Thursday, May 23, 2013

Updates, Interesting things and other stuff

I've been busy. I'm getting ready to go out of town -- out of the country, actually -- to help a friend for a quick min, with her baby -- postpartum care. . . . sort of. I haven't met her baby yet because I haven't seen my friend in a while. I am really looking forward to hanging out with them and getting my very long overdue dose of radical Afro-Carib-Trinidadian and Hungarian feminist, queer, human rights theory, from her. I'm getting a rush now just thinking about it. I'm also gearing up to return to school this Fall, as you know (if I can find funding, that is. Thanks, Sequester), to work towards a PhD in sociocultural anthropology, which I'm anticipating to be crazy insane as far as being busy and that taking much of my time. There is also some other stuff that's been going on around here that has not lent me much time to write these days, but I did want to bring another what I call my 'newsletter-type-ish' post, that has some things that are happening around and about:
  • Black Feminist Blog Carnival is coming, really. I am truly sorry I have had to push the date back on publishing the fabulous articles I received on 'debunking the man-hating myth', and know it is so important to continue to work on this perspective in Black feminist thought. The reason I am so behind is that I have not been able to dedicate the time I need to organize and create my contribution to this carnival, which is why it's so late, because I want to give the best representation to the contributors as well as the readers as possible. Please bear with me. 
  • I withdrew from speaking at the Inequity in Breastfeeding Support Summit, that's happening in Seattle in June. I did not make this decision lightly because addressing the impact of institutional racism, power and white privilege on breastfeeding rates and maternal-infant health, is very important to me. I also clocked some valuable time helping organize this conference, and was looking forward to presenting. For now, I will not be going into much detail about my withdrawal, but since some of you were looking forward to me presenting, I will give you the gist on why I backed out:
I really felt that since people of color were not the ones who held the 'purse strings,' or any 'real' positions of power on the committee, it was inevitable that issues of racialized oppression and white supremacy were being served up as stronger dishes than an actual address of the way these systemic issues are a major force in breastfeeding inequity. I felt that far from being involved in creating ways to truly challenge injustice and engage the most affected members of the community, the venue only became a way to center the experiences of white people, and that my remaining a 'Black body on display' and 'performing' for an audience, which became geared to the least impacted -- white healthcare workers, was very problematic for me. The way I see it is while this scene may appear to enact change and be viewed at resolving critical issues, it would not. Instead, it would only fortify the cohesiveness of whiteness and the deeply entrenched racism, helping it to mutate, making it much more difficult to see because it would create more 'white saviors' and 'do-gooders', who are not interested in challenging a system they benefit from everyday. It just continues the provide power to white people, and reinforce the dynamic of race and class. It also only creates more ways for these people to 'help,' instead of providing the communities most affected with critical tools to challenge the legacy that is racism and white domination -- much of the reasons behind these issues. It would just continue to disempower them. And create more disparities. And this is everything I work against. But like I told the committee, this is the way *I* see it. You may see things differently, and I would love it if you shared your thoughts.
  • My two year blogaversary was yesterday! 
  • Interesting things around the web:
  1. Dr. Breeze Harper -- the Sistah Vegan, just published a great blog post entitled On the Myth of Being a Strong Black Woman, Decolonizing Our Taste Buds, and Self-Care, where she was part of a talk and discussed her experience of being a 'Strong Black Woman'. I am so happy that more attention discussing these issues in the work of anti-racist and social justice activists. You know that I just recently discussed something somewhat along these lines -- mine, though, was about the need to make self-care an intricate part of our work and not view it as a separate entity. I'm really glad to see Dr. Harper's article/talk, and if I find other interesting perspectives on the topic floating around, I'll make sure to tell you about those, too. 
  2. One of my favorite bloggers, Darcel of The Mahogany Way, is fundraising to become a doula through the International Center for Traditional Childbearing. This is also where I took my training, and I think the course taught, which centers the experiences of Black women, is wonderful. Transformational. I hope that you will see the importance of supporting more Black women becoming doulas and all doulas of color, and pitch in if you can.
  3. I just learned that ROSE (Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere) Breastfeeding coalition is hosting the Addressing Social Determinants of Breatfeeding Conference. I'm not a spokesperson for this organization, really, I just truly appreciate them! This particular conference here is practically giving me palpitations because it sounds so exciting. It is happening at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, on August 23, and there looks to be an interesting lineup of speakers. This conference is not too long after ROSE's annual breastfeeding summit in Atlanta, this year's theme is about organizing, and is taking place on August 8-9. So. Exciting. I really hope I am able to go.
  4. Once Sold Tales, a used bookstore, is going out of business. I'm so sad to see this awesome Seattle-based company close their doors, after all of the awesome stuff they've done within and for the community. I really don't like to see most bookstores close down, really. I read an article that they are struggling to find homes for 500,000 books, so if you are in the area, stop by. They will give you a free book if you mention the story in the link, and have implemented a 'grab bag' to try and reduce their stock so even if you're not around here then you can get them shipped to you! Please check them out. Imagine the critical theory, breastfeeding and birth readers they have available. For cheap!
  5. Infant tooth reveals Neanderthal breastfeeding habits: Chemicals in primate teeth reveal transition to solid food, is an interesting article I read today. I'm insanely fascinated with Neanderthals and, believe it or not, I often times find myself romanticizing about eras when they existed. I try and find as much info as I can to look at how things are 'supposed to be', and I think it gives me a good starting point, I think, to see how drastically we have moved away from nature. The article is interesting, though just one tooth doesn't tell us all that much, but it's definitely something. 
  • Finally, I'm going to be taking an advocate/activist and blogging break soon. I think I'm finally at the point where the universe will actually allow me to take time off and regroup from this work. This is a first because usually, the smallest inkling of a thought towards this and I could almost guarantee that something, anything, would transpire, and send me a clear message that I couldn't break just yet. But I'm feeling it's OK this time around. We'll see. I'll give you more details when it happens, next month, so don't worry -- I won't just leave you hangin'. 
But other than that, that's what's happening around here. What updates, interesting things and other stuff is going on in your world?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I took my children to the lake. . And I Left with an #IBCLC And Goat Milk! #TrueStory

If you noticed that I added a new page to this blog -- Painted Sky Soap -- it is because as of recently I became an independent representative for this small company, and so I'll tell you why I'm excited about it, and why I believe this may be another important component of the work I do supporting breastfeeding.

I think the most interesting things happen to me sometimes. I mean, the encounters I have with people. When I took my (little sister's) two youngest to the lake nearby their house and planned to hang out while they swam and splashed around in the shallow end with their friends, I didn't anticipate meeting a labor and delivery nurse, who was also an IBCLC -- a board Certified Lactation Consultant until just recently when she decided not to renew her certification. I'm sure you can imagine what she and I talked about for some time, right?! I also didn't anticipate meeting her husband who makes bodycare products from raw goat's milk.

After we all talked about breastfeeding, the fact that we were all California natives, recycling, and had the insane privilege of watching, right in front of our eyes, a bald eagle swoop down from the sky to try and capture a baby duckling floating around on the lake with its mama and other siblings -- the mama, who instructed the duckling to 'duck' to avert its demise, we began discussing goat's milk. The labor and delivery nurse/IBCLC, shared that her mother birthed six children and didn't breastfeed any of them -- she said she doesn't know why, but she did know that of all of them were given infant formula, but because of her allergy to cow's milk she was fed goat milk. The conversation progressed and I was pretty intrigued at what I was told, so later I decided to do some research on my own.

I found the benefits of raw goat milk to be extraordinary -- that it is loaded with natural vitamins, has the closest ph to our own skin which helps to avert irritants and infections, and that more and more research is suggesting it be used in place of the current cow's milk in infant formula, because of its benefits. From what I understood some of these include a potential decrease of SIDS due to potentially lessening the chance of anaphylactic shock from allergic reactions to cow's milk. This was only initial research. Of course the fact that these products are all natural, each contain only six to eight ingredients at best and goat's milk is always first on that list -- meaning it is the largest quantity in each product, and that they are handmade and cold processed just grabs me.

But, if you know me or know anything at all about me -- even though I'm a sucker for great skincare products, and especially a good lotion, then you'll know that I'm not too quick to hop on just any bandwagon. And, with the exception of books, I have yet to advertise anything on my site, and never allow it. Or, excuse me -- it would be rare and I'm exceptionally choosy -- I think we are too often given the exact things that are used to exploit us and create tumultuous dynamics all in the name of 'mobility'. But I digress..

I was not only impressed with the products, which I love, but I appreciate the relationship this owner has with his goat herd as well as the land, reciprocating the same kindness, loyalty, and faithfulness that he receives (I would not have signed up were this not the case). I think doing so was one of those things I could feel was right -- that somehow this is another critical component of promoting breastfeeding -- involving deeper implications of self-care, environment, race, and other ideas of holism -- mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and so on. I can't quite put my finger on exactly how this milk intersects with this work, but I know it does. And I'll soon find out because I absolutely look forward to seeing where this will all lead.

Please visit my new page as well as the website. Right now, the dust is still settling around here and I will probably soon enter a redirect from the blog page that will take you to an online store/shopping cart, if you're interested in purchasing anything. Also, please know that some of the pricing on the current site is slightly different on the website and all orders must be done through email, where you would tell me what you want and I would send you an invoice through Paypal. Many thanks, and please share your thoughts and let me know if you have any questions :O)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

SELF CARE -- It's more than what you think in Anti-Racist and Social Justice Work! (Video)

I added a new label to this blog; 'SELF-CARE'. 

But I don't want to make it a truly 'separate' category and only talk about practical aspects, if you know what I mean, but I want to also talk about it on a deeper level. I'll explain.

From what I've noticed at least, self-care is one of the most overlooked aspects of anti-racist and anti-oppressive work. It seems as if the subject is almost taboo, in that it is hardly ever discussed and rarely have I seen the topic appear on my favorite blogs and websites, or hear about it during talks I attend by Black feminists, resistive workers, and other social justice activists. I admit I've hardly touched on it, and though I have found a few people discussing the issue here and there, the conversation in the 'quest' is always centered around ways to 'fight the power'.

You've heard this reference once before, and you'll hear it once again in an upcoming post, too, on when I went to hear Angela Davis speak a few months back. I asked her about suggestions for activists on how they continue, after always challenging everything under the sun, and feeling the toll it takes on us. I was approached after the event about my question, and was told it was a good one because, as this brotha put it, 'everyone wants to have dinner, but no one wants to talk about doing the dishes,' and he was right.

Day after day we prioritize issues that are undoubtedly important, in fighting the 'good fight'. It involves being vocal and speaking -- regardless of the level of difficulty. Activists endure verbal, emotional and sometimes physical violence from others reacting to social justice and anti-racist work, and we are often told to just 'suck it up' or 'keep it moving'. Many of us don't have adequate emotional support surrounding the issues we challenge -- I know for myself it has only been recently that I have begun to find the support I need in some areas, but I feel strongly that most Women of Color face the brunt of this, especially in an environment where issues of racism, sexism and capitalism are the backdrop. Black women, for example, whether actively engaged in anti-oppressive work or not, continue to be labeled 'strong', and never in need of a break -- that we've always got things under control. Of course this dehumanizing stereotype means at the end of the day, without getting proper support and self-nourishment, too many of us literally pay for this myth with our lives.

But just like others have said, and just like Audre Lorde's words in the image in this post -- 'Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare,' I agree. Self-care, I believe, is self preservation -- very much determined by who you are, in a society full of ideas on who we're 'supposed' to be -- and who is and is not supposed to be -- healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally well or even alive. Those who fall furthest from 'normative' dominant standards, as I stated earlier, feel the brunt, and it's most often these same people and groups on the front lines of the struggle. So why aren't we focusing more ways to ensure our own self-nourishment as an integral component of this work -- and not a separate entity? I think it can provide greater success with challenging injustice?

I don't think my ideas in this post are as clear as I'd like them to be. I would like to view this via a more critical and even practical perspective. I also want to hear about your thoughts on self-care -- in the 'ongoing quest for justice and equality'. I'm not sure what type of conversations exactly will erupt around this, but I do know that in my mind, I wonder how is it possible that we can participate in challenging injustice to its fullest if we fail to ensure we are even at our fullest? This is the way I see it, at least. And is why I want to place a special emphasis on this new category -- and make sure I post in it often.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reblog - An Open Letter From Assata Shakur: 'I am only one woman' (Video) #handsoffAssata

I reblogged the article below from the Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle's website. If you are unsure about the current conversation surrounding Assata Shakur, who was, just the other day, the 'first-ever woman to be added to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list,' I recommend doing a good amount of research on her story, and contributions she has made to the struggle for justice and liberation. Though being convicted by an all-white jury of the murder of a state police officer, like others, I believe Assata's account of what happened on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973, and am convinced of her innocence. I also agree that this sudden act to label her a terrorist, is itself an act of terror.

But I can't put my entire faith into believing this is simply about one woman's plight. The tactics of the United States, and political dissent vis-à-vis Cuba, as well an attempt to divert public attention from innumerable injustices on a local and global level, perpetuated by the imperialistic U.S. government, is at least also at the forefront, I believe. I also recognize this is only part of the legacy of repression and tyranny that has been sustained by the government, that we have seen experienced by those now and in the past -- especially towards those who have sought radical and revolutionary change and social equality for Black, poor and oppressed people.

Even though I admit I'm at a loss on offering ways to challenge someone being placed on a terrorist list, I'm doing what I can to spread the word and looking for whatever ways I can to become involved. I think this starts by hearing Assata in her own words.

An Open Letter From Assata Shakur - May 3, 2013
My name is Assata Shakur, and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.
I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.
In 1978, my case was one of many cases bought before the United Nations Organization in a petition filed by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, exposing the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treatment they receive in US prisons. According to the report:
I was falsely accused in six different “criminal cases” and in all six of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts, that was certainly not the case. It only meant that the “evidence” presented against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident. This political persecution was part and parcel of the government’s policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges. . . . finish reading Assata's open letter
'Eyes of the Rainbow: Assata Shakur [Full] Documentary'

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Radical Black #Breastfeeding Bingo, Anyone?

I love Bingo! I have since I was a kid, and could play this game for hours. I usually play no less than several rounds at the family picnic each Summer, hosted by the company my brother-n-law works for. True story. I love the game and they give out great winning prizes. What can I say? J

I was inspired to create the bingo card below, after the idea came from viewing the ways other people have used the famous game to get messages across. I think it is a perfect opportunity to share the way I view structural barriers to breastfeeding for Black women, and the Black community (what stands in the way -- and grasp things at the root), and what I discuss during my presentations, along with what I believe are ways we can work towards solutions. Understand that there is only so much room on this single card; and it doesn't even begin to touch on practical matters -- infant tongue tie, fussy baby, thrush, for example. 

This is not to say that Black women don't have agency -- that Black women who don't breastfeed are nothing more than mindless and oppressed and don't know what they're doing or what's best for their own situations. I don't think that at all. Nor am I saying that those who do never face any social barriers, or don't occupy a social position where they feel these less than others. But I'm looking in on it through a more structural framework -- a larger picture than zeroing in on one Black woman, 10 or even 100. And what I am saying is that breastfeeding is more than simply the mechanical steps of attaching an infant to its mother's breast. If Black women have the lowest initiation and duration rates of any group in the country -- and who are coincidentally disproportionately affected by strategic and systematically crafted structures, which are part of a continued legacy of the most sordid US history, then it is not by chance. If we want to start hearing more about an infant's access to its mother's breast and all of the goodness that comes with that, then we need to look at breastfeeding through a more critical and holistic lens. And talk less about the infant and its mother's breast and more about the issues that are situated between the two. And find ways to challenge these issues. 

I hope you play a round or more of Radical Black Breastfeeding Bingo. And while you are immersed in your game, ask yourself just how you support these structures -- because you know you do. We all do, somehow.

Open Anthropology - A FREE #Anthropology Journal! #MakingAnthropologyPublic

This is cause for celebration. Or at least a few cheers. In an effort to make anthropology more public and to make anthropologists more visible, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) has created Open Anthropology: A PUBLIC JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATIONan online journal and volume 1, Number 1 -- the inaugural issue is now online, and it's FREE!!

This current issue is titled 'Marriage and other Arrangements'. Here are some of the titles from this volume, which are also linked:
There are other articles in the journal also, of course, and you can check those out. The AAA, on it's blog, provides the following info about the journal:
"Content in Open Anthropology will be culled from the full archive of AAA publications, curated into issues, and will be freely available on the internet for a minimum of six months, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles. Each issue will be dedicated to topics of interest to the general public, and that may have direct or indirect public policy implications." 
Below is part of the introduction to the journal form the AAA's president, Leith Mullings:
"Anthropology is the science of humankind, past and present, across societies and cultures. The anthropological perspective is distinct from most social sciences in that it does not accept specific cultural forms and societal arrangements as given or 'natural', but seeks to understand the conditions in which they came to be. As we apply anthropological knowledge — gained from the study of humans and primates through history and across societies — to pressing social issues such as family, war, health, migration, inequality, we ask how these emerge, and are reproduced or transformed. The answers to these questions may provide unique insights into addressing pressing social issues." 
This is why I think everyone needs at least a little bit of anthropology.  And judging from this new initiative, so do they.

If you would like to understand more about the discipline, I recommend you head over. I hope you visit this journal on a regular basis -- or at least often. Here's the link. Make sure you spread the world!