Sunday, January 25, 2009

Spoken Word Saturdays: Sista Queen

Whoops, I'm a day late. But here's Sista Queen performing "Try Being A Lady" at the Def Poetry Jam.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Spoken Word Saturdays: Staceyann Chin

I've been resisting the urge to post this poem every week because I don't want to make Spoken Word Saturdays just a constant stream of Staceyann Chin. But I couldn't resist anymore. Plus I've been reading the Essential Dykes to Watch Out for and I was struck, throughout the entire 20 years of the strip, by the social commentary and the searing indictment of an increasingly corporate and conservative LGBTQ movement. I ranted about this to a reporter at Pride last summer but of course none of it was published.

So in honor of the nauseating slogans we have seen coming out of the mainstream LGBT movement, in honor of "Gay is the New Black," in honor of everyone pushing for marriage before basic human dignity, in honor of blaming people-of-color for Prop 8, in honor of McDonalds being present at Pride, in honor of LOGO and the L Word, in honor of the HRC and The Advocate, Staceyann Chin reads "Poem for the Gay Games."

However, I do have to say that I don't agree with everything she says. This poem constantly challenges me to think more deeply about where I stand politically in the Queer community. Because I think it's okay to say "I just date people." I don't buy into the idea that this constitutes "neoconservatism breeding among us." I think there definitely IS neoconservatism in the Queer community. I just don't think that saying you date people is an example of such. I think sexuality is much more complicated than identifying either as gay/lesbian or straight (or even bisexual). Because it all gets mixed up with how you identify, not just who you're attracted to. I identify most strongly as Queer because it is a politicized sexuality and it's also a pretty broad, encompassing term. I don't identify as lesbian even though I don't realistically see myself dating a guy anytime in the forseeable future. I don't want to imply that that couldn't change. Sexuality is fluid and, personally, I don't see the term "lesbian" as embracing fluidity. I don't think it makes me a neoconservative for not wanting to box myself into a certain term.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Study Finds Race Was Not Deciding Factor in Prop 8

Despite disgusting rumors to the contrary, "a new study released this week finds that neither African Americans nor any other ethnicity were disproportionately in support of Proposition 8, which amended California’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage." In fact, the study found that voter's proability to vote in favor of Prop 8 was much more influenced by religion, age and party affiliation than by race. Read more. I'd like to see this as widely known as the rumors of black homophobia. Particularly, I'd like to beam this into the heads of the white lesbians I heard ranting about "black homophobia" at the Prop 8 rally I went to in November.

H/T Racewire/Colorlines Blog

Saturday, January 10, 2009

BART Transit Police Spokespeople Vague & Deliberately Misleading About Grant Shooting

BART board president, Thomas Blalock, said in an interview with ABC7 News, that he could not "pull anything factual" from the cell phone videos that show a two-year BART cop pulling his gun out and shooting an unarmed Grant in the back while another officer had his knee on Grant's neck. How anyone can watch that video and then say he "can't pull anything factual" from it is beyond me.

Additionally, despite the videos clearly showing Grant on the ground face-first with a police officer kneeling on his neck, BART spokesman Jim Allison stated that Grant was "not restrained" when shot. In other words, the BART spokesperson is lying.

Furthermore, Alex Jones reports that Spokesperson Allison claimed that BART had no videos of the shooting, even though BART had confiscated the cellphones of many witnesses who were recording. I can't find a clip or other citation of Allison saying this, but it seems crazy that BART would be claiming not to have videos, given that it says on the BART website that "the District also utilizes video-surveillance systems in trains, stations, and parking lots." So in addition to lying about not having video (according to Jones) even though they confiscated the cell-phones, it's like BART doesn't even care since they are flat-out contradicting the information right on their website!

Upon further perusal of the BART website, it seems that BART police are not a part of the local police departments and are "an autonomous law enforcement agency," according to their website. It's not at all clear what this means and what kind of oversight they have to report to, but it's clear that there needs to be more oversight. The Courage Campaign has a petition you can sign, asking the government to create a civilian oversight board for BART. I should also point out that the BART website says that "Qualifications and training for BART police officers exceed the mandates of the state's Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which certifies all California peace officers." Given that, one wonders about the speculation that Johannes Mehserle, the police officer who shot Grant, accidentally reached for his gun instead of his taser. Shouldn't their fancypants training be covering not reaching for a deadly weapon when your partner is kneeling on a victim's neck? For that matter, why did he even need to get out his taser for chrissakes?

H/T Alex Jones < /snirk >

Spoken Word Saturdays: Zora Howard

Okay I found out that I CAN embed the video of Zora Howard performing "Bi-Racial Hair" at the 2006 Urban Word NYC Annual Teen Poetry Slam! I know I posted it before with a link, but it so awesome that I wanted to make sure everyone's seen it. So here it is, in all of its embedded glory:

Oscar Grant, Young Unarmed Black Man Shot By Oakland BART Police

I'm a little late to this, but on the morning after New Year's Eve, Oakland Bart police shot and killed Oscar Grant, a 22 year old black father, who was unarmed and lying face-down on the ground with his arms behind him. There were MANY bystanders and witnesses present who recorded the incident on their cell phones and cameras. You can see footage of their videos here, here, here, and here, although apparently the police immediately tried to confiscate all recording-devices as soon as Grant was shot. There have been protests in Oakland the past few days, which have resulted in rioting and the destruction of property completely unconnected to the incident. The (few) (kind of) major news outlets that I've found covering this story (e.g. San Jose Mercury News, Yahoo News) have focused mainly on the destruction resulting from the riots or on excuses proffered by the police department, and have barely addressed the police-brutality and race issues that this incident brings up. What is it going to take before people take this issue seriously?

Racewire has a list of Five Things You Can Do Right Now About the Oscar Grant Shooting, and Holly and Davey D make good points about why this is more alarming than just an unarmed black man being shot. As if you needed more than that. Holly discusses the police mindset that questioning their actions makes you the enemy, which results in you getting shot (Grant), arrested (Amy Goodman), pepper-sprayed (Holly & Jack), or otherwise harassed. Davey D interviews Dereca Blackman, who asks why police can confiscate cell phones and other recording devices after such an incident, why do police have the privilege to not be interviewed for days after the incident, thus allowing them time to "get their story together," as it were.

We're now being told that it was an accident, that the officer's gun discharged, that he thought he was reaching for his taser, etc. I don't think it really matters, honestly. You can clearly see from the video that there were at least 2 or three officers in physical contact with him. He was on the ground, unarmed, arms behind him -- as Grant's family lawyer asks "WHY did he take his gun out???" (emphasis mine). There was clearly, CLEARLY, no need for him to take his gun out. Christ, Grant wouldn't have even been able to see that he was being threatened with a gun since he was face-down on the ground. This illustrates, oh-so-clearly, the effects of a society that vilifies black and brown bodies and gives deadly weapons to (mainly) white police officers. Renee discusses the racial implications and what she will tell her two young sons about Oscar Grant.

Amid all of this awfulness, I do want to say how awesome it is that the bystanders and witnesses to the shooting were NOT passive bystanders. That they recorded the incident, that they made it clear to the police that they were watching, that they thought what the police were doing was out of line, that they yelled "let him go!" Way to be citizen journalists! Way to do the work. Why do we never hear THEIR stories when people talk about apathetic youth and bystanders who do nothing? Holly has an interesting discussion of what kind of effect this sort of citizen involvement has on the police.

This HAS to be talked about. It's really alarming to me that I found out about Grant's death and the rioting from my friend who lives in Oakland, rather than from the friggin' news. Man, this is the TIME to be talking about police brutality and racial profiling now that we finally have someone sympathetic (and not batshit crazy) in the White House. There need to be nation-wide protests in solidarity to highlight these problems across the country, not just in Oakland, and we need to be talking to our local elected officials about what they plan to do to address police brutality and racial profiling in our own communities. Go organize a protest.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Spoken Word Satrudays: Good Sista/Bad Sista

Turiya Autry and Walidah Imarisha of Good Sista/Bad Sista perform "Supa Soul Sistas" at the 2008 Wordstock Poetry Slam