“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.

thinking through “infowar”

brownfemipower of flip flopping joy is back with two guest posts on Wikileaks, state sexual violence, & infowars.  The first installment is below. Originally posted here.


So, in perhaps the most ignored declaration of the year–a war has begun.

And I’ve been trying to think through thoughts on it, but like I said, it’s been largely ignored. Which is a little disturbing to me, seeing as well, pretty much everybody connected to the internet (readers, writers, etc) should have some sort of vested interested in a war being declared on our own turf.

I can’t get my thoughts organized–but I am noticing a lot of patterns. And maybe just putting them out there will help.

* Davy D wrote a bit ago about Homeland Security and ICE shut down a big group of hip/hop websites:

Understand this.. the seizure of websites without due process, corporate interests lobbying and then writing laws that allow them to be the police and t personally enforce, the battle over net neutrality is all about concentrating power in the hands of a few. This is about controlling the flow of information and being a gate keeper in the communications arena. Its the first step in moving a democracy toward a dictatorship. The next step is getting a population to endure fianacial upheavels and hardships.

* The Guardian (who is actually reporting on the cables) is reporting that the US asked Uganda to tell the US when Uganda planned on committing war crimes–but did nothing to stop the war crimes themselves. Oh, and Uganda just so happens to have a finger in the crap going on in the Congo:

During the past two years the Ugandan army has deployed 4,000 troops in Operation Lightning Thunder to chase the LRA out of Uganda into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and now into the Central African Republic where, 800 miles from its original area of operation, the rebel group is thought to have fewer than 300 followers. Several of the LRA’s senior commanders have been killed or captured but Kony is believed to remain alive.

Yeah–the same Congo that has been dealing with astronomical sexual violence. Oh, and Hillary Clinton demanded arrests be made against those committing sexual violence.

* And then there’s the cables about the parties in Afghanistan that had a Texas company pimping out little boys for sexual use by men–and that US diplomats helped to cover up:

But according to the leaked document, Atmar, the Afghani interior minister, was terrified this story would catch a reporter’s ear. He urged the US State Department to shut down a reporter he heard was snooping around, and was horrified that a rumored videotape of the party might surface. He predicted that any story about the party would “endanger lives.” He said that his government had arrested two Afghan police and nine Afghan civilians on charges of “purchasing a service from a child” in connection with the party, but that he was worried about the image of their “foreign mentors,” by which he apparently meant DynCorp. American diplomats told him to chill. They apparently had a better handle on our media than Atmar, because when a report of the party finally did emerge, it was neutered to the point of near-falsehood.

* And in probably the most surprising non-surprising releases, it turns out the Vatican put pressure on the Irish government to basically look the other way on the priest sex abuse in Ireland. Oh, and somehow the US has a finger in that too:

The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See also condemned the leaks and said in a statement that the Vatican and America cooperate in promoting universal values.

The thing I couldn’t stop thinking as I typed all the above info in was how above and beyond Julian Assange–it is the US government that seems to have perfected the role of patriarchal duality that we have all assigned to Assange. The advocate for the dispossessed rolled into a messy soup with dirty slimy scum bag that beats his girlfriend on the side.

It is the US government that is both rapist and activist. It is the US government that we all pretend not see hear the beating on the other side of the wall–because it’s doing such good for the community!

Just as we have to wonder why it makes sense to tell soldiers or policemen that it’s ok to kill when they have a certain uniform on, but not when they’re wearing clothes bought at Target–we have to wonder why it makes sense to condemn men who rape and abuse in private, while willfully and continuously ignoring the private rape and assaults of our government in the name of the “good” it does in public.

And that’s not to say that we let the man off scott free–but rather instead to question: if our goal is to stop rapes before they happen–how do we negotiate the dissonance of the “model” of public advocate/private rapist the US reinforces continuously with the idea of “anti-gender violence citizen”?

Specifically: how will gendered violence ever end when gendered violence remains, at the core, a esteemed value of the US government that we all live under?

Other thoughts:

* what is the connection between Homeland Security’s attack on hip/hop sites and it’s gendered violence against immigrant women?

* not many people are talking about how many rape survivors have used the bureaucracy to report the violence perpetrated against them (think: the blackwater woman who was raped and then held and imprisoned by blackwater, the woman soldier who reported a rape and wound up dead “by suicide” and many others)

* what does it mean that the actions of a sexist misogynistic community that has attacked the feminist community previous is the only community that has had a response to the declaration of war?

* In almost all the above cases, women have been up front advocates in speaking out against the sexual violence being committed against various communities. think: the women in the Congo and Sinead O’Conner. What does it mean that as these women are speaking out and attempting to organize–the US government is directly involved in working against them–again, *even as it claims to be working *with* them*? (and on a side note, I hope every single person in the US hangs their head in shame over what they did to Sinead O’Conner)

* What does this treatment mean for other women who have spoken out against war, sexual violence, genocide, etc over the years? Think: the Dixie Chicks, Angela Davis, Joan Baez, and thousands of unknown women etc.

* What does it mean when citizenship and nationalism is expressly based on silencing and even eliminating the people who SPEAK?

* What does it mean that the US government is so expressly and intimately connected to covering up and perpetrating sexual violence–and 99% of feminist bloggers remain focused on the debate of Julian Assange: hero or rapist?

* What does it mean that bloggers that are NOT corporate backed are being targeted by Homeland Security and ICE in the name of corporate enforcement of copyright violations? What does it mean that corporate backing is an effective way to “decriminalize” your writing in the eyes of the government? What does it mean that corporate backed newspapers are getting a free pass in the wake of wikileaks, whereas wikileaks and Julian Assange are subject to murder threats, harassment by various governments, imprisonment, etc?

* What does it mean that so many feminist bloggers are not talking about this targeting? And does it make a difference that so many feminist bloggers are corporate backed (i.e. paid for their production of thought [full transparency: I have been paid for essays I’ve written] or writing for a corporate owned blog)?

* What does it mean to be a “professional feminist” in light of the current atmosphere?

* What does it mean that Homeland Security and ICE have the ability to shut down blogs/communities with little to no oversight at all–for those of us who blog about immigration? And sexual violence perpetrated by ICE?

* And finally–what does it mean that consistently, the biggest intervention against sexual violence by those of us who have experienced it is to SPEAK!–and consistently, *F*eminists tell us who have experienced that violence that the most powerful force against SPEAKing is a viable tool in our liberation?

This is just some of the shit I”m thinking through–other thoughts include how incredibly terrifying Joe Lieberman has become, how so much of this crap going on right now (right down to the shutting off of funding) has been practiced and perfected and justified as necessary on Arabs and Muslims in the US, what my role is in all this as somebody who has done plenty of my own freelance work, what a queer/LGBT analysis of a lot of this same information looks like, and much more.

But I guess I’ll stop there.
I’d be interested in hearing what your thoughts are…

**Oh, and one last thing–why, exactly, does the nation/state get to define what rape is? Is there no amount of irony and just–mind blowing dissonance that even feminists are arguing in all seriousness that rape in the US is different than rape in Sweden? Really? Does a woman in Sweden feel less raped than a woman in the US when she is raped? Or vise-versa? Would we all agree that the man who is raping and beating his wife gets to define what rape is in the greater community? Why do we then unquestionably accept the nation/state telling us what sexual violence is?

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re: wikileaks

brownfemipower of flip flopping joy is back with two guest posts on Wikileaks, state sexual violence, & infowars.  The second installment is above. Originally posted here.


the fact that there has been no thoughtful *F*eminist analysis of wikileaks that does NOT focus on Julian Assange (i.e. the point/method of wikileaks rather than Assange’s rape charges) says to me that *F*eminists have no vested interest in the concepts that wikileaks is dealing with.

A simple “I support wikileaks” or “I don’t support wikileaks” would be interesting–but what I’m looking for more is a detailed analysis in the *stakes* gendered human beings have in the nation/state’s interactions with transparency or the lack thereof. Why should we *care* about what wikileaks is doing? More importantly and more to the point–why should we care about what the nation/state is doing right now to *deal* with the “threat” of transparency? Including: using corporations as a tool against it’s own citizens (a tactic we all supported when used against “the terrorists” if you will remember), shutting down mail routes, imprisoning and threatening whistle blowers and silencing dissent through loss of employment?

Why should people who care about a gender care about the “info war”? Or about the fact that 4chan has inserted itself into the middle of it all?

The fact that the Feminist Movement can’t seem to form any opinion on any of these things and, in fact, seems as heavily invested in the idea of Assange as a singular charismatic leader rather than the issues springing up in the *wake* of what *wikileaks* has done (or: Assange is what is at stake here rather than the “threat” of transparency) speaks to the terrible singular hyper focus the *F*eminist agenda has on “liberal reform.”

I care that we all understand that Assange can actually be a rapist and an amazing organizer all at the same time. I have long held Ana Mae Aquash’s story to my heart–I know the all too terrible reality of how women are used in a fight between men.

But as Zuky said earlier today, Assange is a side note. He’s almost not even important anymore. What’s important is what actions are being taken–not even so much against Assange–but against wikileaks. Against supporters of wikileaks. Even against those who have no idea who the fuck wikileaks is or what it’s done.

Because indeed–those of us who care about gender liberation must, absolutely MUST, be aware of and understand that the nation/state that *F*eminists have entrusted to mete out “justice” for violated women–is using “justice” to criminalize all of us. It is up to us to understand that this isn’t a simple case of did he do it or didn’t he or “stand in solidarity with rape victims.” This is a case of our own tools being used against us. Not against Julian Assange. Against us. Because all of us who have been there understand on some gut level–how likely is it that these women will actually receive justice? What horrific price will they have to pay (in testifying, getting their names dragged through the mud, etc) to “get justice”? At the same time, how many of our lives will be dramatically affected by the “threat” we all now present to the nation/state? Even those who aren’t like me, a firm disbeliever in the nation/state, will be expected to pay the consequences–and in fact, already are in the form of guilty until proven innocent full body checks at the airport.

“Justice” has never been about justice, it’s *always* been about how *punishment* can service the needs of the nation/state. And right now, punishment is servicing the needs of the nation/state by infringing upon the rights of and silencing the voices of anybody who disagrees with the nation/state. It is solidifying alliances between the nation/state and corporations. And anybody who thinks that will not have repercussions for every single one of us is sitting on a cloud of privilege.

Do we all remember what happened to the woman in Durham who accused the lacrosse team of rape? Do you all know that after all this time, I *still* get emails/comments/links from *F*eminists saying that she “cried rape”?

Just as Ana Mae Aquash is in my heart and will be until the day I die–that woman in Durham will be as well. And the actions that came out of the murder of Ana and violence against the woman in Durham will always be an inspiration to me, and guide me in everything I do. Native feminists and black feminists created a critique of how women were used, destroyed, by forces claiming “justice,” but were in fact, invested in punishment and the reinforcement of classism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and even nationalism. They learned from the incredibly tragic situations that those of us who care about how gender is shoved down the throats of particularly feminine people and particularly colored people and particularly poor people–That “justice” itself must be a site of contention and analysis. That “justice” must come in different forms. In ending rape to begin with, rather than punishing after the fact. In supporting women in their choices, no matter what those choices are. In creating community accountability. In asking the woman what she wants first and foremost. In understanding the multiple and spider web like ways that power plays out. In sucking the blood out of the nation/state so that it dies up and withers away, rather than supporting and reinforcing it. Rather than *depending* on it.

It doesn’t surprise me one bit that so many *F*eminists can point with confidence at the history of radical men being abusive and violent towards women in their private lives. It surprises me even less that so few of those same *F*eminists are talking now about the work that the same groups of women that were abused and violated by radical men are doing and have done in *response* to the violence. And all I can do is shake my head at the fact that in *F*eminist circles, this is quickly turning into an argument over what the menz are saying–rather than a detailed critical conversation about what *F*eminists can do to both support the women who are claiming assault AND make sure that our “justice” is not and can not be used against us.

If we all know this is a chronic problem, why aren’t we talking about it? When it’s affecting the internet community that we are all part, don’t we have a stake in what this all means? What can the internet community that cares about gender justice do when “justice” is being used against us?

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Call for Submissions: Trans Justice and AIDS Activism Zine

Trans Justice and AIDS Activism Zine! Call for Submissions:

As a gender-non-conforming person of color, I’ve found that there are very few published
works by and for members of my community about AIDS activism and trans justice. Whether we’re struggling for trans justice and against the stigmatization and criminalization of HIV/AIDS in non-profits, prisons, community centers, shelters, unfunded collectives, immigrant detention centers, on the street or in the clinic, we all have stories that we can share and experiences we learn from and organize around. Through this zine, I’d like to share our resources, experiences, activism, political analysis, ways of surviving and expressing ourselves, ways we care for one another, in hopes of making our stories more visible and supporting one another.

I’d greatly appreciate contributions!

What is a “zine”? A zine is a collaborative “do it yourself” magazine project that uses original work. Here is an example of a individual artists pages from a transformative justice zine (www.transformativejusticezine.org):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submissions can be any type of print media! Feel free to decorate your writing (poetry, articles and stories) with fabulous expressions of your art (collage, painting, photography and drawing)! Your submission is all about your fabulously creative artistic vision!
Submission Guideline: 2,000 word limit
Deadline: November 30, 2010 NEW DEADLINE: April 1, 2011!

Topics can be any of the following, or any another topic that you feel is related:
• Trans Justice
• AIDS Activism
• The Prison Industrial Complex
• Criminalization of HIV/AIDS
• Survival and Resiliency
• Resisting Invisibility

Also, please let me know what feels safe for you in terms of how you would like to be credited (by name, anonymous, initials, alternate name, etc). The zine will be published and copies will be sent out December 2010!

Please send submissions to:
Che Gossett
Hearts on a Wire
PO Box 36831
Philadelphia, PA 19107

chegossett@gmail.com

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Reflections from Detroit: Reflections after the 4th Annual INCITE! Track at the AMC

Continuing our Reflections from Detroit series, the 2010 INCITE! National Collective describes the ways in which the Allied Media Conference and INCITE! have mutually transformed each other.

Reflections after the 4th Annual INCITE! Track at the AMC, by the 2010 INCITE! National Collective

For the past four years, INCITE! has sponsored a track at the Allied Media Conference, highlighting and innovating media strategies for ending violence against women of color, including trans and genderqueer people of color.  The first track, held in 2007, captured momentum coming from multiple directions: anti-violence organizers using media in increasingly innovative ways, radical women of color media-makers using the Internet to build a community that had never existed before online, and the independent media movement, as a whole, developing new practices for how to use media as an organizing strategy.

At the Color of Violence 3 Conference in New Orleans in 2005, INCITE! launched a one day Media Justice Institute, organized by tammy ko Robinson in collaboration with grassroots media projects.  Media workshops at COV 3 showed how women of color were using micro-radio, independent publishing and other media strategies as a part of anti-violence work. At the 2006 Allied Media Conference, in Bowling Green, OH, a caucus led by blogger Brownfemipower was a critical meeting point for a growing network of radical women of color bloggers.  At the same time, the Allied Media Conference was in the process of moving to Detroit and focusing on media-based organizing for social justice.

In early 2007, Brownfemipower, Nadia Abou-Karr and Jenny Lee, three women of color media-makers in Southeast Michigan, wrote a proposal to the INCITE! National Collective, asking if they would sponsor a track at the AMC.  Here is an excerpt from that original proposal:

As radical women of color feminists, grassroots organizers and media workers we are anxious to see the worlds of women of color-led anti-violence work and media justice intersect. We are organizing a track of workshops and panels at this year’s AMC that will focus on the media justice work of radical women of color.

The goals of this track are to:
  1. Highlight the innovative ways in which radical women of color are using media to organize their communities;
  2. Provide hands-on trainings in media-production skills by women of color on everything from zine-making to blogging to oral history, contextualizing these skills within a framework of women of color organizing;
  3. Create a space where women of color media-makers, organizers and educators can meet to build stronger connections between their work;
  4. Engage with critical questions around media strategies and visions for movement building, such as:
  • How can media technologies be utilized/challenged in a way to more readily meet the needs of women of color organizers?
  • What are the difficulties/realities of why women of color are not utilizing different media technologies already?
  • Is it possible to merge radical women of color based print media with radical women of color based online media? How could this merge be accomplished?
  • What kind of media do we need to end violence against women of color?

Since 2007, SPEAK! Women of Color Media Collective, Cyberquilting Experiment and To Tell You the Truth have been essential co-organizers of the track. Nadia Abou-Karr coordinated the track from 2007 to 2009.  Dozens of bloggers, organizers, artists, and other women of color (including trans & gender non-conforming folks and those who identify as queer, disabled, young, working class, mothers, people in the sex trade, students, and survivors of violence) contributed to the growth of the track since 2007.

The AMC supported the success and the growth of the track by providing infrastructural support.  This included paid staff organizers for the track during the first two years, organizing conference logistics and deeply listening to and processing the feedback from the track year after year.

The impact of the track on INCITE! and on the AMC has been mutually profound.  These two statements, from the closing remarks of Detroit activist, Grace Lee Boggs at AMC2008, and INCITE! co-founder Andrea Smith at AMC2009, reflect the shared learning that has taken place over the past four years.

I was especially  moved by the video of  Sista II Sista [an INCITE! affiliate] that was shown during Friday night’s opening ceremony. These are people in a community, living together like family, taking care of children and of elders, dealing with each other and with conflict in new ways, not out of anger at injustice but from love for one another and for our communities. Not building power over others but empowering one another.
– Grace Lee Boggs, AMC2008 Closing Ceremony
One of the main things I’ve learned from this conference is that organizing itself is a work of art. …We need to build a revolution that gives to us as much as we give to it – that’s sustainable in the long-term. We also need to create a beautiful revolution. When we start to create communities that are beautiful, we start to rethink the way we see ourselves. …What creating a beautiful revolution means, is not just organizing people who have the title “artist” but recognizing the artist within us all, because what we are doing is creating a world that we can’t even fully imagine…and that’s why we need artistic work: to unleash our political imaginary.
– Andrea Smith, AMC2009 Closing Ceremony

The poem,“Archeology of Freedom,” written by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and performed collectively by organizers of the INCITE! track at the 2008 AMC, which ends with the lines, “We are ready now / We are ready now / We are ready / for now,” inspired the vision and overall theme for the 2009 AMC.

The collective, facilitative leadership practiced by many of the chapters and affiliates of the INCITE! network has inspired and influenced the organizing model of the Allied Media Conference. The AMC staff collective facilitates the organizing of the conference, rather than directs it. They support participants to organize tracks that are embedded within a year round organizing process, that build capacity through grassroots fundraising, and that reflect an intersectional analysis.  We’ve seen INCITE!’s analysis of gendered violence and other forms of intersectionality applied in countless AMC workshops –  from the queer, disabled people of color zine-making workshops, to discussions about youth-led responses to the drop-out crisis in Detroit, to panels about the future of the Internet.  It is also applied in the Allied Media Projects Network Principles.

INCITE!’s participation in the AMC led to the creation of the INCITE! Media Justice Task Force in 2008, which later became the INCITE! Media and Communications Working Group. This group is dedicated to creating better tools for cross-network information-sharing and collaboration within INCITE!  Through caucuses at the 2010 AMC, the Working Group is now partnering with the women of color technology project, Pixelpowrrr to design an interactive, Drupal website for the INCITE! Network.

The AMC has been a space for INCITE! chapters and affiliates to showcase their work and build skills that deepen their organizing back home.  The Young Women’s Empowerment Project came to the AMC for the first time in 2008 to lead a zine-making workshop.  They began incorporating more media-based organizing into their work and have returned to lead workshops every year since then – sharing how they used participatory action research, as young women impacted by the sex trade and street economies, to document experiences of resistance and resilience.  Then they showed how you could use a video game to express the findings of that research and how they use those tactics to support their organizing for transformative justice.

Panel discussions such as “Media Coverage and Grassroots Organizing: The Jena Six and New Jersey Four From the Inside”  at the 2008 AMC broke open a critical dialogue about how gender and sexuality impacted media coverage and national mobilization around these two stories of violence. INCITE!, FIERCE, and the Bay Area NJ4 Solidarity Committee was invited by Left Turn Magazine to continue the conversation in a public forum by collaborating on an article later that year.  The panel also made the incredible online anti-violence campaigns of women of color organizations, such as Be Bold Be Red, visible to an even broader audience.

Many other ideas seeded in the INCITE! Track have flourished post-AMC on numerous blogs and in the pages of Make/Shift Magazine.  Since its first issue, Make/Shift has been a place where poets, journalists and artists involved with the INCITE! Track report-back and expand upon critical conversations that happened at the AMC.  In particular, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, BrownfemiPower, Nadia Abou-Karr, Lisa Factora-Borchers, Adele Nieves, E. Rose Sims, Noemi Martinez, Maegan La Mala, BlackAmazon, Fabiola Sandoval and Jess Hoffman have been made important contributions.

Strategy sessions between INCITE!, Cyberquilting and SPEAK! Women of Color Media Collective have led to new definitions of media and new ways of thinking about how to use media in our work for liberation.  From the 2008 “Definition of Radical Women of Color Media:”

Our media expands possibilities and incites dialog. It heals, inspires, builds confidence and radical love. We use media to time-travel, to communicate past barriers, to be heard and to share survival strategies. When we come together we make zines, tell truths, start blogs, record CDs and videos, come up with plans and make moves on them. We use media all year round to open up space, to consider creative solutions, and to build networks of support.

That definition provided a starting point for new projects and ongoing strategy conversations at the 2009 and 2010 AMCs.  In 2008 and 2009, The Radical Women of Color Skillshare, facilitated by the Cyberquilting Experiment, demonstrated how we can use media to “Enact Media Justice, End Gendered Violence Against People of Color, Nurture Energizing Connections Between Women of Color and Genderqueer People of Color and  Envision a New Day.” In stations all around the room, people shared their skills, from quilting to blogging to burlesque.  That model of skill-sharing has since been replicated in other organizing spaces within the AMC and beyond.

Art by Nadia Abou-Karr, 2009

The INCITE! Track has played an important role in making the AMC a more accessible space for mothers and other caregivers.  The AMC has gone from not having childcare, to having childcare, to having a kids track, to providing mini-grants for fundraising projects that support mothers attending the AMC. This was possible because of Nadia’s work as the INCITE! Track Coordinator, Katie Khul and Sicily McRaven, as childcare and Kids Track coordinators, the SPEAK Women of Color Media Collective and all of the childcare volunteers, parents and kids who participate year after year.   Beyond making sure that mothers and kids can simply attend the AMC, the organizers and participants of the INCITE! Track have nurtured an inter-generational culture within the entire AMC, demonstrating how essential the contributions of kids, parents and caregivers are.   This year, through a partnership with To Tell You The Truth, the INCITE! Track included space for focused skill-sharing and strategizing between mamaz, m/others and community caregivers.

INCITE!s work at the AMC over the years has helped cultivate the soil of the AMC, so that other tracks could take root and grow there. The Art and Practice of Disability Justice track, coordinated by Sins Invalid and the National Youth Leadership Network in 2010, grew in part out of the disabled women of color media-maker caucuses within the INCITE! track at past AMCs.  The Creating Safe Communities track, coordinated by STOP, Revolution Starts at Home, Data Center, Visions to Peace Project and Durham Harm Free Zone Project, thrived within the 2010 AMC because of the space that the INCITE! track has nurtured there.

The INCITE! Track continues to deepen roots within the AMC, changing it and being changed by it.  We look forward to how the track will continue to grow, expanding our capacity to use media to end violence against our communities, to incite dialogue, heal and inspire, to build confidence and radical love.

We acknowledge that this is one account of our collective history, told through recorded events. There is also a history in the countless personal interactions, the way people have challenged themselves and each other to think differently, to apply their analysis in new ways, talking over meals or late into the night, encouraging each other to take the often frightening step of trying to realize a vision, to construct rather than destruct.  Help us record those other histories by sharing your memories and reflections in the comments section below.

The 2010 INCITE! National Collective includes Piya Chatterjee, Chela Delgado, Emi Kane, Jenny Lee, Karla Chueh-Mejia, Cara Page, & Kiri Sailiata

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Call for Participation: Truth and Revolution: Aboriginal Women Weave the Resistance

A call for submissions from Cherry Smiley of Truth and Revolution:

Dear Sisters,

Do you, or someone you know, have a story to tell? Do you want an opportunity to tell it? I’m looking for 582 Native women to lend their stories and images for an art project about our struggles, our resistance, and our pride as Native women.

The media usually presents only one side of our stories, if that. They tell the public only about our struggles and the poor conditions of our lives. While these stories are true and shouldn’t be ignored, I want to acknowledge our full stories, all sides. I want to tell our stories of poverty and loss, but also of our resistance to these things and how we get through them. I want to tell our stories of abuse and struggle, but also of our successes, our talents, and our pride. I want the public to know the harsh realities of our lives but I also want to celebrate 518 years of our resistance in the face of colonization.

Sisters, I am respectfully asking and inviting your participation in this project. Please email truthandrevolution@gmail.com if you are interested in participating.

With Respect,

Cherry Smiley

About the Project:

As of March 2010, the Native Women’s Association of Canada had documented 582 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. We all know the actual number is higher, and we all see stories about this come and go in the media. My mom and I came up with the idea for this project together. We see this project as a response to the media coverage and co-optation of our missing and murdered sisters by non-native people. We see it is a statement against colonization, racism, sexism, and violence against women. But primarily, we see it as a celebration of our strength and resistance as Native women.

This project will include 582 photographs and interviews of Native women across Canada, myself and my family included.

Some of the things we might talk about in the interviews include: the foster care system, residential schools, prostitution, physical violence, sexual violence, colonization, racism, sexism, discrimination, welfare, reserves, city life, poverty, health care, disability, addiction, employment, family, friends, survival, resistance, pride, success, traditions, stories, talents, goals, etc.

I will audio record each interview and also plan on videoing parts of the process. This project will hopefully result in 1) an installation that uses the photos, audio, and text from the interviews, 2) a (possibly self-published) book using the photographs and text from the interviews, and 3) a video project, specifics undecided at this point.

Currently, I have no budget. What I do have is respect, determination, and a desire to tell our stories. At this point, I am financing the project myself.

Eventually, I will be asking for participation all across Canada, every province and territory. For now, because of lack of funds, I am looking for Aboriginal women in and around Vancouver, BC. If you are outside this area and want to participate, please email me anyways, and let me know you’re interested. This will help to plan for the future.

I hope to complete photographs and interviews by September 2011.

Aboriginal women who want better lives for themselves and for our future generations, and who are willing to share their stories and images, are welcome to email truthandrevolution@gmail.com with your name, contact info, and a bit about yourself. Also feel free to email if you have any questions about the project, or if you are emailing on behalf of a woman who does not have access to the internet.

Women who are selected to participate will be contacted in the upcoming months.

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Women in India Use Media, Self Defense, & Direct Action To Organize Against Gender Violence

Sampat Pal Devi and members of the Gulabi Gang

The New York Times profiled three groups in India using community art, media, direct action, self-defense, and community-based responses to resist street violence against women.  Blank Noise is a community art project that was founded by Jasmeen Patheja, and uses Facebook, Twitter, and blogging to mobilize women against street violence.  Here’s an excerpt from the NYT article:

“Blank Noise started as an art project,” Ms. Patheja said recently. “I was experiencing street sexual violence every day, and if not every day it was the threat of it that kept me on guard, hyper and alert. Moreover, it wasn’t being taken seriously by those around me — ‘It happens,’ ‘There’s nothing you can do about it,’ ‘It’s only teasing.”’

According to their Facebook page, Blank Noise “creates events and interventions both on the internet and on the streets of cities in India.”  In 2006, Blank Noise organized a public demonstration of women to confront street sexual violence.

The NYT article also profiled the Pink Chaddi movement, started by Nisha Susan, which began as a response to women being attacked in pubs.

Last year, after Sri Ram Sene, a rightist Hindu party, attacked women in pubs, Ms. Susan began a Facebook group, and the Pink Chaddi movement was born.

Chaddi is slang for underwear, but also for rightist hard-liners. Ms. Susan invited women to send Pramod Muthalik, the head of Sri Ram Sene, pink underwear in protest of his party’s actions and its plans to hold rallies on Valentine’s Day, which it condemns as a foreign holiday that encourages men and women to express their affection in an openly “un-Indian” fashion.

Chaddis poured in from across the country, a deluge of underwear in fuchsia, mauve and rose that forced the hard-liners to cancel their rallies and stop the attacks on women.

Sampath Pal Devi began the Gulabi Gang, a group of women who organize collectively to end gender violence, law enforcement violence, to learn self-defense, and to organize for economic justice. From the article:

Gulabi means “pink” and refers to the color of the saris Ms. Sampath Pal and her band of women wear. The movement has grown from that tiny core of four concerned women to a movement that covers much of rural Uttar Pradesh, one of the most conservative states in India. The brooms have evolved into canes. The Gulabi Gang has thrashed recalcitrant officials and police officers who wouldn’t register cases of domestic violence. It also runs vocational centers that offer practical ways of employment and empowerment for women.

Here’s a video spotlighting the Gulabi Gang’s work:

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