Being Female, Being Black: What Switching Places Demonstrates

Debbie says:

Anyone who has given any thought to privilege and oppression knows that the situation of a black man in America is different from the situation of a white woman. However, trying to examine that difference carefully can be … difficult. Comparisons of privilege all too often turn into size wars, “mine is worse than yours” arguments, and other oversimplifications.

That’s one reason why I was so taken by “Lost Voices,” a slam poetry performance in which Darius Simpson and Scout Bostley of Eastern Michigan University found a unique way to talk about their own experience of oppression … by telling each other’s stories.

For a poetry slam challenge at Virginia Commonwealth University, they created a joint piece in which they illuminate their personal experience of oppression by switching their spots at the microphones … and changing voices when they make the switch.

The rhythm of individual stories and reactions in unison is a stunning demonstration of the ways in which our experience of oppression is simultaneously similar and different, familiar and alien. In three short minutes, Simpson and Bostley make a point which would be difficult to convey in an entire class session or workshop … and they provide a memorable experience which will help us remember what we learned.

Thanks to FaithGardner at Daily Kos for the pointer.

Queer Celebration

Laurie says:

It seemed right today both in commemoration of gay marriage and to celebrate the ecstatic Pride Day in San Francisco, to show these Queer Icons by photographer Gabriel García Román.

He says about one of his photographs:  The following images are a collaboration between myself and a QTPOC poet/spoken word artist. I took their portrait and gave them a packet that included a copy of their portrait, a sharpie and tracing paper and asked them to hand write some of their work around their portrait. The text was completely up to them.

I took that tracing paper, created a screen and screen printed that around the one of a kind print…

The originality with which he combines collage and photography is striking.  I particularly admire the collaborative quality and that the he includes the work of the writers and poets he photographs as they would like it expressed.

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Julissa Rodriguez is a poet and tattoo artist from the Bronx, NY.  Her family is from the Dominican Republic.

Román says: The subjects in the series are drawn from many aspects of the gender and queer spectrum, elevating an image of a population that’s generally under-represented in the art world. The series references the portraiture styles of Renaissance, Flemish and Christian Orthodox paintings, while illuminating contemporary figures, which are multi-dimensional, powerful, and proud. The subjects in Queer Icons are people of color, who maintain separate, individual identities within the queer community.  These explorations of the edges of genders take place in the nuances of the contemporary urban world.  A simple eye shape, an angle of a mouth, the tilt of the head – indicate a queering of conventional forms and roles.

… the outsiders portrayed are repositioned as central to narrative, like saints – inherently worthy of attention, emulation, and storytelling.

Much like traditional religious paintings conferred a sense of safety, calm and meditation into a home, the works in this series aspire to a similar sense of refuge, drawn from the inner grace of the subjects out onto a world that might not always be safe

From code switch: The photo series, called “Queer Icons” evokes the colorful, religious artwork that Roman grew up with. “Because I grew up Catholic in a Mexican community in Chicago, my first introduction to art was religious art,” he says.

He was particularly inspired by the fresco paintings of haloed saints that decorated the walls of his neighborhood church. “I’ve always thought of the halo as something very powerful — it’s like a badge of nobility,” he says.

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Jahmal Golden is a poet and a student at The New School.

And because Roman’s subjects are activists and artists who do good for the community, “I wanted to represent them as saints,” he says.

He also wanted to capture their pride and their strength. “I wanted them to be warriors — that’s why a lot of them are looking straight at the camera, saying ‘Here I am, and I’m not going to hide.'”

Some of the images feature poems or prose, written by the subject of the portraits. Roman uses the silkscreen printing method to layer text and photograph with color and pattern.

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Bakar Wilson is a poet and an adjunct professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

…Like many of the people he has photographed, Roman, 41, says he often grapples with his identity. He moved with his family from Zacatecas, Mexico to the US when he was two years old, and they were undocumented until he was 15. “I grew up in the states always being reminded that I was Mexican,” he says. “When I finally went to Mexico for the first time, when I was 31, everyone there was like ‘You’re not Mexican — you’re American.’ “

These images play with feelings of not belonging, and, above all, being seen.

Sonia Guiñansaca (below) is an undocumented poet and community organizer who was born in Ecuador and has been raised in Harlem since age five. She is a board member at NYSYLC, a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of undocumented youth.

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Today you were reminded that you are not “queer” enough, not “artistic” enough, not “migrant” enough…

Today you cry. Today you write. Today you make love to your queer partner.

Today, all femmed out you disrupt the gaze. Today you love and not just survive!