Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Feminism

Now, before anyone thinks that I am pro-recession, pro-depression, or anti-prosperity, let me squash those thoughts right now. As an American citizen and feminist, I recognize that the economy is run by consumers and the face of the global market largely depends on the flourishing of the US economy.

That being said, I offer this: Maybe this is an excellent time for US Americans to experience a financial crisis. Maybe there are some gains to be made in this difficult time which cannot be measured in the Dow Jones or home buying rates.

Black Friday is called Black Friday because it signifies when business companies are supposed to go into the black, showing surplus and profit. Notoriously, this is the day when US citizens open their wallet and begin the costly splurge of commercial gift-giving.

The less news I watch and the more observant I become of the people around me, the more I am convinced that this time of crisis can be an opportunity for many to deepen their lives and rethink the function of material goods in their homes. Perhaps a bit simplistic, but the concept of Americans re-evaluating what is necessary and what is superfluous in their homes sounds fabulous to me. It is common knowledge that US Americans are some of the most wasteful citizens on the planet, nonchalantly eating more than our share of the world's pie and throwing out any leftovers that weren't ours to begin with. We are all guilty of this. Our society thrives on convenience, comfort, and "if it's there, use it up" mentality.

What does this - consumerism, wastefulness, and intentionality - have to do with Feminism?


Jessica Hoffman wrote an excellent article that envisioned what a feminist liberation looks like and how systematic powers (racism, economic hierarchy, ableism, sexism) - particularly capitalism - function as a multi-systematic team of oppression. She writes that it is not enough to recognize "intersectionality," as a lens to view feminists themselves, but also how to analyze the existing oppressive forces around us. She argues, "I do think that resisting capitalism, globally, is integral to antiracist, progressive, social-justice feminisms — that is, the only kinds of feminism I think have a chance of liberating anyone/everyone, and the only kinds of feminism I want to have anything to do with."

(I'm not going to rehash her points, you really should just go and read yourself.)

I'm not going to go on a rant about capitalism, but I do want to apply a similar analysis to our daily lives, questionable (at best) practices of spending, and the connection to clear(er) feminist practices.

Recently, I viewed a short clip on Momversation which covered how to talk to your children about the financial crisis with your children. Now, don't get me wrong, it's a commendable act to to take the proverbial teachable moment to educate your child about good spending habits and helping them understand the power of a dollar.

However, if what it takes for the middle class US mothers to understand that borrowing a book from the local library fares better than purchasing one is a national crisis, then we are in more of a mental crisis than financial.

This crushing tragedy has devastated millions, leaving no redeeming hope in the gross squandering of millions of dollars that vanished the retirement and life-long savings of so many. And there is no delight in watching the belt tighten around those who are already economically anorexic either. However, for those of us who are in positions of power, for those of us who stand to gain by losing our laissez-faire attitudes, these times are an opportunity to sift out the unnecessary in our lives. We need to seize the clarity that comes with living deliberately by choosing what we most desire and transform ourselves into a YES culture. More specifically, we develop a culture that says YES when we truly desire something, not just to lukewarm likings.

There is an art to being selective. It requires forethought, work, and self-knowledge. Living simply is not about living bare. It is not about turning on money or frowning in the face of material goods. If US Americans took a radical moment to choose what they most want from their lives, and this holiday season, this Black Friday, they took this day to go into the surplus of life instead of adding to the profit of companies, our financial constraints would not be so newsworthy. What would we look like if, just for today, instead of Americans dining out, we'd have a few more meals in our homes. Instead of pacing the aisles of Best Buy to upgrade our gadgets, we stroll down our sideswalks and breathe. The "restraints" of a financial crisis can be easily opened into a national pause in our senseless habits of spending. That moment could offer infinite dividends.

It is not enough for feminists to recognize inequality and racism in consumer marketing. It is not enough for feminists to go to libraries instead of popular bookstores. It is not even enough to limit our spending. This is not just about frugality, but about being more vociferous. Being or becoming a thoughtful feminist means growing into somewhat of a prophet. As more and more women become educated, salaried, and employed, their consumeristic power is increasing, as is the advertising directed toward them.

Feminists are and should be the ones to innately sense where we are going when our practices do not match our future goals. A thoughtful feminist is a selective consumer, one who understands the complicated relationship between availability and accessibility, personal fulfillment and superficial enrichment. S/he is the one who most fiercely advocates for a spiritual retreat from the crowds and allows a discriminatory practice of her monied and life investments.

She knows when enough is enough.

Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Femwatch: Thanksgiving Edition

The top five things for which I most grateful as a feminist.
If you have problems viewing it, click here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Problem: Mainstreaming Feminism

In a recent article in Time magazine entitled, The New Liberal Order, Peter Beinart asserts that "feminism is so mainstream that even Sarah Palin* embraces the term." 

And with that, Beinart touches on two of the deepest problems of contemporary feminism, mainstreaming and the politics of verbal identity.  Membership, inclusion, participation - whatever term you want to use - is fast becoming a backlash as feminism goes Main Stream.

Can feminism - an ever-evolving charge of empowerment and energy - be mainstreamed?  I say no.  At least, not in its entirety.  One of the most disturbing trends happening is the political mainstreaming of one specific strand of feminism as feminism whole.  This marketing of feminism sells one kind of history, work and concept of female empowerment and, for the right price, conflates mainstream feminism with Feminism (plural). When feminism is explored in media, it is typically referring to White, middle class, educated, US-citizen heterosexual women.  

There are two problems that unfold with this mainstreaming.  The first problem is that it markets feminism as a monolithic group; a group of feminists who desire, believe, and work for the same ideal, which is wildly simplistic and erroneous.  This faux claim of sameness and singularity ignores the diverse work and accomplishments of other feminists who do not fit that category and often go unrecognized. This portrayal of feminism also feeds its gritty US-history of exploitation, racism, neglect, and betrayal of women of color and their communities.

Feminism, as a collective movement, needs to sustain a habit of frequent communication between the movements. Borrowing from astronomy, the Orion is a sisterhood of stars that make up one constellation.  Few can name the individual stars that align the famous celestial sighting, but the sight, in its entirety, is easily recognized by children and sky watchers alike.  Similarly, feminists need to promote and advocate its own plural make-up, and also need to demand that same understanding from reporters, writers, bloggers, educators, and activists. 

Mainstreaming reinforces the one size fits most feminism.  It dissolves the diverse and bright faces of feminism and, in its place, creates an illusion of a bull's eye, with the middle target being the most significant feminists to focus upon.  The problem with the bull's eye visual is the outer circles, once again, become the marginalized.  

Not one group of feminists is more important than others, but it would be naive and foolish to ignore the layered oppression of poor women of color, single mothers with no healthcare or access medical treatment, or violence at the border or against transwomen.  Those most vulnerable need not be in the center, but feminists must be able to distinguish between centrality and urgency.  Not one group is more significant, but there are steep levels of urgency and severity.  While needs are different, they're equally critical to the plural movement of feminism.  Think of the Olympic rings.  You cannot pick one circle without choosing the others as well.  You cannot identify the Mintaka as one star and claim it is the entire Orion belt. Mintaka may be a bright star, it may be necessary, but it's not the Orion.  It's merely a part of it.  

The individual over collective mentality breeds another type of ugliness within feminism.  More and more pop culture is featuring Sex and the City with its racist and classist depictions as the playground for empowerment.  And, more and more are agreeing to sell this one type of feminism for personal gain.  bell hooks wrote in Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory, "As more and more women acquired prestige, fame, or money from feminist writings or from gains from feminist movement for equality in the workforce, individual opportunism undermined appeals for collective struggle.  Women who were not opposed to patriarchy, capitalism, classism, or racism labeled themselves 'feminist.' Their expectations were varied."  

As radical liberation is now confused with sexual freedom, reproductive health is overshadowed by abortion, and the term "women's interest" is conflated with "fashion," it opens the door wider to misrepresentation and feminist evasion. On one hand, you have Sarah Palin, a high powered politician who endorses victims to pay for their own rape kit, to claim herself feminist, and then you have other grassroots workers, community organizers, multitasking mothers working two jobs who would never touch the word with a ten foot pole.  Let me be clear, though.  The problem is not filtering out who is "allowed in,"  the problem is that mainstreaming feminism and individual profiting has sacrificed feminism as a collective, its one strength and hope of saving itself from imploding.

The point of feminism is to work for the radical equality and liberation of all.  It does this through the lens of gender that incorporates the other salient factors of race, citizenship, religion, socioeconomic status, education, and sexual preference into analysis.  Feminism is not looking to form a club with prerequisites, but it does necessitate consistency and accountability. The pejorative history of US feminism mandates a rigorous and nuanced exploration of difference. However, to sustain a movement, those differences cannot be in conflict with the goals of equality.  We need to make space for conversation, but we need not make space for kyriarchal practices in the name of inclusion. 

*Palin later rejects the term because she does not want to "label" herself.

Cross-posted at Bitch Magazine and APA for Progress.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guest Blogging for Bitch Magazine

Just so ya'll know, I'll be guest blogging for Bitch Magazine for the next few months so you get double the fun and read me twice.

Likely, I will be cross-posting a few pieces, but I'd love your support over there as well.

My "blog" there is entitled Feminisms = Plural and will be pushing to expand the definition of our favorite "f" word as we know it. In light of feminists getting more and more mainstreamed, I will be one of the fish swimming in the opposite direction and adding the "s" to feminism and challenging the mainstream notions of what is gender equality, liberation, and who gets to "define" the vision of the collective movement we call feminism.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Path to Pregnancy

It never ceases to amaze me how much has to happen for a womyn to become pregnant.

I've never been pregnant and decided, after much thought and deep prayer, that I want to be a mother.  My preference for beginning a family would be to have a biological child first and then adopt in a few years.  However, Adonis and I are completely open to all the different ways that progeny come about.

In 1999, I had a surgery that ended with a tumor the size of grapefruit being extracted from my right ovary and another cyst removed from my left.  Portions of both ovaries were removed, but I was told that children were still a possibility.  I was twenty and thoughts of children were frequent, but I wasn't ready.  Adonis and I, at that point in our lives, were passing acquaintances at college drinking fiestas.

And here we are, going to doctors and wondering what in the world I need to do to contribute to the global population.

Another surgery, apparently, is what needs to happen.

The road to health is a never ending bike path.  Once you think you can close your eyes and enjoy the wind, even for a split second, a bend in the road approaches and that moment of relaxation is put off for another mile or two.  And then another bend.  Sometimes, despite, our healthy habits, frequent exercising, and water drinking, our bodies decide to do things all on their own.  Mine decided to make tumors again and complicate my desire to have life beyond my own.

Two surgeries before thirty.  That's not exactly what I imagined for myself, but when I think of all the unexpected bends in the road, I accept this road as mine.  I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get through this time with promise and health.

ps - I am NOT moving my blog to be classified under "infertility" blogosphere or whatever some folks have suggested.  While I certainly appreciate the great resources of those blogs, and I will continue to expand my writing in other areas of the internet, this is my home here - as a radical womyn of color feminist.  I'm just a feminist who wants babies.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Transgender Violence

The coverage is unbelievably low for transgender violence and it's kind of taking my breath away to read what is going on right now.

As Duanne Johnson was violently killed several days ago, another murder has taken place.  Last Friday, Moses "Teish" Cannon was shot and killed.

See more here and here.

H/T Brownfemipower.

Update: Thanks to Drakyn for much information.

Friday, November 14, 2008

FEM WATCH III: BEST OF 2008, Deadline 11/25/ 2008

What is Fem Watch?

Confirming What We ALL Know

Appropriately, it's Friday.

Just in time for your weekend.

As I like to say to my loved ones at least one a week, "Go. Live your life."

Larry Summers Ousted Because of "Women's Groups"


I've been reading about this Larry Summers controversy for a while. From 2002-2004, I was at Boston College for grad school and subsequently took a course at Harvard in my time there. I become infinitely fascinated with Harvard ethos and had heard on campus that the climate for women faculty was next to something atrocious. Harvard, at the time, was not known for its friendly atmosphere. In 2005, Summers made the infamous comments about women in math and science and, since then, I have gotten into countless nasty arguments with Adonis over it.

He doesn't think it's fair to write someone - anyone - off after one comment for which Summers apologized profusely.

I think that at certain levels of power and influence, you lose certain privileges to think out loud without suffering the consequence of demeaning, or thoughtless (at best), comments. If you're looking to stir things up, be ready to take the deepest burn possible: offended audience members.

I do get the feeling that a lot of people do not understand what he said and the context in which he said them. It's important to understand the situation (for as much as we can - only 50 or so invited people were in the room when he made his presentation that contained the controversial comments) before blasting this guy to smithereens.

Basically, I think he exercised extremely poor judgment. Consequently, as a prominent academic leader, what you say in public will haunt you for the rest of your public life. For me, it's not his words (people say ignorant comments all the time), but the CONTEXT in which he offered that suggestion is just incredible to me. And I think it's insulting and ludicrous for an economist and Harvard president to offer such a reasoning (that innate differences could be a possible reason as to why women are not as successful in math and science) when tested research and scholarship has proven that girls do equally well in math and science when they are supported and when fewer males are in the classroom. Additionally, those findings were supposedly JUST presented earlier that day, before he made his, what is now known as his goodbye, speech.

So, again, it's not just his words that were problematic, its that he didn't have the ability or grip to utilize (or acknowledge) modern research about women's achievements when addressing some of the most brilliant academic women in the world. And if that omission was intentional, then angering the conference participants is just downright counterproductive.

Supposedly, Summers has a history of stirring things up to provoke discussion and progress. I don't doubt Summers' brilliance or his capacity to do his job, but his history is far too controversial to ignore. Frankly, I'm a bit sick of political fireworks and would rather hear reports of our nation improving instead of more drama and e-apologies.

Contrary to reports, it is not "women's groups" that ousted Summers from Treasury Secretary. Whether he meant to or not, he burned that possibility in 2005, when he decided to offer three suggestions that would ultimately be the downfall of his public image and leadership.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dennis Miller's Gay Joke About Barney Frank

Dennis Miller can bite me.

On the O'Reilly Factor, Miller made a anti-gay joke about Barney Frank- an openly gay member of the House of Representatives - being arrested. Even O'Reilly recognized that it was wrong. Like Nader, who was schooled by a Fox anchor for using "Uncle Tom" as a phrase to describe Obama, Miller goes well over the line with his anti-gay remark.

He was met with mild resistance and discomfort from O'Reilly, but the laughter behind the camera confirms what I already know: the passing of Prop 8 cannot be blamed on one segment of the population. While religious influence clearly plays a role in America's ill treatment of gays and lesbians, this stupid Miller video reveals one of the many hearts of the problem:

mainstream America still trivializes and laughs about homophobia behind the camera or in the privacy of our homes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Locks of Love Hair Challenge

Countdown to cutoff for Locks of Love.   Who's in?

Locks of Love Hair Challenge

If there is one thing that I was blessed with - it's my hair.

I've got good, dare I say great, hair.

It's thick, radiates a black shine, and I have never done anything to it except wash and brush and I often get compliments while I am standing in line for something.  

A few years ago, I discovered Locks of Love and donated my hair.  They ask for a minimum of ten inches to use for one hairpiece, but also accept shorter hair as well.  My locks are long, intentionally so, cascading down my back and  I'm thinking, THINKING, of shaving my head and donating my hair to kick off 2009.

I consulted Adonis about his thoughts and as always his reply, "I support whatever you really want to do.  It's just too bad the idea of a woman shaving her head has been stained by Britney's breakdown."

When I think about the children - particularly young girls - who are sick and went through chemo and want to have the feel of hair on their heads, I can't help but think about how I normally just chop my hair at a salon and leave it on the floor.  Young girls usually love long hair and I've got it to donate.  It's just HAIR.  It'll grown back.  My hair grows like springtime weeds.  What really sends me over the edge is when I think of little girls of color who want black hair and have a limited selection of chestnut, brunette, redheaded, and blond pieces to choose from; again, not seeing themselves in the world in the face of choice.  I nearly breakdown  if I think of a little Filipina girl asking for a black hairpiece.

Anyone out there willing to cut (or shave if you're daring) for Locks of Love?  I'm thinking of doing this sometime in 2009 and would love to have a Hair Challenge with a fellow volunteer.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Press Release: Filipina Poets in Library of Congress Special Exhibit

Filipina Poets Featured at the Library of Congress

The APA Collection at the Library of Congress is exhibiting the books of Asian American women poets in collaboration with the
First Annual Festival of Women's Poetry (Wompherence) on the worldwide web. 

A collection of the published works of select poets in the list of "100 Filipina Poets"
featured on the Wompherence website (curated by poet Luisa Igloria), is part of this special exhibit. 

Filipina poet Angela Manalang Gloria's Poems released in 1940 is considered
the first published poetry collection in English by a woman. The original,
the revised edition and the updated edition, The Complete Poems,
are on display. Two seldom seen monographs,
Two Voices, Selected Poems of Abelardo Subido and Trinidad Tarrosa Subido,
published in 1945 and Trinidad Tarrosa Subido's
Private Edition: Sonnets and other Poems (2002) are likewise included.

The Wompherence Exhibit in the Library of Congress is open to the public,
Monday through Saturday during the month of November 2008. It is displayed in the 

Asian Reading Room, LJ150 
Jefferson Building
101 Independence Avenue, N.E.
Washington DC 

For more information, contact 

Reme Grefalda 
Asian Pacific American Collection
Asian Division; &
Program Chair,
Asian Division Friends Society
Library of Congress
(202) 707-6096(202) 
707-1724 fax

The Filipina poets featured in the Library of Congress exhibit are: 

Mila Aguilar
Cora Almerino
Linda Alburo
Lilia F. Antonio
Merlinda C. Bobis
Carlene S. Bonnivier
Sofiya Cabalquinto
Catalina Cariaga
Marjorie Evasco
Penelope Flores
Sarah Gambito
Jean Vengua
Reme Grefalda
Jessica Hagedorn
Luisa Igloria (Ma. Luisa B. Aguilar Carino)
Marra PL Lanot
Babeth Lolarga
Susan T. Layug
Fatima Lim-Wilson 
Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo
Angela Manalang-Gloria
Maningning Miclat
Barb Natividad
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Cristina Querrer
Lilia Quindoza-Santiago
Barbara J. Pulmano Reyes
Patria Rivera
Nadine Sarreal
Trinidad Tarrosa Subido
Eileen Tabios
Ester Tapia
Edith L. Tiempo
Rowena T. Torrevillas

Readers can find the works of 100 Filipina poets in the 
Wompherence section on FILIPINA POETS at

Walang Hiya

Call For Submissions
**** Please Forward Widely ****

Walang Hiya … literature taking risks toward liberatory practice
Will be published by Arkipelago Press Spring 2009

Walang Hiya … literature taking risks toward liberatory practice is a
literary anthology committed to using the narrative as a departure
point for personal and political transformation. We seek to challenge
the boundaries and cultural norms, sharing our stories without shame.
Walang Hiya believes in the idea of Cultural Work or the use of
artistic expression as a form of education and community mobilization.
We feature emerging Pilipina/o artists, works that capture the spirit
of innovation and contradiction.
We pay homage to the literary roots of our Diaspora and with this
offering hope to embrace the future tense.
Walang Hiya seeks submissions in the form of prose, poetry and short story.

We are interested in the stories that move beyond the identity politic
to embrace other
forms of coming to oneself as individuals and as a people. We've read
the stories of
Pilipina/o pride and reclaiming our culture, but what's next? We are
familiar with
characters caught in the culture clash hovering around notions of
identity and homeland
that helped shape the literature of our Diaspora, but what is on the horizon?

We seek submissions exploring the space of contradiction where our stories live:

What are the resiliency stories borne out of our legacy of colonization?
How do we as Pilipinas/os transform accepted norms, whether positive
or negative, in religion/spirituality, language and culture?
How do we practice a healthy forgiveness in order to sustain
relationship and community?
How do we practice everyday acts of resistance?
How do we keep our humanity in the face of unequal power dynamics … At
work? With the people you love? With institutions intending to help,
but do more harm?

We are interested in utilizing prose and poetry to creatively teach
and speak our
experience as first, second, third (and beyond) generations of
Pilipina/o's in the Diaspora.
Walang Hiya will feature a study guide in the back of the anthology
for educators and
community groups to use as an entry point for dialogue and political engagement.

All submissions will be read thoroughly and with respect. If selected
for the Walang
Hiya anthology, additional editing may be required. The author(s) will
be contacted
directly for input.

Submission Deadline: December 5, 2008
Submissions should be no more than 3,000 words, double-spaced,
single-sided, 12-point font
Please include a bio of 100 words or less
Send works via email as an attachment in Microsoft Word to
Questions can be directed to Roseli Ilano or Lolan Buhain Sevilla at

Contributors retain all rights to their work and will receive two
complimentary copies as

lolan buhain sevilla

"they are even afraid of our songs of love"
- - carlos bulosan

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Blaming the "Feminist Movement"

Another fascinating postcard at PostSecret reveals a not so big secret that many women feel about the Feminist Movement.  I long to meet this person and hear what is her full story and what exactly transpired to blame a "Movement" for her unhappiness. I have to be honest, though, and say that when I read it,  I immediately nodded and empathized. 

I knew what she was talking about.  It's hard to find happiness when the Feminist Movement (leave the F and M capitalized) ignores you.  Or has misled you (or continues to do so).  It's difficult to be "liberated"  when your desires, sexuality, choice, and culture are absent from the Agenda. The Feminist Movement has insulted and hurt me more times than I can count.  It has pissed me off to the point of tears and hurling books across the room because of its unapologetic history of racism and deliberate short-sightedness of womyn of color and international feminisms.  It has rained on my footpath with its pathetic "first, second, third waves" explanation of progression and its ruthless inability to prioritize critical analysis of race, class, religion, and citizenship.  

Women's and Gender academic programs have bulldozed its own field and played the Master in the house of so-called freedom.  What is particularly nauseating is the US feminist's inability to unglue herself from either her navel or mirror and pay attention to transnational issues where she is asked to not be a savior or charity worker to other causes, but a vessel of understanding and soldier of true feminist journalism; to tell the stories of marginalized and silenced womyn.

That was me, my anger, before.  That was MY ecdysis about a year ago.

And it is that truth that has bolstered me through so many disgusting episodes in the feminist blogosphere, in the political arena, and in media.  And it is the community of like-minded feminists with whom I find a safe haven and courage to say, still, I believe in feminisms, plural. I believe there is much to till and even more to plant.  I believe in womyn of color and that their voices are the future of this nation.

Whoever you are, dear postcard creator, I hope I can someday hear your story and find out what or from whom you learned about the Feminist Movement.  I hope that you find the untold stories of women who are living evidence of choice, accountability, and deep joy.  So, it with great respect to your secret and to sharing it with the internets that I share this with you:
Find your community.  Find your cause.  Build your feminism.  Build your movement.  There, inside that sacred piece of collaboration and relationship, where passion and energy still have breath, will be your happiness.

If I still relied upon mainstream Feminism for deep sages or guidance with its icons, fames, and blindspots, I'd be pretty unhappy, too.  Luckily, and this is my hope for you as well, I learned how to define myself in relation to, and sometimes despite, the Feminist Movement.

Friday, November 07, 2008

America, Please Stop Saying that Racism is Dead

...cuz it ain't.  As long as one of the presidential hopefuls can call the President elect an Uncle Tom, we still got problems. Big ones.

Racists are active, voting citizens in this country.  And while I'm still riding high on our historic YES WE CAN/YES WE DID mantra, we still have to deal (and work) with these fools.

Btw, Nader, if you're getting schooled about respect on a FOX network, then you're beyond a political disgrace.

Anne Nixon Cooper vs. Joe the Plumber

If Joe the Plumber, the McCain supporting Ohioan who was the central force of the third and final presidential debate because of his tax questions and pursuit to buy his own business, got to meet Barack Obama, then it is TIME for Ann Nixon Cooper as well.

Ann Nixon Cooper was the central force in Obama's first speech as president elect.  The 106 year old voter was the muse of Obama's reflections as he walked through history using her life as a lens.  She lived through a century of change and laid out the challenges she had to place her vote, being a womyn and a womyn of color.  

In a CNN interview she said it would be an honor, "just like anyone else" to meet Barack.  I see it the other way around.  It is Barack who would carry the honor of meeting this living vessel of history.  To shake HER hand, would the be the honor of many, including Obama.

If Joe the Plumber got an individual appointment for a tax question that landed him a spot in history, I think Anne Nixon Cooper should live to meet the first Black president.

Don't you think?  I mean, really...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Am, Ohio is, Purple: Election Reflections

My social security number is a fun topic of conversation in the Midwest. My SSN reveals the deep east of my roots. The parts of me that peed on the NYC slides growing up, skipping down New Jersey sidewalks, and thinking Manhattan was this small dirty playground in my backyard.

I was eight when I moved to Ohio and hated every inch of the plains. The slow talkers, slow drivers, and no honking rule. In my dreams as a child, New York and Jersey were my pathways home. Now, twenty years later, most of my Filipino cousins who lived in Ohio with me eventually moved to the coasts, away from green lawns, suburbia, and conservatism. Oakland and Hoboken resonated deep in our Brown hearts of progress, diversity, and accessibility to culture with people of color.

Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Managua, and Manila have all been mailing addresses at some point in my life. A deep wound in my marriage has been reconciling geography, where to live means questioning exactly HOW you live and what you value. Three of my closest friends live in Manhatten and often remark, "Just move here already! You visit too much."

So much of my twenties has been wasted on wishing I was in a different color state. Erroneous, so erroneous, is placing one's identity with geographical surrounding. As if life is as simple as that: where you live is who you are. (Not what you DO or how you take action.) What privilege, I realize, comes in choosing state and that specific state's government. How foolish, I see now, to measure my politics with the velocity of my state's ability to align itself with my values.

I've returned to Ohio, the mirror of the United States, to the northeast region. I've lived 3 months now in Cleveland. A post industrial city with unsung heroes and gifts, Cleveland began to show its colors to me during this Autumn season, this election year. Slowly, without any noticeable wind, I began to understand how and why I must embrace my new state and its Purple identity. How fitting that I, once Republican, once Democrat, and registered Independent reside in a state that changes with the times. Sometimes disappointing, sometimes slow, but always reflective of the state of progress of the larger picture. Ohio is a continual work in progress.

Cleveland is the blue horse, a lover of Buckeye football, a city of trains and an empty downtown. Cleveland is a sorely unimpressive lakeside developer with stains of unemployment and unfulfilled projects. But, like the rest of the nation today, Cleveland is a site of promise. I saw it yesterday in a mother who said she was an at-risk pregnant mother who couldn't walk, but showed up to volunteer to sit and make phone calls for the Obama campaign. I saw four children playing together, all different ethnicities and colors, yelling on a non-descript street, testing their knowledge of Spanish and Japanese words with one another.

Ohio, in its quiet strength of home and corn fields, is also home to a keen (buck)eye to recognize when change is needed. From Red, it turned Blue. The pundits keep calling it a traditionally Red state, but it's not. There are many activists and progressive minds in the deep "South" of Cincinnati and fighting the fight of racism in Over the Rhine as found in the NGOs of Brooklyn. There are writers of every creed, bleeding their way to be heard, just as the dreamers of San Francisco. There are fresh bakeries, vegan chefs, sidewalks of Spanglish, and local farmers as there are in the coastal cities. We are mixed. We are Purple. This is why Ohio reflects the nation. There are skyscrapers in the distance of the harvest and the hues of yellow, orange, and red as the sun sets drops a majestic background of peace and negotiation between farming fathers and scholarly daughters.

There may not be an Empire State building, or even a red carpet invitation with a Midwestern zip code, but I can promise you this of Ohio: it always tells the truth, unabashedly, of where it stands. And I may not like it. I may rip the Ten Commandments billboards down and curse the SUV drivers roaming the flat roads, but Ohio reveals all the superficial and best parts of our journey.

I wondered last night, on the couch with Adonis, where I'd rather be in witnessing the first Black president win the general election. We contemplated a five hour drive to Grant Park or maybe even D.C. But when I saw the pundits claim Ohio blue, I smiled in the way I have when I reconciled stark differences with an old friend. Humbled, eager, and ready, I've reached a cheesy reconciliation with my state and realized that I do not belong in a permanent shade of blue region. That would be erasing my years as a pro-life marcher, the years of exploring Catholic dogma, the Clinton tears, and my controversial Bush vote of 2000. I don't want to erase my Red. It's changed, but it's still me.

The color Purple has long been my favorite. And today, especially, I regard the mix of the two as I watch my beloved state hand the election to Barack Obama with the grumbling and rejoicing that can only be heard in the neighborhoods of mixed identities, my home, my state, Ohio.


President Elect Barack Obama

Alright folks,

Let's get to work.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Letter #1

Dear Veronica,

Someday you'll read this and I hope that when you do, my words will make no sense at all. I hope that you actually throw your head back in such laughter that I even got emotionally invested in this moment because in the time that you absorb my words, that period will have come to pass a mentality of such openness and progression, this letter is filed archaic.

You're only an image in my mind, a daughter who I hope to meet in the future. I think of you often in when I am working for a better place or even making a lousy choice. In either instance, I wonder how my actions will affect you.

Today is November 4, 2008 and these hours rest on the anxious ballots across the United States as we elect a new leader of our nation. You'll read in history books that all sorts of records were broken - even now, before I know who has won the general election - so much has transpired that has changed the face of this nation and so much is still going to change in the years before you and I officially meet.

You come from a family who supports two parties - Republicans and Democrats - which is why Sunday dinners always last too long with your cousins and Titas and Titos. We have much to discuss.

It's important to me for you to know why this day is so important. For eight years, I've been changing my mind. I've been looking for the best and ideal political environment and I now realize that not only is that never going to happen, but that's not what I should be living for. It's not the end result of perfection or the ideal outcome I'm looking for, what matters most is what I did in these years to make this place better for you.

I want you to know that I voted today. I voted for a presidential candidate for my third election and I voted Democrat. I've voted Republican before, even identified as such. Voting Democratic, however, is not as significant as the lessons I've learned about laws, infrastructure and the reality of how the system works in this country and around the world. If you are my daughter, most likely, you will be a daughter of privilege. You will be a person of education, services, healthcare, and choices. With these options, you must apply yourself and learn for yourself how this world will work for those around you. Learning for myself of how this world works changed the way I live, the way I vote, the way I love.

This day, I witnessed an excitement in every kind of person imaginable. I witnessed a respect between folks of difference, across race and party lines. It was the first day of a political event that I felt a part of, not a spectator. Of every ethnicity, religion, ability, I saw people working the voting booths. Pregnant women, men in business suits, the elderly in wheelchairs, families with strollers - nearly everyone showed up today.

And so, my dear, you continue to remain a dream for me. A bright dream which keeps me walking and serving those around me, hoping someday, that you will do the same. And you will tell me funny stories of the people you met on election day. I will tell you the day I worked for the first black president of the Unites States of America and by then you will wonder what the hell the big damn deal was in 2008.

Your father and I bought a bottle of champagne and splurged on a package of gourmet cheese. Your father loves George Stephanopoulos and I love anyone but the Fox anchors. We hope that is one of those nights we'll remember the rest of our lives and bore you to tears about what we witnessed and lived through.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Eve


Champagne is in the fridge.

My broken heart has healed from 2004.  

I'm ready for change.