Monday, July 31, 2006

Some of the things I appreciated about IRT...

The Beautiful Folx...

Structural violence and its intersectionalities

This is a snippet by BrownFemPower from the Radical Women of Color Think Tank:

"The nation/state, men of color, violence against women of color

So I've had two thoughts twirling around in my head for the last week or two--both of them presented to by two polar opposite folks.

First, I got an email from Poor Boy about a recent graduation from Army Boot Camp he attended. Poor Boy noticed that many of the graduates of the camp were men of color, and in many cases, men of color who were not U.S. citizens.

Then, Nappy As I Wanna Be informed me about a horrific gang rape of a young Latina girl by a group of grown black men.

Although these conversations might not necessarily seem related (and I think Poor Boy was looking at the subject he emailed me about in a different way than what I am going to address here), I think that the two incidences are very much related and so I want to address them as such."

Find out what the important connections are, and how these connections include the intersectionalities of race, gender, colonialism, and violence at the Radical Women of Color Think Tank

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I dug that thing..

I dug that thing
Dropped a seed rooted deep
Looked into the ground and couldn’t see but
The earth felt cool and sweet against my fingertips
As I took ma time slowly pushing the earth back into its place
Bringin ma mind into this
Whatyoumacallit I was diggin
Watering this space with liquid caution, liquid soul
I was really feelin this
But had no idea what would sprout and unfold

In between ma daily grind I couldn’t ignore the question that rang in ma mind
Some secret anticipation I wanted to ignore
But the sun was so bright, it showed
What am I really sowin on this here ground?
The question came out almost shouting
You answered with rain and fire
Life and death
Inside there was somethin happenin
Some hurricane
A storm
Outside there was stillness
A silence that sounded like some chord that struck outside this
Whatyoumacallit frequency
I wondered if what I had really planted was a rock or a seed

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Perseverence of Working Class Mothers

I am continually amazed at the borders that our mothers continue to cross, often times alone and afraid, but unstoppable. Just a week ago a friend of my family's went sick and was diagnosed with brain cancer at a late stage. My mother has known her since she was younger than what I am now. At 69 y.o. she continued to work in the same dry cleaning business she and her husband started as an Chineese-Brazilian immigrant, in order to support her family. She never took time off. She worked up until she started feeling ill. She and my mom would barter services (my mom is a skin care aesthetician who works out of the family livingroom).

As I was at the hospital watching her family around her, I could not imagine what it was like to be in her two sons' shoes. Their dad had died from cancer too. The mother had handled it so well that I had no idea he was gone when I came back to visit a few times as she was workin away, sewing, ironing, and taking in customers, all without a word of complaint and all smiles. I swear these superwomen are distinct in their humanity and I see it in my own mother too. These women know what it really means to carry the world on your back without anyone ever knowing. They do it so naturally and gracefully, in a way that puts all the rest of us to shame for not being abe to endure pain or carry out responsibilities to their fullest extent. These women remind me that I have it in me to reach my fullest potential in anything, that there is nothing that can't be done, that nothing is too difficult to carry over. These women give so much of themselves, as if ambilical cords never get cut off from bringing forth life to families. I am in awe. I am scared that I will never be able to fully appreciate my own mother for the person she has been all her life, scared that I may not know how to give her all that she rightfully deserves... Seeing our family friend and her two sons was the hardest thing to see.. I fear that the time will come for my brother, my siser, and I, when we will be asking if we had done enough, if we had really shown her that we owe her our lives, or had we taken her sacrifices for granted..

Friday, July 21, 2006

Good bye IRT, Hello NYC baby!

It's been quite an interesting last week to this monthlong adventure. So some of us interns came together and organized some kind of platform regarding our concerns for the program. We met with faculty, and while power struggles between them and our just emerging organizers (for the most part) played out in how we held our conversation, faculty took action to make some changes. It was like night and day, for the most part, in the restrcturing of our next 5 days of the program. Our priorities were addressed and faculty treatment towards interns took a new turn, although there seems to be some kind of mutual silence between one particular faculty member and I (we went at each other a few times during the program) where we are just avoiding each other. I just hope that our interaction has him thinking twice about his approach towards others and keeps his ego in check next time around. Our conversation aimed to make the program better for not just our next 5 days but for future interns. The program offers some great opportunities for those who might not have otherwise come across them. Apparently we are not the first group of interns with problems (there was another group who boycotted planned activities and organized against faculty), so I'm hoping they take on the work to really think seriously about some of the changes we suggested and keep the program alive and working.

On the other hand, it feels fuckin GOOD to be done, and NYC will be all the more rewarding! I know every year I go back home, there's a piece of Harlem missing, thanks to gentrification, but in contrast to that, my peoples are still around tryna keep it hood and down to earth. Washington Heights, West Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Louisa (Lower East Side), I miss you.. These places hold so many pieces of who I am. To see them getting chipped away at is like a slow death and an attack towards my identity and really all I am made of. I take great pride in the places that shaped who I am. Without these spaces I would not be who I am, and who I am continuously becoming...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

This new perspective...

Life.. has shifted my worldview, my identity, and the means to its (life's) objectives a number of times. Somehow this new perspective I seem to be growing into is significantly weighted and pivitol. I have always been one to seek accomplishments through somewhat spontaneous choices, all that I have grown from and that I never regret. Although there seems to be a side of that that is still there, and will always be a part of who I am, looking into building upon more long term choices and their implications seem to be comming into the forefront. It is an uneasy shift. One that at times has me feeling alone in what seems like a world full of people who place value in acquring wisedom through being in constant transition. A value I have always held throughout my life, and still do.. to some extent now.

A shifting worldview is opening up, one that sees freedom in choices that involve long term negotiations and renegotiations. One that sees wisedom and growth in becoming through building strengths through people, places, actions that call for long term challenges and flowering that never stops reaching out and refining its beauty. I am comming to see the importance of this woldview to my commitment to my work, to revolutionary liberation, to those in my life who have vowed to dedicate their lives to the same. Through this changing perspective I have also seen fears come exposed before me, those that have blinded me to possibilities but also those fears that I needed to experience, understand, and learn from in working through and building a new sense of viewing my life, my people, my world.

I call this a shifting worldview because to completely grow into it is to decolonize myself from all the fears of taking on the work necessary to impact real, true, and effective change. This kind of change has always been my goal, and I have always been on this path. The means to which this goal is achieved is constantly being redefined and refined. Admiting to these changes are moments of overcomming " distortion (s) of the vocation of becoming more fully human," as Paulo Friere puts it. The second challenge comes in instituting a form of personal "praxis". Although Friere speaks about liberation as a social agency, through analyzing this shift I am increasingly becoming convinced of the significance of self-liberation through the process of our work and relation to the world, to our people, to revolution.

In a world that does not value those liberating factors that bring the actualization of self into the forefront of human development (because this would be a threat to a system of dehumanization itself), this process of self-rediscovery seems like a solitary vocation. This dehumanizing society does not value the implications that humanizing relationships and humanizing work has on our lives. It is programed to see these gems as less than secondary if we are lucky to see them at all. Even when we are given these opportunities, we are forced to make choices that dehumanize us and our people, because these choices are safer, because they are so normalized that anything outside these choices would be too risky: "But while dominated by the fear of freedom they refuse to appeal to others, or to listen to the appeals of others, or even to the appeals of their own conscience. They prefer gregariousness to authentic comradeship; they prefer the security of conformity with their state of unfreedom to the creative communion produced by freedom and even the very pursuit of freedom." -Paulo Friere

It would be easier to choose to ignore this shift of wisedom by ignoring the value of long term growth and the challenge to engage in work that calls for an ongoing presence and commitment. It is easier to say that I am committed to some abstract idea of "the revolution." In exposing these truths I am making the choice to accept those blessings that cultivate outcomes of true and tangible products of revolutionary action. These choices will involve personal challenges, but also growth; these choices will include the need to redefine myself to the world and defend the authenticity of who I am becoming; these choices will mean beating against all the odds that a dehumanizing society will try to screw me with. These choices are the choices of a growing warrior, an identity I have always known, though am still coming to know. A warrior who defends life, a warrior who will cross the edges of of a preconcieved world to prove that it is in fact maleable without a definate shape, a warrior who will take on the necessary battles to defend love till death; a warrior with a will to teach, expose, and become truth; a revolutionary warrior; a warrior for life.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sheroes of the revolution..

Just wanted to give a shout out to all the mujeres who continue to carry the world on their backs. Especially FabulosaMujer and BrownFemPower. Reading about their amazing, radical, and dedicated community work, organizing, and intellectual production is morethan inspiring, knowing that they carry on while building families. Comming into their space is a light of fire and reminder that we MUST continue our will to live, fight, organize, resist, and exist regardless of the challenges we face. You are the sheroes of the revolution... Go on to their blogs all show them some luv.. even if it's your first time posting... these are the women that bring hope to so many people, the women who birth our young warriors, the women who raise armies for change...

Monday, July 10, 2006

For the frustrated close readers who gets no luv..

Its frustrating being excited about reading material, especially when it is new to you and you wanna make sure you get it to the fullest, and your learning institution doesn't care to give their students the time to really soak it up since we're living in a microwave society (everything is instant, express, no time for marinating..). Well if you're caught up and needing to get through, here are some tips I got from an IRT staff member:

Read the conclusion FIRST: gives you an overview of what you will read. Makes it easier for you skim through the details since you are able to spot them as "supporting evidence" and not so much the "meat" of the piece.

What to skim: Skimming sux, you're scared of missing something, but you got to get this done befo da sun rises! If the text name drops thinkers, describes ideas, events you already know, skim through the passage and look for how this already known info is being pluged into this reading.

What to skip: Yea, skip! I know this sounds like suicide if you are all about takin it all in! Skip over paragraphs you aren't quite getting and mark them with questions. Come back to them by the time you get to the end of the article/text. Ideas and terms may be explained later in the text.

Write out questions: If you're a dedicated close reader, you're prob already takin notes on the side margines and "talking to" your text. Make sure you write down questions as well, for reasons listed above. If there is time and support, share your questions with a study group or classmate, or bring them up in class.

Timing: Set a time limit for each article/text if you've got a billion to get through for the night. This should force you to not marinate on the work too much, esp if you are new to this speed reading business. Adjust your time if you are writing papers, working on major projects, ect.

Prioritize: If there is a text it is essential for you to really know (for your research, the focus of a class, ect.) you can plan a little more time for that one. "You mean everything is not important?" Nope, sometimes you will have texts assigned soley for the purpose of supporting ideas, concepts, or evidence for a major text. Also, for those extra dense texts with all the thick language, you need to plan more time for those too. If you are reading for multiple classes, and each class has multiple texts per meeting, try to do a closer reading of one text per class to make sure you have something to contribute to each class.

My own personal tip: There is NOTHING wrong with bein a slow reader! I think we tend to reference alot of prior knowledge, experience, and wisedom when we are dedicated to understanding a new idea or looking at new perspectives. Yea, we tend to really interact with the text and bring ourselves into it. I hope I never loose this ability as I start to practice these speed reading skills. So.. when I'm out of here, I'm reading a book of choice and reading it at MY loveley pace. Make sure you don't forget how to really become involved with text. Its a beautiful thing!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sometimes I am still amazed when..

I manage to still come through and keep it real when the pressure is on. I am already used to sacrificing everything during the school year when I'm on my 21 unit semester groove in undergrad. But this IRT shit ain't no joke. Even with 2 hours of sleep per night the thick work is hard to get through and really work out to get the most of them. The pressure is on especially when facilitating time comes around which can mean two times a week, plus papers. I'm not jokin about this really being a boot camp! I love the high expectations, and I get really hyped at the thought of excelling at them.

The one thing that does get to me is when I can't find the tools necessary to get through the challenge. I've asked one of the staff members about advice on how to get through the work. He could only say that I will "find a way." I trusted him on it and just really pushed myself beyond the limit. One day after another of 2 or 3 hours of (discontinued) sleep and the expectancy of being able to be cognizant in class, bring in eloquently written papers, and plan and revise lesson plans for facilitation the next morning (or replan from scratch, cuz the staff help doesn't like your idea or even want to help you make it work) is practically suicide... really. We had one student have a nervous breakdown, and to be honest with yall, I've gotten pretty close to one myself.

Somehow, under the emotional, physical, and mental drain, somehow after feeling really unsupported and unheard by some staff, staff who are nevertheless well respected by other staff members, I still manage to come up and defend my intellectual point of view, my dignity, and my right to be heard. It still ain't easy. Not giving up is hard. It's always too early to give up, and I take these kinds of challenges as if my life, and the lives of those I love depended on it.

I am aware that these challenges will come up in academia, in grad school. I was surprised at having to defend the concept of authenticity in literature in a program like this. (The idea that an author writing in the voice of any experience, like race, sexuality, or gender, other than their own is unauthentic writing.) I strongly hold my ground under the concept of authenticity, especially when it comes to writing like Edwidge Dunticat's beautifully written Dew Breaker. There were other themes from the novel and general literary concepts I brought up that were strongly disputed in my position held in class by the two staff members, and during my and my co-facilitator's critique afterwards. They tried to chew us up.. big time. Unfortunately (yet still fortunately) I was the only one out of us two to continue to resist their attempts to silence our points of view. We left that meeting feeling like shit. Still, I'm not comming out of it this way. I scheduled a meeting with them next week to talk about these issues again, this time, I'm commin armed with extra evidence and documentation to defend my position (one that many others in my group and outside of my group held). I think this program WILL push me to my limit before I actually pass it and raise it some more.. in ways I didn't expect.

I'm also finding contradictions between what staff say and do. It's interesting to see some old cats, folx of color, who have been in the academic game for a while, and where they stand after years of the initials after your name. Of course this is more true for some than others, but I can name one I've already spotted (she's the youngest) who seems to be keepin it real (for one thing she validates the argument of authenticity). I am appalled at how one of the staff members ridicules popular youth culture, down to the baggy jeans and white tees. I'm not really surprised to find out that he is unflexible in considering various perspectives in anything from political ideas to pedagogical practices. He's not really the type to budge and build on to the tools that change has provided us with to better reach our youngstars. There's also alot of talk about CYA (coverin yo ass) when it comes to school and teaching regulations. As a radical teacher, its all about taking risks I believe, of course strategic ones. I don't believe that politics should stay out of the classroom. I don't believe that a child's identity can get in the way of them becomming affective learners, unless the teacher makes it an issue (so for me.. the hats stay on in class and pants can sag, so long as you can tell me how structural and ideological oppression is alluded to in the novel of the week we might be reading). I also believe that there is a need for praxis in our learning. While understanding the systemics of imperialism and oppression, we also have to talk about ways to apply it. Especially as teachers. This, I feel is missing in our seminars. Often times I get the feeling these intellectuals enjoy academia to, as my mentor would say, "massage their brains," than take on some real work. I'm even more upset that there are other students who feel this way but won't speak up.

Don't get me wrong though.. there are some dope things I am being exposed to. I'm being introduced to alot of new material that I know will be useful in grad school and within my own resarch interests. I'm already starting to build a support network with folx from both coasts.. beautiful people! And this is a great opportunity for me to learn some new ways to assert myself, as I know that I will always be challenged in my work, by people with higher status in various feilds.

We've had a couple of speakers come in and talk about the Ph.D experience, and I've been finding their honest testimonials really helpful in my crafting my academic course in life. I've decided to do the one year M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) English program, and teach for some years, knowing that a Ph.D. is an option, but not a necessity. There is other work I want to do in life and family is an essential factor in life I've been neglecting (both the family I have and one day want to start). I want to advance in my photography, write some books, and relearn the keyboard, flute, and congas again (yes, music is a part of my life too). One useful thing a speaker came in to say for us was, wisedom before knowledge...don't ever miss out on wisedom when the chance comes...