August 2012 - Such a Boy

 Hello Good People!

 
Weeks ago I was on the playground with Finn and Siobhan, and two slightly older boys turned up with nerf guns (or whatever the 2012 equivalent brand is), that shoot foam bullets. The boys holed up in two different towers and began shooting at each other. Finn ran back and forth between them trying to figure out how to involve himself in the older boys' game. Finally he settled for collecting used ammunition and returning it to the boys when they were ready to reload. Later when the boys tired of entertaining an almost-4 year old, they left the playground. Finn walked up to me and said, "Mommy, I want a gun." Well, you can imagine the conversation that ensued.
 

I had just watched a documentary called Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity, examining why the vast majority of violence in our culture is perpetrated by men. The expert in the documentary, an anti-violence educator named Jackson Katz, noted that when reporting acts of violence in the media, we tend to only focus on the gender of the perpetrator if the she is a woman. I was particularly shocked to find that most reporting about violence perpetrated by young boys is redrawn as "kids killing kids" or "violence among teenagers," even though the vast majority of these kids are boys. Media reports also often use the passive voice to describe an act of violence, putting the focus on the victim instead of the perpetrator: i.e. "32 year old woman sexually assaulted in her home" rather than "30 year old man commits sexual assault in victim's home."

So I paid close attention to the media coverage of the tragedy in Colorado last month, and sure enough, there was little focus of the suspected shooter's identity as a man. The focus of coverage about James Holmes has so far extended primarily to reports that he was a grad student preparing to leave his program, and that he was a "loner." This incident, of yet another man murdering a group of people at random, has sparked no dialogue in the media about the relationship between masculinity and violence. In fact, the only news coverage I have come across yet that mentions the role of masculinity at all is an ill-conceived article on Slate.com about "why men still save women," reporting that three of the victims in Aurora, Colorado died throwing their bodies over their girlfriends or partners, and extrapolating an offensive thesis about the continued utility of men in our society as "protectors," even when their traditional roles as breadwinners and role models have been reversed or upended by changing cultural norms around women's power, and the economic recession. Ugh.

How can we even begin to address the realty of brutality and violence in our culture if we cannot own up to the fact that the vast majority of all violent acts are perpetrated by men? Not women. Not trans people. Not gender non-conforming or two-spirit people. Men. Here's a few stunning stats I learned from Tough Guise:

  • Over 85% of murders are committed by men, and of those committed by women, the vast majority are committed by women who are victims of domestic violence, and are convicted of murdering the men who had been battering them;
  • 90% of people who commit violent physical assault are men;
  • 95% of serious domestic violence is perpetrated by men, and it's been estimated that 1 in 4 males will use violence against their partners in their lifetime;
  • Over 95% of dating violence is committed by men, very often young men in their teens;
  • Studies have found that men are responsible for between 85-95% of child sexual abuse, whether the victims are male or female.
Why is this true? Why is it that so many men in our society are inflicting violence on themselves and others? We know that much violence is cyclical, that most men who commit violence grew up in households where they themselves were abused. We also know that as they grow, boys and men are surrounded by media images that connect "manhood" and "masculinity" with dominance, power, and control. Jackson Katz notes that the media helps to construct violent masculinity as as cultural norm: "In other words, violence isn't so much a deviation as it is an accepted part of masculinity."  We give our boys guns, swords, and maces as toys. And when male-bodied children play with sticks as swords, use pushing or hitting to communicate their anger, or in other ways act out, we throw up our hands and say, "He's such a boy!"
 
This has to change, and not just for the sake of women, and trans folks, and gender non-conforming folks who are so often the victims of male violence. Statistically speaking, the majority of victims of violence by men are other men. We have a society-wide stake in shifting cultural norms of masculinity that reinforce violence as a survival mechanism in peer groups, as a communication mechanism for difficult emotions, and as a dominance mechanism for feeling threatened, frightened, or out of control.
 
One thing that we can do is begin interacting with children in ways that do not reinforce degrading and detrimental cultural norms of masculinity or femininity. I recently came across a great resource for this called "Children's Gender Self- Determination: A Practical Guide." In this accessible and short guide, blogger Jane Ward provides some helpful hints for confronting your own, and other people's, socialized tendency to project and reinforce problematic gender norms onto children. I think it's a great start. But in terms of turning back the tide of violence that emerges from violence normalized as masculine, my instinct says that the first thing we need to do is actually talk about it.

In this edition of Iambrown:
  • Queer Black August Retreat: Ancestral Presence and Healing Poetics for Queer People of Color (Durham, NC)
  • Support MAMA SANA Pregnancy and Women's Clinic (Austin, TX)
  • Micha Cardenas' Brilliant Allied Media Conference Keynote! (Everywhere!)
  • The Right to the City LA Urban Congress - September 12-14 (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Love Making Dances to offer Private Coaching Sessions! (New York, NY)
  • Vicissitudes: Underwater Sculpture Honoring Africans Killed During the Middle Passage (Grenada)
www.iambrown.org.
-----

Mobile Homecoming presents...Queer Black August Retreat: Ancestral Presence and Healing Poetics for Queer People of Color

July 10, 2012             

Contact: Alexis Pauline Gumbs, 919-827-2702      

Durham, NC - Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Ph.D and Julia Wallace, M.Div. will host Queer Black August: Ancestral Presence & Healing Poetics a retreat for QPOC and local POC allies August 15-20, 2012 at The Stone House near Durham, NC. Julia says, “the thread running through the intergenerational Queer Black August (QBA) gathering is accessing power: using creative forms to heal ourselves while healing our ancestors and generations to come.” There are 2 components that participants may engage over the course of the 5 days: 1) African Spirituality – spiritual practices from the Ifa tradition of the Yoruba; and 2) Healing Poetics - arts and embodiment through dance, music, laughter and play.

Portions of the retreat will be documented and the local community will be invited to witness and participate in some of the creations that come out of the process of performative and play activities. This retreat is a collaboration with Black Feminist Film School (bffs) and an opportunity to build relationships and practices that will be the foundation for an episodic variety show which begins production in 2013.

Alexis says, “This retreat is exciting because we are gathering an intergenerational community of artists and healers, and gathering our ancestors to affirm the work we are doing on this planet. When we heal each other our ancestors rejoice.”

Julia adds, “we created QBA in the spirit of historical practices such as Black August which commemorates African liberation and revolution in the Americas and the Combahee River Collective Black Feminist Retreats which built alignment and institutions by and for black women.” Alexis says, “this is a continuation of the two years that I, with the support of my community, have hosted free week-long gatherings where people from all over the country participated in intergenerational gatherings for healing and transformation in Durham, NC using the resources of Black Feminism.”

In past retreats created by Alexis, the Durham community opened their homes and donated food, supplies and myriad skills to make it possible for 4 different retreats in the last 2 years to be free and accessible; first for queer people of color and allies at Combahee Survival Revival Week; women and genderqueer people of color and our children at Motherourselves Bootcamp; then queer black warrior healers at Indigo Days; and most recently community accountable anti-racist scholars at Juneteenth Freedom Academy. 

Alexis and Julia have been recognized in the May issue of the The Advocate - the leading gay magazine in America - on the “top 40 under 40” list for their creation of the nationally known Mobile Homecoming project. Mobile Homecoming is an intergenerational experiential archive project that amplifies generations of Black LGBTQ brilliance. Alexis and Julia have also been featured on the cover of Durham Magazine - that celebrates the city’s style and creativity - for a feature story suggesting that Durham, NC is the lesbian haven of the south. Some other national press includes Gay & Lesbian Quarterly (GLQ) journal, BITCH magazine and Makeshift magazine.

The Advocate says of it’s honorees, “these budding powerhouses, leaders in media, politics... are facilitating our future.” 

Next up for Mobile Homecoming is learning about sustainable building and living practices that will allow LGBTQ communities to take care of their elders as they age. They will also be launching a fundraising campaign to resurrect Sojourner their RV (revolutionary vehicle) by acquiring another vehicle with a veggie fuel engine to model their vision of sustainable mobile community and media making.

More information can be found at:
http://www.mobilehomecoming.org/queer-black-august/ and http://blackfeministfilmschool.wordpress.com/
 
-----
Support MAMA SANA Pregnancy and Women's Clinic
 
Mama Sana is a pilot project starting in conjunction with Blackstock Family Clinic, Mamas of Color Rising, Sankofa Birth Companian group and volunteer midwives to address the disparities in birthing outcomes for low-income mothers of color  in Austin, TX while also fostering individual and collective empowerment. In Travis County, the infant mortality rate was recorded as 5.8  per 1,000 live births for white women and 20.5 – or more than 150% higher – for Black women.Furthermore, access to prenatal care is a key factor in determining outcomes and over 25.9% of Latina women in Austin receive no prenatal care vs. 7.8% of white women. The Austin economic and healthcare "divide" impacts the lives of pregnant women and their future children. In order to address this, Mama Sana will provide free group prenatal care appointments with individual physical exams by midwives, as well as culturally competent emotional group support. A woman at Mama Sana can also choose to have a free birth companion (doula) and regular prenatal exercise classes. Women have access to all of these services in a coordinated and timely session. 

The MAMA SANA Pregnancy and Women's Clinic grand opening is scheduled for September of 2012 and they need your help. Start now by making a monetary donation (if you can afford it) and by forwarding this email to others you know who may want to support this work.  Here is a link to the donation page: 

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=NZWBVQVZK67UC

To find out more about MAMA SANA's work, check out the website at mamasanaclinic@wordpress.com    
 
-----
Micha Cardenas' Brilliant Allied Media Conference Keynote!

The 2012 Allied Media Conference Opening Ceremony featured Keynotes from Dream Hampton, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, and Micha Cardenas. Micha gifted our community with a second go at her brilliant presentation on how we can use decentralized technologies to interrupt violence that happens at the borders of countries, identities, and realities. Check it: http://transreal.org/2012/07/10/finding-home-allied-media-conference-2012/ 

-----

The Right to the City LA Urban Congress - September 12-14

SAVE THE DATE!
SEPTEMBER 12-14TH, 2012
The RTTC LA Urban Congress

On September 12th, 13th, and 14th, community based-organizations from all over the country will join the struggle against displacement and gentrification in Los Angeles at the Right to the City National Urban Congress. Our goal is to lift up the anti-displacement fights happening in working class communities of color in the United States with a primary focus on local struggles inLos Angeles.  The communities and anti-displacement campaigns we seek to highlight include Boyle Heights, Chinatown, Koreatown, and South Los Angeles.  We will weave together these community fights into a narrative of a burgeoning regional movement.

David Harvey, renowned scholar will be uniting theory and praxis by spending his days building with all of us and being the keynote address at this year's congress.

WHAT WILL GO DOWN IN LA? Our goal is twofold: Learn and Mobilize.  

Learn: The RTTC LA Urban Congress will bring together community-based organizations, service agencies, and labor to learn from each other about displacement fights happening all over the U.S.  Organizing groups across the country  will have an opportunity to participate or facilitate model shares around: land-use justice organizing, street vending and the informal economy, national movement-building, transit justice, tenants’ rights, criminalization and anti-foreclosure organizing.  

Mobilize: On September 13th and 14th, we will activate our bases and take to the streets.  2 (or maybe 3)  large actions are planned for Boyle Heights, South LA, and Koreatown.

Day 1: Plenary on larger LA context, model shares, housing  action
Day 2: Plenary on neighborhood based context, off & onsite model shares, and BIG MTA/Boyle Heights Action
Day 3: RTC internal business, David Harvey key note & panel (local, national, and international struggle), Koreatown action/block party finale!

RTTC NATIONAL MEMBER GROUP and ALLIES CHECKLIST:
 

  • Please note that at least 1 representative from every member group is expected to attend the congress in order to participate in the internal business of the alliance.
  • There will be a formal registration form ready and a prep call for RTTC member groups in mid August

  • Right to the City will cover all expenses for 1 representative from each member group in good standing. Groups are asked to contribute $100 to help cover the cost of that representative's attendance. If additional members would like to attend, the group will need to fundraise to cover their costs and communicate this to RTTC national to make reservations in a timely fashion. 
  • Additional fundraising is happening to help support the participation of at least 1 more rep per organization as well as key resource allies.
  • Other allies and interested participants who are not in the Right to the City Alliance are invited to attend Day 1 and Day 2 but will have to cover the costs of travel/ hotel and/or pay a registration fee. Details will be available soon.
For more information:

Nationally- Tony Romano, RTTC Director of Organizing,  tony@righttothecity.org

In Los Angeles- Mike Dennis, Organizing Director for East LA Community Corporation: (O)             323.604.1958       | (E) mdennis@elacc.org

HOSTING GROUPS- (list in formation)  Strategic Actions for a Just Economy , Koreatown Immigrants Worker's Alliance,East LA Community Corporation, Esperanza Community Housing CorporationUnion de VecinosProyecto Pastoral at Dolores Mission, Shared Spaces, Legacy LA,  Innercity StruggleSoutheast Asian Community Alliance 

 

-----
Love Making Dances to offer Private Coaching Sessions!

Zahava of Love Making Dances is offering private coaching sessions for women after many requests.  She is completing a year long training for private wellness coaching and offering half price sessions for the Summer! Learn more here.  

Who Comes for Coaching? 
  • Women who are dancers, yogis, & performing artists who want to deepen their artistry as a spiritual path & feel more comfortable expressing their sexuality.
  • Women who want to ignite their love life & align it with their whole life. 
  • Women who are highly intuitive & dedicated to a spiritual path who want to feel more grounded, playful, and at ease in the physical sensual world.  
-----
Vicissitudes: Underwater Sculpture Honoring Africans Killed During the Middle Passage

Located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Grenada under water, these beautiful sculptures honor our African Ancestors who were thrown overboard the slave ships during the Middle Passage of the African Holocaust. The work is by artist Jason de Caires Taylor. Taylor's art is constructed to be assimilated by the ocean and transformed from inert objects into living breathing coral reefs.