Thursday, March 22, 2012

the chronic-WHAT!-cles of calormen

For a while now I've been thinking about getting back to writing (I haven't written a new poem in ages). More specifically, I'm thinking about writing stories which riff off of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. I'll spare you the details of what I'm planning (partly because I'm still figuring things out) except to say that I'm imagining a cross between Wicked and Game of Thrones... re-imagining the world of Narnia from a Calormen-centric perspective. (For those who don't know, the Calormen are basically a transmogrified version of Muslims who appear as villains in the Chronicles of Narnia.)

To look at what other folks have said about Lewis and his treatment of race and Orientalism in the Narnia books, you could check out:
Are The Chronicles of Narnia Sexist and Racist?
Red Dwarf, Black Dwarf: The Racial Overtones of Narnia
C.S. Lewis' Calormen: Exacerbating Ethnic Tensions?
So Why is She the White Witch?

For another look at Narnia with an eye towards concerns about gender and sexuality you might be interested in the short story, The Problem of Susan by Neil Gaiman.

see also:
fictional works using settings created by other artists

Sunday, March 18, 2012

thoughts on amina filali

As some of you may know, Amina Filali was a 16-year-old Moroccan girl who recently committed suicide with rat poison. She was raped at 15 but, through a combination of social, family and legal pressure, ended up marrying her rapist. (According to Article 475 of the Moroccan legal code, a rapist can be exonerated if they marry their victim). Her suicide was her response to more pain, abuse and misogyny than anyone should be expected to bear.

Huffington Post: Amina Filali, Morocco Rape Victim, Commits Suicide After Forced Marriage To Rapist
AP: Morocco suicide victim fell prey to society, laws

I don't in any way want to be an apologist for the kind of abuse Amina suffered. As human beings we should all want to see an end to such abuse in the world. And as Muslims concerned about the level of women's rights in Muslim countries, we should be appalled. At the same time, the following should be said.

1. Islam has nothing to do with this. The concept of family honor which is wrapped up in female sexuality/chastity/virginity is cultural and not Islamic. In Islam, ordinary chastity is enjoined on both men and women, but there is no religious basis for judging a female fornicator more harshly than a male fornicator. And of the many women Muhammad (saaws) chose to marry, only one had been a virgin at the time. If Muslims really believed in following the example of the prophet, there wouldn't be such a great stigma associated with marrying non-virgin women.

2. On the other hand, what happened to Amina Filali does seem to come straight out of the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 22
[28] "If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, [29] then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her; he may not put her away all his days.

3. In fact, a little earlier in the same chapter is a description of the very public role female virginity played in the Biblical marriage process which deeply resonates with the cultural values behind things like honor killing:
[13] "If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and then spurns her, [14] and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings an evil name upon her, saying, `I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her the tokens of virginity,' [15] then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the tokens of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate; [16] and the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, `I gave my daughter to this man to wife, and he spurns her; [17] and lo, he has made shameful charges against her, saying, "I did not find in your daughter the tokens of virginity." And yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity.'

And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. [18] Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him; [19] and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought an evil name upon a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.

[20] But if the thing is true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young woman, [21] then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has wrought folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.

4. Muslim societies aren't frozen in time and we can see them changing. For example in the wake of Amina Filali's suicide, indigenous activists are calling for change.

Al Jazeera: Moroccans call for end to rape-marriage laws

5. As further evidence of the fact that this complex of ideas about family honor, rape and marriage is not Islamic, tragically there are similar rape-marriage laws in a large number of Christian majority countries as well (specifically most Latin American countries).

According to a 1997 New York Times piece Justice in Peru: Victim Gets Rapist for a Husband
In Peru the penal code exonerates a rapist if he offers to marry the victim and she accepts. The law, which was written in 1924, was modified in 1991 to absolve co-defendants in a rape case if one of them marries the victim.


Fourteen other Latin American countries exonerate a rapist if he offers to marry the victim and she accepts, said Gaby Ore-Aguilar, staff attorney with the international program of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. The law in Costa Rica, one of the 14, exonerates a rapist if he expresses an intention to marry the victim, even if she does not accept.

6. Misogyny is ultimtately deeper than religious polemics and should be treated that way if things are really going to get better for women.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"my pride is racist people say, but no one minds st. patrick's day"

I've been "celebrating" St. Patrick's Day by listening to this particular black alternative rock anthem to DuBoisian double consciousness for a while now. ( Split Personality by Basehead) Enjoy. By the way, Planet Grenada is seven years old today. Wow.

see also: moors, snakes and st. patrick

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

louis reyes rivera (1945-2012)


Louis Reyes Rivera

Poet, essayist, editor, teacher, radio host, and union organizer with the National Writer Union, UAW Local 1981, Louis Reyes Rivera died in Brooklyn Hospital on Friday, March 2, following a brief illness. Serving as chair of the New York Chapter since 2004, Rivera was revered and beloved by all NWU members who saw him in action in New York and at Delegate Assemblies, providing leadership on union issues and performing his insightful poetry.

Calling himself the Janitor of History, Rivera is viewed as a living bridge between the African and Latino-American communities. Also called "the dean of Nuyorica Poetica," he is an internationally recognized literary figure, with translations of his work appearing in Russian, Latvian, Spanish, and Italian. Rivera published four books, including Who Pays The Cost (1978), This One For You (1983), In Control of English (1988 and 1992), and Scattered Scripture (1996), for which he received the 1997 poetry award from the Latin American Writers Institute. He had just completed his epic poem, Jazz in Jail, and was in the process of preparing it for publication.

Rivera was the recipient of dozens of awards, including a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (2003), a Lifetime Achievement Award (1995), a Special Congressional Recognition Award (1988), and the CCNY 125th Anniversary Medal (1973) -- each of which was given in recognition of his scholarship and impact on contemporary literature. Since 1996, Rivera appeared at jazz festivals and clubs, working with such bands as The Sun Ra All-Stars Project, Ahmed Abdullah's Diaspora, Ebonic Tones, the James Spaulding Ensemble, and his own band, The Jazzoets. Last spring Rivera was inducted into the Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame. At his last public appearance on Feb. 11, Rivera was the featured poet at the American Jazz Museum’s Black History Month Salute to Jazz Poetry in Kansas City, Mo.

Over the past 40 years, Rivera assisted in the publication of well over 200 books, including Adal Maldonado's Portraits of the Puerto Rican Experience (IPRUS, 1984), John Oliver Killens' Great Black Russian (Wayne State, 1989), Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Crown, 2001), co-edited with Tony Medina, and The Bandana Republic (Soft Skull Press, 2008). Rivera’s essays and poems appeared in numerous publications, including Areyto, Boletin (Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter), The City Sun, African Voices, and in several award-winning book collections, including In Defense of Mumia; ALOUD: Live from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe; and Of Sons and Lovers. He also appeared on the Peabody award-winning HBO show, “Def Poetry Jam.” Rivera completed the translation of Clemente Soto Veléz's Caballo de Palo/Broomstick Stallion and worked on the collected poems of Otto Rene Castillo of Guatemala, Por el Bien de Todos/For the Good of All.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 19, 1945, Rivera was raised there and a proud graduate of Boys High. He began studying the craft of writing in1960 and founded the continuing student publication, The Paper, at City College of New York. After graduation in 1969, Rivera started teaching and his influence as a teacher spanned many generations. He distinguished himself as a professor of creative writing, Pan-African literature, African-American culture and history, Caribbean history, Puerto Rican history, and Nuyorican literature at such institutions as State University of New York-Stony Brook, Hunter College, College of New Rochelle, LaGuardia College, Pratt Institute, and Boricua College, among others.

For 15 years beginning in 1996, Rivera hosted a reading series in Brooklyn, 1st & 3rd Sundays Jazzoetry & Open Mic @ Sistas' Place, where he also conducted writing workshops. For many years Rivera hosted the engaging radio talk and interview show, “Perspectives,” on New York radio station WBAI 99.5 FM (streamed at archives).

A political activist as well as a cultural icon, Rivera was active in the successful struggle for “open enrollment” at City College in1969. Since then he has participated in many progressive movement and activities, including supporting the establishment of the Freedom Party, which ran candidates in the 2010 New York State election. Rivera co-hosted two Writers for Mumia programs dedicated to freeing longtime political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, one in 2007, the other in 2010.

Rivera is survived by his wife, Barbara Killens Rivera; two daughters, Abiba Deceus and Kutisha Booker; son Barra Wyn ; and four grandchildren, James Booker, Akalia Booker, Quamey Venable, and Jean-Oliver Deceus.

beyond the crescent and the cross

This seems like a positive project. For the original link, check here.

Call for Participants: Beyond and Between the Crescent and the Cross

My name is Kameelah Janan Rasheed and I am a photo-based artist, archivist & historian, writer, and high school teacher based in Brooklyn, NY. I am embarking on a new project that I have been dreaming about for over a decade. At 26, I feel ready to take on this project called BEYOND AND BETWEEN THE CRESCENT AND THE CROSS.

Working primarily as a photographer, but also as an oral historian and an archivist, I seek to document the varied ways people of African descent in America explore spirituality outside of the traditional iterations of Islam and Christianity. I was raised in Sunni Muslim family, attended a Catholic high school, and currently live in an Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. Still a practicing Muslim, my curiosity piqued at the age of 15 when I began to research the Moorish Science Temple and Black self-proclaimed prophets of the early 1900s.

Looking beyond the hue diversity of my community, simply, I want to document our spiritual diversity. I want to hear stories. I want to ask questions. I want to connect paths. I am interested in interviewing and photographing self-identified Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Rastafarians, Mormons, Moors, Five Percenters, non-identifying, Agnostics, Atheists, etc. of African descent/Black based in the United Stated. Let’s connect. The end “product” of this work is an audio and photography-based exhibit that will start as a growing web-based archive. If you are interested in being interviewed and/or photographed (this can be a portrait of you, a physical space, a material/artifact, etc.) or have questions/suggestions, please contact me directly.

Email: // Phone: (347) 903-5475

I am based in Brooklyn, NY and more than willing to travel to Upstate NY and throughout the five boroughs, New Jersey, D.C/Maryland/Virginia, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Boston. When I secure additional funding, I will be able to travel a greater distance so please let me know if you’re interested even if you do not live in the areas listed above.

While this whole project is unfolding, I will be posting research and process notes here.

I am excited to hear from you!


Kameelah Janan Rasheed

rick santorum relieved no one has asked him about interracial marriage yet

The Onion: Rick Santorum Relieved No One Has Asked Him About Interracial Marriage Yet