Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Freedom University Book Club in March!

This month we will be reading Erzulie's Skirt by Ana-Maurine Lara.
The book was published by Red Bone Press, an independent press dedicated to publishing the work of queer Black writers. Set in the age of urbanization in the Dominican Republic over the course of several lifetimes, Erzulie’s Skirt is a tale of how women and their families struggle with love, tragedy and destiny. Told from the perspectives of three women, Erzulie’s Skirt takes us from rural villages and sugar cane plantations to the poor neighborhoods of Santo Domingo, and through the journey by yola across the sea between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It is a compelling love story that unearths our deep ancestral connections to land, ritual and memory.
Erzulie's Skirt has recently been nominated for two Lambda Literary awards for in the categories of Best Lesbian Fiction and Lesbian Debut Fiction. A local artist doing amazing things and producing beautiful art. Ana is a wonderful writer and dear friend and we are blessed to have her right here in Austin.
So do these four things:
1) Buy Ana's book. It can be found at Book Woman, Resistencia Books, or online.
2)Read the book.
3) Come to the Freedom University Book Club at the Carver Library on Thursday, Mar. 8 at 6pm. We meet every 2nd Thursday of each month. The Carver is located at 1161 Angelina Street.
4)Buy Assata: An Autobiography cos' that's what we're reading next month and I think you'll dig it. You can probably find a nice copy at any Half-Priced Books, Resistencia, Book Woman or Book People.
Peace to all...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sun is Shining...

Hello WanderLust lovelies...
The Capitol City was lovely today. Nothing but pure sunshine and life-giving warmth. I wore a skirt for the first time in months and I'm feeling incredibly refreshed by the weather.
This may not mean much to many of ya'll but since the middle of November we have been experiencing some uncharacteristically cold weather here in Austin. Hippies all over town have been forced to put on socks and closed-toed shoes. Fraternity girls and pint-sized hoochies from West Campus to Rosewood have been compelled to put on pants and leggings instead of their preferred uniforms of mini-pleated skirts and pierced-navel baring baby-tees.
It has been a truly dark time.

In other developments I have learned that ugly weather and weeks of solar deprivation make me and my partner real bitchy. If the sun hadn't come back last week, I might have killed him, but then I would have felt bad.

Even still, it was hard to feel motivated to get up, get dressed and go to work when the weather was so forbidding. It is in moments like this that I realize, no matter how divorced many of us may be from the earth, she has a way of making you pay attention. We are people of this planet, and we need to feel its beauty in our lives, or else we become distant, disgruntled and unhappy.

As a proper graduate student I went to class when what I really wanted to do was mosey on over to Barton Springs and kick back. But I took every chance I could to get outside and enjoy the sunshine...they say the weather is going to hold up. Let's all take some time to spend our lives in the sunshine.

Sun is shining...the weather is sweet, yeah...make me wanna dancing feet....

Take care family... c

Monday, February 19, 2007

On Becoming a Pundit

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have officially become a pundit. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a pundit is described as "1) a learned person; 2) a teacher; 3) or an authority, critic." As many of you know, I have been giving out my opinion for years without recognition or compensation. In fact, I think more people would have paid me to shut the hell up. Still, for better or worse, I am a talker and have no problem telling people what I think about the world in general.
As it turns out, other people have decided that this is a good thing.
I recently participated in a panel of activists, cultural producers, and scholars discussing the impact of sexism in hip hop for Houston PBS. Specifically, we were discussing Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a documentary by filmmaker Byron Hurt that engages issues of machismo, masculinity, gender, misogyny and homphobia in hip hop. Hands down this was one of the best documentaries I have seen in a very long time. The film follows Hurt, a former college quarterback who became a gender violence prevention educator. After beginning this work as an educator, Hurt began to critically evaluate his own relationship to hip-hop and the music and images that reinforce ideals of heteropatriachal masculinity and straight up hatred of women. Far beyond offering his own commentary, Hurt goes to the very heart of the matter interviewing everyone from cultural critics to record executives about their thoughts on sexism in hip-hop.
My partner and I went to watch an early screening of the film in Austin, TX in January. It was truly a community event with youth and elders, a multiracial, multigenerational audience, and artists, activists and intellectuals in attendance. It was remarkable to see how people in the crowd responded to the things that artists and industry people such as Busta Rhymes, Clipse, Jadakiss, Russell Simmons, and others had to say on issues ranging from homophobia in hip hop to the implications of Nelly sliding a credit card down a black woman's ass in his music video "Tipdrill." I, along with many audience members, was apalled when Hurt asked Simmons what he thought of the video, and Simmons responded that "I heard about that. I tried his Pimp Juice, I thought it was very good."
We're talking about sexist, misogynist representations of women in hip hop and all you can say is that the Pimp Juice was good?
So back to the original point about how I became a pundit. In February I was asked to give a presentation on women in hip hop for a friend/mentor's class that she is teaching at UT-Austin. I was honored to be asked and set out to make the best presentation that I could put together. Shortly after that, I received an email from a friend of mine in Houston who works with the Houston Hip Hop Group (Check out his work at He asked me if I would be interested in coming to Houston to share my thoughts on the film and talk about the work that I do with Cimarron: Youth Building Community, a community organization that I co-founded here in Austin. After a few weeks of phone tage, emailing, and phone interviews, I was officially invited to participate. So I dragged my squeeze into driving me to Houston and we headed to the PBS studios for the taping.
I had a great time doing it. Following the taping we kicked it around Houston and had a lovely time hanging out with my friend Akil and talking politics over coffee. On the ride back home I received a phone call from a friend KC who works for the ACLU's Hip Hop Against Police Brutality project. He invited me to participate in a discussion on gender and hip hop on his radio show Concrete Skoolyard which airs on KOOP radio. I had a fantastic time doing it and was pleased to be invited.
It's a little strange to reach a point in your life where all of sudden things you say are being taken very seriously. On one hand it's a vindication of sorts, and on another, you begin to realize and understand that your life will never quite be the same -- you've made the leap from people who talk about ideas to those people whose ideas carry weight.

Now, I realize that in the grand scheme of things, what I say still may not carry as much weight in the real world as say Nancy Pelosi or Gore Vidal (a true man of letters, to be sure). However, things are a little different when people look to you to be an authority, a teacher, or a learned person who can speak knowledgably on a particular set of issues. It's gratifying and terrifying at the same time to be that person.
The other strange thing that I have been thinking about is what I like to call the "punditry ghetto," that is, the place that is reserved for pundits who are only qualified to talk about certain things. I am concerned that should I continue to do this work, I will become billed as the hip hop, gender girl, not that I mind, but the world generally tends to think that Black intellectuals can only ever speak authoritatively on race, or maybe gender if you're a woman or queer, but not on anything else.
For example, I wonder when I'll get that phone call to participate in a panel on the contradictions of Iran's nuclear enrichment programs as it relates to criticizing U.S. foreign policies of imperialism and military aggression.
You wouldn't think it to look at me, but I have lots to say about the Middle East.
Or what my thoughts are on existentialism, the work of the late Octavia Butler, Dorothy Parker's poetry, or the politics of interracial dating and revolutionary love.
I'd like to think that I am a multi-dimensional person and I don't have any desire to live (intellectually speaking) in a ghetto of any kind. I love to talk race and gender, but I see those issues as informing the larger world in which we live in significant and important ways. Maybe the gods that choose emerging pundits will figure that out.

In any case be sure to check out Beyond Beats and Rhymes which will be airing Tuesday, Feb. 20 on PBS. You can check your local listings for specifics. And if you want to check me out on PBS blowing up a spot visit to see me talking trash about Nelly and misogyny in mainstream hip hop.