BlueEyedMonkey on August 11th, 2015

I grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield has been listed as one of the most diverse communities in the country. The community health center, where I used to do youth work, has the ability to translate in over 200 dialects. That is incredible. The trajectory for this diversity began after the unrest between Italians and newly arrived Puerto Ricans in the 70s, neighborhoods slowly became more racially mixed as these groups reconciled and began to live side by side. Spfld is a community full of activist and the children of seasoned civil rights warriors. Sure there is economic disparity and my hometown has been in a deep recession, yet the spirit of folks is rich and active.

Northampton_MassachusettsIn the early 90s my mother and I (with 2 year old Julian) moved up to Northampton, a college town in the “5 Colleges” area. We would go up there at least a few times a month and it’s progressive facade was always attractive to us. We gave it a good try.

Now, ya’ll know my mom is White. She raised two mixed daughters and speaking for myself, my Blackness was always something my mother nourished. I am grateful for that as a Black identified woman, who is aware of her skin color privilege as a light skinned blue eyed woman.

One day, as we walked down Main St in the other #NoHo, with it’s first Lesbian Mayor in the country, with the highest concentration of Lesbian’s in the country at that time, we noticed a disturbing reality. We’ve always had a critical eye on our community and this day something poked us in the eye.

Where were all the brown folks that we knew lived in Northampton? My mother worked for a housing organization for most of her career and we knew the demographics well. We went from store to store as we enjoyed our day and did not see brown faces working at those stores. How had we never noticed this missing population in our 1000+ previous visits to town?

In our observation, the only brown face in a retail establishment in town was the caramel colored twenty-something daughter of two Smith college professors who were part owners of a local progressive bookstore. She was at the counter that day.

As we drove back down the road to our rented house, we did see brown faces. They were glaringly present at each and every fast food drive-through along the main retail strip.

I spoke about this in my Latina Writers Honors class in college and a White woman got so offended that it blew up into an incident I have written about before (see All of the Above post). What did not make it past the editor at (1)ne Drop was the moment when she asked where the White cultural society was on campus and I retorted…’it’s there, it’s called the KKK”.

This time in my life, my early 20s, was a time when my racial identity became even more important to me and I began leading with it more loudly than ever before.

The revelation that a liberal haven of White middle to upper class lesbians was an unwelcome place for brown folks to be part of the mainstream culture carries forward to the whole #BLM vs #Berniesupporters controversy. This article speaks about it in very clear and reasoned terms.

When the Seattle action happened my reaction was that the tactic was a bit immature. I still feel that they could have handled themselves differently and still made a significant impact. I also have a frustration that folks had not noticed, before Seattle, that Senator Sanders had already begun to publicly address issues of racial justice and had read the names of Black women being killed as a result of police interaction, at his rallies.

My mother, Eileen, and her Holyoke Springfield for Bernie(they convene in Northampton) campaign team partners attended a Bernie rally in New Hampshire almost two weeks ago and I was very pleased to hear that he had done this. One of the men my mother is on a team with is a guy I know well from back home. This small world has brought them together by ‘coincidence’ to work on this campaign for the people. Maurice is in no uncertain terms a black revolutionary at his core.

Moe posted this video today:

Moe’s own personal views, as a Black man, on Bernie? “Bernie is the bomb”. I agree with Moe. I support Bernie. I support my mom’s activism for Bernie. I support Moe. Note: Mom has a critical eye on Bernie and his fellow activist. Don’t get that twisted, as they say. Yet he is excited by Bernie’s impact on political discourse and it’s promise for the community.

When I spoke and said that I think those young #blacklivesmatter activists were a bit immature, I meant specifically that. My immediate words were ‘why the one civil/human rights activist’. If ya’ll thought I literally did not understand why…you are not paying attention. I think it was effective in the end in getting Bernie to publicly show his actual strategy, but he didn’t create one because of them. It already existed. That seems to be getting missed in all of the kurfuffle.

Yet and still, White progressives are not automatically aware of their own privilege just because they are liberal leaning. White progressives who care about economic justice issues don’t all care about people of color and their struggles. My hope and wish is that whatever the tactics used, that this incident helps more White folks see themselves, hold others accountable and grows the pool of true honest allies working for justice for all.

Note: my mother is part of Holyoke Springfield for Bernie. The group meets in Northampton. A very diverse grass-roots crew that is doing some fantastic organizing. I am proud of my mom. I am on my way to Massachusetts and I look forward to meeting all of them. May Spirit bless and guide them. Way to go Northampton. I have hope for progress.

BlueEyedMonkey on November 16th, 2011

Originally posted at: www.1nedrop.com thanks to the work of Prof Yaba Blay

 

I am a whole person, not just that half that makes you comfortable.

In college, I was one of three women co-coordinators of the African American Cultural Society. The other two women both had two black parents, yet there was NO line between us. We did good works and had a fantastic time. I never heard any whispers about why I was in that position.

One day, a German/Irish woman in my Honors Latina Writers class told me that by calling myself “multiracial,” I was a traitor to my white parent. She asked me if it bothered my mother that I identified as “multiracial” as it seemed like I was betraying my white heritage to do so. She told me that the fact that I was coordinator of the African American student group showed I hated my whiteness.

She said: “You have blue eyes. You look white to me and everyone else. Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if you would just stop feeling the need to tell everyone you are mixed and just pass? It seems selfish.”

What stuck with me from the whole discussion was the plea for me to “just pass”.

I have never, would never and will never pass. In fact, at first meeting me, if you talk to me for long I will tell you my heritage. I do so to preempt some of the judgment people put on me. My blackness shows through the blue eyes, from deep inside.

That experience in college was not the first, nor the last time I was either told to pass or told I was lying about having a Black father. Since I grew up living with my Irish mother, people assumed I was white, so some kids were cruel to me when I inevitably told them about my father. They called me “zebra” or “oreo”. I never thought for one second about keeping my father’s race to myself. My mother encouraged me to be myself 100% of the time in all aspects of life whether racially, spiritually or otherwise. I credit her with teaching me to explore and fully express my ethnic heritage.

My whole life my mother went out of her way to immerse me in diverse environments so that I grew up a well-rounded person. The effect of this was that I gravitated toward my Blackness almost like a magnet. I still feel most strongly identified with my Blackness. It informs how I experience the world. It has made me an activist, it has made me an advocate for people of color, it has made me a strong, confident woman with deep roots in the community. I have primarily ended up in jobs where I work in communities of color. Did I seek this out or did it find me? Good question.

Truthfully, the bigger issue for me has been finding ways to participate in my white heritage. One would think that a blue-eyed girl like me would just fit right in at an Irish cultural event, but I always feel like a bit of an outsider. I know that this experience is coming from inside of me and not some blinking sign that says “mixed chick” above my head. This is something I have to step back and look at for myself, as my blue eyes and light skin afford me a good deal of “privilege” and this is something which I have always been acutely aware of.

As for the Powhatan slice of the pie…well, that is a bit more ambiguous. Due to the fact that the Powhatan Nation was systematically slaughtered and dispersed, it has been a journey for me to find bits and pieces of Powhatan culture to fold into the mix. Indigenous culture has become an integral part of who I am ever since I was exposed to the sacred Indigenous ceremony of Sweat Lodge. I am now a Board Member of an Indigenous Women’s organization called the Morningstar Foundation and part of the volunteer web team of One Spirit an organization that does work with the Lakota Sioux Nation.

With all of the rich cultural experiences I have had in my life, the idea that I would “pass” for white because of my blue eyes and skin color tears at my inner fabric. How do I choose one category to define me? I am a patchwork quilt of all of the above and the only reason for passing would be to make others comfortable. What’s most important is that I am comfortable with all of me.

 

BlueEyedMonkey on September 14th, 2011

It only seems logical for a nutritionist to eat healthy and be in relative good fitness, a life coach to be old enough to have lived a bit of life and not be divorced 4 times and be an active addict. Right? It is only ethical for a person who runs sweat lodges to have Indigenous elders who passed on the wisdom in a traditional way? Right?

So, with the 1000s of folks in CA doing tantric teaching/counseling, why would one want to turn their core energy and sexuality over to a person who went to a few week-long Tantric workshops and now calls themself a teacher or counselor?

My point is when it comes to your body, mind and spirit take care when you place them in the hands of people who went to a few workshops, got a certificate or access to a sacred location and now offer their “services” to the people. They are not all well-trained. They are not all safe. They are not all ethical.

I will have to do a long blog post about this one day, but people have been spiritually injured, their health has been compromised and their mental state has become fragile from working with(and paying) these so-called “teachers”. Women have also been raped by some of the “fake gurus” who do this work. Heck, some female “teachers” have taken advantage of men too!

I wish I could do workshops in LA about how to spot a self-help poser. *sigh* Why wouldn’t I? Because I am just a woman with an opinion, not an expert. The work I do is based in professional experience and 15+ years of hands on work and learning. I would not take money to write grants if I had just taken a weekend class. I would not take money to build websites unless I had been doing so for many years, and I do not offer to build sites outside my skill set. I would NEVER do women’s work with teens unless it had been my profession for 17yrs.

It sicken and angers me when I see person after person launching their own self-help offerings with little or no training and very little experience. It scares me more than anything, really. It’s so dangerous people. We only get gifted with one mind. We only get gifted with one soul/spirit. We only get gifted with one heart. We only get gifted with one body. These things are precious.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some sweet and generous folks who are well meaning and wish to share what they have learned in classes, workshops, etc. Some do not mean harm, but that does not mean no harm will be done.

BlueEyedMonkey on May 11th, 2011

Slim and Out of Shape

I am pretty slim. Some have even called me skinny, but compared to Twiggy and Kate Moss I am curvy. I have gotten away from exercising lately due to starting my own business. I am however, quite out of shape. The contestants on The Biggest Loser could out do me easily. They are in amazing condition. I need to schedule workouts into my work day, since I work from my home office.

In the past, I have bought a few exercise DVDs but they have been gathering dust on the shelf. I finally pulled one out to try it out and I am hooked! The Acacia company has put out several exercise DVDs which are dance based. Dance is one of the best ways I know to get in shape quickly and have fun at the same time.

Dance and Be Fit: Brazilian Body

The DVD descriptionWhen exercise is fun, you’re more likely to do it, and what’s more fun than dancing? Burn fat and calories, melt unwanted pounds, reduce stress, and tone your whole body with this enjoyable workout. Kimberly Miguel Mullen uses elements of Brazil’s steamy, heart-pounding dances—Samba Reggae, Maculelê, Capoeira—to target trouble spots while burning fat and calories. Set to authentic, pulsating Brazilian music, it’s a hip-swinging, body-slimming good time. 48 min. on 1 DVD.

Having taken Capoeira previously, I am doing the 6 minute warm-up, the Capoeira section and the Samba de Roda bonus feature. That is 24 minutes of sweat breaking enjoyment. It really is fun. Whatever your personal style, I highly recommend a dance based exercise regimen. It got my slim lazy but up and moving around the living room like a wild woman.

VIEW A CLIP HERE