“Complicit No More” is a collection of essays curated by Yasmin Gunaratnam. It tackles the crosscutting facets of complicity as they play out within our relationships to our bodies, each other, our communities, to media representations and to mobilisation. - In “Toxic Wars” vs. Conscientious Feminism Minna Salami draws upon cross-cultural activism and dialogue to offer ‘Conscientious Feminism’ as an antidote to ‘toxic feminism’ and an ethical ‘compass that can be used to navigate the labyrinth of oppression’. - Touched by Patsey’s struggles in the Oscar winning film ‘12 Years a Slave’, Karen Williams’ describes how the film helped her to recognise and articulate the depths of latter day racism in her own ‘Public Life of Intimate Violence’ - In ‘Washing Our Dirty Linen in Public’ Sukhwant Dhaliwal reflects on 25 years of Women Against Fundamentalism, a coalition of women brought together in the aftermath of the Rushdie affair. For Dhaliwal, control of women’s bodies and minds lies at the heart of all religious fundamentalism. - Carolyn Wysinger takes us on a journey into the corporate workplace, where as the ‘first boi in’ her inventive transgression of gender dress codes also means getting used to ‘the daily stares, the interested glances of some and the disdain of others.’ - Stunning traditional henna designs on hands, backs and legs are the subject of artist Hina Ali’s photo essay, exploring skin as a ‘repository of honour & canvass of oppression’. - What use is diversity in popular culture when it still conforms to narrow aesthetic norms? Sunny Singh discusses women’s “range of life stories, complete with joys and tragedies” - In a vivid and sometimes playful account, cultural critic and ‘master code-switcher’ Désirée Wariaro explores racial mixedness. ‘Ontological doubt’ is a constant companion for the ‘tragic mulatto’ when ‘much of the world is blind to the inherent genius of the way my body dissects and pollutes tradition.’ - Honour-Based Violence is part of a spectrum of violence against women that all too readily has become associated with certain cultures. Drawing from her research and activism Aisha K. Gill tackles the racialisation of HBV and women’s complicity with it - Professor Heidi Mizra reflects upon her involvement in black feminism and the changes she has witnessed over the past 30 years. She is hopeful about new generations of activists and reminds us that “black women’s activism has been central in tackling problems within our local communities.”
We’re very happy to have reached 50% of our fundraising target! Since we began we have had unprecedented levels of support from established authors including Zadie Smith, Sara Ahmed, Courttia Newland, Aminatta Forna and Leila Aboulela who have donated signed copies of their books because they support what we’re trying to do. Online, authors such as Gary Younge, Sunny SIngh, Tanya Byrne, Malorie Blackman and Caitlin Moran (our biggest donor so far!) have also been adding their weight behind our cause and we couldn’t be more grateful.
We have less than two weeks to complete the goal and intend to spread the word far and wide and hope you’ll help do so too! We were quoted and campaign mentioned recently in the World Association of Newspapers - Editors Forum “game-changer for online, print and broadcasting.”
The Media Diversified network as well as providing a resource for the media has also provided a much needed life-line and vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences. It’s a mothership of affirmation and nurturing for writers, building resilience for the future and supporting people to take risks in tackling controversial topics and subjects that others aren’t. Long may that continue
This past October I sat in the assembly room of my children’s primary school for the Year 1 presentation for parents. After a group of children in animal masks told us about their visit to the farm, and a few songs, another group of children came to the forefront of the stage to act out the story of Rosa Parks. Eight chairs had been arranged in pairs of two, to simulate the Alabama bus. Four black children sat in the back chairs. Two white boys had been chosen to play the police officers. They boys were smiling and fiddling with their police caps throughout the performance, clearly pleased to be wearing them. Both they and the small Rosa Parks appeared to enjoy the scene when they bundled her off to the imaginary jail at the back of the stage. In the end Rosa was released and the narrator told us something to the effect that, thanks to Rosa, we can all sit on the bus together now.
Seeing these small children on the pretend bus reenacting Jim Crow was a fairly surreal experience. On the one hand, I felt sure that if Rosa Parks, sitting in her jail cell in 1955, could have somehow seen that in the distant future and across the ocean, black and white and brown children, who play and learn together, would be taught to celebrate her act , she would have felt some sense of gratification. Yet, the lighthearted tone of the play, recorded by smiling adults on their iPhones, so completely extracted the brutality of Jim Crow that it was barely recognizable in historical terms. And, in particular, the resolution was so neat and positive that it essentially dissolved any relevance the story of Parks’ struggle might have for the present. While the true horror of such painful histories may need to be sanitized to some extent for children to engage with them, in this case, I wondered what exactly was the lesson they were learning. This brief moment in one South London school, I believe, reflects broader difficulties with the way histories of racism and resistance are rendered in mainstream and educational discourses.
The “diversity in video games” conversation hasof late gained a lot of ground and reached larger levels within the gaming community. A recent example of this is thehour long speechManveer Heir, a Bioware developer, delivered at Game Developers Conference(GDC)2014 about racism, sexism, and homophobia in video games. I didn’t attend GDC, so I unfortunately wasn’t able to hear his speech first hand. From what I read of it in articles though, it was truly amazing. What surprised me most was the fact that his speech didn’t just focus on one oppression or one marginalized group. He said himself that his speech was about“misogyny, sexism, racism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia and other types of social injustice”. Others in the industry have addressedmisogyny,sexism,andracism before, but for him to mentions things like ageism, ableism, and transphobia blew my mind. I never dreamed those would be addressedwithin gamingany time soon.
Manveer Heir also didan interviewwith Adam Sessler of Revision 3 Games where he talked about his speech and also diversity in games in general. This 17 minute interview was very good as well. The one part of the interview that struck me the most was when Manveer Heir said
“they want to see themselves in a game”.
That is very true in my case and for many others. It’s why among the LGBT, people of color, and women gamers that I know, games with a customizable main character are very popular. We are able to create a character that looks like us. It’s one of the only times we get to see a person that looks like ussaving the day and being a hero. For the few hours that we spend playing the game, we get to see someone like ourselves being loved, accepted, and praised.
I find summers a difficult time. Most people struggle in the winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder but, for me, it is the summer.
It could be because three summers ago my mental health deteriorated quite seriously and, for the first time in my life, I was unable to take care of myself.I pride myself on being independent and self-sufficient so this was – and remains – a deeply…
Daenerys Targaryen is back to “save the coloureds” Tour de #GameofThrones 2014
CONTENT NOTE: Some of the embedded links in this piece are NSFW.
by Shane Thomas
While not placing it in the pantheon of truly great television, I’ve been a fan of Game of Thronessince the show debuted in 2011. I normally like my drama pessimistic, with a hard edge, and even downright cruel on occasion. I like even more that a show in the fantasy realm cares as much about its tonal execution, as it does costumes and wacky names.
And yet, I’ve never been able to relax in the presence of the programme, never allowed myself to be fully swept up in the world of Westeros. The reason why? This is best encapsulated by the conclusion of Season 3 – which Sky were so helpful to remind us of during their promotion for the upcoming Season 4.
The character of Daenerys Targaryen is emblematic of Game of Thrones continuous problem with race. Beyond the emetic “white saviour“ scene to close Season 3, we are first introduced to her during a forced marriage to Khal Drogo of the Dothraki people (who are non-white). At the wedding, the Dothraki are painted as little more than savages, with the men literallykilling each other to force themselves on the women; hypersexual and hyperviolent, two big racist boxes are ticked.
I felt like a stranger in my family—and in my country of origin, Canada—long before my father ever spoke those hurtful words.Orville Douglasis a dark-skinned, gay, Black man and no doubt his experience of discrimination in Toronto is informed by his identity, his personality, and—I suspect—his family (who seem not to have prepared him for life as a Black man in racist society). I am a light-skinned, mixed-race, straight, Black woman; I may not be as physically intimidating as Douglas, but I still know how it feels to walk the streets of Toronto and feel utterly invisible. If I hadn’t chosen to emigrate twenty years ago, I too might have internalized enough racist rejection to make a degree of self-loathing inevitable. I never wonder why I left, and I have no regrets. Had I stayed in Canada I doubt I would have earned my PhD, and I know I would not be anaward-winning authorof books for young readers, a published poet, and a playwright.
The title essay of my memoir,Stranger in the Family,is heavily indebted to Stuart Hall’s seminal text,“Minimal Selves;” I first read it in 1998, just before leaving graduate school to pursue my dream of becoming a novelist. I learned recently that Hall once dreamed of becoming a creative writer as well. He was a brilliant cultural theorist and the honesty with which he wrote about his migrant experience was both shocking and liberating for me. Hall admitted with apparent ease the deep, dark secret I kept buried within:
Migration is a one-way trip. There is no ‘home’ to go back to. There never was…The truth is, I am here because it’s where my family is not. I really came here to get away from my mother. Isn’t that the universal story of life? One is where one is to try and get away from somewhere else. That was the story which I could never tell anybody about myself. So I had to find other stories, other fictions, which were more authentic or, at any rate, more acceptable in place of the Big Story of the endless evasion of patriarchal family life.
In 2005 I wrote my first memoir following the death of my father and the unexpected termination of what was supposed to be a year-long teaching assignment in East Africa. From the discomfort of my childhood home I created a mixed-media memoir that examines the shifting terrain upon which we negotiate race, kinship, and identity. A couple of years before his death, in the heat of an argument my father said,“You’re a stranger in this family.”I decided to use his accusation as the title of my memoir since it accurately reflected the feeling of alienation I experienced in Djibouti and within my country of origin. Jamaica Kincaid once wrote,
“For some people, a fixed state of irritation is like oxygen. I understand this all too well.”[i]
This seemed an apt epigraph for the book since my frustration with Canada fuels most of the essays.
The remaining essays reflect upon my difficult relationship with my father. As a child, I thought my father could do anything but by the time I became a teenager, I had grown weary of his endless schemes, none of which ever paid off. Once I became a migrant myself, however, I realized that my father was right to conclude that Canada was a place where dreamers like us“couldn’t get anything started.”Writing my first memoir helped me to see that I had inherited from my father a certain restlessness that led both of us to continuously cross borders in our ongoing search for opportunity and belonging. I have now lived in the U.S. for half of my 41 years and though my father passed away in 2004, I say a prayer of thanks to him every day for giving me an alternative to life in Canada.
Of course, I never truly left Toronto behind. Most of my family members still reside there and so I return once or twice a year. Last semester I was displeased but not surprised when a student raised her hand at the end of class and asked how I felt about my hometown’s crack-smoking mayor. Rob Ford is ridiculous enough to be quickly dismissed, but another controversy emerged from Toronto last fall that was deeply disturbing and much harder to ignore. When I first read Orville Douglas’ controversialonline op-ed,“Why I hate being a Black man”inThe Guardianlast November, I was immediately embarrassed and enraged.“Of course, he’s from Toronto,”I fumed.“Only Toronto could produce a freak like that.”
I was not politically conscious or an activist as a student despite studying politics. I was a bystander but then circumstances propelled me into something much more and once your consciousness is raised it is hard to curtail the activism that can come with it. The pivotal movement for me was connecting with other feminists on social media and recognising the patriarchal structures which had led to myoppression, compounded by my experiences as a woman of colour. That connection and my lived experience continues to fuel my activism.
So arriving to see Professor Crenshaw at the London School of Economics, the university I studied my politics undergraduate degree, was a rather special experience. Professor Crenshaw is famous for coining the term “intersectionality” to describe the cross-cutting oppression and discrimination black women face.
Chaired by Dr Purna Sen, the talk assessed the validity of the notion that we are now in a “post intersectional” society. Professor Crenshaw draws parallels with the thesis advocated by some that we are in a “post-racial” society. This is the idea that race is now irrelevant as evidenced by the fact that there is a black President, Obama and a black family in the White House.
“Well, when I was nine years old, Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.” — Whoopi Goldberg
Recently we asked our Twitter followers to tell us their ‘media heroes of colour’, names…
Dear White People was recently picked up by Lionsgate for distribution this fall. Despite it’s internet viral success (the initial Indiegogo campaign raised approximately $25,000 in three days) and Sundance credentials, Simien acknowledged that it is likely to be seen as a Black Film by the general public. Simien’s film is definitely an homage to the late 80s and early 90s satirical movies by directors like Spike Lee and Robert Townsend, but this isn’t a movie that is –or should be- aimed at Black audiences alone. For me that would be a strange place to put a movie filmed in the style of Spike Lee and Wes Anderson’s love child with hints of a 60s New Wave influence. The film’s referential style is likely in part due to this being Simien’s first feature length film. As a director he hasn’t had the time to develop his own style, and it shows as he meshes together several imitations of others’ styles and various cinematic influences. But there was truth to what he said later, explaining that the references were also pointed and intentional because they’re not something expected (or often seen) from a Black director and cast. —Kendra James(x)
CARICOM, an organisation representing fifteen Caribbean countries is in the process of taking legal action against the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark in pursuit of reparation for the enduring suffering caused by the Atlantic slave trade.
Sir Hilary Beckles- Chair of the Reparations Task Force
Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote a stirring piece on the power of forgiveness this weekend. In the article he writes of the guilt he carried as a child witnessing the violence perpetrated by his father against his mother, which he was powerless to stop. He realises now that this guilt is unfounded and has been able to forgive his father and forgive his younger…
The Artist’s Journey: I am a final year undergraduate, studying Fine Art for Design at Batley School of Art. My search for mediums of artistic expression during my studies has also coincided with the exploration of ways to re-imagine my identity. In my work, I have drawn upon my cultural moorings and the ‘feminine’ visual art form of South Asia: Mehndi (henna). In the beginning, I worked typographically, using expletives and disguising them with delicate and intricate patterns. I decided to continue to use this idea of entwining and layering typography and patterns. It took time and experimentation to decide what to write about and what words to use, but I soon started to include themes and quotes from the daily conversations that were taking place around me within my family environment. I researched Indian textile design to use as images. The typography and images evolved into the use of mehndi patterns on paper and then into body art. The idea was to turn gendered negativity into something beautiful, and so I did just that, as an act of subversive defiance in visual form. For every ‘rule’ that I received, my creations became the embodiment of the questions that I posed.
In this article, as I write about the complexities and intersections of my identity, I will present my interpretations, using intricately designed Mehndi patterns as the theme for a reclamation or literal re-writing of some cultural frames that come into play in both the control and celebration of some Pakistani women’s bodies.