[TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault, rape culture]
Feminist or a Womanist
by Staceyann Chin
Am I a feminist or a womanist? The student needs to know if I do men occasionally and primarily, am I a lesbian? Tongue tied up in my cheek, I attempt to respond with some honesty. Well, this business of Dykes and Dykery, I tell her, it’s often messy. With social tensions as they are, you never quite know what you’re getting.
Girls who are only straight at night, hardcore butches be sporting dresses between 9 & 6 every day. Sometimes she is a he, trapped by the limitations of our imaginations. Primarily, I tell her, I am concerned about young women who are raped on college campuses, in bars, after poetry readings like this one, in bars. Bruised lip and broken heart, you will forgive her if she does not come forward with the truth immediately, for when she does, it is she who will stand trial as damaged goods. Everyone will say she asked for it, dressed as she was, she must have wanted it. The words will knock about in her head: ” Harlot, slut, tease, loose woman” – some people can not handle a woman on the loose. You know those women in pinstriped shirts and silk ties, You know those women in blood-red stiletto heels and short skirts. These women make New York City the most interesting place. And while we’re on the subject of diversity, Asia is not one big race, and there’s not one big country called ‘The Islands’, and no, I am not from there.
There are a hundred ways to slip between the cracks of our not so credible cultural assumptions about race and religion. Most people are surprised that my father is Chinese. Like there’s some kind of preconditioned look for the half-Chinese, lesbian poet who used to be Catholic, but now believes in dreams.
Let’s get real sister-boy in the double-x hooded sweatshirt. That blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus in the Vatican ain’t right. That motherfucker was Jewish, not white. Christ was a middle-eastern rasta man who ate grapes in the company of prostitutes and he drank wine more than he drank water. Born of the spirit, the disciples loved him in the flesh.
But the discourse is not on those of us who identify as gay or lesbian or even straight. The state needs us to be either a clear left or right. Those in the middle get caught in the cross – fire away at the other side. If you are not for us, then you must be against us. If you are not for us, then you must be against us. People get scared enough, they pick a team. Be it for Buddha or Krishna or Christ, I believe God is that place between belief and what you name it. I believe holy is what you do when there is nothing between your actions and the truth.
The truth is I’m afraid to draw your black lines around me, I’m not always pale in the middle, I come in too many flavors for one fucking spoon. I am never one thing or the other. At night I am everything I fear, tears and sorrows, black windows and muffled screams. In the morning, I am all I ever want to be: rain and laughter, bare footprints and invisible seams, always without breath or definition. I claim every single dawn, for yesterday is simply what I was, and tomorrow even that will be gone.
Posts tagged jamaican woman
The hugely important Louise Bennett (1919-2006), Jamaican folklorist, storyteller and educator. She was instrumental in establishing patois and creole speech as valid forms of language at a time when the Jamaican middle classes dismissed Jamaican dialect as vulgar and offensive. The great dub poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson said of her: “She is the mother of Jamaican poetry, and has had a greater impact on our cultural life than any other writer in the history of Caribbean literature.”
Just as Zora Neale Hurston traveled the Southern US collecting stories, folklore and children’s games, Miss Lou scoured the Jamaican countryside for folk songs, Anansi trickster tales, proverbs and more. Though she published volumes of poetry she never truly received the recognition she deserved.
All the hip young things who quote Bob or drop Jamaican patois lyrics probably don’t realise how much they owe a debt to Miss Lou.
Gwaan Miss Lou! Di people dem fi love yu!
Link below is to a tribute to her work from the Caribbean Review of Books:
I have already spoken a bit about my father’s love for music and that he shared this with me and it was a major contribution to me as part of my own culture and the culture of the world in general. I expand on these details and add that there were few days without music in my household both in Canada and once moving to the US. I was often awakened by the sound of pumping base that as Buju would say “pass the flesh and hit the bone”.
You see, my dad and his comrades (my mother’s brother- my Uncle Andy; my brother’s godfather Uncle Barry; my Uncle Andy’s business partner and another adopted uncle Mobay-named for the area of Jamaica from which he hailed) were part of what they call today a “sound system” or you might call them a “dj crew.” My father not only played records, but was a master speaker builder and had built some of the largest and most powerful speakers I have ever seen outside of a NYC dance club. He still has original hand crafted speakers circa 1974 that are so beautiful that my mother uses them as end tables or stands/platforms in the living room- these are of the smaller persuasion and are maybe 3 feet or so off the ground. Dwarfs to what have at times graced the grand room in the basement, but I digress.
In addition to these gentlemen enjoying to play music and their ability to “move the crowd”, my Uncle Andy and Mobay opened a record store in one of the storefronts that they owned along Teaneck Rd during the late 70’s and lasting into the early 80’s. This afforded me even more access to music and recorded sound than I ever thought I would have or probably would have ever had.
Now, I have said all of this to preface the fact that I have more than likely been exposed and heard 99.9999999….% of all reggae music recorded before 2011, but I have only heard this song one half times and it was by accident as Barry may have been playing it to review records before they had to go play at one of the many many many parties at which they were the dj’s. I think he was playing it in his music room and my father was listening and the music was playing at such low volume that it caused me to go downstairs to see what was going wrong. My father stopped him from playing it and I do not think it was ever played again in my presence.
You see this was an outrageous song at that point in history no one had ventured into naming songs with curse words and this is a major Jamaican curse-word. These words are more emphatic than any American curse-word I have ever heard. I think it get’s his point across. So this one is for you Peter Tosh- Bumbo Klaat…Ohhhh… Rass Klaat
I never heard my father curse as a child and was in disbelief when my boyfriend in college was telling me of an experience he had had working with my father and in the story he had quoted my father as saying a curse-word. I told him he must have been mistaken. Again, thank you Dad for my edited childhood experience.
God bless and thank you for reading.
me…just a moment ago…thinking about you………..always you………
me almost yesterday…but not too long ago