decolonial practices

“Skirting the Issue”: a response & call to action

Moontime Warrior

I submitted a shorter version of this op-ed to the Winnipeg Free Press on June 17, 2015, in response to Professor Joanne Boucher’s opinion piece entitled “Dress-code message at U of W sexist”.

After this, the WFP published a response, “Pipe ceremony dress code uncalled for”, where Prof. Boucher was quoted once more, along with four men (any one of whom could’ve redirected media attention to an Indigenous woman). The voices of Indigenous women and Two-Spirits excluded on an issue that at its core impacts our bodies and our lives. We are the ones who face the consequences of these discussions, along with the backlash.

Finally, rather than choosing to publish anything submitted by Indigenous women (or any of the many Indigenous women academics who speak publicly on ceremony and protocol), the Winnipeg Free Press published an editorial calling the whole thing a result of “identity politics”. The issue of…

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An Open Letter to J.K. Rowling about the American Wizarding School in Fantastic Beasts

thenerdsofcolor

by Dr. Adrienne Keene | Originally posted at Native Appropriations

Dear J.K. Rowling,

I am unabashedly a huge Harry Potter fan. I first encountered Harry when I was in Junior High, volunteering at the public library (nerd status, I know). The children’s librarian handed me book one, and I was hooked. I even used to frequent Harry Potter message boards back in the day with my friend Kathleen (we were “Parvati” and “Lavender” cause we also shared an interest in divination, ha). Anyway, all this is to say, Harry holds a sacred spot in my heart. But I’m not one of those fans who can recite things verbatim, or remember every tiny detail, so if I’m missing something, I hope one of those fans will help me out.

I’ve been interestedly following the news that there is a new Harry Potter prequel-of-sorts in the works, for Fantastic Beasts and Where…

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Decolonial Voices MixTape, Vol 1: BRWN BFLO, BAMBU, MANE ROK, & ROCKY RIVERA

Here’s a visual mixtape, of sorts, dedicated to promoting those voices that work towards decolonizing minds and disrupting oppression-repression through hip hop music! All of the following artists not only provide a  soundtrack to the struggle of various communities, but they do it in consistently fresh ways. Enjoy!

 

1. BRWN BFLO “What’s Good?”

 

2. Bambu “Beach Cruisin’ (Kid. W.I.K. Remix)”

 

3. Mane Rok & Deejay Tense “This One’s”

 

4. Rocky Rivera feat Otayo Dubb “Beautiful Struggle”

 

 

2 Blogs Decolonizing Thanksgiving

“[T]he present Settler argument presumes that since the injustices are historical and the passage of time has certainly led to changed circumstances for both the alleged perpetrators and for the victims, the crime has been erased and there is no obligation to pay for it…[b]ut this idea, so commonly held by white people, is wrong; it assumes that the passage of time leads to changes in circumstance. This is fundamentally untrue, especially when made in relation to Onkwehonwe, Settler societies, and what has happened between us. Between the beginning of this century and the beginning of the last, people’s clothes may have changed, their names may be different, but the games they play are the same. Without a real change in the realities of our relationship, there is no way we can consider the wrongs that have been done as historical. The crime of colonialism is ongoing today, and its perpetrators are present among us.”Taiaiake Alfred

Alfred’s words have a rather powerful significance as we consider the forms of physical, spiritual, and mental colonization during Thanksgiving.  It is quite disturbing (and telling) how white settler society celebrates a snapshot in time without granting even a moment for critical reflection to the absolute devastation indigenous people suffered at the hands of the colonizer. But more to the point, the past lives on today so we mustn’t fall victim to ideologies, epistemologies, and discourses that frame the sins of the past as long since forgotten. In this somber time of reflection and healing it is important to seek and spread knowledge to decolonize the ways in which settler society (re)produce and maintain hegemony. With that said, the following blogs provide valuable information in our efforts to challenge colonization. Enjoy and saludos!

1) Broken Mystic’s The Truth About Thanksgiving: Brainwashing of the American History Textbook explains:

[A]s children dress up as Pilgrims and Natives to reenact the romanticized version of history, they are not only perpetuating stereotypes, but more importantly, they’re being embedded with lies. What do they really know about the Pilgrims and the Natives?

2) Stephen L. Pevar’s, “Thanksgiving? The deprivations and atrocities that followed,” at the Oxford University Press Blog writes:

Accounts say that the generosity of the Indians saved the colonists from starvation during the harsh New England winter of 1620…[but] [v]ery few schoolchildren are also taught… about the deprivations and atrocities that occurred to the Indians afterwards, first at the hands of the colonists and then by the United States government. Ironically, if the United States believes today that it has a poor immigration policy, imagine how self-destructive the Indians’ immigration policy was by welcoming the very people who would soon seek to destroy them.

4 Documentaries Every (Person) Educator Should Watch

Many activists and educators are demanding for a public school curriculum  that produces a critical and relevant education, especially for those students who have historically been marginalized within the school system. For those of us who are disrupting the systemic failings of public schools and challenging the normalization of pushing students of color out of a high school(/higher) education, it is important to look for every available resource that might develop a more inclusive and engaging environment for learning. Whether through mentorship, teaching, or expanding your own cultural consciousness the following documentary trailers should serve useful in your effort towards unpacking privilege and understanding the strict binary systems of race, gender, and sexual orientation that exist in (settler) society, as well as within the classroom.

1. Precious Knowledge

Truly a remarkable film about the end of the Mexican American Studies programs in Arizona. This film reveals how politics shape the classroom, how history and literature are not neutral subjects, and how students can become empowered through education.

2. Under the Bridge

Under the Bridge is a powerful documentary about the struggle for the creation of Chicano Park in San Diego, CA. Throughout are history lessons in the Chican@ Movement, decolonial practice, protest, and a revelation in the need for space in order for culture to thrive. Under the Bridge presents a beautiful lesson in using art as a decolonial methodology as Chican@s reclaimed land, placing artistic cultural symbols that laid claim to the stone pillars and walls that have been erected by colonization and capitalism.

3. Two Spirits

An extremely moving and sorrowful story about the horrific murder of Frank Martinez. However, the valuable lesson in Two Spirited people provides an interesting commentary on the false gender-binary established by colonization. One of the most important films in regards to the intersectionality of race and (trans)gender.

4. Miss Representation

Miss Representation should be seen by young women and men alike. It critiques the sexism and misogyny within the American patriarchy by critically examining the media’s role in consistently disseminating sexualized images of women. Kwame Appiah’s discussion of ascription comes to mind, as these limited scripts presented in media provide young women with limited views of their own future, not to mention the limited perspective that men have of women after constantly seeing women through sexist prism.

 

A Recipe Towards Decolonization

(Decolonization is the act of disrupting  the various systems of oppression and repression. It is the dismantling not only of the legal and physical barriers that limit colonized peoples, but also it is the radical process of removing those ideological and mental barricades that continue to colonize our thoughts. Mental decolonial praxis demands that individuals and whole groups of people participate in the reclamation of history and cultural traditions. It necessitates the disruption of historical and cultural colonization, which has displaced peoples from knowing their ancestry. This post is in honor of those who cry out, “¡Ya Basta!” as they seek the knowledge, wisdom, and practices of their elders.)

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“The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine: not only for the body, but for the soul, for the spiritual connection to history, ancestors, and the land.”

-Winona La Duke

I recently stumbled upon  Luz Calvo and Catriona R. Esquibel’s  “Decolonize Your Diet,” on Mujeres Talk. They believe there is a need for radical decolonization in the way in which we think about food. According to Calvo and Esquibel,  “personal food choices…[are] political acts” and as such, we must “[r]esist cultural imperialism by reclaiming ancestral foods.” This is imperative due to the historically exploitative practices of the American agriculture industry, the cancerous chemicals that migrant farm workers are exposed to (many of which are  Mexican@), the reality of GMO’s and the diseases perpetuated by the American food industry, as well as the displacement of cultural knowledge by depending upon corporations for growing and supplying food. What’s more, Calvo and Esquibel problematize the argument that health is linked to income by stating:

there is one notable exception to the equation of poverty = poor health—public health scholars have found that recent immigrants from Mexico have very low rates of mortality, infant mortality, and illness compared to other groups. Public health scholars have dubbed this phenomenon “The Latino/a Paradox.”(1) Recent Latino/a immigrants, mainly from Mexico and Central America, have better health than Latinos and Latinas who were born in the US. The health of recent immigrants rivals the health of the [w]healthiest Americans!

This presents a rather perplexing issue within our health care system, as the United States views health through a capitalist lens wherein wealth equates to a healthier lifestyle as well as the ability to afford better health care. But what the above quote truly reveals is the way in which indigenous and decolonized diets work as preventive care. It also underscores how the Mexican@s/Chican@s/ Xican@s/Latin@s living in the United States have a larger chance of having health issues stemming from colonized food industries.

For instance, people of color are transformed into diabetics through the food industry in the United States, not through pure genetics. Ameliamontes.com has a pretty concise summary of Michael Montoya’s Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality.

This book is a phenomenal read that explores how diabetes is constructed through other factors rather than simple genetics.

This book is a phenomenal read that explores how diabetes is constructed through other factors rather than simple genetics.

Accordimg to Ameliamontes:

“Genes do not cause chronic disease,” Montoya writes.  “Genes in certain bodies under certain conditions contribute to disease susceptibility” (187).  This may explain why in a family of 3 children, two have diabetes and one will not develop the disease.  It is not simply about blood but about a number of other factors (diet, exercise, living conditions, etc.) having to do with societal and political constructions.

Montoya’s book which was just published (University of California Press) is an excellent study in how our society is creating a population highly susceptible to chronic disease– whether or not you are of Mexican or Indian descent!
Making the Mexican Diabetic provides excellent arguments that point towards decolonizing our diets for our own health, but also in understanding how colonization has clearly led to the creation of health problems in our people. By returning to diets that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup, GMO’s, and heavy pesticides (among other things) we can begin to unravel the dependence upon a food system that does not have health in mind. It is also the first step in reclaiming our peoples health by participating in traditional food preparation–a holistic approach to decolonizing our minds, bodies, and souls.
(if you’re interested check out the decolonize your diet Facebook page to try delicious and healthy decolonized food)

 

Xican@ Graffiti: The Art of Decolonization

The other day I was having a conversation with a co-worker about an article I’ve been working on for the upcoming, Encyclopedia of Latino Culture, Volume 3: From Calaveras to Quinceañeras (available 11/30/13). I revealed the topic I was writing on was  Graffiti within Xican@ and Latin@ culture, which sparked a mild sense of hostility on the part of my colleague, as he believed my article to be promoting gang activity and vandalism. While it is undeniable that these elements do exist within the graff writing scene, I strongly believe arguments like this are oversimplifications of an otherwise fascinating subject matter. Beyond the deep historical connections between Xican@ culture and graffiti, the areas that I found to be most interesting are the ways in which this art form can be used in the frame work of decolonization.

For many artists, graffiti is not merely a way to get one’s voice and name up on a wall. It also provides an avenue for Xican@ graffiti writers to make their culture visible. This is an extremely important point, especially if we’re to consider how colonization has worked to eradicate entire civilizations in the Americas. We also cannot forget the long standing practice of eliminating culture— boarding schools that sought to “kill the indian and save the man” come to mind. Not to mention the countless ways in which colonized peoples are inferiorized and made invisible within the dominant (settler) culture. With that said, by incorporating elements of indigenous and cultural symbolism into their work, Xican@ graffiti artists are participating in a form of decolonization.

Indigenous symbolism in graffiti works to publicly display a connection between Xican@ culture and Indigeneity.

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Indigenous Symbolism: Aztec Glyphs can be seen in this piece. (Artist Unknown)

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(Artist Unknown)

Aztec Calendar Mural Graffiti

Indigenous Symbolism: Aztec Calendar (Artist Unknown)

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This piece not only incorporate indigenous symbolism but also a historical reference to colonization as “1492” is visible next to a mound of skulls (Artist Unknown)

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Indigenous Symbolism: Aztec Glyphs are found throughout this piece as well (Artist Unknown)

The influence of the Chicano Movement and the rise of cultural nationalism in the 1970s can also be seen within Xican@ graffiti.

The graffiti writer in the above clip explains the connection between his work and his culture by including a skeleton. By doing so he is drawing a direct  link to Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and his art. We also can see him drawing a “stylized eagle with wings shaped like an inverted Aztec pyramid”—the same symbol used by César Chavez and Dolores Huerte’s United Farm Workers organization. By the artist using these cultural elements he is tying this piece not only to his cultural roots but also to el movimiento.

Guisela Latorre’s, Walls of Empowerment: Chicana/o Indigenist Murals of California, provides an additional way to comprehend how Xican@ graffiti acts as a decolonial practice:

With graffiti Text, where readability is often secondary to visual impact and design, we witness a writing system that seeks to either return to an imagelike state or just undermine the distinction between the two. Ivor Miller contends that graffiti writers’ manipulation of words represented “the resistance by colonized people to redefine themselves by manipulating the rules and logic of the colonizer’s language.” Joe Austin maintains that “the twisted, fractured or crumbled letters” of graffiti make the Western alphabet come alive and disintegrate at the same time… (108)

Graffiti, within the context of Xican@ culture, can act as a means for marginalized peoples, who have been rendered invisible within the dominant culture, to construct a visible identity within a public space by deconstructing the colonizers own language.  For instance, many Xican@s have been disconnected from their cultural tongues as a result of being forced to speak and write in English while in the k-12 school system. By not allowing bilingual education to exist and inferiorizing non-English languages generations of Xican@s were pressured into believing that the only way to be seen as part of American culture was by erasing elements of their Xican@ heritage (this happened to my family as well). By challenging this reality, Xican@ graffiti artists are participating in a very public artistic decolonial performance.

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Indigenous and cultural symbolism combined with the warping of the English language (Artist Unknown)

Contrary to what my co-worker would have you believe, the use of indigenous and cultural symbolism along side the deconstruction of the English language moves Xican@ graffiti out of the space of mere vandalism and an art form unique to gang culture. What we can see is graffiti within Xican@ culture is an art form that borders into the process of decolonization and reclamation of cultural identity, not to mention the reclamation of voice in the public arena.