Monday, February 28, 2011

Beyonce Embrace or DISGRACE!!!!!

Beyonce was recently in the March edition of the French L’Officiel Magazine. She has been stirring up some controversy with the “Blackface” photo shoot she did in paying homage to African Queens. In honor of the magazines 90th anniversary, and in tribute to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, the singer, 29, appears in "blackface" makeup and tribal makeup and costume designed by her mom, Tina Knowles. Her fans have recently found it quite offensive based on the term “blackface” and the way it referred to actors with black paint on their face. It was a method used to show actors as black people, although black people were not allowed to be in films.

Blackface was a way for “white” people to play as black people in films as they thought black people acted. It was a discriminatory, subliminally making fun of black people and portraying their skin as extremely dark. The real reason why people felt that Beyonce was being offensive is that at the end of the day she can take the paint off her face, but what are women who are this skin tone everyday supposed to do? How are they going to take their color off and assimilate to the world’s view of beauty? The controversy arouse because if she wanted to pay homage, she could have just done the shoot, why was it necessary to paint on a face?

Is Beyonce wrong for what she has done? Are her fans wrong for taking the shoot the wrong way? Why is her homage for these beautiful African queens, one of actual disrespect? In trying to respect her African queens she thought being black was beautiful, but when you paint your face darker in order to look more 'African,' aren't you reducing an entire continent, full of different nations, tribes, cultures and histories, into one brown color? These are the questions we must ask ourselves before we make our opinion of this so called disrespectful act. I am well aware of what the "blackface" term symbolizes as well how it was used against colored people, but does that mean Beyonce was trying to use it in the same way against her fans. It is no point in going on pointing fingers or saying that it’s wrong or right, but in honor of her intentions it may very well be she did not intend on being offensive to her fans, but that depends on how this article makes you feel.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why the Planned Parenthood Cut Will Not Pass in the Senate

The really scary push to defund Planned Parenthood that passed in the house now moves for approval in the Senate. The Pence Amendment is only part of the larger federal spending bill. So of course when the Senate debates the Planned Parenthood controversy, it will be in context of the overall issue, the federal budget. Yet, the amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, at least in its current form, is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

Several prominent pro-choice senators have unabashedly voiced their unanimous opposition to this proposal. They include Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Barbara Boxer of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Al Franken of Minnesota. Franken has said to the press that he believes the Democrats have enough votes to block the amendment. At this point, numbers appear to be on the side of choice.

Furthermore, the House Budget Committee Chair, Paul Ryan (R-WI), believes that the Republicans do not have enough votes to pass the legislation as it appears now. Most major news outlets have agreed that the legislation stands little chance of passage in the Senate. After all, the Senate is much more supportive of the right to choose than the House.

Unfortunately, the need to pass a budget will define the parameters of the Senate's debate. If Congress does not pass a federal budget, there is a threat of a total government shutdown. Such an event has not occurred since 1995. Both parties would like to blame the other as being unwilling to compromise and thus avoid blame for the potential government shutdown. So the real issue for most senators is not the right to choose, but how the battle over the budget goes, and where the Planned Parenthood issue fits into that larger debate.

So under normal circumstances, the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood would easily be struck down by Senate Democrats, however, this threat of a government shutdown might just force some Democrats to "compromise" and allow some parts of the amendment to survive. In my opinion, that is the greatest threat to Planned Parenthood, not the current outright defunding.

Again in context of the larger political hoopla surrounding the federal budget, the Planned Parenthood funding issue will likely serve as ammunition for both sides. Since this issue is being fairly well covered in the liberal press, many Democratic senators would not want to lose base support by allowing the defunding measure to pass as it stands. This pressure works in favor of the right to choose since pro-choice politicians retain a majority in the Senate.

I really do hate the fact that anti-choice politicians wantonly take so many important issues (federal budget, health care reform) hostage. Yet the progressive edge over the conservatives in the Planned Parenthood funding issue is beneficial in so far as it should stop liberals from panicking. However, just because progressives have a few advantages in the Senate does not mean that they should not rest in announcing, no shouting, their opposition to this proposal. Even though Republicans probably won't get their way, it is still an attack on w omen's constitutional rights everywhere. Which is why engaging in rallies and other such means of opposition are always relevant.

Please contact your senators and urge them to strike down this legislation. If you call their offices, make sure to use the well written and thorough prompt that Zaneta has provided a few posts ago.

After all, who else has the responsibility of keeping liberal politicians on their toes?

What do you all think, how will this turn out?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Disability Justice is a Reproductive Justice Issue

I can not tell you how excited I am by the response to cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. It feels like a movement for the first time in a long time, at least for me personally. I also feel so incredibly empowered by the huge amount of support for the "I Stand with Planned Parenthood" campaign, but at the same time, I'm forced to check my privilege.

With advances in genetic testing, there is a growing debate about disability and abortion. Often time the question becomes whether or not "this child will be better off not being born than suffering through life with a disability." I recently learned about some failed legislation that would have banned abortion if the woman was basing her decision on the fetus' race, sex, or ability. Limiting choice is NOT the solution. Rather the solution is to reteach what we value as a society.

The fact that the biggest campaign for Planned Parenthood uses ableist language isn't nearly as concerning as those who are not even in the conversation. My movement is more than the pro-choice/pro-life debate...I'm talking about Access to equal and affordable health care, Sovereignty to be in and make decisions for our own bodies, and Liberation for all those who have been silenced or made invisible because we don't fit nicely into "normal."

I mean, that's just how I'm feeling today...How do you feel about it?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trust Black Women...

Have you seen this ad in SoHo?

This offensive board comes from the people of LifeAlways, and is within walking distance of three Planned Parenthoods. The trite fear-mongering concept behind this board is neither new nor original. A similar style poster appeared in Georgia recently from the organization Right to Life :

1) I wasn't aware that different ethnicity=different species.
2) I get that Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger have a historical tie to eugenics, but when the hell are we going to trust that black women can make our OWN choices.
3) Organizations like these cite that Planned Parenthoods are only placed in black and latina communities because the have a secret agenda of racial population control. But Planned Parenthood is about ACCESS, not race. And last I checked, having affordable access to sex education, contraceptives, CANCER SCREENINGS, and pre-natal care weren't bad things.

I decided to do a little digging behind the SoHo ad, because I had a sneaking suspicion that there were no black women on LifeAlways' board. And guess what folks:

I was right.

I wish people would stop villainizing women who make the incredibly difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy. Abortions are NEVER an easy decision, and until you are in that position, you'll never know what it feels like. This is why the discussion that happening right now around Planned Parenthood ABSOLUTELY needs to include racial and economic justice. I'll be rallying Saturday...will you?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Honor Killing: Women Electrocuted for Disobeying Family

January 25, 2011, Police arrested family members of 21-year old Pakistanian Saima Bibi. She was electrocuted by family members for going against there demands of a pre-arranged marriage. Police arrested Bibi's father and three other relatives after being tipped off by an anonymous caller, said police official Muhammad Ismail. She had defied her family demands and instead ran away about one month before this to the southern port city of Karachi to marry a fellow villager, police official Rao Zahoor said. Bibi's family told police she committed suicide on Friday in their village in the district of Bahawalpur in Punjab, but a medical report showed signs of torture and electrocution on her hands, legs and back. I t was told to police that they had traveled to Karachi to make her come back home and when she didn’t listen they tormented her. A 2009 study by the European Journal of Public Health showed one out of every five homicides in Pakistan was an honor killing. Some Baluch communities in Baluchistan province and parts of Sindh and Punjab provinces still justify honor killings.

These so called honor killings has been a growing problem in Pakistan areas, the murder of a women accused of committing adultery, and behaving in dishonorable behavior. They are seen to bring shame to the homes of their family members and in order for the family to diminish this stigma they gain they must kill the bad seed out of the bunch to bring back honor. This term they state to make it seem as though it is justice to kill these women in honor of the family. I am not the one to judge and diminish their beliefs, but I believe this is horrid. To treat these women with no self-entitlement and to release their rights to life away from them is immoral. I however recently have learned that a lot of countries outside of the U.S., very seldom give women rights. It is unfortunate to think as hard as women in America face issues of discrimination these women have not even a right to state an opinion. It is time for a change, this is not the first nor will it be the last time I state this. I just wish for Saima sake her family would have understood that.

“The right things to do are those that keep our violence in abeyance; the wrong things are those that bring it to the fore”
Robert J. Sawyer

Tell Your Story!!!!

I joined a project with co-blogger Jill on Tumblr! We're hoping to create a safe space for people to share their stories and gratitude for Planned Parenthood. So check it out and tell you story! And don't forget to rally with a bunch of NYAF bloggers on Saturday (see post below)!!!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


My last post was a bit of a rant because...well...I was angry. And I still am. However, anger is not enough nor does it result in solutions. So here's what WE can do RIGHT NOW!

Change your Facebook profile to this!

And then add this caption:

For NJ:

For NY:

Here is a script I wrote:

"Hello Senator _______. My name is _____ and I am one of your constituents. I am contacting you today because my reproductive rights are under attack as we speak. By voting to eliminate federal funds to Planned Parenthood, you are seriously jeopardizing the ability of thousands of people to access basic services like STI testing and treatment, prenatal care, HIV/AIDS testing, and safer sex supplies. There are hundreds of people in my community that need affordable access to these vital services. As someone who may potentially support you in the next election, I urge you to stand up for what's right and vote to keep Planned Parenthood funded and in operation. Choice is not enough! We need to be able to afford make the right decision and choose to support reproductive justice for all. Thank you."

And if you're in the NYC area, come to Foley Square on Saturday at 2!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lived Experiences are Rare and Powerful...

I've sort of avoided talking about the trio of initiatives aimed against reproductive rights because I've been too busy praying that they will just go away. How could anyone support these heinous pieces of legislation? Well folks, the nightmare is coming to fruition, and I'm extremely tense about the outcome.

1) The Pence Bill would take away all federal funding from Planned Parenthood. Essentially, this would shut many Planned Parenthoods down and take away not only accessible abortions, but STI testing and treatment, cancer screenings, safer sex supplies, and other services many folks can't afford. Here is a woman's voice on the issue:

2) H.R. 3: This bill is attempting to redefine rape in an effort to restrict what kinds of rape are acceptable excuses for abortions. This would mostly affect survivors of statutory rape and date-rape where alcohol or drugs were involved. Here is a woman's voice on the issue:

3) H.R. 358: This bill would also allow individual doctors with moral conflict to refuse abortions in situations where the mother's life was at risk. The doctor would not even be required to refer the patient to another doctor who would perform the abortion. This is a pro-choice debate in a completely different sense. The mother has to choose between her life and her child's. Here is a woman's voice on the issue:


There is an attack on women in this country happening RIGHT NOW. Did you know that all of this was going on? Or that there was another bill in South Dakota that would have allowed the murdering of women who seek abortions and the doctors that perform them under a "justifiable homicide" clause? Luckily that bill has been shelved (for now), but The Pence Bill especially is gaining momentum. And as you can imagine, it's being supported overwhelmingly by white upper-middle class men who will never experience childbirth or abortion or miscarriage. Listen to those powerful, brave women who are sacrificing revealing their private lives so that you all could have some real education about what it's like to actually go through what you're voting on.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Higher Ed and Social Justice: Violence Awareness

I was able to attend a kick-ass Higher Education conference this Monday at NYU. One session in particular that really stood out for me was a presentation on the hidden victims of Intimate Partner Violence with Linda Mills. Much of what was said was generally familiar, seeing as how my previous job in student affairs was at a Women's Center. Linda Mills brought up some really startling statistics around the perpetrators and victims of sexual violence including that women were almost just as likely to commit acts of violence against their partners as men. And that while often times the physical acts done by men are more severe and damaging, in most violent relationships both parties have committed some form of violence.

At the Women's Center, I worked with the Assault Contact Team, was expected to help folks struggling with different personal issues around trauma and identity, and helped to plan Violence Awareness Week. In terms of the training I received for those roles, very rarely was sexual violence against men discussed. Perhaps this is because the job was housed in a Women's Center, but as one of the only visible resources for victims of sexual violence, I can't imagine it would be easy to come in and use our services. Add the fact that much of the education on sexual violence deals mainly with women, it seems nearly impossible. Of course, this dialogue almost completely leaves out the queer experience and same-sex intimate partner violence, which occurs at the same rates as heterosexual couples. If anything, men were recruited into Violence Awareness through ally building.

Take Back the Night marches, sexual assault speak out events, across the country have only recently begun allowing men to participate, and that’s only if they allow men to participate at all. But I wonder what violence awareness campaigns and support services would look like if they were a bit more inclusive. Personally, it makes sense to me that there would be some women-only spaces. It can be really hard to talk about violence, and even the slightest triggers can make the experience all that more intense. However, there is a real gap in support for male survivors of sexual violence on college campuses, and hopefully through more work like that of Mills this issue will receive more attention.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seen But Not Heard: Women and Children Edition

Okay, so as soon as I saw this I HAD to reblog it, and figured what better way to start posting at NYAF than to jump right in!

Friday, February 11, 2011


I've listened to 'Born This Way' a few times now and I think it's really good in more ways then one. First, I have to say that I'm pretty sure that this is the first massively popular lead single to prominently mention a gay affirmative message in plain English.

But to me the real reason why this song is hugely valuable to the overall progressive movement is the spiritual undertone of the lyrics.

As everyone knows by now, the main message of the song is acceptance (as well as self-acceptance) of everybody as individuals. The song justifies this acceptance by stating that if God has made each person, and that God makes no mistakes, then society must open up to all of what makes people unique.

Such an affirming message by a popstar wouldn't ordinarily be that important, but the spiritually-based claim makes 'Born This Way' fly in the face of the Religious Right. Quite overtly, the song takes on the claims of Traditional Christians and other religious groups that it is not okay to embrace LGBT people and other marginalized groups because it is not 'part of God's Plan.'

The time is ripe within the mainstream public discourse for groups espousing tolerance and acceptance to systematically attack the main motivation and argument of the Religious Right, 'God's Plan' or 'God's Will.'

That is not to say that liberals should attack people's public religious expression, but rather attack the tendency of those individuals to imply that their religious beliefs are the end all and be all at the expense of other beliefs. The way to do this is to simply take away their arguments and use it against them, like what the song does.

Imagine watching a debate on a popular news show with one conservative claiming that God did not make people to live a gay lifestyle, and a liberal talking head countering just as forcefully with the claim that God made people to live that way?

It would definitely make for a confusing and loud program. Yet if both sides claimed that God was on their side, then the public would effectively see that they both can't be right.

Basically, the song affirms much of what the Religious Right considers to be 'disordered' and it is already widely heard by many all over the country. Yet it uses God as a justification, effectively stripping the Religious Right of their main point.

I'd say that's a victory for the progressive movement. And distributing this message didn't cost progressive groups a dime.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rihanna Brining Kink to the Mainstream?

Rihanna's newest video "S&M" is full of chains, collars, full figured dommes, and oh so much more. I don't know about you, but I think this is a seriously risqué/freaking cool topic to set a music video around. Aside from allegations that she stole a lot of this imagery from the photographer Dave LaChapelle, I've got to admit, Rihanna has chutzpah! So sit back and enjoy "S&M"

What are your reactions?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What messages are children receiving about homelessness

Now ask yourself...are these reactions all that different than adults you know?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Higher Ed and Social Justice: Creating a National Safe Zone Script

Many great things came out of this past week at the Creating Change Conference. As stated before, I promised to feature a few new series. Welcome to "Higher Ed and Social Justice!" As an activist and future higher education and student affairs professional, it's about time I was a little more deliberate in bridging the two on the blog!

Many different institutions have a Safe Zone training program. The basic purpose of Safe Zone programs, is to create a better campus climate for LGBTQ individuals. After having a few conversations with a bunch of higher ed folks this weekend, I've realized that this is not accomplished uniformly. Some folks have LGBTQ professionals that hold annual or bi-annual trainings for faculty, staff, peer educators, resident assistants, and student leaders. Some schools give out stickers to identify a Safe Zone office, i.e. folks that have gone through the training.

But what about students with multiple identities. Some Safe Zones adequately prepare people to help with LGBTQ issues, but I wonder how often issues of class, ethnicity, ability, age, etc...are discussed. If folks are coming in with all of these components, an office can only be a Safe Zone if all of these issues and experiences are dissected in the trainings.

Because different campuses have different cultures, histories, and protocols, it would be nearly impossible to have identical Safe Zone programs at every institution that participates. However, I wonder if they could be a little more consistent. Would a national Safe Zone Script work? What are your thoughts...?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Too much learning to live blog

So I realized I said I would be live blogging, but let me tell you...this conference is AMAZING and INSIGHTFUL. So much so, that I've been unable to pause and live blog. But don't worry I will totally be back with some new series when this is all over! oh, by the way. Coolest thing ever! I was in a session with Miriam Perez from Feministing! I'll be back!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Live Blogging from Creating Change!

Exciting news! My job at NYU is super cool and paid for me to go to Minnesota for five days to attend the Creating Change Conference. I have decided to live blog for each session I'll be attending which will include all day intensive institutes and shorter workshops! Because I am here partially for professional development in Student Affairs but the conference is heavily based in grass-root organizing, I'll be able to attend a good mix of both higher education related sessions and good ol' fashion social justice/activist-based sessions.

Tomorrow I'll be live blogging from "Building Bridges Across Out Communities: People of Color Organizing Institute for Intermediate Activists."

Are you jazzed? Because I sure am!!! See you all tomorrow!