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Be a part of Migritude's journey.
No contribution is too small - or too large. $2 buys coffee for a volunteer. $15 rents a rehearsal studio for an hour. $100 covers 2 hours of lighting / tech / set design. $500 helps fly Shailja to international festivals!!

You can also make a tax-deductible donation by check. Please email for details.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Marriage Equality Is A Civil Rights Issue

UPDATE: Another brilliant writer friend, Minal Hajratwala, has just reminded me of Gandhi's campaign in South Africa to have the marriages of brown people recognized by the apartheid regime. Read her blog post.

From my friend and brother, Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán, also one of my favourite scholar-thinker-writer-activists, this essay on marriage equality as a vital strand of all liberation struggles.

I am writing today because, as some of you know, there are amendments in three states -- California, Florida, and Arizona -- that would outlaw same gender marriage and perhaps also make illegal domestic partnerships and any form of recognition of same gender couples. Including the access to see your loved one in the hospital and receive health benefits. There is also a ballot measure in Arkansas that would outlaw queer people from adopting or becoming foster parents, in a time when so many of our children of color need loving homes.

These Euro-colonial amendments would take away the rights of people of color in this country to have our relationships and families recognized and afforded basic legal protection. This is not a religious issue, but a civil rights issue about equality for people of color, supported by Julian Bond of the NAACP.

We remember that our ancestors, Indigenous, African, and immigrant were enslaved and denied through various laws the right to marry, because we were seen as unhuman, heathens, merely property and labor.

We remember that our ancestors were denied entry into the country and residence in the country as full families due to xenophobic laws that only wanted single workers that would stay temporarily and be worked to death.

We remember that until 1967, in various parts of the U.S. it was illegal for our multiracial ancestors to legally marry, due to anti-miscegenation laws that tried to keep white blood pure, white wealth separate, and to prevent our communities of color from working together, with each other, and with anti-racist whites.

We remember how our traditional honoring of relationships and ways of forming extended, women-led, and same gender families were outlawed, killed, written out of our memories by racist laws.

And we remember the millions of families ripped apart by war, genocide, boarding schools, colonial occupation of our landbase, and enslavement.

Coretta Scott King, may she rest in peace, was a tremendous supporter of LGBT civil rights and strongly supported marriage equality for same gender couples.

Mildred Loving
was the Indigenous Rappahannock/African American civil rights activist of the Loving vs. Virginia civil rights Supreme Court Case that made interracial marriage legal in the U.S. She supported marriage equality for all, and understood and supported the links between the civil rights of interracial couples and same gender couples.

More on these connections between interracial and same gender marriage equality, and a further interview with Julian Bond of the NAACP, on this video from the National Black Justice Coalition and Faith in America.

It is important that we stand together as people of color to say that we will not allow our families to be further divided, and basic civil rights be denied to our people. This is a time for straight people of color who call themselves allies to mobilize and walk their talk, and for queer people of color to claim our futures and our rights.

We can see hope in the victories of Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut where I can live and raise a family equally alongside my straight neighbors. And in the sovereign right of Native Nations such as the Coquille Nation in Oregon to officially legislate same gender marriage equality, despite what colonial settler state laws may say about our right to live and survive as Native peoples.

Right now, unfortunately, it looks like the racist, colonial Proposition 8 will pass in California unless significant money is raised and voters are convinced to come out and vote against it. This decision may very well affect the future of my chances to form a family in this country. It is estimated that if Prop 8 passes, we may have to wait another 20-30 years before marriage equality can occur in the U.S., as what happens in California often affects the rest of the country.

In 30 years, I will be 64. I would like to think I could be legally married and have protection for my partner and children before then.

I ask that each and every one of you donate as much as you can to the coalitions working against these propositions in CA, FL, and AZ, that you vote against them if you live in those states, and that you strongly encourage other people of color you know to do the same.

To support the fight for marriage equality, please vote against Proposition 8 in California, and please donate via the coalition website.

I have donated $500, in addition to my support for Barack, to the campaign against this initiative. (Again, I earn less than $13,000 a year.) And donations can be as small as $5. Every bit helps, and currently the racist conservative forces in this country have vastly outraised us in money. The next few weeks are crucial.

To support the fight for marriage equality, please vote against Amendment 2 in Florida, and please donate via the coalition website.

To support the fight for marriage equality, please vote against Proposition 102 in Arizona, and please donate via the coalition website.

To support the fight for family equality and to keep same gender adoption and foster parenting legal in the state of Arkansas, please vote against Act 1 in Arkansas, and please donate via the coalition website.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and to mobilize in support of equal rights for all people of color and families of color in the U.S.

In love and solidarity,

Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Secret Life Of Bees

Reasons to see the film:

1) The book by Sue Monk Kidd was terrific. Despite my initial misgivings that it would turn out to be just another "mammification-of-Southern-black-women" story.

2) It passes the Bechdel Test

3) It'll get you eating more honey

4) It made me sob, then made me laugh

5) It has a beautiful first-kiss scene. Beautiful as in poignant, crystalline, yet unsentimental. Captures wonder without erasing complexity. And, even more impressive, it stays with us (or with me, at any rate) as a first kiss scene, rather than one of the rare interracial kiss scenes to come out of Hollywood.

Divisadero - Michael Ondaatje

A tenet of slam poetry is that a winning poem needs a strong hook - the line / image / idea that yanks the audience in.

When I pick up a book, I look for a hook. Serious readers, like my brilliant friend Claire Light, would be appalled. But I open books I'm considering at a random page. Within 30 seconds of skimming, at least one line has to grab me, or back they land on the shelf. I'm a poet - I go for beauty, musicality, of language; shape and elegance of sentences.

When I want to live dangerously, I read the opening and closing passages of books. Yes, I know - to read the end of a book before you begin it trashes every article of faith between writer and reader. But it works for me. If an ending has the power to pull me in, before I even know the story, then I'm willing to go back to page one and commit.

Michael Ondaatje gets me every time, with his openings and closings. I picked up his latest novel this morning: Divisadero, from a bag of books left out on the pavement for gleaners in El Cerrito. Free book abundance: another reason to love the Bay Area.

First line:

When I come to lie in your arms, you sometimes ask me in which historical moment do I wish to exist.

Whoa. Knocked the breath right out of my body. I had to sit down.

And it conjured, with dazzling clarity, New Year's Eve 2005/6. That borderline where I always wonder in which historical moment I exist.......

You've got me, Michael. I'm on board for the ride.

Under The Sign of Migritude: Italian Review

Swept away this morning by a review of my work I received from Italian journalist / writer / blogger Alessia Capasso.

Read it in Italian on her blog.

Here is the translation she sent me - with apologies for her "imperfect English." I find her rendition moving, powerful and poetic in its imperfection. The greatest gift a poet can receive is to know that her work speaks across language. And I love the way she totally nails the political roots of Kenya's post-election violence.

Shailja Patel: A Life Under The Sign Of Migritude

By Alessia Capasso

Rome, 6 October 2008

From the 3th to the 5th of October the Festival Internazionale has been in Ferrara. One of the guest of the Festival has been the Kenyan artist Shailja Patel: poet and activist. She is a revolutionary, too. Revolutionary is her manner to live poetry. Revolutionary because of the topic she proposes to her public. During 2006 I had the luck to meet her in Nairobi, during a poetry slam organized by Kwani?, an organization that promotes African literature and arts, especially in Kenya.

It has been one of the best night in Nairobi. A white wonderful woman close to an ebony skin girl, white and black Kenyan middle class seated at the same table with young hip hop fans, African students and Italian cooperants, old Europe professors close to Somali supporters. Shailja was the godmother of that night. She has Indian origins, lived in Kenya, studied in Great Britain and United States. She is the personification of the word she invented, the money of the new world: MIGRITUDE. In this neologism two metals are fused in: migrants and attitude. The attitude to be migrants. Cause of origins, costrictions, poverty, in order to work and look to the future. A word that substitutes itself to the colonialist world neologism: negritude.

Moreover, the great innovation of Shailja is the way her poetry stays at the centre of a tale, strictly connected to her body, her voice, her gestures. Reading her work is possible, but if you can see her during one of her shows means entering in the roots of the tales she narrates. The tales start from her mothers' saris, flying on Maasai Kenyan women, landing down on the American dream. From USA, the tales restart their travel. She does not stop in front of the defeat of who reject a woman for her skin colour, for the dress she has, for the surname destiny gives her.

MIGRITUDE is not properly a poetry book. I could define it a MODERN EPIC IN POETRY FORM. Some parts of it are available in Italian on the website of the editor lietocolle.

I contacted Shailja some months ago, in January 2008. The wind of poverty and ethnic hate was blowing on Kenya. It burned a lot of houses. It pushed people in old hates, which have not tribal origins. They have been cultivated in the house garden of parliamentarians, politics, ministries, business men, international officials. That hates have grown really fast, giving their fruits of violence and death, thanks to the best fertilizers the History knows: corruption, misery, absence of brotherhood, people and environmental exploitation.

Shailja, in that period, was part of the Committee, Kenyans for Peace, Truth and Justice. The committee has worked for an agreement of a politic unity, without forgetting the hard responsibilities of single person and of their parties.

I am writing of Shailja, not only in order to promote her wonderful work, but also because I think I am debtor with her. That night in Nairobi, in front of her explosive power, despite I did not understand every single word, I laughed and cried for a poem. Hearing her in a language not mine.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ask yourself

I was in Minneapolis last month, and checked out the Sculpture Garden. The piece I spent the longest with was The Living Series by Jenny Holzer - twenty-eight white granite benches, set in square formation on the grass, each one etched with thoughts, ideas, opinions.

Two of these "truisms" got me thinking so hard, I copied them down. They brought back the Kenya Crisis with powerful immediacy - the experience of watching friends I'd grown up with and people I was close to morph into cowards or heroes.

You can watch people align themselves when trouble is in the air. Some prefer to be close to those at the top and others want to be close to those at the bottom. It's a question of who frightens them more and whom they want to be like.

By your response to danger it is easy to tell how you have lived and what has been done to you. You show whether you want to stay alive, whether you think you deserve to, and whether you believe it's any good to act.

Go Mandvi!

Is is logically impossible for someone to be both an Arab and a "decent family man"?

Ask Aasif Mandvi, who's putting the brown in the media coverage of the US elections.

I shared the stage with Aasif at Artwallah 2004. He was pretty funny then. But he is absolutely at the top of his game now. Watch his appearances on The Daily Show.

grateful to Colin Powell????

Pigs will fly first, I would have said.

And here we are - Salon's piece on Powell's endorsement of Obama:

I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said such things as: "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be president?

Whoops - low-flying pigs coming faster than I can duck 'em.
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