Monday, June 28, 2010

Afro Punk!

i went to the Afro Punk Festival this weekend!
it was so good seeing all these natural heads-afros and locs running amok. absolutely beautiful. i have so many new ideas for new hairstyles, and am surprised by the various ways in which one can do locs. whoda thought you could make locs look like a spaceship?? it was such a nice feeling being in an area in which natural was the norm. refreshing on a totally new level.

it was also really nice being in an atmosphere with all these people of color that enjoyed rock music. although hip hop was never far behind, and there was an undercurrent of soul i heard in each band. it was like outcasts from the minority communities united.

and although i didn't listen to anyone on the line-up while i was in junior high and high school, the whole festival took me back to that time. me and maybe one other black person listening to Linkin Park, Incubus, Pink Floyd, No Doubt, Radiohead, and the Yea Yea Yeahs....dressing like Punky Brewster...having crushes on skaters and band geeks. it would have been nice, around that time, to have gone to a festival like this. good times. i think this period in my life, more than anything, had the biggest impact on who i am today.

on another note, today was not the best follow up to such a good weekend. i got two negative comments today about my hair. one of my co-workers i saw at the chinese restaurant while i was on my break said something to another co-worker she was with. i was barely listening to them, until i heard... "....yea, or i could just do it like Nell's. u know. just don't give a shit....". and someone else and i were slightly joking. i told him to "...go get some water" because he was angry at some guest, and he replies "water? why don't you go get a PERM!"
...yea. fantastic. and i have to admit, for a split second, i wanted a perm...a flat iron or something.
it's just a bit frustrating sometimes, when almost all the comments about your hair are negative. but then, looking at the individuals making these comments, it's not all that surprising. the woman who made the comment about me not " a shit" has hair 5 inches long, dies blond and permed. she's a beautiful deep brown color, with undeniably African facial features and i wonder how many times she's been made to feel ugly or less than because of her features and dark skin. how many, to make her believe that its ugly to the point that she feels the need to make a comment to someone who embraces the texture on my head, as well as the texture coming from HER scalp. what type of negative comments did she endure when her natural texture peeked through from underneath globs of grease and hours after the straightening process?
i think that is what i have to think about when i get negative comments-about the individual making them instead of my hair. because it's ignorance, really. she thinks i don't give a shit about my hair, when in reality, i wash mine once or twice a week, twist it every night, and am very selective about the products i use, most of which are 100% natural. and most of the negative comments i get on my hair are about how i don't comb my hair. i comb my hair and detangle it once a week, and twist it every night. no, i cannot just run a comb through my hair everyday of the week. and what does that have to do with anything? why is that the litmus test for....anything? just like Malcolm X said, "who taught you to hate your hair?".
although, in other parts of the world, the comments are a bit more at least i'm not going through that. kudos and love to the naturals in those parts of the world.
i've decided that whenever i get a negative comment about my hair, i'm going to comment some unsuspecting natural on the awesomeness of his or her hair. =)

anywho.....the line-up was great. aside from the amazing, hot, ridiculously creative and mad lyricist known as Mos Def, there were also these bands:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


"South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world, Human Rights Watch says on its website. A 2009 report by the nation's Medical Research Council found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or girl, with one in 20 saying they had raped in the past year, according to Human Rights Watch."

this is from an
article i read, link from a blog i follow. doctors have had to resort to medieval methods to prevent rape. quite disturbing, right? but it isn't something foreign to our society.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

reverence for Christianity?

i'm reading Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali...and it's beginning to go downhill at this point. in the chapter 'Seeking God but Finding Allah', she says this in a conversation she had with a priest. this is a proposition she presented to him:

"'The churches could go into Muslim communities, provide services just as the radical Muslims do: build new Catholic schools, hospitals, and community centers, just like the ones that were such a civilizing force under colonialism in Africa.'....
Father Bodar positively beamed with happiness. he said he had been trying to achieve just this for years and that he has often been mocked for even suggesting it. the Roman Catholic has a long history of resisting religious challenges from inside and outside what used to be called Christendom. all kinds of heresies have been combated successfully from the earliest times....and of course, the church fought against Islam not only in the time of the crusades but also when, as recently as 1683, Muslim troops of the Ottoman sultan menaced the Holy Roman Emperor's capital, Vienna."
there are two parts that are important.
1) "...a civilizing force under colonialism...."
i cringe just typing that. as i have read, Somalia, where Ayaan is from, was never formally colonized. Somalis successfully fought off the British four times. and i wonder if she ever realizes what an amazing act they, known as The Dervish State, did for Somalis by resisting colonization...
of course this priest has been trying to get into Muslim communities for years and convert them. he's a typical priest-he prays on those that do not ascribe to his religion in order to make himself feel morally superior; he capitalizes off their emotional distress by regurgitating some theological bullshit that probably came from the priests that were murdering, lynching, and torturing Muslims during the Crusades all while making them feel as though their religion, their culture, their beliefs are inferior to his.
religion disgusts me on many levels, particularly Christianity, but what disgusts me even more are missionaries and priests that go into remote parts of the globe and convert the people. they force them to convert in exchange for food, they brainwash the inhabitants to hate and devalue their own culture, and sometimes do so via violence. they reek havoc on some of the oldest societies in the world without thinking twice about it, and get praised in the process by their Christian brethren!
for one, to believe that colonialism was a "civilizing force" and not the degradation, enslavement, disregard and disrespect for indigenous cultures that summoned centuries of genocide for Africans on the continent and in the just ignorance, if not blatant euro-centrism. more and likely, her understanding of colonialism has come from the European perspective. not to mention her bias against nearly anything Islamic or Middle Eastern. that statement also gives the impression that African cultures prior to colonialism were uncivilized. if that isn't typical racist, ignorant, anthropologically foolish bullshit straight from David Duke's mouth, i don't know what is. i really can't believe this is coming from an African. as intelligent as Ayaan is in so many other areas, how is it that she does not understand racism in anthropology, history, and sociology? maybe, on some level, it is too difficult to revere a culture (as she does) while simultaneously understanding the atrocities committed in its past.

and second it is absurdity to suggest that churches in colonized countries were of any aid to.....anything. this really sounds like something i'd expect a tea partier to say. churches and Abrahamic religions in general have, for the most part (with the other part too overshadowed to even acknowledge...), been a detriment to society; to mankind, and have aided in the imped of almost all progressions we now consider successes. the Enlightenment period in Western history that Ayaan speaks so favorably of, was battled in nearly every aspect by the church. individual freedom, reproductive rights (which are very much so still in progress), religious freedom, separation of church and state,and scientific freedom have all been fought tooth and nail by the church. it's still fighting these things. and in colonialism, it aided in the brainwashing of the indigenous peoples, damaged, burned, and destroyed ancient religious artifacts, shrines, traditions and belief systems. any ancient knowledge these societies possessed prior to colonialism is now lost due in part to the church. i could make and entire blog devoted to showing the ills and problems the church and religion in general has done and aided in.... i have no idea how an atheist could give credence in this way to the church.

2) "...the church fought against the Crusades...".
fought against or persecuted to the extent that modern day standards would consider it an attempted genocide against Muslims? they weren't fighting them because Muslims had hundreds of suicide bombers at that time, they were doing it because they were religious fanatics (like the same extreme Muslims she's very much opposed to) who wanted control of the minds of any and everyone they could and didn't like another religion infringing on their proselytism. how can she justify the religious extremism of one religion and abhor it in another? religious extremism is religious extremism. whether it is coming from Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Shintos, or Baha'is. it should be opposed in any and all regards because it is the threat to the very freedom she venerates.

i think, like many critics of Ayaan's, is that she has let all her concepts about nearly everything be shaded by this good/bad; western/non-western dichotomy.
Islam and the Middle East is backwards; wrong; inferior; less than-Western society is good; better; superior.
the fact that the west, at one point and time (and still today) has done more harm to this planet than good (which is not to say that others have not) is something i don't think she will let herself realize any time soon. the west, to her, will always be the shining beacon of hope and goodness and freedom, and the middle east will always be anything but.

comment. criticize. think. pray....ha...just kidding.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mambu Bayoh

found another photographer i like.

"...when your strongest point of unity is that you all hate the same people, you've got problems."
~Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in Colonize This!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Would You Do?

i'm watching these videos on youtube (yes, youtube has replaced my television) of the Dateline series 'What Would You Do?' about, pretty much social experiments in which Dateline sets up scenarios regarding racism, stereotypes, sexism, etc. to see what different people will do. usually they find things and record people saying things that are shocking, but shouldn't be. racism exists, so why is it shocking to hear someone say something like "don't talk to me. i don't speak Mexican."?

i like watching them and imagining what i'd do in these situations. what would i do if a store clerk was being blatantly racist and singling out a black woman to be searched while making remarks about her "type"? usually, my actions and words are calculated, sometimes hesitant depending on the situation. in one of these situations, my words and actions might be too shocked to say anything. if i accuse one of these people of being racist, i could a) be blowing something out of proportion in a context i may not be aware of (for example, if the person i posit as the victim threw racial epithets at the person i've posited as the offender prior to me entering the scene), b) not know how to truly confront racism and end up enforcing stereotypes as opposed to educating the offender on how and why they're in the wrong (for example, if instead to talking to the offender about their behavior, i go upside their head, then it just enforces these stereotypes that we're violent and angry all the time), or c) put myself in real danger (these Dateline experiments were done in well populated cities with security guards and a camera crew standing around had anything gone awry. but had this been say....southern Mississippi? thats almost suicide).

maybe after watching these, it'll better equip me to handle them in real life. i want to be the guy in this video with the West Indian accent that tells that Realtor "YOUR BEHAVIOR IS UNACCEPTABLE!!". but i'd bitch-slap her at the end and then raise Johnny Cochran from the grave so he can represent me in a lawsuit against her.

my only criticism of the show, however, is that i don't think it fully highlights the bigger issues of racism and classism in this country. they have a psychologist (i think) who basically explains people's various reactions and why they do them. he doesn't give historical reasons for these stereotypes or opinions, or statistics on the amount of these situations that turn violent, or ways in which the American government encourages the type of racism we see in the video i posted above.
why exactly is someone who has been oppressed in so many ways (the black man) aiding in the owner's blatantly racist actions (personally, i think he and many other people of color in this country target immigrants in order to make themselves feel included in a country that has excluded them in ways they may not even realize and to make themselves feel superior by making someone else feel inferior. by telling these two men to leave he was really saying to the racist clerk "hey, i'm one of you, see? i really am an American. please, approve of me. please, accept me." he is looking for acceptance from white people, even if it means having to put down one of his brothers in the process; trying to assimilate)?
why are people shocked at the thought of racism?
why doesn't Dateline show how shying away from conversations on racism, classism, etc. adds to more social duress and discriminatory laws as well as violence?

i think the next experiment regarding racism should have to do with a close conversation between, three somewhat new friends, in which one of them says something racist. there wouldn't be room to say "i'm cancelling my order and refuse to eat here anymore..." or "i'm sorry, Muhammad and Amina, this realtor is a bitch and our neighborhood is accepting of all religions...". so then, what happens then? isn't that where we should be battling them? in conversations in which it's just us five or six black family members and someone says something about how black gay men should be stoned to death? in conversations in which it's just us unilingual english-speaking Americans and someone makes a joke about the "illegals"? those would be the critical experiments, i think.

in any case, Dateline is the only show i know of that does experiments like these, so, kudos.

comment. think. criticize. converse.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

como decir 'arigato' en portuguese?

i found these really cool videos on youtube of some traveling youngins in Japan and documenting their experiences. they have like 100 videos.
this is what i want to be doing next year.....but not Japan. no particular reason, just doesn't interest me much...

Saturday, June 12, 2010


i get on a number of hair blogs (A, B, C, D for some knowledge, and 1, 2, 3, 4 for some inspiration). and the other day i was thinking about reasons i went natural and how my thoughts have changed since then.
i went natural in January 2009 mainly because i was just bored with relaxed hair. it was just dead to me. dead crap just sitting on the top of my head. plus the upkeep of constantly having to get a perm every 2 months, flat-ironing it every day, all to be left with hair that always looked limp was beginning to annoy me after....a decade or so of subjecting my hair to this treatment (or should i say, brutality).
anyway, my main influence during that time when the only image of natural hair i had was buckwheat and the bulletproof 'fros from the black power movement was an artist i found on myspace by the name of Muhsinah.
not only is Muhsinah an absolutely amazing artist.....i love love love her music....but she has ridiculous style. and her hair was unlike anything i'd ever seen. it was natural hair in styles and shapes that were completely foreign to me. and i liked it. loved it actually.

check her website out.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Virgin Suicides

one of my top 5 favorite films ever.
top 10 favorite songs.
the storyline. the vibe of the film. the scenery.

rent it. watch it. love it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

western critics of the middle east

i'm nearly done with Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book, Nomad and so far she's raised many of the same arguments she's raised in Infidel and The Caged Virgin, but now, i look at them differently.

like in my first post about this book, one of the main issues she takes with the Muslim women's liberation is not the response of Muslim men or Muslims period, but of social critics from western nations. she had this to say about the American Muslims that heckled her when she went to prominent American universities to lecture:

"There are activist groups of every stripe on campus, yet nothing for girls fleeing Islam, no group fighting for the rights of Muslim women. when violence is committed in the name of Islam these student activists are silent. even when muslims blow up other Muslims who differ in their interpretation of this supposedly peaceful religion; even when children are used as suicide bombers; even when a devout Muslim woman is raped, goes to the authorities, and is sentenced to be stoned on the grounds that she has had sex outside of marriage-even then, these students are silent.
there is a problem with Islam, i would tell the students who hectored me. by ignoring it, you, student or adult, do a disservice to your community. "

not too long after i read Infidel, i became obsessed with Islam and Saudi Arabia, in particular. i was reading books about the Prophet Muhammad, autobiographies from current and former Muslims, and Saudi culture. i feel as though i know a lot about the culture and the religion, but i have never submitted to Islam, nor have i ever lived in or visited a Muslim populated country, so how legit is my opinion?

and therein lies the problem. this is why many western feminists, social critics, etc. may turn a blind eye to cultures of the middle east because, while they may know a good deal about Islam and middle eastern cultures, it is still a foreign society and we/they are still outsiders.

looking into history, we can see the damaging effects that judgement of cultures from outsiders can take. colonialism is the best example that has had the most damaging effects.
whites went to Africa, saw naked women with facial features they'd never seen, bodies shaped completely different from theirs, living in simple communes in tuned with nature and assumed that they must be sex-crazed animals, since the women are all naked or topless. they assumed wet were less intelligent, considering we weren't stripping the land of its resources and capitalizing off it. African societies were so different from theirs, they assumed that one had to be superior, while the other inferior. and this is the type of thinking that founded slavery, the taking of Native American land, and the centuries long genocide that has taken place against people of color in America.
this, i think, is why so many westerners take caution, or simply say nothing when it comes to matters of foreign societies. even now, many of the individuals that do criticize middle eastern cultures or Muslim populated societies are right-wingers whose views are usually nothing more than racism and xenophobia and nowhere near constructive criticism.

also, i think criticizing another society, in a way, implies that the society you/i dwell in is not in need of criticism. it's like giving someone relationship advice when you've had three divorces. how can any American criticize any society when ours has an endless array of issues.
take the burqa, for instance. after you've read a little about it (if you're a westerner), it seems to be oppressive and a tool to keep women subservient to men; it aids in making women feel as though their bodies and their sexuality are abominable; it helps to sustain the status quo. this, more and likely, is the typical western stance on this type of fashion (whether they voice it or not).
however if you're a female, and have lived in a well populated city, you know that women get heckled, taunted, whistled at, barked at, cat-called, blown-kisses at, been stalked for blocks, and even been groped while simply walking down the street, many a times in just jeans and a t-shirt.
and i know this from experience. "hey ma. like that dress", "i like that ass...", "you lookin good shawty..." are just some of the phrases that have come my way while on the subway or walking down the street. and this happens whether i'm in jeans and a tee, a dress, a short skirt, in my work clothes, or covered in a cable-knit sweater. right now, it's hot as hell in Brooklyn. so, do i wear something that keeps me cool, which in turn usually shows a lot of skin, or do i don something heavy and shapeless that will ward off comments like these-something like a....... burqa? at times, it has seemed like these women may have it right. wearing this would not only ward off comments, but it would force men to evaluate women by alternative means than our physical appearance. what could women who focus on their physical appearance more than anything else achieve if they are forced to value themselves on deeper levels?

if you research reasons women claim they wear burqas, hijabs, and the like, it is usually, they say, because men cannot control themselves when they see the female body, thus, as opposed to making men take control of themselves, they take the matter into their own hands and cover their bodies, head to toe, in something that only shows ankles and hands. and, walking down the street here and seeing how i'm talked to, and see how many other females are talked to, it's almost understandable. maybe they do have it right. wearing a dark, heavy, shapeless cloak guarantees that your body will not be disrespected in this way, and that you will be looked at as a woman, and not just an object of sex. least thats how it should work in theory. the fact of the matter is, however, that women are still defiled, groped, raped, molested, and disrespected in various ways by men in Saudi culture and cultures with the majority of women wearing burqas and hijabs just as women are in the American culture. based on the vast difference in how western women dress from burqas and hijabs, one would expect a difference in the way the women are treated, but thats not the case at all. so what's the point?

how hypocritical is it to criticize one culture's misogyny while the one i live in is eerily similar? but then again, at what point does one criticize no matter the cost? where is the line drawn? at misogyny? modern-day slavery? child sex slavery? genocide?

comment. think. CRITICIZE. criticize criticizers. read Nomad.
the photos at the top are by an artist named Ananias Leki Dago who i learned about via Afro Sapien. it's a piece entitled Identity.