Kiesha Jenkins – Say Her Name

This article originally appears on For Harriet. Reposted with the author’s permission. 

In a dynamic time of #BlackLivesMatter, the conversations around the violence inflicted upon Black bodies have been become more and more prevalent. However, despite the fact that the intention of the founders of #BlackLivesMatter was to always be inclusive of all Black lives, that has not completely translated to the movement. We’ve already seen examples of openly hostile and homophobic behavior of Black cisgendered men in the form of “Straight Black Pride.” This type of violence within the movement is only one example of what is the daily experience for trans and gender nonconforming people.

2015 has been a year marred by violence, and this pain is palpable when discussing the number of Black trans women who have been murdered. Most recently, the life of Kiesha Jenkins was taken in Philadelphia, making her the 20th trans woman to be killed in the United States this year. In the wee hours of the morning, Kiesha was allegedly approached by six men who proceeded to savagely beat her. At the height of the attack, one of her assailants pulled out a gun and shot her in the back, a move that ended her life despite the efforts of first responders.

In the days that followed, more information on Kiesha’s death has left her community with lingering questions. Therefore, when the news broke that the police were investigating the possibilities that Kiesha was being robbed or partaking in a solicitation deal gone wrong, advocates rightfully cried fowl. The only thing “robbed” in this tragic situation was Kiesha’s life and the hesitation of the Philadelphia Police Department to pursue this as a hate crime. This is troubling. This (lack of) action can set in motion an incomplete form of justice and would only be a reflection of a system that failed her in life as well as in death.

As of Oct. 12th, one of her attackers had been arrested and three more are being sought. The police have set up a $20,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of her other attackers, yet in spite of this, I fear what is to come. I am fearful because of the intentional lack of dialogue around Black trans lives outside of queer communities. I am fearful of my fellow Black cisgendered women who do not see the necessity of amplifying and centering the work of trans sisters who push back against this system and are always present at vigils for Rekia Boyd and Aiyana Stanley-Jones. I am fearful because we, myself included, do not consistently show up for Black trans women when their lives are taken from us. But what can we do to combat this?

Vital work has been done to (re)centralize Black queer voices in the movement and address the lack of visibility for trans and gender nonconforming people. When BYP100 called for a National Day of Action for Black Women and Girls, organizers around the country hosted actions for #BlackTransLiberationTuesday. Organizers in New York captured the moment and not only called out Black cisgendered people on their complicitness in the erasure of trans lives in the #BlackLivesMatter movement but also gave us tangible actions and steps to reshape the ways in which we engage in movement work.

But as the number of murders continue to rise, now more than ever is when we have to start showing up on all levels if we ever hope to truly consider ourselves as comrades in the struggle. Looking forward, we have to start having honest conversations about the erasures of trans lives from our conversations on Black Lives Matter. We must be prepared to be made uncomfortable when called out on our complicitness and lack of action because our sisters (not just our cis-ters) are dying.

We Need to Focus on Black Joy Just as Much as Black Liberation

The Black experience in the United States has always been paradoxical in nature, as our historical memory knows that it has been one of constant struggle. However, in the face of the violence, poverty, trauma, systemic oppression and death, we have continued to thrive.

But after rolling to protests, having emotionally charged conversations with White “allies,” and witnessing how many folks on my newsfeed were more concerned about Cecil the Lion than Sandra Bland, I’ve been reminded that be Black in America is to be tired. As it’s been said time and time again, being Black in America is exhausting – we’re supposed to just play sports, make White America laugh or sing along to (apolitical) music, and stay silent while the heteropatriarchal White supremacist system kills us. All to diminish our spirit and potential.

Society currently presents the intersection of thriving and surviving as a challenge; an impossible aspiration that seems less and less obtainable when bombarded by the mainstream news cycle. Systematic hurdles and barriers exist at every turn and dictate how we should be living our lives and imply that we should not aspire for more. As the medical data confirms that Black folks and other people of color suffer from generational trauma in the forms of high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and other preventable illnesses, we are forced to buy back into a medical system that has historically harmed us. The capitalist structure is not truly designed for wellness, in fact, it invested in perpetuating illness as a means of profit.

While there is hope in holistic medicine and campaigns encouraging us to get physically healthy, such as Black Girls Run! and FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!, we cannot afford to solely focus on the body. We have to place an emphasis on the spirit and what (collective) joy looks like for us as individuals and as a people. In this (new) movement for Black liberation, there has to be an emphasis on celebrating and cultivation Black joy as well. Black liberation has a long history – from the liberation theology born in the Civil Rights Movement, to the radical teachings of Assata Shakur and the Black Liberation Army – and proves to be more relevant than ever in our movements. Whether you seek liberation in the church or through direct action, can we truly liberate ourselves as a people if we do not acknowledge and emphasize the role of sustaining ourselves in mind, body and spirit?

If we are going to have Black liberation, we must continue to strive for wholeness and wellness in the face of all the ills of the world. For me, Black joy is both the collective experiences and the personal triumphs of our people. Black joy looks different for everyone and can be found in a variety of forms; in simple acts of self-care, spending time with loved ones, or indulging yourself by working on those projects you’ve been putting off. Starting a journal, getting to know your creative side through a form of art, developing a circle of sisters, or taking yourself out on the town. Even if it’s just five minutes, making the time to sit down to (re)discover what brings you happiness is a liberatory act.

My Black joy is a work-in-progress, but right now, it appears when I’m soaking up the sun and marveling at the glow my melanin gives me. My joy is found in hearing the laughter of my family and the way my heart swells when I see the look of love I have for my partner reflected back at me. My Black joy is grinning at little girls with their natural hair out on full display and seeing their little spirits stand so tall.

This Black joy, in spite of all that we face, is revolutionary. The ability to create and hold space for our happiness as a people is not new, however. When slaves could not be legally wed, the African tradition of jumping the broom was revisited. This is not to say that this made the union legal in the eyes of the legal system, but this act of remembrance and celebration, in the face of the horrors of slavery is one liberatory act of Black joy that can be found in history. In today’s actions, our Black joy can be seen in other ways.

Burning sage and incense during a protest, or creating an altar for those who we have lost to violence is an act of Black liberation. Deciding when and how we want to engage in the conversation on Black lives with allies and even those in the movement is a radical act. The love we have our sisters on the vanguard of this movement, including Bree Newsome, Johnetta Elzie, Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell, and the many others, is one to hold dear as we engaging in liberatory work.

As we continue to affirm that #BlackLivesMatter and encourage everyone to #SayHerName, finding that inner joy and self-love is a vital contribution to the struggle against the constant trauma inflicted on Black people. We may not have the opportunity or space within ourselves to choose happiness everyday, and that is okay. But if we can get to a point where we have more days where we are able to opt for joy then not, we will be in a space of light and love while designing a world where we are not only surviving, but are celebrated.

What I Mean By Self Sufficient

What I Mean By Self Sufficient

by Dairanys Grullon Virgil 

Due to a series of events in my life I wake up a morning crying. YES! Crying. This is not the first time that I wake up like this, but this is the first time I decide to publicly share my thoughts because I’m pretty sure that as I feel others self identify women felt this before.

One of the words that got stock to me while I was crying was SELF Sufficient. I look it up in the internet and this is the definition: Emotionally and intellectually independent. In my personal opinion someone with these qualities is something positive and admirable. It is not an easy thing or almost impossible to not constantly depend on others people emotional support.

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Never Forget – On Islamophobia in a Post 9/11 World

This article originally appears here – http://www.lyvbh.com/2014/09/11/never-forget-islamophobia-post-911-world/

by Veronica Agard

 

September 11, 2001. Thousands of lives lost in an instant, millions more affected forever. Calls for war eventually became a call for a war at home. As I’ve previously written, we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to the “post” “-isms,” we’re supposed to have moved beyond racism, sexism, and classism, and all other social stratification. Yet, thirteen years later, a recent attack reminds me once again that we’ve got a long ways to go.

RELATED: America’s ISIS Strategy

Linda Sarsour is the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York. A radical woman, community organizer, and activist – I had heard of her through my own organizing circles while working at the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP). The amount of respect she commands is something I aspire to not only as a woman, but just as a human being. However, a lot of people will not be interested in any of that while news continues to stream images of the Middle East in continued turmoil. When she walks in the streets of New York, people won’t see beyond her beautiful hijab that adorns her crown. Mild disapprovers will shoot a glance, but bolder folks will shoot racial epithets and hateful words at her and others like her across New York City.

Earlier this month, someone took their prejudice to a whole new level.

Her attacker, a 45-year-old man named Brian Boshell, was drunk and harassing Sarsour and a colleague. When they told him that they would alert the authorities if his harassment continued, his words mutated into physical violence. As the New York Daily News reported, at first, they called to report that he was loitering around their office, located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. By the time Sarsour had to call a second time, she did so while she and her colleague,  Kayla Santosuosso, were being chased by Boshell. He continued to shout hateful words, throw near by objects at them, and threaten to behead her.

Eventually, cops made it to the scene, and Boshell is rightfully facing charges of aggravated harassment as a hate crime, and some others. Yet – there was another layer of trauma to be had. In this post 9/11 world, the New York City Police Department did not respond to Sarsour’s call until 40-45 minutes later. In those 40-45 minutes, she could have easily been attacked again, or worse. Yet, it seems that a call about an Arab woman being attacked does not warrant the same timely service and speedy protection. At the intersection of being a woman of color and practicing Islam, her cry for help was devalued by a system that is supposed to protect all.

The very same activist community that originally introduced me to her work was outraged. They called for an investigation to the response time, and that the officers be looked into to see if they had any other incidents of delayed responses. The outrage reached NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, the latter of whom was in agreement that the police did take “inordinate amount of time based on the nature of the complaint.” But what about the people who record moments like this? What about citizens who call for help and never hear a response from officials until it’s entirely too late.

RELATED: Learning from 9/11 Mistakes.

As #neverforget is flooding your news feeds and timelines, I leave you with this. Never forget the lives lost in the attacks on the Twin Towers. Never forget the first responders of this fateful day. Never forget the service men and women who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. But never forget who is bearing the brunt of all of that hatred. Never forget all of the lives that have been destroyed and upheaved in the Middle East. Never forget the lives of those who face Islamophobia on the daily here in the United States and abroad in other Western nations. Until we can acknowledge that prejudice, and provide tangible remedies beyond more “sensitivity trainings” and installing body cameras – Linda Sarsour – and all of us who are deemed “undesirable” in this institutionally racist system –  will have to continue to look over their shoulders in fear from the state and from their “fellow” Americans. Never forget that we all shouldn’t be living in fear of our lives for simply being who we are.

 

Sources:

The Guardian

News 12 Brooklyn

NYDN

Freedom

Maria Carmen Del Wordsworth: the Science of Freedom 

 

“ This morning I ate a wheat thin, it tasted like heroine, and I liked it”. I heard this at an NA meeting once, and to me freedom is a lot like that. Freedom is what we swallow and like a trip, it takes us to other worlds makes us feel warm inside, the deepest warmth and then it fades. It may come back in increments, but only as a memory, in the form of a paycheck, a gun or a diploma. We are free in increments, in stages, and like animals we are conditioned to go from one cage to another.  People are not free; there are only spaces that are free, liberated spaces and liberated minds.

Puddles,

We are Only puddles,

TRy-ing…

So desperately to Frame that electromagnetic segment,

ThAt,

Which we can organize, recognize, and accept as behaVior

We wOrk ouR ..whole liveS in hOpes that alcheMy will turn us intO indium,

You-Seeing… Too

You-sing, Using…

Our Bonds,

Our Molecules,

Our Oxygen Molecules…

You sing our waves,

To amPlify Our chances, of showing you the DisaccharidEs,

You,

Yourself,

You seeing, will climb upon the nucleotides

CliMb upon bOndS… not theorieS

Power over the mind and the body of others, is taken by force, measured in development and funded by morality. Power and deviance perpetuated on indigenous peoples can only be instructed in the name of ownership for the dominant group upon those who are lesser, or those who are other. It is that inherent in othering that we can deduce a civilization, a people, or an individual in order to create an “objective idea” of a cultural labeled as freedom. This country was built on the idea that in order to prosper we must dehumanize, we must slaughter, control and above all we must have more. Why? Manifest destiny, defined as, the god given right of settlers to expand across the United States, killing all Caliban, taking their homes, sterilizing their women, assimilating their children. It was not only their right, it was their destiny, it was ours.

If no one may give me freedom as it is not given, I may never be free. If freedom is granted then those who grant have kept us incarcerated, or seek to incarcerate us in their freedom. If we are already mentally incarcerated then physically our bodies may act free, wrapped in freedom fabrics, buy one get one. Fabrics that weave our freedom through fingers measured in performance. Freedom measured in finances, in cells, in units, in paper that will never liberate our minds; instead it will only bring us closer to incarcerating others, with our freedom. Some will take their money to their grave as if they deserve to be buried in riches like the ancient Egyptians. Class struggle will be threaded in and out of consciences according to when and where we must perform. If we survive or if we are forgotten in the social conditioning made to make our brothers and sisters forget that our history is their present condition. The truth will set you free.

 

As, you, rEcognize “tRuth”…

You will find That four Us… tHere Is no formula

The Judges who tell you there is are liArs…

They cannot calculate the molAritY of ignorance

They will rank yoÙ by weight, Divide,

How positive or negAtive your theoretical make-up sanctioNs you tO be,

Your abilitieS…. to take or give,

What they predict your shell will look like,

Once mixed with the elemeNts the wOrld…

There is no Clark structurE …that will represent yOu.

They will not teach you VIDa,

what makEs-up the nucleuS

Don’t givE in…

They will only tell you its Not yoUrs

They, will not tEach you that the atomS That you shaRe

with your primAs, tiaS… and abues is stronger than the Grave atom, bomb

Yet they wIll put us on a table, and hang Me, us, on their wAllS….

 

Our generation has been robed of the neurotransmitter known as resistance. Where the synapse of change has been fooled to carry the message that this world has been made for us, and by us. Men and women are to know their place in society, as those in power are to dictate which acts are to be expected and which are to be terrorists.  These sanctioned few are seen as the model of what is accepted. The citizen is to be submissive to those in authority and weary of those who do not follow the path they are fed. In many powerful groups though out history, morality has been the ammunition, which keeps order, such as the Athenians, the Catholics, the WASPS and those granted the American freedom. Freedom is the greatest of all prophecies, to those who are indoctrinated to be fearful. This passage is connected with a moral definition of torture, created by those who seek power.

They cannot comprehend the given solutE… of dreams in the solution of our, mothers

They will never know the P.H of Knowledge cannot be meAsured with litmus

They will put forwarD that the magnetic flow of be-cOming is thRough these channels

Yet the colmado dOes not sell litmus…

As the P.H of knowledge is not measured in el rio de Cotuí

Our CoMadres prisms of hope are not nourished by basic Human need

Where 2 hydrogen, meet one oxygen at 7, to eat at a resort

At the corner of P.oetry and H.elp

Toxic,

Tortured,

ToUrist,

Terrorist,

Tamed,

Teacher…. Chemist

We are only puddLes.

By: Natalie PeñA

 

Freedom and Justice for all, acting as two adversary forces, the former acting in ignorance and the later in virtue, to cook the freedom we swallow.

“ It is our duty to fight for our freedoms. It our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”- Assata Shakur

 

A Humble Reflection

A Humble Reflection
By Glenda Ullari

I am part of the Sister Circle Collective (SCC) because I believe in the mission to create a prolific support system for women and girls through circle discussions and the creation of safe spaces.  One of our main projects is the monthly venting session, centered on a specific theme, where sisters gather for a pot-luck to discuss different life experiences and seek support or just an outlet to express themselves. As I began to attend venting sessions, I asked myself, what is my purpose in this space? What do I have to offer in the creation of this space? At first I thought that I could help empower other sisters by providing advice and support. However, as sessions came and went I realized that some of the experiences of my fellow sisters were out of my capacity to address. This “heroic” idea I had about myself began to chip away. This reflection is not intended to sound defeatist, but rather, I would like to bring attention to more realistic expectations of ourselves when we want to support others.
After venting sessions, I often criticized myself for not doing enough, for not speaking up more, thinking to myself, “I could have been more supportive” I now realize that these feelings of guilt stem from two sources. On the one hand, we embody the notion that we have to give all of ourselves for others. This is true, especially in an environment where you want to see your sisters rise so far above all the misconceptions and limitations that have been constructed around us. But we must remember that we are not superwoman. This brings me to my second point; we put so much pressure on ourselves to break these barriers and create a strong exterior and just want to project strength that we often forget to look inward. By this is I mean that in the process of wanting to be a strong support for someone else, we forget to take off our cape and let ourselves be vulnerable. I believe that in the state of vulnerability we can harbor inclusivity so that other sisters feel safe to express themselves. We must also remember to take off this cape to become a little more humble. Being humble is often looked down upon, as a weakness, but I see it as a state of empathy and compassion. When we are humble with ourselves and others, it is easier to acknowledge that we do not have the solution to everything. As I listened to my sisters’ stories, I began to understand that I do not have the solution to everything. Even if I wanted to give some advice to make my sisters feel better, sometimes it was better to remain silent and offer other forms of support.  Instead of spitting out jumbled words, hoping that they form pragmatic advice, a simple hand on a sister’s back or holding a sister’s hand while they tell their story goes a long way.

Looking forward, I do not think I can answer my original questions completely. What is my purpose in this space? What do I have to offer to this space? But that is alright. These answers are a work in progress especially because I recognize that nothing is definitive and our positions/perspectives on reality are forever flowing, never stagnant. I can however, change the way I act in this space. I believe my new strategy is to be more honest with myself about my capabilities to provide support. This does not negate dreaming and aspiring for more, but instead allows me to be at peace and gentle with myself in the present. I am not kidding myself anymore, I am not here to “save” anyone, I am here to learn and to accompany my sisters in growth and awakening. With this reflection on hand I can contribute to the creation of a safe space, and inclusive space, a no-judgment space, but most importantly, a divine space of sisterhood.

Construction of My Identity and How Education and Culture Play a Role

Check out this amazing story from a fellow sister!

Global City

racial-identity-crisis1

The significance of identity is not really something I considered up until a few years ago. Moreover, throughout majority of my childhood, I repressed a certain aspect of myself that I very strongly identify with today. Much of who I think I am today has a lot to do with education and culture playing a part in shaping who I am and what I consider myself, which is a Bengali woman. Not a Bengali-American, which is what most people perceive me as, but just Bengali. The progression of me becoming comfortable with my identity has been gradual, and, as I have mentioned before, education and culture has played a big role in constructing my identity today. However, with that said, there is a lot of work left in coming to terms with other parts of my race and identity that I struggle with every day.

I came to America at…

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