Sunday, February 24, 2008

Transforming Silence into Theory

What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you sicken and die of them, still in silence? -Audre Lorde

On my venture to discover an epistemological framework that stems from experiences like my own, I've started to read and re-read some authors by radical women of color. First on my list is Audre Lorde's "Sister Outsider." I've only read a number of selected essays, including "Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," "Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving," Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," "Sexism, An American Disease in Blackface," "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," and "Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference." (Whew!)

While I took more extensive notes relating to very specific moments and influential people in my life, I am choosing (at least for now) to focus on some broader themes. Below I've listed a few quotes that I think should be considered on this venture. The quotes I chose are focused more on initiating self-reflection and understanding the context of myself in society and myself in the movement. Definition and redefinition.

The future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference... For we have, built into all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response, old structures of oppression, and these must be altered at the same time as we alter the living conditions which are a result of those structures. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. (123)

As I reflect on my responses to oppression, it seems that a lot of my inspirational drive is rooted in anger and destruction. I don't attempt to invalidate the existence of anger and the desire to destroy oppressive systems within society and within myself. I believe this drive comes from the desire to eradicate with urgency the injustices we survive each day. Every day is filled with negation- institutional driven negation, self-negation under the guise of self-regulation. But at what point and in what spaces do I really get to experience and understand an authentic self outside of "the master's house"? How am I to build a new "blueprint" for living if what I seem to have at my disposal are the master's tools?

[The master's tools] may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support. (112)
To what extent have I been working under the influence of competition? Has my response to oppression been locked in a set of behaviors that perpetuate stagnation?

It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting. -Simone de Beauvoir quoted by Audre Lorde (113)

What are the sources of knowledge I have not yet tapped into that stem from my own experiences? How have I been forced/trained/pressured to silence those places where knowledge has been forbidden? If I haven't been reaching into these spaces, where have my sources of knowledge been coming from and what are these other sources rooted in?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wishful Thinking: Reflection and (Re)Vision

My body has spoken. One of the best words of advice I have recently received was from a fellow blogger hermana, Sudy, who said, "your body never lies." This is probably the most honest blog entry I've written in a long time.

Lately I've been insulated by the "go, go, go" motion of daily living. My body is tired, unmotivated, and unwilling to invest energy in situations I have in the past been able to sustain. I've only recently stopped to think, reflect, and scratch the surface of this ongoing depression. My mind took me to the one place I've been scared to go: What if the goal I've set for myself is not conducive to my role in inciting the change I want to incite? As a go-getter, strong willed (read: stubborn), goal oriented individual I was frightened by this prospect. Often times though, our bodies will take us to places our minds will not allow us to wander.

So I entertained this possibility. I had to reexamine my vision and its clarity. I had to reevaluate the course I was on. I had to rethink what epistemology I was working with. How much of my theoretical framework is male-centered? Has my vision been co-opted? An even worse fear came upon this reflection: Have I been unknowingly functioning through a framework that negates me and others like me (i.e. woc, queer, survivors of sexual and domestic violence, etc)?

Lex calls these silenced spaces. After talking to Lex, another blog hermana, I was surprised to find that someone else understood so clearly what I was experiencing. Ashley, another hermana I know from the world of educational institutions has experienced the exact same process of self examination. I am so blessed to share words with these amazing women.

Some of the questions I've begun to consider are:
How much do schooling institutions limit the way I want to reach my community? What was my vision before I became inspired to work in schools? What is my vision now, after working my way into that goal? How have others worked to inspire that goal and is this a vision that I truly encompass? Is this truly my vision? How effective is this vision in addressing and working through the issues that are important to me and those in my community? Do schools offer the authentic spaces for healing, decolonization, and self/community -actualization? Am I most productive in spaces of actualization vs. infiltration? Which one, if not both, or is there some other framework that is more conducive to epistemologies that reflect experiences like my own as a queer woman of color and a survivor? What DOES a queer/woman of color/survivor epistemological framework look like???

As part of trying to explore these questions, I decided to start by using a tool I've come across (sort of serendipitously on several occasions) through others' blogs. Its called a wishful thinking list. I sighted it first in Lex's blog and then mendi lewis obadike's website. I'm using it as a tool to clarify for myself what my experience is, what my vision is, and what my community is. This list is dedicated to my mother, myself, and other survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The number of items, 39, represents the number of years my mother has survived an abusive marriage with my father. The list is a work in progress and I could probably make other lists dedicated to other groups. This particular group or issue is one that stands in the forefront of my experience right now. It is the issue my body is working through, and the one my mother is working through in everything she does. Its a public issue that tends to get only personal attention:

1) People are attracted what you say before what you wear.
2) Your lovers respect you out of love and admiration.
3) When looking for work, building friendships, or making love, there is equal balance in power on all sides.
4) When you speak, your accent always enhances the profundity of your words.
5) At all learning institutions, teachers and instructors are aware of your presence and the learning needs of others like yourself.
6) Others do not see you as up for game as you walk to the corner store and any man that comes to close proximity is not a threat.
7) If you feel that the fire has burnt out, your lover will not manipulate you into staying.
8) Your body is unscarred and holds memories of only love.
9) Your heart is unscarred and unafraid to love.
10) You control who has access to your body.
11) Your lovers remind you that they are blown away by your keen insight and intelligence.
12) Male leaders in your community are genuine, consistent, and acknowledge your skills as necessary assets to your community.
13) The female leaders in your community are plentiful and draw from their experiences as women; they are a reflection of you.
14) Financial difficulties have never been a factor in deciding whether to bear children or not.
15) You feel alive, healthy, and strong in your body, all the time, everywhere.
16) What, how, and where you worship has never incited fear or violence.
17) All human touch you experience from others will come out of love.
18) You are calm, comfortable, sociable, and happy around others you don’t know.
19) No one will try to isolate you from the people you love.
20) You know where you came from, what your name is, and where you want to go.
21) You have memories of your father guiding and loving you with words of encouragement, inspiration, wisdom, and love.
22) Your cultural practices are valued by those different than you.
23) There is no dominant culture; the only thing dominant is diversity and love.
24) Nobody takes you for granted.
25) Your children are safe wherever they are, whomever they are with, and whatever they are doing.
26) Any country you choose to travel to acknowledges the strength, value, and inner-beauty of all women.
27) You can acquire clothing and other goods without wondering if other women and children were abused in the process of its creation.
28) When you speak, others listen.
29) Every opportunity for intellectual, physical, and spiritual growth is available to you just when you need it.
30) When others use your name in conversation, you are assured that they refer to your greatness and talent.
31) When you dream, you smile in your sleep.
32) When I smell your scent in a piece of garment, I am reminded of memories of you as always happy, free, and loved.
33) Your children admire your strength.
34) There is always time to pursue what your heart desires.
35) You know what your heart desires.
36) Your stories are considered anecdotes for wisdom.
37) You consume food without guilt.
38) Every tear your have shed has been out of joy.
39) Every moment you spend alone is done with self-love and out of choice.

Much like BFP's 40 Days of Contemplation I've decided to embark on a journey to define my epistemological framework by reading works by other radical women of color, queer woc, and works by woc on survival. Audre Lorde, Sandra Cisneros, Andrea Smith, Patricia Collins, and Anzaldua are among those in my list. If you could recommend any please share. Also, if you've got a list to share of your own, please link it here, as I am continually inspired by others who are exploring their visions as well.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Friday Myday

So in the practice of getting into the rhythm of full time teaching, I've finally decided to designate a block of time to myself. I call it Friday Mydays! (Corny enough?) Since the roads were too dangerous with ice, sleet, and snow, to drive to the bar to shoot pool, I found myself creating a website with googlepages. Although it doesn't allow enough flexibility to get too creative, I don't think it came out too bad. See for yourself: The Examined Life.