June 2011


On Thursday June 16th, I attended a screening of “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria” put on by Radical Women. Here’s a blurb advertising the movie from the email:

“This Emmy Award-winning documentary tells the story of the first known collective uprising against queer oppression – a multi-racial rebellion in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district that took place three years before the Stonewall Riot in New York. The revolt connected to issues of police harassment, housing rights, war resistance, and sexual liberation. View and discuss this enlightening film.”

This is a very good synopsis and gives you the context within which it was viewed and discussed. And obviously, I was interested in the fact that it was started by a bunch of feisty transwomen.

It was shown at the Radical Women’s Freeway Hall.  It was the first time I’d been to one of their meetings. I thought it would be the perfect place to watch the movie – within a diverse community of like-minded people.  I was not disappointed. The people were friendly, kind, perceptive and very tuned-in.

At one point during the movie, everyone applauded and cheered, while I struggled to contain my own grief; it was just that powerful for me. It was the kind of grief you feel when you’re in a safe place, within a supportive community.

There was a lively discussion afterwards. Many perceptive points were brought up. A couple of people spoke about how women are expected to do painful things to their bodies in order to look “attractive”. The pros and cons of  “corrective surgery” and the right to choose was discussed. This was a very sympathetic and understanding crowd. This is the kind of experience I had been seeking & hoping for! As such it was very fulfilling.

During dinner beforehand, I met several people and chatted. One of the women (there were men there, too!) asked me if I was going to “Slutwalk” on Sunday. I said I’m not really into that kind of thing. She explained that the genesis of Slutwalk was a groundswell of response to a police officer in Toronto who, speaking at a safety & security panel at the university, advised that, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Someone else chimed in with an example of  how rape is treated in our society: a woman had been gang-raped while attending a fraternity party in New York. In the trial that followed, she was subsequently grilled and smeared by the defense, as victims usually are (and often by the police in the course of their investigations – “What were you wearing?”)

She hadn’t in any way provoked the rape – as if rapists needed provocation! As if there were actually such a thing as “incitement to rape”. It’s just blaming the victim; all too familiar; all too common. So much so that it is internalized by the victims and society in general. What’s the subliminal message there?

I was convinced. I went to the gathering before the march at Bobby Morris Playfield in Cal Anderson Park. I even did my best to dress a little slutty. For a while people were just standing and milling around. I almost left. I wasn’t really “with anyone”, just there as an individual. Somehow, the thought that “this is a community, my community – and if not, let me make it so” – kept me there.

We marched down to Westlake Center. On the march and at the rally there, I kept having the impulse to leave. My boots were killin’ me, yo! lol

At the rally, after a bit of a wait, the impassioned words of the speakers kept me in thrall. Three women spoke about their rapes. Alyssa Royce, who spoke first, said that one 1 of 6 women are raped in their lifetimes (sounds a bit low.) Then she asked, “How many people here have been raped?” I held up my hand. It was a powerful moment. Grief swelled up in me. I fought the impulse to leave.

She spoke of the brutal rape she experienced when she was 18, woken in bed by a man with a gun that threatened to kill her and her father if she made any noise.

Christy Forester spoke courageously and movingly about her rape.  Cee Fisher of Radical Women spoke about people of color, saying how much more often that community is victimized. She also spoke passionately of the need for a strong feminist community – very inspiring. Thanks for that! Elizabeth Fawthrop of the International Socialist Organization spoke about activism around women’s rights to autonomy in reproductive care with the group Seattle Clinic Defense. The presenter/MC from Slutwalk Seattle spoke about men and children being victims, too. I thought about the high incidence of abuse in prison. Maria Gardner, a young transwoman of color, spontaneously got up and spoke  of her experience being raped, very courageous and eloquent.

One of my favorites was poet Tara Hardy. She read one poem and recited three.  All four poems just rolled out effortlessly, powerfully. One of my favorite lines encouraged the “Uncommon Woman” to “…wear your grief like a party dress…” It definitely spoke to me. I have a lot of grief issues.

All of the women were powerful speakers. It was so good to hear those strong, empowering feminist words ringing out in Westlake Center. Bystanders and people passing by stopped and stared with slack jaws. It was a good experience, an incredibly empowering event for me. I totally re-adjusted my thinking about a lot of stuff. I’m glad I was there.

Alyssa Royce speaks    first speaker, very moving

Poet Tara Hardy     I especially like the poem “Uncommon Woman”, which starts at 9:42

Cee Fisher speaks   for Radical Women

Christy Forrester speaks   very moving

Liz Fawthrop speaks    of the ISO and Seattle Clinic Defense

the MC/presenter and Maria Gardner speak     eloquently

Slutwalk Seattle.com  and  Slutwalk Seattle on Facebook – the organization. They need donations! It’s a great cause!

Seattle Clinic Defense – get involved!

Radical Women Seattle on Facebook

ISO Seattle on Facebook  and  Seattle ISO website

lots of photos of Slutwalk

The march paused at an intersection, photographer unknown. We had to pause repeatedly at intersections. It was annoying! Seems like it would’ve been easier for the police to just make traffic pause while we passed through. There were lots of gawkers with their camera phones stuck out at all the “sluts”.

the crowd gathers at Cal Anderson Park

at Cal Anderson Park

I love the expression on this guy’s face and the sense of community/family I get from this photo

Christy Forrester at Westlake Center

// //

Bullies of the Road

in a hurry

zooming in and out

at the last millisecond

especially on the weekends or in the evening.

I wish they would learn how to drive

*

What’s my life worth to them?

What’s their own life worth to them?

All calculated down to

the hundredth of a percentile, no doubt.

And not worth much, I imagine,

compared to my own sense of worth.

I’m lucky in that, I guess!

So many things hold my interest

too many sometimes, I’m a gemini

if I live long enough,

I may even excel at one or two.

*

Following each other so closely,

in lonnnnnng lines,

the sheeple

It’s incredible, check it out sometime.

*

Trying to keep a safe distance

it gets tiresome when the umpteenth car

scoots in front of me as I approach

– my signal to change lanes – a reminder

– that now would probably be a good time to change lanes, too,

before I get there first!

*

Sometimes I honk my horn at their impertinence

hoping that they will change their sinful ways!

*

[sighhhhhsss…]

Perhaps I should just slow down…

the chattering of the crows, today

not so personal…

perhaps just curious

about the strange big bird

and what she’s doing up here, with them

________________________________________

*

*

*

*

*

reflections one day while up high on a ladder, cleaning windows

The book cover – quite an interesting photo. BURROUGHS: “Now, the photograph, that was a picture taken in black and white of Pima Indians, taken about 1884. Photographer unknown — at least not credited. From the archives of the Colorado Historical Society. We tinted it. It’s a very good picture and I’m surprised it doesn’t have a credit. Whoever it was, the picture is very carefully posed.” [Burroughs quote from Reality Studio, A William S. Burroughs Community ]

In December 1984, the ship I was working on had a brief stopover in Seattle and I received a first edition hardback copy of this book as an early Christmas present.

Soon back at sea again, I was alone in my cabin somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when I read this passage on page 246:

“What’s the date?” Kim asks.

“December 23, 1984”

“I could have sworn it was the twenty-second… So what exactly are we doing here?”

It was that date exactly when I read the words. It was a powerful moment. I was stunned. It was magical.

I wrote a critique of the book and sent it with a photo to be autographed by Burroughs, which he did and returned to me.

This is one of my favorite books by Burroughs. His evocation of place, in little details; his ear for local dialect – particularly the Midwest; his depiction of the everyday interactions of  a real relationship; his combination of straight narrative with the fantastical, science fiction; his sense of humor; his social commentary – this is one of the real heights of his art, for me.

In another passage, Kim sings this little ditty:

“Possum ain’t far

Thar he are, thar….”

This is part of one of Burroughs’ hilarious “routines”, little skits in his  conversation, writing and spoken word performances.

He incorporates his comprehensive knowledge and love of gun lore and creates a new, much more interesting vision of what the Old West was really like. He presaged by many years the sort of realism and humanity that “Brokeback Mountain” brought into the cultural vernacular.

I think Burroughs had started to mellow at this point. The hellish nightmare world of his drug addiction and the stifling mind control of the Fifties were no longer in such heavy play. He was older and wiser. He was starting to settle more comfortably in his achievements –  in the recognition of his revolutionary, groundbreaking body of work. He’d lived through some heavy times and had been one of the most important players.

The playfulness of his routines show the maturing of his art that he’d achieved. Everything was still inevitably gross-out humor. It was just… a little more tolerable, lol. And in reality, life is full of characters whose perversity is merely another facet of their persona, their essence. It’s an honest perverseness – compared to the moneyed class, corporate interests and warmongers that are presently destroying our society.

Recommended reading:

The Letters of William Burroughs: 1945-1959″.  This is the source for those interested in Burroughs’ biography. He urges Ginsberg to accept his queerness; chiding him, almost as you would a child. He writes about the depravity, the hellishness of his addiction – it borders on the unreal.

Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs“. A good biography. It often draws verbatim from his letters, which were subsequently published.

And do check out this video: William S. Burroughs, A Man Within (2011.) If you’re a Burroughs fan; if you wonder what all the hoopla is about, his place in literature, the arts, sociology, etc, check it out. It was lovingly created by the director with contributions from those that knew him, loved him and have great insight into his psyche, etc. I had to watch it a second time. For me, having had a long time interest, I find that this video is full of epiphanies and insight about the man.

This is a copy of the critique that I sent him. He sent me back the autographed photo I had sent him (below)

Burroughs’ autograph – I cut this picture from a poster advertising the then-named Naropa Institute’s 1984 curriculum. He wrote, “For Joe Hancock, all be best, William S. Burroughs”

the reverse side of photo, showing some of the teachers – quite a faculty!

On Saturday, May 21st, 2011, a teach-in and protest was held by teachers at the Chase Bank in Wallingford, Seattle. Ohio senator Dennis Kucinich was there. As usual, I got there late and missed most of the action, but I took some photos of the chalk slogans, which I thought were pretty great! Here’s a clip from the local news

In Washington state, teachers are being laid off and school funding is being cut. It’s always minorities, the poor and disadvantaged that suffer the brunt! Recently, The African-American Academy in Seattle was closed.  A budget shortfall was cited as the reason. This seems like a tragedy, to me. We need many more programs like this, not less.

Chase bank pays no taxes in Washington State! The revenue lost could go to a much-needed rejuvenation of our public schools. Charter schools and “holding teachers and schools accountable” is not the solution!! Which is what is being fobbed off as a solution. Or programs like “Teach For America” which takes anyone with a BA degree, trains them for 5 weeks and then unleashes them into the educational system.

A couple days before the protest, I attended a very enlightening panel entitled:

Achievement Gap or Opportunity Gap? Fighting Racism in the Public Schools

It was put on by The Social Equality Educators (SEE). What a concept, eh? Social equality in education… Now there’s a concept whose time has come! Their Facebook link is here

Update: this protest (and others like it) was effective effective! Chase now pays state taxes!

 

the sign I made

the sign I made, reverse side

Author, Dr. Gabor Maté, photographer unknown

medicine, wellness and the sociological connection

Here’s a brilliant 1 hour radio show from Democracy Now! featuring interviews with Canadian physician and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté.

Go to this link: http://www.democracynow.org/shows/2011/5   It’s from May 30th.

He talks about addiction and its causes; the effects of nurturing in children (and the consequences in its absence); post partum depression; the connection between mind, body and environment; how that impacts wellness; how western medicine denies any connection whatsoever – western medicine assumes everything is of a genetic basis rather than environmental; ADD, ADHD, the skyrocketing rates of autism and their causes; peer groups replacing parenting; and the internet replacing any human contact at all.

U-Roy – the Originator, “your ace from outer space” – is one of the first and best of the “toasters”.
This version of Natty Rebel by U-Roy from 1976 is one of my all time favorite songs. He’s toasting over what sounds like a Gladiators’ version of the song “Soul Rebel” (originally done by The Wailers.)
Toasting was an influence in the development of rap and hip-hop and had roots going back to African culture.
I can’t imagine a better example of this style. The killer syncopation of the drums and rhythm section; the understated mellowness of the bass; the tight melodicism and soulfulness of the background singing coming through; the call and response; and the joyful, determined sentiment of the toast – it doesn’t get any better than this.

about U-Roy

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