Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kwanzaa principles and media examples

Note: I believe these principles can be applied within and beyond the black community. I feel that anybody who is privy to a legacy of being othered and therefore like a deficit in one way or another can benefit from the principles Kwanzaa has to offer.  I have worded the principles and their meaning the way I have because of this and because the media selections that follow have a similar intent in that the messages are not meant to be exclusive to a particular group. That being said, here is my interpretation of the principles and media that illustrate these principles, followed by a list of movies & shows that I believe illustrate all seven principles. My son and I collaborate on this list each year (we’ve been doing this since 2012). That being said, this list is incomplete and always up for revision. Anything anyone wants to add is fine with me, as long as it’s relevant.

1.       Umoja |Unity—maintaining unity in family, community, humanity, and self
Movie(s): Crooklyn; Lilo & Stitch; Meet the Robinsons; Spirited Away; Kung Fu Panda; Guardians of the Galaxy?; My Neighbor Totoro; The Wiz; Big Hero 6
Shows: Proud Family; Steven Universe; FMA Brotherhood

2.       Kujichagulia | Self-Determination—the ability to define, speak for, and create yourself
Movie(s): The Iron Giant; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Monster’s University; Spirited Away; Lilo and Stitch; The Wiz; My Neighbor Totoro; Bebe's Kids
Shows: Steven Universe; FMA Brotherhood; Scrubs

3.       Ujima | Collective work and responsibility—building and maintaining community together; helping others with their problems and working together to solve them
Movie(s): The Iron Giant; Nausicaa; Princess Mononoke; Monster’s University ; Spirited Away; Lilo and Stitch; The Never ending story; Bebe’s Kids; Big Hero 6
Show(s): Avatar; FMA Brotherhood

4.       Ujamaa| Cooperative economics—need for community to support and sustain itself economically
Movie(s): My Neighbor Totoro; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Lilo & Stitch
Show: FMA Brotherhood

5.       Nia | Purpose—working to restore ourselves to greatness as a people through collective and communal efforts/developments
Movie(s): Castle in the Sky; Nausicaa; The Never ending story; The Wiz; Bebe’s Kids
Show(s): Avatar; FMA Brotherhood

6.       Kuumba | Creativity—doing what we can, when we can, in the ways that we can, to be of benefit to our community & ourselves; to leave both more beautiful & beneficial than we first found it
Movie(s): Kiki’s Delivery Service; The Little Rascals?; The Wiz; Spirited Away

7.       Imanai | Faith—to believe in community, family, humanity and ourselves ; that they will help us in our struggles
Movie(s): Spirited Away; Nausicaa; Guardians of the Galaxy
Shows: Avatar; Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

Movies that illustrate all seven principles: Star Wars (the originals); Spirited Away; Kiki’s Delivery Service; Nausicaa; Princess Mononoke; Crooklyn; Lilo & Stitch; Kung Fu Panda; Whisper of the Heart; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; The Wiz

Shows that illustrate all seven principles: Avatar-The Last Airbender; FMA Brotherhood; Ninja Turtles?; Samurai Jack?; Digimon; Steven Universe; It’s Okay, That’s Love

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I am surprised I still have to hear people say this but not really

When I hear people say things that are clearly meant for me to question myself, I know I have a long way to go when I actually comply and waste time wondering. Reminds me of this song...

The short of it is, I really need to work on my snappy comebacks. When I say I am a Black American and I hear the response "I'm surprised you would say that if you use Black Feminist Thought" I should have said "Oh but you're not surprised they claim Catholicism considering how Christianity was also an agent of genocide of indigenous peoples which they also claim?" Not snappy enough but you get the idea. Instead I end up trying do defend my choice of identity and Dr. Call-Em-Out sits there in amusement waiting to reclaim their moment as center of the universe. Yeah I might have been imagining things but the impact was there. As I'm told its not about intent it's about impact.

Still it bothered me enough that once more I was not Black Feminist enough because I said I was American, that I was lost, that I am essentially homeless as far as knowing where I come from is concerned. This is the reality of my situation. I don't know who my great-grandparents are, I don't know where my people have traveled over time, I have no sense of my roots. We seem to privilege this knowledge, this right to claim an ancestral home and story line. There is apparently no excuse for not knowing in this day and age. When I assert the choice to move away from the legacy of violence that plagues my family, I am told I am running away, placing a band-aid on a wound rather than addressing it. Maybe so, but these folks don't seem to consider that this logic applies to refugees trying to get away from horrendous situations in order to survive long enough to reclaim their human dignity. Maybe leaving such situations and legacies behind is a matter of life and death. I assert how I no longer belong to a place where I am required to be the kind of tough that I am not, nor really want to be. I am told maybe mine is an urban legacy, that such memories and imprints of how to be in this setting will return. It was as if I were being painted in a box, their box of what it is to be black. It was as if  they were claiming what so many non-black people of color and whites do, that they know what it is to be black, that they are blacker than me. Here come the reading suggestions. Thanks for understanding me. And yet I have not dared question why this deeply indigenous person is in academia, the very setting that justified the erasure of their people. A fine oppressor they will make. 

Even so, it was never considered that maybe being a nomadic soul, without knowable roots, is part of the Black condition. Uprooted from the African continent to aid in the settlement of another's land, continual displacement and exclusion from human dignity, eventual settlers with no home to return to, what else was supposed to happen? We were and continue to be damned either way.  Continual re/creation and validation of ourselves is  a process that has been claimed as part of Black Feminist epistemology. Understanding my roots might not be the thing that makes me whole as much as it appears to instead strip me of agency to find my own way home. Never mind that living is an active will to survive and make another way of life for myself. I have come to understand my home as being any place where I can simply be, where I can love and be loved. The Wiz does a great job of articulating this reality, that home is where you love.

So while I claim a Black American as part of my identity, this is done fully knowing that my consciousness and way of being is not absent of American-ness. I cannot simply deny this part of myself, even in the face of continued oppression, even if there is no such thing as America. If I were to go anywhere outside of this place, I would be identified as an American plain and simple. There is need to invalidate this material aspect of our reality, no need to invalidate my connection to Black Feminist Thought just because my sense of self defies the box you think I should be in. This may not be considered very radical beyond knowing that at the very least this place is where I am and therefore a part of who I am. I am continually in the process of creating the kind of self and reality that suits me, my son, and anyone else who wishes to visit my home. It doesn't matter if this doesn't scream Black Feminist to you. It does matter that Black Feminism be better understood on its terms rather than your own before you assume what I am not enough of in this regard. More than that, it matters that I am understood on my terms before you decide we can relate.

Alas, having to hear about how I should be questioning myself and my understanding of myself and my blackness is something I'm going to have to deal with from the minute I open my mouth. Why? Because I don't "sound black"! So even as an adult I my speech patterns get made fun of (as in very recently, as in even people from the African continent have caught on that this is okay), let alone my beliefs . I get exposed to double-standards like I get exposed to air. Yet I am not firm enough in my resolve to be dismissive of the nonsense and go on my way. Why? Because I want to get it right, being a Black/Feminist that is.

The bottom line is it doesn't matter--never has, cause it's all b.s. when it comes to me. I'm dammed if I do or don't remember? So I gotta keep making my own way, lifting as I climb, knowing who and what got me to where I am. Doesn't that make me Black/Feminist enough for you???!!! Then why are you doing this if we're supposed to be p.o.c in solidarity???!!! Get it together you say? You first! I always have to be the better doormat up in this piece! Imma just take a step back, work on my healing, and know that home is not where you are. Even so, peace be with you all the same.

Until next time...