Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

I love Halloween. Though I am not dressing up this year, as I was just too plain lazy to figure out a costume, I have been known, in the past, to put a new twist on old themes. Like Halloween 1999 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when I dressed up as Foxy Brown cum Vampiress. I had on a mini-black dress, fish net stockings, high heels, an afro wig, and big hoop earrings. I was FIERCE.

Another year, I dressed up as a crazy beatnik clown with an Elvira wig on and a beret. My own Mama didn't recognize my sweet ad demented face.

The ancient peoples of Great Britain celebrated Samhain, a Harvest festival when it was said that the spirits of the dead were able to cross back over into this world. The people carved turnips with grotesque faces (which is the origin of the tradition of carving pumpkins) in order to keep the evil spirits at bay. Also, the townsfolk would dress up as goblins and sprites and all kinds of creatures in order to blend in with the naughty naughty spirits that roamed the night on All Hallows Eve.

Then along came the Catholic Church, fucking everything up, they declared November 1st to be All Saints Day, since they couldn't get the silly pagans to give up outright their notion of ghoulies running about, then the church started burning witches, and well...Halloween wasn't fun least not until Hershey's and the other candy companies got together and decided that in America even pagan holidays could be money makers.

All joshin' aside, I believe that Halloween is a sacred night. All day long I have felt the presence of my ancestors just a little bit closer. I have been on my best behavior just in case my Big Mama or one of other deceased relatives takes the thinning of the veil between the worlds to reach through and switch my ass.

Big Mama chewed tobacco. That woman didn't play.

I am very happy for the nearing of my ancestors on such a night as this. Let's hope that they move on to pester other relatives before I get to the birthday festivities that I am attending this evening. If I decide to haul David into the bathroom and touch his no no spot or start dirty dancing with a random Mexican man with a tight booty, I don't want Uncle Ornery or Grandma Druscilla watching me.

Have a super spooktacular Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

God Bless America

I mean it God Bless America.

Of course, God should bless Ethiopia and Ghana, Botswana and Australia, Papa New Guinea and Guinea-Bissau and Guinea Pigs and People with Swine Flu and the one that flew over the cuckoos nest.

But I digress. I meant to talk about America.

I love America. I really do. I was listening to Whitney Houston's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, and I was struck by the fact that I am one of the most patriotic people I know. And, as it turns out, I know a whole helluva lot of patriotic people.

Mark Twain said that ".....the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it."

Most of the people I know are desperately devoted to this nation. Though, before I continue, the term nation begs definition. Nation, in this sense, is a collection of people living within the same political boundaries and forming a single polity. That is my own definition of nation, and it is the one that works for me. My definition purposefully excludes First Nation's people living on reservations as they form a polity separate from those of us that are not living on reservations, they constitute a collection of independent sovereign states, and it is with their sufferance that the rest of us occupy the land that forms the physical constitution of our nation.

Now that I have defined nation, I can go back to my original thesis: I am ridiculously patriotic and so are most of my friends.

With all of my heart I believe that this nation is, actually, the greatest on the Earth if looked at through a very subjective lens. I actually believe that in the history of developed nation-states (this purposefully excludes tribal or indigenous groupings) the United States has the most highly developed form of constitutional liberties (though the governmental structure could use some work...can we say proportional representation please) in history. The Founding Fathers, though many were slave owning racists, were quite literally geniuses. There is a reason why most democracies in the world radically altered their basic structures owing to our form of representative democracy. Sure, we didn't invent all of our democratic principles. Most of them were based on ancient Greek city state political practices and Roman law, and sure when we started we defined "people" as white men that owned property, but as history has progressed and human consciousness has developed (or redeveloped as it were...considering not long before Columbus "discovered" America, Europe was fully aware that the universities in Sankore and the Songhai Empire in Africa were the most advanced in the world...and that European academics were considered too dumb to teach there)...America has made leaps and bounds in terms of real protections for most people most of the time in relationship to personal liberties. In fact, we have often times overbalanced the rights of the individual at the cost of the rights of the collective or community,

Considering that I believe our nation is, at its core, based on generally vibrant principles that usually promote the greatest freedom of a person to develop as a human being (it's outer limits defined by the realities that uphold capitalism), I also believe that fundamentally it is incumbent on each person to question at all times whether or not our government is acting in the best interests of all its people AND owing to its place in the world community acting in a way that upholds the same principles it values for its own people for the rest of the world. If we apply the golden rule to politics, and we do unto others as we would have them do unto ourselves, then we must require that our government act with integrity and in a just manner. To do otherwise shirks our commitment to the nation, which is greater than our obligation to the government and thusly requires that a true patriot speak truth to power in order to ensure that the nation is well even if it means the government must change, end, or be overthrown.

For the last eight years, I offer, it was actually unpatriotic to support President Bush and his policies. The Patriot Act aimed a knife directly at the throat of American civil liberties, and if you apply the test that the only rational patriotism is support of the nation all of the time over the prerogatives assumed by the government then the rights of the people to live freely under the Constitution trumped the actions of the government to abrogate those rights to protect national security. National security is best served all of the time by protecting the full human rights and constitutional protections of the people with the full force of the government, which is its representation, not it's dictator.

Last November we elected a new president that campaigned against the degradation of our proud nation (as opposed to our sick and twisted government), and, for now, though I have harsh critiques of Obama, particularly his failure to end our occupation of Iraq, his politicking that made single payer health care a political dream instead of an American reality, and his use of too many of the same old same old faces and power players from previous administrations in his current administration, I believe that right is patriotic to critique Obama where he needs critique but it is also patriotic to support his efforts to make this government better in line with the best interests of its people AND as its people are citizens of the world and do not live in a special isolated land where our actions do not impact the lives of others...he must also continue to act in a way that upholds the human rights and inherent value of all humankind wherever they may live.

God Bless the people of the United States and God help the United States government.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'll Take A Public Option for $900 Billion, Alex

Hot diggity damn. I was tooling around Yahoo this evening, just minding my own business, when what too my wondering eyes should appear but a miniature clause in the Senate Health Care Reform Bill that would create a public option for reindeer Americans and the rest of us too.


Sorry...I just had to let that out.

But before anyone goes and puts on their happy pants and starts making appointments for backne surgery, you better pick up your phone. As it stands, Harry Reid doesn't know if he is going to be able to wrangle up the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster on the bill. And though Miss Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine voted in committee for the health care bill, she doesn't sound so tickled now that there is a public option included in the bill that will go before the entire Senate.

Confused as to how she could vote a bill that included a public option and not know it? Well. She didn't.

Harry Reid is a sly mo'fo. Basically the Senate had a whole mess of a number of bills that emerged from the Senate Health Care Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Since no one bill emerged whole from either committee that was identical, Senator Reid, as the Almighty God of the Senate, basically gets to put together what he likes from either bill (and what he thinks has the best chance of passing) and can then lay out that bill for a full Senate vote.

Now comes the tricky part.

The Senate and the House differ in a number of aspects but the two biggest differences between the Senate and the House are that in the House there can be no amendments offered to a bill that are not germane to the primary motion and there is no filibuster in the House. In the Senate there are no predetermined limits to debate unless those limits are established at the outset of debate on a bill AND once a Senator has been yielded the floor the Senator has the right to continue speaking and/or control the floor until he or she remands the remainder of his/her time back to the President of the Senate. This is where the filibuster comes in...if you can't limit debate from the outset it becomes a game of wills and stamina. Also, in the Senate almost all amendments are germane to the main motion whether or not the amendments have anything to do at all with the motion at hand. To translate from Geek Speak that means that you could be debating a bill in the Senate about Hamburger Helper and Senator X can stand up and offer an amendment to your bill that would cut off food stamps to the elderly. In the House, the rules are much more strict and if you are debating a bill on Hamburger Helper you could perhaps offer an amendment that would change it from Hamburger Helper to Tuna Helper but if you tried to shut off granny's foodstamps, your motion will be ruled out of order as being not germane to the main motion.

What this usually means is that in the Senate if the opposition wants a main motion to fail they will attach a rider to that motion that is targeted at a pet project of the majority. So now you have to vote not only on a public option but also you have to decide if the amendment that passed that will strip a federal subsidy for a rail line through your home state that your constituents want is more important to your political future than making sure that millions of uninsured, only a fraction of which are voters in your home state, have a viable public insurance option. See the trap there?

There is a way to keep those sorts of amendments from being offered (they are called riders) on the Senate floor but that takes almost as much procedural wrangling as getting a cloture vote (cloture is what the vote is called that sets a predetermined time for debate and makes a filibuster impossible, a cloture requires 60 votes, once cloture is passed then a bill only needs 51 votes to pass).

So now that we have a public option in the bill, it is time for all of us to do our work. We need to be on our Senators like a Leather Daddy on a Pig Bottom. You need to call, write, fax, and stalk your Senators and make sure they know that you will not tolerate any health care reform bill that does not include a public option. With the right amount of public pressure, Senators will tow the line. But if even one Democrat or Independent gets a bug up his or her ass and decides to not follow the Majority Leader's lead...we are up shit creek without a public option.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some of My Best Friends Are White

As a matter of fact two of my best friends are white and the third is black. So using Mendelian genetics, I think that actually makes one of the white friends mulatto.

But seriously, I love white people. I let some white people carve pumpkins in my house last night AND I let them use my bathroom. My Mom is white, and I don't hold that against her (anymore), and I sleep with a white man every night...and now that the Summer has ended he gets paler by the day. I am thinking about getting him a sun lamp before his skin gets any whiter and he starts reflecting light.

I think white people are very articulate. They are funny (that Kathy Griffin is a riot). And they sure are a musical people (N'Sync rules!). And boy oh boy can they move...I mean those white folks on Dancing with the Stars are AMAZING. And considering how queer I am, you know I appreciate all those Rogers and Hammerstein/Stephen Sondheim Broadway tunes. Thank you White America!

But seriously, a good friend of mine (he's white)....noted that I had been directing my anger lately at the shenanigans of white people. And truthfully between Glen Beck and Perez Hilton (I know, I know, that one is Cuban, but the Latino community voted to strip her of her Latinidad until she stops speaking in any public forum)...anyway...from Glen Beck and Lou Dobs to that idiot in Arizona with the "sweat lodge," white folks have been pissing me off a lot lately. But, I am an equal opportunity bitch master, and so yesterday I had to call out a dumbfuck black woman that was more worried about her food stamps than she was about the fact that she left two children in a house that caught on fire killing one of the kids.

And, frankly, since Obama took office many white people have decided that we are living in a post-race America. I still haven't gotten my 40 acres and a mule or a check for my share of 400 years of free labor by my ancestors (plus interest) just as soon as I get me a stretch of prime downtown Manhattan real estate and a check for roughly $1 billion dollars (I will cut the IRS a deal and settle their back taxes bill for a cool half-billion)...I will declare the United States to be post race. Until then, I am going to continue to write about the laughable yet sad attempts by racial terrorists to kill Barack Obama (there have been at least three plots foiled that I know about...curse those kids and that dog!)...until Lou Dobbs is yanked from CNN by his balls for his vilification and racist diatribes against undocumented immigrants...until Don Imus is dunked in a vat of Pink Lotion for daring to refer to black women as nappy headed...until transgender women of color are no longer targeted by white men for sexploitation and murder...until white privilege is a history lesson instead of an object lesson on racial reality....until no justice of the peace DARES to decline to marry a mixed-race couple...until white folks can tell me apart from Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, and Derek Jeter...until the day I die...I am most likely going to be on the case of white folks like...well...white on rice.

I love you white people, I just don't love what you do (sometimes). And I know that all white people are not guilty for the sins of the idiot few, which is why I rail against specific incidents as opposed to white folks in general. And I totally think that white people should be allowed to sit anywhere on the bus they want....just as long as its in the back.

Just kidding. Rosa Parks wouldn't like that at all.

This blog is dedicated to Divine of the most awesome white people I know.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tragedy and Stupidity In South Memphis

This morning I logged into my Facebook account to find a news clip posted on my wall by my friend Arthur. The clip was an interview from a Fox affiliate in South Memphis. A mother and and her sister left their home unattended with a two year old and a three year old inside while they went to drop off a friend at home. During their absence the house caught on fire. The two year old died.

You can see in this clip that the mother of the children is understandably distraught. One child is in critical condition and the other one is dead. Then the aunt of the children loses her fucking mind. At the end of the clip, she announces that she has no regret that the children were left home alone, then she laughs and says she needs to get in to see if her "purse burnt up cuz her food stamp card..." was in the purse.

Stupidity knows no fucking color.

Unfortunately, this ignorant black woman's interview is already making its way around the country at the speed of YouTube. I am sure that Fox News could not WAIT to get this clip up on the Internet and into the hands of their faithful across the country. At a time when the black community is enjoying the beginnings of a Renaissance, Fox has helped ensure that this ridiculous excuse for a human being is going to get massive amounts of air time.

And let's be real here. When a crazy white person aka Timothy McVeigh blows up a federal building killing innocent children, he is just one disturbed human being. When a crazy working class black woman exhibits her personal ignorance and callousness on Fox News, she is representing the entire American Black community. She immediately conjures of images of deadbeat welfare queens, uneducated poor, and stereotypes of black women used to galvanize the religious right base during the Reagan and Bush Sr. years.

The woman in that video clip is a poor excuse for a human being that should have her tongue yanked out by her sister. I can't imagine one of my siblings being so heartless and cruel as to make a statement such as the one she made while the house is still smoldering. If any of them did, you can bet the first thing I would do when I came out of the shock of losing my child would be to kick his or her ever loving ass. But I would know that it was just a stupid person saying stupid shit. But when the media, particularly Fox media, gets a hold of something like this it is a culture war gold mine.

If I had the stomach for it, I would Google search this topic. I would not be surprised if Don Imus and Glen Beck mentioned this news story on their shows today. Just as one black person should not represent our entire community nor should that same black person have the power to sabotage the image of an entire community, but this one disturbed individual does. My own internal tapes started running as soon as I heard her speak. False stereotypes of the working class (from which I come), the South (my family is from the South and I went to college in the South), black women (ummm I am black), and a whole host of other negative stereotypes started running through my head. AND I KNOW BETTER. I know that the South is a beautiful and vibrant place. Most of my political mentors come from, live in, and organize in the South. I came out in the South, cut my teeth as an organizer in the South, and I know the power, beauty, and history of that place. Yet this one woman was able to raise all the specters of the South implanted in my mind by history books, television, movies, and other pop culture vehicles. I know so many powerful black women that it should be impossible for me to project the shortcomings of this stupid individual to all black women, yet the tapes in my head started shouting things like "typical." The Aunty in this video IS NOT TYPICAL. Yet pop culture and U.S. acculturation tells me that she is.

I hate Fox News. I despise this woman her personal ignorance, and I hate our cultural system that indoctrinates even people that know better to feel and think AUTOMATICALLY the thoughts and feelings that rushed through my head and heart when I watched this particular interview.

My heart and prayers go out to the Mother of those children. She is not faultless. She knew better than to leave two young children at home alone. She has reaped a punishment that will haunt her for the rest of her life. I wish her only peace as she tries to pick up the pieces of her family. To the Aunt, I hopes that she gets the help she needs from friends and neighbors. I hope she sees her interview and is embarassed to the core of her being. And I fervently hope that Fox News and Ruport Murdoch are sucked into a worm hole, deposited on an oxygen-less planet on the far side of the solar system where they are gang banged by giant poisonous sea slugs.

Lord let the rest of the day be filled with peace, joy, and love.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

That Girl's A Grade A Player

I saw a master at work tonight, and I was in awe.

Let me preach at you a minute for I have heard the true Word, and I must proselytize.

Tonight I met my best friend RJ at the Krispy Kreme at Penn Station. The Universe is a funny place where random things happen such as: I have a performance gig at Smith College, which was scheduled half a year best friend happens to be going to a conference in the same town over the same two days.

Now this might not sound so fantastic, except the town is Northampton, Massachusetts...not the largest or busiest of seaports in the world.

Anyway, so I meet RJ, our friend Ricardo, and their friend Tiffany at the train station. Our train was scheduled to depart at 6:43, but Amtrak decided to give Northwest Airlines a run for their title of Miss Delayed Travel, and we didn't leave NYC until almost 7:45. But, just to prove to NWA that Amtrak is indeed the Queen of Ridiculously Unexplainable Delays, we ended up stopping for another 30 or so minutes en route...once without explanation and another time to switch from an electric to a diesel engine.

But the magic happened about 45 minutes before we got to Springfield, MA. Tiffany, a young and rakish queer Puerto Rican gal, was talking about how her organization had basically put her pussy on lock because she tends to take Conference Whoring to new levels, and so they banned her from having her own hotel room. Not to be thwarted, Tiffany clicked her titties together, spun around in a circle, and turned into Joy the Super Player.

Joy gets up to go to the refreshment car and comes back with two bottles of vodka and a girl. Say what? Now the three boys were unsure if said hotty Long Island Italian/Puerto Rican girl was straight or not. But The Super Player, in less than five minutes, not only got the girl to fess up to having a special bib that she only wore for eating pussy but also Joy ended up laying down the law, via telephone, to this random girl on the train's stalker that called a couple of times while we were sitting together.

I was in fucking awe.

I mean for real. In less than 30 minutes, Tiffany cum Joy had met a girl, had a cocktail somewhere in rural Massachusetts, exchanged phone numbers, got a Queer Confession, and is probably right now laying face down in a Puerto Rican girl with legs in spread eagle v-formation.

Joy is my Goddess.

This trip has gotten off to a great start. I can't wait to hit the dyke bar tomorrow night after my show.

Lube it up ladies, my girl Joy got a tongue of steel (or callouses).

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Am Not Tiger Woods

Just in case you were wondering, I am not Tiger Woods. I am not Derek Jeter, nor am I the 44th President of the United States, The Prez, Barack "I Got A Fatty Dick" Obama.

Ever since the Rise of the Woods to super fame, the world (aka white America) has been forced to come face to face with its mixed-race children. Now, we been around ever since the first Massa' decided to rape Olinka and them fresh off the slave ship from Africa, and I am sure Columbus had a whole mess of half Genoan/half-Taino babies in the Caribbean, but mixed race folks, as visible as we have been, have been purposefully hidden in our history. From one drop rules to blood quantum laws, mixed race folks have been legislated almost as much as we have been miscegenated.

But an obviously mixed-race Tiger Woods catapulting to international stardom by sinking holes in ones and sporting funny green sports coats, raised the mixed-race baby to a level of invisibility that could no longer be ignored. And I have been pissed off ever since.

In 2006, I was walking in parade for Minnesota Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson. We were in some god forsaken suburb of St. Paul, when some country children saw me and yelled, what's up Tiger! If I had a 9-Iron that day there would have been brains on the parade route let me tell you.

A couple of summers ago, during a random hook up with a dude that I met from some cruising site, the guy I was fucking said that he responded to my add because he thought I looked like Derek Jeter. He better be lucky I didn't have a baseball bat handy.

The best mixed-race mix up that I have ever had was also a Derek Jeter moment. I was taking my trash to the trash chute in my old apartment building in Minneapolis, when a kid opened his apartment door, looked at me, and starting screaming..."MOM! MOM! DEREK JETER IS IN THE HALLWAY! MOM! DEREK JETER! MOM!"

I tried to calm the kid down, but he was not having it. It made perfect sense to him that Derek Jeter should be taking out his own trash and living right down the hallway from him. Oh sweet young uncorrupted youth.

During my first visit to David's parent's house in Connecticut last spring, after a couple of cocktails, David's Dad leaned over and said, "You know who you look like? Barack Obama! But without the ears." Ummmm...that was the Jack Daniel's talkin'.

And then there was today, David and I were standing in line at the produce market up the block. Our favorite cashier was ringing us up (a sweet Latina immigrant that slyly asked me in Spanish a few months ago if David was my boyfriend and then told me that she totally supports the gays....SCORE). This crazy haired old stoner lady leans back and looks past David to me and says..."Oh My God, I thought you were Tiger Woods. If you are an actor, you need to audition to play Tiger in his life story. You will make millions."

The woman was cracking up and all I could think about was swinging my back full of vegetables like nunchuks straight at her head.

Now, I don't mind, really, being compared to Derek Jeter's fine ass. I mean come on...the man is PRETTY. But here's a little notice to all my well meaning racially confused mono-racial people out in the world...just because my Mama and Daddy decided to make a big old genetic milkshake does not mean that I look like every other mixed-race person in the world.

But if someone wants to give me a few million to play Tiger Words in a HBO Made for TV Movie Event....well...I say....."TEE TIME BITCHES!"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cultural Appropriation Can Kill You

So today I read an article on Yahoo about a self-styled guru spiritual leader self-help expert James Arthur Ray who booked a spa in Arizona and charged clients $9,000-$10,000 for a week called a "Spiritual Warrior" retreat. The culmination of the retreat was a "sweat lodge." Three people have died from multiple organ failure from the sweat.

First of all, I have no experience in running a sweat lodge but common sense says that you do not pack 80 people into a superheated space, period. Anyone that has ever been in a sauna or hot tub or steam room has seen the sign warning against over exposure to those superheated spaces. And a sweat lodge is NOT one of those things. it is an even more intense space that is also a spiritual ceremony tied to rigorous traditions that are both for enlightenment and for the safety of the participants.

James Arthur Ray was a stupid cultural appropriationist as well as criminally negligent. The deaths have been ruled a homicide, and while I don't think he murdered those people, they entered the sweat of their own free will, he was responsible for their health and safety, and I hope that the three families smack him with a wrongful death suit that leaves him penniless eating government cheese straight from the box.

For fuck's sake white folks, stop STEALING shit that you DON'T understand, that is NOT part of your life tradition, and that you have NO BUSINESS APPROPRIATING for your own.

Charging for a sweat not only is wrong but also it profanes the experience. This isn't some weekend Scandinavian recreational event, this is a spiritual ceremony tied to a tradition of faith. Why the fuck do certain privileged, generally white people, all of a sudden up and decide they can steal another people's spiritual practices and then CHARGE for the shit?

If I put on a cassock, got me a bottle of Three Buck Chuck Merlot and a box of Wheat Thins and started charging people for Holy Communion there would be a riot. Hell, in some states it is illegal to impersonate a member of the clergy. So why the hell is it alright for Joe Whitey to impersonate a shaman, medicine person, or other spiritual leader?

Now don't get me wrong, there are some white folks that do cultural immersion the right way. Pema Chodron is a white Canadian woman that after a nasty divorce took vows as a Buddhist nun and is now a world renowned and respected leader in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. But she didn't take the spiritual learnings for herself and then charge for them. She followed the ways, laws, teachings, and traditions of the path that she found fulfilling for her. She submitted to the structure of her new faith and worked within it under experienced teachers and through that found her way.

The fact that white folks still think that they can snatch up something that they do not understand, slap some "wampum" on it and a dreamcatcher and call it a self-help seminar is endemic of the continued subjugation and culture war being waged on the native peoples, my people, of the United States.

It's time for this shit to stop. Three people dead is a high price to pay for one man's greed, cultural appropriation and racism.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Black Face and Interracial Marriages

Ummm hello? *tap* *tap* *tap* Is this thing on? Can someone please let the world know that it has lost its goddamn mind. I mean come on people. What the fuck is going on here?

So, let's have a quick recap.

Last week, Harry Connick, Jr. was a guest judge on an Australian television show where six doctor's showed up in black face to do a mock performance by the "Jackson Jive." In the show's defense, the guys were gonged and Harry let them have it after the show. Although, we did find out that the same group, 20 years previous, had been on the show and WON doing the same routine also in black face.

Yesterday a justice of the peace in Louisiana denies an interracial couple a marriage license as he does not believe in mixing the races that way, though he has loads and loads of black friends, and he lets them use his bathroom (I can't make this shit's in the article people).

Today, French Vogue released its new issue with a 14-page spread of a white model in black face. Ummmm what the fuck? Was Tyra Banks unavailable? Where the hell was Naomi Campbell?

The next person that tells me that because we elected Obama we have become a post-race society, I am going to beat the hell out of them with a copy of French Vogue (and, btw, "French" "Vogue" is redundant).

Was there some sort of stupidity chemical that was spritzed into the air that only affects certain white people? Do black folks need to riot again and burn some shit down to get the attention of these motherfuckers that all of a sudden seem to have thought that bringing back Minstrel shows and Mamie dolls is chic and fashionable?

I swear to the Lord that he had better help these people before I open up my window and start taking picking off models I see heading towards Prada headquarters with a .22. Come on people WAKE THE FUCK UP!

I can't imagine how anyone in their right mind would think that black face in this day and age is funny. I don't understand how a justice of the peace can just decide that Loving v. Virginia didn't happen, that he knows better than the Supreme Court, and that he is going to go ahead and make a choice for two grown ass people.

I wish he had tried to tell my Mama that she couldn't marry my Daddy. She would have been a Lifetime Movie for Women called, "I Gouged Out His Eyes When He Lost His Mind and Told Me I Couldn't Marry My Black Husband." Work Mama, work.

I am thinking about calling my Congressperson and suggesting that they pass a bill that requires the weather person to also give the Stupidity Pressure right along with the Barometric reading and weather forecast every day. At least then I will know whether or not I should open my email, log into Facebook, or read my Twitter feed. If the weatherman got on the air and said, "Today will be partly sunny with a high chance of ignorance," well, I will be able to decide whether or not I want to put on my dumbass galoshes or just turn over and go back to sleep until the Fucknut High Pressure Front passes.

Good God.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Putting My Footprint in Carbon's Ass

My Feet Only Walk Forward is a proud participant of Blog Action Day 09 focused on Global Climate Change.

A few weeks ago, I spent an entire day, from sunup til just before dusk, in Central Park. My friend Julio had flown in from Chile a few weeks before and he, with Team Vicki, had organized a massive human sculpture that was the kick off to a series of events for Climate Change Week.

Since Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, the topic of global climate change has been shifted from an issue that concerned climatologists and Green Peace activists to a mainstream issue. From the auto industry to the United Nations, climate change has been on every lip and tongue. Green buildings, green jobs, green economies, and green energy are the code words that really mean that the world had better get its carbon consumption under control as Mother Nature is gearing up for a global ass whooping of cataclysmic proportions.

In all the talk about reducing carbon footprints, Greening this and that, and the new Kyoto Protocol type gathering scheduled for Copenhagen in December of this year, the one conversation that is missing is the impact of climate change on people.

This week there has been massive flooding in the Philippines where hundreds have lost their lives. Mega-Hurricanes like Katrina, once a rarity, are now almost common place and create billions of dollars in property damage each year and claim priceless lives. Changing weather patterns means changes in agriculture. It means wet places going dry and dry places getting extremely wet, with little time for adaptation. It means that the poorest are starving, with the latest estimate that 1 billion people on the planet are experiencing famine, the rapidly changing climate will only exacerbate the impact on those that do not have the means or resources to feed themselves.

Climate change is about people. The cost of climate change, though measured in dollars, should be measured in lives lost.

The conversation about climate change isn't new. Thirty years ago scientists began attempting to bring the risk of global warming to the attention of the powers that be. And, in the grand fashion of the powerful, they were largely ignored or shunted to the fringe. Republicans and Democrats in this country believed that climate change was hocus pocus and was not discussed credibly by anyone other than long haired hippies that wanted to save the whales and unicorns and whatever else they fancied might be in trouble.

If only we had listened 30 years ago.

The reality is that it is incumbent on the largest consumer nations on this planet, starting with the number one resource guzzler the good old USA, to take the biggest, boldest and hardest steps to combat climate change. Economic pressure must give way to human pressure and nations such as China and India that claim their right to develop in the same monstrous way that industrialized nations developed has to be dealt with in a way that recognizes the need of these countries to move their people out of poverty but without sending the world spiraling into destruction.

The only way to do that is for Western nations to suck it up and realize that we can't continue to consume the way we always have. It is all of our responsibility to lift humanity out of poverty and want. When it comes to hunger, disease, and the threat of natural disaster and climate crisis there are no national borders. If my personal actions do not reflect a consciousness of my impact on the planet, then I am culpable for the dead Pillipinos as well as for the starving in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is incumbent on all of us to join the fight against climate change. You don't have to become an activist but you do have to become conscious about how you, as an individual, impact the world around you. This is truly one of those moments where if we all do something the collective impact will be tremendous. Copenhagen is a big next step for the governments of the world, and it is up to us to pressure our own governments to be real and make real commitments to stopping climate change, but it is also as important for each of us to do our best to reduce our impact on the world we share.

Climate Change is About People Too

The following is a guest blog by Simon Owens. Simon works with CARE, an international organization that fights global poverty. Today is Blog Action Day 09 and nearly 10,000 bloggers around the world are using their blogs, today, to talk about climate change. Check back here later today for my own blog on this topic.

Climate Change: The Human Cost
by Simon Owens

Climate change is not only about melting ice caps and polar bears. Climate change is about people.
Swinging weather patterns are creating disasters on a scale that human civilization has never before witnessed. For the world’s poorest people – the ones least equipped to deal with its effects – climate change is devastating their crops, livelihoods and communities.

"Climate change is worsening the plight of those hundreds of millions of men, women and children who already live in extreme poverty – and it threatens to push hundreds of millions more people into similar destitution," says CARE International’s Secretary General Robert Glasser. "A concerted international response to this unprecedented challenge is required if we are to avoid catastrophic human suffering."

CARE is working toward a world where poor people can create opportunity out of crises like climate change. But the current reality is that climate change makes poor people even more vulnerable.
For instance, agricultural production will likely decline in the poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Less reliable rainfall will likely affect planting seasons, crop growth and livestock health – and lead to increased malnutrition. In other parts of the developing world, flooding will likely further diminish the quality of already-marginal soil and could cause outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

Climate change also is hurling many poor families into “Catch-22” situations. For example, they may select crops that are less sensitive to rainfall variation, but also less profitable. As incomes decline and people are not able to eke out a living, children are forced to leave school, assets are sold off to afford essentials, malnutrition rates increase and large-scale migration ensues. The end result? Deepening poverty for tens of millions of people around the world.

What Must Be Done?

At the international level, negotiations to develop a new treaty to guide global efforts to address climate change will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark in just a couple weeks. The United States must help lead those efforts, and forge a strong agreement that caps emissions, stops global warming and responds to the effects already in motion. We must do this for the sake of all of humanity.

What can I do to help?

First, you can make a tax-deductible donation to CARE to help poor families access the tools and education they need to adapt to the effects of climate change, make efficient use of their existing resources and overcome poverty for good.
Second, if you live in the Unites States, you can write your senators and urge them to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a critical step toward U.S. leadership in tackling climate change. U.S. leadership is critical to making the Copenhagen negotiations a success.

Third, you can join the CARE mailing list to be kept up to date on CARE’s activities and other ways you can take action in the days counting down to Copenhagen.

To donate, take action and join our e-mail list, please visit

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Queer Kids of Queer Parents Against Gay Marriage

I read this today, and I fell instantly in love with the authors. This takes some of the things that I discussed in some of my previous posts and further develops similar thoughts and ideas. Please check out the original posting at Resist the Gay Marriage Agenda!

Resist the Gay Marriage Agenda!
By queerkidssaynomarriage

It’s hard for us to believe what we’re hearing these days. Thousands are losing their homes, and gays want a day named after Harvey Milk. The U.S. military is continuing its path of destruction, and gays want to be allowed to fight. Cops are still killing unarmed black men and bashing queers, and gays want more policing. More and more Americans are suffering and dying because they can’t get decent health care, and gays want weddings. What happened to us? Where have our communities gone? Did gays really sell out that easily?
As young queer people raised in queer families and communities, we reject the liberal gay agenda that gives top priority to the fight for marriage equality. The queer families and communities we are proud to have been raised in are nothing like the ones transformed by marriage equality. This agenda fractures our communities, pits us against natural allies, supports unequal power structures, obscures urgent queer concerns, abandons struggle for mutual sustainability inside queer communities and disregards our awesomely fabulous queer history.

Children of queers have a serious stake in this. The media sure thinks so, anyway. The photographs circulated after San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s 2004 decision to marry gay couples at City Hall show men exchanging rings with young children strapped to their chests and toddlers holding their moms’ hands as city officials lead them through vows. As Newsom runs for governor these images of children and their newly married gay parents travel with him, supposedly expressing how deeply Newsom cares about families: keeping them together, ensuring their safety, meeting their needs. These photos, however, obscure very real aspects of his political record that have torn families apart: his disregard for affordable housing, his attacks on welfare, his support for increased policing and incarceration that separate parents from children and his new practice of deporting minors accused – not convicted – of crimes. As young people with queer parents we are not proud of the “family values” politic put forth by these images and the marriage equality campaign. We don’t want gay marriage activism conducted in our name – we realize that it’s hurting us, not helping us.

We think long-term monogamous partnerships are valid and beautiful ways of structuring and experiencing family, but we don’t see them as any more inherently valuable or legitimate than the many other family structures. We believe in each individual and family’s right to live their queer identity however they find meaningful or necessary, including when that means getting married. However, the consequences of the fight for legal inclusion in the marriage structure are terrifying. We’re seeing queer communities fractured as one model of family is being hailed and accepted as the norm, and we are seeing queer families and communities ignore and effectively work against groups who we see as natural allies, such as immigrant families, poor families, and families suffering from booming incarceration rates. We reject the idea that any relationship based on love should have to register with the state. Marriage is an institution used primarily consolidate privilege, and we think real change will only come from getting rid of a system that continually doles out privilege to a few more, rather than trying to reform it. We know that most families, straight or gay, don’t fit in with the standards for marriage, and see many straight families being penalized for not conforming to the standard the government has set: single moms trying to get on welfare, extended family members trying to gain custody, friends kept from being each other’s legal representatives. We have far more in common with those straight families than we do with the kinds of gay families that would benefit from marriage. We are seeing a gay political agenda become single-issue to focus on marriage and leave behind many very serious issues such as social, economic, and racial justice.

How the marriage agenda is leaving behind awesome queer history.

We’re seeing the marriage equality agenda turn its back on a tradition of queer activism that began with Stonewall and other fierce queer revolts and that continued through the AIDS crisis. Equality California keeps on sending us videos of big, happy, gay families, and they’re making us sick: gay parents pushing kids on swings, gay parents making their kids’ lunches, the whole gay family safe inside the walls of their own homes. Wait a second, is it true? It’s as if they’ve found some sort of magical formula: once you have children, your life instantly transforms into a scene of domestic bliss, straight out of a 1950’s movie. The message is clear. Instead of dancing, instead of having casual sex, instead of rioting, all of the “responsible” gays have gone and had children. And now that they’ve had children, they won’t be bothering you at all anymore. There’s an implicit promise that once gays get their rights, they’ll disappear again. Once they can be at home with the kids, there’s no reason for them to be political, after all!

Listening to this promise, we’re a bit stunned. Whoever said domesticity wasn’t political? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that the feminists taught us that the personal is political? That cooking, cleaning, raising children and putting in countless hours of physical, emotional, and intellectual labor should not mean withdrawing from the public sphere or surrendering your political voice? After all, we were raised by queers who created domestic lives that were always politically engaged, who raised kids and raised hell at the same time. What makes Equality California think that an official marriage certificate is going to make us any less loud and queer? Oh wait. We remember. It’s that sneaky thing about late liberal capitalism: its promise of formal rights over real restructuring, of citizenship for those who can participate in the state’s economic plan over economic justice for all. Once you have your formal rights (like a marriage license), you can participate in the market economy and no longer need a political voice. Looking around at the world we live in, we’re unconvinced.

We’re also seeing another alarming story surface: If gays are ready to get married and have children, the AIDS crisis must be over! Gay men shaped up after AIDS hit, or at least the smart ones did. Those responsible enough to survive realized that they wanted children, and promptly settled down into relationships that were monogamous and that, presumably, carried no risk of HIV contraction. Come on. We reject all the moralizing about parenthood, responsibility, and sexual practice that goes on in this story. Besides the obvious fact that the AIDS crisis is not over, in the US or abroad, we realize that parenthood and non-monogamy aren’t mutually exclusive. The gay marriage movement wants us to believe that you need a sperm donor or an adoption agency to have children, but we know that there are more ways to make queer families than any of us can imagine. We refuse the packaged and groomed history that writes out the many HIV+ individuals in our lives and communities who are living healthily, loving in monogamous and non-monogamous relationships and raising children. We challenge our queer communities to remember our awesomely radical history of building families and raising children in highly political, inventive, and non-traditional ways.

How marriage equality fractures our community and pits us against our strongest allies.

We believe that the argument for gay marriage obscures the many structural, social, and economic forces that break families apart and take people away from their loved ones. Just for starters, there’s the explosion in incarceration levels, national and international migration for economic survival, deportation, unaffordable housing, and lack of access to drug rehabilitation services. The argument for gay marriage also ignores the economic changes and cuts to social services that make it nearly impossible for families to stay together and survive: welfare cuts, fewer after school programs, less public housing, worse medical care, not enough social workers, failing schools, the economic crisis in general.

We choose solidarity with immigrant families whom the state denies legal recognition and families targeted by prisons, wars, and horrible jobs. We reject the state violence that separates children from parents and decides where families begin and end, drawing lines of illegality through relationships. We see this as part of a larger effort on the part of the state to control our families and relationships in order to preserve a system that relies on creating an underclass deprived of security in order to ensure power for a few. We know that everyone has a complex identity, and that many queer families face separation due to one or more of the causes mentioned here, now or in the future. We would like to see our queer community recognize marriage rights as a short-term solution to the larger problem of the government’s disregard for the many family structures that exist. As queers, we need to take an active role in exposing and fighting the deeper sources of this problem. We won’t let the government decide what does and does not constitute a family.

The way that the marriage agenda phrases its argument about healthcare shows just how blind it is to the needs of the queer community. It has adopted marriage as a single-issue agenda, making it seem like the queer community’s only interest in healthcare is in the inclusion of some members of two person partnerships in the already exclusive healthcare system. Health care is a basic human right to which everyone is entitled, not one that should be extended through certain kinds of individual partnerships. We know this from queer history, and if we forget it, we will continue to let our community live in danger. The question of universal healthcare is urgent to queers because large groups of people inside our communities face incredible difficulty and violence receiving medical care, such as trans people who seek hormone treatment or surgery, people who are HIV positive, and queer and trans youth who are forced to live on the street. Instead of equalizing access to health care, marriage rights would allow a small group of people who have partnered themselves in monogamous configurations to receive care. If we accept the marriage agenda’s so-called solution, we’ll leave out most of our community.

Perhaps because the gay marriage movement has forgotten about the plurality and diversity of queer communities and queer activism, it has tried to gloss over its shortcomings by appropriating the struggles of other communities. We reject the notion that “gay is the new black,” that the fight for marriage equality is parallel to the fight for civil rights, that queer rights and rights for people of color are mutually exclusive. We don’t believe that fighting for inclusion in marriage is the same as fighting to end segregation. Drawing that parallel erases queer people of color and makes light of the structural racism that the civil rights movement fought against. The comparison is made as if communities of color, and black communities in particular, now enjoy structural equality. We know that’s not true. We would like to see a queer community that, rather than appropriating the narrative of the civil rights movement for its marriage equality campaign, takes an active role in exposing and protesting structural inequality and structural racism.

Rather than choosing to fight the things that keep structural racism intact, the liberal gay agenda has chosen to promote them. The gay agenda continually fights for increased hate crimes legislation that would incarcerate and execute perpetrators of hate crimes. We believe that incarceration destroys communities and families, and does not address why queer bashings happen. Increased hate crimes legislation would only lock more people up. In a country where entire communities are ravaged by how many of their members get sent to jail, where prisons are profit-driven institutions, where incarceration only creates more violence, we won’t accept anything that promotes prison as a solution. Our communities are already preyed upon by prisons – trans people, sex workers, and street kids live with the constant threat of incarceration. We believe that real, long-term solutions are found in models of restorative and transformative justice, and in building communities that can positively and profoundly deal with violence. We challenge our queer communities to confront what we are afraid of rather than locking it up, and to join members of our community and natural allies in opposing anything that would expand prisons.

The gay marriage agenda also supports the expansion of the army, seemingly forgetting about all of the ways that the army creates and maintains violence and power. The gay marriage agenda fights to abolish the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, promoting the military’s policy and seeking inclusion. We’ve thought long and hard about this, and we can’t remember liking anything that the US military has done in a really long time. What we do remember is how the military mines places where poor people and people of color live, taking advantage of the lack of opportunities that exist for kids in those communities and convincing them to join the army. We think it’s time that queers fight the army and the wars it is engaged in instead of asking for permission to enter.

Marriage doesn’t promise real security.

As the economy collapses, as the number of Americans without a job, without healthcare, without savings, without any kind of social security net increases, it’s easy to understand how marriage has become an instant cure-all for some. Recognizing that many in our community have lived through strained or broken relationships with their biological families, through the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, through self-doubt about and stigmatization of their relationships, we understand where the desire for the security promised by marriage comes from. However, we see the promotion of gay marriage as something that tries to put a band-aid over deeper sources of insecurity, both social and economic. With marriage, the state is able to absolve itself of responsibility for the well-being of its citizens, as evidenced by the HRC’s argument that with gay marriage, the state could kick more people off of welfare. If the HRC got its way, the queers who do not want, or are not eligible for, marriage would be even less secure than before. We’re frightened by the way the marriage agenda wants to break up our community in this way, and we’re committed to fighting any kind of politics that demonizes poor people and welfare recipients. We challenge our queer communities to build a politics that promotes wealth redistribution. What if, rather than donating to the HRC campaign, we pooled our wealth to create a community emergency fund for members of our community who face foreclosure, need expensive medical care or find themselves in any other economic emergency? As queers, we need to take our anger, our fear, and our hope and recognize the wealth of resources that we already have, in order to build alternative structures. We don’t need to assimilate when we have each other.

We’re not like everyone else.

Everywhere we turn, it seems like someone wants us to support gay marriage. From enthusiastic canvassers on the street to liberal professors in the academy, from gay lawyers to straight soccer moms, there’s someone smiling at us, eager to let us know how strongly they support our “right to marry,” waiting for what should be our easy affirmation. And there seems to be no space for us to resist the agenda that has been imposed upon us. We’re fed up with the way that the gay marriage movement has tried to assimilate us, to swallow up our families, our lives, and our lovers into its clean-cut standards for what queer love, responsibility, and commitment should look like. We reject the idea that we should strive to see straight family configurations reflected in our families. We’re offended by the idea that white, middle-class gays – rather than genderqueers, poor people, single moms, prisoners, people of color, immigrants without papers, or anyone whose life falls outside of the norm that the state has set – should be our “natural” allies. We refuse to feel indebted or grateful to those who have decided it’s time for us to be pulled out from the fringe and into the status quo. We know that there are more of us on the outside than on the inside, and we realize our power.

We write this feeling as if we have to grab our community back from the clutches of the gay marriage movement. We’re frightened by its path and its incessant desire to assimilate. Believe it or not, we felt incredibly safe, happy, taken care of, and fulfilled with the many queer biological and chosen parents who raised us without the right to marry. Having grown up in queer families and communities we strongly believe that queers are not like everyone else. Queers are sexy, resourceful, creative, and brave enough to challenge an oppressive system with their lifestyle. In the ways that our families might resemble nuclear, straight families, it is accidental and coincidental, something that lies at the surface. We do not believe that queer relationships are the mere derivatives of straight relationships. We can play house without wanting to be straight. Our families are tangled, messy and beautiful – just like so many straight families who don’t fit into the official version of family. We want to build communities of all kinds of families, families that can exist – that do exist – without the recognition of the state. We don’t believe that parenting is cause for an end to political participation. We believe that nurturing the growth, voice and imagination of children as a parent, a family and a community is a profoundly radical act. We want to build networks of accountability and dependence that lie outside the bounds of the government, the kinds of networks that we grew up in, the kinds of networks that we know support single-parent families, immigrant families, families who have members in the military or in prison, and all kinds of chosen families. These families, our families, work through our collective resources, strengths, commitments, and desires, and we wouldn’t change them for anything.

More Advanced Praise for "It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt"

Bao Phi is one of the fiercest and best known spoken word artists practicing the art in the United States. He is the curator of the Equilibrium Spoken Word series at the Loft Literary Center (, which is the largest literary center in the United States. Bao has won numerous awards and has been featured on HBO's Def Poetry Jam. He has toured these United States and brought his love and truth to thousands of people in hundreds of audiences.

He is also a friend. Bao's poetry can be heard from HBO to light rail stops in Minneapolis (no lie, next time you are in Minneapolis at one of the stops, press or crank one of the levers that says push here, and you will hear Bao's poetry). Here is a Wikipedia entry for my main Vietnamese man.

And to check out Bao's poetry, click here to listen to "You Bring Out the Vietnamese In Me," one of my favorite Bao Phi specials.

Thank you, Bao, for taking the time to read my manuscript and for loving up on Juliana Pegues, another one of my favorite people and poets. Your love and support over the last almost decade has been much appreciated.

Here is Bao Phi's advanced review of my book, It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt, due out from Summerfolk Press in Spring 2010.

"Brandon Lacy Campos is an important poet that doesn't cut corners and doesn't compromise. His work is vivid, jagged, and it takes up space in the most beautiful way. To invest time in getting familiar with his poetry is to invest in vitality. I hope this is just the first shout to announce the arrival of his chorus." -Bao Phi.

Thanks Bao. Your support helped bring out the poet in me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Equality March. Now What?

So, I have had a number of people, both in the U.S. and Canada, ask me my thoughts on the Equality March. I was pretty much bombarded in the last 24 hours asking my opinion on the event. Last night I was firm in asking my loving community to give me the night to think about the event, read more of the articles concerning the event, and formulate my opinion.

Here it is.

Let me begin by saying that I did not attend the march for the reasons that I outlined previously. I continue to stand by those reasons.

I will not go so far as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) who said in an article that he thought the march was a waste of time and effort. For the tens of thousands of people that attended the event, it was an empowering experience and was an energizing moment in their lives. Many people that I care deeply about attended the event, and one of the women that I love and admire, Penelope Williams, was selected as a speaker from the bisexual community. For those people, the event was an important exercise in visibility. I support their participation, and I believe that they got what they needed from the march. Penelope, btw, was invited to speak after intense lobbying by bisexual organizers that, in the last days leading up to the event, found that there was only one speaker from the bisexual community scheduled to address the crowd. You'd think by 2009 the marginalization of bisexual members of our community would be a thing of the past. Whoops.

Unfortunately the community at large and the movement specifically will find that the march was not productive in the least in terms of pushing forward a policy agenda. Obama is dead on right that the economy, the two wars, and health care are much more important issues than the rights of queer folks to openly serve as a part of the U.S. war machine, the marriage battle, or any number of narrow issues that are very important but nowhere near as important as ending war, rebuilding the economy, and establishing a national right to affordable (should be free) healthcare. The reality of politics is that the President has only so much political capital to expend at any one time. The more deft politically Obama is now the more room he has to push a more progressive agenda later. A bevy of polls in recent days have shown that his popularity is climbing again, topping 56%, and he has managed to not only contain but also turn around the spin of the massive conservative publicity machine.

Giving the Right base mobilizing, religious fervor fodder right now would not only retard the movement forward with healthcare and the economy, it would gut any real progress on LGBT liberation in the future. No one is asking our community to wait our turn...what is being asked is that we recognize that ending war, rebuilding the economy, and healthcare reform ARE OUR ISSUES AS WELL!

We are not separate from or outside of those issues and for queers that are progressive, we understand that those issues are at the top of our queer political agenda as they should be. What good is the right to marry if I can't afford a wedding? What good is the right to serve in the military if, after being awarded for service by life long mental health damage, I can't afford to go to the ER (and don't get me started on VA Medical services)? It is time for our community to grow up and learn some political sophistication.

If Obama wins on healthcare, the economy, and successfully gets us out of Iraq...his popularity will skyrocket, and members of Congress will not have the political will to oppose him on issues that, right now, would paralyze the political process and end up setting our justice movement backwards.

And let's talk about justice versus equality. Another failure of the march was the name: Equality. I am not interested in equality. I have no interest in being equal to a cultural system that awards racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism and ableism (which, incidentally, are truly at the core of our community's marginalization). I have no interest in joining a system of exploitation in exchange for the right to marry, be sent to war and die for oil, or bring my houseboy in the country legally through narrow immigration reform.

I am interested in liberation ad justice, which necessitates us dismantling systems based in oppression and replacing them with agreements that respect the inherent dignities of each person without creating a new hierarchical system of oppression and privilege in order to maintain those new rights. That means tearing apart the institution of marriage and replacing it with a system of legal union that is not based in centuries of sexism and case law that favors the wealthy over the poor, men over women, or in the case of child custody, women over men. It means looking at the military industrial complex and making a decision to create laws that stringently outline when a President can order troops to war, ends war for financial gain, restricts war time profiteering, and abolishes the poverty and racial draft once and for all. It means health care reform that ends in single payer universal health care.

Unfortunately, we have been trained from the gate and through the non-profit industrial complex to accept crumbs instead of a slice of the pie. Guess what? We deserve the whole damn pie. Until we get it, we need to fight for the biggest pieces first, the ones that will feed the most, sustain the most, support the most and will feed us and strengthen us to make further charges, and harder fights, possible and winnable.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Everyday Heroes: Shante "Paradigm" Smalls

It's been a while since I shared with you one of my everyday heroes. Tonight, I had the honor of sitting next to one of my heroes. She's a woman that I learned to love more than a decade ago. She bounced into my life, high energy kicking up sparks from the carpeted halls of the Oakland Convention Center. That night, she kicked up some sparks from my best friend and roommate's coochy, and from that day to this one she has been a light in my life.

Her name is Shante Smalls, some of you know her as Paradgim from the homohop duo B.Q.E. I know her as my sister from another mother. But shoot, you know how slavery worked, we could be cousins. Shit, as crazy as we both are, we are probably half-siblings.

This woman is amazing. I remember walking into Amazon Bookstore in Minneapolis one day (the oldest feminist bookstore in continuous operation in the United States...word!). I was thumbing through the magazines, and who should I see leaping on the cover, dreadlocks flying this and that way, but Miss Smalls herself. She had been chosen Girlfriend of the Month, and let me tell you, she deserved the honor.

Whether she is organizing PeaceOut East, the International LGBT Queer Hip Hop Festival, cutting a new record, working for human rights as a Bunche Fellow with Amnesty International or working on her dissertation for her PhD in Performance Studies from the NYU Tisch School, this woman has committed her life and her art to the community. She is brilliant, she is sexy, and she is word up hit me up if you want a crack at that. I will be vetting all comers, cuz I just can't have my girl with just any old body.

But truly, Shante is an inspiration. She keeps me laughing, and she keeps me real. She is a devoted Buddhist and lives the life that she talks about in her art and scholarship. She is a survivor of many kinds and a thriver of the first degree. I had no idea that when I met her, myself fresh from an airplane from Puerto Rico and she fresh from BK, that she and I would create a friendship that would stretch for a decade, cross art and activism, and be firmly rooted in love and mutual respect.

I love you Shante Smalls. Thank you for creating community with me. It's been an honor and a laugh. Now where's my fried chicken?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Working It Out/Writing It Out

So, I am in the midst of writing my first novel. It will be my second book, when and if it gets published, my first book being It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt, due out from Summerfolk Press this coming spring.

So this book, so far, is about a little kid, growing up in an abusive household, that all of a sudden finds himself wielding tremendous power. The first thing he does with the power is kill his abusive step-father.

Ain't that a bitch.

I am about 52 type written pages into the book or roughly 19,000 words. I know where the book is going next, and I am pretty sure I know where this book ends (though I think there may be some sequels to it). It is part autobiography and part exorcism, and writing it is like channeling an alternative mini-me with the power to see auras, summon spirits, and tear abusive stepfathers a new asshole.


It is an interesting exercise writing this book, as I am following the old maxim "write what you know." The book, for the first six chapters, is set in my hometown of Duluth, MN. Much of it is set in an apartment building that I lived in briefly as a child that was actually an old convent. Next, the kid is going to be hauled off to the hometown of my birth Father in the southern mountains of West Virginia. I need to go and visit Ronceverete, anyway, to visit my Great Aunt Sis. But, also, I want to visit the place to make it more real in my memory, since the last time I was there was 18 years ago. This town is the same town in which my family were held as slaves, so there is some serious history in this place. There has been a member of my family in the county since at least the mid-18th century, and since 1709 we have been in the Virginia Colony. So, I am feeling the pull of the homestead, so I can capture the spirit of place.

It also helps that in my Great-Grandma's backyard is a century+ old tombstone, tumbled over, and the maiden name of the woman on the tombstone is one that is shared by my Great-Grandmother, who, incidentally, swore that this woman was of no relation.


Don't think that isn't going to end up in this book.

In the end, writing a novel is both similar and wildly different than writing a poem. Poetry seems to capture a single moment in time and reflect it back with some analysis but mostly raw emotion. A novel seems to take broad swaths of time and delve into the woulda, coulda, shouldas in a way that is both cathartic and crazy making.

Hold on to your diaphragms ladies...this is going to be a hell of a ride.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Play Is the Thing: An Interview with Mark Snyder

One of the greatest compliments I have been paid in the last few months has been the gift of being approached by amazing local artists that are interested in sharing their work with me and with my readers. From Charlie Vazquez to Yamaneika Saunders, I have been tickled to interview some amazing human beings that are doing so much, through their individual artistic forms, to bring a new, deeper, and broader understanding of life to the world.

My editor at Summerfolk Press once told me that artists take experiences outside of time and bring them into a temporal state in order to help those around us see everyday things in a different way, and Mark Snyder, is doing that through his play Lila Cante. I plan on seeing this play myself this weekend, but I had the opportunity to interview this gifted man for My Feet Only Walk Forward.

I haven't yet had the honor of meeting Mr. Snyder in person, though we have many connections. Plus, he loves Minneapolis, which makes me adore him without even having met him.

It also doesn't hurt that he is scrumptiously adorable.

Here's my interview with Mark. Do yourself a favor, and go and check out his play.

Tell me about Lila Cante, what is the story about?

LILA CANTE is a dark and sexy play about two siblings - both trying to pursue their artistic inclinations - who must come together and battle over their elusive mother’s legacy with the corporate music industry. It is also a funny and dangerous play about loneliness and forging new connections in spite of ourselves. I think our production burns from a white-hot center of love and compassion.

Who is Lila Cante, and why this play important at this particular moment?

Lila Cante is a reclusive singer-songwriter who produced one masterpiece solo album in the pre-grunge early 1990s, just before bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Liz Phair were entering the mainstream media. She releases one album of ten songs, followed by almost twenty years of silence (though she raises her two kids while touring the country and performing). The play is as much about how her choices and behaviors have impacted her children as it is about what they will do about her.

The play examines the backlash of the relationship between art and commerce, and about how those two entities are now trying to feed on each other in order to survive. It’s a play that uses modern culture (blogs, file-sharing, downloads, etc) as forms of communication. It is interesting, because I first started working on this play in 2001, and now the music industry’s total descent into irrelevance has really been the play’s blessing! It’s almost like the play caught up with the rest of the world and is ready to engage with it.

As a queer playwright, how does your sexuality influence what you bring to the stage?

I grapple with the label game all the time, because I don’t really appreciate being ghettoized, just like everyone else. I think my queerness certainly provides a filter through which I experience the world and tell the stories I want to tell. Without being conscious of it, queer is a given circumstance. As a writer, being more emphatic and less black-and-white about human nature and our motivations to do good and bad deeds is directly-connected to my sexuality and the world I inhabit in my plays. I work very hard to remain open and available to all kinds of experiences, without judgment, and then processing them later - via the plays.

What is it you hope to achieve through your production?

At Hand Theatre approached me about doing a staged reading and subsequent production late last winter; I’ve been working on new drafts and rewrites up through the day of first preview (where I gave one of our actors two new lines!). I think the play is in the best possible shape, and I feel like the months of workshops and rehearsals with some fantastic and sensitive actors was instrumental in transforming LILA CANTE into its current form. Our director Sara Sahin has given the play such a vibrancy and sensitivity that I think really gives the writing its true pulse. The audiences have been quite enthusiastic and jazzed by the play - the highest compliments I receive are when people ask me if Lila’s album is still in print and if they can purchase it at their local record store!

I’ve been very wishy-washy about getting a full-length play of mine onto a New York stage for some time now; this production, with these actors, and with this company is about as good as the “debut” could get. I’m very proud of it.

If folks leave the theater with one thought, idea, or notion, what would you like it to be?

True human connection is difficult to trust and hard to sustain, but we must continue attempting it in order to stay alive.

Also, I would love for people to appreciate the world of indie rock and how hard it is to forge a living making music - perhaps they would hesitate more before they click the “free download” button on their computers.

Why playwriting? Why not write a novel or compose free verse that you can shout in Union Square?

I started writing and staging plays when I was five years old; my personality is hard-wired towards the dramatic. Just last night I saw the new revival of “The Royal Family” on Broadway and I nearly burst into tears over this family’s sheer love and the thirst for the stage. I am a creature of the theater, pure and simple. It’s my language and my instincts.

Working with a director and actors and designers also creates a tribe-mentality that I find very stimulating and inspiring. I relish nothing more than sitting down to work knowing that a bunch of other artists are waiting for the new pages so they can give them life. It helps the writing process quite a bit. You’re not so lonely as if I were writing a novel or poems. And I save my voice by sitting in a chair taking notes during a performance instead of shouting in a square!

What does the vehicle of the theater give you that other literary forms do not?

Being a playwright is the best of both worlds - I get to indulge my literary impulses while at the same time being engaged directly with the public during performance. Conversing with the director, the designers, and those marvelous actors about the play as I’m continuing to write it. Returning to the play in performance, and learning from each of the different audiences. Theater is alive and vibrant and never truly finished - because the play will be done again, in a different city with a different cast for different people. It’s ever-changing and forces you to remain in the “now” of it (to get all Eckhart Tolle on you, Brandon!).

Finally, if folks want to catch Lila Cante or find out more about the super sexy Mark Snyder, how can they do that?

For tickets to LILA CANTE (through October 18, with a just-added matinee performance on Saturday, October 17!):

At Hand Theatre’s website is:

I can be found at:

Thank you, Brandon - this was fun!!

Thank you Mark, for letting me promote your work on my little corner of the web.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why I Am Not Marching This Weekend

This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the first national LGBT march for LGBT Liberation. In 1979, a national network of grassroots committees was formed that developed local platforms and identified local issues of importance to LGBT communities. Those networks elected representatives to regional groupings that debated and discussed issue of pertinence to LGBT communities in those regions, and then those regions, after coming to consensus on the issues that they felt most pressing to bring to a national stage, elected representatives to a national steering committee that put together the final agenda for the march.

This model ensured that the march was not only a visibility event but reflected the issues and concerns of grassroots communities and reflected grassroots leadership. People of color and women were represented in this process. And the process was used again for the next two marches.

In 2000, that all changed. In 2000, the Human Rights Campaign severed its last links with reality and with grassroots communities. It most definitely burned the only, thin, rickety lonely bridge it had with people of color communities. It created a national steering committee representing a narrow set of ideas, a narrow site of ideologies and a whole lot of white people. There was an entire movement by queer people of color to work with and hold accountable the national march in 2000, which, largely, failed. Elizabeth Birch had the money and the influence, and she used both oppressively and shadily. The march happened and, as progressive suggested, was wildly ineffective and had almost no impact on the movement. Why? Because it had NO connection to the issues and areas where on the ground activists were organizing.

Now here comes Millenium March Part II, conceived of by Cleve Jones and his backers at the HRC. Jesus Christ do we never learn.

The agenda for this march looks much like the last one. They threw "immigration" issues in there as a bone to people of color communities, but the march is still focused on marriage, it is still focused on a gays in the military, and it is still focused on issues that appeal largely to a middle class white LGBT movement and does not reflect in anyway the racial, economic, anti-war and gender justice issues that are at the core of most grassroots queer organizing in the United States.

The march is a farce, it is going to be ineffective, it was poorly organized, poorly planned, and it will be a failure. As a matter of fact, it has already failed. Any march that is not organized in the way that the first three marches were organizing (and, incidentally was the same system used by Bayard Rustin to organize the 1963 March on Washington), is a failure. National organizations DO NOT OWN OR SET the movement agenda. The movement agenda is set by, worked for, and guided by folks on the ground that put their lives and their energy on the line for this work. Joe Solomnese and Evan Wolfson and the rest of the rancid right of the LGBT movement (and damn them to hell if they believe that they aren't the right reactionary wing of our movement) are hurting our movement more than they have ever done to support it let alone MOVE it forward.

Don't get me wrong, I support the queer folks that will spend their time, money, and energy to march this weekend. I have a number of friends that will be going to the march. But, at this point, the march needs to be a success in numbers or it will do so much damage to our credibility as a movement that it will allow the Democrats the space to openly sideline our REAL issues and concerns as opposed to the lip service they pay to it now while ignoring us in the halls of Congress.