Because we have the right to create and distribute work that critically considers the world around us and our place in it as young women and as women of color. Because we have the right to let others know what we think, connect with those who feel the same way, and educate those who disagree. Because we have the right to acknowledge that we have been oppressed as women and as women of color and to encourage other women to identify and fight against oppression in their lives. Because we have the right to help cultivate a strong female community at K College, in Kalamazoo, in this country, and in the world. Because we fucking hate patriarchal, hierarchical, bourgeoisie, white supremacist society that tells us we're weak. Because we have the right to not speak, and listen, and shout at the top of our lungs, and be acknowledged and respected. Because we have the right to wear our hair naturally, cut short, legs hairy, short dresses, or low cut shirts without being ogled. Because we have the right to flaunt our sexuality and visions without consequences, threats, or fear. Because we love our fat, bony, curved, muscular, soft, pale, dark, golden, beautiful selves. Because we remember that what we do to the earth and each other, we do to ourselves. Because our anger and sadness and empathy and love is valid, and we won't apologize for it, or let it be burned out or turned against us. Because we believe the change will not be televised, tweeted, posted, tagged, blogged about, painted, sung, scrawled, or published. Because we believe the change starts from within. Because we believe in the inherent dignity of each and every person. Because we believe in a better world with our whole spirits, minds, and bodies, and imagining and working toward one is what we do.
Funded by a grant from the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, and funds from Student Commission, RPD is a space to create support and sisterhood for women of color who identify with the experiences of sexism or racism. That we are women and people of color at exactly the same time cannot and will not be separated. But our color and our sex is not where we begin or end, and not what we will be defined by. At most we aim to create a community where women’s voices will be respected, acknowledged, and debated by one another and the campus community. At the least, we aim to acknowledge the existences and experiences of young women of color in a whitemansworld. We aim to articulate a feminist consciousness for women and men who share our commitment to nurturing and sustaining one another through magnifying the truths-joyful, painful, or trite-that shape and inform our lives. RPD is rooted in hope and in love. Though the term “zine” obviously is derived from “magazine,” they are not synonymous. By connotation if not definition, zines tend to be produced by amateurs and based on a counterculture of some sort. Zines have a long history of advocacy and feminist consciousness, as well as creative expression. Though many zines today are centered solely around art and/or writing (which is, of course, a valid pursuit) the zine tradition we’re following takes root in the early 1990s with the Riot Grrrl movement, where zines were outlets of frustration with patriarchy, solitary of pro-woman individuals, a chance for frequently silenced voices to shout. Two notable zines of this period are Bikini Kill, started by Bikini Kill singer and all-around badass Kathleen Hanna, drummer Tobi Vail, and bassist Kathi Wilcox, and Girl Germs, started by Bratmobile duo Molly Neuman and Allison Wolfe. These zines were opinionated, strong, cheaply produced, and widely distributed at punk shows of allmale bands as well as riot grrrl bands as they developed. Our hope is to make an incredibly strong publication that speaks its own truth and ours and yours. You make this zine. Together we can make people notice. — FEMMEDYMION AND EMERSON INVERT *
In the last issue, Half Cocked Banana is by Megan Garn. Sorry about that.
Not a Part Hannah Shaughnessy-Mogill You are not a part of this world, my world, you knew me in a past life. You knew me when I needed you, when you completed me. You knew me when I lived at home and plucked my eyebrows. You are not a part of this world, my world, you chose to leave, I choose to reclaim My world, we enjoy jumping in leaf piles, we sip ginger tea, we celebrate the equinox. In my world we dance in the rainstorms of our emotions, we talk to them, talk about them, god forbid. In my world we run to those we love, not hide from them. We are not always sure but we are always striving We are not always pure but we are always laughing, loving, moving, living Cuz what else is there? What is there in your empty words, your fermented bottle your tobacco breath? What is there in your heart? Anything anymore? If there were I wouldn’t know cuz you’re too afraid to show, Too afraid to hurt, To love so you shut it off, all of it. You idiot, I want to scream, you can’t selectively numb emotions! You can’t selectively love. Ooh baby, I know this more than you do Cuz you sought me out, you worked your magic tricks I couldn’t help but trip, I couldn’t help but fall. And I fell, I fell, I fell into your charm, your arms, your nicotine, your addiction. You are my addiction and I fell in and out, time and time again. Round and round like a merry-go-round Like a Mobius strip, Like an axle, Like the time I walked away cuz you lied to me and you turned me around and …took me back. Took me back down that track, That beaten back grass, pre-cartographed map. I’ve already done the math, I know where this is going: nowhere fast, It’s nearly snowing and my hands are getting colder and lord knows you’re getting older and I have decided to say goodbye. I can leave you behind. I know you’ll be fine. I know I’ll be stellar.
I told my mom I had anorexia right before thanksgiving. Though everything had shifted in those few days between her not (consciously) knowing and her knowing, that didn't stop us from piling in the car on Thursday morning and driving through the midwest to my grandparents' house. I stared hard out the window at the skinny trees, denuded by encroaching winter and shivering in the wind of late November. I kept moving my hands into my lap so that they wouldn't be wrapped around my ribs in the position I realized I'd been holding them for weeks, as if I were both trying to hide myself and hold myself together. My mom kept trying to pass my the bags of road trip snacks. The apples, the chocolate covered pretzels, those little cheese and cracker sandwiches. They kept coming my way and I stared out the window harder and harder as if looking out would allow me not to see what was right in front of me. I was going to have to eat. She knew. I knew. My dad knew. I could tell she'd told him in the way his fingers turned white on the wheel every time she asked me if I wanted anything. The way they turned even paler every time I said no. The way they relaxed when I took whatever was offered me, my own disgust and anger turning milky and churned as it mixed with my realization of their relief. My little sister sat beside me, quietly sketching. I felt she knew, too, even though I was certain no one had told her. My grandma said "Look how beautiful you are!" to me when we arrived. I can't remember her saying that to me before, and refused the spice cookies offered from the cookie jar. No one said anything, and I went to the bathroom to spare them my tension, the thin, wiry, sparking nerves that were almost exposed all over my body, liable to explode into fire and refusal at any moment. I didn't want to be touched. I didn't want to be looked at. I didn't want to be given anything. I went to the bathroom because there was a scale. 92 pounds. Thick wool sweater. Boots. I went back out into the family room, but I can't remember any of the conversation we had. I only remember the number on the scale. And dinner later, when my family sat all around me, both reduced and dilated to nothing but food. Plates of macaroni and cheese grown so huge they eclipsed the faces of my aunt and uncle. Tureens of rich soup tall enough to block the sight of my cousins. The crunching of crusty bread loud enough to drown out all of the talking and laughter that wove around me. All I could see was the food circling and circling, coming towards me again and again around the table like a horrible whirlpool. All I could think about was my little sister: was she eating enough? Surely there wasn't enough on her plate. Surely she used to eat more than that. Surely she was refusing everything I offered her with suspicious conviction. I could barely taste my thinnest-possible slice of pumpkin pie because I was watching her eat hers, not much bigger than my own. Less whipped cream. That night while she was downstairs, I sobbed in my room loud enough for my father to hear. He came up, asking what was wrong. I told him I didn't know how to stop, but I had to. I had to stop this anorexia for her, even if I couldn't for myself. I had to tell her, I had to warn her, I had to be strong enough to be an example, for her. Her my sister and her, every woman I knew. He rocked me back and forth as I cried and cried, and waited for me to settle and sniffle into quiet before saying "And to do that, you have to eat." Two years later, as thanksgiving approaches again, I hope I will be strong enough. I hope I will be strong enough to look my family in their eyes, to hear their words louder than any other sound in the world, to see their faces as the brightest visions. To be grateful for every sight and sound, for every taste, for every bite, but to be more than grateful. To be strong, to be brave enough to break thanksgiving down into thanks, thanks, thank you, world, for the food that you have given and given and given to me so that I can give and give and give back, to my sister, to my friends, to all the bodies I know.
Daily&Battles& Meredith&Loomis&Quinlan & Patriarchy&is&alive&and&well&–&maybe&with&a&couple&of&bullet&holes&from&our&mothers&and& sisters&–&but$I$am$here$to$fight,$and$my$friends$are$here$to$fight.&I&don’t&know&how&to& express&the&urgency&I&feel&each&day&as&I&hear&about&another&rape,&another&assault,&another& friend&with&a&bruised&eye&or&thigh&–&and&this&is&why&we&gotta&stay&tough&and&remember&why& we&hate&the&word&slut,&and&why&we&can&dress&and&act&how&we&wanna&and&why&we&need&to& be&strong&in&our&relations&with&each&other.&Our&bodies&and&rights&are&violated&every&day&and& we&have&to&wake&up&each&morning&and&say&“no&–&this&is&mine&and&I&deserve&respect&for&every& inch&of&me”&because&we$cannot$afford$to$let$these$daily$battles$go.$
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Demons wrapped around the bathroom mirror. Desperate crucifixions pacing in my chest. Experimentations. Watched for years: spinal bones, poking. Swans claw from inside, growler
sings out The incision dripped fire— years of hesitant accidentally, tried— Painting notebooks: dark, fading. by Frances Amælia
No Sex in the Tampon Room by Sugar Tits
Arriving last night worried about my period, I whisper to the Blonde girl for advice. She laughs. “Just hide the string and change the tampon often, but be careful when using the bathroom.” We have a separate bathroom from the clients, disguised as a closet, to which the owners recently removed the lock, in attempts to “prevent drug use,” aka eliminate all our privacy. I’ve already gotten walked-in on at least ten times. “Don’t worry, they’re all perverts here, you could be covered in shit and they’d probably like it.” With thirty minutes to go, we prepare via rubbing ourselves in baby oil, glitter, powder, makeup, tons of perfume and fruity body sprays. Cigarettes are being passed around, as well as shots of cheap tequila from a flask, provided by the Mexican girl who looks like Eva Mendes would look, if playing a role of a girl in a gang. I take a shot and the Brazilian turns around, to give me fashion advice. “Don’t you have other undies?” “Why? What’s wrong with these?” “They’re too big, you need to wear thongs!” She’s referring to my high-waisted, black lace panties, from American Apparel. “But they’re transparent! I mean, they’re sexy, in a 50s pin-up kind of way?” “Yeah, well we aren’t in the 50s.” “Leave her alone!” Eva Mendes defends me. “It’s important to have our own style, like this she’s different, she’s like our little Gaga.” She puts her arm around me, and at that moment, I’m so happy I could cry. I’ve already gotten used to sitting on strange men. I try to think of them as sweaty chairs. Most are pretty simple-minded and easily put at ease, turned on, and persuaded to buy drinks. I count, in my head, my money, as we raise our glasses to “cheers.” My dancing is also improving-and it would be fun, if not for the DJ.
A big, bald jackass, it’s the DJ who calls us each up to strip, yelling our names over the microphone. He also tells us when to remove our tops, bottoms and get off stage. Meanwhile, he comments on our tits, asses, pussies, makes fun of our weight and suggests to lewd behavior. And of course he’s racist. He calls us to dance based on ethnicity, I’ve noticed, as the Russians always dance together, followed by the black girls, before the South Americans, the Italians, the Eastern Europeans. I’m the only “American,” so for me, he plays Britney. The black girls dance to Rihanna, South Americans get Shakira and the Italians get pretty much whatever they want. Then he makes his “jokes,” calling Eva Mendes “pregnant,” telling the Romanian to brush her hair and ordering the black girls to “smile,” because “it’s too dark to see them” when they don’t. The clients laugh, and the girls pretend to. I fantasize about ways he could burn. With one hour left, I decide to relax, knowing I’ve already made enough money. Enough to afford a taxi home and get some groceries today. Walking around, I see an attractive young man, next to an empty seat. So I come over and fall into it. “I’m so tired,” I say, to myself, not caring for his attention. We start talking, but I don’t put my legs on his. I don’t play with his hair or rub his crotch. I don’t sit on him. I have my arms and my legs crossed and keep to myself while looking ahead. But I’m starting to like him, what he says is smart, rich in a Slavic accent. “I not bought you drinks, and you still talking to me-don’t you need to working?” “I don’t care, there’s like forty minutes left till we close, at most I could make like, five more euros. Anyway, I actually like talking to you, so I’ll just keep doing that, unless you mind. You don’t need to buy me shit.” That makes him happy. So he buys me three drinks, and pays for a Prive’-eighty euros for just fifteen minutes. I give him “what he paid for,” getting fully naked, letting him touch me everywhere, and suck on my tits. I’m turned on, and if it weren’t for my tampon I probably wouldn’t have kept him from shoving his big, Romanian fingers inside me. The light turns green, our fifteen is up, and it’s time for us to close. “How are you get home?” “Taxi.”
“Don’t pay for taxi, if you want, I wait for you with car outside.” “Ok, but I still need to change, and wait to get paid.” “Not problem.” Breaking every Common Sense Stripper Rule in the book, I get in his car, let him buy me coffee and makeout with me at my front door. He wants me to stay longer but I insist I must go-my instant noodles are waiting.
Colored? I am Natalie Jane Cherne. My brown skin fools you to think I am brown. I may have brown skin, but it does not have me. You ask “what are you?” I want to scream “Natalie,” but I refrain. I give you the simple answer, “I am Filipino, Caucasian and African.” You can shut your mouth now. Did I not fulfill your stereotype? Ahh this brown skin isn’t Mexican, not that I would be ashamed. I love this brown skin. Love it! “You’re brown” Krista told me when I was ten years old. Thanks to her, I knew society would tell me I am brown. As a child, I failed to see color. Hell, the pictures I drew resembled a rainbow of people. Blue heads, pink arms, green legs. My humans looked like aliens. I failed to notice I was a minority. My father is Caucasian and my mother is Filipino and African and I am the product of them. My uncles and aunts come from Korea, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Philippines and the United States. I grew up with white, tan, black and brown skin. All these colors surrounded me, yet I failed to notice them until I got called “brown”. On standardized tests I was forced to conform. Which stereotype to bubble in? Sometimes I put other. Other times I felt generous and circled in my ethnicity. To the government it was my identity. Standardized tests failed to see me as me. Natalie Jane Cherne. To the government, I am a high performing minority. The bubbles do not show 50% Caucasian, 37.5% Filipino, 12.5% African and God forbid I mention the traces of Spaniard blood flowing through my veins. Society sees me through the lens of the standardized tests. How do I show everyone that they only have to see Natalie? I am not a bubble, so why am I forced into one? Colleges love minorities. One college thought I loved being labeled. That college needed me because I am a minority. Never mind my 3.93 GPA. Never mind my 2000 hours of volunteer work. Never mind the countless hours of studying I did to maintain my GPA. Never mind Natalie. To that college I was brown. That college failed to see me, so in turn I failed to see it as more than a school wanting a higher ranking. I threw that letter away, not wanting to bubble in their minority place for me. I write to this ask you to look beyond my brown skin and to not bubble me in. I am Natalie Jane Cherne and my brown skin tells you that it is brown. Nothing more.
Born this Way? Last week, Lady Gaga founded the Born this Way Foundation, referencing her monster hit of last summer which takes on anti-LGBT bullying. It put me in mind of a wonderful series of talks I did with the brilliant Kenyon Farrow at Queers for Economic Justice about three years ago, a college speaking tour supported by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force when I directed its Policy Institute and Kenyon was a Fellow. We called it Born Queer? and it was the kind of movement conversation that gets almost no play in the funding world and is regarded as bordering on blasphemous among many LGBT “equality” advocates. When Gaga sings Born this Way, what way is she talking about exactly? For Kenyon’s and my Born Queer? talks, I drew five parallel lines on a blackboard; they appeared as rungs on a ladder. On the first line, I wrote male on one end, female at the other. On the second, I wrote butch on one end, femme on the opposite; the third was top-bottom; the forth, monogamous-polyamorous; the fifth no-sex to tons-of-sex. I put red x’s on each of these lines to represent where I was on the spectrum at 18; I put green x’s on each of these lines to represent where I was at 48. None of the x’s lined up save for the frequency line. Many of the x’s sat on the opposite ends of the various lines. Jaime at 18 was having sex with lots of bio-guys; topping all of them; serially monogamous; femme but resisting it within the heterosexual context – no make-up; a kind of femme grunge. Jaime at 48 was having a lot of sex with a queer, masculine-identified partner who was born a woman; bottoming exclusively; in an open relationship and fully embracing the femme. Apparently, having a lot of sex is the only “way” I was “born” to. The point is, all of us have aspects of our sexuality and our gender expression that we consider a given, while many other aspects are clearly mutable. They grow as we grow. The context of our lives, our partners, social and economic forces, race, culture, pressure from our parents and peers and our inevitable push-back -- these things add up, like a river carving the contours of a valley. I came of age in the late 70s – in the midst of a thriving women’s movement. Lesbian feminist intellectual and activist daring captured my heart, spirit and sex in my early 20s and gay male liberation brought a kind of joy de vivre that had been entirely missing in the masculinities of my childhood. So, it’s no great surprise that I came to make my home in queer communities; lesbian feminists gave me a world of beloveds who ‘got’ me and a critical framework to create the life I was dreaming of. Kenyon and I created Born Queer? because we wondered about the huge disconnect between queer theory – which posits everything about us as contextual – and the leaders of LGBT civil rights groups – who adamantly foreground the “born this way” argument in the quest for legal parity and protections. In fact, the organizational powers that be have done this so successfully that even the vanguard artist of the moment (queer theorists are obsessed with her!) is drawing on it to demonstrate solidarity with queer communities. If Lady Gaga – who appears to be shredding every convention imaginable as she invents and re-invents herself on a daily basis -- says we were Born this Way, we must be! Which brings me to the argument I have with my 13-year-old son on a daily basis about La Gaga: her self-invention is clearly an amalgam of so many artists who have inspired her. The controversy over her appropriation of Madonna’s Express Yourself in the creation of Born this Way offers a window on this question of how the various ways we come to express ourselves are due to our “unique” or “god-given” talents versus the inspiration we draw from the vibrant contexts in which we find ourselves. (And many folks are too young to remember the outrage so many had about Madonna’s appropriation of Black artists’ expression in her work.) No art grows in isolation. No genius springs from a blank canvas. All of the sex I had with boys in my 20s was not a charade, or even regrettable. (I do regret those 80’s haircuts though.) Topping men gave me a lot of pleasure in the context of the intensely hetero/sexist 80s and my youth; bottoming for butches and transgender men is hugely liberating in the context of a butch-hating, queer-hating larger society. Pursuing my pleasure without apology has been a massively satisfying project in the deeply anti-woman, anti-feminist culture I’ve been resisting my entire life. All of this adds up to my queer, femme, poly, dyke identity. All of it adds up to my desire – to my rich, authentic, messy life. What way was I born to? To seek justice. To become myself, fully, regardless of the approval of family members, mentors, friends or the state. To love. Amidst all of this hatred and violence. To love, and struggle and reflect, and to love some more.
— Jaime M. Grant
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TO CLARIFYâ€Ś WHAT THIS ISN'T 1. A magazine, in the tradition of selling expensive designer clothes, convincing women that they'll never be enough, and peddling (hetero)sexist advice about relationships, designed to gloss over issues, truths, or ugliness. 2. A professional publication produced by high-powered editors more concerned with text alignment and grammar than authenticity and power. 3. A definitive answer to any of the world's many problems. 4. A representation of a monolithic feminism. 5. A mandate from Them telling you what to think. WHAT THIS IS 1. A zine, in the tradition of punk rock subculture, particularly riot grrrl, designed to publicize women and men's opinions, feelings, and thoughts on gender in our society, especially women of color, whose voices have been largely silenced in feminism and in the world at large. 2. An amateur publication produced by two grrrls more concerned with honesty and expression than impressing or placating people. 3. An exploration of the world around us and possible solutions to its problems. 4. A representation of many different feminisms. 5. An invitation from Us asking what You think. â€” EMERSON INVERT
One Big Room Full of Bad Bitches By Femmedymion
If you’ve been on the internets in the past 9 months you’ve heard of Kreayshawn, aka the “Gucci Gucci” girl. She was blowing up the blogoshpere and Youtube and consequently became the topic of a zillion debates. Her video for “Gucci Gucci” has over 20,000,000 views, a quarter of which I’m pretty sure were from me. I can’t lie--I was intrigued, humored, and slightly repulsed at the same time. I’ve heard the arguments about how “In a moment where cool is synonymous with swag, a particular manifestation of black masculinity, Kreayshawn’s dismissiveness and denigration of black women animate her success.” I get it. I agree! It is not news to me that white folks have been jacking/stealing/exploiting black folks’s music since Elvis and before. And I have my own two cents to add about authenticity and the concept of ownership. You know my tirade about popular culture and “fashion” making cheap-ass knockoffs of Native/Indigenous prints, and obviously I condemn popular culture’s exploitation of POC’s culture. Which brings me to my big question: is it ethically consistent of me to like a song or type of music and not respect the artist? What I feel about Kreayshawn is this: I like her beat. Her lyrics are fucking funny, and (in Gucci Gucci at least) not offensive. But when I do admit to myself that I do like Kreayshawn’s song, a little voice at the back of my head goes, “if
you like her song, you support her, her use of the n-word (see her Twitter on May 20) and therefore her attempt at appropriating black culture and legitimizing herself as a gangster sister girl.” But I don’t. Because, as a dear friend of mine told me, there are at least two reasons you listen to music: because you like the sound, and/or because you like the lyrics. And sometimes you find songs or entire albums which perfectly fuse these two criteria and then you’re in love. But for me, more often than not, the artists I stumble upon via Youtube or music blogs fulfill one of the criteria more so than the other. And I’m not going to not listen to these songs simply for purity’s sake. I choose the music I listen to based on how it makes me feel. I don’t listen to Odd Future (“Victim, victim, honey you're my fifth one/Honey on that taco when I stuff you in my system/Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome”) because even though Tyler and the rest of the crew may know how to drop a beat, listening to lyrics like that are devoid of any feeling except the stale desperation of trying just a little too hard. Not to say I don’t disapprove of Kreayshawn’s I-rap-I-can’t-be-racist-I-have-black-friends narrative going on here. I’m not debating originality or authenticity. Y’all can yell at me about this all you want, but I think a woman rapping about being a woman is rad. And Gucci Gucci is hella catchy.
Anger in a Man’s Eye
If I have a voice I gets angry. I would not say I fear anger. I am more impulsive. I value myself more because I don’t want to be trampled on. I don’t want to be a piece of furniture. To men, anger is a way in which they notice that they are losing their power and I am gaining mine. Anger is a way in which I as well as other women are taking their power back from the men. Anger is something men fear because they are being taken down from their dominant post, women are being powered by anger. If women knew how to use their power the most beneficial way, women would not be put in the subordinate group. The younger Latina generation is sick and tired of being used as doormats. They are sick and tired of being overtly sexualized. Women of today have a voice and they will be heard. It is no longer the old ways where a man’s voice and opinion is where it’s. La Mujer es PODEROZA! (The Woman is powerful when she is able to express herself.)
White Journal BFE
BFE is what I’m calling it lately -- like it might be able to rest in a neat little box, under a color coded label somewhere. Or medicated into oblivion. Perhaps you are a sufferer as well? Biracial Family Exhaustion. Monday morning – Take bi-racial daughter to new camp at the ‘best’ private school in town. She’s the only Black child in the room. I leave her in the custody of a sea of whiteness, including one kid who has already attached to her like a barnacle. I worry that it’s the I’ve-never-seen-anyone-like-youbefore barnacle-ism that will mean this child is touching and ‘appreciating’ her hair all day while the adults marvel at how ‘articulate’ she is. Monday afternoon – white middle school son is served an in-school suspension for responding to classmate spewing the N-word at a classmate with “knock it off douche bag, or I’ll kick you in the head.” N-Offender gets nothing. Monday night – Endure the Black queer husband’s all day into the night ride home from Tennessee -- alone. This. Never. Gets. Easier. Tuesday – Husband and I take a rare afternoon jaunt to Plainwell, which has been described as quaint, beautiful and worth exploring. We step into a main street antiques store only to have TWO clerks follow him around in the 7 minutes we are in the shop. We leave and the sweetness of the afternoon evaporates. I am left, as I always am, feeling as though I never come through well enough in these moments. Because I don’t. White wifedom is a fraught, unsatisfactory foil in the face of white supremacist aggression. I want to offer comfort, safety, outrage, and/or cover. Instead, I just amplify the humiliation, the relentlessness of the abuse. Here’s to Wednesday; this week’s just got to get better.
Went to Portage today, the upwardly mobile outlying suburb of Kalamazoo, to pay a parking ticket that we got in a Portage park on E’s 4th birthday in early June. My DC license is expired. My Massachusetts plates are expired. My Dad, who has dementia, gave me the car 2 years ago and I never registered it when we lived in DC. I have been in Michigan 9 months driving an unregistered car. I have been an unlicensed driver since my birthday, in February. I park at the Courthouse. My heart is not racing as I move through the building, past a thicket of police officers, to the traffic ticket windows. My palms are not sweating as I hand the ticket (which requires a magistrate’s review!) to the older white woman behind the counter and show a receipt for us paying for a pavilion in the park that day for the birthday party. This somehow didn’t cover the parking; hence my presence. The woman says my father will have to show up in court. I am not panicked as I tell her he is in assisted living in North Carolina and that the car is a gift. She does not ask me for my license. She does not ask me for my car registration. She does not seek proof of the gift. She moves about 20 feet away and discusses the situation with a younger, white woman; a supervisor. The supervisor observes me, gives me the 30-second once over. Returns to her discussion with the clerk as they sort out my situation. I am wondering how long this uber-serious infraction of the law will eat up in my morning, which I hoped would involve a staff meeting and some writing. Clerk returns to me and hands me a yellow lined pad of paper. She says: please write down your story. I do. Bad handwriting. I type everything these days. I attach receipts for the pavilion rental.
She takes the pad, leaves the receipt. Steps into another room to confer with the unseen magistrate? Returns. Hands me a ticket for ten dollars. I pay. Good-bye Portage courthouse. Now&here’s&the&thing:&&it’s¬&just&that&this&outcome&would&have&been&entirely,unobtainable&for&my& Black&partner.&&& It’s&the&wear&and&tear&of&white&supremacy&that&goes&unaccounted&for&and&unnoticed.&&S/he’d&have& had&to&endure&the&assumption&of&criminality,&the&handing&over&of&expired&documents,&pointed& questions,&‘feedback’&tinged&with&(at&best)&a&kind&of&polite&racist&superiority,&and&considerable&fines.&& Our&unregistered&car&may&have&been&impounded&and&s/he’d&have&been&in&high&adrenaline,&anxietyP land&for&hours.&&And&then&returned&home&&PP&by&bus?&&Cab?&&We&only&have&one&car,&so&what&new&friend& in&town&would&she&have&called&upon&for&help?& Whiteness&works.&&And&it&works&our&loved&ones&of&color&PP&literally&PP&to&death.& The&daily&break&for&whiteness&brings&home&the&responsibility&to&work&my&whiteness&for&good&–&to& work&for&racial&justice&in&my&institutions,&my&community,&the&schools&my&kids&attend,&etc.&&(As&well& as&my&responsibility&to®ister&the&damn&car.)&&Because&I&am&surely&getting&unfair&breaks,&every& minute&of&every&day. &
— Jaime M. Grant
I will definitely miss the little routines of the house where I live in Quito. Sundays in particular, even though when there's school tomorrow you sort of feel like making it to the nearest bridge with a hard landing. Alone, they are horrible, dark, frozen slow moving stones. Even with family members or friends it’s not like they move quick or anything. Naps cut things down, the hours in the afternoon when it invariably rains hard. I always think meals will take a long time to prepare and eat but I'm always done in under fifteen minutes and even washing the dishes takes five. TV shows, though, those take forever. Each commercial break stretches its five segments over and over, the disputes and drama between characters could be resolved in seconds. The lies every episode of Seinfeld is based around (it's true, isn't it? The characters always lie) are so frustrating; Kramer should just go to therapy and get it over with. Of course, there's nothing as wonderful as Seinfeld on a Sunday. It's mostly Drop Dead Diva re-runs and ancient movies about horse racing. Abuela and abuelo and Romario were over today as well. I still don't really understand how Romario is related to the family. I think he is a “godson” which seems to fall between biological child, recipient of scholarship, and servant. He lives with Carlos, the suspiciously unmarried Cordova brother and has his own room and stuff in Carlos’ fancy apartment with the tiny yippy dogs, the terrace of plants and the private elevator. He's over at abuela's every day after school on facebook and eating huge quantaties of bread and not talking to me. He gets up help abuelo move around when he starts yelling and is always cleaning things with Javier the guard who definitely falls somewhere on the child-empleada spectrum. It's good that he came to Pilar’s house today because Abuelo really needs help. He is just so old and frail. He had to move away from his wife of 55 years and his nine living children to live in the lowlands of the coast because he has lung problems and there's not enough oxygen up here. He came to Quito for Christmas a month and a half ago and either cannot (physically? logistically?) or does not (consciously? actually?) want to return. There have been many attempts and plans and strategies but in Quito he stays, gasping in diapers. I walked on the street to the market and the bus stop, wanting fresh air, noises, and the adrenelie I feel whenever I;m outside because I am so sure I am going to get robbed. When I came back with my grand purchases of a pound of noodles and 45 cents worth of candy, abuelo was asleep on the floor. His head and shoulders were on the bump of the futon but the rest of him was on the floor, slip-on sneakers for childrenwith skulls and music notes, ripped cardigan, pants far too large. Pilar and Abuela were asleep too, watching said horse-racing movie. Romario was watching it too, seated on the floor. Is that because he's a 16 year old boy and doesn't want to be too close to anybody or because he is a servant and must sit on the floor? The mysteries of another culture! But anyway, abuelo woke up after a while and Pilar and I hoisted him up by the armpits and helped him walk to the bed. "Mi amor," he croaks to the half-asleep abuela. "Hola mi marido, ven aca, hay una pelicula de caballos" says abuela. She is very into the word "marido." I found him a while later with his cane still in his hand but his body slumped over the kitchen table. He hadn't fallen, just resting bent at an 80 degree angle with his face smushed into the wood. It was a napping kind of day, he fell asleep on the bed again, I took a bone-crushing nap, and even Romario drifted off. Post script: Abuelo passed away in October, 2011. — Dana Iscoe quitofever.blogspot.com
Mother by RenĂŠe Szostek The knife does not gleam, Mother, in the darkened house where you cut our dinner into four unequal pieces: the smallest piece for yourself, two larger, but equal, pieces for your daughters and the largest piece of all for the man you married, the father of your daughters. The knife does not gleam, Mother, because there is no light, there is no heat. Our house is dark, our house is cold. He will not let us turn on the light. He will not let us turn up the heat. My friends come over, after school. I put their coats in the hall closet. A little while later, when we are playing Monopoly by the light from the window, they ask for their coats back. I know what it is like to be poor and yet my father is a millionaire. I read articles in the Chicago Tribune and in the Sun-Times: a man wouldnâ€™t pay his heating bill, so they turned off his heat. He froze to death in his own house. Later, they found $300,000 squirreled away in drawers, in the chair cushions, under his mattress, in the couch. Is this what will happen to us? You cannot turn on the light, Mother. You cannot turn up the heat. But you eat your dinner from the chipped plate and you drink from the broken cup. We cannot throw them away. I had to leave, Mother. I had to get away. But I think about you every day. Coming back for a visit, I peek in the window and see you eating your dinner from the one chipped plate.
By Jordan Earnest c. 1997
FOUR FISH FRIDAYS Emerson Invert I. I am twelve and there is fish on the table because it is Friday, frozen strips of cod my mother heats up in the oven while us kids set the table and my father hash his pre-dinner beer, against which my mother always protests, since it is Friday and we are eating fishing as a sacrifice to commemorate Jesus' death, and doesn't drinking alcohol defeat this purpose? But my father doesn't care. Busy unwinding from the work day, he sits in his easy chair, flat out ignoring us kids if we try to speak to him as he grips his beer and stares at the television, seventeen minutes into the six o'clock news. So I sit on the sofa and read my book or fool with my doll as our house fills with the damp, fishy scentâ€”until my mother calls us in to set the table. My brother pulls down the plates and glasses; I arrange them meticulously on the table, which features a gallon of milk, a small bowl of lemon quarters, mashed potatoes from powder, some limp vegetables doused in salt, and two square potholders upon which the fish will rest after my mother pulls it from the oven. On other nights, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese replaces the potatoes and I cover my piece of fish with the orange noodles to mask the taste until my mother snaps at me. But tonight it is potatoes and the potatoes are just as bland as the cod. And when we are done and the fish is ready, my mother calls my father ("Anthony!") for dinner. My brother and I take our seats at either side of the table, my mother at its foot, back against the wall, cornered. He doesn't always have two beers before dinner, but tonight he takes his seat with a second beer three-quarters of the way finished. He presses his hands together in prayer, after taking another swig of beer, an example that we followâ€”the hands, not the beer. "Heavenly Father, bless us, oh Lord, for these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Your bounty, Christ Our Lord. Amen." After echoing his last word, we dig in in silence. I slather my potatoes and fish in Land O' Lakes until my mother takes the tub from me, setting it by my brother's plate, not seeming to notice when he begins to do the same thing. "Cod again, Marilyn?" asks my father sharply, helping himself to a heaping scoop of potatoes. "You know, when I had dinner at Jim's the other night, his wife made salmon." My mother purses her lips, no doubt remembering the last time she'd attempted to make salmon croquettes, my father's favorite childhood dish, and they'd turned out malformed, greasy, and underseasoned. But she's not saying anything and my father doesn't stop there. He is looking at her with an almost pitying expression. "Why don't you ever make salmon, Marilyn?" Women are supposed to back down but my mother won't. She is not argumentative but insists on defending herself against my father, the neighbors, us kids. She is quiet but refuses to back down. "The cod is easy, Anthony. It's already cut and cleaned. Besides, it's cheaper," she says tightly, cutting a piece of cod from her strip and eating it, apparently unaware of its overwhelming blandness. "Oh, you always go for the easy way out, don't you, Marilyn?" My mother scoffs. "Hardly. I married you, didn't I?" My brother starts coughing. This is a change. She is not usually so saucy and all six of our collective eyes are glued on my father, grimly anticipating his reaction. I expect another venomous comment, or even for him to pound the table with his fist as he sometimes does. But to all our shock and unnerving, he laughs a rich, expansive laugh laced with just enough malice that my brother and I dare not join in, but my mother smiles, seeming satisfied. That night, after the blandness of dinner has been supplanted by the sweet tang of lemon bars, and i've washed the dishes my mother dried, and watched television with my brother and father until my eyes started to close--that night I wake up to the sound of struggling in my parents' room, punctuated by moans.
II. There is fish on the table because it is Friday, this time served alongside plain, one-minute rice. My father is late to dinner and my mother has worn bruises on her neck, wrists, and upper arm—visibly— since last week. They do not speak to one another, but talk through us kids, smirk. III. There is fish on the table because it is Friday, served alongside a single box's worth of Kraft Mac and Cheese which my brother and I compete for with our eyes, but my father serves himself half of it first. My mother takes none, sticks to her salmon and brussels sprouts—different from cod. She has tried to appease him but nothing is working. The salmon is all oil and bone; my father is already two beers in by grace, sipping a Maker's Mark and Pepsi alongside his meal. "I see you took my suggestion." "Yes, Anthony. I thought it would make you happy." "It might have if it didn't taste like shit," he replies. My mother purses her lips. "I'll try to make it better next time." Seemingly enraged by her calm, he slams his fist on the table, as is always a possibility. "You think that some fucking salmon will make me feel better with an asshole boss, a shitty wife, and two kids that barely look at me?" he demands. Us kids are silent, staring down at our full plates, watching our mother out of the corner of our eyes, wondering what will happen. Often what does is that she'll ignore our father as if he were a tantruming child, or leave the table as if he were a rude dinner guest, or scold him as a nun would her delinquent student. What she never does is cry, as she is now, and suddenly I know i'd eat my mother's salmon at every dinner for the rest of my life if it would make her stop crying and put on her mask again. I look at my brother, who continues to stare at his plate, telling himself silently that this is not real. I wonder if this deep, expectant silence will continue indefinitely, forever, if i'll grow into a old woman waiting for my mother to do something. But I don't have to wait that long. She does not meet his eyes—but it's not like she's afraid of him. More like she is simply finished. And she says so quietly, "Fuck you." Then she gets up. And my father and brother and I remain. And for a while, we try to pretend that nothing has changed, that mine and my brother's mother, my father's wife, is still sitting at her place at our table, eagerly ingesting her salmon as if nothing were wrong with it, asking us kids gentle questions about our days. But she isn't. She is gone. IV. It is Friday and there is not fish on the table. My mother is not here. It is us kids and my father and a bucket of fried chicken, some biscuits, and some cole slaw to be divided unequally among us. "But dad, it's Friday," my brother pleas, filling his plate with slaw and two biscuits when he is ignored. My father devours a breast, a thigh, a leg before speaking to us. "Now, kids, I know the pope is against divorce..." He trails off, coughs, swills his beer, seemingly unable to finish. We are silent. My brother reaches for a piece of chicken. I quietly gnaw on a wing.
“UNA VIDA COMO MUJER DE MI CASA” B: Cesar Gutierrez As I listen to the women in the other line of the phone, I ask if she could share with me once more, a specific time of her life, a time which she has shared with me many times before. This time was different. This time she was no longer my mother, but a woman who I was interviewing. She was a woman who has suffered the consequences of an androcentric society. To her, the word androcentric would not describe what she has gone through in her lifetime. To her, what defines her struggle is MACHISMO! At the age of 14, her mother left home to get married…. He would not let her leave, she tells me. He would not allow her to work, she tells me. He wanted her to work for him and ONLY HIM… To HIM, she was “su criada “(his maid), “un mueble” (a piece of furniture), “su titere” (his puppet)… With a shaky voice she tells me “ El nunca acepto que la mujer era liberal (He never accepted that a women was free)…el hombre, el hombre es machista. estaba Chiquita, senti tristesa, dolor, impotensia porque no podia protejer a mi madre!” (The man is a machista…. sadness, pain, and impotence rush through me, impotence for I could not PROTECT MY MOTHER). At the age of 20, I had left home, a place where I believed was the real world, a world full of men who were just like HIM.... “Vi que la vida es diferente cuando me sali de mi casa, ese era su mundo, y afuera no es asi.” (I saw that life was different once I left home, that was HIS world, and outside was not like that).
The Ovation As you near the upcoming poll, on which side will you stand? If I told you she was strolling about Mayberry, at two in the afternoon? Practically dressed in habit, whistle strung on her rosary, facing oncoming traffic, wearing the vaginal teeth, in a group of four, black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Where would you, victim blamers, stand then? When that blonde-hair-blue-eyed girl squatted behind the Bloomfield Estates sign? Because in 1959 her mother emptied out the medicine cabinet, but still woke up four days later: two hearts thumping s-t-u-c-k stuck. Where will you stand when it’s your student sitting, jutting, from her wheel chair? And the headrest and harness can secure each extremity, but there’s still an agitated fifteen-year-old eternity inside. Her hand reaches up and yanks a square inch of locks. The extracted blonde strands confetti like a dollar store birthday party decoration some stick to her slobbered cheek the rest blend with the vile carpet. If this is not lame of God’s will then where will you stand when it’s your daughter’s? And abstinence is the only 100% guaranteed form of birth control, but public schools do not tell it’s only proven effective in women who ignore their inadvertent thrusting against the 85% tendency for human beings to procreate. And now you are standing on the tile floor, watching the puddles grow and contour around your feet. So where do you stand? –Frances Amælia
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