With all the celebrations of gay same-ness after the Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage, I am grateful for Leah Laskhmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s filthy gorgeous poems, which remind us how queer desires still have the power to fuck shit up. The poems in her collection Bodymap demonstrate how queer desires–for each other, for ourselves, for something different – can provide a roadmap for moving toward freedom. Reading so many poems about raw, dirty, queer crip sex made me think about Yasmin Nair’s recent argument that radical sex does not always translate into radical politics. While I agree that we can’t assume that any particular kind of sex is necessarily revolutionary (don’t we all know kinky people with regressive politics?), the poems in Bodymap serve as an argument that queer desire can–and should – fuel us to challenge the social order and reclaim the full humanity of those whom capitalism discards – including queers, people of color, working class folks, poor people, immigrants, undocumented people, and disabled folks. What shines through every single poem is how hard Piepzna-Samarasinha has had to fight to love her queer, femme, disabled, brown working class self in a world that doesn’t always love her back.
For Wendy Somerson, every morning she wakes up she feels helpless in the face of such a large scale massacre being carried out in Gaza. So yesterday, instead of passively watching the news, her group of Jewish, Palestinian and allied activists made some news of their own.
I am not sure how to convey the power of this poetry collection. I can tell you that once I picked up Love Cake, I could not put it down until I finished every poem, even though I sometimes had to read through my tears. Upon finishing, I immediately had to call a femme friend to read her a poem that reminded me of her. Relocating from my couch to my bed, I sank in and re-read the entire collection. I want to say that the poems tore out my heart.
When I saw Eliaichi Kimaro’s moving and complex documentary A Lot Like You at the Seattle International Film Festival in June 2011, one of my first responses to this film was to recognize it as a model for a personal and family accountability process. Having just finished reviewing The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities for Bitch magazine, I was interested in seeing more concrete examples of community accountability, which the authors define as “any strategy to address violence, abuse or harm that creates safety, justice, reparations, and healing without relying on police, prisons, childhood protective services, or any other state systems.” A Lot Like You brings to life the complicated, messy, beautiful, and liberatory process of addressing harm and seeking healing within a family context. I sought out Eliaichi, a Seattle filmmaker and activist, for an interview and was excited to learn that she also sees her film as capturing the beginning of a family accountability process. The film was originally titled Worlds Apart, and its change to A Lot Like You reflects the journey that Eliaichi embarked upon while creating this documentary about her relationship to her father’s side of the family – the Chagga tribe in Tanzania, who live on the slopes of Mt.
This spring Jewish Voice for Peace (I am a founding member of the Seattle Chapter) is sponsoring a tour of young Palestinian activists to speak in over fifteen cities in the US to discuss the challenges facing Palestinian students who live under Israeli military occupation. I was fortunate to hear Mira Dabit and Hanna Qassis speak in Seattle, and I also got a chance to interview them about right to education issues in Palestine, their lives under occupation, and their hopes for a better future. Mira Dabit, 25, was born in Jerusalem to a refugee family originally from the 1948 city of Al Lod. She has been a youth activist and folkloric storyteller for many years. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Birzeit University.
When I first picked up Floodlines on assignment to write a review for Bitch magazine, I thought I knew something about what went down in New Orleans after Katrina, but after reading this firsthand account of surviving the storm, I realized I didn’t know much at all. It reminded me of the first time I read a leftist account of the history of Zionism. Only then did I realize how much the US mainstream media had framed my perception of Palestine by focusing on individual acts of violence by Palestinians taken out of context from the larger frame of Israeli state violence. Similarly, while reading Floodlines, I was forced to confront how my understanding of New Orleans has been shaped by mainstream media reports that focused obsessively on individual acts of violence while ignoring the large-scale state violence imposed on mostly poor communities of color. I was moved by how Flaherty, a white journalist and organizer based in New Orleans, manages to tell a story that encompasses both the staggering injustice of structural racism and the inspiring grassroots activism of New Orleanians.
Watching NYC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Center succumb to pressure to cancel a kick-off party for Israeli Apartheid Week, I feel compelled to write an epilogue to my recent post on Pinkwashing. I am reminded once again that we must be vigilant in refusing to allow queer liberation to be pitted against Palestinian liberation because as we know from our queer Palestinian colleagues, the two struggles are intertwined. On February 22nd, Michael Lucas, a right wing Advocate columnist and gay porn entrepreneur, issued a press release calling on the LGBT center to cancel the scheduled “Party to End Apartheid,” which he called anti-Semitic. He threatened to “organize a boycott that would certainly involve some of the Center’s most generous donors.” Infamous for his attacks against Islam, Lucas argued that “Israel is the only country in the Middle East that supports gay rights while its enemies round up, torture, and condemn gay people to death…”
Recently a pro-gay ad from Israel popped up on my Facebook feed. It used the metaphor of the closet to push Israeli parents to accept and support their queer kids. I’m queer. I’m Jewish. And I care deeply about queer issues.