#Selma50

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Photo via The Obama Diary

A full circle moment for Congressmember John Lewis who was beaten on the Pettis Bridge in 1965. Congressmember Lewis and President Obama share a powerful embrace during this weekends’ events in Selma.

And now to quote Jay-Z …

My President is black, in fact he’s half-white
So even in a racist mind he’s half right
If you have racist mind you’ll be a’ight
My President is black but his house is all white
Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther could walk
Martin Luther walked so Barack Obama could run
Barack Obama ran so all the children could fly
So I’mma spread my wings, you can meet me in the sky

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Reflections on Marginality as a Site of Resistance

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Ferguson Protests | Washington, D.C. | November 2014

It wasn’t until I went to college that I attempted to articulate inequality. It was a process of over five years at the university in undergraduate and graduate school, I grew my analysis and critiques of planning and policy and asked questions about what the previous generations of decision makers created for my community and for communities of color across the U.S.

One of the pieces of work that helped me articulate these ideas was Marginality as a Site of Resistance by bell hooks. It taught me how to envision the space of marginality as a place of resistance.

Historically, people of color have faced discrimination in many ways, which has created a racial and economic divide. The history of this country that led to the marginalization of people of color started with slavery and lynching and transformed to police brutality and segregation then to redlining and predatory home lending thus, establishing a foundation of inequality in the United States.

However, bell hooks envisions this discrimination and marginality not as deprivation but as a site of radical possibility – a space for resistance. This space can be the central location for creating a counterhegemonic discourse. A space for transforming out world.

She asserts that marginality is something those that are oppressed should not lose, or give up but cling to because it nourishes our capacity to resist and to imagine alternatives a new and better world.

This marginality comes from lived experiences. Even if you move out of the “hood” those experiences follow you and informs the way you see the world.

I have chosen to follow a path that places me at the center of the political world in our country – Washington D.C. – the so called “belly of the beast” among radical circles. Folks in those circles have questioned my progressive street cred especially because of the connections to political institutions I have made.

However, my identity is one that lies in the margins. There are layers of complexity to my identity. I am a woman but I am also Chicana. I have been educated formally in a university and also by life experience that has taught me how to persist and resist.

With life in the margins there exists a counter language, a resistance that is sustained by the remembrance of the past. For me, that past is a collective past. It is the trauma and violence that we as a community have collectively sustained. It is from this pain that the collective foundation of hope has been built. This collective hope needs to be sustained by future generations.

tumblr_nfkj94vt5a1qli8ufo1_1280The #blacklivesmatter movement has demonstrated that the past and present have collided together with the friction of pain and hope and it has spurred a movement.

Raising the consciousness of hope is crucial for oppressed, exploited and colonized people. We as marginalized people should speak as our own liberators.

When we as a marginalized people imagine a new world and ask questions about how to deal with these confusions and contradictions in society we are really addressing how to evolve a new kind of world of consciousness that is transformative and synthesizing.

It is freeing. So in the words of Mos Def let’s get free.

Her Hands

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I used to study her hands. The entirety of her hands. I can recall the shape of her finger nails the creases in her fingers and the width of her palm. I would look at the way her finger nails would curl but it was only on a few nails. I would wonder why they grew that way. What in her DNA caused them to do that?

Her hands proved to me that she worked hard. If you would follow your eyes from her hands to her arms you would find scars and burn marks on her hairless fair skin. Her burn marks and scars were from the baking racks and the ovens that her hands and arms would pass through constantly.

She was a baker for 25 years and on that glorious day when she retired she was so happy. We had a party for her and she burned her uniform. She danced and she drank wine … she was finally free. Free from the burden of what she experienced for more than 25 years – work.

She didn’t hate to work. It wasn’t that she didn’t like to labor. She was infact good at her job she was even a good manager. She inspired people. But what she was free from was the stress. She was free to use her time as she pleased without having someone burden her with stress. She missed plays and volunteer days at school and holidays because she had to bake. She had to provide others with the goods that they would consume in celebration with their families while missing out on celebrations with her own.

She would rise early in the morning and work all day. She would come home and sleep. She would wake up and make dinner and do it all over again. Her husband would make her coffee and iron her uniforms and send her off every morning with a smile and a selflessness because he loved her.

He didn’t complain that about getting up at 2 am with her. He did it because he loved her.

She continued without him after he passed away. She started a new life. This new life included raising her youngest daughter. Getting her through school and watching her graduate from graduate school. She sobbed. She saw her hard work fulfilled. She saw where she came from and where she was going through her daughter. Her daughter made her proud and she made her daughter proud.

She was the inspiration for much of what her daughter would accomplish. She became the motivation and cornerstone of her daughters ambitions. She taught her daughter so much and even more her daughter learned the day that her mom passed away.

I miss you mama. I honor you everyday in my thoughts. I love you forever. ❤

Divide and Conquer

“I am not ashamed to say… I agree with you!”

“Frankly, I don’t know why these wetbacks come to our country and get everything.”

“My daughter… you know… we can’t even afford braces for my daughter but those wetbacks come here and get everything.” 

“I am tired of paying taxes and paying for these illegals…”

“I am fourth generation Mexican – American, my brother fought in Vietnam, my father in Korea. We are American… this is OUR country…”

 

Brown skinned children of the sun don’t you see?

Don’t you see how they have tried to divide and conquer

Nationalism has creeped into your hearts and you have forgotten your brother, your sister and the mother that birthed you. 

You have forgotten tu pais –  no, no forget tu pais

We don’t want to give the borders – the distance anymore credit .

We don’t want to remind you again of the differences.

They are the other – the wetback 

…and you, you are American

And you my brown skinned paisano are the generational Americano who has shed the past and forgotten the blood that flows through your veins.

You have forgotten the struggles of the past.

You forgot that you too come from the earth, the dirt, the sun, el maiz

where did your color come from?

 

But don’t you see what they have done?

They have conquered you!

Maybe we should blame our schizophrenic mestizaje identities for wanting to belong.

Forget the Chicano Aztlan bullshit of the 60s

For I am now American I have made it. 

         ”I am a manager”   

                          “A business owner”

                                                             … I am the American dream.

 

-inspired by actual events and observations of my own people 4th generation chicanos like me. 

Forever Young

I heard this song on the radio this morning as I drove hastily to a meeting at City of Hope. As I was in the car, I slowed down and turned the radio louder. This familiar song could only mean one thing that it was going to be a good day. But it actually turned out to be anything but a good day.

As I contemplate what this all meant before I turn the sheets down to go to bed. I realized this song gave me strength to complete the day with my head held high. See, this song is not just any song this song is a sacred song.

As sacred as any song can be between a girl and her father. It was in June of 1991, in which I first remember hearing this song as I walked down the aisle to the graduation stage – I was five and I was graduating from kindergarten. It’s weird how you remember such details at such a young age. I remember my long brown hair practically to my waist was curled and I wore a black velvet and taffeta dress underneath my yellow graduation gown. I remember that day well and I remember my sisters friends, my parents all in attendance to see the youngest member of the family participating in an event that may have seemed a little premature.

The song that played as we exited the ceremony was Rod Stewart’s Forever Young. Years later, I am still attached to that song because my dad often told me it was our song. It seemed as his words of advice and love were depicted through the lyrics.

It was as if my father wrote those lyrics specifically for me. I would never have known the weight that they carried until after his death. He died 12 years after I walked across that graduations stage and just 4 months before he died he dedicated this song to me in my senior yearbook.

So after 20 years, this song still means something to me. I thought it was a good omen. But really its words remind me of who I am and where I came from. My dad will and still always has my back.

My father only wished the best in my life. Even though the days that I have ahead of me, I know will only be tougher. I know that I have a strong foundation in which to build my life on.

He left me with these words:

May the good lord be with you 
Down every road you roam 
And may sunshine and happiness 
Surround you when you’re far from home 
And may you grow to be proud 
Dignified and true 
And do unto others 
As you’d have done to you 
Be courageous and be brave 
And in my heart you’ll always stay 
Forever young, forever young 

May good fortune be with you 
May your guiding light be strong 
Build a stairway to heaven 
With a prince or a vagabond 

And may you never love in vain 
And in my heart you’ll always remain… Forever Young 

…and not to me as that woman who is the inanimate creation of someone’s overactive imagination. Look at me with no preconceived notions of how I must act or feel and I will try to do the same with you. No presumption, no assumptions, no banal rhetoric substituted for real person-to-person giving and receiving. Look at my face when you speak to me; look into my eyes and see what they have to say. Think about the answers that you give to my questions. Don’t speak to me in ad-agency prose or in the hip jargon of the day. I am a woman and you are a man and I have always known it. If you love me, tell me so. Don’t approach me as you would an enemy. I am on your side and have always been. We have survived, and we may just be able to teach the world a lesson.
— Fran Sanders, “Dear Black Man,” in Toni Cade Bambara’s The Black Woman: An Anthology (1970)

… No one’s going to cut you down, cut the thorns thick around you. No one’s going to storm the castle walls nor kiss awake your birth, climb down your hair, nor mount you onto the white steed. There is no one who will feed the yearning. Face it. You will have to do, do it yourself. — Gloria Anzaldúa