Saturday, June 26, 2010

Suicide Prevention Song

I found this video to be just a little graphic, but I enjoyed the song. Certain issues are avoided in discussing within the Black community, and I feel like suicide is a very important issue that tends to be overlooked. Hope that this helps someone; even if you aren't going through a tough time, share it with someone who may be. Note: I do not own any rights to this video.
Be Righteous

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vagina Dentata (nom nom nom)

In fairness, I'll warn you that this post is a bit graphic and sensitive. There may be triggers or even a major level of discomfort provided in this post. It isn't exactly pretty, and I'd warn you to proceed with caution.

When I was in college (just a couple years ago), my best guy friend was a film major. Some people may express that I haven't seen many films (but I haaaave), but I do love flicks. One night, my good friend and I were hanging out and we ordered a pizza and decided to watch a movie called "Teeth" - an indy horror flick crossed with a little black comedy. While he spent much of the film utterly terrified, I just loved it. Roll tape!

Scared yet? This poor young girl was involved in some church cult group and her boyfriend, also a member of the abstinence only squad, took her to a cave in whatever bum cluck town they were in and tried to rape her. And her vagina bit his penis off. And throughout the movie, various males attempt taking advantage of her and suffer the same fate, and the poor girl - a virgin at that - cannot figure out what's wrong with her. Hey, we were all a little confused our first times, right?

A little later in real life, there were talks of developing a condom that would simulate vagina dentata to a less than lethal extent, but the idea floated and then disappeared. Until 2010: the year of Rape-aXe - a female condom type device that is inserted in the vagina and bites grasps on the rapists penis in a painful, but again non-lethal, way.

I know what you're thinking: with all the pro-woman propaganda I share on my blog and in real life, I'm bound to be pro-anything-to-take-the-dicks-off-of-men, right? Well, surprise surprise! I find this device and its concept to be problematic; yes, seriously! Blind-sided you, eh?

While I understand all those cute little preventative techniques they teach young college girls that's supposed to prevent them from being raped, we know that the majority of rapes are acquaintance rapes. If women (and men, even) felt it necessary to protect themselves around the people that they are familiar with, there would be a lot fewer acquaintance rapes. And, on that same note, if women (because there is only a female version of this device available) are preparing themselves to be nervous and on pins and needles at every turn awaiting a blitz by a total stranger, the chances of that happening are slim which makes the necessity for the device illogical in that regard.

As I understand from the illustrations, the device is identified as a "condom" but it works a bit more solidly, like, say, a diaphragm. So this condom-diaphragm hybrid sits in a lady's vagina as she awaits a sexual act against her. Does anybody not see anything wrong with the fear factor? And beyond that, who tested this? What if it doesn't work correctly and hurts the woman, or doesn't work against the perpetrator?

This part could get graphic; consider the previous statement your warning!
So, a woman is being raped by a man. He goes in and out, but in the "out" action, this device chomps down on his man parts, right? This is painful. Is this just painful enough to stun the perpetrator into whatthefuckjusthappenedIgottagetouttahere? Or is it more like holyshitthathurtandIcan'tMOVE? If it's the latter, how is a potential victim to call the police or get to a safe place with a rapist laying on top of her?

Also, I'm very worried about the potential misuse and abuse of the device; what's to say that there is not a woman who is attempting to teach her cheating boyfriend a lesson? Yes, I'm sure it would be assault. I'm also sure, though, that it creates another dynamic to victimization of sorts. I'm not saying that majority of women would do something like this; I'm not attempting to turn my back on rape victims or the act. I am saying, though, that there are quite a few screwed up individuals in the world, unfortunately, and I could see immature-but-sexually active girls and women majorly misusing the device.

While I could drone on and on about my qualms with this device, the most important of them all is this: the problem with rape isn't women, it's R A P E. The condom is another way to scare women into feeling perpetually vulnerable and it isn't solving the problem of rape, but rather compounding, complicating, and completely avoiding it. I understand the good intentions behind this advice, but instead of working on illogically calculated preventative tactics to "avoiding" rape, why not focus on educating young girls and boys about appropriate sexual behavior and why any forms of forced sexual acts are wrong? I know that there are women (and children!) who do everything "right" and still wind up in situations where they are abused or assaulted. And you know why that is? It's because they only have control over their own behavior. By introducing a device that supposedly shifts the focus to the victim, it disallows for sympathy in a situation where their control was temporarily taken from them. A single person can only control themselves; the actions that another person forces upon them - no matter what the circumstance - was not a choice made by them, but by the other person. Thsi device is attempting to put the "power" in the victims hands, but it discounts the psychological and emotional aspects of rape/sexual assault and only focuses on the physical. I'm of the opinion that with all the guilt and shame that comes after being victimized, a victim might be effected negatively by the thought that they may have hurt another individual and are at fault in some way or another.

Just think about it.

Be Righteous.

Hey, kiddies! School's Out - Time to Dumpster Dive!

I probably would not have caught wind of this post if not for my good friend's utter amusement at conservative talk radio. Check out his blog!

Good old Rush Limbaugh. Good old Rush Limbaugh and his anti-poverty (or, better stated - anti-impoverished) warped sense of being. Good old elitist Rush Limbaugh who grew up in a family filled with lawyers (and money), who has no experience relying on school lunches or even the slightest concept of what it is like to be impoverished. I wonder if he has ever met a poor person in his life? Yes, good old Rush.

We know he has a problem with social groups that are not like him: upper-mid to wealthy, well-fed, white, conservative, Parkinson-free, men. You see, folks, in 1993, Rush Limbaugh did a little commentary about homeless people and an organization called Project Dignity, a homeless advocacy group that serves the homeless population in several ways - including teaching them the safest way to pick food from a dumpster. Limbaugh has an issue with this because, instead of seeing it as a reality and necessity for the impoverished, he thinks that it perpetuates and maintains homelessness. And boy did he show his true colors then:

Here we are, only 17 years later, and he's extended his reach to cover the impoverished children who rely on reduced lunches. With talks of increasing food stamp benefits for the unemployed through the summer - because their children rely on free or reduced lunches - Rush Limbaugh got his panties in a bunch and expects that these children dumpster dive for survival. Because who gives a what-what about poor, hungry children not eating? Why should he care when there are soooooooooo many ways to eat?

It just kills me that the conservative right-wingers can begin to say that liberal progressives are the problem with America when it's clear that we are focused on advancing social programs for the advancement of populations that are traditionally (and currently, obviously) not given equal treatment or assistance in moving forward and succeeding. It angers me to hear the complete disregard for the youth of the poor; and it's upsetting that people like Rush Limbaugh aren't affected by seeing their fellow Americans in the slums of the country, hurting and starving.

It isn't hard to believe that this guy, one of a few quacks, argued against sending aid to Haiti after the earthquakes; I wouldn't mind seeing him become completely irrelevant. Just disappear already!

On another note, if the benefits aren't enough for children to eat, or you know children that are in need of meals, there are several organizations that give free meals to children over the summer. I'm not sure who may be out there reading, but my hope is that if you know (or don't know personally) a person in need, you'll be inspired to help.

Be Righteous.

For the full recent commentary on "dumpster diving" sans Ed Schultz, click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Personal Strides

You see that awkward IwannasmilebutIdon'tknowwhethertheyarelaughingwithmeoratme grin there? When I was in the sixth grade, I was doing a break-the-ice activity in my homeroom class. We tossed around a ball with all these random questions on it, and when I caught the ball, the question that I was forced to read aloud and answer was "which cartoon character are you most like?" Hesitant and reluctant to answer, I decided upon Lisa Simpson: brainy, socially awkward, the less cool of the (older) siblings, always soul-searching. Yeah, that's me.

And yes, this is another personal, albeit short-sweet-and-to-the-point, post about my personality. My confessions. And so, I confess: I've a bit of a serious personality wrapped in dry, sarcastic humor.

My brother is a funny guy; he's a quick thinker and he was handed down that trait from my father who, himself, always has some pretty darn amusing jokes. I wasn't so lucky, and though I'm a likeable and personable (and reserved all the same), I have a far more serious and intense outlook on things sometimes. I can be funny, occasionally; after a few drinks, I'm a riot. When I'm out with my best friends, I can be hysterical. But 89% of the time, while I'm pleasant and usually very positive, I'm a very focused and direct individual.

And that's a difficult characteristic to turn off. I know people who would probably paint me more as The Grinch than Lisa Simpson, and I tend to be a chronic apologizer because I don't want people to think of me that way. I smile, I laugh, I'm happy, I'm chock-full of sardonic wit! Yet, I do get overwhelmed and sucked into my own personal attributes of being an activist and hoping to touch and change the world in one way or another. I sometimes have a difficult time decompressing.

Of course I realize that people have full ownership of the way that they view me, and of course I realize that I should make no apologies for being myself, but lately I've been thinking that I'm not offering a full and fair representation of myself online. Weeks ago, a friend of mine says to me (via twitter) something along the lines of "hey, it's okay to smile!" And I do. I've smiled while cursing people out.

In speaking to another good friend tonight, I'd finally cracked a few jokes; which, usually, goes rather unsuccessfully when I'm trying hard enough. And he says to me, "you gotta clown to deal with the madness."

Now, this isn't to say I'll try being less heavy with my posts, thoughts, and ways...but for the sake of my own mental health and happiness, it'd probably do me some good to get fired up a little less. My blood pressure can't take all that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Juneteenth, 2010.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
-- Frederick Douglass

I guess it goes without explanation my feelings for the [white] Independence Day. Okay, I enjoy grilling out and spending time in the hot sun with my family in the South. I don't really believe in the majority of consumerist bullshit holidays, but they do tend to be the only times of the year that I am able to put my feet up and spend time with my family. Don't look at me like that, I know I'm not the only one.

I do, however, enjoy the symbolism in Black American made-up holidays because of our own history in the US. I think culture is important; and I think that being a person of color in the US and not acknowledging the historical climate of people of color during the major "American cultural" holidays is silly. Sure; we are American by right - we were born here, most of us know this land better than Africa and the Caribbean, and our foremothers likely engaged in forced sex and nursed white babies. This is by no means an anti-white rant; I'm just acknowledging the truth of the time. This is our history.

At any rate, many people do not know of Juneteenth probably because it isn't taught in the public school systems, and I think it's important so here's my little Juneteenth blurb.

President Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation in September of 1862, to go in effect January 1, 1863. However, troops had to be send to good ol' Texas after the slaves remained slaves for over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation to enforce their liberation. That's right, folks - the masters continued to benefit and did not tell their property 250,000 slaves that they were free.

Juneteenth (June 19, 1865) is when Black slaves in America were officially liberated from the bonds of physical slavery, though the mental, philosophical and emotional slavery still runs rampant. And while I'm sure that Juneteenth will not be in the textbooks in Texas (as if it was already, right?), there are a number of websites that offer history and local, national, and international Juneteenth celebrations:

Juneteenth World Wide Celebration
Juneteenth: Texas State Library
Juneteenth San Antonio history
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign

Be Righteous.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Disparities: Missing White Woman Syndrome

The point of this post is illustrated between 1:58 and 3:33; it's the best I could do!

My studies are all in the realm of social science. I've recently discovered contemporaries with similar mindsets as myself in some regard, but in other regards social science seems less than important as it is specifically (in my studies) constructed by the history of a very diverse bunch known as America on the whole. My goal in life since I was two years old was to save people; no, not in a spooky religious sort of way, but in a way that is long-lasting and more affecting of the people: I want (and have) hands on experience working with people to improve the condition of their lives. And while I very much realize that all people are in need of assistance and "saving", I feel for women and persons of color (as a woman and person of color). As such, many of the things that I have studied and worked to change deal specifically with the imbalance in our (American) social reality as it relates to women, people of color (largely Black people), and women of color.

The media and society have a mutual give-and-take relationship when it comes to the definition of reality on the whole; an individual's own reality and definitions do matter but are sometimes not representative as what is presented by society. The old chicken and egg argument dominates: does the media maintain a true reflection of the people (though society has been around as long as the media), or does society influence more what the media should be portraying as society's needs?

My college courses (at my predominately white university, for the record), often discussed a phenomenon known as Missing White Woman Syndrome(MWWS): the apparent racial bias in the media's (over-)reporting of young, attractive, "conventional", upper-middle class white girls/women over impoverished-to-middle class girls/women of color. I often ponder on this; there is a serious pattern of local and national panic when white women are abducted (or, even victimized in one way or another) versus when women of color are victimized at all. So much so, in fact, that there are websites available that post pictures and information for women of color because of the expressed imbalance. Remember: there's "justice", but there's also, very often, "just-us".

MWWS has only recently received the acknowledgment of its unfortunate reality. LaToyia Figueroa was a young pregnant woman of color that was reported missing in 2005 after not showing up for work. She was murdered south of entire month after she disappeared. Her case was overshadowed by Natalee Holloway's disappearance and reported little by the mainstream media.

Last night, I'm sitting at work and I began thumbing through the most recent People Magazine. As I've made apparent, I have an interest in sex crimes and, what many police divisions describe to be "special victims". As such, I am always very caught up in the killings of young women and, admittedly, I've been very caught up in the details of Natalee Holloway's disappearance from the day she went missing. I mean, she was(/is?) the same age as me and the fact that they've yet to discover her whereabouts is terrifying and must be absolutely tragic for her parents. And when the suspect in her disappearance and alleged death popped up on the national media's radar weeks ago, I thought ', he killed this poor girl on five years to the day of Natalee's disappearance because she was asking him about whether or not he actually murdered her?' Odd way to prove your innocence. There was a difference though: he confessed to killing Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramírez and is taking his punishment. Now, though he has made off the record contradicting statements about killing Natalee and/or selling her into sex slavery (which is very possible considering he has a serious gambling and drug addiction - that caused his lawyer-father to stop supporting him), he was never even charged or tried for Natalee's murder because of such little evidence. It is devastating, and very unfortunate but these things happen in real life. Everything is not always Law and Order, and many missing persons and/or murders go unresolved.

Equally unfortunate to me, though, was People Mag's cover:

I feel for Natalee Holloway and her family. I also feel for Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramírez, who is hardly pictured to the right of Natalee Holloway. Joran van der Sloot confessed to brutally murdering her. He is being tried for this crime. He is not currently being tried for the murder of Natalee Holloway. So why is Natalee Holloway the feature of this cover?

We could argue that it is American-centric, which I also have a problem with given that the crime and alleged crime still occurred elsewhere. I don't intend to disrespect Natalee Holloway, but it seems as though the young, beautiful, upper-middle class white woman - the feature - is of greater value than the young dead Latina who is the most recent victim of van der Sloot's crimes.

I have no problem that the article mentioned Natalee Holloway; I understand wanting to draw parallels and hoping to bring van der Sloot to justice for the disappearance of Natalee. Truly, my heart goes out to everyone who was personally affected by Natalee's vanishing into thin air. Yet, I'm disappointed; if the media feeds into the subconscious of society, what is it telling us about the value of young women of color who are missing or murdered?

Be Righteous.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hang On Little Tomato by Pink Martini

The sun has left and forgotten me
It's dark, I cannot see
Why does this rain pour down
I?m gonna drown
In a sea
Of deep confusion

Somebody told me, I don?t know who
Whenever you are sad and blue
And you?re feelin? all alone and left behind
Just take a look inside and you will find

You gotta hold on, hold on through the night
Hang on, things will be all right
Even when it?s dark
And not a bit of sparkling
Sing-song sunshine from above
Spreading rays of sunny love

Just hang on, hang on to the vine
Stay on, soon you?ll be divine
If you start to cry, look up to the sky
Something?s coming up ahead
To turn your tears to dew instead

And so I hold on to his advice
When change is hard and not so nice
You listen to your heart the whole night through
Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you

Tupac Shakur

I had a talk about Womanism last night, and the intersection of race and gender that every Black woman has to deal with. I don't have an agenda against men or Black men; I don't, however, feel as though not speaking the truth or an opinion that is generally overlooked to maintain any person's (man/woman/entertainer/whatever) legacy is cool. I don't think Black men (/any men) are the scourge of society. I love men. No, really, I looooove men.

I don't hate Tupac Shakur. I think he has a lasting legacy that speaks to multiple sides in him; from Tupac the poet to Tupac "Thug Life" Shakur. I awakened this morning and among "Happy Birthday Tupac" tweets were tweets about Tupac's real, genuine love for Black women as evidenced by his lyrics:

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up

Now, I love this song because it is uplifting and I can appreciate the struggles being acknowledged. I love some of Tupac's music and can appreciate the aspects of his life and personality; in some regards, he was poetic. I realize that music is entertainment and entertainment is not real life, which is why I decided to offer a counter opinion in stating that Tupac was also convicted of rape and has demeaned women to a certain point; regardless of if you want to distinguish the difference between "women" and "bitches":

I did point out in my conversations about the brotha that, true enough, he has inspired many people. Many of the people my age when I was coming up were caught up in the "Thug Life" message, though. A lot of people are able to point out the positive messages in his music as well but I pointed out that praising a man as a hero and ignoring his wrongdoing is sending a poor message to young men and women coming up.

A person that I was engaged with completely doubted the fact that the victim was sexually assaulted because of a retraction of statement, though, after he was convicted of a crime is, to me, a form of victim blaming/precipitation in that a young woman (who still contends in articles and online to this day that she was raped) is being disbelieved because of a man's own celebrity. I wasn't there, but let's look from a socio-cultural and legal/historical standpoint:

Yes, "convicted" of does not always mean guilty, especially in terms of Black men and the American justice (or "just-us") system. However, rape/sexual assault has a low conviction rate because of the he-say/she-say nature of a trial. Fact. Also fact is this: Black man on white woman sexual assault (or alleged sexual assault) is typically punished far more than rape that allegedly occurs within the same race. Fact. More factually, though, is the historical idea that crimes WITHIN the Black comunity the Black community alone have been isolated by the American justice system, forcing them to become Black issues - which is one of the reasons that sexual assault is reported far less from within the Black community.

I'm not saying that there has never been a woman that has alleged that a rape happened that did not occur. I am, however, saying that the dynamics from within the Black community tend to speak to our history from inside America and regardless of conviction or not, rape allegations should be taken seriously. Imagine being raised to believe that you have to protect your brotha and look out for the best of the community, by any means necessary. Do you turn your brotha in for sexually assaulting you? Do you deal with the harassment of his friends, family or fans for a lie? Do you listen to and allow your name to become everybody's description of a whore to get back at someone in criminal court (which translates to jail-time, not money)? Why would you lie?

Regardless, my point in acknowledging his convictions - not a supposed opinion of him - is this: how do you explain to your sister, daughter, little cousin, or niece that he held this incredibly deep love for his sistas, as evidenced by his music, but is caught up in illegal activities, has been locked up, and yes - has been convicted of sexual abuse? And that he should be praised and celebrated?

Unfortunately, the things that we see are not all of man. I have no interest in demonizing Tupac Shakur as a man because his music is left behind and has some positive messages in it for the community. I do, however, want to bring an issue of conflicting persona to everyone's attentions. People can be profound. People are human, and that does not excuse any wrongdoing whatsoever. People, however, should be interested in explaining the complexities and roundness of the people that they choose to "praise" instead of ignoring the bad for the sake of what you perceived their character to be?

EDIT: I'd like to point that one of my major beliefs is separating "entertainment" from reality. While I note that one feeds the other in terms of the ideas perpetuated as "truths", entertainment is valid but does not take away from the reality of any situation. For instance, I do realize that I've quoted Biggie in a post, and that doesn't take away from his upbringings and the realities - even when he continuously rapped about the selling of drugs and has also said disrespectful things about and regarding women. My point is this: ignoring the human side of an individual where they have publicly illustrated their own wrongdoing to sustain a positive image and/or legacy of them is wrong. For the sake of our youth, just tell the entire truth.