Archives

Holding the door open

I am a woman of patience. Too much patience, I sometimes think, but in my line of work, it is essential. That being said, I grapple with my tendency to be mild with folks, even as they work my last nerve.  I can occasionally channel my #innermongoose.(A fearless favorite) On a day to day basis, I tend to keep my thoughts to myself.

Since Election Night, I have experienced many emotions. Grief is a messy process and it is different for everyone.
tumblr_nm31tclyky1rlob7vo1_500

Through social media, well-meaning friends and  acquaintances have posted, either in their own words or via shared images and articles, that it’s time for everyone to move on.  I have been asked to choose love, to hug more, to open doors for strangers, and even to pray for the president-elect.  I have been questioned about love for my country, regard for unborn children, and even the way I am parenting my child through this crisis.  And, sabes que, I have had enough.  Ya me tienen harta. Tu no me mandas!

hflcyu

Not you, not anyone, other than the Lord and sometimes my mama or daddy.  Tu quien eres?
meme-paquita-barrio_890621310_8933454_628x640

Tu no me mandas.
200_s

I can cry, rant, curse, laugh, and react in any way I want. I can take to the streets in protest. I can declare the president-elect #NotmyPresident.  If you don’t like what I have to say or do, GTFO.  Vete. Largate. Borrate.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I am done.

1336532462359_793827

This morning, I unfollowed a fellow blogger. She’s likable and well-spoken.  I respect her enough to head out on my way. She’s entitled to her opinions. She is standing strong in them.  So am I. There’s nothing to be gained by trying to change her mind and sharing my judgments with her.  She will believe as she does. I will believe as I do.  With one difference. She has a privilege I do not.  It’s easy to tell people how they should be feeling and acting when it’s safe for you to do so.  The most dangerous of the president-elect’s followers won’t attack her.  While I can exit stage left on any conversation that makes me uncomfortable, I can’t escape reality.

In the days, weeks, months, and years to come, I have to be prepared for the worst that could happen. I have to arm (yes, I said “arm”) my only child with the knowledge and skills to grow up into an empowered woman of color. (Mothering a warrior)These are our lives.  These are our rights. If you can’t understand or respect that, then let’s wish each other well.

Beyond bling: the politics of Carnavalesco costuming

For those of you who think feathers, beads, and bright colors when Carnaval costumes are mentioned, you are only getting about 15% of the experience. In my contingent, Oakland’s SambaFunk, our yearly theme has current political undertones and overtones. The theme is visually presented through graphic art, discussed in class to explain the choreographies to guide our movements, and pondered for those of us who want to take a more method acting approach to our characters.  Heady stuff if you were expecting that we simply focus on shaking our tail feathers.  And shake we do but always with a message.  This year, however, the villains in the epic battle between good and evil would be portrayed by the dancers.  Given all the time I have spent analyzing and strategizing about the real villains I have known in my personal life(When you have to go bad )as well as the real-life bad guys aiming for increased power, I was immediately drawn to playing a Janker.
A Janker is a cross between Batman’s Joker and a banker.
Jack Nicholson’s Joker was the inspiration for our characters
Jankers are the international(and domestic) bankers who have exploited communities for their own personal gain. They are currently above the law but the whole point of our presentation this year was that Jankers could be brought to justice.  In my mind, I began to think about Jankers in popular culture.
Damn Jankers
I also thought about an individual I know who I feel has demonstrated the manipulative and self-aggrandizing tendencies of a Janker. My character was created.
With character in process, it was time to focus on costuming.  Costuming is hands-on work. While seamstresses may sew some pieces of the costume, dancers must individualize and “bling” their costume.  As a “freshman” in my samba school, I was clueless about this process. I didn’t help with costume construction and only attended one “blinging” party. When I arrived on Carnaval morning, I realized how generic my costume looked beside others.  As with Carnaval makeup, the Carnaval costume can express character and theme. Four seasons later, I knew to be purposeful in finishing my Carnaval look.
The Janker colors were green, royal purple, and iridescent or clear. I was responsible for decorating my cane, top hat, vest, and pants.  After a tedious process in which M and I sorted several bags of acrylic gems by color, shape, and size, I chose specific gem styles to use in varying patterns.  I chose green circles to represent global domination.
Clear and irisdescent gems would represent wealth as in diamonds. Purple and green gems would literally represent jewels like emeralds and amethysts. The teardrop became my symbol of choice.
Top of my top hat
Back of my top hat reveals the purpose of a Janker
Purple rain of tears
What does that mirror reveal?
Striping on pants
As a result of Janker thievery and trickery, many have shed tears of anger, grief, and hopelessness.  So teardrops are the shape you see all over my costume.  I even placed teardrops near my eyes as part of this year’s makeup.

So while Jankers  as characters and symbols are bad, we sure did look good.

2016 Jankers: Making bad look good
Janker Dance at Oakland Carnival 2016

As I have stated before, Carnaval is a creative process that has allowed me opportunities to grapple with experiences and thoughts that are challenging in a way that is ultimately empowering.  Viva Carnaval!

The resurgence of redneckery

“What kind of redneckery is this? “ The question sprung from my lips without much forethought. It was Shark Week and rather than focusing on the gargantuan great whites or terrifying tigers, an entire special, “Voodoo Sharks” placed the spotlight on Blimp, the portly shark hunter, his relatives, and their country ways. Blimp was later featured on the Shark Week talk show, “Shark after Dark,” doing his bizarre Shrimp Dance.  Hollywood has gone south; even the Discovery Channel is milking this pop culture trend for ratings.
While I confess to never watching Honey Boo-Boo, our household is one of millions that are tuning in to the new Beverly Hillbillies. We laugh at the antics of those rascally (and yes, somewhat endearing) Robertsons on the reality hit Duck Dynasty; we recently watched their appearance on Dr. Oz. Still, as more and more reality shows about Southern folks hit the airwaves, I wonder why.  Why now?
I’m no history buff but reading Howard Zinn as a high school junior has made me question historical events, and pop culture in particular, consistently over the years.  Back in the 1920s, usually remembered for the Jazz Age, there was a resurgence of interest in the Ku Klux Klan. The Reconstruction-era hate group was cast as the heroes in the 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, a movie so popular that President Woodrow Wilson held a screening at the White House. White farmers and working class people felt threatened and disenfranchised by the rise of cities, the growing elite and their culture of glitz and glamour, increasing immigration, and the growing migration of African Americans to the cities.  The movie’s glorification of Southern history, however divisive and racially inflammatory, struck a chord. The Ku Klux Klan began to recruit new members across many states and grew so popular as to host two separate marches to Capitol Hill in 1925 and 1926. When people get scared, they get scary.
We are living at a time of great social and economic change. We are led by a black President. Latinos make up the growing majority of many states. Gay couples can marry.  Even the Pope is calling for a new open-mindedness on the issues of homosexuality and abortion. But for every person who is celebrating these milestones, there is likely someone who feels alienated, undermined, and frightened about the place they hold in society now and in the future. Redneck reality shows about good old boys hearken back to someone’s good old days.  I’m not claiming Bravo will debut a reality show about the Klan’s Grand Cyclops anytime soon; I’m arguing that these shows are appealing for many reasons, including the way they could assuage fears about our changing America.
Pop culture does not merely entertain; it reveals our values, our morals, our doubts. I have the right to enjoy—and question.

History is made

The 44th President was elected by the people yesterday. Hundreds of thousands voted for the first time ever or the first time in a long time. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation I’m experiencing but I’m still stunned. Haven’t shed a tear or jumped for joy. But I’m filled with hope, my old friend with feathers, reawakened the way it was piqued on a lovely spring day in downtown Oakland when the senator from Illinois spoke to a standing only crowd. I thought to myself, he’ll be president, even if my cynicism and experience told me it couldn’t be.

I used to think the same thing about becoming a mom.

Miracles happen. They’re born every day.

Maybe Monday isnt all bad

Gay Sex in the 70s
Movie review

Sundance Channel features documentaries all day Monday so I caught this 2005 film. Heartfelt, honest, funny, and poignant, this doc features interviews with surviving scenesters, activists, and artists as they reminisce on the days before AIDS. Stills and vintage video clips, all set to an edgy disco beat, take us back to the culture and politics of the decade but the focus on individuals, and therefore the personal, never wavers.

Stocking up on audacity

La vita e bella.

There’s nothing like sunshine in the East Bay. I know the East Bay(at least the one I live in and love) is about as glam as Jersey but there’s nothing like being among cool folks when the temps are in the 70s and the cielo is as azul with possibility. I’m on a high from the Barack Obama rally at City Hall in the Town, where the beautiful and righteous people of Oakland gathered to hear the brother from the Midwest tell us about his hopes and plans. I love me some political rallies but most of all, I love me some good vibes and people of color showing each other love.

The morning began gray and foggy, the first like that in weeks. Wouldn’t you know? I woke up feeling rejuvenated. Never mind that I spent my Friday night in a school gym(I’m supposed to be trying to get unstuck from my 15-year-old self and there I am again) watching the kiddies go dumb and trying to keep dumbass Porky(the jackass formerly known as San Jose before I realized he was married and disgusting) off me. True, I had to suspend three of my favorites, including one of the Four Horsemen(more on them in a future blog), War, who always flirts with me when I see him. Yes, my glands were swollen and my throat began to ache. I got home, tossed back some grapefruit-flavored Airborne, and slept for an amazing seven hours. Then it’s up to read a new chapter in my cognitive behavior therapy workbook, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and make the bed. So, despite the clouds outside, I felt ready to smile at the world.

And smile I did. I cleaned the newly empty guest room. I went to the supermarket and marveled at the fact that I haven’t cooked a meal for myself in over a month. (Truly a sign that something is wrong because cooking is one of my passions.) I visited the Hayward Farmer’s Market for the first time in several months. I sought out the Raza farmers, gave my salutations in Spanish, before walking through downtown saying hi to everyone I passed on the street. Then it was off to Trader Joe’s before I rushed to Mom’s to download my Obama rally e-ticket.

I love that Obama’s theme is hope. Hope has always been essential to my personality, career, and existence. Hope is my familiar friend with feathers. Hope sweeps up the broken crockery and puts away the knives. Hope drives to the hospital and opens its heart and mind. Hope takes a deep breath and allows itself to be open to the universe. Hope hoots and hollers for a potential president. Hope lives.