Sunday, December 25, 2011
When you do not know the U.S. racial history of words, U.S. racial history period, and continue using them uncritically, the danger is that you will reproduce racism at a higher level.
Recently, (see my twitter timeline for 140 character rants), I replied to an Occupy Oakland tweet that referenced an article about Bank of America ripping off African Americans and [sic] Hispanics. I replied: Decolonize occupy plus something to the effect that majority of us "Hispanics" are not "Hispanics" and majority are indigenous and Afro-descendents. There are Hispanics in the U.S. just like there are Mexicans, Salvadorans, Guaremalans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, Chileans, Brazilians, Colombians, etc.
So lumping us together as "Hispanics" is not accidental -- why not lump us as "Mexicans," the majority of "Hispanics" in the U.S.? I bet you the Hispanics would be up in arms -- which wouldn't be a bad idea; they have done that before and beautifully.
Don't get me wrong. I don't believe for one moment that the U.S. Southwest belongs to Mexico -- or the U.S. Here in Oakland, we are on Ohlone land. You can't erase the past. It might take a long time to retake it, relocate ourselves in the natural world. The triple conquest, the triple occupation of Indian lands and the colonializaion of many mentalities to make some believe they're white and others Hispanic, won't be overcome easily.
The history of anti-Mexican racism in the U.S. needs more action and discussion. In sum, why Hispanic and not Mexican, or Indian... to name us?
Before the 1960s came to a head, Texas and the rest of the U.S. used to count Mexicans as "white" during the Census. After the 1960s civil rights movements rocked the foundations of the U.S., we started being counted as Hispanics. Before the government christened us "Hispanics," to count Mexiicans would have been political suicide for Texas and other regions of the Southwest where we have been the "majority" for decades or what seems like forever.
When the U.S. government decided to name and lump us as Hispanic, the (internalized and not so internalized) racism we have all been subjected to made self-hatred and racism easier to maintain. Because Hispanic divided us racially and helped whiteify or bleach the mentality of the darker, indian and black Mexican and others who maybe did not want to be dark skinned, black in a white hierarchy of pain. Hispanic, now you're one of us, white, well almost white, if you can act like there's no Border Patrol and race police checkpoints....
Monday, November 21, 2011
Slowed me down.
I take my time
Looking at you
Memorizing the times I made you laugh
To blur over the other times I made you cry
Of your face
That are rivulets of life
I am a master at science fiction
I can portray myself
As defying time and space
Gravity has no pull
I am a natural human combustion
From the loins of a woman called
I am going deaf
Now only a B natural note
Whirs in my neurons
An insatiable insect
The hum of electricity in my body
A note in the unending chain of the music of DNA
Has not blinded me
to your termporal beauty
My deafness roars
With symphonies and corridos
A grand canyon
A purépecha temple
Overgrown with rainforest and serpent clouds
And other ancestral lusts
I have no other place to struggle
Than from this homeland this mother earth body of mine
You don’t lose your senses
For each one that fails
A new one is born in resistance in struggle
I have a body surrounding me
For each one of my senses
A hearing body
A feeling body
A smelling body
A touching body
A seeing body
A body of ears
A body of skin, pores, molecules that sponge up your skin
A body of noses for your sweet
the smell of freshly slightly tinged
Chiles verdes, tomates,
your freshly bathed body,
your shadow a cool face for the farmworker in me
made of hands
that trace worlds and other senses
over your body
over the dust
through the wind,
that cover my eyes from the sunlight,
that cover my mouth when I gasp at you
under my hands
a body of sign languages and gang signals for peace
A body of irises
stare-downs asking, begging for tenderness,
broken windows sleepless deprivation, dream worlding
A body of sounds
a body of sails and propellers
to catch the wind
transform sound into energy
sound into bodies tightly wrapped around a song
bodies made of tongues
that speak in my body to yours
asking for nothing in return for everything
A body made of
a viper of thunder
I surround myself
with you and my other bodies,
which in turn multiply into five bodies each
and those into five bodies each
that doesn’t make a sound
unless a sound wants to mate
and my body is blindness deafness
where everything everyone everywhere
Friday, November 18, 2011
Earlier this year civil rights, radical, revolutionary thinker and writer Elizabeth Betita Martínez was interned in a assisted living center in San Francisco, California. This was a dramatic change of Betita, an independent, self-determined woman and leader. I am joining in to support Betita!
Betita's life work has spanned several historic movements and organizing struggles that produced deep changes, uplifting social justice. Active in U.S.-based civil rights and anti-racist movements that erupted onto the national and international scene in the late 1950s and 1960s, then the Chicano justice movements and through radical political movements since the 1960s, Betita was a community-based organizer and activist-writer forerunner initiating crucial social justice ideas, projects and organizations. She started the renown Chicano newspaper, El Grito del Norte, after moving to New Mexico, where there were critical struggles for land rights and self-determination. Later she was the first Chicana to run for statewide public office in California. She published in 1976, exposing the history of the U.S. bicentennial, the classic "450 Years of Chicano History." She re-issued the book in 1992, to also tell our story the quincentennial of the Colombian disaster, re-titled "500 Years of Chicano History." Betita said in 1992 that 50 years hadn't passed since the first edition but that this was a critical moment for the Chicano community to remember and understand the significance of 1492 and Chicano struggles for justice and rights.
Betita's political writings have been compiled in "De Colores Means All of Us" and her most recent work, a monument ensuring our collective memory is set right, 500 Years of Chicana History, where she weaves hundreds of biographies of Chicana and Latina women who have been leaders, organizers and groundbreakers in our freedom struggles and movements.
Betita has lived her life in service to our communities and in service to liberation. Now she needs your support!
Please show your love and support for Elizabeth Betita Martínez, a courageous and working class internationalist thinker, activist and community fighter! She dedicated her life to community struggles of deep justice and human rights and now she needs your support.
Contribute as generously as possible. Make your checks payable to "Social Justice and write on the check memo "Elizabeth Martínez Project" and mail to:
1607 Josephine Street
Berkeley, CA 94703
If you need a tax ID number email, Tony Platt at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, September 11, 2011
For all September 11s
la revolución emplumada | the revolution to be human
After the last sky,
the birds will fly in the sky of my lungs,
against the horizon of my heart,
crushing the barbed-wire of my veins,
entering into the great migration of my bones,
the human revolution,
the human revelation,
the human rebellion,
the last sky,
the only sky...
The Telephone Call
New York City alone has more telephones than all of Africa.
Hello, new York?
This is Jenin.
Hello, New York?
This is Baghdad.
Hello, New York?
This is Acteal.
Hello, New York?
This is Beirut.
Hello, New York?
This is Hiroshima.
Hello, New York?
This is Nagasaki.
Hello, New York?
This is Stalingrad.
Hello, New York?
This is Tenochtitlán.
Hello, New York?
We're calling long-distance,
You'll learn to rise from your own horror.
We're your sisters
We've been bombed,
Razed by empires,
You will be reborn
Only if your peoples are free
Only if you accept
The glass beads
That you used to steal us from our original paths
Hello, New York?
This is Toppenish, Matamoros, Tijuana, Oakland
you can receive all our calls
We look to you not as ground zero
But as the land which cannot be bought or sold
Trinkets and capital
Will change hands
But they will not change your destiny.
¡Hello, New York!
[From "Notes from South Africa: The Journey of September 11, 2001," while driving in the upheaval of NYC, September 11, 2001 and cross country.]
Note: Click on links here, here and at end of these notes to read two short pieces I wrote in the weeks after 9/11.
For "Reflections and Resources for Justice on the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11" from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, click here NNIRR.
Notes from South Africa:
The Journey of September 11, 2001
The main contingents of the march were headed by Arabs and Muslims carrying signs and banners vociferously denouncing the U.S. The Dalit contingents were beautiful, dancing in huge circles, twirling around, gracefully bending and swaying, raising their feet in the air to the cacophony of percussion and sing-song chanting. Tens of thousands marched towards the WCAR conference site, where the governments were meeting. The contingents at the front were met at the fenced gates of the conference with "Hippos," huge, armored personnel carriers, that carried each a platoon of soldiers. I had only seen photos of the Hippos from reports during the anti-apartheid struggle; Hippos rumbling through township dirt roads or soldiers shooting out of them at passer-by's or demonstrators.
The Hippos, metallic, military dark, in Durban looked menacing, with armed soldiers standing with weapons strapped to their shoulders next to unrolled barbed-wire to stop the march. That didn't matter.
The Hippos did not let the march proceed.
The march came to a halt but the celebration - the people walking, dancing, the chanting, the damn loud, rhythmic voices and drumming, the slogans sounding like everyone knew by heart the words to every chant, every call and response -- did not.
The WCAR ended on September 7, 2001. I had an airline ticket back to Johannesburg that evening but I decided to take a bus back to Johannesburg so I could see the country and spend a couple of days to see Johannesburg and visit a dear friend there, too.
I hopped on a very comfortable bus with other fellow migrant and human rights activists from the U.S. and Latin America on board along with a sprinkling of white and black South Africans. The bus took off in mid-morning and we would see unique landscape, reminiscent of the Southwest deserts I know.
A black South African woman sat across the aisle from me; we were both sitting alone. After the bus got on the road, "Selena" came on the TV monitor on the ceiling hanging at the front behind he driver in the middle of the aisle. About a third of the way through "Selena," she turns to me and asks me, "Is that the way it really is in the U.S.?" And I turn to her and ask her, "Is this the way it really is in South Africa?" We both cracked up in laughing and started exchanging stories. I answered no, not really. She replied, no this is not the way it has been in South Africa either. She told me that not all bus-lines were as comfortable or as nice as the one we were on, which under apartheid had been exclusively reserved for whites.
We talked about how different the world could be, after being in a week-long conference that brought together the world's anti-racist movement for the first time.
Somewhere on a stop between Durban and Johannesburg, she got off. Our bus drove into Johannesburg late in the night. A driver from the "bed-n-breakfast" I and a couple of others were staying at came to pick us up. Johannesburg was deserted as the driver drove rapidly back to the house were we were staying.
The next morning I got up and later got a ride to see Johannesburg. This was the second time I had been to Johannesburg. The first time was two and half weeks before, spending three days and nights before flying to Durban for the world conference against racism.
Johannesburg and Matamoros
The only other place I had lived in remotely similar to Johannesburg was in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, the Mexican border gulf state that abuts Texas. Except the inequalities I saw in Johannesburg were maybe 20, 30, 50 times deeper than Matamoros. One of my co-workers and I had stayed at the same place, arriving a week before the WCAR began to do both logistics preparation for our immigrant and refugee rights delegation and to do some sight-seeing.
We called a tour guide recommended by the same driver that picked us up that late night from our bus trip from Durban.
Themba and Jabu, very friendly and brotherly, come to pick us up and take us to downtown Johannesburg and then Soweto. As we hopped into the back seat of their small car, they began telling us that we are in what had been a whites-only district of Jo'burg. They point out to us where prominent anti-apartheid and ANC members live. We pass a house, that's where Joe Slovo lives (or lived?).
The houses are different, beautiful too; before this I had only seen them in documentaries on the anti-apartheid struggles or Hollywood movies, where Denzel Washington played Steven Biko or Danny Glover played Mandela. I had an address of a cultural center or gallery space someone had given to me. We drove there but the place looked boarded up. No artists or poets there.
I wrote in my journal:
Johannesburg is a mixture of abandoned center, holding on with sidewalk businesses in front of semi-closed buildings. There is nothing to do yet a whole world ready to listen or speak with. The languages are new, different, familiar faces, smiles, the seriousness of East Oakland, a different cultural turf with its metaphors and warnings of the consequences of inequalities tatooerd from the skin upwards. I am shy, I do not want to step out of my bounds. I am a passerby with unrecognizable accented skin. I am colored. I am an "anglo," I fit and don't fit, a mixtery, a mestizo in Africa. A mestizo from another land, uprooted roots, transplantable under any sun. Africa is Aztlan, it might might as well be utopia under the skin of ancestors and wounds.
Johannesburg goes on and on. Different time zones, different continents, different hemispheres, different lands and horizons, yet locked in the same battles to end the tyranny of pigmentation over humanity, the pigmentation of money, of riches, resources, goods, and goodies, jobs, police power, the pigmentation of poverty, of sounds, of freedom. There is no way out of this except redistribution:
The powerful less powerful, the weak stronger, the whites need to learn another language other than the language of their skin; they must learn to open their own doors, work for others, be less white. In the U.S. whiteness, imperial whiteness, showers us all: Redistribution across borders and across color-lines.As we leave the formerly whites-only district, Themba and Jabu take me into familiar territory.
Johannesburg is East Oakland, is Brownsville-Matamoros -- the maquiladorized border, is the Yakama reservation of migrants, is abandoned Detroit, bombed out-defunded Detroit. Johannesburg is internationalist in spirit. We waste by nearby abandoned industrial lots and poisoned pigmentation, dark, darkening toxins. | --excerpt from my journal |
Themba and Jabu take us into the heart of Soweto. They drive us by Mandela's home, now semi-fenced off. There is a thick, tall concrete wall in front of the house. Themba said that this was built after a car-bombing attack took place. He parks the car, we hop off and walk inside Mandela's house. The house is small, narrow halls, small bedrooms; houses I've lived in all my life -- cramped.
Then he drives by Winnie Mandela's home; cordoned off by a tall fences with barbed-wire and cameras to monitor the area around her house. They show us the class stratification of Soweto, you can see it in the housing and the sparse services or lack thereof everywhere. Winnie Mandela lives in the upper middle class area, which looks more like the Matamoros I know. That is, poverty-stricken city abutting a militarized border run by the U.S.
He drives us a bit more and parks again. He wants us to see their local store. We walk along rows and rows of ramshackle homes constructed of tin, wires, cardboard and other materials. I have seen these houses before -- not in a movie but in Matamoros. The local store is what we call a tendajito, a hole in wall store; a room in a house barely stocked, almost empty shelves. Thema or Jabu point out the sparse items there are to buy, if people had money.
In my journal that day I wrote:
Soweto is Matamoros -- colonias and shanty homes with the stench of human waste and pulque, "Zulu beer," dice Themba. Jabu says he'll translate anything we don't understand of Themba who speaks border-English. I feel like an uninvited guest, a party-crasher, or maybe even a voyeur as I walk between their homes made of bits and pieces of wood, corrugated metal, old car parts. These are mosaics, the beautiful architecture of misery in creativity.After the overthrow of apartheid, global apartheid rose up, came into full view. Then 9/11 brought us full circle to the on-going world war three.
Themba says take pictures; but I do not have the heart to pull out my camera (until later) to take their pictures. It would be a violation of the nature of our visit, a drive through to break out of the isolation of a trip to participate in the World Conference against Racism.
We enter a grandmother's house. She offers a sip of the community brew bubbling slowly over a fire, a brew fermenting inside a 55 gallon barrel. She sits, almost waits for us to say something. Then we thank her for showing us her home and walk away back to the car where I take photos of Thema and Jabu. We drive away to the next place to visit in Soweto....
September 10, 2001, evening, we're at the Johannesburg international airport. One of the sisters from Mujeres Unidas y Activas gets bumped up into business class; she's suffering a bad leg injury, can't or won't be able to sit for 18 hours. A doctor's letter says she must be able to lay down or she could suffer grave consequences during such a long air haul.
We hop in board the double-decker jet-plane. We take off and fly for eight, maybe nine hours and we're woken up to land somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, a tiny island that belongs to a former Portuguese colony -- can't remember the name this moment. South Africa found out that their jetplanes couldn't reach the U.S. without refueling. This tiny island was the only place that allowed apartheid commercial liners to land and refuel to avoid falling into the Atlantic.
We are told that we may be able to get off the plane to stretch our legs. Everyone is excited, to say we touched the ground of another free African country. No such luck. Another jumbo jet had landed before us and its passengers had gotten off the plane already. The tiny island airport could not handle another plane load of people, not enough space.
We wait in our seats for at least an hour. The jumbo jet is refueled; we take off. Next stop is another island, New York City.
September 11, 2011 NYC
We land in NYC about 5:00 a.m. I have four bags and a couple of suitcases. The bags are filled with posters, documents and other conference paraphanellia. I have less than two hours to clear customs and check in for my non-stop United flight to San Francisco. I spend more than one hour in lines, get my bags through customs and rush onto the sidewalk where I have to catch a bus to United, somewhere else in the airport. I am sweating; the morning is already hot, humid, my shirt is soaked. I rush. I have trouble handling so many bags, including a nice conference bag filled with small gifts, including a fancy-looking silver corkscrew set.
I finally make it to the United counter, check-in get all the bags on and I rush to the gate, make sure I know where it's at. I go to a nearby shop, buy soap, underarm deodorant and toothbrush. I plan to wash up once the flight is underway.
Our gate calls us, we get on board; it's about 8:15 a.m. The jet-plane taxis onto the runway. The plane stops and the pilot makes a stunning announcement. The plane turns around; and the pilot makes another stunning announcement. Voices get loud, angry words are spoken, not just angry words, racist epithet after epithet are loosed. We deplane and are told to wait by the gate so that we'll know when we'll be boarding again. Then we are told the flights, all of them have been cancelled. All hell breaks loose. What does that mean? You have to get your bags. You have to get out of the airport. Thousands of us are being pushed by security teams to exit. I plug in my cell phone to charge it a bit and call home. I tell them: turn the television on.
Outside the airport, I run into other colleagues also returning from South Africa. We make a plan on the spot. Let's rent a car and go to the Bronx, where other members of our delegation live and have already arrived. We can crash with them. I collect more bags and sit on the front of the airport, the passenger drop-off area. I can see two large, dark plumes of smoke. Everyone is staring at the horror of the Twin Towers burning before our eyes. I cannot even imagine what the situation is like near the towers. I wait for what seems like hours. Then I notice the plumes of smoke turn from dark to grey; I imagine now the fire has become a chemical fire, explaining the change in color of the smoke. But that was not the case; the towers were collapsing.
At last my colleague arrives; she's driving a red TransAm. She said it was this car or a convertible top jeep. We pack all our bags and start the drive of our lives. We try to get to the Bronx following the signs out of La Guardia. Very quickly we run into gridlock; the radio says the bridge is being closed. She drives off and we are driving on a broad avenue and streets that take us all the way to what seems to be the Atlantic. We turn around and drive in circles. We stop at Radio Shop so I can buy a car charger for my cellphone. We continue driving in circles.As we drive through neighborhoods and shopping districts, lost, we run into police roadblocks and police or guards shooing away cars from a hospital. We keep going in circles and decide to drive all the way around the city, cross the Verrazano bridge and head north and cross on the George Washington Bridge and head into the Bronx.
When we finally get on the highway we cross the Verrazano, almost abandoned. We drive by aas men with rifles and guns drawn are forcing Latino-looking men off a white van. We continue on the Verrazano. Over our left we see a huge, ashy spewing hole, in the center of New York, where the twin towers stood. I did not have the heart to take photograph. We were devastated to finally see what we had only seen from afar or on TV.
We decided to drive home towards California instead. During those first few hours on the road west, we ran into caravans of ambulances and firetrucks heading towards NYC. we saw white field tents set up on the side of the highway, waiting for casualties? We drove and drove for the next five days across a transformed and traumatized United States, spewing hate across the airwaves and getting small but generous warnings here and there from whites who feared for our safety.
Here's two short pieces, an essay and an editorial I wrote in the weeks and days following our journey across the U.S. from 9/11 and an excellent resource kit on 9/11 from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR):
Anti-Immigrant Racism and the Media
No Nation of Immigrants Would Treat Immigrants This Way
NNIRR's "On the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11: Reflections & Resources for Justice"
Photographs of NNIRR's mural-banner for her Immigrant and Refugee Rights Working Group, national delegation to the World Conference Against Racism. Painted by Daniel Camacho.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
When words die.
My grandmother suffers a stroke
and the natural world receives a mortal blow.
The healer, la curandera, dies.
the plants that spoke through her hands
the plants that allowed us to ingest them
the plants that healed stomachs, bee stings,
fevers, rashes, upset emotions, made
conversations flow deep into the evenings
preceded by prayers and riddled
with laughter, healthy gossip, insights
the plants that illuminated stars and nights
died with her.
In the season that was to be winter for
my skin and autumn for my eyes.
Abuelita's nature, la naturaleza humana,
the crowbar of her tongue
prying open the language of leaves, roots, seeds
germinating words that rub, soothe, relax
Dirt under her fingernails
her palms smooth as her face
where leaves, roots, seeds rest
before toasting them
on a griddle the size of her lungs,
her heart a molcajete firme
What lies behind my eyes?
Fields, horizons, hands,
humans rocking gently back and forth,
silhouettes harvesting the future
My grandmother kneeling between
two rows of green beans
then suffering a heart attack
Behind my eyes
the sing of a frog
a Yakama ancestor in our migrant camp
the broken horse of loneliness
who eats grass from my hand
I spend nights
until they are untouchably hot
and press them up against
my grandmother's breasts
her angina has flared up
and the heated towels ease the pain
and this is her final remedy
before getting up to make tortillas
and beans for tacos that we'll eat in eight hours for lunch
which she'll wrap in wax-paper
Everyone is at work
the harvest season
spares no time
spares no one
She is in pain (because she told me)
She cringes and leans left as if someone
has just punched her breast
and screeches out a syllable of hurt.
She leans up against the table
where there is a stack of testales
ready to be unrolled into tortillas
She momentarily rubs her left arm
and under her breast
with the right hand she quickly
pulls and flips the three tortillas
that are cooking on the comal...
She will die working in the fields.
We bury her as the harvest season is close to ending
Her casket is rained upon.
We celebrate, eat food, make music, laughter, families.
Tomorrow we return to work without her.
With her, mint, chile verde, pipian, enchiladas, jardines, rosas, lirios, unknown plants, their leaves and seeds, aceite de víbora de cascabel, her hands that coerced fevers and pain out of our bodies with gentle massages, her daily rituals, foodmaking, working in her gardens after work, loving her grandchildren, speaking with her sons and daughters every day and night. Her prayers and praying, her daily visits with neighbors, her footprints in the fields, her hands on the vegetables.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
I am a ghost’s word
Not a post-colonial people or poet
I am pre-Colombian apparition
A skeleton dreaming her flesh, her songs her land
Her hurricane where I sleep
A jaguar carrying the cosmos on his back
My mouth drinks mud, imbibing the ancestor I am to be.
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Poetry is always in the Streets
Fuck Poetry: Bread Is The Politik of the Hungry
By Chaun Webster
Cover Art by Ricardo Levins Morales
Published by Free Poet's Press, 2010
In your face poetry is not for everyone. Especially, if the poet has freedom on her mind. Yet all poetry is in your face; you choose how close you want to get -- her intensity depends on how you accept or push back on the intimacy that forms in the space between your eyes, the inked page, your brain and the poet. Fuck Poetry: Bread is the Politik of the Hungry is no exception. Yet, Fuck Poetry's exceptionalism lies in how the author intentionally, no inseparably, links his class/race/gender working class-based full-color dream of revolution with no compromises.
Fuck Poetry takes aim at the real and pushes hard against commercialized culture, including poseurs and pimps that might breed off the contradictions of a racialized class society.
All poets who live and die by their words, or at least believe they would or could, share this impatience for the way the rotten world is. In poems, this poet knows what needs to be done to make things right, including how to make everyone human again. Love poets or class-struggle poets -- we're the same and accept rejection like a knife in the eye.
We Are All Poets, Really (except some are for and some are against liberation...*)
In the beginning, Chaun Webster slams poets who wordsmith and word-shine. He writes with the same honed wordsmithing except his is a radicalized vocabulary of political power and of the authentic self:
Fuck poetry that does not speak with actions
having verbs bouncin off papyrus
like ancient hieroglphic patterns
signalin change that matters
more than the currency
these currents be
comin from history-
the people are tired of mystery
going to coffee shops
hearin some nigga
and a ratted beard
talkin about reality PG
when the shit is X rated
this shit is amazin...
He ends his introductory poem-chant by coming clean:
Fuck poetry if it is not loud
with more than the volume that
comes from the larynx
we need poems clothed
with bareness of reality
so don't be mad at me
cuz i'm in contradiction
cuz when I said in the beginnin
i failed to mention
it's the only thing keep me livin
Webster provides his readers with a politik dictionary with poems on: Assata Shakur, political prisoner who escaped from a U.S. prison and now lives in exile in Cuba; the politics of radical's reaction to imperial events; a lot of out loud philosophical introspections, rants and inquiries into U.S. class and color realities.
Webster lays bare his frustrations at lack of revolutionary changes. Webster puts on paper his language challenge to the power of the State, exposing the normalized repression/oppressions, writing in places:
I swallow whole resistance histories
and spit people's justice
at the paper tiger...
i am not a poet
having temporarily traded
for the machine-gun
i am a guerrilla
i am angry
and i will never forget
the face of my enemy
Is this magical poetry? That is, those of who believe in the transformative power of our words, that by saying something, we unleash a consciousness-virus, a viral infection that challenges the reader, especially the cynic and apolitical to see reality through our political lense but who may not see anything but irreality and political fantasy in works like Webster's that are thoroughly political.
What's the use of poetry, especially poetry like Webster's? Paraphrasing the Old Man of working class revolution Karl Marx, who didn't understand the significance of race and racism in his time:
The poets have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
Webster's launches from the first into trying to change the world, even if it's one word at a time in his chapbook...
(*This subtitle is a paraphrase of the wonderful red poet Walter Lowenfels poetry chapbook, "We Are All Poets, Really.")
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
This tome is a must read to have a better grasp of what's at stake in Iran and how we're in the U.S. linked to Iran. From the three hikers, two of which continue languishing in a Tehran prison, to the trauma of their wars against Iraq, the deepening threats of U.S. and Israeli attacks and the endless war in the Middle East that doesn't seem to let up.
Women in Iran have been a force for social transformations at their own speed. Chicanas, Chicanos, Latinos, undocumented migrants, queers, African Americans, Mexicans, Indigenous peoples' struggle to recover their lands -- we share or create similar spaces to those being described and sur-veiled in this new and exciting word venture. Uncannily, here in the U.S. one of the main obstacles we face as writers/organizers/people of color is increasingly less or even racialized freedom of movement: in body and in words. SB-1070 in Arizona, the anti-immigrant, racial profiling law, has made our bodies, our Mexican-Indian-Black-Brown-queer-non-white bodies, the target. Biopolitics at its worst; whenever countries have resorted to bio-politics, they have resorted to war: war on ideas, war on difference, and eventually war on those whose ideas, bodies and differences are the carriers.
The last 160 years worldwide have been the same: upheavals and reorganization, re-combinations of nation-states, who is the People, the chosen race, the master race. This war or struggle over land, resources, labor power, ideas, culture, industrialization leading to atomization and nuclearization, least since 1848, has been a disaster for the world. And the natural world is in upheaval too: the ice cap over the north pole has an opening; one of the largest "wildfires" is raging across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- growing by 20,000 acres over night. Restoring humanity to her place in the natural world has been at the center of this major, global shift. Women really will be the determining human force that will shift this battle in our favor, where possibly men with guns (one of the main problems!) will be a thing of the past -- although it will take several generations for this to happen.
So here read this new set of words, Words, Not Swords to sharpen our tongues and our steps for a different world tomorrow. Women of the world, unite! You only have men-chains to lose!
Monday, June 06, 2011
Chunks | Trozos
I went to the border where
women assemble the world
I saw my cousins laugh
through the poison, bring
home suiches, Magda said.
I make suiches all day. She
brought home the poison
in her veins and passed on
to her husband, his semen
was poisoned too, her womb
poisoned the fetus assembled
at the maquila, born deformed
flowing into the Río Bravo twisting
dumped into her waters
drowning herself. Madga places
her newborn in a barrel cut in
half and sets it afloat on the Rio Bravo disappearing
into the Gulf of Mexico: will this
deformed distorted baby return as
the new Moses
yet I am tired
She dances with
I dance with her
the moon objects
sends an earthquake
to tap me on the shoulder
cuts in on us
separates us with
a little tsunami.
There are tiny apparitions
on my tongue:
Guadalupe | Coatlicue,
whirlwinds of dust,
in equal portions
for every nation
and in the future,
the impatient sun,
maíz, bultos of
human rights movements,
orchards, her ruby
the explosion of volcanoes and earthquakes
the DNA of her thoughts and
the hum of bones,
the vibrato of desire
We are dilemma:
You may have lost them
because you lost their way.
When you don't know
where you're from
who your ancestors are
where your bones are buried
where your seed explodes
your past is
it is because you
are both descendant
an elder before your time
you pluck yourself from your ribs
you engender new dust
your bones are sperm for the future.
corazón zurco abierto
la naturaleza se viste de humana.
que no son bombas
en las venas
de tu sonrisa
sobre la tierra
de mi lengua
lanzadora de reinos
Quién me despierta?
Quién me hace soñar?
(que no hacen ruido)
que derrocan reinos
y lenguajes duros.
hierbas, hojas, semillas
Ella cuida enfermos
Yo infecto imaginaciones
esclavizando al viento
a nuestro mundo
I will make
when the U.S. flees
stops the bombing
ends the occupation
Baghdad will once again
be the cradle of a new
with no WMDs
with no occupation
with no torture prisons
with no enemies and no
The Euphrates will flow free, clean
we will drink form her waters
baptize our love
From Ho CHi Minh City
to New York City
no more America holocaust
will threaten Indians or
Tortillas de maíz will be globalized
everyone will aspire to be a
land worker, a tiller of fields
a keeper of seeds
with dirt underneath the fingernails
a mark of humanity
Aztlán will finally accept the sun's sperm
the sixth grandfather
the seventh grandmother
when we can become a people again
with a place in the cosmos
in your arms or in mine
all the space we'll ever need.
I don't want to leave
any space open to
we do not
want to keep to ourselves...