A blue(s) nation has to learn from a blues people

Folks have been surprised that I have seemed shocked but stoic through this past week. And a friend just asked about practices and resources of self-care – and I think that’s deeply important as everyone gears up for the long haul (I will post my list, and would love to hear friends share theirs). But it might be helpful to remember that some of us _have been in the long haul all our lives – in the US and around the world – and the histories and stories and music of our peoples have always given us courage, and singing, and sometimes joy, in the dark times.
This interview between Toni Morrison and Cornel West in 2004 exemplifies that, and feels poignant and insightful right now.

ToniI feel two things at the same time: terrified and melancholy, and I think in both domestic and foreign affairs it’s frightening–the altercations, the agenda. There have been other frightening moments, but the melancholy that I feel now is about a country like this with the best shot in the world, that a country like this with a certain kind of plenitude and intelligence and ambition and generosity and some history from which to learn, could, indeed, throw it all away and become the worst parts of its own self.

Cornel, I see you sitting here nodding and frowning, but what is curious to me is that whenever I read you, as well as talk to you, and as clearsighted as you are and as aware as you are of these difficulties, you always seem to be something I used to be but no longer am, optimistic. And since I’m rapidly losing that quality, maybe just because of age, I wanted to ask you why.

Cornel: I’ve always viewed myself as a person with a deeply sad soul but a cheerful disposition. So that when you say you feel terrified and melancholic, that describes my situation too, but it’s just that I always believe that struggle and the unleashing of moral energy in the form of moral outrage can make a difference no matter what the situation is. And it may have something to do with just having a blues sensibility, a tragic orientation, a sense that no matter how mendacious elites may be, they can never extinguish the forces for good in the world. And if that’s true, then they’re mighty but not almighty.
And in some ways that’s a characterization of just being black in America, it seems to me. Since 9/11 all Americans feel unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence and hatred, and that’s been the situation of black folks for 400 years. In that fundamental sense, to be a nigger is to be unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence and hatred. And now the whole nation is niggerized, and everybody’s got to deal with it. And I think we’re at a moment now in which a blues nation has to learn from a blues people.

The numbers don’t vote :-(

The numbers update (with help from a brilliant political scientist friend parsing them through her fury and grief) for 9/11/2016:
231,556,622 eligible voters
46.9% didn’t vote
25.6% voted Clinton
25.5% voted Trump
So when you don’t vote, it counts. When you do vote, it… counts. :-/
The biggest shock demographic that swung it, may well have been the *53%* of white women who voted for the most outrageous woman-hater President-elect ever (a good reminder that being a woman doesn’t mean you’re a feminist). But there’s also the people within 47% who didn’t vote… if it’s you, you have soul-searching to do. (And ‘didn’t’ is very different from ‘couldn’t’ – a proportion of the 47% _couldn’t vote because of the repeal of the Voting Rights Act. We know who they are and how they’d have voted if they could have.)
On the positive end, don’t forget the map of the 18-25 year olds (the 51% of millennials who turned out). If the US (and the planet) survives the next few years, it might well be a very different election in 2018 and 2020.

The morning after the night before…

This is the morning after of the world’s largest election of ineligible voters – those disenfranchised within the US, and those disenfranchised as the impotent, unable-to-vote ‘rest of the world’ impacted by the good, the bad, and the oh-so-f***ing-ugly of US politics. And it’s a morning in which – strangely, weirdly – I’ve moved from surreal despair to fierce fierce determination.

We did some simple things this morning. We went for a walk around the Bay and listened to the ocean remind us that it has been here before and will be here after. We spontaneously executed a drive-by-hugs programme, visiting friends in the neighbourhood who needed the comfort we did. And we decided to host solidarity potlucks that will help remind us that the true spirit of organising starts with love and friendship and the openness to have difficult conversations (aided now by legalised recreational marijuana). Let us know, Bay Area folks, if you want to participate in any of the above…


And in doing all these things, I’ve come home to the realisation that now, more than ever, we need to know each other as deeply as possible, in the fullness of all our complex identities and backgrounds and experiences. The world cannot afford these horrible, awful, echo chambers in which stereotypes and caricatures are built and fuelled for hatred and division. I honour all my social justice warrior friends, who do this every day and will, today, too. And, Siko Bouterse and my Whose Knowledge? compañera/os, we have work to do.  and energy to us all.

Remember the black suffragists

#Remember. What it took to #getoutthevote for _everyone.

When and Where I Enter: a difficult but needed reminder that Susan B. Anthony did not believe in the black vote. And from black suffragist Anna Julia Cooper,

The white woman could at least plead for her own emancipation; the black woman, doubly enslaved, could but suffer and struggle and be silent.

And from the article, the African-American Suffragists History Forgot, a prescient quote from Frances Ellen Watkins Harper,

I do not think the mere extension of the ballot a panacea for all the ills of our national life. What we need today is not simply more voters, but better voters.


Vote to bring satire and irony back

In my last non-citizen attempt to #getoutthevote, some headlines of fascism and dictatorship from other parts of the world. In my birth ‘democracy’ India, a progressive national TV channel is banned for a day, a professor fighting for indigenous rights is arrested falsely, and an entire people are being systematically blinded by the state in Kashmir. Oh, and in the Philippines, Marcos the dictator is being given a ‘hero’s’ burial. Irony has died so many deaths these past few years. Vote to bring satire and irony back to life (in feminist, non racist ways)!


Whose Knowledge? at the AWID Forum

We set up a Wikimedia user group! This means we join a set of formal and informal organisations within the broader Wikimedia movement, who are thematically or geographically focused around free knowledge.

We wrote a pretty fun grant report (oxymoronish, hmm?) in which we reported back on what we did. As I wrote in it: “I had many fascinating conversations about Whose Knowledge? and Wikimedia at the AWID Forum. But one of my most delightful (and delighted) stories is of supporting Lebanese activist Nadine Moawad, to learn how to create a well-sourced and written Wikipedia article. We uploaded a stub on Isatou Touray, and then spoke of her first foray into Wikipedia editing in 2010, with a stub on a Lebanese women’s rights advocate. Nadine had felt upset with the way a patroller had treated her then, and thought her article had been deleted. We went looking for it. Not only does the article continue to exist – Laure Moghaizel – but it has since been improved by over 10 other editors, and translated into both Arabic and French. By the time we finished our Wikipedia editing session, Nadine was planning an editathon in Beirut!”

…and here’s the op-ed we wrote for GenderIT.org on our mapping.

Aamra bhulbo na, Agniva

This is the form of Wikipedia editing I hate the most, updating an entry to reflect the passing of an inspiring human being. Agniva Lahiri, rest in power, and in amusement at the foibles and ironies of this world. Was it only a month ago that I reached out and you told me about setting up the first Asian transgender home in Kolkata? I hope we can make it happen in your memory.

I’ll miss the adda and the shared cackling at different points in time in our connecting stories. I’m heartsick, once again, at the struggles my trans friends have to go through to be seen and to be, fully. I’m so sorry your body gave out on you, but your spirit will not. Aamra bhulbo na.