Disco and the White Man

I DJ disco music.
 
I receive criticism for this choice because most people associate disco with “frivolous” femininity and “silly” gayness. Of course, those are the exact reasons I enjoy it, because I enjoy feminine and queer things.
 
When I DJed with other collaborators, those who were white men were uncomfortable labeling our events as “disco” and preferred “soul”. You won’t walk into many record stores and find a Disco section. What you *will* find is a Soul section, where the disco and funk will be hidden.
 
The white male DJs were, to a man, unable to stop talking about Northern Soul and Blue-Eyed Soul. I.e. soul/R&B music filtered through whiteness.
 
A photo of gender non-conforming disco artist Sylvester.

Sylvester

My setlists included lots of Black artists, especially those who are women, femme, trans and queer. I was told by these white men that my music wasn’t “serious” enough, and that advertisement that referenced these artists would give potential attendees “the wrong idea”.
 
What idea might that be?
 
Blue-eyed soul was serious enough for them.
 
Fast-forward 5-8 years. Cultural tastes have inevitably shifted. The warm, glittery synthetic beats of gay disco are again en vogue. One of these white men has the audacity to invite me to a dance night he is hosting. Prominently displayed in his online advertisement is a Black woman who is popular among enthusiasts of gay disco. He is writing about his sudden love for this music with the confident authority of someone who grew up listening to it. An authority I now know is “the confidence of a mediocre white man”. I remember the time he confided that he would never be able to truly believe that women were anything other than “other”. I remember the casual racist jokes that peppered his conversation. I remember his disdain for this same music when *I* played it.
 
I unfriended.
 
I now focus my DJ collaborations on mentoring and building up talent among women, POC, trans people, and queers.
 
I still DJ disco music.

Dangerous Names

Whenever Assata Shakur is in the news, even now in 2016, prominent newspapers refuse to use her legal name (Assata Shakur) and instead deliberately use versions of her old name (she was born JoAnne Deborah Byron). They respect that she changed her name briefly after getting married (to JoAnne Chesimard), but not the change to Assata Shakur. Here is the New York Post doing it two days ago. Here is the New York Times doing it in 2014.

A picture of Assata Shakur with the quote "I believe in teh fire of love and the sweat of truth."

This article informs me that they did the same to Muhammad Ali when he changed his name from Cassius Clay. This seems to be a special form of disrespect and identity erasure that “the establishment” and the white mainstream reserve for POC, women and queers who they deem too uppity, and whose identities alone are considered so dangerous to white cis-het-male hegemony that their names are literally unspeakable, unprintable.

Picture of Muhammad Ali with the quote "I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me."

 

 

NYPD Chains Transwoman to Fence for 28 Hours

Oh yes they did

A trans woman says that when she was arrested for a minor subway violation, NYPD officers belittled her, called her names, asked about her genitals — and kept her chained to a fence for 28 hours. Now she’s suing. And it turns out she’s far from alone.

…She also says officers not only refused to call her “she,” they instead referred to her as “He-She”, “Faggot,” and “Lady GaGa,” and asked her “So you like to suck dick? Or what?” Meanwhile, people arrested for the same minor crime (misdemeanor “theft of services”) she was were calmly processed and allowed to leave.

At least the woman who experienced this treatment, Temmie Breslauer, is standing up, speaking out, and of course suing.

The Anti-Violence Project gets a shout out in the article.

H/t ES

Tough Guise

Guess what! You can watch this awesome documentary on youtube for free: Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity.

IMDB has this to say about this 1999 film:

Tough Guise systematically examines the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century.

Here is Part 1:

Thanks to Johnny and a shadowy figure known as Shenanigans for tipping me off.

What Happens When We Stand Up For Ourselves

Henrietta HughesWhat happens when we stand up for our own human rights to the government? Lately we’ve had some interesting examples of how powerful people respond to we commoners when we stand up to advocate for ourselves.

Case study 1: Henrietta Hughes, an elderly black woman living out of her car, spoke up at an Obama rally in Florida about her unmet housing needs. Donors and government officials, including the wife of Republican State Rep Nick Thompson, stepped in and she now has a roof over her head.

Ty'sheoma BetheaCase study 2: Ty’Sheoma Bethea wrote a letter to lawmakers about the wretched and shameful condition of her school. It eventually made it to the Oval Office, and Obama invited Ty-Sheoma to his “state of the nation” address to Congress in February.

More details from CNN:

…Mark Sanford, announced he wouldn’t use his share of the stimulus money on projects like rebuilding her school. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of we need to fix this one school,” said Sanford, a Republican.

…Taking a stand against government spending, Sanford said he would be willing to use the $700 million in the stimulus bill only if he believes he has discretion to control paying down the state’s debt.

That means Ty’Sheoma’s community is left with its school, whose condition is astonishing.

“The auditorium is condemned,” she said on the tour through the crumbling structure. “They use the stage for storage.”

She looked around and said the walls are peeling off and debris has fallen from the ceiling. The gymnasium is in such bad shape, the basketball coach has to cancel games when it rains.

…Many classes are taught in trailers on the school grounds. But the walls are so thin, teachers have to pause when trains roll by, which happens about five times a day.

The school lies in what’s been called the Corridor of Shame, a stretch of highway with enormously poor neighborhoods that are mostly African-American. Some critics say the state doesn’t want to spend money on black kids.

Ty’sheoma’s got something important to advocate for here. Her basic right to quality education is clearly going unmet. Yet Sanford doesn’t care, because he finds it more politically expedient to stick to his amoral conservative ideology. What does government exist for if not to guarantee the rights of the public? For people like Sanford to get and keep power?

What do you notice about these photos? These two individuals advocating for themselves and others like them, Americans who lack access to reasonable housing and education, are both black women. They are ridiculed and rebuffed by plenty on the right, but yet they risk that to raise their voices against injustice. It isn’t surprising that black women would be the ones to step out and take the lead here. Black women have a long history of advocating for human rights, and feel very acutely the lack thereof. Here are two more such women coming forward and speaking out to power.

I’m glad Obama is listening.

Q: How Does an Animal Become Meat?

A: We kill it!

I’ve noticed a bit of discourse going on in America lately. Expressions of shock at the slaughtering of animals. The insinuation that it’s barbaric. Warning viewers of the gruesome images they are about to see.

Now, I am an omnivore. I love fried chicken, sausage, bacon, lamb, hamburgers. But I’m not under any illusions as to where that food comes from. I know that I am eating a dead animal that was killed in order to nourish me. I am a thinking omnivore- whenever possible, I want to make sure that the meat I am eating was raised free-range, preferably on a small farm, was fed appropriate food, and was slaughtered in a humane and respectful way. Or I will eat wild game that was hunted legally.

I want my eyes to be wide open about the whole process. If I can’t acknowledge the fact of the slaughter and stomach that, well then I shouldn’t stomach the meat either.

So back to the media. Remember the interview of Sarah Palin in front of turkeys being slaughtered for Thanksgiving? News anchors, pundits, average Americans made that into such a HUGE DEAL. The anchors warned squeamish viewers to turn away, blurred out what was happening, and expressed pious shock.

I kept wondering, where the fuck does America think our Thanksgiving turkeys come from? Exactly how do we think the live turkey becomes the big packaged thing that we get in the grocery store? Did we really expect death not to be involved? Why is it so gruesome that we can’t even see two turkeys be slaughtered, when we must have slaughtered literally millions to satisfy Thanksgiving demand?

So Dec. 8 was Eid Al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice,” which includes the ritual slaughter of sheep and other animals. The animals are killed according to special standards, which involve saying the name of Allah as the animal is slaughtering and respecting the sacrifice of its life. The meat is then divided into thirds: one third is kept by the family, one third is given to friends, and one third is donated to the poor.

I cannot imagine a more respectful way to treat an animal intended for human consumption, nor more generous way to distribute the meat.

The Washington Post ran a slideshow after the fact of rural Muslims in America performing this ritual slaughter. Fine and dandy, the pictures are great. But the captions are filled with the same shock and moral indignation that accompanied coverage of Palin’s turkey interview. Before you can see the pictures, you are presented with this message:

“WARNING Editor’s Note: Some images in this gallery may be disturbing because of their violent or graphic nature.”

Some of the interesting photo captions include:

“A child feeds a sheep who will be killed at Home Place Farm in Maryland. ”

“Most of the animals die silently but it is not always quick. ”

“An animal lies trembling and tied on the ground. For one holiday guest named Benizir the tradition seems out of place in America. She believes it better to send money back to Afghanistan, her homeland. “And I feel sorry for the animals,” she says.”

“Five-year-old Nizar Ghoumari of D.C. weeps after pleading with his family to have one of the sheep alive to keep. He ran off in tears after realizing it would be slaughtered.”

“Mahfooz wipes away the blood of a sheep at his home in Virginia.” (Accompanying a picture of a man splattered with blood.)

“Nalia Zahid of Herndon, Va., winces as she and her children watch the final struggle of an animal.”

From reading these captions, you would imagine that eating meat is uncommon in America! The shock, the horror, the sorrow that the photographer and caption-writer chose to depict seem to come from people who have never contemplated an animal as a source of food.

Thousands, if not millions, of animals are killed every day to feed Americans. And most were not killed in the respectful way, after free-range lives on a small farm, that these sacrificial animals were. The death of animals is a banal, quotidian fact. They die by the thousands, and at factory farms and major slaughter houses their killing is almost completely mechanized- no prayer, no respect, no portion sent to the poor. They are killed all day long, every day, butchered, packaged, shipped to grocery stores, and sold to the majority of American consumers.

So why, when faced with a simple fact that is behind most of our daily existences, do we respond in such a silly way? I think a lot of us are simply in denial, a chosen and studious ignorance, about where meat comes from. Most of us are town, city and suburb dwellers, and if we choose, we never have to go near the site of animal slaughter. We are completely divorced from the production of our food, to the point that we act as though its very production is barbaric, but yet do not consider ourselves barbaric for being the reason for the slaughter.

Thoughts? Omnivores and vegetarians, please respect each other’s choices.