current human ecology of food work, namely who performs which functions in producing, transporting, and serving food–not just to and in vegan restaurants but also, as an example, to and in supermarkets.
“What’s Faith Got to Do With It” was more of a supportive space than a presentation, which is good as far as people connecting with each other but a bit messy when it came to facilitating it–we ran out of time, and our facilitator, an ARC staffer, had to scoot off to do another presentation! I got the feeling that the people needed to have a place where they could talk about how their faiths inform their social justice when larger progressive movements tend to aggressively degrade religion/spirituality as a framework for doing anti-racism work.
“Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”–which was about how the Right successfully and unsuccessfully uses sexual health issues to drive wedges within communities of color–was so righteous because the panelists brought it so fiercely about not only the racist misogyny that, dare I say, is the Right’s playbook, but also how the Left and the communities themselves are complicit with it when, say, the Left makes it a political strategy to ignore the “flyover states” where the Right is steadily implementing their anti-choice beliefs as laws and others tactics or, say, some Black communities (for example) are silent about abortion rates.
My eyes drank in every word of “Wildwood,” the second chapter in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. On the plane from Baltimore to Austin, the narrative gripped me solidly by the throat, turning a casual curiosity about Oscar into a desperate longing to hear more from his sister Lola.
When the plane touched down, my sweatshirt was crunchy with the salt from shed tears and I had run through six napkins while the story unfolded. I grabbed my bags, and called my boyfriend who had been badgering me about reading the novel for some months now.
“Why didn’t you mention Lola?” I asked.
“Who? Oscar’s sister? Why is that…oh.” His voice suddenly bloomed with recognition and we sat in silence for a few seconds.
In all the reviews I have read about the novel since I finished the final page, the character of Lola is generally a footnote. Described as a beautiful girl, or a troubled girl, or Oscar’s sister, the strength of her narrative and her story seem overshadowed by the book’s focus – obviously, Oscar – or by the story of her mother, Belicia, the beautiful prieta who seemed forged partially from the steel intended to break her into submission. And yet, to me, Lola’s story was the most compelling, reflecting back in stark focus so many emotions, trials and ideas that were intimately familiar to me and the other girls I knew growing up.
Because in the book I read – as in life – the men in each of these women’s lives were not central figures. There are men, yes, and Oscar is the unifying force in the narrative, but the people Belicia and Lola were involved with were not the point unto themselves. The men stood for the method of escape. With the exception of The Gangster and Yunior, all the men in the book that Lola and Belicia were involved with were ways to get the hell out.
Lola’s boyfriend Aldo is the method to escape her mother. Sure, she loved him. Kind of. But reading through the lines, the catalyst for her leaving with Aldo was that he asked to her to come live with him. Sex was part of the travel cost. As I have written before, a guy is the easiest way to escape a fucked up family life.
But this easily overlooked difference belies the true genius in Oscar Wao. It isn’t just a documenting a fictionalized account of the things that happen in our real life communities. The book shines in how Diaz fills in what would normally be an outline, and shows us the after. Or more appropriately, how Diaz demonstrates how there ain’t no happily ever after. There are just choices and consequences.