“Man Down” – Rihanna Uncovers the Anguish of Rape Victims and Calls the Community to Accountability

Rihanna recently released a powerful video, “Man Down,” which portrays sexual violence and a lethal response.  Many writers have reflected on the politics of sexual violence against black women in the context of this video including Akiba Solomon at ColorlinesCrunk Feminist Collective, Mark Anthony Neal, and this interview with black lesbian feminist filmmaker, Aishah Shahidah Simmons.

We’re excited to republish the blog post below written by Stephanie M. Crumpton which was posted originally at her blog, Empowering Voices, Cultivating Transformation.  Reposted with permission.  -Editors

“Man Down” – Rihanna Uncovers the Anguish of Rape Victims and Calls the Community to Accountability
Stephanie M. Crumpton

My initial reaction to Rihanna’s “Man Down” video was to ask if there was some kind of connection between it and her personal experiences with violence that we were all made aware of in the 2009 coverage of her assault by a man she was dating (Chris Brown). It seems that since that experience, issues of dominance and relationship violence have become more common in her lyrics and visual representations. Consider her work on Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” a song depicting a volatile cycle of passion and pain in a violent relationship between a man and a woman who batter each other but won’t separate.

When I watched “Man Down” and then read some of the posts, especially the negative press, I wondered about whether or not some of her personal experiences AND what she observes in the lives of other women has impacted how seriously she takes her work as an artist.
I may not be far off on this one… Just days after the video was released, Rihanna called in to BET’s 106th and Park show to talk about the video.

The 23 year old artist said, “Rape is, unfortunately, happening all over the world and in our own homes, and we continue to cover it up and pretend it doesn’t happen…”
She explained, “Boys and girls feel compelled to be embarrassed about it and hide it from everyone, including their teachers, their parents and their friends. That only continues to empower the abusers.”

In several cultures, the work of the artist serves as the moral barometer of the community. In this sense, the work isn’t as much about their personal experience as it is about what’s happening on a spiritual level that shows up in our dealings with one another in the wider communal and cultural context.

I must admit that I was indeed shocked when I saw the video (the blood spilling from the back of the man’s head).

That shock was matched by sorrow and sadness over the amount of people (girls, boys, women and men) who are sexually assaulted and who spend days of their lives in anguish because there is no justice really when it comes to the trauma and pain of rape and assault – especially in a culture where people blame the victim when the concern really should be the perpetrators’ use of force.

I thought of the women who are in jail right now because they killed people they were involved with in an act of self defense after years of having been abused. Is there justice in being put in jail because you were defending your life? Do we need to take a serious look at what we mean when we use that word, “justice?”

I also thought of the story in Texas about the eleven year old who was gang raped in a trailer by 18 boys and men. When the news hit, this was the response from a woman in her community, “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.” The “this” she was likely referring to are the criminal charges (and perhaps the guilt?) of their alleged offense.

I shook my head…

What about what the girl will have to live with for the rest of her life – the mental anguish and physical scars of gang rape. How is it that the perpetrators’ needs came to outweigh the suffering of an eleven year old victim? Furthermore, what happens when girls can’t even count on adult women to side with them as they face the aftermath of gender-based violence?

So, all of this prompted me to consider Rihanna’s “Man Down” from the perspective of people who need to know that there are women who use their art to raise awareness about the reality of women’s anguish over rape, but who will also use their art and public platform to call the community to accountability over rape as a communal offense that impacts EVERYONE.

I think that’s just what Rihanna is doing, using her artistry to: 1) Unsettle the conscious and unconscious ways that society has largely accepted violence against women as a norm; 2) Flat footedly reject the idea that responsible, mature women handle their pain and rage quietly and privately. It’s as if society wants the victim to handle their pain in secret, just to protect the community from being embarrassed by what’s happening. Shame on that!

Rihanna isn’t alone. Actress Gabrielle Union took the opportunity to engage rape as a public concern, and the rage she felt when she tried to kill her rapist.

To be clear, I do not suggest that those of us who have been hurt take to the streets to shoot everyone who has hurt us. But, what I do recognize is that her video shows us what can (and does) happen when people weigh their pain against society’s acceptance of violent acts that enforce dominance: They feel the overwhelming weight of the community’s non-commitment to justice, and take matters into hands that pull triggers.

I appreciate Rihanna’s willingness to use her media presence as a medium for consciousness raising. I’m interested in her next step as an artist: I would like to see her participate in the opportunity for dialogue about rape’s rage and change in our communities that her video creates.

Stephanie M. Crumpton

Stephanie M. Crumpton is a public intellectual who writes because she knows that words matter and believes in their ability to empower voices and cultivate transformation.

Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside

Yesterday, hundreds of marchers took part in the 20th Annual Women’s Memorial March around the Downtown Eastside to remember Vancouver’s missing and murdered women. From the Annual Women’s Memorial March blog:

Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the DTES still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. Over 3000 women are known to have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since the 1970s. Two years ago, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued this statement: “Hundreds of cases involving aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in the past two decades have neither been fully investigated nor attracted priority attention.” The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is an opportunity to come together to grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to justice.

An article from straight.com reflects an analysis from Delannah Gail Bowen, an organizer of the march:

Delannah Gail Bowen, who has been helping to organize the memorial march for seven years, said the root causes of violence against women need to be considered in order to address the issue.

“For this issue to be addressed, we have to go to the heart of the problem, and the heart of the problem is the poverty, the heart of the problem is not having our voice heard,” said Bowen.

“We have to look at the whole picture. Dealing with an issue when it gets to the crisis point means that it’ll always be at the crisis point, instead of going to the root of the issue,” she added.

“Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside” is a short and powerful film that documents the 20 year history of the annual women’s memorial march for missing and murdered women in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. By focusing on the voices of women who live, love, and work in the Downtown Eastside this film debunks the sensationalism surrounding a neighbourhood deeply misunderstood, and celebrates the complex and diverse realities of women organizing for justice. (32 mins)  (For a subtitled version of this film, please visit this site.)

The film is by Alejandro Zuluaga and Harsha Walia, based on concept by the Downtown Eastside Power of Women Group. This is a not-for-profit production that is available for free distribution under creative commons license. For more information, to book a screening, or to order a DVD, please contact hwalia8@gmail.com or alejo.zuluag@gmail.com.

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the city of my desire

reposted from brownstargirl.org, with permission

__

the city of my desire
by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
11/19/2010

-for critical resistance, and after amir rabiyah and li young lee

in the city of my desire
we own this house. or we don’t own it,
but I’ve lived here for forty years now.
we made additions. fixed the hole in the roof. had time, stories and bread.
I lived to be an old woman, still hot
nobody owns anything
but I had time to put down roots
and just live here.
just
live:
We
just
live here.
There is no panic attack every two weeks:
love shot!/ millions of dollars going to something terrible!/a bad sentence/
a youtube video of streets bleeding/facebook fight over tactics
all now unsurprising.
no one is evicted
by gun or signature on paper
no one is taken away from us
by someone who despises us
In the city of my imagination,
I get to be surprised
I get to not know
how the story ends

In the city of my desire
nothing is perfect. oceans rose
people died. people we loved and needed,
they died. not how we wanted them to.
perhaps the water stopped three blocks from my house
because we made sea dikes and magic
and I jog by the oil scented salt water every morning.
or I didn’t make it and I am a ghost speaking to my grandchild
who is living in toxic water like the sharks by the Farallon islands
still diving and grinning next to cold war nukes dropped thirty years ago;
I look at her mutated, beautiful, persistent smile.

In the city of my desire
my diaspora settles like a nervous stomach after a ginger beer
I have family all over the world
in the best tradition of my people,
and I can see them whenever I want
we live wherever we want
and back home is a place we want to live
once, my only home was the runway
now it is one home,
but radiation never bombards my body naked
so folks brown or browner than me can laugh
as roots stretch rhizome
forward and back
They are allowed to grow
to flourish
and something new comes
beyond the breaking open of empire
and the IMF bloody wound crust

the city of my desire
is my body
I spent so long learning to love this crip body
altered by trauma capitalism bled into my mother’s stem cells
but things happened:
my parents before dying are accountable for my childhood
old carpet soaked rust belt toxins out of soil
I got to rest as long as I needed
so did everyone else
whose bodies fell apart in the last days of desire
and I limp and jog towards the justice of healing,
I and we the someones
who didn’t die.

In the city I walk daily
community accountability is a fucking mess
we all know that
all our hearts a fucking mess
we know that
we had forty years
to try and learn compassion
finally
as we the last generation earn our grey hair and bad teeth
to learn words simple on a page flying messy into blood and meat
flying like rock doves back home to words

The city in which I love you
is tricky. complicated.
broken before we breathe it.
all we have. our own genius,
two or three things I know for sure, how genius we are raising $5,000 at a house party
how tragic the inside of heart set on fire
it’s like arguing over monogamy versus polyamory-
no matter how much I get irritated and compose brilliant Scorpio emails
lambasting a lover’s dumb ass when they fuck up, I know I can’t get married.
All I have

is the task of figuring it out.

the city where I adore you
is only this: love storm. broken toxins.
halfassed brilliant solution. oya wind. unknown child.
my feverish tremmoring body who has time to lie on a couch and write this best poem
of cages crumbled sea walls holding
the inside of our hearts writing the urban planning
drawing the maps crooked bleeding ink
of the city we breathe toward cherished
buoyant dream I reach for
with you, kindred
in this city where we live and desire, now
body brown filled with broken gratitude
breaking bread open breath

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a Worcester raised, Toronto matured, Oakland-based queer Sri Lankan writer, performer and teacher. She is the 2009-10 Artist in Residence and part-time professor at UC Berkeley’s June Jordan’s Poetry for the People and the co-founder and co-artistic director of Mangos With Chili, North America’s only touring cabaret of queer and trans people of color performing artists.   The poem, “the city of my desire,” is from her second book of poetry in progress, Love Cake.  Learn more about Leah at brownstargirl.org.

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Representations of Resistance: May Day Marches for Immigration Justice

Urmi Chakrabarti of MataHari: Eye of the Day marching in Chelsea-East Boston- Everett on MayDay with compas from the area

Activists continue to mobilize against SB 1070 in Arizona and for immigration justice in the US, including a film festival, a human rights march, and an organizing summit in Arizona on May 28-30.

We invited women of color, trans people of color, & queer people of color to send in pics of May Day marches, a day when thousands of people engaged in direct action in support of immigration justice.  Thank you to Carol & Urmi from MataHari: Eye of the Day who submitted this fabulous photo of the march in Boston.  Matahari: Eye of the Day is a social justice organization that mobilizes, advocates and creates safe spaces for historically marginalized, immigrants, communities of color and allies, who are survivors of labor exploitation, trafficking, racism, heterosexism, sexual, societal and familial oppression. In solidarity, they offer tools to build a global justice movement, strengthen community leadership and raise voices for social action and transformation to increase freedom, dignity and human rights.

Thank you also to Queer Sol for submitting “Austin Resiste,” a fantastic two part video of the May Day march in Austin, TX.  Queer Sol is a multidisciplinary artist collective founded by Queer People of Color to explore their diverse abilities and share their experiences. Queer Sol seeks to provide a safe space for queer identified people of color and their allies to meet, dialogue, connect, and enact social change through artistic means.

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June 4th, San Francisco: Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance: a Night of BullDaggers, Sissies, and Food

Step back into history through the doors of a 1920’s Harlem Speakeasy! Bawdy. Raunchy. Intellectually Stimulating!

The debonair swagger of Gladys Bentley. The liberating prose of Richard Bruce Nugent. The legacy of Langston Hughes. The Grande balls of heiress A’lelia Walker. The notorious Rent parties and glorious tunes of Bessie Smith. Harlem’s Poetic Rebellion.

Queer Rebels brings together internationally renowned talent, queer innovators, and emerging artists. Jewelle Gomez. Harry Waters Jr., Earl Thomas, Juba Kalamka, Crystal Mason, Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Simone de la Getto, TuffNStuff, Pippa Fleming, Oriana Bolden, Vagina Jenkins, Ginger Snapz, Elitrea, Jezebel Delilah X., and Eli Odett. Tonight we reclaim history and the urgency of our art and activism.

Come celebrate and enjoy free finger food. Behold Harlem’s poetic rebellion through multimedia, performance, and historic re-enactments of the vibrant gatherings, queer artistry and community of the Harlem Renaissance.

Friday June 4th @ African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton (at Webster), San Francisco
Cost: $15-$20
7p – libations and free buffet!
8p – showtime

Culinary Artists: Ruby Jae, Tiffany Martinez, and tba
Visual Artists: Adee Roberson, Carter, Osa Atoe
Graphic design: Shauna Steinbach! http://www.shaunasteinbach.com

This is a One Time Event.
Advance tickets strongly recommended!
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/110822.

Curators:
Kali “KB” Boyce & Celeste Chan

For more information check out: http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/QFest10/QRebels.html or http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/event.php?eid=123591510987121&ref=ts.

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The New Mythos Tour

tk from To Tell You The Truth is on the road with The New Mythos Project, a community-building project, connecting a national network of radical m/others, mamis and community caregivers.

Check out the tour’s first video and more info below:

I am writing because I’d like to tell you about a new project I am working on called The New Mythos Project. This project is building a network of phenomenal sistaz who are engaged in social justice work through spiritual and creative ways, in their everyday lives.

I’ve been working with a phenomenal crew of mamaz to identify the variety of communities and movements we are participating in and leading, and what ways we can more fully support ourselves as mamaz, social change agents, artists and truth-tellers.

We come from a variety of different backgrounds, share a variety of lived-experiences and are all interested in learning from each other and growing with each other. We are invested in radical movements AND we believe that there is a radical platform- a new articulation of our age- that we engage in from a holistic, spirit-based place; informed by our ancestors and our visions of our futures. In our lives, work, community care-giving and mama-ing we are manifesting feminist prophecies.

We are invested in building a network to share with other radical m/others, mamis and community caregivers to fortify our collective lives and work. We are excited to continue to learn and grow with you!

To this effect we are all participating, supporting and collaborating in The New Mythos Project— an ongoing national collaboration that began over the past few months and that we are designing to support ongoing participation, networking, visibility raising, resource-sharing and truth-telling between radical m/others, mamis and community caregivers. We are investing in this project to support our communities and ourselves and we are asking for your support to do this!

She is organizing an auction and other fundraising efforts to help support this valuable work. For more info on how to get involved or donate, visit her blog at: http://truthandhealingproject.wordpress.com/the-new-mythos-tour.

For more updates from the road, visit the tour blog here: http://newmythosproject.wordpress.com

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