Native Nations Rise (5 Seconds of Eternity)

She was watching from a window.

We exist. We resist. We rise.
We exist. We resist. We rise.

I waved.

She waved back, then gave the universal symbol of prayer and respect.

I returned the gesture: “I greet you. I honor you. We are connected.”

She pressed her hand to her heart.

I flashed a thumbs up.

back in the valley

Amherst, MA
a.k.a. The Happy Valley

It is cool for summer. In fact, the chill at night feels more like autumn. Otherwise the lush, bright greens (of trees, grass, cultivated crops and wild bush), sky and mountain blues, and varying tones of white in the clouds are as they ever were. I got out on the bike trail yesterday, smelling freshly mown hay and listening to birdsong . . . aaahhhhhhhhh.


Although re-entry is relatively painless, I have noticed slight and subtle differences in the US now compared with when I left nearly a year ago. CNN has a news program, Black in America. Susan told me that standardized test scores for young African-Americans are improving in a crucial way: historically if students were asked to identify their racial demographics at the beginning of a standardized test their scores would be lower than if they were asked to provide this info at the end. Now this gap is decreasing! In other words, flagging racial identity used to work “against” confidence/competence for some black youth; now – after Obama – this internalized self-perception is being transformed.
I was startled, the first day back, when strangers addressed me in English (instead of Flemish or French). Riding in a taxi from the airport to a temporary destination in DC brought me in visual contact with a familiar landscape. I found it comforting to be closed in by tree-covered rolling hills instead of looking out on the centuries-tilled farmland of Belgium – which always somehow conveyed the hint of battle. Not that history is pristine, here. The namesake of this university town in western Massachusetts is infamous for having provided smallpox-infected blankets to the local Indians. Most of the original peoples from the East Coast were decimated in the colonial invasion, although some tribes managed to survive and even establish authenticity in the eyes of federal law (which is deliberately designed to make such claims as difficult as possible while appearing to be fair).
Whiffs of cow manure are occasionally overwhelming.
It’s been windy since I arrived, but Ambarish assures me it is not always like this. I had been quite aware of the wind in Belgium, and it had crossed my mind that this might be a sign of global warming: as the planet’s atmosphere heats up, there might be more likelihood of “weather”. I wondered if, some day in the future, a still day when there is no wind might be a rarity, a phenomenon only remembered by the very old . . .

photo from August 2008 (see more: High Summer)
Lord Amherst and Smallpox
Black in America: The Black Woman and Family
Ombama poster in my apartment

juxtaposition: riding walls

Within minutes of each other I watched and listened to Steve’s rousing (northern) seasonal greeting from (as he says) “a happier time, before Vietnam, the Civil Rights, and all the “horrors” of our “modern” world,” and Tamer’s reminder of other realities: snapshot of a modern horror.
Meanwhile, the economic news is better in Bethelem this year, tourism has increased since a sharp dropoff after the second intifada in 2000. The increase of visitors is, however, a qualified “good”: the occupation is as real as ever.

a peacemaker with grit

My buddy Steve has sent two announcements the last few days concerning U.S. Representative Julia Carson (1938-2007).
Confronted with barely-veiled racial prejudice in the halls of Congress by a peer who did not recognize her, Carson queried, “What’s your point?” Thus sums up the Indianapolis Star, in a special report called “A warrior for the city.”
I paid no attention to state politics the years I lived in Indianapolis, being invested in the cultural and linguistic politics of the Deaf Community (which was a pioneer in the revolutionary bilingual-bicultural movement in Deaf Education), and working on issues of access and ableism in the lesbian community. Hence, I learn of “Julia” in retrospect, and am particularly drawn to the news story because of its invocation of “war” by labeling her a warrior.

“Her weapons of choice are blunt talk and a dollop of charm,” the Congressional Quarterly’s Politics in America once said of her.

Weapons. Words as weapons counterposed with “charm.” I am not disputing these characterizations nor their utility as skills, what I am puzzling over is if/when we can learn (or teach ourselves) to speak of such determination and ferocity in a way that honors the power of negotiation, period. (Tary and I started a conversation about “centering” a few weeks ago.)

“A lot of people get elected to positions and forget that they serve all the people,” said John M. Thomas, former president of Community Action of Greater Indianapolis. “She never forgot that.”

Steadfast memory. Conviction. Blunt talk. These are the tools and skills of those who seek foundational peace, of those who intend with each word and every action to change the most basic operations of our institutions from subtle mechanisms of privilege/discrimination to equitable and just treatment of and for everyone.
I do wish I had known her. ­čÖé

on invisible persons

“Let me ask you a question back,” I told him.

“Has it ever occurred to you to wonder if the history we teach our children is a lie?
After a moment of stunned silence, he said, “Good Lord, Jason. I hope you’re joking.”
“Surely that’s manifest.”
“It isn’t to me.”
“You’ve been there, Jason. We were there together. It’s all lies and bullshit till graduate school. Why else have graduate school?”
“That’s very cynical.”
“Is it?”
“Suppose I were to tell you that the lies don’t stop in graduate school?”

After Dachau
Daniel Quinn
2001 (p. 182)

synonymous with evil

Watched The Last King of Scotland last night. Strong Minor Bridge thought it was a mild depiction of the horrors Idi Amin wrought on his country in a mere nine years, enough to rank him with Stalin, Lenin, and Pol Pot as the worst dictators of all time. As a character study, I wondered about the historicity of the role of the Doctor as the foil for showing Amin’s volatile and manipulative nature. The character of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan in the film is a fiction, however there was a real “white rat” (as opposed to the “white monkey” Garrigan is labeled in the film), Bob Astles.
While there is no doubt that Forest Whitaker is brilliant as Amin (absolutely creepy), I was intrigued by the portrayal by James McAvoy of a young, naive, and very “white” Dr. Garrigan. What is that element in human character that is so prone to worship, so heedless of cautionary warnings, so bent on idealistic vision that hard evidence fails to convey meaning? How frightening to be pulled so far “in” as to be unable to escape, yet how consequential. The lines concerning racism in the film are compelling: all of them point to the power of “whiteness” as an unconscious (in Garrigan) and deliberative (as experienced through the lens of “blackness” or “Africanness”) force.

Race is the Place

“The color of my skin still marks me as an alien in the country of my birth” – Maya del Valle
“Going beyond the buzzwords of ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘diversity,’ RACE IS THE PLACE is a hip-hop, fast moving documentary jam, where the political becomes personal.”
There is a brief preview available.
Hmm mm. Thanks Tanya, for posting to the social justice listserv.

good books

I was asked about good books to read on the deaf community, and also about the range of sexual orientations… the context was something along the lines of Takaki’s A Different Mirror, which I continue to find an amazing tool for undergraduates who simply do not know these significant components of ethnic US history. A couple of new books out on the Deaf-World look great. I purchased a brand new one by Paddy Ladd on Deafhood (centered in Great Britain but generalizable in significant ways), and eyed a couple others: People of the Eye (specifically about the Deaf community in New Zealand), A Journey into the Deaf-World (mostly US-based?), and an introductory level textbook, Deaf-World.
I’ve not followed the literature in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered studies so can’t really offer a recommendation for something contemporary that provides a broad survey of sexual identities … if anyone has suggestions, please share! This site of online resources came up near the top of a basic google search. ­čśë

mostly about fear

Imagine! Turns out the rumors of criminal activity were mostly that – rumors. So says todays New York Times. I wonder how many of those rumors they helped to perpetuate by reporting them? Of course – they reported what they heard, and probably did qualify most of these ‘reports’ as stories, fears, concerns….what an interesting media analysis this would be! How were those rumors categorized and couched? And then there’s Bush, trying to shift attention from his lack of care to “criminals who had no mercy.” I heard a language-based critique of his speech on VPR Tuesday morning, the link is posted with the speeches for written analysis for the Public Speaking class.

Eyewitness Account – Katrina

This is a letter from a tourist who didn’t make it out of New Orleans. He wrote this to his mother; it was then sent on to friends and Ira posted it to the social justice listserv at UMass. Thanks.
Another letter was written by emergency medical personnel who were in New Orleans for a conference.
Also, a link to teaching resources.