Heal Your Inauguration Blues!

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#TBT Podcast: Why do I Care About Intersectionality?

In this episode of Breaking Down Racism, model/TV presenter Michelle De Swarte discusses intersectionality and the importance of embracing all our identities.

Written by: Melissa Bautista, Bryan Counts and Ebony Wiggins.
Executive Producer: Robin J. Hayes, PhD
Produced by: Bryan Counts and Pascal Rosenast.
Directed by: Pascal Rosenast.
Narrated by: Bryan Counts.
Co-narration by: Mesha Byrd, Ebony Wiggins, Melissa Bautista, and Pascal Rosenast.
Production Help by: Kristal Lindo

It’s Gonna Be Alright Palante Siempre Palante

This time of year I tend to congratulate myself about what I have managed to accomplish during the summer and soothe myself with gelato about the things on my to-do list that will have to be pushed back into Fall.  All of us who are doing important work – either as educators, artists, activists, students or volunteers – have more passion than money — more good ideas than time to execute them.  What’s the best way to surrender to this reality dishonoring our spirit?

At the Progressive Pupil office this summer, we’ve been listening to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘It’s Gonna Be Alright” on repeat.  This song, which has become the unofficial theme of #BlacklLivesMatter, is an affirmation that has long been passed down from grandmother to grandchild in African American communities.  In spite of all the challenges we who believe in freedom face, and the dark truths that must be confronted in doing this work with integrity, it’s gonna be alright.

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African LGBT Activists & Allies

Image Courtesy of Institute for Security Studies.

Image Courtesy of Institute for Security Studies.

I recently listened to an interview about Eliot Elisofon’s exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Elisofon was a photojournalist for LIFE Magazine and major influence on America’s view of life in Africa. Contrary to much of the reporting on Africa, during his time, Elisofon chose to photograph a more positive reality. He again came to mind when I was considering how discouraging it can be to discover that many internet searches for activists for LGBT rights in Africa result in biographies about fearless leaders whose lives have ended in brutal murder, such as Ugandan activist and teacher, David Kato Kisule. As did Elisofon with his photography, I am hoping to highlight a few activists who, despite the risk of being ostracized, attacked and jailed, continue to be vocal in the fight for LGBT rights in Africa.
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Review of the New Black

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Many media outlets have praised ‘The New Black’ such as the Starpulse writer Jason Coleman, who writes “eye-opening stuff. Hands down a thought provoking film with equal parts energy and pathos”.

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The Whispers of Black People: Langston Hughes’ Struggles with Gay Pride

From the movie “Looking for Langston”, 1989 The man on the right is Ben Ellison as Langston Hughes.  The man on the right is his boyfriend Mathew Baidoo.

From the movie “Looking for Langston”, 1989
The man on the right is Ben Ellison as Langston Hughes. The man on the right is his boyfriend Mathew Baidoo.

Is freedom merely enough?  That was a wonder for most of the black people in the United States in 19th and 20th centuries.  Harlem had become the destination for most African Americans in the early 1900s.  They were looking to find a way to achieve equality and civil rights. With a stronger black community, Harlem Renaissance had started its movement in 1910 to fight for their Americans’ rights.  Uniquely, the inspiration of this movement is based on the play, Three plays for a negro theater”, the essay for Claude McKay, “If We Must Die” , poems of Langston Hughes and other great artists who came from across the country to ask for a recognition of their works. (more…)

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Wave Your Flag

A young Black person in an AVP tee shirt with a high top fade waves the Pride flag. Image courtesy Robin J. Hayes

A young Black person in an AVP t-shirt with a high top fade waves the Pride flag. Image courtesy Robin J. Hayes

At the New York City Pride Parade this year, Progressive Pupil was thrilled to support the Anti-Violence Project. AVP is a non-profit that helps to prevent different forms of violence experienced by LGBTQH (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected) communities. AVP organizes press conferences and demonstrations and coordinates direct services in partnership with other organizations based in diverse communities. AVP believes everyone is entitled to safety and advocates reasonable self-defense against aggression. The organization’s work also illuminates how the high rates of violence which affect LGBTQH community members are produced by the intersections of homophobia, racism, sexism and prejudice against lower-income people. In light of the recent murder of Mark Carson, steps away from the iconic Stonewall Inn, and the fact that in 2012 73% of victims of anti-LGBTQ homicides were people of color, AVP offers the following public safety tips:

  • Let someone know your plans for the night: who you’ll be with and if plans change.
  • Be aware of surroundings: locate public spaces and 24-hr businesses and seek help if you feel unsafe.
  • Trust your instincts: if you feel threatened, remove yourself from the situation or environment ASAP.
  • Use words to alert bystanders. Use your body to defend yourself or get away.
  • Leave a trail: add AVP’s hotline to your cell phone contacts (see below); let people around you know when you leave a location; text yourself or friends where you’ll be; save e-mails and online messages from bullies, predators or abusive partners.

FIERCE, AVP and Cop Watch have all drawn attention to how police misconduct is a critical issue for LGBTQH youth, particularly those of color. Increased visibility and vulnerability in gentrifying, historically gay neighborhoods like Greenwich Village, the Castro and Boystown make these youth subject to undue harassment, as well as, verbal, physical and sexual assault. AVP offers following guidance for preventing and coping with police violence:

  • If you’ve called the police, introduce yourself when they arrive.
  • If you are harassed/attacked by the police, obtain names and badge/car numbers.
  • You do not have to consent to a search (of your person, your car or your residence). Do not try to stop police from searching you.  Instead, repeat out loud, “I do not consent to this search.”
  • You have the right to watch and document police activities. Take video and pictures from a safe distance.

Histories of trauma, harmful stereotypes and internalized aggression can negatively impact our ability to find safety within our homes, schools, healthcare spaces and intimate relationships. If you have witnessed or experienced any kind of cruising, intimate partner or HIV-related violence, call AVP’s 24-hour English/Spanish hotline at (212) 714-1141. Also, their Manhattan office  has walk-in hours Mondays-Fridays 10am-3pm.

We salute the Anti-Violence Project for being part of the solution. Their dedicated staff, which includes New School Non-profit Management alumni Sydney Kopp-Richardson and Shelby Chestnut, remind us that we can end violence and stop hate. Wave your flag in support of their efforts by speaking out, volunteering or attending one of their events.

Robin SignatureRobin J. Hayes, PhD

Principal Organizer

Our People, No Labels

u people

Photo courtesy of the U People Facebook Page

U People, released in 2009, is a documentary directed by Olive Demetrius and Hanifah Walidah. This riveting film features the testimony of everyday people expressing their unfiltered feelings about what it means to be Gay, straight or an ally within the African American community. These discussions were filmed unexpectedly on the set of Hanifah Walidah’s Make a Move music video. Shot in a Brooklyn brownstone over two days, the documentary involves over thirty people from all walks of life, including many members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. U People was well-received in the community and has been featured several times on MTV’s Logo channel. In 2010, it was nominated for the Outstanding Documentary media award at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City.

The film is described as a “LGBT Rockumentary” and begins with a disclaimer: “When you view this film do not make assumptions about anyone’s sexuality.” This reflects the film’s mission to promote and encourage the development of a space for empowered self-identification. U People is a one-of-kind display of magical individuality and everyday uniqueness. The “U People” experience is about self-expression and sexuality on one’s own terms; social norms and conventions are abandoned in favor of self-love and personal conviction.

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Uganda’s Gay Pride

Image courtesy of David Robinson.

Image courtesy of David Robinson.

In recent years, Uganda has been in the news a lot due to their highly controversial “Kill the Gays” Bill. Uganda is unfortunately not an outlier in the criminalization of homosexuality, but the recent attempt to make this lifestyle a capital offense has outraged people all over the world and sparked a highly publicized Gay liberation struggle. While these struggles currently exist throughout the continent, Uganda’s anti-Gay sentiments offer a unique insight into the lasting effects of British colonialism. Laws that forbade homosexuality were built into the Ugandan penal code dating back to around 19th and 20th century British occupation. Since independence, not much has changed regarding Gay rights and protections against homophobia. Similarly, attitudes towards homosexuality are almost exclusively negative and the Gay community is often ostracized for their efforts.

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Choose Instead of Run

 

If you haven’t already had the opportunity to check out Dee Rees’s film ‘Pariah’ I highly recommend you stop reading this, find the nearest theater and see the next showing.  I finally had the chance to see the film—which has garnered a significant amount of critical success—and was thrilled by Rees’s presentation of a story that too easily could have left an audience filled with sorrow, pity or false empathy.

What struck me almost immediately about ‘Pariah’ was it’s honest portrayal of adolescence.  Alike, a 17-year old black androgynous woman, struggles to find herself amongst the chaos that surrounds her.  Her dysfunctional family life, complicated friendships, her first sexual encounter—and the awkwardness that follows—are things that everyone can relate to despite race, gender identity or sexual orientation.  Of course, these things are also complicated by Alike’s black skin, butch exterior and interest in women, which are central to her character.  Rees does a phenomenal job of balancing general teenage angst and discomfort (think ‘Thirteen’ or ‘Raising Victor Vargas’) and the specific issues that speak to the black LGBTQ community.

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