Monday, December 8, 2014

Caring versus Curing

"We have to design a health delivery system by actually talking to people and asking, 'What would make this service better for you?' As soon as you start asking, you get a flood of answers."
~ Paul Farmer

As the semester comes to a close, I have been thinking a lot about women’s health. Specifically, women who are going through or have gone through cancer treatments. My curiosity surrounding this topic is rooted in my mom’s diagnosis with cancer and her experience through her diagnosis, treatment, and survival of ovarian/uterine cancer. My interest in women’s health and cancer has recently manifested into a research paper I am currently writing for my anthropology gender and culture class.

For my project, I interviewed various women, including my mother, and analyzed blog post of women who have been diagnosed with different types of cancers. I have used my project to provide a space where these women can ‘talk back’ to their experiences with the United States’ medical system. I have found that through these women’s experiences, their voices are often silenced by their doctors and the medicalization of their female bodies. These women expressed how they have never really had the opportunity to reflect on their experiences on an emotional level. This lack of reflection is due to the fact that their lives as cancer patients have been primarily focused on ‘curing’ them of the disease rather than ‘caring’ for themselves on a more holistic level.

These women’s narratives and their feelings of not being able to be cared for through their diagnosis allowed me to connect ideas from my women, health and medicine class, in which I am learning about the sociology side of medicine. The stories these women told highlighted various flaws in our medical system, which allows bodies, especially women’s bodies, to be medicalized. This process of medicalization manifested for these women through the way they perceived their bodies as not female due to mastectomies, hysterectomies, hair loss, fatigue, and many other adverse side effects these women experienced.

The personal narratives I heard made my question our health care system as a whole and how we, as a society, treat women with cancer. How do we create a health system that places more importance on care versus cure? How do we care for these women, and others affected by illness, after they are cured of this disease? What work must be done?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Black Lives Matter: My Silence Will Not Protect Me

"Your silence will not protect you."-Audre Lorde

Today I woke up overwhelmed by the knowledge that I had to write a racial identity essay, a foundations of political thought essay, a blog entry, a case study and so much more.  I grew concerned about my final grades that I decided to check out the new program, DegreeWorks, from the registrar and look at my degree audit. I calculated the gpa I would need to get into a decent masters programs over four times. Most of the masters programs I want are in London. My top choices required a 3.3 and I unfortunately have less than that with only three semesters left to bring my gpa up. I worry constantly over my ability to succeed after undergraduate university. I paced in my room walking back and forth between the bathroom and my room to take cold medication. I checked my email to find a response from advisor about a meeting we had set up for 12:30 today (thursday). She asked me if I perhaps wanted to switch times because of the die in at 12 in the Coop. I switched my time to 7 in the morning on friday knowing that I likely would not participate in the die in. And then, I felt utter shame.
I began justifying my action to not participate by saying that I have a lot of work and life has to go on after college. Indeed, it should or it ought to right? Later, as I strolled into work at women’s studies, I walk into a conversation between four students discussing how people act like they are so down for the cause, but aren’t willing to do anything to make things change. One student challenged my idea of “life goes on afterwards,”  because I had not asked myself whose life exactly goes on.  By saying that life goes on, I not only imply that the lives of the unarmed black people killed don’t matter, I also assert that the war brewing in this country is not real.  It is all too real. Disturbingly real. To suggest otherwise is to practice complicity. I am being complicit. That hurts, and yet I have to be honest with myself and reflect why.
I can’t remember the last time I had an uncritical conversation about life not concerning some overlap of race and gender. My blackness informs all my experiences and I bring it with me wherever I go. Some people may think I can just drop it by the wayside. To be honest,  I have tried. Perhaps my lack of participation in the die in and my bandwagon enthusiasm about activism on this campus is my act of trying to not fully take on the anger and the pain and the breaking and shattering reality.
I sought advice from someone I admire and feel gives me guidance. I asked hir “what does it mean that I’m not there?” Of course, only I can answer that question. I thought perhaps I had just given up because all the people who want to be there and are with the cause will be there or have shown their support in some other way. Then ze asked “ Do you feel you have enough privilege to give up?” The sorry thing is I probably do have the privilege as a middle class black woman from the suburbs to give up now until its me lying on the ground in my own blood filling cracks and crevices in the pavement or perhaps my face will be purple from being brutally strangled to death and taking every last breath that somehow proved my existence.
Perhaps I feel like the danger isn’t imminent enough. Perhaps I still hold out hope for other people on the sidelines to pick up my cross for me. Perhaps I am waiting for my fears to be proven wrong. In no way do I want to assert that any protest or the die in is an overreaction. It is the precise reaction. I simply question why my feet don’t move. Why am I not moved? I honestly think I am afraid that once I step into reality and see the truth in the mirror, I will have to let go of any hope for control. I think I’m afraid. No, I am terrified that the horrors of the videos on lynching, burning, and hosing of black bodies to erase our existence will not be the past but sitting on my doorstep.

I think people never thought the day would come when black people and people of color who stand in solidarity would pull themselves from the white blinding abyss to see the truth and speak truth. I think people, myself included, were not expecting that the simple life they have been living would be DISRUPTED AND DESTROYED. And the anticipation ought to unite and yet it terrifies us because now the utter terror that representations of whiteness, white supremacy, and white power we have walked around with for centuries are being fought against with a vengeance. I don’t know how much I am included in this “they,” but they perhaps aren’t ready for war. Perhaps people think it’s not fair that they should be scared of the black and brown bodies, of black power, of yellow peril, but we should.  We should feel terrified that complicity is unacceptable. Some people ought to be prepared to die while others will die regardless of their choices.

I think the reason I’m not out there is because I thought that by having the critical conversations I have with my friends about race, gender, sexuality and systems and institutions of power was enough to give me freedom within the system not recognizing that I will never know freedom as long as the system exist. As much as I talk about setting the system on fire, I never thought that I would actually have to. I think that I had this idea that I had found a way to “navigate” spaces by talking about the violence done to my psyche in the comfort of a group that understands this struggle of black personhood. And yet, here I am again letting whiteness constitute what my freedom looks like by not causing disruption, by being civil. I always thought I was not afraid to terrify, antagonize, upset, disrupt, and destroy the lives of people who don’t care for my existence, but I am because of just that. “That” being, the feeling I imagine I will surely bawl over when I lie on the ground as a lifeless black body and my classmates and peers step over my body basically shouting back at me that black lives don’t matter. I don’t want to see the complicity because then I would have to witness my hope incinerated by the fact that people indeed believe that black lives don’t matter; therefore, I do not matter. I would have to see the truth that people think of me as the black, steaming, vapid shit of the earth that does not deserve to breathe. I would have to go back to that place of hating my blackness, hating this life, and fighting the utter rage that honestly no one on this campus or in this world has ever seen. People get too scared when black and bodies are “aggressive.” You don’t know aggressive. You don’t know hostile.

People think that black people are making assumptions about all white people. If I were in fact making assumptions about all white people, then I wouldn’t be disappointed. I would not have hope. I would not stride into class everyday thinking that white people will change and that I can make a difference with the knowledge I learn. Perhaps it’s time I truly lose hope.
Writing this, I understand what it means for the post to come from a black body. By default it will be approached with caution.  People will assume that I am simply unreasonable, have corrupted morals, or don’t know all the facts. People will look for an excuse to fall back or point to me to say “ well this black woman doesn't agree with you raging, rioting lunatics so you’re wrong,” and those people will be rudely awakened and disappointed as they read each line. I know that if this were written by a white person, it would begin to be approached as the voice of reason. Then by the end, people would have written it off as a corrupted mind influenced by “the dangers of darkness.” I fear I will lose my job. I fear that I will get a call from my dean, saying that I have caused disruption and my free speech has limits. It is unbelievable but so real that those are risks I take for speaking out against injustice.

Perhaps people may say “just don’t take those risks” and don’t feel that way but do you think I want to feel like this? Like the shit of the earth? You think I don’t want to grow a thicker skin and not understand that to grow a thicker skin is to try to ignore the problem and to ignore the fact that people who say grow a thicker skin have the privilege of being in a world where people love and value them. You think I want this war? Point me to a viable legal channel not laced with bias, that has not disappointed me, that isn’t lined with bureaucracy, that does not perpetuate the problem. I don’t want this but what other choice do I have?

Lastly, if at any time you felt threatened by the “You” in this post, you should ask yourself why instead of saying that I’m antagonizing the people who would otherwise agree. Why are you afraid? And who and what is truly terrifying?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Practicing Feminism

How do I define feminism? How do I practice feminism?
My  working definition of feminism is that of bell hooks’ as “the eradication of all forms of oppressions which are not only limited to sexism, classism, racism…“

The way I practice feminism different daily depending on the space and place. At Colgate, I practice being a feminist by partaking and creating spaces to have conversations whose missions are to challenge the power hierarchies that exist on Colgate campus. The main space for these conversations is the Women Studies Department lounge through brown bags series, a feminist group called (Sisters of the Round Table)SORT and an LGBTQ and allies group called Advocates weekly meetings. Regardless of the topic at hand, these events attempt to create conversation to expand our understanding of the construction of gender roles, the effect of living in a capitalist society and how race, and class functions on this campus.  In SORT, one of the ways in which I practice my feminism is being conscious of the language that we use in the during these meetings spaces , of who is not part of the conversations and finding a way to further change our collective understanding of what it means being a feminist group on campus. Similar to SORT, in Advocates, I am oftentimes aware of the bodies that are not part of the conversation therefore I attempt to create a space to challenge our own understanding by looking at our intersectional identities. Therefore, I practice my feminism by engaging in conversations with whose goals are to create safe spaces to discuss and challenge the heteronormative, sexist, classist, racist, and privilege campus in which we live. Yet the most important ways I practice feminism is taking these conversations from these meetings to the classrooms and to my friends groups. Therefore, for me my practice of feminism encompasses the work of the collective and of the individual in order to eradicate all of forms of oppressions.  

-Stephanie Nabine

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Gift of Self Love

This week's brown bag focused on how students, professors, faculty, and staff practice self-love and self-care in their lives. The panel included Professor Rios, Professor Loe, Professor Page, Professor Benson, Dawn Lafrance and Emily Khazi. The brown bag began with each panelist describing what they see as self love and how they themselves find a sense of self love. Some agreed, that for them, self love is found with other people and through communities. In order to achieve self love, they felt that it needed to complicate the notion of self by seeking self love with others. Additionally, a panelist noted how this process of self love is not static and needs constant introspection. The audience had a chance to share the ways they practiced self love, which included exercise, listening to music, the outdoors, and cleaning. The panelist reserved the last few minutes of the brown bag to engage the audience in ways they practice self-love, which included a walk outdoors, breathing exercises, card writing, massage/heat therapy, and Reiki. I had the chance to participate in the Reiki session which was a very spiritual session. Overall, I think there was an overarching message that self love and self care is necessary within an individual's life, especially here at Colgate. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

What is solidarity?

For the past weeks, my mind has been consumed with the idea of solidarity and what it truly means within movements for social change, and more specifically groups of marginalized backgrounds on Colgate's campus who are fighting for equity. The online definition of solidarity is as follows: the unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest. Essentially solidarity is defined as mutual support within a group. However, I get stuck on the word support, especially because the word cannot be universally defined and looks extremely different given the group and context of the individuals. I have spent this past semester reading the work of Lorde, Moraga, hooks, Anzaldúa, Davis, and many many more feminist writers, which has pushed me to think of what solidarity could look like amongst groups who are different.  

To me solidarity does in fact mean support, but more specifically support that acknowledges difference, validates the individual experience and realizes how these experiences are interconnected within a larger systemic conversation (white supremacy) in which we are all implicatedWe must moved beyond "I hear you," "I see you" or I'll send an email to my members about your event and ask the hard questions that we fear will tear us even further a part. Lorde states in The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House that "difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of difference strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters." Merely acknowledging one another is not enough, in my opinion, and further creates a larger gap between one another.

So then my question because how can organizatons like Black Student Union, Latin American Student Organization, Sisters of the Round Table, Brothers, Advocates, Organization of Asian Sisters in Solidarity, Colgate International Community, African Student Union, Anti-Racism Coalition, Hawaii Club, Korean Cultural Association, Chinese Interest Association, and so on come together to enact change on this campus? I understand the importance of our organizations and the spaces that these pockets of hope, healing, and love provide but it worries me as a student leader and marginalized identity that we (excuse my generalization) do not understand each others struggles, concerns, and histories especially in the context of Colgate. I am also aware that we are students with lives and have to perform academically, but I cannot help but feel that idea that we must pick our battles is constructed within the white racial frame as well. Why is that I have to chose between my identity as a women, Latina, and feminist? Why is it that we have to teach our campus about our identities, that we have to do everything for our clubs to have a presence on this campus, why is it we have to fight to be seen, and especially why is it that this campus does not support us? Again, the burden is placed on us, marginalized identities, to make a space for ourselves, to educate the larger community about our struggles, strengths and histories. 

But to bring it back home and leave the idea of teaching the majority about our existence for another conversation, I simply don't buy it. I think we can fight for it all. Maybe I am too optimistic but I have witnessed it. I have seen individuals who are so different come together to fight against one thing despite their own experiences and opinions to make a place they love better and equitable.

Solidarity to me looks like love. It looks like emotion whether it be happiness or sadness. It looks like that moment when you gaze into someone's eyes and they actually feel you. It looks like tears and laughter. It looks critical and conscious. It is political and personal.  And most importantly it looks like an agreement that I cannot fight this without you. I end this post with another line from Lorde's piece that summarizes my thoughts on solidarity, "in our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower."


Celebrating 20 Years of the Center for Women's Studies

This Tuesday’s Brown Bag was a reflection of the history of Women’s Studies and the Center for Women’s Studies at Colgate. All six interns created original Stand and Speak pieces on specific topics pertaining to the history of women’s studies at Colgate. Some of these included Title IX, the creation of the Women’s Studies major and minor, and the women’s resource center.  While doing research in preparation for this presentation, I found it incredibly frustrating to realize how much of the same issues pertain to the Colgate campus in 2014. However, meeting past women Colgate professors at the symposium brought a bit more nuance to my understanding of their experience. For example, my topic of coeducation and co-curriculum and some of the concerns that I found in the archives were further explained. The women on the panel discussed their difficulty acclimating to the campus culture and the pushback they were met with as professors. are The discussions which I had really showed me how much progress has been made. In the archives, women students spoke of feeling like they need to represent the views of all women in the classroom. This feeling of isolation is still relevant today for students who's experience . It makes for a less safe learning environment. In 1986, a Committee on Coeducation and Co-curriculum was created as a review of the past four years of the WMST program. The questionnaire included shared student perspectives on housing, academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. On the topic of academic life at Colgate, women professors and advisors were perceived as being more open and available for counselling. Women were not as satisfied with their experience as their male peers. I think the questionnaire was point to some sort of balance in equity if the needs of women. I think this is still relevant today. The idea of needing to represent the voice of all women in the classroom is something that students of color deal with daily.

 On the topic of coeducation and curriculum, student dissatisfaction with a male dominated campus climate making it difficult to learn was a reoccurring theme. While the earlier committee transcripts and maroon news articles reflected some of the needs of women students, the official proposal for the program written in 1989 elequently explains the need for a Women’s Studies program. “The Women’s Studies program is built on the assumption that women’s experiences are sufficiently different from men’s past experiences. Both must be fully recognized and acknowledged if we are to fully understand human experience.” As a WMST minor, it’s interesting to see the reasons for the inception of the program and why they are still relevant today. I'm grateful to be a part of this community and think it creates a culture that is incredibly important to the creation of a better learning environment. In short, studying history and culture from a women’s perspective is important as is the need to re-examine traditional concepts so that more voices are included. Attending this weekend’s celebration of 20 years of the center further drove home this idea. While talking to Wanda Warren Berry, one of the first women professors to teach at Colgate in 1962, she explained the deep strides she made to become a full time tenured professor, and the decision to eventually leave Colgate. Being part of discussions on the change in departments and the different values given to programs and departments was also interesting. I think one of the most significant things which I learned from the Brown Bag and the celebration is that change is incredibly slow and hard to recognize. Having forty years of distance between the experiences of the women I read about and who’s stories I listened to provided much needed perspective. As a person who has just five weeks left on the campus, it’s becoming more and more apparent that this distance is very much needed. I can’t imagine how much Colgate will change for the better in the next twenty years. I really appreciated hearing from the past and current WMST professors this weekend. I think it really brought to life documents such as a the Committee to Reflect on Coeduation and Curriculum.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Feminism in Africa BB

Last week, Colgate students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Colgate center for women’s studies for our weekly brown bag. This week’s topic was Feminism in Africa.  This brown bag truly blew my mind. It made me question how feminism, gender relations, and activism is constructed in different places.
           One point brought up by our primary speaker, Professor Mary Moran, is that oftentimes, “feminism” is viewed as a white and western idea. Indeed, much of feminist history is rooted in the activism of middle-class white women. At one point it was also very exclusionary practices that did not allow for the intersections of class, race, sexuality, and gender. With that in mind, feminism has grown in its inclusivity and conceptualization, but most of it is still grounded in a western context and a western conceptualization of feminism and gender. For example, there are assumptions that gender relations as far as a man/woman dichotomy (binary) work the same and lead many and scholars to jump to conclusion that root of all things not consider “feminist is patriarchy. Professor Moran posed this idea that in fact, gender relations are necessarily based on gender expression or sex as know or not in it is entire, but rather familial relations the role of wife/husband plays a large role. It is very possible that woman per se could be in the role of husband. The Husband/wife denote power relations but not necessarily gender, as I understood. Furthermore, it it is very possible that sisters, aunts, and mothers have more power in certain instance sand differs depending on the realm of conversation like public sphere vs. private sphere.
           Another idea that Professor Moran touched upon is the theme of “Feminism as Imperialism.”  When trying to show solidarity with siblings abroad, western feminists or perhaps simply feminist who don’t live in the target areas, over-sensationalize issues that may be seen as important but no more problematic or controversial than issues herein the U.S. For example, many feminist organizations have targeted the idea of gender based violence, in particular, vaginal mutiliation. According to professor Moran, although this is a very important issue, some not all, but some see that as an equivalent how western feminist view plastic surgery.
    Transnational feminism and conflicting narratives should be the standard. There are many paths and ways to do feminism and it is time many of educate ourselves we can best contribute to conversation of solidarity when conceptions of feminism and the issues feminism addresses are very different.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

After Gaza

With Shimon Peres just leaving, I am brought back to the After Gaza event that happened weeks ago but still holds so much relevance.

On October 3rd, Colgate University students, staff and faculty joined Bayoumi Mustafa in discussing the troubled history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Mr. Mustafa began by taking the crowd back to this summer when operation Protective Edge executed by Israel took place. Unfortunately,  this operation killed mostly civilians including 505 children. Furthermore, subject to a inhumane blockade set up by both Egypt and Israel. This essentially makes Palestine( Gaza, west bank) operate more or less like a penal colony of 1.8 million people and 1.2 million refugees. Limited exports and imports are allowed into the country with an export happening Sept. 15 resulting in sweet potatoes. Sewage and powerstrips are damaged. For all these reasons, Gaza has been seen or known as the largest open-air prison in the world.
Much of the rhetoric surrounding Palestine is that the organization Hamas uses its people as a human shield and often violates ceasefire agreements, but is that the whole story? One specific piece of rhetoric refers to the unfortunate death of the young boys who were on the beach and were killed by Israeli attacks. The rhetoric in Israel and the continental U.S suggested that the boys were drawn to beach as if they were to blame for their own deaths. Rhetoric can often be misleading and requires heavy research. So get informed.

One way activists have been trying to combat the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is with #BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) rather than just a military option. Below are a few videos to educate yourself about this conflict. Often People in the U.S hear only one sides. Broadening your perspective by hearing both sides helps to form a more objective world view and more informed opinion.

The one question Bayoumi Mustafa had to ask Shimon Peres was "When is Israeli occupation of Palestine going to end?"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This Is Not a Play About Sex

Photo of TINAPAS cast

Tuesday’s Brown Bag, “This is Not a Play about Sex”, featured students who participated in this year’s performance of Christina Liu’s original play. The panel included Sofi Estay, Niall Henderson, Nick Grunden, Chantel Melendez, Carson Land, and Providence Ryan. The panel discussed their thoughts about the play and their experiences with acting out other identities other then their own. Some panelist, such as Sofi Estay, touched upon how they had a difficult time portraying their character during their performance. Sofi Estay was challenged while embodying her role as a heterosexual female who is a member of a sorority.  Though she herself identifies in this way, acting out this character made her realize that there were deeper differences she felt she had with this particular character. By trying to reconcile the differences between her character and herself, Sofi realized how affected the Colgate population is by issues surrounding sexuality. For Niall Henderson, he noted how the play allowed him to experience various intersections of race, class, and gender on Colgate’s campus, which he felt he had never had a chance to talk about until participating in TINAPAS. While the panelist all gave amazing and diverse accounts of their experience with TINAPAS, most of them seemed to agree that Liu’s play disrupted and critiqued Colgate students’ experiences with sex and sexuality on this campus.
            Another amazing part of this brown bag was the open discussion that audience members got to take apart in. The audience expressed their views on the play and spoke to aspects of the play that surprised them, that confused them, and that they thought were missing.  Some voiced how they wished that there were more trans identified identities in the play and a more diverse group of monologues. Emily Hawkins noted at the end of the brown bag how she plans on expanding on TINAPAS by interviewing more students in order to further Christina’s work.

-Sylvie Lauzon

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kenyon Farrow at Colgate

On Wednesday October 8th , Advocates hosted organizer,communications strategist and writer on issues at the intersection of HIV/AIDS, prisons, and homophobia,  Kenyon Farrow as one of the speakers for the Coming Out Month in Women Studies. Farrow’s talk titled, “His talk is entitled "A Future Beyond Equality: Envisioning an LGBT Movement After Marriage,” challenged my understanding of the same sex marriage movement.

In his speech, Kenyon Farrow asked his audience who was composed of students, professors and faculty to be critical of the same sex marriage movement by deconstructing the politics surrounding it. He called us  to question who was benefitting from the movement (white gay men)  while calling attention to the untold story the lack of protection from job and housing discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  He challenged us to think about problems prevalent in the LGBTQ community and what bodies are often forgotten (people of color) in the same sex marriage movement.
Listening to Kenyon Farrow reminded me of the importance of questioning the motives of any movement, to question what is being replaced and at the expense of what and for whom. Secondly,  listening to Farrow made me realize that nothing will change until we begin to  educate ourselves on the stories that are being left out of the media. As a result, only by educating ourselves  can we begin to understand and see the bodies and voices that are not part of the conversation and this is only how true change will happen. Therefore, on campus, in our spaces we as students, faculty, professors can start educating ourselves and having dialogues about the missing bodies that our own campus, classrooms, and clubs render invisible only then can be began to comprehend and see one another.

-Noufo Nabine

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Love Liberates

This week’s brown bag, “ Remembering Dr. Maya Angelou”  hosted by panelists Professor Spring, Drea Finley and Che Hatter, paid respect to the work of Dr. Angelou. Each reflected on how she has affected them personally by altering their understanding of the world and themselves. They opened the Brown Bag by bringing Dr. Angelou’s voice into the space by playing one of her videos

Love liberates. It doesn't just hold—that's ego. Love liberates. It doesn't bind. Love says, 'I love you. I love you if you're in China. I love you if you're across town. I love you if you're in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I'd like to have your arms around me. I'd like to hear your voice in my ear. But that's not possible now, so I love you. Go.'"- Maya Angelou

Sitting in the dimmed light, I heard her, I watched her, captivated. I looked at her face, her wrinkles, her red lipstick,  the graying of her hair,  I watched. I listened to her speak of love and the way she described love made me feel something in me that said, “I too want this type of love.”
I could not help but be captivated by her voice and her eyes.  Dr. Angelou’s description of love resonated deeply with me. I understood her description of love as one that gives permission to the self and other people to be themselves. It is a love that knows no boundary in regards to race, gender, religion, class, sexuality and culture. It is a love for all. Listening to her words, I could not help but wonder how do I understand love? What is love and how do I love myself and the people in my life?

When I attempted to grasp Dr. Angelou’s understanding of love,  I could not help but think about the women in my life. My mother who always told me, “you will always be the head never the tail.” My grandmother who told me to be myself and to work for what I believe in. Finally, my aunt who always called me niece and always reminded me of how proud she is of me. These three women with their words have shown me a love that is liberating, a love that gives me permission to be myself, they freed me. Since coming to understand how Dr. Angelou’s concept of love exist in my life, I could not help but ask myself, how can I too use this concept to better understand myself and how can this alter the interactions I have with people, in the spaces I pass through at Colgate and in the World? How can I too use love to heal, to liberate? I start this journey today, to better understand myself, to love myself, to create the possibility to love others as Dr. Angelou has.  

- Noufo Nabine

Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Get Away with Being an Angry Black Woman?

         Recently, NYTimes TV critic Alessandra Stanley wrote an incredibly condescending and problematic piece on producer wonder woman Shonda Rhimes, creator of nighttime dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, How to Get Away with Murder, and of course, Scandal. When I first came across Stanley’s feature, I was initially excited to learn more about Rhimes because I believe her to be a creative genius. Unfortunately, the article fell really short at capturing Rhimes as a creative and a producer. According to Stanley, Shonda Rhimes has mastered the art of portraying the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman.  With an opening line like, “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called How to Get Away with Being an Angry Black Woman,” I was quickly disappointed. What I found upsetting about this piece, in addition to the blatant racism and perpetuation of Eurocentric ideals of beauty, was just how little research seemed to have gone into it. A cursory Wikipedia search on Rhimes shows just how complex and diverse her storylines and characters have been. To say that Rhimes has perfected the trope of the Angry Black Woman is lazy. 
          As much as has been blogged, tweeted, and said about what the character Olivia Pope does or does not do for the image of black women, it’s impossible not to recognize Rhimes’ body of work as revolutionary and admirable.  She’s changed the face of nighttime television by creating shows with characters that resonate with millions of loyal viewers. Grey’s premiered in 2005 and is now in its 11th season. It seems silly to say, but Grey’s Anatomy was an important part of my foray into adult womanhood. I saw a lot of traits in her lead characters (Cristina Yang , Meredith Grey,  Miranda Bailey), which I wanted to emulate. Despite the improbable story arcs and histrionics, it’s become an important part of our television culture.
          I think to write about Rhimes and what she has done for television without discussing the ways which she have subverted stereotypes and redefined what women can do and look like is, again, is to miss an opportunity to have a conversation not based on stereotypes. Stanley’s article has received a lot of criticism for describing Viola Davis’ character in How to Get Away with Murder as, “At 49, Annalise is sexual even sexy, in a slightly menacing way and is older, darker skinned, and less classically beautiful than Kerry Washington or Halle Berry.” I guess my question for Stanley is, how exactly is having a multidimensional black woman who is older and not of lighter complexion, a replication of the stereotypes which she talks about? Is this not exactly the opposite?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

On Conversations Surrounding the Humanitarian Crisis at the Mexico/U.S Border

                  One of the biggest new stories from this summer was on the influx of more than 59,000 Central American unaccompanied crossing the U.S/Mexico border. This new story was widely reported national news sources such as NPR, NYTimes, Time, etc. According to the United Nations High Comission on Refugees, nearly 60% of refugees say that they are fleeing violence in their home countries. I recently came across a statistic from Amnesty International which states that an estimated 60% of all Central American girls crossing the U.S/Mexico border report having been assaulted en route. This is a staggering statistic because not only because of the traumatic effects which being sexually assaulted wreaks havoc on a person physically and emotionally, but because it illuminates the urgency of the circumstance which these children are fleeing. Rape and sexual assault are the realities which they are met, I think this is evidence that no child would choose to deal with such atrocities, an argument have been made by some political pundits.
It seems as if this is now a salient topic of conversation because it can no longer be ignored. For a long time, the U.S has had a fraught relationship with Latin American countries as it relates to immigration rights and citizenship. As a naturalized American citizen, the topic of immigration policy is one which is very important to me because it’s not just policy; immigration effects the lived realities of my aunts, cousins, and nieces and nephews.  Although Haitian immigration policy is a topic which warrants its own analysis, I think it’s important to not look at immigration policy as being ahistorical. Critiquing the neoliberal effects of American foreign policy, specifically U.S intervention in Latin and Central American wars in the 20th century is something that is not done enough outside of the world of academia. For example, of the many op-eds and columns which I’ve read on this topic, very view delve into this history and how it’s affected the current economic  policies of these countries. It seems backwards to aim to fix a problem of which the causes are not examined.  I don’t think there is one answer to resolving this issue but I do think whatever proposed solutions being created should be looked at with a sober understanding of how U.S foreign policy has shaped the lived realities of these Central American children in the 21st century.
On a more cynical note, I can’t help but think that the upcoming Senate elections this November and presidential election in 2016 is coloring the ways in which politicians are choosing to respond to this topic. The Latino voting bloc is a large and continues to grow. According to the Pew Research poll,    where politicians choose to situate themselves on this topic will likely have a great effect on election outcomes. I understand that immigration and human rights abuses such as rape are not ‘sexy’ topics of conversation but nonetheless, the national conversation needs to be expanded so that the experiences of these people can be better understood. I think in doing so, we can have a more sympathetic and full view of the effects of immigration on the lived experiences of people every day.