The last chapter is the most difficult to finish in a revolution, as in a novel, writes Khaled Khalifa from war-torn Syria.
"Maybe it’s because of the recognition he has received, the acclaim that started in the Middle East, spread to Europe, and is poised to proliferate in Britain and the United States, but Khaled never seemed bitter when he talked about the struggles of being an artist or writer in Assad’s Syria. At our first dinner together in 2010, he regaled me with stories of his summer, which he had spent in Europe with an “important man’s wife,” answering questions from European journalists. He said they all wanted to know what it was like to write under a dictatorship, about what the censors were like, and what that means for him as a writer. He waved his hand. After three years, he said, he was tired of answering such questions. He told me that a writer’s life was no different than any Syrian’s life—they all faced dictatorship and censors. A fruit vendor was as restricted as an artist. Instead, he was eager to talk about the new novel he was working on. He held up his two pudgy index fingers and placed them parallel on a horizontal plain. “It is about the Baath Party and the Syrian people,” he said, a smile creasing his face. “And how they never meet.” He moved his fingers in a straight line, always parallel."
Having famously declared, “The typewriter is a weapon,” he had come to doubt that words alone were any real substitute for bullets in effecting change, and particularly the fine words of literary artists. “Beautiful bourgeois art!” he later wrote. “When you have people giving their lives, then literature is no longer your loyal and sweet lover, but a cheap and common whore. There are times when every spectator is a coward, or a traitor.”
Wonderfully written article about a very little know author outside of Latin America. The prostitution metaphor is always in bad taste, however.
dating white people is complicated. dating is a mess for me, i am not a good at it. in the past i have attributed this to being a gemini, other times to how i haven’t been modeled healthy love and always to the fucked ways media and mainstream society programs us to believe systems of attraction and accept internalized oppression in order to be desired. dating white people for me hasn’t all been all bad comedies or tragedies. i am willing to share a few short stories and lessons that i have gained from dating white people.
my first girlfriend was white. i was a drunk and she was the bartender at my favorite bar, it was the perfect relationship i thought. it lasted 3 months. i didn’t know what i wanted, wasn’t fully aware about my participation in oppression and because of this i got tokenized. i met her aesthetic, her ex was also a person of color and i “reminded” her of the feeling she got with her [insert puke noises here]. after we broke up (it was text message break up btw) i went to her work on her day off, got drunk and cried like they do in some in ranchera songs. i was all kinds of cheesy-novela-heartbreak-scene at that moment. what i learned though was that if i’m dating a white person and they have a preference for dark skin then i am a prop and they don’t value all of me and will most likely pull some shit like break up via a text message. we are still facebook friends and last time i saw her she was wearing culturally appropriative clothes and i just took a deep breath and thanked my ancestors that it ended when it did because i would probably continue to be a fashion accessory to her if we stayed together longer.
My first shave was in Homs. My first trans-sectarian inter-neighborhood love was in Homs. So were my first sip of maté and first cigarette puff. My first book fair, and my first play. Homs, which I cannot claim is my birthplace, was where I came of age. Deek Al-Jin’s teenage lust, and my first proud insurrection during our university military training. Homs was my first pious whim and first certitude in skepticism. Homs was the first realization of oppression and my discovery of the old Homsi recipe to soothe pain with humor. Today, Homs is inventing a new balm, however, strained with a mix of the blood of its children. Homs is declaring the revolution. Entirely Homsi. Relying on none but itself. No NATO and no leftist revolutionaries. Not from Aleppo, or from Damascus. Today Homs writes a new history for herself… for us. Today Homs ridicules the dictator in her new dazzling ways… exactly as she ridicules our cowardly silence. We will laugh. We will laugh a lot on our free tomorrow. We will laugh at all the times we laughed at this tiny joke of a Homs.
Today, however, we cry. We cry for how the killed will rescue the killed - for a while. We cry for how the displaced will shelter the displaced - for a while. We cry for how we all abandoned you, Homs. My internationalist friend tells me “40,000 leftist foreigners went to Spain to fight fascism in the 1930s. Today we can’t even acknowledge another Guernica happening even when it’s being broadcast live, in full color, 24/7.” I think of all of those who fought for Palestine the day we lost it. I cry over the destruction of the parks of first love…of the streets of lazy fun. I cry over “Al-Farabi,” the high school the regime of death has turned into a checkpoint for its murderous sniper fire. My high school. On my Facebook page, I make out the most recent names of the dead piling up. Their son was in my class, I think. That one is my dentist’s brother and this one is the son of that restaurant’s owner next to “Al-Dababeer” park. Today I cry at the myopia of Arab leftist intellectuals and the collaboration of the resistance of the right. Who made a projected threat a graver concern than a real evil already in action? Who said that a Palestinian would choose his personal salvation even if it meant the destruction of all of Syria? Who said a dictator is capable of liberation, any liberation? Who said that international imperialism trumps local fascism? Today I decry the new sinister apathy of those who had long sympathized with my Palestinian pain, but can’t bring themselves now to acknowledge the pain of millions of Syrians. Who stands with you today, Homs?
"We rather think because of its ability to enshrine and solidify the corporate domination of the health system, it’s worse than what we have now. But whether it is somewhat better or a lot worse is immaterial. The health system isn’t working in this country — fiscally, medically, socially, morally.”
In another shooting of an unarmed individual by police this weekend, a former Florida A&M football player was shot and killed as he approached police officers, looking for assistance after getting into a car accident.
The idea of a state for Palestinians and one for Israelis is a fantasy that blinds us.
“For some, abandoning the two-state mirage may feel like the end of the world. But it is not. Israel may no longer exist as the Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders. The Palestine Liberation Organization stalwarts in Ramallah may not strut on the stage of a real Palestinian state. But these lost futures can make others more likely.”
"We therefore reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatsoever as an eternal, ultimate and for ever immutable ethical law on the pretext that the moral world, too, has its permanent principles which stand above history and the differences between nations. We maintain on the contrary that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. That in this process there has on the whole been progress in morality, as in all other branches of human knowledge, no one will doubt." — Friedrich Engels
Will Kaufman’s new book, Woody Guthrie, American Radical, describes how Guthrie’s life-long radicalism shaped his music and evolved over time—from the Great Depression to the Second World War, from the Popular Front to the McCarthyite witch hunts, and into the folk music revival of the 1960s. Kaufman argues that Guthrie’s work must be understood in the context of its time, but also in light of Guthrie’s commitment to socialist politics and his unrelenting opposition to capitalism and fascism.
She had a scar for everyday.
The tigress had stripes for the
howling of dumb beasts, and the lust-filled
gaze of passing humans.
I needed spoonfuls
of sugar with every citrus
in every stripe,
I would pour honey as I pressed
my peasant body against whiteness.
The earth, the ground, seemed to me drunk.
It later dawned
on me that the earth is also another type
As time unfurled, more interested
was I in rivers and clouds. The
strength of the sea and the
fragility of the mirror Earth.
I paid no mind to lies or tall
The sea, is herself; mother.
Capricious are her whims.
All I learned of the sea have been in her
In flat, esoteric swamps.
Land as far as Wittgenstein’s sight,
endless as life and eternal as long
as I stay
Radicalized and ever colonized,
running against my own boundaries.
I fold back into myself.
A lion in his triumphant
I have groomed my mane at the price
I have adored and salivated at whiteness, at it’s
“pureness”, it’s sweetness,
like refined sugar.
The sea, in her absence, has taught me
nothing of love and it’s perpetual renewal.
Of fidelity and desire through sobriety.
Only the pressing waves of oblivion.
immigrants, poor people, queer people of color, disabled folks, women (esp trans women of color) and gender-nonconforming folks if you are in academia and you don’t feel smart enough, remember that you are in the playground and training grounds of the elite. academia was not designed to include you. you are surviving something that has been systemically designed to exclude you in order to keep power in the hands of white, middle class, able bodied cis-men.
knowing this, don’t let academia train you to believe that elitism is the right way to make it through school. you can learn shit, hold the knowledge of your people in your heart, discard shame for your humble beginnings and/or marginalized identities. move through this experience knowing that the changes it offers you don’t have to include accepting academic elitism, inaccessible language or superiority. you can can simultaneously own the privilege that comes with being college educated and connections to your roots. academia does not have to kill your spirit.
”—fabian romero- indigenous immigrant queer boi writer, facilitator and community organizer (via jatigi)
Kanye West is white America’s worst nightmare. Because as much as one may attempt to dismiss him — by calling him an asshole or classless or deranged or various other adjectives that fill the comment sections of literally every article about him — you still have to turn on your regularly scheduled late night comedy program and stare him in the face. You can’t avoid Kanye. He’s made very sure of that.
Kanye is not a “new slave” in the same sense as the victims of the prison industrial complex, but he is still trapped in a world that expects him to not only be complicit with the struggle of his people, but to be appreciative that he is not one of them. And on top of all that, while he gets to exist in the world of the 1%, having the money and signifiers of success still aren’t enough to make his (white) 1% peers actually even respect him.
The ideals of Public Enemy are as relevant today as they were in the 80s, but hip-hop was nowhere near as dominant and omnipresent a cultural force as it is at this moment; to compare the reach of their messages is silly. Upper-middle class white families did not have to deal with Public Enemy if they didn’t want to. Similarly with politically-minded “noise rap” artists that have been name-dropped in reviews of Kanye’s new material — it’s all well and good for Death Grips and Blackie and even Killer Mike to espouse similar messages and sounds (and honestly, the sonic qualities of “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead” are hardly at the top of the list of why they’re important), but none of them have anywhere near the amount of visibility and influence as Kanye, even if they did hit it first.
People in current positions of comfort and stability are so willing to dismiss the transgressive thoughts of an angry black man that they will use any convenient excuse to diminish from them; if someone says something that makes you uncomfortable, why not immediately change the subject to his girlfriend’s ass or that time he yelled at a papparazzi or that time he got drunk and embarrassed a white girl? When was it exactly that Kanye shifted, in the eyes of the mainstream, from lovable polo-wearing backpacker to perpetually and unanimously An Asshole? When, precisely, did everything he said get immediately categorized as a “rant” or “controversial” regardless of the actual content? I want to say it was around the time when he said that George Bush didn’t care about black people on live tv. Hmm. Odd.
dude, i will always love kanye west for what he said about bush. always. and that thing he did to that random white chick on stage was just funny…i didnt know who the fuck she was…but she was just the epitome of white chickness that it made my fucking day…
Last night, I met my classmate’s significant other, let’s call him L, at a Ghostface concert. Waiting for the opening act to finish, four of us (my classmate, L, and another friend of mine—all grad students) sat in a booth and did the usual getting to know each other stuff—talking about where we were from, where we went to school, what our areas of interest are in our respective fields.
Both my classmate and L are from Southside Chicago. When he asked me what my parents do for a living, I answered the same way I’ve been answering for years: my mom used to be a phlebotomist (she drew blood) and is now a caregiver, my dad was a bar manager but he passed away a few years ago. He responded that his mom is an administrative assistant and his dad recently got promoted to regional manager of some company.
We both used tricks to make our parents’ jobs sound as respectable as possible. My mom hasn’t been a phlebotomist in over a decade, and when I was growing up, she was a pull-tab lady at a couple bars (if you’re not from Minnesota, you probably don’t know what that means, and that’s fine, don’t worry about it)—but I always mention phlebotomy first. Likewise, L said “administrative assistant” instead of “secretary.” I didn’t mention that my dad was unemployed for years before he died. Etc.
We did it because of shame—specifically, class shame.
I want to talk about being poor.
Much of my experience as a poor person in America is either invisible or unrecognizable to my middle- and upper-class friends. In order to get to a place where I can fully understand my own experience and background, and to help facilitate my friends’ own journeys in acknowledging intersections of power, oppression, and privilege in their own lives, I want to describe some of my experiences.
I think it’s always a good idea to start any dialogue about power and privilege by acknowledging my own privileges. I benefit immensely from white and male and able-bodied privilege, both in the world-at-large and with regards to my own social class. Because of those privileges, nobody ever assumes that I’m poor, and I am not asked to represent my social class. If I make a mistake in school or at a fancy dinner or whatever, nobody assumes it’s because I’m an uncivilized poor person (while people of color are more often assumed to be poor, in addition to the other systemic oppressions they face). I think we can call this a kind of “passing privilege.” Moreover, as a poor person in America, I still have access to comforts and securities that poor people in developing countries don’t have—I have air conditioning, computer and internet access, cell phones, etc. All these kinds of privileges are written about extensively online and in books, so I’m not going to go in-depth, but you can definitely just Google that shit.
Today, my mom told me that a process server has been trying to find her, stopping by her sister’s house and her place of employment regularly (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve definitely seen it in movies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_of_process). She doesn’t know which debt she’s being served over. The only way for her to find out what it’s for, and to get the server to stop harassing her sister and bosses, is to let them serve her the papers, which probably means she’s getting sued. In some cases, if a process server has exhaustively tried (and failed) to find you, they’re allowed to advertise in local newspapers about you. My mom could get fired, her family could get pissed at her, and she could be publicly shamed, if she doesn’t accept these papers. This is all legal.
A few days ago, I paid our family plan phone bill, as I have been doing off and on for months. My mother and I both make similar wages—and you know how grad students get paid, probably. Sometimes, I’m down on my luck and she’s able to send me a little money. Other times, she’s down on her luck and I’m able to send her a little money. While some of my friends are regularly able to borrow money from their parents—as uncomfortable and mortifying as it might be—I often give my mom money.
Early last summer, my mom got evicted from her apartment for non-payment of rent. My friends were frantically trying to finish their final essays for the semester, and I was frantically trying to figure out a way for my mom to have a home.
In junior high school, there was a week where we went to the career resource center and researched our parents’ careers to get ideas of what we wanted to do when we grew up. I lied and pretended my dad was a doctor because I knew there wasn’t a career file on bartending.
There was a time during college when a debt collector was calling me regularly—I was afraid to answer, because those people are scary, so I don’t know if they were calling about me or about my mom. It was nice, though, when they woke me up at 8am every day, because that meant that my cell phone hadn’t been shut off.
Around the same time, I slept with a fan on every night so that, immediately upon waking up, I could tell by the sound of my room whether my utilities had been shut off.
I still don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize.
Because of some poor decisions when I was a teenager, I’ve been more or less blacklisted by a company that checks credit scores and histories for banks. I am not able to open a bank account. I have a pre-paid debit card that I have to refill at Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart Money Center is the most depressing place I have ever been. And I’ve been to a Nickelback concert.
At this point, I probably sound like a wholly irresponsible moron who deserves debt collectors calling me all the time. This, too, is part of the way in which power operates on my life: growing up working class, I was never taught how to be financially responsible because my mother was never taught that, either. Instead of understanding how deeply this kind of cultural skill is tied to class upbringing, I’m afraid that my friends will judge me as personally inferior because of my debts and mistakes. Two of my more progressive (and middle/upper-class) friends have angrily lectured me about money. One of them made his then-girlfriend (who grew up working class) cry over money at least once. He’s not a jerk; he just doesn’t understand his own privilege.
The idea of publishing this essay is terrifying. It feels like coming out of the closet.
In addition to lacking an understanding of finances and responsibility, I also was very unprepared for college—not in an intellectual way, but fiscally. Because I’m a first generation college student, my parents knew next to nothing about college or how to pay for it. A friend told me to apply to private colleges because they have more scholarships, not mentioning that those schools are also, like, five times more expensive, so that’s what I did. I spent three years at a $30,000 / year institution, and, while I did get a fair amount of scholarships, I paid for my tuition and housing with student loans. I will likely pay back over $100,000 in student loan debt. I can’t ignore it, because I had family members co-sign my loans. 6 months after I stop going to grad school, I have to start paying these things back, and so I’m forced to get a high-paying job immediately out the gates. This is also true for a lot of my middle-class friends, but I imagine that many of them had a more thorough understanding of what they were doing when they took on the debt, whereas I had no clue.
I think that most of my progressive friends basically understand the material differences between being poor and having money—being able to go on vacations, owning houses and garages and cars, having health insurance, etc.—but it’s the cultural differences that are what make me ashamed to be poor. There are all kinds of things I was never taught or prepared for due to my social class, that all of my non-poor friends were taught and prepared for.
Lots of people criticize hiphop for being overly materialistic. But honestly, the reason “Juicy” speaks to me so forcefully is because fantasizing about having money is one of the funnest things a poor person can do. Last night, Ghostface did “C.R.E.A.M.” and I danced my face off.
There are ways of reclaiming a kind of power or pride in being working class. I can claim I’ve never had anything handed to me, I can say I’m a “real” American, I can boast about the cultural values I learned by being poor. Moreover, I am constantly reminded of how good I am at being broke, at how I can survive and even thrive when money is tight. Still, for the most part, I harbor great amounts of shame about my social class and what it means about me and my life.
One day, I will be a university professor, I will have paid back my student loans and debts, and I won’t be part of the working class anymore. Even then, my understanding of life and my place in culture will be haunted by the specter of poverty. I will be surrounded by people who grew up eating kale and vacationing overseas. When my colleagues, whose parents were professors or doctors or anthropologists, ask me what my parents did, I’ll say my mom was a phlebotomist.
“I love my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else, but doing it here at the University of Chicago has been one of the most emotionally and physically damaging experiences of my life. I return every day to rooms in which I’ve been hurt to learn from people who look nothing like me and to teach people who look nothing like me about whole theoretical worlds in which I do not exist. I sit, shoulders tensed, in classrooms as each racist, sexist, and homophobic word from the mouths of my colleagues hits me like a blow to the chest. Some of them, I imagine, actually leave the classroom feeling full of life and intellectual energy. The structural violence of this institution makes it unlikely I will ever know how that feels. I don’t know how much stronger and braver I might feel if the professor were black, or latino, or gay. I don’t know how much more capable I would feel if I could see a world I recognized in the texts we read. And as I walk home every evening past countless University of Chicago police officers and my shoulders knot even tighter, I wonder if you realize that they don’t make everyone feel more safe…Sexism, racism, and homophobia thrive on this campus and it is not a problem of dialogue, it is a problem of institutional violence…I don’t need you to implement programming to “raise awareness” about my very existence, and I don’t have the strength left to lend my energies to the project of documenting my worth.”—
as most grad students of color know, Kaya Williams is not alone in feeling this way. this is a persistent problem on university campuses nationwide.
at Washington State University, for example, where a Native faculty member was recently brutally beaten within an inch of his life and three Asian undergraduate women were sexually harassed in racially targeted violence in the same weekend, the university has responded poorly at best; they never issued an emergency alert to students in the wake of the attacks, it took several days for administration to even acknowledge the events, and the only concrete thing they’ve promised is yet another inquiry & commission on the matter. these actions obviously don’t make a dent in patterns of violence on campus, considering the same response was given a few years ago when a Black student had his teeth kicked in, a trans student was severely beaten, & neo-Nazi propaganda was posted all over campus—no changes in campus climate have occurred. the university’s disappointing response to this violence isn’t all that surprising when you remember that they have terrible enrollment and retention rates for underrepresented students of color, an even worse rate of recruitment of faculty of color, no substantive requirements for curricula that addresses issues of race, and have recently consolidated their Women Studies, Queer Studies, & Ethnic Studies programs into one “minority studies” department (which is headed by a cis-hetero white male). moreover, there is a serious problem with sexual harassment and assault on campus, that’s occurring even at the faculty level.
is it any surprise so many students of color drop out, go on extended leave, and/or take way longer to earn their degrees? these universities are unsafe on every level, and things need to change.
"In some respects, working-class New York is thriving. With more than 40 percent of the workforce foreign-born, it has a cultural vibrancy only occasionally noted in the mainstream media (except in reviews of ethnic restaurants), but evident to any casual visitor to immigrant neighborhoods. People still flock to New York from all over the world seeking economic opportunities and personal freedom. (At more than 8.3 million people, the city is as large as ever.) With the city’s streets extraordinarily safe, with municipal services under Bloomberg generally well run, if you own a home with an affordable mortgage or have a rent-regulated apartment, and if your children are lucky enough to go to schools that are not failing and you have managed to keep steady work at decent pay, you might well be better off than you were a dozen years ago. But for hundreds of thousands of working-class families with unsteady work, low wages, unaffordable housing, crummy schools and no union representation, New York City has failed miserably—a wealthy, self-congratulatory metropolis, whose pride of place rests on willful blindness. "
"There’s a perception in the broad public that unions are mostly interested in themselves. The leaders seem to be very interested in their own salaries and perks, too. But it seems that the leadership thinks it has a product to sell. That product is a contract and certain privileges in wages and benefits. That seems to foster a perception among the broad public that unions just don’t care about the working class as a whole. Is that a fair perception on the part of the public?
Yes and no. If you tested the unions compared to the ruling class, to other sections of society, they might in fact be more progressive on these issues. But the reality is that it’s not enough. It’s not enough that unions might in general—that their members might in general vote more progressively, or they might care more about these things. Unions have to prove it. And you don’t prove it by passing good resolutions, and even donating some money to good causes, or putting up billboards that say we support public services. Unions have to prove it. And to prove it they have to be radically different.
So, for example, they have to consider, when we’re in bargaining maybe we actually have to put the quality and level and administration of services on the bargaining table. Unions don’t do that. In other words, we would actually be ready to strike for something that we consider a fundamental right in society. Now when you start doing that you have to educate your members differently, you have to change all your structures, your research has to be different, how you mobilize and organize has to be different. But, you know, starting to think about that would mean a radical change and a chance to actually win the public over. And when I say win the public over I actually include other unions, who are also skeptical of this, who see this as “well they just want to raise their wages, and that means raising my taxes.”
So you’ve got to win people over. And it means you have to develop a class perspective. You have to be driven by a class perspective. You can’t say “we’re organizing but the point of organizing is we want to just get more dues,” because that effects what kind of commitment you have, what kind of energy you put into it, whether you’re going to cooperate with other unions to organize people even if you don’t get them. If you have a class perspective you’d have a different take on unionization—you have to deal with this question of, “Hey, wait a second, we’re saying that we support the public but then we go on strike and take away the service, isn’t that a contradiction?” You have to start thinking about, “Well, maybe we have to do other things, so that when we really go out on a full-scale strike people will get it.”
And by other things I mean such as if it’s a garbage strike, and they’re asking you to drop the garbage off in a park while the strike is on, maybe you drop it off on Wall Street, because you want to make a connection between austerity and the strike. Maybe you actually think about—we’re not going to pick up garbage in rich neighborhoods because we want to make that connection. We’ve had examples of workers coming up with that sporadically, but the problem is it’s only sporadic. It has to get to what the organization is actually about.
I should say, I don’t know that you can transform unions as they are to being more than that. But I’ve been trying to think through what it might mean to think about intermediate organizations. By an intermediate organization I mean something that would be a new form of working-class organization, that would see workers as joining them, linking them across unions. Having networks of activists across unions, so it isn’t just a union with a sectional interest, but it’s workers joining something because they see it as a class interest, and that it also expresses all the other dimensions of their lives. So it’s linked to the community.
So it’s not a political party but it is explicitly trying to take on the question of class and educate around the fact that unions face systemic problems that are more than facing a particular employer.”
“One should never direct people towards happiness, because happiness too is an idol of the market-place. One should direct them towards mutual affection. A beast gnawing at its prey can be happy too, but only human beings can feel affection for each other, and this is the highest achievement they can aspire to.”—Alexander Solzhenitsyn (via kurtlac)
“The Spanish men left babies right and left. When most of the indias had given birth to mixed-blood children, when all the lands had been divided, our labor shared out in the encomienda, and no more caciques went out to battle them, they said the people were gone. How could we be gone? We were the brown and olive and cream-colored children of our mothers: Arawak, Maya, Lucaya, stolen women from all the shores of the sea. When we cooked, it was the food our mothers had always given us. We still pounded yuca and caught crabs. We still seasoned our stews with ají and wore cotton skirts. When we burned their fields, stole their cattle, set fire to their boats, they said we were someone else. What was wrong with their eyes? We mixed our blood together like sancocho and calalú. But the mother things stayed with us.”—Remedios: Stories of Earth and Iron from the History of Puertorriqueñas (via onthemargin) (via malditafeminista)
their high school principal told me I couldn’t teach poetry with profanity so I asked my students, “Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Holocaust.” in unison, their arms rose up like poisonous gas then straightened out like an SS infantry “Okay. Please put your hands down. Now raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Rwandan genocide.” blank stares mixed with curious ignorance a quivering hand out of the crowd half-way raised, like a lone survivor struggling to stand up in Kigali “Luz, are you sure about that?” “No.” “That’s what I thought.”
they won’t let you hear the truth at school if that person says “fuck” can’t even talk about “fuck” even though a third of your senior class is pregnant.
I can’t teach an 18-year-old girl in a public school how to use a condom that will save her life and that of the orphan she will be forced to give to the foster care system— “Carlos, how many 13-year-olds do you know that are HIV-positive?”
“Honestly, none. But I do visit a shelter every Monday and talk with six 12-year-old girls with diagnosed AIDS.” while 4th graders three blocks away give little boys blowjobs during recess I met an 11-year-old gang member in the Bronx who carries a semi-automatic weapon to study hall so he can make it home and you want me to censor my language
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
your books leave out Emmett Till and Medgar Evers call themselves “World History” and don’t mention King Leopold or diamond mines call themselves “Politics in the Modern World” and don’t mention Apartheid
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
you wonder why children hide in adult bodies lie under light-color-eyed contact lenses learn to fetishize the size of their asses and simultaneously hate their lips my students thought Che Guevara was a rapper from East Harlem still think my Mumia t-shirt is of Bob Marley how can literacy not include Phyllis Wheatley? schools were built in the shadows of ghosts filtered through incest and grinding teeth molded under veils of extravagant ritual
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
“Roselyn, how old was she? Cuántos años tuvo tu madre cuando se murió?”
“My mother had 32 years when she died. Ella era bellísima.”
they’ve moved from sterilizing “Boriqua” women injecting indigenous sisters with Hepatitis B, now they just kill mothers with silent poison stain their loyalty and love into veins and suffocate them
Ridwan’s father hung himself in the box because he thought his son was ashamed of him
Maureen’s mother gave her skin lightening cream the day before she started the 6th grade
she carves straight lines into her beautiful brown thighs so she can remember what it feels like to heal