Archive for the ‘Race’ Category

For the few people who’ve been living on that planet-type thingy called “Pluto,” soul/R&B singer Robin Thicke’s single, “Blurred Lines,” is burning up the charts and taking no prisoners. Although it was released on March 26–19 weeks ago–as of August 6, it’s hit #1 on charts in an astonishing 80 countries and will no doubt get an assist from the second track from the Blurred Lines LP, “Give It 2 U.” The LP is currently #9 on the iTunes Album Chart while the single is still atop the iTunes Singles Chart.

The “Blurred Lines” single was produced by Pharrell Williams who wrote and recorded it with Thicke in about two hours, later adding rapper T.I. to round out the scene the song portrays, according to a May 7 article on the GQ website. “Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up.’ I was like, ‘Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.'” And so “Blurred Lines” was conceived, baked like a bun in the oven and delivered . . . straight into controversy.

"Blurred Lines" single by Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. + Pharrell)

“Blurred Lines” single by Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. + Pharrell)

As a music reviewer, I’m supposed to know everything there is to know about the music I’m reviewing. However, in this instance, I am at a complete loss as to why the song and the video created such an uproar. Seriously, I had to look inside and ask myself if I was missing something. I must have listened to “Blurred Lines” at least 30 times in the last week, at a minimum. At least five of those times were with the words sitting right in front of me so that I could make sure I hadn’t misheard a line or 20. It turns out that my sense of female power and my sense of hearing are both intact. It’s the individuals who called the song and video “sexist” and “degrading to women” who seem to have issues. Those issues primarily have to do with sex and, perhaps, a little bit with non-white, working class culture. Please allow me to explain.

Although a parody, “Blurred Lines” very obviously speaks to the madonna/whore dichotomy that still exists in the United States. Many women and men still believe that a woman is a slut (a word I detest, btw) if she seeks sexual pleasure in a manner that satisfies her and discards some pronouncement somewhere by someone who probably has “three legs” that women have to hide who they are as sexual beings in order to be considered morally acceptable. The blurred lines of the title refer to the idea that “good girls” shouldn’t be sexually forward, sexually alluring and sexually free, but those characteristics are there even though she’s trying to be a “good girl.” I have a problem with that idea first and foremost because there are already too many people trying to tell me what I should do with my body. (Anti-choice activists, anyone?) The second reason I have a problem with the false madonna/whore, “good girl”/”bad girl” dichotomy is that all of the onus is on women to control themselves as opposed to the reality that her partner, if straight, is going to be a man. What is his responsibility? That’s always been a question I’ve wanted to ask an imam about sharia, but that’s another post.

The second seeming misinterpretation of “Blurred Lines” lies in the probability that most of those who’ve condemned the song are white. I can hear it now, “Well, Robin is a blue-eyed, white man, too.” Yeah, well, truthfully, I think he’s just a very light-skinned black man. :) He’s got a greater understanding of black culture than about 99.5% of whites in this country. That is partially because, for whatever reason, black culture attracted him. If I remember correctly, it was his mother, soap actress Gloria Loring, who fostered his love of Motown, Philly International, Stax and Atlantic’s R&B catalog while his father, actor Alan Thicke, fostered his knowledge of rock. Now, add to that the fact that he fell in love with a black girl, now his wife, actress Paula Patton, when they were both in their teens, thereby making him an honorary black man. I don’t mean that as a joke or as something another person, be they black or white, would be pleased about.

Personal experience has taught me that black men with white women have a more difficult time with attitudes of family, “friends” and colleagues than white men with black women. However, that doesn’t mean there’s smooth sailing for either of them. In this instance, Thicke had to see the pain inflicted on the love of his life just because of the color of her skin and has written songs about how it makes him feel. The first was in the track “Dreamworld” from his 2008 LP Something Else and then on his 2011 LP Love After War with the track “I Don’t Know How It Feels To Be You.” Although Patton is biracial, she identifies as a black woman. That is also how the rest of the world sees her. It doesn’t matter that her mother is white. Patton’s skin color is a lovely café au lait. In addition, since giving birth to her son, Julian, a couple of years ago, her body reflects more of her black heritage than it did before. Personally, I’m not complaining about that one bit! In fact, I’m thanking the good Lord for deciding to play up those genes, but I digress.

Within black, working-class culture, it is not at all unusual to see a group of men hanging out on the corner talking smack, smoking whatever and flirting with pretty girls and women. If we were truthful, we’d admit that we like it as long as talk doesn’t turn to physical or verbal violence. What woman doesn’t like to be appreciated under appropriate circumstances? It gives us power and we love it! I’m of the belief that all girls need to begin to learn about the natural power they have starting just before puberty. Otherwise, they’ll be ill-prepared to deal with men OR other women. Sex is one of the most powerful gifts given to all creatures, but particularly mammals. Why on earth shouldn’t we be happy men want to “talk” (also known as “rap”) to us? Oh, right. It’s sexist and degrading. Hmph! Then call me a victim of sexism and degradation because I am not complaining. I thoroughly enjoy harmless flirting with and by men and women.

That just leaves the maelstrom (I borrowed that description from Daddy Thicke’s interview in the August 5 online edition of The Daily Mail because it so accurately describes the fuss) that followed once the video was released. Oy! Not only were Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell accused of being sexist and degrading, the original video was banned from YouTube! In all fairness, it did have three topless models walking around; mylar balloons that said, “Robin Thicke has a big dick,” and; YouTube has viewers of all ages. Nevertheless, I’m of the opinion that it isn’t content providers’ place to police the Internet. That job belongs to the parents of the children who may actually be harmed by something. There are at least two versions of the video and I believe there may be a third. Video service vevo has an edited and an unrated version up. I would have embedded it, but WordPress apparently has security issues with the service. YouTube eventually relented and put the edited video up with a parental advisory.

Eh. The entire controversy is ridiculous in the first place. Parody such as the “Blurred Lines” video is perfectly legitimate. Unfortunately, I had to thoroughly address it before going on to do what I really want to do and review the LP. Due to this faux controversy crap, there are precious few words left in this posting.

I had no intention whatsoever of liking Thicke’s new LP, Blurred Lines. I’d read that it would be heavy with dance/pop music and I wanted more of the soulful ballads by which to make babies. I live for my Robin Thicke ballads! I was all prepared to ask the music gods, “Why, why, why did you let him let me down?” as tears flowed forth from my eyes like the Nile. I don’t like to admit it, but I was wrong. Indeed, I was very wrong. The LP dropped July 30; I downloaded it August 1, and; I haven’t stopped listening to it any time I’ve got music playing, which is most of the time.

Taking his cue from the cute, danceable and sexy single by the same name, Blurred Lines, the LP is quite sexually explicit. Mind you, I don’t have any problem with that at all, but I’m a grown woman who could probably teach the Thicke-Pattons a few things about f . . . er, making love. I love it when Thicke sings about getting his/their freak on. Is it any wonder that my very favorite of his six LPs is Sex Therapy? That’s just who I am and another reviewer might say that there is too much emphasis on sex. OK, so let’s concentrate on dance.

The first few seconds of the second track on the LP, “Take It Easy On Me” made me remember my days in undergrad. Not only was I a disc jockey on the NPR station at Oberlin College my freshman year, my boss and the head DJ at the campus disco was my lover from his junior year until long after I’d transferred and graduated from Kent State and he’d graduated from Oberlin. My show at Oberlin was a combination of jazz and disco. Yes, I know that it looks weird on paper, but it works. The show was popular at Oberlin and at Kent’s smaller, closed-circuit radio station where I landed after being turned down by Kent’s NPR station.

My now-former lover’s blood cells should be shaped like a treble clef. The man is made of music, no matter his other characteristics. He taught me a lot and watched me/heard me mess up so much it was embarrassing. But by the time I got to Kent, I was pretty good at crossfades and mixes. Until Thicke’s LP, I hadn’t realized how much I miss the music.

I mention this portion of my private life as background for what I’m about to write. This LP is pure late 70s through mid-80s dance music. Disco is NOT dead! Right now, I’m listening to “Get In My Way” and thinking that it would mix well with The Brothers Johnson’s “Stomp” sampled underneath. Don’t believe me? Here’s the YouTube video of the latter.

The beats are just a smidge off, but that’s easily fixed, as is matching keys. I wonder if anyone has tried to do that as yet. I can’t see how anyone who has ever spun professionally and been around during the disco/dance days could not hear it.

There is another song on the LP that I’ll mention briefly because the idea is cute, although the execution didn’t completely thrill me, although it is growing on me. “Ain’t No Hat 4 That” is a song about women taking consolation in the material things they can buy because they’ve spent so much time and energy on their careers they haven’t landed a love interest. I admit to knowing a whole lot about women like that, especially since WickedWomanMag.com will have them as its primary target readership when we launch October 1. The hook, “Ain’t no hat 4 that,” refers to the loneliness and sadness that can only be lifted by opening oneself up to possibilities and not by buying another accessory to stuff in an overcrowded closet. That’s well and good, but the thing that I truly loved about this track is that three generations of Thicke men played a part in it. Robin’s father, Alan, has a writing credit and his son, Julian, speaks “Ain’t no hat 4 that” with the most adorable little voice I’ve heard in ages.

The last song I want to highlight is “For the Rest of My Life.” It is classic Robin Thicke and I am so, so glad, even though I really do love this LP. Here, he’s singing about how he and his wife got together as kids. Yes, he’s sung about their relationship before, but he’s never revealed so much of their genesis in such detail. I am a hopeful romantic, so hearing how he got together with his wife let’s me know that there are still romantic males out there. Like most women who like men 100% or, in my case, somewhere averaging 30%-40% of the time, I need that reminder occasionally. Thanks, Robin! You’ve definitely killed it–but in a wonderful way–on this LP!

Minor editing on August 8, 2013.

October 1, 2013 marks the inaugural edition of WickedWomanMag.com, (WWM), an online magazine for women 35+ with a household income of $75K+; a traditional college or university education ending in at least a Bachelor’s degree; in middle-management or a profession, (i.e. attorney, doctor, dentist, engineer, architect, nurse, veterinarian, CPA, etc.), and; women who have brains and aren’t afraid to use them.

At the heart of WWM is DIVERSITY. We aren’t going to just talk the talk, but walk the walk. It will be completely usual to see ads and articles featuring people of color, biracial people, women who wear sizes 2-24 clothing and people who identify within the LGBT spectrum. I don’t care what a subject looks like or the gender of the person s/he loves–unless it’s relevant. I care about what he or she has to teach our readers. Obviously, stories have to resonate with a significant portion of our readership as well.

Freelance journalists needed for new online women's mag.

Freelance journalists needed for new online women’s mag.

All of the departments will not roll out in the first issue, but will do so throughout the coming 12 months. However, as things stand now, for the first issue I want pitches about economic issues; fashion; career advice; Native American affairs, and; music. I encourage pitches by diverse writers as long as they can write in English and write well. If you pitch a profile, (something I encourage), it’s got to be of a woman who is truly the epitome of a “wicked” woman. That is to say, she has made an extraordinary mark in her profession; is the first woman/minority in a position; saw a problem and did something about it in an effective manner, etc. In other words, an awesome woman who can teach others how to lead and succeed by example.

Now comes the difficult part. The pay is crappy by today’s freelance standards. I can only pay $200 for up to 1000 printed words. In the future, that will go up. However, because I am being very conservative in my commitments to you, I cannot promise more unless I find a publisher’s rep to represent the mag with advertisers and ad agencies between now and October 1. If you’re still interested, put the word “QUERY” in caps in the Subject, include a cover letter about yourself, a résumé and at least three clips or a link to clips with your pitch to ★tww★at★wickedwomanmag★dot★com by Sunday, August 18. Include art or sources for art and an e-mail address and phone number where you can be reached.

If chosen, articles based on your pitch will be due September 15. You must also be available for at least one Skype meeting prior to publication. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at ★tww★at★wickedwomanmag★dot★com.

I particularly encourage Latino, Native American and Asian journalists to pitch ideas.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about the Trayvon Martin situation ever since the Zimmerman verdict. I haven’t written much because it’s so utterly terrible that words, at least MY words, could never do it justice. My pain is most definitely palpable. My anger is righteous. Neither of those translate into a vocabulary to adequately explain how I, and just about all people who look like me, viscerally feel. This is not academic for us. People of color in the U.S. frequently feel what the government would call a “credible threat.” I’m about to be responsible for an online women’s mag that has ethnic/racial, orientational and ability diversity at its heart. At the same time, I know, even as a black WOMAN, that I damn well better make sure my hands are where a cop who stops me for any or no reason can see them and tell that cop everything I’m about to do when I reach for my wallet and driver’s license if I don’t want to end up injured or dead. Ironically, I’ve got a slew of cops–both active and retired–in my family.

Trayvon Martin in hoodie

Trayvon Martin. Killed at 17 years old.

There is an article on the Counterpunch website that comes closer to my feelings than anything else I’ve read. The only other person who’s been so spot on for me is President Obama when he said that Trayvon could have been him 35 years ago. He’s right. Any cop in Hawaii could have shot and killed him for virtually no reason at all and gotten away with it then and now.

I’m going to be brutally honest about something and it’s going to piss off my white friends. Non-white people are sick and tired of having to explain ourselves and our cultures to you. We learn who whites are and what it means to be white from the time we pop out of our mothers’ wombs. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t survive. For thousands and thousands of us, the lessons weren’t enough. There are too many black, brown and red males who have ended up in cemeteries or hospitals beaten within an inch of their lives. Certainly, there are far, far too many in prison after being convicted by juries terrified by the demonization of the accused by prosecutors who validated the fear many whites had already. Even though we are weary, we have no choice but to keep explaining because maybe one person will figure out that killing some kid coming back from the local convenience store because he wore clothing the white person did not approve of and whose skin was the “wrong” color IS NOT THE RIGHT THING TO DO! Damn! Is that lesson so freakin’ hard?! It would seem so because Trayvon isn’t the only black person killed or maimed within an inch of their lives by blue (aka police officers) and white people with guns, ropes, dogs, horses, batons and cars. (Sorry, but Zimmerman’s I.D. as Latino is a convenience in my opinion so that the jury saw him as another minority and, thereby, discounted the racial aspects of the case.) It happens in this country far, far more than most people know, but ask a criminal defense attorney and you’ll get a very different picture, Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara’s idiocy notwithstanding.

As I said, non-white people get tired as hell of explaining ourselves. Yet, this is what has to happen until the light bulb goes on in the collective white consciousness, assuming there is such a thing, and they discover what we’ve known for nearly 400 years now: there is a race problem in this country that has never been honestly addressed. I am amazed that whites are amazed that non-whites and in some parts of the country, Asians, have to walk a fine line between teaching our children how to be strong and teaching them to damn near say, “Yessa, Massa” and “Nossa, Massa” when confronted by people who are supposed to protect us, too. Why did white people not know this? How could white people not know this? It makes me Want. To. Fucking. Screeeeeeeeeam!!

Another thing that President Obama said in his surprise appearance in the White House press room eight days ago is that our society is evolving into a “more perfect union.” His daughters, 15-year-old Malia and 12-year-old Sasha, have no understanding of the bigotry in generations before. They have friends with same-sex parents and who are part of the wonderful patchwork quilt of races and ethnicities that make this country wonderful when seen from afar. On one hand, I am so very glad they have no personal basis for understanding. On the other hand, not having that personal basis means that, were they not part of the president’s family, they would likely face serious racism at some point in their lives. I wonder if they know about the enormous spike in death threats against the First Family which, by the way, includes them. Why? Because there is a lot of racial hatred here in this supposed “land of the free” and “home of the brave.”

According to an ABC News report that appears on their Chicago affiliate’s website, there were over 40,000 threats against the president and those around him between 2008 and the beginning of 2012. I cannot find the original sources for this number as many of the links from the Daily Kos article are suspiciously non-functional, particularly those to Talking Points Memo. However, a 2009 article that appeared in The Telegraph, a British newspaper, states:

Since Mr Obama took office, the rate of threats against the president has increased 400 per cent from the 3,000 a year or so under President George W. Bush, according to Ronald Kessler, author of In the President’s Secret Service.

Some threats to Mr Obama, whose Secret Service codename is Renegade, have been publicised, including an alleged plot by white supremacists in Tennessee late last year to rob a gun store, shoot 88 black people, decapitate another 14 and then assassinate the first black president in American history.

The idea that we are in a “post racial” United States is a complete fallacy and always will be as long as there are people of any race/ethnicity unwilling to leave someone of another race/ethnicity to go about his or her business without having to worry that some bigot wants them dead for having been born the “wrong” color. Obama is half white, an inconvenient truth for many race-baiting Republicans, Tea Partiers, conspiracy theorists, birthers and members of various militia groups in this gun-crazed country. The rest of us have had to learn a whole new vocabulary to navigate the muddy waters of the Obama era. The one that just slays me every time I hear it uttered by some late middle-aged or elderly white woman is, “This isn’t the America I know.” Yeah, the America you knew would never have had a black man stride confidently into the White House, family, (including his mother-in-law), in tow and set up housekeeping for eight years. Sad.

If the president of the United States faces such racism, believe me, the rest of us are feeling it as well. Granted, we usually aren’t targeted by potential assassins, but we do have the George Zimmermans and Archie Bunker-wannabes to deal with. We have to be afraid that our sons, husbands, brothers and uncles will get stopped on a day when some cop thinks he’s driving the wrong car in the wrong neighborhood and “reasons” that the nigger must have stolen it, thereby making him primed to draw his weapon to face a perceived hostile car thief. If the driver protests his innocence, even if he can prove it, he risks serious injury or death simply because of the color of his skin and how much money he has in the bank. A rich, educated nigger gets under the skin of many a white male who can’t manage to hold down a job or makes less money at the job he has. All of my male relatives have been through scenarios not unlike the one I’ve described above, including the cops, the judge and the lawyers in the family. I cannot name a black man in my general age range who hasn’t been pulled over without probable cause. There is something supremely wrong with that fact.

As President Obama said, Trayvon could have been him 35 years or so ago. Trayvon could be a kid in my extended family. It would not matter one wit that his father, uncle, brother or grandfather was a cop–assuming he even got a chance to say so. Indeed, there’s no guarantee that the relative isn’t receiving harassment on the job as many black officers do in smaller departments, especially those in predominantly white suburbs. If they can’t count on their fellow police officers, why should any non-white person think s/he is immune from a cop having a bad day? If the president is threatened over 30 times a day, stretching the Secret Service beyond its limits, (something they deny, by the way), why should we expect justice for a 17-year-old kid going back to his father’s house in a gated community wearing a completely innocuous type of outerwear who was shot and killed by a vigilante who will not go to prison because a six-member, all female and mostly white jury decided that Zimmerman was reasonable in his belief that his life was in danger from the unarmed teen?

Trying to persuade another person to walk in your shoes for a while when they already have pre-conceived ideas is difficult at best. There have been times when I’ve simply thrown up my hands and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t try to teach someone with no context at all how I feel.” It is at those times when I barricade myself in my house and/or my bedroom and cry. That’s the only thing I can do because I get so tired and so angry. However, in the end, I go through the same shit again, but maybe with a different person. Occasionally, I’ll make progress. It is for those times that I keep trying. Like Obama sees hope in his daughters, making even a small dent in the preconceived notions held by others about what it means to be black in America is a major victory in my eyes. I just wish more whites would take on the burden of learning and stop putting the burden on non-whites to teach them because, really, it isn’t our job. We do it, nevertheless, because there is no other viable choice. It is a tragedy that a boy died because no one taught his killer to have an open mind and open heart instead of a closed mind and a gun. This article would not have been written and a boy might have grown into a wonderful, proud young man and had a family of his own. Instead, he was taken from the world by someone not fit to shine his shoes. I pray that Trayvon Martin’s death will not have been in vain.

A version of this post originally appeared July 2, 2013 on my Facebook page after the Supreme Court of the United States handed down the Prop 8 and so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” decisions in Hollingsworth, et al. v. Perry, et al. (Prop 8) and U.S. v. Windsor (the DOMA case) on June 26, 2013 and the same Court virtually stripped the teeth out of the Civil Rights Voting Act of 1965 in Shelby County v. Holder the day before. 

This summer has been lousy for people like me. That is to say, those who are black, queer* and female. In this country, that means I’m going to have more difficulty voting; I’ve got all kinds of strangers up in my uterus without my consent; if I did decide to carry a fetus to term and it’s a boy, I’d better be prepared to tell him that he has to kiss some cop’s ass even if that cop deserves no respect at all, BUT; I can marry anyone I love and who will have me as long as I do so in a foreign country or in one of the 13 states and the District of Columbia, (Minnesota and Rhode Island began offering same-sex marriages on August 1, 2013), where same-sex marriage is legal should my love happen to be another woman and, live in the two out of the remaining 36 states where there is no state DOMA. Two of three facets of my being is horrible, but it’s not catastrophic–yet. Still, this is bad business that calls for all hands on deck.

Yo, all you het AND homo AND bi AND trans men out there, especially those not in “ethnic” (read “racial”) minorities, your sisters need your help! Remember, if one of us is pregnant, it means one of YOU knocked us up. Women, especially queer women, have stood with you shoulder-to-shoulder time and again since 1969’s Stonewall riot and, before that, all through what is generally considered the “Civil Rights Era,” (as if we aren’t still in it) and any other time there was any unfairness in this country that effected men. It’s your turn to stand with us.

The female spirit is awesomely formidable, but we cannot do it alone. It’s your turn to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us against invasion of the womb snatchers like Oho Governor John Kasich and his cronies around Ohio and the country. Who can forget Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s heroic last-ditch filibuster in the state’s upper house against a putrid anti-choice bill? She made history and became a political rock star. Yes, the bill did finally pass. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are a few state legislators and potential Republican candidates for governor watching their backs thanks to the attention Davis brought to the anti-choice, anti-woman legislation and silently praying to whatever God to whom Republicans mumble that she, or someone like her, doesn’t decide to run against them.

While you ponder the above call for reciprocity, think about something else, too. The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights (LCCR), a coalition of over 200 civil rights organizations that includes LGBT groups; labor unions, and; some mainstream religious groups, has been mobilizing and lobbying with us in support of LGBT rights. Few know that LCCR exists, even though it has been quietly watching our backs for decades. Yes, it is most definitely an “inside the Beltway” group, but that is one of its strengths in this instance. The group has built consensus among its members, quietly whispered in very powerful ears when intervention was needed while we outside the the Beltway  became more polarized in many instances. If LCCR didn’t exist, we’d have to convene and form a group like it today. Issues we thought had been settled, like voting rights, are in play again. I very strongly suspect that anti-profiling measures and “stand your ground” state laws will be next at the top of the agenda after the George Zimmerman acquittal.

When I was working on Barack Obama’s first presidential run in ’08, I had occasion to meet a lovely young, white male field rep from one of this country’s largest LGBT rights organizations. We began talking and he volunteered that gay, white men are some of the most racist individuals he’s ever met. Well, unfortunately, in too many cases, he wasn’t far off. The reality is that the racism expressed in some bastions of white, gay male supremacy, even (often) accidentally, has made many minorities of all hues and sexual orientations less than sympathetic to those who need their support. It is why so many natural allies have truly detested any comparison of the Civil Rights Era’s murders, beatings, maimings, bombings, jailings, general hardships and seeming victories to those experienced by people in LGBT communities. What most queer, white males don’t know is that civil rights organizations, most notably the NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Urban League, the National Council of Negro Women, National Council of La Raza and some Asian civil rights organizations have been among our strongest, most discretely vocal, supporters. Just because something doesn’t make the five stories endlessly repeated on all networks’ 24/7 news broadcasts doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening.

Add to LCCR’s involvement that of the Congressional Black Caucus and its steadfast, unwavering support of LGBT rights and maybe it is possible for queer, white men to figure out that it’s time to pay their moral obligations. Write checks, work on campaigns, open your minds and your hearts enough to have the backs of your sisters and your loyal compatriots when we need you. Will it take a woman or an ethnic minority walking up to you sometime in the next 10 years and asking in an accusatory tone, “What were you doing when that m*****f***** was robbing me of my rights? I was with you during [insert political/human rights movement]. Were you with me when I needed you?” If you have to hang your head in shame, you’re going to remember this post and what you could have done to make things better. Believe me, you will not feel so “gay” then. You will feel crappy and rightly so.

It isn’t up to someone else to do the work alone. It is incumbent upon all of us who have shared in hard-fought victories to help others win on the same scale. When one person falls, it is the others’ duty to pick them up and carry them until we can all walk together. La Raza, the NAACP and the National Urban League didn’t have to support LGBT rights, especially marriage equality. It was support that many of their constituents did not like at all. However, the leaders of these organizations threw their considerable weight behind us because they knew their constituents, with some education and time, would most likely come around. They were right. It’s time for the overall LGBT community to do the same. Our leaders are already on-board. I’m not worried about them faltering at all. It’s time for individual men in gay communities, and also in straight communities, to do their part for women’s rights and civil rights for everyone. All the usual excuses don’t hold water this time. The situation is too grave.

I want Kasich and his ilk’s grubby paws off my uterus and those of my sisters in spirit. I want Planned Parenthood given the funding to create and execute new initiatives so that women–and their men–don’t have to go through the heartache of unwanted pregnancy. I want Congress to fix the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its regulations to meet the requirements set by SCOTUS because without new rules, voting is going to be very difficult for people who are poor and/or racial minorities.

Last, and in no way least, I want justice for Trayvon Martin who was killed because he was a black kid who committed the “crime” of wearing a hoodie when someone else didn’t think he belonged where he was walking.

It is time for all men, regardless of self-identification and sexual orientation, to step up! We need you. Now!

*I have used the word “queer,” but it is still very loaded for many people within the LGBT spectrum. I use it primarily because sexuality does not always fall into nice, neat categories and “queer” is a way to refer to all who don’t necessarily fit where someone else thinks they should. For example, I count myself within the LGBT spectrum, but about the only thing I can say I’m not is transgender. Such is sexuality.

After months of speculation, my baby, the blog Words From a Wicked Woman, is having a baby of her own. Wicked Woman Magazine (WWM) will draw its first virtual breath at 00:00:01 October 1, 2013.

Words From A Wicked Woman, (TWW), made its quiet debut in January, 2007. It was originally slated to be the place I could post professional, no-holds barred reporting and commentary for pieces that didn’t fit neatly into a given subject area or for which I simply could find no home. I thought that I was finally healthy enough to go back to work freelancing as a journalist after being sick and/or on someone’s operating table for over four years at that time. Boy, was I wrong! I’ve had an additional three operations since then and will have another this August. Nevertheless, I continued to write. I was not eager to have an editor burning up my Inbox or my cell phone wondering where an article was when the deadline was two days earlier. That wasn’t fair to the publication and I didn’t believe I could be fair to myself by pushing my body completely beyond the red, thereby hindering my recovery. Therefore, TWW became my “client” instead of some other website or print medium.

Wicked Woman Magazine goes live October 1, 2013!

Wicked Woman Magazine goes live October 1, 2013!

I did manage to do some original reporting, primarily on the topic of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Nigeria fighting their government and their church, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), as both sought to criminalize consensual same-sex relations be the parties friends, acquaintances or lovers. At the same time, The Episcopal Church in the U.S., (TEC), was coming apart at the seams as individual congregations and whole dioceses protested the election of the first openly gay bishop, The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, to lead the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2004, and, unbelievably; the ordination of women. Not only were the apostate congregations, clergy and dioceses fighting against TEC itself, but were doing so with the help of the Church of Nigeria. In essence, the Americans tried to pull out of TEC and take shelter under the banner of the Church of Nigeria, initially bringing their physical and financial assets with them. This was wide-scale poaching never before seen in the Anglican Communion, the non-authoritative, though highly influential, governing body of churches throughout the world that trace their roots back to the Church of England and is nominally led by the archbishop of Canterbury.

For a journalist who counts religion among her specialties, this was manna from heaven. (No pun intended.) I met some great people along the way and some not-so-great people, too. I can only hope that my reporting was able to make readers more aware of the high-stakes games that were being played. These “high-stakes games” included crimes which would fall under the headings “aggravated assault” and “attempted murder” had they been committed in any jurisdiction in the U.S. or most of Europe. Indeed, the activist with whom I worked was forced to seek political asylum in the United Kingdom due to illegal imprisonment, beatings by police and death threats that followed him as he moved from country to country on the African continent. I can joyfully report that he was granted asylum and was just married to the love of his life a few months ago. Both husbands are reportedly still soaking in the rays of connubial bliss.

In the years when I simply could not write at all, I never forgot TWW. Apparently, neither did a bunch of other people. I checked the readership statistics eventually after semi-returning and was shocked, amazed, happy and grateful to see that “The little blog that could,” my unofficial sobriquet for TWW, had received nearly 40,000 individual hits in my absence. The most popular article then and now is about the Dalai Lama’s evolving views on homosexuality.

One of my other favorite topics was and is the definition of beauty in different cultures and how non-white, non-size-2 women are told that they fall far short of the epitome of what is considered beautiful. It is a topic that continues to intrigue and annoy me, probably because I don’t fit those categories and know very few women in real life who do. For example, while doing some research for WWM, I learned that some clothing manufacturers consider women who wear a size 10 within the plus-size category. That is insane! It is also very, very bad for the self-esteem of little girls everywhere. While I did write a couple of articles on the topic of beauty, style tips and the toxic waste being dumped on the self-image of little black, brown, yellow and red girls, I more or less ceded that territory to a wonderful young blogger who refers to herself as “Afropolitan,” a description I adore and would love to write about. Aulelia is an exceptional young woman who left her birthplace in Tanzania as a young child with the rest of the family as her father was posted throughout Europe and Asia as a diplomat. She graduated from a British university with a degree in Business and has set herself up as a business consultant based in Dar Es Salaam. That is a bold and brave endeavor for a woman in Tanzania. Her blog is called Charcoal Ink and is an excellent read. Frankly, if I’ve got a question about culture among those in her demographic, she’s my go-to person.

(more…)

The Associated Press is reporting the following:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – The neighborhood watch volunteer who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was arrested and charged with second-degree murder Wednesday after months of mounting tensions and protests across the country.

George Zimmerman, 28, could get up to life in prison if convicted in the slaying of the unarmed black teenager.

Special prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charges but would not discuss how she arrived at them or disclose other details of her investigation, saying: “That’s why we try cases in court.”

Second-degree murder is typically brought in cases when there is a fight or other confrontation that results in death and but does involve a premeditated plan to kill.

Corey would not disclose Zimmerman’s whereabouts for his safety but said that he will be in court within 24 hours.

Zimmerman’s new attorney, Mark O’Mara, said: “I’m expecting a lot of work and hopefully justice in the end.”

Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, has asserted since the Feb. 26 killing in Sanford that he shot in self-defense after the teenager attacked him. Martin’s family argued Zimmerman was the aggressor.

The shooting brought demands from black leaders for his arrest and set off a furious nationwide debate over race and self-defense that reached all the way to the White House.

Corey said the decision to bring charges was based on the facts and the law, declaring: “We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition.”

One of the biggest hurdles to Zimmerman’s arrest over the past month was Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which gives people wide leeway to use deadly force without having to retreat in the face of danger. The lack of an arrest had sparked outrage and rallies for justice in the Orlando suburb and across the country.

On Tuesday, Zimmerman’s lawyers announced they were withdrawing from the case because they hadn’t heard from him since Sunday and didn’t know where he was. They portrayed his mental state as fragile.

“He is largely alone. You might even say he is emotionally crippled by virtue of the pressure of this case,” said one of the lawyers, Hal Uhrig.

The case has drawn the interest of the highest levels of the Obama administration, with the Justice Department’s civil rights division opening its own investigation.

Tensions have risen in recent days in Sanford. Someone shot up an unoccupied police car Tuesday as it sat outside the neighborhood where Martin was killed. And a demonstration by college students closed the town’s police station Monday.

Six weeks ago, Martin was returning to the home of his father’s fiancee from a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him. Zimmerman told police dispatchers he looked suspicious. At some point, the two got into a fight and Zimmerman used his gun.

Zimmerman told police Martin attacked him after he had given up chasing the teenager and was returning to his truck. He told detectives that Martin knocked him to the ground and began slamming his head on the sidewalk. Zimmerman’s father said that Martin threatened to kill his son and that Zimmerman suffered a broken nose.

A video taken about 40 minutes after the shooting as Zimmerman arrived at the Sanford police station showed him walking unassisted without difficulty. There were no plainly visible bandages or blood on his clothing, but Zimmerman may have had a small wound on the back of his head.

The shooting ignited resentment toward the police department, and Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped down to let passions cool.

Civil rights groups and others have held rallies around the country, saying the shooting was unjustified. Many of the protesters wore the same type of hooded sweat shirt that Martin had on that day, suggesting his appearance and race had something to do with his killing.

President Barack Obama injected himself into the debate, urging Americans to “do some soul-searching.” ”If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said March 23.

The local prosecutor disqualified himself from the case, and Gov. Rick Scott appointed Corey, the prosecutor for Jacksonville, to take it over.

The following is the first in a series concerning bias against LGBT in all facets of life, including crime and employment, called Fighting Hate. We will look at what’s going on, who is doing what to whom and how. If we don’t know what’s happening, we can do nothing about it.

Passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1592) by the U.S. House of Representatives in a 237-180 bipartisan vote on May 3 signaled the success of a 230-plus member coalition led by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) that includes gay and civil rights organizations, labor, law enforcement professionals, religious groups and professional governmental entities in fighting hate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The coalition includes: the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, America’s premier civil rights coalition; the American Civil Liberties Union; various unions under the AFL-CIO umbrella; all of the mainstream Protestant denominations and several major Roman Catholic social justice organizations; several major Jewish organizations including Hadassah, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and the National Council of Jewish Women; law enforcement organizations like the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and National District Attorneys Association, and; several associations of governmental entities such as United States Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.

The bill expands existing federal hate crimes laws to include offenses motivated by actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or disability; provides “technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or any other form of assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution” of bias-motivated crimes under state, local and tribal laws, and; allows jurisdictions to apply for federal grants to help local, state and tribal entities prevent hate crimes committed by juveniles. A little-recognized provision would extend the federal government’s ability to intervene even if the offense was not committed on federal property or the victim was not engaged in one of six federally protected activities at the time the offense occurred as current laws require. The protected activities are: voting; participating in a federal program; working, or applying to work, for the federal government; serving on a jury; participating in a federally-funded program, and; engaging in interstate commerce. The measure is expected to reach the floor of the Senate, where it is called the Matthew Shepard Act (S. 1105), very soon. President George Bush has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

What many people do not realize is that the H.R. 1592 coalition includes several black civil rights organizations whose constituency is already included in existing hate crimes laws. However, because they believe it is the right thing to do, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with HRC and other gay rights advocacy groups to support the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. In doing so, they have become targets of the Religious Right in general and black Religious Right proponents in particular.

In a statement released upon his introduction of the bill, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) said, “This legislation is a constructive and measured response to a problem that continues to plague our nation. Behind each of the hate crime statistics is an individual or community targeted for violence for no other reason than race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. These are crimes that shock and shame our national conscience and should be subject to comprehensive federal law enforcement assistance and prosecution.”

According to Hate Crimes Statistics, 2005, an annual report released last October, “7,163 criminal incidents involving 8,380 offenses were reported in 2005 as a result of bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability.” Of those incidents, 54.7% were motivated by race, 17.1% by religion, 14.2% by sexual orientation, 13.2% by ethnicity/national origin and .7% by disability. It is generally believed that bias crimes based on sexual orientation are widely underreported. Indeed, many jurisdictions do not keep records of such offenses at all and there are no FBI statistics on gender identity-based hate crimes. The Justice Department is required by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 to collect data on bias-motivated offenses from legal jurisdictions throughout the country.

Religious Rights organizations vehemently opposed H.R. 1592 after it was introduced by, claiming that it was an attack on Christian values.

In an editorial titled “Conyers’ ‘Hate Grandma’ bill introduced in House” on the Religious Right “news” site WorldNetDaily.com, Janet Folger, president of the Christian activist group Faith2Action, wrote that the congressman “must hate free speech. He must hate equality. And he must hate…grandma. And I think it’s a crime.” She goes on to say that H.R. 1592 would increase the penalties for any crime committed against LGBT and that it would be safer to rob a heterosexual senior citizen. “So, if you’re going to mug someone, better make sure it’s grandma (unless she’s become a lesbian) – because if the guy whose money you steal happens to be a homosexual, you’re looking at a triple sentence. Go after grandma, and it’s one-third off! Hey, why don’t we save everyone a lot of time and just hand out “Conyers’ Coupons for Criminals!

The so-called “Conyers’ Coupons for Criminals” is a concept almost too convoluted to take seriously, but theoretically indicates the lower level of culpability imposed by committing a crime against a non-protected class; in this instance, a non-LGBT person as opposed to someone who would be protected under an extension of current hate crimes laws.

“The legislation is ostensibly designed to aid local law enforcement officials, but the real objective is to make homosexual behaviors, cross-dressing, and transsexualism into federally protected minority groups. Changeable behaviors are thus to be accorded the same federal protection as race,” wrote the Rev. Louis P. Shelton, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, on that group’s web site. He went on to say, “If signed into law, H.R. 1592 will usher in the death of religious freedom and speech in this nation. Any critical comments about homosexual sodomy will be considered ‘hate speech’ and outside the bounds of First Amendment protections. It has already happened in Canada and it will happen here if H.R. 1592 and other laws like it are not soundly defeated.” The page includes the graphic on the right of a WANTED poster with a supposed picture of Jesus and the heading “For Violation of the Proposed Hate Crimes Law In His Teachings And In His Book ‘The Bible.'”

Interviewed by TWW just hours before the House vote, HRC Regional Field Direction Colin O’Dea said, “I think [the vote will] be a little closer than people thought. I think the Religious Right did a lot more work than we thought they were going to do and caught us a little bit off-guard–not just HRC, but the progressive community as a whole.”

According to the blog Pam’s House Blend, a good read for a summary of the Religious Right’s anti-hate crime bill activities before and after it passed the House (also see these articles), members of Congress were blanketed with e-mail, faxes, letters and phone calls urging them to vote against the measure. Although efforts to amend hate crimes laws to include LGBT people have been introduced since the 1970s, opposition was particularly strong this time, including a failed petition stating that hate crimes legislation would: “Silence the Bible-believing Churches, Pastors and Christians”; “Elevate homosexuality and gender confused individuals such as drag queens, cross-dressers, she-males, etc. to the status of federally-protected minorities. These behaviors will be considered equal to race under the federal law,” and; “Fund anti-Christian curriculum for children K-12, through the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to promote homosexuality and cross-dressing as normal behaviors,” among other false and inflammatory accusations.

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., senior pastor of the Washington, DC-area Hope Christian Church and leader of the ultra conservative black Christian political group High Impact Leadership Coalition, held a news conference about a week before passage of H.R. 1592. Flanked by several other black ministers, he said that their joining with conservative white Christians “represents a landmark transition that’s going on in our nation. In fact, what is going on is that there is an amalgamation–a coming together of the black church . . . and the white church against this kind of legislation.” (See this transcript of his statements.) Jackson, at No. 22, was voted one of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America by Church Report Magazine last January. Bishop T.D. Jakes (No. 4), The Potter’s House in Houston, TX; Bishop Eddie L. Long (No. 34), New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Lithonia, GA, and; Dr. Creflo A. Dollar (No. 48), World Changers International are the other black ministers/pastors on the list–all falling squarely in the Religious Right camp.

O’Dea, the HRC regional field director noted that events like Jackson’s press conference are big news because they are so rare. “In communities of color, there are more supporters than most people would think. It makes bigger news when the minister of a mega-church comes out in favor of standing with Bush or standing with the Republicans because [it happens infrequently].”

He is quite right. Much to Jackson’s consternation, by and large, black leaders have been strong supporters of efforts to include LGBT in hate crimes and other pieces of civil rights legislation. “[H.R. 1592] has been endorsed by the NAACP, by other black leadership in high-ranking, kind of official, capacity. But, unfortunately, many of the forerunners of the Civil Rights Movement in the early days are now out-of-touch with what is going on. They are not moving in step with the real grassroots of the black community. So we have a limited number of autonomous, self-appointed leaders who are standing to speak inappropriately for the black community,” he remarked.

Although Jackson did not name specific black leaders, it is a sure bet he included members of the CBC, long-time advocates of civil rights for LGBT people, including support for employment protection, opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and inclusive hate crime legislation.

An analysis of the May 3 House vote reveals that only 11 members did not co-sponsor the bill (including one deceased and one Senate member), and; only four members did not vote for the bill (one deceased, one Senate member and two absent members). In short, H.R. 1592 received the overwhelming support of CBC members. (Voting results taken from GovTrack.us.)

In a press release issued upon passage of H.R. 1592, CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI) said, “One of our most important charges is to protect and defend [America's] citizens, which is precisely what H.R. 1592, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, introduced by one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. [does]. . . . As we celebrate two centuries of the end of the African Slave Trade, it is our hope that today will be the beginning of the end of the decades of mindless hatred, bigotry, and discrimination against all God’s children. All Americans have an investment in a stable, violence free government, and that is exactly what this bill provides.”

Jackson may not have enumerated specific black leaders for condemnation, however, he did single out the venerable National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for their support of the bill. Former U.N. ambassador and current NAACP Chairman of the Board Julian Bond has been a steadfast supporter of gay rights. As an advisor and colleague of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he has a unique and unquestionably authoritative view of discrimination in America. When asked in a September 2006 interview conducted by America Online’s Black Voices why a lot of black people think that black rights are reduced when others gain their own, Bond responded, “I don’t know. I think it’s because they don’t have an understanding of the universality of rights. They somehow think, wrongly, that if Joe gets rights, then John loses rights. Which of course, doesn’t make sense. This is a win-win game for everybody.”

In his keynote address at the 2005 Equality Virginia annual dinner, Bond said, “Gay and lesbian rights are not ‘special rights’ in any way. It isn’t ‘special’ to be free from discrimination–it is an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship. The right not to be discriminated against is a common-place claim we all expect to enjoy under our laws and our founding document, the Constitution. That many had to struggle to gain these rights makes them precious–it does not make them special, and it does not reserve them only for me or restrict them from others.”

The NAACP, the CBC, Conyers and Julian Bond were not the only prominent black organizations and individuals endorsing H.R. 1592. Joining them are the A. Philip Randolph Institute; the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; the Congress of National Black Churches; the National Black Police Association; the National Urban League, and; the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Union, among others. Read the entire list of supporters.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,