Chained to the White Man

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By Tiffany Williams

Fuck the white man who told me
Dyslexia was an incurable disease
That being left-handed was worse than
Being Right

Momma told me to be silent when the white man was talking
Told me to listen to the white man
Act like the white man
Dye my hair blond
Get blue contacts
Don’t tan, you’re already dark
Go to the beauty supply store
Buy European hair and forget your roots
Momma said, Don’t dream… It’s too dangerous

Too afraid of saying the wrong thing
When the wrong thing was the right thing to say

Fuck you Soddy Daisy Elementary
made me afraid to be myself at 8
Mrs. Smith, my second grade teacher
never called on me
thought I didn’t know the answer
didn’t get picked for the spelling bee
no praise for the perfect scores
no smiley face sticker, no “good job”

Fuck the white kids
called me a Nigger at recess
Ate alone at lunchtime
An apple, cold turkey and cheese sandwich, my companions
5 feet of space between me and the table full of whispers
and wide open eyes
I heard them call me monster
Said my hair looked like weeds
Nothing you kept in your yard
I hung my head low
Eyes never met my enemies
I thought we were kids
and hatred couldn’t exist

Fuck the month of February
During black history month
teacher told me, Speak
Tell the story of your people
Couldn’t they see
That I didn’t know a Damn thing?
That I was learning too?

At home momma told me
“you can’t eat, until your homework is done”
I worked for hours
Math, more Math
Math
English, More English
English
Science, more Science
Science
Gotta get ahead if you wanna survive in this world
But would I ever get ahead?
Was it even possible?

Nighttime
Heard momma yellin
Daddy cussin
Hid in my closet
Prayin
Momma bleedin on the kitchen floor.
Knew I was never gonna get married.

Momma was right
I listened to the white man
Held my tongue for the white man
Relaxed my hair for the white man
Wore baggy clothes to hide my curves
Didn’t sit outside, too afraid to get too dark
Forgot what it was like to walk proud, head held high
Wait…
I was never taught that

Medicine Has the Power to Heal

By Jessica Williams

There is power in medicine. Not just because medicine serves to heal, but also because it strengthens the human connection. Think about it. You have to discuss very personal, and at times, embarrassing details about your body with a person that you have just met. You have to trust that this person can solve these health concerns. Although this may seem terrifying, there is something beautiful that can be produced from these “awkward” moments. A unique bond can be formed, one that transcends cultural barriers and ultimately eliminates disparities in healthcare. This all happens within 30 minutes. The fascinating role that physicians play in the aforementioned is what drew me to medicine.

In January 2010, I volunteered as a Spanish Interpreter to help set up health clinics in twelve rural towns in Fusimana, Dominican Republic. stock-photo-10949142-dominican-republic-and-haitiThere, I observed first-hand the effects of disparities in healthcare. Due to the remote location, lack of education and income, the people did know how to receive proper medical care. This constant lack of knowledge only perpetuated a standard for poor quality of care. These medical mission trips served as the community’s only source for receiving adequate health services. As a Spanish Interpreter, my role was more of a cultural broker, a conduit that helped to address the health concerns of the patients and make sure they understood their plan of care. Also, I was able to educate each town on health topics ranging from hygiene to management of chronic illnesses, like hypertension. By simply informing the communities on ways to maintain a healthier lifestyle, I was able to help prevent their health problems from transforming into more dire ones.

These tasks may seem simple, but they were far from it. Imagine a long line of 200 people waiting to be seen in a dimly lit church, where the physician can only see the person for a maximum of 20 minutes. Here, bridging the cultural gap is critical to ensure that the patients receive optimal medical care. By interpreting for the physician and the patient, I was able to help foster a strong bond between both parties. Because I was able to dismantle the language barrier, the physician could effectively treat the patient.

Through my role as an interpreter, I was able to help plan a treatment for a young, diabetic mother with three children. Due to a lack of stable income, the mother could not afford her medication or food tailored to stabilize her glucose levels. I worked with the physician to educate the mother on cost-effective ways to cook and grow certain food in the Dominican Republic that both she and her children could enjoy. We also gave the mother a six month supply of diabetic medications, explained to her how to use them effectively, and connected her to a local social worker to help with employment. Within fifteen minutes, we we were able to tackle the patient’s health concerns. We centered her plan of care around her cultural preferences because we were able to understand her lifestyle.

This experience not only showed me what it takes to become a great physician, but alsowhat it means to be a good human being. One simply has to show compassion, a willingness to help. That is what medicine is about, and that is what makes us all humane.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. -Mother Teresa

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
-Mother Teresa

Darkness Is Just a Sign that Sunshine Is on It’s Way

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. - Mary Oliver

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. – Mary Oliver

Sometimes we are bitch slapped by life. Often times overworked and underpaid, constantly running against time and not with it. Hard pressed for the 8:10am train to only be depressed as we see it pull away, wishing that if only you had not pushed the snooze button that one extra time, or took two extra minutes to apply mascara. My mornings are always filled with “what ifs” or “if only this” or “why didn’t I” or “I should have.” My body and mind are always anxious, my shoulders tense, my hands numb, and my eyes cold. I  entered this year more anxious than ever. I wondered why I have anxiety because I am a 25 year old black woman living in the greatest city in the world, going to a highly regarded graduate school, and working at one of the best media companies in the entertainment industry. Why am I so anxious when I should be on top of the world? I am surrounded by opportunity, intellectual stimulation, and access. My material world is perfect, my pockets a third full, but my mental world is empty. I am running but running without a stable mind. It has only been 11 days into this new year and I have already cried more than half of those days.

As a result, I have questioned myself and my capabilities. In the end, I realized that in order to capture the beauty around me and restore my energy to build an even stronger foundation to enable maturity, growth and acceptance, I have to have a stable mind and stable heart. Last night, I reflected on what it would take me to achieve this without the influence of others or the longing for others to fill those voids. Below is my healing plan. It is not perfect. But hopefully it will serve as a roadmap for me to build upon and for you to create your own.

  1. IDENTITY. Sometimes we are stressed, depressed, insecure, and unhappy simply because we do not know who we are. Identity is not some ethereal word that leaves a void in your stomach. Identity is tangible in a sense that you can touch and feel when you take time to know yourself. Like reading books by bell hooks or Rachel Maddow or Audre Lorde. Their books for example provoke the mind, body and spirit so much that you will start to ask yourself personal questions. When discovering your identity, it’s ok to talk to yourself. Hash out your cultural, political, social, gender, sexual issues. I promise it’s healthy. If you are too afraid of talking out loud, too afraid that your neighbor may hear, then take out a pen and let your mind go.

  1. ACCEPTANCE. Sometimes we think that our imperfections are what make us flawed and at a disadvantage. In actuality, your imperfections are what make you more interesting and different from the next person.???????????????????????????????So what if you have one more booty dimple than Beyonce, occasionally get a pimple during that dreaded time of the month, have your weight fluctuate that you may go up one pants size, or your hair doesn’t look like that girl from the pantene commercial. Find value and acceptance in your body. Once you accept your body, other people will as well. There’s is honesty and love in self-acceptance.

  1. SEXUALITY. Two words. Own It. I used to feel that I had to fit into a mold when I got into a relationship. That I could not be as sexual or sexy because I was in a committed relationship and I was too afraid of other men commenting on my attire. It’s ok to feel sexy. To have a night to yourself and wear that sexy sparkly dress. Sexuality and confidence in your sexuality, no matter what your gender identity is, means taking the time to invest in yourself and do the things that does not make you feel like you are losing your sexuality.

  1. PASSION: Don’t be afraid to do what you love. I’m a painter, a lover for the smell of oil pants, a sucker for a blank canvas, and the voice of Lianne La Havas to guide my brush strokes. c11056d80473e31b447e2493e4b93850Unfortunately, I do not have the time to paint 24/7 as I would like to. I have to keep a roof over my head and maintain my one bedroom apartment. As a result, I work a full time job. Even though I can not do what I love all the time, does not mean I cannot make time. I lost myself because I stopped painting. Painting is what makes me complete. Now I am dedicating time each week to paint and hopefully it will lead to an beautiful escape.

  1. YOU ARE THE COMPANY YOU KEEP. Surround yourself with beautiful spirits. People that make you better and love you despite your flaws. Friends that are not afraid to tell you when you are wrong and who have their own goals and aspirations. I do not think I would be able to have a piece of mind if I did not have the beautiful, courageous, resilient women behind me to love me.

Hopefully, this short list of 5 pillars to a stable mind will help you and I both have a healthy mind, body, and spirit.  Remember to not give into darkness. Sometimes darkness is just a sign that light is around the corner….

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Life, love, health, and feminism.

Tiffany

Taking Control of the Lens: Julie Dash and Leslie Harris

“I grew up at a time when it was an anomaly to see people who looked like me on TV. When you don’t feel seen or heard, you don’t feel validated or valued.” – Shonda Rhimes

          Space is what defines our bodies, fashion, style, dress, hair, mannerisms, and skin color. Depending on where a person resides, space determines an environment’s specific ethnic and aesthetic makeup. Black women filmmakers negotiate and utilize space differently than their male counterparts. Black male directors generally tell stories of the black male experience, masculinity, manhood, and urban experiences. These are themes seen in films like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song. Black women filmmakers, on the other hand, use space to explore black womanhood, gender relations, and class through the black woman protagonist(s) in film. The 1990s was an especially revolutionary period for black women filmmakers because they produced films that engaged women spectators around the world.

Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1992) was the first full-length film by an African-American woman with general theatrical release in the United States.

Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1992) was the first full-length film by an African-American woman with general theatrical release in the United States.

Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust opens with the line,

“I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one. I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin. I am the barren one and many of my daughters. I am the silence you cannot understand. I am the utterance of my name.”

The powerful lyrical prose transitions beautifully into first scene when the Gullah Islands enter on screen with the presence of a boat treading through water. The audience is immediately immersed into a distinctive African culture that is defined and narrated by women. The voiceover invites us into the filmic space to experience the Sea Gullah Islands, home of the Peazant family, the members of whom have sought to sustain a unique, imaginative, original African culture. When the boat enters the on screen, we assume the boat is representative to the boats that crossed the middle passage to bring slaves to America. However, when the camera zooms in on the boat, the audience sees a regal woman who is soon to be revealed as Yellow Mary standing starkly in the boat, upright, and prideful. Her position is not a position of powerlessness. She is powerful and the women who will be unveiled in the film, following Yellow Mary’s entrance, have the same power and agency granted on screen.

Dash strategically time stamps the film, situating the setting in 1902, an important historical period for Blacks living in America. By doing so, the audience is able to enter into culturally specific space where blacks survive, exists, preserve, and remember their ancestors at Ibo Landing. Ibo Landing is a symbolic space because it serves as a canvas to glance back to slavery, the Middle Passage, African religions, Christianity, Islam, print media, photography, moving pictures, and African-American folkways, as elements with which black people must come to terms in order to glance forward as citizens of the United States. It serves as a space where the Peazant family can articulate their family history without the intrusion of whiteness. Whiteness is completely marginalized in Ibo Landing. Dash does this to show the audience a true authentic black culture where decisions are made and life is experienced on their own time and in their own space.

1002004012415809On the other hand, space in Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. functions differently than Daughters of the Dust because the film is situated in a city rather than a rural environment. The opening scene shows a young black man with a garbage bag in his hand, walking

slowly in the dark. He anxiously scans the area and places the bag next to a trashcan and walks away. This image is taken from second to final scene of the movie where Chantel, the protagonist, gives birth to her child in her boyfriend’s bedroom and frantically asks her boyfriend to dispose of the child. The media often frames the story as an unfortunate mishap that only happens in underprivileged spaces, such as low-income neighborhoods. The subjects are not granted a voice in the media to tell the story from their perspective. Leslie Harris revises the narrative and inserts the voice of 17-year-old Chantel Harris to tell the story.

In the first few seconds, Harris places the narrative in Chantel’s hands and her voice over is directed to the audience. Chantel states “You know tomorrow you might be reading about this in papers or you might even see it on TV. Y’all might shake your heads and think and say somebody was real bugged out or was on crack or something. Some people hear about my neighborhood and assume some real fucked up things. But I am going to tell y’all the real deal.” Instead of whiteness defining Chantel’s lived experiences, Chantel uses space to give an authentic voice to young black women living in urban environments.

Brooklyn, like Ibo Landing, is a symbolic space because it serves a foundation to build Chantel’s story. After the opening scene, Harris brings Chantel’s voice to the foreground and shows her standing at the Park Place subway stop in Brooklyn waiting on the Manhattan-bound train to take her to Midtown where she works at a local grocery store.

While Chantel is on the platform Harris cuts to the sign above the subway stop, which is covered in graffiti. Behind it are the tall high-rise buildings that make up low-income housing. Chantel boards the train and Harris makes it a point to briefly display the passing subway stops signs. Each sign along the ride is more clean then the last, each subway station nicer than the one before it.

The mis-en-scene of this shot is important because it shows how Chantel moves into spaces of familiarity to spaces of unfamiliarity. It also represents the social circumstances that Chantel experiences daily. Before she enters the store, Chantel abruptly turns to the camera and openly states,

“I’m a Brooklyn girl. Lots of people think Brooklyn girls are tough. I guess that’s true. I don’t let nobody mess with me.  I do what I want, when I want.”

Despite the drastic change in environment, moving from grimy to affluent in only a couple of minutes, Chantel doesn’t change her attitude but declares Brooklyn as her identity. Brooklyn defines Chantel’s experience and how she interacts in other spaces unfamiliar to her.

These stories of black women navigating restricted or granted spaces would not have been explored if it wasn’t for black women filmmakers creating these films. These films are critical to explore how the various types of black woman navigate their worlds whether in Ibo Landing or Brooklyn.

Beauty Rest

By Alicia Cobb

It’s a complex

Beauty only goes skin deepth

You heard your mother say it

Didn’t listen

Doesn’t pertain to you anyway

But when the golden strands turn gray

And wrinkles set in

There’ll be no need for a mirror

When we can’t fit into those thigh boots

And we have too many rolls

To fit in that tank top

What will you replace

In the empty spaces

Conversations about

Who you know

And where you’ve been

It’s a complex

I can’t even begin

Baby girl

I wish I had a mirror

That would reflect your soul

Because that

Pretty girl

Is what makes you whole

Not perfect pictures

Or the likes

Or millions of friend requests

Let your brain do some work

Allow your beauty to rest

Beauty is and forever will be skin deep

One day it will be put to a test

Welcome to ART as a form of ACTIVISM Issue!

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our Art as a Form of Activism Issue!

Our November issue is dedicated to poets, filmmakers, writers, visual artists, and feminists who utilize art as a means to inspire and empower. From the classroom, to the streets, or behind a camera lens, words and themes of self- empowerment, feminism, and activism are being spread to individuals around the world.  We wanted to highlight those who are devoted activists and artists.

This month features:

  • A piece by Re/Visionist co-editor Tiffany Williams that looks at two black women independent filmmakers and how they allow black women subjects occupy space in film.
  • A poem titled ” Beauty Rest” by Alicia Cobb
  • A review of a recent poetry reading by Mary Oliver from co-editor Emilie Egger
  • A paper excerpt about themes of prostitution in early-1920s films by Emilie Egger
  • An analysis of Mary Magdalene in medieval art by women’s-history student Kaitlyn Kohr.
  • A review of a recent spoken word performance by Andrea Gibson from web-editor Carly Fox
  • A poem by Carly Fox titled ” When Will We Be Feminists?”

Sincerely,

Emilie Egger and Tiffany Williams, Re/Visionist co-editors

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Finding Feminism in my Grandmother’s Georgia

Dear Grandma,

I have often wondered about the days when you were young. The days before your children. The days before you divorced your first husband. Before you fell in love with your second. The days before you sported a perfectly combed Afro. The days when you drove a tractor, plowing your grandfather’s farm. The days when you played the dozens.

When I imagine you young Grandma, I see a brown girl toting schoolbooks and dreams down a dirt road in Pinehurst, Georgia. A brown girl telling the world to make space for her brown hands and brown eyes and brown elbows and brown hips. You walk down this road with your head held high, passing corner stores and lynching trees, and stick ball games daring anyone to question your humanity, your fullness. I imagine this moment and I take comfort in knowing that you are my grandmother.

I imagine you young and I ask myself: did you know that you would one day teach me how to love my little brown girl self?  That you would be my first example of radical black feminism?

And because I know you, I know that should you read this, you will scoff at the word feminism. To you, like many black women making a way in the Jim Crow South, feminism belonged to white women. Not you. Feminism would not pay your bills, would not feed your children, and would not soothe your back pain after a long days work. There was no place for you inside a feminism defined by a society that had always deemed you inferior.

But Grandma, you are radical. You have fashioned entire worlds with your hands, creating magical spaces for my little brown girl self as we baked homemade cheesecakes and stitched quilts. You taught me how to pray to the Goddess of little brown girls, how to thank her for my own brown hands and brown eyes brown elbows and brown hips. You told me the secrets of vitamin E oil, disclosed the potency of a glass of apple cider vinegar and water, and reminded me that I should live harmoniously with the earth.

Before I fell in love with Zora’s stories or began to quote Audre’s poetry or recite Toni’s manifestos, I had you Grandma. I stand at the edge of the universe with my arms wide open because Grandma, you have taught me that a woman with her arms closed is not ready to receive her blessings. A woman with her arms closed can serve no one. And what is a life devoid of service?

As a caretaker for the elderly and sick, you are proof that healing does not come by medicine alone but through kind words and laughter and healthy doses of sweet tea- antidotes not bound by the politics of race or class or sexuality. Your arms are open to all.

Perhaps, you will choose to describe your life in another way but I imagine you young Grandma, toting schoolbooks and dreams down a dirt road in Pinehurst, Georgia, and some part of me just knows that you have always understood your power. There is nothing more radical, more feminist than this.  I will always be grateful to you for that lesson.

Love,

Jessica