THE HUNGER ISSUE ISSUE#5
THECOALITIONZINEISSUE#5 M ARCH '15
NOORANN M ATTIES + TH E COALITION/ LIKE US CERAPH INA TEKELE/ INTRODUCTION POOJA TRIPATH I/ A SOFT M ONUM ENT M ALEEH A + M ASOOM A/ JEW ELRY TONE SANAA H AM ID/ M OTH ERLAND VIKTORIA/ ALIEN GRL ALANA M OH AM ED/ CH ICKEN LEGGED ELODIE SAINT-LOUIS/ FORGING SISTERH OOD NIA H AM PTON/ A GIRL W ITH A TW IRL AND A RH YM E
Edited an d Cu r ated by Fabi ol a Chi n g
Con ten t Editor : Al an a M oham ed
w w w .thecoal i ti on zi n e.com
HUNGERISPOWER I thrive on being famished. I thrive on never being satisfied, always seeking for more. I am afraid of adopting an attitude where I have no desire to learn, grow, or become. Battling mental illnesses, I am prone to falling into this hole where I absolutely can not do anything and where my body can't catch up with my head. It's an excruciating place to be in, my own personal hell. I think that being content isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that I'm not and for now, that is something that I work with and that I use.
I guess this issue's main theme isn't really hunger, it's just titled that because that's what drove the production of this issue. So this is a bit like a homage to that gnawing but poweful feeling. But mainly, this issue is about bringing to light something that i was familiar with. I wanted to talk to and about people that I could identify with, I wanted to read about people that I could recognize. The photo series "Like Us"(shot by the amazing Noorann) was born around the people that I sorround myself with or that felt familiar. Not hypothetical women, not an idea of a woman. Just women. Or just people. I miss that a lot, seeing people that are just that. And I guess I'm also fed up with the foreign. While sharing a tiramisu with an older friend of mine, she stopped mid-bite and looked at me with so much longing and said "Seventeen...girls are so powerful at seventeen. I could break a wall with just a stare when I was seventeen." I wondered how many girls, how many people, are aware of that. Sometimes I myself even wonder if it's true. I hope that this issue captivates you. I hope you look at the people in this issue and see yourself or feel close to them. I hope it makes you feel safe. Love, Fabi, Editor in Chief
At the end of 2013 my father, my sister and I were in Delhi, staying with one of my dad's high school friends. T heir old group was getting together for the first time in seven, maybe eight years. M y dad had been reminiscing for us: of slowing down during a race so he and his friend would tie (a teacher nearly beat him for it); the theatrical criticism they displayed when singing Christian songs in school; Anil now living on a boat in LA; the time he saw Alok's office. It only had a phone in it. We took a train in from Lucknow. T he morning we arrived, Bhushi's house was a nest surrounded by fog I could float on. I had gotten a shot for some virus, but still went days unable to hold anything down. It was a long taxi ride from the train station and I focused on the car horns rather than the friction of traffic so I wouldn't throw up. W inter in India was like the break of spring I wanted in N orthern California; 70 degrees Fahrenheit and cloudless. It magnified me. T he colors reminded me of photographs, how there's a rift that makes you look closer. Where are you when you look at a photo? Which reality are you seeing? T hey were more vivid than anything I'd seen in the Sacramento Valley, where your gaze was always led toward the horizon line. T hese colors were light-waves you could feel from a distance. People continued to arrive throughout the day and I saw so many faces without meeting them. In the evening, Bhushi's wife, M alini, built a bonfire in the front yard for everyone to sit around. She put out a table of food. I had tried to eat some toast and peanut butter at breakfast and attempted at this time to swallow a pakora, a slow and careful test. In my head I wanted to be eating parathas and spicy curries but my lack of appetite was absolute. I nestled into the conversation, in a chair in the flame-light listening to everyone talk. It's typical of me to turn into an accessory to a situation like that. But then someone sincere will claim that they enjoy hanging out with me - so how much does my presence shift others around? I always imagine that I tighten threads; I turn everyone a little more tense, flitting around like a moth and hovering close enough to pretend that I'm part of something. T hat's when I begin to accept that my visible skin is a burden reflecting light-waves people are made to accept.
Florence. Art Shay, 1942.
After a while I had to go lay down. M y sister M aya was already inside and we slept through the symbolic 11:59 to 12:01 milestone. We opened our eyes to awful daylight, quiet. Somehow, the complete stillness made me feel like the year's
defining moments had already passed. It read like a threat and my first feeling in 2014 was of nerves kicking. But M aya wanted to find the room with the piano, so my first memory of last year is of cleansing white linoleum on my bare feet, skin uncalloused and thin from sickness. It had been a few weeks since I'd gone running. As everyone woke up, we unraveled. An hour into the morning we went outside to the chairs still set up from the night before. We ate leftovers. M y dad started to drink, so everybody started to drink. M alini brought mattresses and blankets out onto the lawn and the adults cuddled there, eating samosas and sipping whiskey. T here was a bench swing on the other side of the yard that I never approached but kept looking at - it reminded me of a similar one in M izoram, where my mom's from. We would drive for two hours to a park that had a swimming hole and a place to get Chinese food. O utside that restaurant was a swing and I remembered crowding onto it with my little cousins and listening to music on one of their M otorola phones. T hat was back when my mom still took photos, and I guess they're a lot of what my memories are. I started taking photos when she stopped. O n this uncertain first morning of 2014, the swing held me in place. I was hiding two ways - in big jackets and behind my camera ?I was incubated and comfortable, my dad was happy. I couldn't remember ever seeing blitheness like that. Driving me to the hospital in 9th grade my dad tried to figure out why I stopped feeding myself, and I had murmured something like loneliness, without saying it so explicitly. H e told me that he didn't really have friends in town either, but that it was okay, that's how it worked out for him. H e made me feel worse. M y dad spent N ew Years Day and several afterwards saying, "2014 is going to be a good one, I know it, I can feel it." I was wary of agreeing to this in the same way I hesitate to set goals at all - out of fear that I lacked the drive to do. T hat's my agenda for 2015: forcing that fear to come out in the open, it forcing me to develop what I need. Getting people to remember my name. Strength, so my actions aren?t limited by a realm of skin. I don?t have to be in the hospital to feel like I?m in inpatient treatment again or
be bedridden to appreciate having an able body. I?ve developed systems for survival to appease my anxiety and I want to challenge them. N ow it's time to take down and restart toward what I need/what I want/where I'm gonna be. I can be callous when I decide what's worth my time.
Sanaa H amid is known for her ability to bring identity (religious identity, sexual identity, cultural identity) and the diaspora to the foreground in a manner that is both powerful and beautiful. In her previous works, she has brought the low-whispers about cultural appropriation into the spotlight ( via her series "Cultural Appropriation: A Conversation") and told stories of some of Pakistan's strongest women in order to challenge the ugly images and notions of oppression and ignoriance painted by the west (via her series "M y Body Is N ot Your Battleground.") H amid is now focused on 'daughters of the diaspora" in her new series "M otherlands." T he series discusses the various notions of home amongst various girls in the diaspora. To describe the series she says: "I t pieces together the in- between spaces, the everyday longing, the whispers of a home we never knew, as well as the beauty of the one we?ve painstakingly carved out for ourselves. T he subjects are adorned with pieces of what feels like home to them , as armour in the harsh London winter winds that scratch against our cheeks and tell us we?re wrong, different, exotic, pretty for a brown girl, terrorist, a com modity. M otherland is about the hum an moments, the times we stop fighting for a second to just breathe in and merely exist." After the recent debut of her exhibition of the series at N SH ART S, I talked to her about the series and her own personal definition of home. -----------------------------------------------------Tell me about the M otherland Series?W here did this subject stem from ?
separation of the subject from all the people, the noise, the mess. And just taking a moment to recognise all of their human-ness and emotions. I?m just trying to remind people that we are humans too, after all. M other- D aughter experiences are so complicated and unique and they are also filled with little moments that stick for us, even though they m ight seem insignificant; like watching your mother do her nightly skin regimen and watching as these regimens change as she gets older. D o you feel like you have successfully portrayed the complexities of mother- daughter relationships amongst women of colour in this series?
T he work isn?t really about mother daughter relationships, but it seems a lot of young WO C and immigrants are automatically reminded of their mothers when describing home. Even in the way your mama might suggest homemade beauty regimes she grew up with in the motherland, you feel this connection to it through her. H ow would you describe ?home?? H a ha, a lot of people have asked me this in response to the work. H onestly, I think I did this work in the hope for some explanation or clarification of what home should feel like. M y home is my family, first and foremost. In my dads tired but hopeful and optimistic eyes, in my mamas biryani that tastes like comfort! In their advice and desperate love for their children. I also feel a longing for Pakistan though, especially after visiting last year. Sometimes it?s just a bit exhausting to be in the U K, so I long for a space where my brownness is not the first question on peoples tongues.
D o you find home in photography?
T his series explores the notion of home from the perspective of the daughters of the diaspora. It pieces together the in-between spaces, the everyday longing, the whispers of a home we never knew, as well as the beauty of the ones we?ve painstakingly carved out for ourselves. T he subjects are adorned with pieces of what feels like home to them, as armour in the harsh London winter winds that scratch against our cheeks and tell us we?re wrong, different, exotic, pretty for a brown girl, terrorist, a commodity. M otherland is about the human moments, the times we stop fighting for a second to just breathe in and merely exist.
Yeah, definitely. I?m glad this interview isn?t over Skype, cos i?m getting a bit emotional? which is weird. But my work has really helped me so much with understanding the pieces of myself that didn?t always make sense, and i?ve never felt so confident in what I do before, especially within the last year and a half. I?ve really become a lot more self aware and critical as well as learning to love and prioritise myself. Creating and working in collaboration with such amazing people has really saved me, and it will continue to do so, Inshallah.
Are there any experiences as a M uslim , wom an of colour, or im m igrant that you can tie to this series?
View the entire series and more of Sannaa's work at sannaaham id.com
Plenty, I guess these experiences are unavoidable and daily as all three. But this series is about creating this
ALIEN GRL BYVIKTORIA (VEWN.TUMBLR.COM)
We often get lost in the mad rush to forget; to
shed everything and look for novelty. I, myself, am a huge fan of the art of forgetting. But there are others who stitch history into their clothing, seal memories in their veins and their moleskins. Do they like remembering or is it just that they simply can't forget? Whatever the reason, there is something to be said about the labour of remembering and, not only remembering, but sealing these memories in beautiful magic so that viewers can almost never tell the tragic from the wonderful.
matter of time when I accepted that my words are as powerful as my photographs // creative work. And then I knew I could go in depth with my stories by emphasizing them into my creative work // photographs.
Enter Ceraphina Tekele, a Virginia-based photographer with an intense need to seal and stitch as many stories and people as she can into her being. After following her work for a while, everything looks like a big map she's created, not for us, but for herself. We are just there to do what viewers do: pick apart and coo over what looks aesthetically pleasing to us. But this map is wholely hers and it's pin-tacked with love and family and hurt and change. I got the chance to interview her about work, background, and her own definition of hunger.
As if introducing yourself for the first time, how would you describe yourself, who you are, and what you do? I?m Ceraphina Tekele, I?m not entirely sure who i?m evolving into, seeing that I?m still in search of finding myself but for now I am an artist trying to relate with the those who feel like they?ve been running for a long time through my words and visuals.
W hen did you start building this strong relationship that you have with photography?
I s there a correlation between your writing /journaling and photography? I f so, how do they both correlate? At one point I really gave up photography because I thought I lacked the tools for my vision which in truth just opened a door in allowing myself to express another talent I didn?t know existed. It was just a
It honestly all started when I began looking through my parents photo albums. I was fortune because they documented a majority of their lives as friends, as a couple, and as a family. T here was something so dreamlike in being able to gaze at these young faces who looked so mesmerized with the moment and in just once glance these same faces were in front of me, much older and matured. T he older I became the more I understood myself as a photographer and that was to essentially tell stories, if not to the world then to my own family just how my parents unintentionally told theirs.
Tell us about your background: does it influence your style of photography and how you view the world? I grew up in Oklahoma but spent my years growing up between M aryland and Virginia. M y parents come from Eritrea // Ethiopia so there?s a major cultural difference between me and them. I do believe their certain traditions have heavily influenced me to see life in such a tender way and how I interact with those around me but my style of shooting comes from my constant curiosity of seeing the world in cinematic stills. Life seems like this never ending movie that needs to captured. I ?m always really nosy about people?s work ethics and how they plan on producing something, something very special about that ritual you use to get shit done. W hat is your work ethic like? O r is having a work ethic important to you? I do think work ethic is very important but to be honest lately my work comes in waves. I'm still in the process of understanding myself as an artist and how I fully operate. R ight about now I'm in a state of consistently evolving causing my drift of expression // ethic to change with it. W hat projects are you currently working on or are planning to execute in the future? M y main focus as of now is bringing life to meyouus which is the umbrella of my existence. It centers around the everyday emotions we go through as humans but expressed through various mediums such has creative writing and photography. I want people to be reminded that they aren?t alone, reminding myself that I?m not the only one. See more of her work @fictionalphina.tum blr.com
LIKEUS PH.BYNOORANN MATTIES
Photos by Abigail Holt
CHICKEN LEGGED BY ALANA MOHAMED
I met Elizabeth Durango my first week on the island. M y grandfather was dying and he wanted to leave his childhood home in Guyana to his favorite daughter. M y mother packed up the family in an instant. ?W ith that house paid for, our lives will be much easier than in America,? she promised, though I did not see anything wrong with our apartment, four floors up. I always climbed up the stairs on all fours, pretending to be a lion. I resented the move, especially after seeing the house. M y great-great-great-great grandfather built it and took it over when his master died. It towered above me on wooden stilts, with a barely-thatched roof and hanging shutters. ?A fixer-upper,? my mother cheered as I peeled paint off the side of the house. I had never seen a house made of wood before. Surrounded by the lush forest, the house looked pitiful standing all limp
and decrepit, like it knew it was about to be passed up for death. M y grandfather also kept a gardener, a cook and a driver, all of whom would be inherited by my mother. I hardly saw the gardener, but the driver was always with us. H e took me to register at the local school and helped me buy my uniform. I didn?t like him. To my young, sheltered self his crude working-class humor struck me as bullying. T hey often made fun of my American accent, the way I ate my roti with a fork and knife or the way I cried about mosquito bites. M y grandfather, too, took time from his deathbed to inform my mother that he was disappointed that I hadn?t yet learned to cook pepperpot the right way. H e meant for this to be a private chat between him and mother, but the walls in the house were so thin I heard every word.
T he only one in the house who never seemed bothered by foreign habits was the cook, Gayatri, who rarely spoke at all. She was sweet to me; often straining the pulp out of her hand-made orange juice just for me and deboning the fish she cooked carefully after one unfortunate incident at dinner. Gayatri hovered in my peripheral, neither kind nor cruel. At that age, I had little consideration for others and was too busy resenting the displacement to notice Gayatri?s quiet acts of compassion. I was alone for most of that first week. M y mother and father were entangled in the red tape of death. M y brothers, both older, got along fine with the rest of the staff. T he driver would even let them borrow the car for mad nights on the town, some miles away from our quiet, emptying home. M y father gently suggested I take up a hobby, something I had not felt the need for back in America. I found the suggestion incredulous. ?What?s there to do here anyway?? I remember asking defiantly. ?You could help with the farm.? M y father?s bushy mustache said, stretching to meet the tops of his chins. T he farm had been somewhat neglected since my father fell ill. It wasn?t much at the time. Just some fruit trees the gardener looked after. M y brothers liked to climb the tall guinep trees and pelt me with the fruit when I asked them to come down. Gayatri took care of the rest of the animals: a rooster, some chickens, and a cow my father liked to call by my mother?s name, Dana. T he next day I shuffled out of bed at a horrendously early hour to have Gayatri show me the precise and delicate manner with which I should grip Dana?s udders. In an attempt to escape these intimate lessons I told her I was going to the outhouse, and instead hid under the house for half a day. It was there that I met Elizabeth Durango, possibly also hiding from Gayatri?s touch. H er steady clucking had at first seemed like an extension of my racing pulse, but slowly I realized that I was in the midst of another. She was playing in a muddy embankment under the far left corner of the house. . As I crawled closer, lion style, I noticed that she wasn?t so much playing as sliding frantically
from one side of the dip to the other. She reminded me of a girl at school, named Elizabeth Durango, who had lost a bet and was forced to eat ten butterfingers in one sitting. T he look in her eyes had always stayed with me, part sadness, part sick, part resigned. And so, immediately I started to call my new friend Elizabeth in my head. I stalked her with quiet patience, scared because I had never been this close to another animal. She continued her steady, sad clucking until I hovered over her. She let out an animalistic squawk and started to flap her wings frantically. She spattered mud on my face and I felt panic. H olding out my arms for protection, I whispered the soothing words my mother had often used to hush me after a bad dream. ?It?s okay, Elizabeth, I?m right here Elizabeth Durango, I?ll help you Elizabeth.? Eventually I was able to wrap my tiny arms around her and she gave only the tiniest protest. When we emerged, the bright sun and warm heavy air felt like a relief from the dark cool mud that had surrounded us. I looked down at my new friend and her up at me. ?Good girl, Elizabeth,? I said, kissing her on the beak. We were both filthy. I knew I should get her clean, but I wasn?t sure how. M y mind briefly flashed back to a Dawn commercial about cleaning animals in an oil spill. We didn?t use Dawn here, just something called H oly Island?s Dish Soap. Gayatri came running up to me with a grin plastered on her face. ?N enni! You were gone for so long, but look who you?ve found!? ?What?? I looked down at my muddy, feathery hands. ?You?ve found the missing chicken! I was counting in the coop, I looked all over and I couldn?t find her. You?ve done well, I will tell your parents.? She attempted to remove Elizabeth from my arms but I clutched her closer. Gayatri appraised me for a second, then said, ?Come, you can clean her.? I spent the rest of the day with Elizabeth Durango, making sure she was as comfortable as possible so she wouldn?t leave again. I fluffed her spot in the coop with extra hay and spread thyme leaves on her roost the way my mother did when I was ill.
I tucked her in whispering, ?Good night Elizabeth Durango,? and left a mango slice next to her in case she got hungry. T hat night, at dinner I found out just how true to her word Gayatri had been. It seemed she had told the entire town about how I had rescued her lost chicken. M y grandfather called me in to tell me how proud he was of me. I looked at his fleshy, melting face and felt disgusted. M y parents seemed pleased I had found a place in our new household. But the driver found it funny. When he passed by me in the garden he laughed, ?Aha there she go! Lil chicken legs save de chicken. Lil chicken gal finally make a friend.? H e was, of course, referring to my thin, underdeveloped legs, which carried me from place to place with the grace of an elephant. M y brothers enjoyed his comments greatly and by the end of the meal they were whispering to me, ?Chicken gal, how fast can you run on them chicken legs?? over and over as they kicked me under the table. In the days after, I spent more and more time with Elizabeth Durango. Soon Gayatri and I both ceased with the faรงade of going out to milk Dana. I found quickly that this was not the first time Elizabeth Durango had escaped. It seemed she was a runner of sorts. It became my task to fetch Elizabeth Durango from whatever corner of the farm she had found herself in that day. O ften she liked cool, sheltered areas. Sometimes I found her under the house. O ther times I found her at the outskirts of the forest. At first, I would find her and, cuddling her close to my chest, march immediately back to Gayatri. But Elizabeth Durango would start struggling the moment she saw we were approaching the coop again. O n the first few attempts to get her home myself, I would lose control and she would flap from my arms with an admonishing cluck. Soon I learned that what Elizabeth liked to do best was to talk. I would often get down on my hands and knees to coax her back into my arms, and it would work, until I started back to the farm house. O ne day, exhausted from sweet talking Elizabeth Durango, I collapsed on to my front. H olding my head in my hands to study her, I said, ?You know what, Elizabeth Durango? I don?t even
blame you, I?d want to run away too.? Elizabeth Durango stopped pecking at the dirt and cocked her head. She regarded me with what I think was curiosity. ?Oh! You understand me. T hat?s sweet of you.? She scratched at the dirt three times and I did the same. In this way, we created our own language of words and gestures. I would tell her about my day, about the dumb things my brothers said, about the way I thought grandfather looked like some off combination of a prune and a coconut. When I was feeling particularly sad, Elizabeth Durango made sure to rest very still near me, offering tiny coos of sympathy.
I was with her the day my grandfather passed away. I had brought a drawing of our old apartment back in America for Elizabeth Durango to see. She had seemed puzzled when I told her so many people could live one on top of the other. I had included a little chick outside the apartment so Elizabeth wouldn?t feel left out. I was just beginning to point out the intricacies of our garbage disposal system when I heard Gayatri calling my name. I looked up annoyed. ?What is it now?? She was out of breath by the time she reached me. ?Bring the bird. Your mother needs you.?
At this I scrambled up Elizabeth Durango. I tucked her in to her roost, leaving my picture with her. T he house was in chaos, everyone clambering to make phone calls. People I didn?t know swept in and out of our house with tears and various pastries. Gayatri held my mother?s head into her breast and my mother sobbed with a child-like gaiety. I looked away as soon as I saw them. T hey left my grandfather in his room for three days, with a lit candle burning through the nights. Gayatri gave me the special task of picking flowers for those three days. I brought Elizabeth with me, if only to talk to someone who wasn?t sad. I felt guilty for not being so upset, but mostly I felt resentment. I tried to explain this to Elizabeth Durango. ?It?s not that he was a bad person? mother says you should never speak ill of the dead? but I didn?t know him. And he didn?t know me either, but he still told mother bad things about me.? I snapped a tiny pink flower off its stem viciously. Elizabeth squawked in alarm. I shushed her. ?Look, it?s fine. But now I have to pick flowers for him and be sad for him. What would he do with these anyway?? Elizabeth flapped her wings at me, her beady eyes reprimanding.
?I suppose,? I said, wrinkling my nose, ?T he only time he was ever proud of me was when I found you.? I made sure to leave Elizabeth the prettiest of the flowers I had collected throughout the day. O n the fourth day, my grandfather was dressed in white and we all marched down to the closest river, the driver and some townsmen carrying his body on a stretcher. It was decorated with all the flowers I had spent my time collecting. Even the ones I had left for Elizabeth were there. I recognized the big clusters of hot pink petals that I had saved for her because they reminded me of clouds spread out around the crown of his head. I felt twinges of betrayal and loneliness as I watched my mother set a fire in grandfather?s mouth and ship him out to sea. A few days after the funeral, I was working with Gayatri in the chicken coop, cleaning the birdcages when my mother paid us a visit. It was so unusual a sight, she had never once stepped in to the coop. She hated the animals here. O nce, she claimed she had seen her grandma sit on a chicken and kill it, and ever since then she had retained a fear of the farm. Gayatri looked up with a confused smile. Eager to help, she rushed forward to greet my mother, wiping her hands on the sides of her skirt. ?Dana! H ow are you today, child??
M y mother smiled and pulled Gayatri outside. I held Elizabeth Durango in my arms and pressed my ear to the wooden boards, careful to avoid splinters. I caught snippets of their conversation, mostly my mother speaking. ?Gayatri, you have been so kind? ever since I was a little girl? this house holds so many memories with me? not fiscally feasible right now?? here Elizabeth and I rustled at the term, because neither of us knew what it meant, but we knew what my mother meant? ?? he?s offering double? our goodbye dinner? special.? I heard the swoosh of fabric, my mother turning to leave. I heard heavy breathing on the other side of the door. Elizabeth and I stood still, until Gayatri came bursting through the door, teeth bared. I jumped, removing my ear from the wall, while Elizabeth struggled in my arms for escape. ?What?s happening? Why was mother here? Why did you talk outside? What did she say? What?s fiscally feasible?? I peppered her with questions, feeling some quaking resentment at being left to press my ear against the wall of a splintered chicken coop. W ith each question I asked, Elizabeth struggled more and more. ?We have to make a big dinner, like a feast,? Gayatri said, a little more whimsical, a little louder than I had ever seen her before. Years later I would come to know the sound as hysteria. She gathered up her things? a bottle of water, a napkin? and then rounded on me. ?N ow give her here.? I looked down in shock at my precious friend, charge, confident, then back up at Gayatri. She looked sad in her eyes, but savage everywhere else, like she was steeling herself for something. And then? I will never forget this? she grabbed at Elizabeth from my arm. In America, adults had never attempted to touch me in this manner. M y mother and father had given me the occasional ?mannersing,? but teachers and others weren?t allowed to. So when she came for my arm, I felt only a shock. Despite this shock I clung tightly to Elizabeth Durango, refusing to let go, though she struggled feircly. And this is the second thing I will never forget? the way, at that exact moment that Gayatri had reached out to grab my arm, Elizabeth Durango had bitten down on the fleshy part of my
inner bicep, close to my arm pit. I yelped and let go. Elizabeth Durango seemed to float willingly into Gayatri?s arm. She held her wrong, though. She clung tightly to Elizabeth?s feet and held her upside down. Elizabeth seemed to panic for a second, her wings spread out, but she quieted quickly. ?N o!? I yelled and hurled myself at Gayatri, unwilling to let go of my new friend. W ith her free hand, Gayatri grabbed my wrist with a surprising strength and dragged me across Dana?s grazing land to the house. I cried openly, flailing after Gayatri?s quick gait. T he entire time she muttered things, half to herself and half seemed to be for me. Life lessons from Gayatri included: ?Birds are just things. You cannot get attached to things. Look how she always tries to leave you, day after day, but you go chasing after her. You cannot always chase things. People are just more complex birds. Jobs are just what people do. You can never love these things for too long. H ush, child, it is just a bird. Birds are just things. People are idiots. Birds are better than people so maybe I understand you?re tears, but it doesn?t mean they should be there.? She went on and on until we reached the kitchen. H er ramblings did nothing to ease my tears and at the site of me, on her spotless kitchen floor, sobbing into my oversized weekend teeshirt, seemed to anger her more than anything. ?You!? she shrieked at me. I stopped crying out of sheer terror. I thought she would hit me. Elizabeth started to make violent clucking noises, she seemed to be admonishing us both. I thought of mother. Gayatri went on, ?What do you have to cry for? H ave you given your life to a person? To a family? H ave you watched a family go by while neglecting to start your own? Do you know what it?s like to give your life to a house?? Elizabeth had started to struggle against Gayatri?s arm, but Gayatri was already stuffing Elizabeth into a burlap sack. I watched her retreat into the sack, my mouth forming words of protest it couldn?t deliver. It was like one of those dreams where you see something terrible happening, but can?t yell out warning.
T he bag looked scarily alive undulating rapidly and Elizabeth?s wings worked against the fabric. ?And then the house leaves! Did you know a house can leave you?? Gayatri laughed, twisting the ends of the sack around Elizabeth?s feet, holding them steady. ?People are worse though. T hey come back just to leave you again. T he sweet little girl you raised on pulpy orange juice and lumpy oatmeal comes back just to tell you wah?? H ere, she grabbed a cleaver. H er forarm holding down the middle of the sack, she struck down at what must have been Elizabeth?s throat. I wanted to yell, to dump the basket of apples that lay at my feet at her, but she did not stop. I did nothing because I was scared. She kept speaking as she chopped at the now still bag, her accent coming through thicker. ?She tell yuh she wan a nice dinna,?? chop? ?she nah have nuttin in she bank account,?? chop? ?she nah expect dis, she nah wan do this,?? chop, chop? ? she nah know wuh fi do, she nah know wuh fi do wit yuh, but yuh muss mek a nice dinna.? She brought her cleaver down one last time, only she did not strike down on Elizabeth. T he knife hit the kitchen counter, splitting the brittle wood in two. It?s only when she looked down at me, chest heaving, that I realized I had caught my breath. I saw the terror in my eyes reflected back in her own wide, suddenly meek eyes. She turned her head down, ?I?m sorry. We can get you another bird.? At this statement, the first embers of anger rose in my chest. I heaved myself up from the floor, sniffing hard, shaking. I yelled: at first a low, grieving moan, and slowly worked my way into words. ?I hate you. I?m glad you?re leaving. I hope you never find another job. I hope no one ever lets you in their home again. I hope someone chops you up in a bag just the same way.? I pounded on every surface I could. Gayatri had shrunk back to a corner of the kitchen. I slammed the refrigerator door open and shut as hard as my tiny body could manage. I looked around ravenously for something to destroy, but just then my father came in and whisked me away to my room, showering Gayatri in apologies. She looked at me with pleading eyes. I stared back with hate.
At dinner, I was served a special plate of fish and when it was set down in front of me no one said anything about the chicken legs on the chicken girl. M y mother had gathered everyone at the dinner table to announce the news: that a wealthy businessman was buying the house, that we would be moving back to the states, that they would all have to find new jobs. T he gardener simply shrugged. Guyana had many plants and many lazy people. H e smiled and wished us all the best. T he driver, on the other hand, sobbed, and my brothers with him. T he wealthy in Guyana were fast dwindling. O ften they moved to America or Europe, he would have to work for one of those awful taxi companies that had to bribe the police just so they could drive without being harassed. I felt only a little bad for him. And then there was Gayatri, who simply stood there with her eyes on the ground. I stared at her, but she refused to look at me. Instead, she bent down to touch my mother?s feet in the tradition of Pranaam. M y mother seemed ashamed as she bent down to pick Gayatri up.
j ew el r y t one When Masooma and Maleeha came together to create the collective Rupee Rags, they aimed to create a space not only for them solely but for brown girls looking for a haven. In series of portraits, they don traditional South Asian bridal jewelry as an act of reclaiming their identity.
FORGING SISTERHOOD BYELODIESAINT-LOUIS
Like most people in high school, a lot of my friendships? with boys and girls alike? ended up fizzling out after a relatively short period of time. Relationships during high school years seemed to be driven by chance. People moved, classes changed, and promises of getting together were almost always abandoned. T hese background changes also coincided with personal ones. As those four years progressed, I began to re-think who I was, what kind of experiences I wanted, and what qualities I valued in other people. Friendships solidified during the later years when I felt like I had a more concrete idea of who I was and what interested me. W ithout immediately factoring in given identities such as race, sexual orientation, class, and gender, surrounding yourself with people who share similar experiences with you at the very least provides opportunities for relief, if not growth. N othing is static; these identities are fluid and felt at different moments in time and sometimes even simultaneously, depending on the space one enters and frames their experiences. As a black woman continually learning about social injustice and inequality, friendship and camaraderie among fellow black
women have become increasingly important. Support in all kinds of spaces empowers and pushes me to validate others, whether it?s in the form of selfie reblogs on Tumblr or discourse in my everyday life. Given the never-ending list of the negative social, political, and economic ways that black women are treated in the U nited States, the act of protecting black girl/womanhood is precious to me. R acial and gender consciousness often interrupt my day-to-day life and thoughts. Walking into a room or sitting on a train where another black woman is present has the power to relieve a mental burden, no matter how small. T he majority of the life-changing support and advice I have received during pivotal moments in my life have come from women. Almost all of these women have been black. A black woman encouraged me to interview for the university I now attend. Black female family members and friends encouraged me to pursue my goals, never hesitating in giving me praise or advice. . I so needed? and still do? that solidarity, that recognition and validation of worth from people who looked like me.
T he friendship that means the most to me is the one I have with my dear friend N anma. I have known N anma for years and first met her in elementary school. We bonded over a particular moment that?s quite funny to look back on, a small choral event where we sang Ella Fitzgerald?s ?It Don?t M ean a T hing? for a benefit event. We even met Bruce Jenner. (Sadly during the pre-K ardashian era.) Although the both of us have a set of different experiences and have maybe even drifted apart at times, we always find a way to connect and confide in one another. Part of the reason we?re so close is because of the overlap of our experiences, especially when considered in a political or social context. We?re both daughters of immigrant parents, hers N igerian and mine H aitian. We both experienced our adolescent years in the same suburban, predominantly white and affluent town. Since I?ve been thinking a lot about the visibility, relief, and solidarity in black female friendship, I thought there would be no better way to explore it all than through a brief conversation/interview with her: I 'm so excited about having this conversation with you! A bit earlier, I briefly mentioned how our mutual experiences and backgrounds are perhaps the center of our friendship. H ow do you think they have had an impact? I think they have strengthened our friendship and made us even closer friends! It isn't often that you find a friend that truly seems to understand the more multifaceted aspects of your life, so when we talk or hang out and realize we have had shared experiences? basically every time we hang out? it is very cool. I feel like I always have these moments of relief with you, sort of ?light bulb? opportunities for reflection. I 'll be talking about an issue I 'm trying to work through or a personal question I 'm trying to solve, and you'll instantly validate m y feelings and find a way to identify. I t's super com forting, and I think also important given the fact that m any of the issues or questions I face are derived out of m y identity. H ow could they not be? Identity is such a complex concept, and a single person has so many identifiers that are intertwined. I t's all about intersectionality, right? N one of these identifiers, as you call them , are mutually exclusive. Speaking of intersectionality, would you consider yourself to be a fem inist?
I would, I believe in the equality of the sexes. Was fem inism always a given to you or did you suddenly have a moment (or series of moments) where it all clicked? Well, I did not really know about feminism at all until high school. I remember watching Chimamanda N gozi Adichie's talk "We Should All Be Feminists" and really connecting with that. I think that's when it clicked. Ah, yes, Chim am anda is everything! I remem ber we had a real bonding moment over Americanah. I t definitely resonated with me as a daughter of im m igrants, even though I 'm not N igerian. I also think it's really powerful that your entrance into the world of fem inism came from an African wom an. I have so much respect for her as an author and woman, and I am happy to see that she's been gaining popularity among my friends, not just you. Being able to identify with her really helped me on my journey because the face behind the words finally (FIN ALLY) wasn't that different from my own. T hat made it so much better for me. T hat's why visibility holds importance in m y personal and fem inist life. (N ot that the two are separate.) Like you just said, there's so much relief that comes from seeing your experiences, feelings, or struggles in other people and places. I can't wait for the movie! So true, I would love to see an increase in women of color in the media! It makes a real impact on young girls of color, or at least it did on me. I definitely can echo that sentiment. Since this relates to what we?ve been talking about, what does visibility, relief, and solidarity amongst women (specifically black) mean to you? It's unifying and strengthening. I'm not trying to send a rallying cry to conquer the menfolk; I just appreciate the benefits female friendship (especially black female friendship) has to offer.
H as there ever been a moment where being around other women (or perhaps one other black wom an) was particularly meaningful for you?O r say, a certain film /novel/television show that resonated? I wish I had some sort of super cool, truly
profound answer for you, but honestly the T V show T hat's So Raven really resonated with me. At the time, it was just another Disney show, but in retrospect I can see how helpful it was to have an African-American lead the cast of a widely popular show like that.
never feels like we are talking for very long. And every time I hang up, I remember another thing I could've talked about. Very true! I t sort of reflects of the balance in our friendship? I can be quite introverted!
I think it's really important to value the impact pop culture can have when we talk about the representation of certain identities or m arginalized groups. I ?m sure T hat's So Raven had an impact on a lot of black girls during its heyday. Looking back, I would definitely consider it as fem inist- leaning or at the very least willing to discuss fem inist issues. True, the issues she faced were relatively common. (Disregarding the whole teenage psychic thing.) I remember her family was pretty cool too! H er mother was studying to be a lawyer and her dad was a successful chef. I'm glad to have grown up with such a positive depiction of a black family.
And I'm predominantly extroverted! Read: very loud and obnoxious, but at least I have one friend? T here's always something to talk about! And you are definitely not obnoxious. I dislike the word quirky, but I truly don't know anyone like you. You have really cool interests and a really great perspective on the world.
I f only D isney hadn't gone downhill from there! (I feel like there was a pretty solid array of representation in the early 2000s.) Going back to friendship, what has our friendship meant to you over the past 8 years?(Also 8 years is almost a decade of friendship... go us!) Wow, I didn't even realize it's been 8 years. T hat?s exciting though! And it has meant a lot. T hroughout these past 8 years you've basically been a constant in my life, and almost every idea or opportunity I've gone for in the past has been run past you for approval. You just know me so well, and it's crazy because I know you so well too! * I nsert cheesy awwws here* I think the length of our friendship has allowed us to be so candid with each other about anything and everything? you know, when we?re feeling, as I like to phrase it, ?some type of way.? True. I won't disclose too much about our conversations, but the words "tragic," "homegirl,? and "salty" appear multiple times. Also? references to O ne Direction? I really do appreciate how silly and slightly ridiculous we can be at times. Also the truly iconic average length of our phone calls. Wasn't our longest phone conversation something like 6 hours? Yes. But that's pretty normal, I am quite a talented conversationalist, not to toot my own horn. I think I speak for us both when I say that it honestly
Why, thank you kindly! But hey, you're not chopped liver! You are really intelligent and well-informed; also you have seriously great taste in music. I would be listening to garbage if it weren't for you. T hat's exactly what I mean about quirky: your usage of "chopped liver" was 100% intentional. Such a you thing! But I appreciate your kindness! I think we've covered a lot of interesting points. Is there anything else you'd like to mention about feminism, blackness, or friendship? I hope I conveyed how essential female friendship, especially among black women, is to me! I can't imagine doin' life without you! I really enjoyed it, thanks so much!
Christina Poku is a multimedia artist born and bred in London. T he variety and diversity presented in her work is what sets this artist apart. I've been working on shoots for high end fashion editorials for the last 3 years doing set design in which time i've been having a constant internal battle as to wether I want to be part of the fashion industry. An industry responsible for many women, men and teens not feeling good enough. An industry that still essentially says that everything I am; my race, height, weight and features are not beautiful or at least not beautiful enough to be marketable. Whilst questioning this I realised that I need to continue to do what I do but to be part of the change ensuring that diversity is shown in a beautiful light rather than feeling obliged to pander to capturing what is typically beautiful. Visit her at christinapoku.4orm at.com
Elise Peterson is a writer and graphic designer. She is also a columnist at Adult M ag and former founding music editor of Saint H eron. H er collage series titled My Girl acknowledges women she admires, from best friends to notable figures in history such as Joan Baez and Assata Shakur. H er other collage series Black Folk was a staple hit during black history month; acknowledging important figures in black history and present, such as Langston H uges and Foxy Brown.
Elise is passionate about reframing sexuality and identity as it relates to the marginalized, and aims for her work to be a reflection of such. see all of her work at http://www.eliserpeterson.com /
N ouf Alhimiary is a contemporary photographer whose work is based on capturing aspects of women's lives in a documentary style. H er work brings focus to where feminism and being an Arab woman intersects, breaking down misconceptions and making cultural identity an ongoing theme in her work. See her work at noufling.com
N atasha J is the founder of "R aw Cells", a vegan junk food brand made up of foods made from scratch. Cells is a 100% organic/vegan snack tricycle located in the Los Angeles area offering healthy high quality junk food alternatives such as caramel covered brownies, donuts and raw nickers. A great amount of care is taken to ensure that all the treats are organic, nourishes your body on a cellular level and satisfies your sweet tooth. Each wholesome raw, gluten free friendly and baked treats are all made Bao is a photographer and designer residing in from scratch with blessings of love and positive energy." Brooklyn. H er work has an almost euphoric dreamwww. rawcells.com like sense that makes it deeply personal and soothing. T he artist is currently a student at Pratt and also a videographer/photographer for us here at T he Coalition!
Peep her work at www.bhngo.com Photos by Lindsey Keys
Tabita Rezaire is a Danish-Guyanese artist-filmmaker and video/new media curator based in Johannesburg. She engages
in cinematic urban intervention and digital activism, producing videos, curating screenings and leading camera workshops in marginalised urban environments. H er work addresses issues of sex, race and gender. View her work at tabitarezaire.com
I n Febuary, N ew York-based songstress released her
debut album Alkali via Soundcloud. T hrough echoing harmonies and silvery instrumentals, R ahel brings sweetness and sexiness together in a quiet and simple way that makes you feel at home. If Alkali is any indication of what the songstress has to offer, she is definitely one to watch.
AGIRLWITH ATWIRLAND ARHYME BYNIAHAMPTON
"the stuff of my being is matter, ever changing, ever moving, but never lost."- Z N H O n this day, January 7th, 124 years ago Z ora N eale H urston was born. O n this day, a wild woman of legend was molded out of the fertile red Florida dirt. T his woman would grow up and carve roads to be eased down by every self-important black woman who had the audacity to tell the world her opinion of it. O n this day, Eatonville's daughter and our favorite Auntie Z ora popped out her momma's cooch ready to be great. Z ora N eale H urston, patron saint of care free black girls, would go on to become an accomplished anthropologist and playwright, Guggenheim fellow, noted member of the H arlem Renaissance, author of classic novels, and Black America's greatest folklorist. O rphaned as an adolescent and turned away from her family for not being able to turn down her "spunk," H urston moved to my hometown, Baltimore M d. and took ten years off her age in order to graduate high school for free. She then went on to continue her education at H oward U niversity and eventually finished at Colombia with a degree in Anthropology. Z ora accomplished most of these things before 1940. Z ora navigated a segregated and in my opinion a much more honest America. And she did it in style with a smile and a story in her back pocket. " life like a movie, she typing her own script." -AB Fast-forward 5 decades and focus in on a young H arlem-born black girl named Azealia Banks. Tight shot on her especially chocolate skin, thin frame, ass length weave, and crazy flow. Pay attention to her blatant lack of fucks towards society?s standards of a female emcee in a post-Iggy Azalea rap world. Let's get into her extensive knowledge of the origin of hip-hop and it's relationship to the black community, her earnestness to preserve the essence of the culture, and her lack of tolerance for those who try to tone police her. H er debut album "Broke with Expensive Taste" is one of the best rap albums of 2014, but what's even more incredible is the H ot97 interview that garnered more Youtube hits than her lead single "Chasing Time". In the interview, Azealia reads the current state of hip-hop for filth. Calling out all white rappers who have no real knowledge of the genre, yet claim to be the future of hip-hop. She speaks with conviction in her voice and tears in her eyes as she asks for just one thing from a country that?s taken everything from it?s black citizens: a cultural identity. She spares no feelings as she exhibits what some may call alienating behavior in Americas?post-O bama, faux-Kumbaya cultural climate. In this interview, Azealia takes her place as child of Z ora. A woman who is going to go her own way even if that means she won't eat for a while. Z ora was known to miss meals, doctors?appointments and anything else that dared to take money away from her latest artistic endeavor. Although Azealia's now classic single "212" came out in 2012, Azealia spent the past few years battling with an aging and out-of-touch label while touring in the U K. Armed with a twitter account Azealia kept herself relevant to uninterested American audiences by being the angry black bitch that we need to hate. T hat is until someone gave her a chance to present her point of view. ?But why isn?t it in the music?? E-bro with his ole tired ass asked. I imagine that Azealia is not trying to be put into the Lauryn H ill box, where women are put on detrimental pedestals after showing any sign of consciousness in their raps; once you put on that R ita M arley/Angela Davis shirt people will expect you to stay that way forever. I assume that Azealia enjoys cursing and talking about doing ratchet shit with her friends. Azealias?music doesn?t have to be explicitly about ?healing the community,? to be healing for the community. It can be about fun girl things like weaves, spells, jewelry and group sex and still help someone get free. Azealia doesn?t have to reach the popularity of Iggy Azelea to wreak havoc on subversive mainstream influences. Z ora had to deal with the bullshit as well. During a time when every young black literary voice was angry with the white man for ignoring him, Z ora was too busy capturing the magic of blackness to care if white gazes were being cast on her work. Z ora?s work wasn?t about proving the humanness of black skin; it
characters that play with gender roles and expectations better than the ones written by Auntie Z ora. Z ora?s power was in the sheer joy she exerted in her own skin. Watching her captivate an audience with her tall tales about the various places she lived and people she knew, was enough for any white person to be sold on the value of black life. Z ora didn?t waste time telling the world she was a literary genius or smart enough to win academic grants, she set her sights on what she wanted to accomplished and let her actions speak for themselves. T here is power when a black girl dares to be her full self whether she is being watched or not. T here is strength in knowing you don?t always need an audience to perform. Sometimes that is where the real artistry is born, in the secluded countryside of Florida, or across the pond in another land with slightly different versions of English. Z ora lived a life of unforeseeable highs and bizarre lows. From writing classic American novels like ?M oses M an on the M ountain? and ?T heir Eyes Were Watching God?, to falsely being accused of sexually molesting young boys toward the end of her life, Z ora knew how fickle fame could be. H er biggest strength was in her ability to know where her home was, and how to get there in order to do her work. Like a young warrior princess, Azealia is learning. H er latest victory came from being seen on camera speaking her teary eyed truth. T his display of radical vulnerability from a woman in a male dominated industry was a power move. It humanized her to those who can?t understand how black can be strong and soft, and how the sexual can be smart as well. Azealia didn?t wear an ankh or natural fro when speaking about the state of black culture and she would laugh at anyone who told her she needed to in order to be taken seriously. Z ora traveled the world, captured film in foreign lands, and was the only black female student in Colombia?s racist anthropology program. She walked all up and through white only establishments, and not only lived to tell it, but got paid to do it, and did it well. Z ora was about the business of being herself and Azealia is following in her footsteps. I?m looking forward to hearing a lot more from ?the girl with a twirl and a rhyme? in 2015, and I know Auntie Z ora is too.
The Coal i ti on is dedicated to con ver sation an d dial ogu e between gir l s of col ou r ; wh er e ou r tr iu m ph s, tr au m a, ar t, an d stor ies ar e th e m ain focu s. W e ar e in ter ested in tak in g u p as m u ch space as we can wh il e ch al l en gin g academ ia an d sh al l ow defin ition s of fem in ism . W e pu bl ish 4 pr in t issu es ever y year. W e ar e an en tir el y DIY oper ation of 16-22 year ol d gir l s wor k in g in ou r spar e tim e to cr eate a h eal th y cr eative space for each oth er an d ch al l en ge sh al l ow ideal s of fem in ism . Al l pr oceeds fr om don ation s an d sal es go towar ds payin g ar tists an d ph otogr aph er s an d fu n din g u pcom in g even ts or gan ized by u s.
Visit u s at www.th ecoal ition zin e.com