What It Means to Be A Working Artist

Tonight I watched Chop Shop, a film by Ramin
Bahrani, about a 12 year old young man in Queens, who makes
his way in the world, with at least twelve different hustles.

I was moved by Bahrani’s analysis of his own work. In
an interview he writes,

I see every film as its own entity. It begins and ends with itself. we must accept that i am making films about how the majority of people in this world live, and we must also accept that this majority is utterly ignored by Hollywood and independent film (or belittled and exploited by using famous rich actors to play the roles of the economically poor in order for said actors to try and win awards). Thus, you may say that the connection between the two films is there, but as relevant as saying I am making films about people and the human condition in the “modern” globalized world.

Chop Shop is available on the Netflix instant play jawn.

Quoted: Dorthy Roberts >Black Womens Reproductive Rights

For too long, Black women’s struggle against the most degrading repression has been left out of the official story of reproductive rights in America. But it is their struggle that highlights the poverty of current notions of reproductive freedom. It is also their struggle that can lead to a more radical vision of reproductive justice. …A vision of liberty that respects the reproductive integrity of Black women is a critical step towards a just society for everyone.

She goes on to say, speaking about the very definition of liberty,

The Supreme Court as elevated reproductive liberty to the level of a fundamental right against government interference deserving of the highest judicial scrutiny. But Black women’s reproductive choices seem to fall outside this sphere of protection that is supposed? to apply to all citizens. There is something drastically wrong with a conception of reproductive freedom that allows this wholesale exclusion of the most disadvantaged from its reach. We need a way of rethinking the meaning of liberty so that it protects all citizens equally. I propose that focusing on the connection between reproductive rights and racial equality is the place to start.

Dorthy Robert’s, Killing the Black Body is a thorough treatise on the history of both Black women’s bodies, issues of reproductive justice and the American Medical Industry.

When I read this last semester I was floored at the ways in which our bodies, post slavery, have been treated like nothing by the American Medical establishment, especially if we were low income.

Roberts analyzes forced sterilizations of low income women, non consensual sterilizations pregnant teens, removal of babies if we were addicted, the trial and error methodology of new and unproven and frequently harmful medicines such as Depo Provera, on our bodies.

In fact, I remember reading The Source in the early 90’s and there were ad’s for Depro Provera, and I always thought it was odd that such a masculinist magazine had ads for implant contraception. Essence had those ads too, come to think of it.

Dorthy Roberts goes on to say at the end of her book, both succinctly and eloquently, that laws that have a disparate impact on Black women’s reproduction are antithetical to an American democracy, in light of the ways in which our reproduction was tied to this nations beginings and subsequently, American wealth as a whole. She writes,

The reason legislatures should reject laws that punish Black women’s reproductive decisions is not an absolute and isolated notion of individual autonomy. Rather legislatures should reject these laws as a critical step towards eradicating a system that has historically demeaned Black motherhood. Respecting Black women’s decisions to bear children is a necessary ingredient of a community that affirms the person hood of all its members.

Why are we so silent around reproductive justice?

Is it that I am not listening in the right places?

Your momma ever talk about pre-Abortion United States?

Quoted: Cathy Cohen> On Assimilation

“…it also highlights the limits of lesbian and gay political
agenda based on civil rights strategy, where assimilation
into and replication of, dominant institutions are the goals.

Many of us continue to search for new political direction and
agenda, one that does not focus integration into dominant
structures but instead seeks to transform the basic fabric
and hierarchies that allow systems of oppression to persist
and operate efficiently.”

Cathy Cohen has had a huge influence on me. In fact her writing about Queer theory helped me to rethink racial assimilation. Most notably her book The Boundaries of Blackness: HIV and the Breakdown of Black politics and the essay “Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics.”

Before reading her, I had never thought of the perils and benefits of assimilation, or what it means to think about alternate strategies to assimilation.

Now I realize that every step that we take, to either assimilate
or not has its own set of consequences.

Cohen goes on to say, regarding sexuality,

…the sexual subject is understood to be constructed and
contained by multiple practices of categorization and regulation
that systematically marginalize and oppress those subjects thereby defined as deviant “other.” At its best, queer theory focuses on and makes central only the socially constructed nature of sexuality and sexual categories, but also the varying degrees and multiple sites of power distributed within all categories of sexuality, including normative category of heterosexuality.

You have any thoughts about assimilation?
Any thoughts on multiple sites of power?

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Black Folks

So, racial theory, queer theory and whiteness theory
are all rather meaningless if we can’t use them to help liberate us,
or even just better understand how the ‘isms function
in our day to day lives.

Last week, I was in Whole Foods, in Oakland, with my momma
and she says to me, “Hmmp, that girl doesn’t know
if she wants to be a man or a woman.” The woman was
a mid twenties, and had what could be read as a
masculine woman’s self presentation.

Now, having done both disability theory, and queer theory
as well, and also being a Black woman, and this being
my momma I knew I had to tread lightly and firmly.

So I said, “Momma, come on now, let her be.”

Then I looked her dead and her face and said,
“Everyone has a right to be who they are.”

She kept going.

I responded, “Momma, you know I Love coming to this
place with you, but I will walk out of here. Serious
as a heart attack.”

I told her that I felt that way that I did, because
as Black folks, who have been mistreated by Whites
for three centuries, we of all people should know
what it feels like to be oppressed by a dominant group.

Her response was, “Well, White folks ain’t never bothered
me.” “Well there was the one time on that one job….”? and
she starts trailing off.

So then I KNEW I had to change my unit of analysis,
and “take it to the body” as the Black women feminists
say.

I was like, “Momma, she has a right to be who she is.
Saying stuff about who she is is like treating her the way
White folks treated grandmomma.”

My momma got it then.

My grandmomma was a dark skinned, “shoot you if you run
cut ‘chu if you still” kind Black woman.

At a time when Black women were seen is silent pillars of
the community or wenches or doormats, my grandmum
always asserted her humanity, whether or not
other folks understood it was none of her business.

She took nothing from NO one, White police included.

And because of this they messed with her from Richmond
to Dallas and back.

She is my namesake.

It was awesome to take relational thinking about
queer and racial theory and be able to get my momma to
see where I was coming from.

Then peep game. She turned around and stood up for me.

I have an Uncle who is type homophobic. I Love him, but
the combo of rage and homophobia, I ain’t built for that.

So, he was insistent on seeing me last week.

And she told him, listen, “Your really homophobic,
and Renina don’t like being around that, really none
of us do, you gon’ alienate people.”

I was like, wow. She spoke my truth, but dang, it seemed
kinda harsh when she told me what she said.
The other side of the coin is that he now knows where
I stand.

Fast forward last night, I am on a date of sorts.

The guy, a Black man, Mr. Fresh and Clean, I met at a dance
party recently, and the subject of me being touched
without consent came up.

On the dance floor, at one point he reached for me.

The material issue was that I concluded that his intentions
weren’t malicious, he came across as shy and it was a benign
touch, but still I am big on consent.

So, I bring it up to him last night and said that I don’t care
for it.

I want to be able to walk the street the way Black men do,
with autonomy.

He responded, “So you want to be treated like a man.”

I said no, “I want to be treated like a human.”

“You want me to give you a pound.”

“No, if you are a stranger, then don’t touch me,
or ask if you can hug me.”

Then came my relational one two punch analysis.

“Listen, I understand that they police have job to do,
police are human too. BUT, I have huge problem with the
ways in which Black men are surveilled and treated in
the streets. Furthermore, I don’t want you all to turn
around and treat us the same way. Its not cool.”

He sat there silent. Stared at the nachos on his plate.
Then turned and looked at me and said, “Wow, I never
thought of it like that, us treating you the way the police
treat us.”

I was like yeah man.

That’s the truth.

Thoughts?

Have to deal with homophobia, or racism or sexism
recently in a relationship?

How do you decide when to say something or when to
shut up?

Jay Z + Gentrification: A Force of Capitalism

The first time I heard Empire State of Mind, I thought it sounded like a Requiem for New York City.

A city that requires, arguably a $100 thousand income, per household, in order to have
a humane and healthy existence is both fascinating and unsustainable.

You can live in New York with less, but your access to resources such as schools,
the train, doctors, cabs, jobs, lawyers, police and just general upward mobility will be incredibly limited.

Furthermore, given Jay Z’s humble beginning’s in the Marcy projects, the irony that
he is a running with the Nets and implicitly Ratner isn’t lost on me.

Because of his Ratner relationship, he will subsequently play a role in both changing the face of Brooklyn.

Jay-Z running with the gentrification forces and may play a roll in having you evicted.

Who has a right to the city?