Archive for Peace

Long Beach Rally November 15th: One Latina’s Voice

The Long Beach Wed-In and Rally was a great success. I was not able to stay till the end due to another commitment with the South Coast Chorale to sing at the Well’s Hospice Memorial Service, but what I saw was empowering, well attended, and entirely encouraging.

My message was well received and I’ve been asked to share my message so, here it is, minus the energy of the crowd, the embellishing, the cheering, the righteous response, but nonetheless my truth which I was blessed to share today:

“Like all of you I was wounded by the passing of Proposition 8. I am hurt by it.

As a Queer Femme I am hurt by the fact that voters in the State of California have chosen to take away my civil rights–OUR civil rights. I’m hurt by the suggestion that my rights are debatable, expendable and not in fact INALIENABLE.

As a Latina I am hurt by some of what I’ve heard in the LGBTQ community. It hurts me to hear that as a person of color my membership in the Queer community is suspect. I’ve heard a lot of anger toward people of color, specifically African Americans and Latinos. I’ve heard blame, saying that we were responsible for the passing of Prop 8. Not only is that statistically inaccurate–if anything we helped close the gap, from 22% in 2000 to less than 4% this time. Not only is it inaccurate but it is divisive. It denies the diversity of the LGBTQ community. It denies our allies. And it puts us in the position of US versus THEM when many of us are both us AND them.

As a Latina, si cuento. I am an integral part of the community. We all are. All of my communities. I am not the other. We are one.

It hurts me to hear intolerance directed from my people to my people.

I honor the pain we are all feeling but I see it as an invitation to change.
I see it as a wake up call to our community that is bigger than Prop 8. That speaks to justice and community and inclusion.

We have an opportunity to continue to organize and advocate for change.
An opportunity to look at our comunidad and make sure that No Queer is Left Behind.
To ensure that the legal rights we have already gained are being upheld:
the laws that protect us from discrimination in the workplace
laws that protect youth in schools from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
We need to KNOW our rights and make sure we are protecting ALL of our freedoms.

And we can learn from our history. Stonewall has been brought by many people, I see signs and images commemorating our past. Let’s not forget who started the movement: it was butch women, queens, transgendered people, people of color and white people. United. Let’s stand and recognize.

We have an opportunity to build unity and inclusion. To see not only how can we get support from our potential allies but how can we BE allies to other disenfranchised communities.

A few things have been proven through our protests, vigils and marches in the state of California and now, nationwide:

We are a diverse and beautiful community. An amazing familia.
Our community includes all ages, races and ethnicities, socioeconomic class, religions, abilities.

We are a powerful community. And amazing familia.
We are a resilient community.
We will not be silenced. We will not be overlooked. We will not settle for less than igualdad. Equality.

We can share the energy and see that every issue is a lesbian issue, is a bisexual issue, is a gay issue, is a transgendered issue, is a queer issue
Immigration reform and rights is our issue
Homelessness is a queer issue
Drug addiction is a queer issue
Affordable housing is our issue
Education is our isse
Racism is our issue
We are everywhere

We are being called to action. Prop 8 is one piece of the picture and we will stand firm, we SHALL overcome.
And we can use this to build stronger communities, to ensure that all members of our familia are included and honored.
And we can take this chance to build bridges with allies to eradicate bigotry, eradicate oppression, eradicate senseless hatred and division in ALL of our communities.
We can be agents of change
for equality
for peaceful vibrant communities
and for diversity.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice EVERYWHERE.”

We will not stand for injustice.”

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Maltrato a menores y Maltrato a lectores

Bueno, hoy leí el periódico. Advertencia de descarga. No entrar a este blog sin casco protector. **For my monolingual English readers, I considered making this a bilingual post but this is long enough already!**

Primero me encuentro con la portada de uno de los principales periódicos de la isla: El Nuevo Día. Si no viste el periódico hoy, imagínate que noticia merece estar en portada. Quizás la muerte de Jorge Farinacci quien sucumbió al tumor cerebral que batalló por ocho meses. No, pero quizás uno de los casos de los niños maltratados merezca portada, o la amenaza de huelga de la utier. No digo que el despelote del PNP porque ya eso ni lo registro hace años. El desempleo, el abuso fiscal sistemático del gobierno de Puerto Rico al bolsillo de los peleaos que somos la mayoría. No.

En portada hoy: “El difícil mundo de los ‘petites'” y en la portada par de tipos bajitos. No te hablo de condición clínica de salud sino pues, tipos que miden 4’11 o unos 5’2. Esa es la portada. Ya sé que me espera un banquete.

Llegué a la revista, usualmente es una de mis secciones preferidas. Busco la columna de Mayra Montero, escritora que generalmente disfruto. Hoy en realidad quedé más que decepcionada ofendida en tantos niveles que ya mismito explico.

Hoy su intervención llevaba por título “Gloria” y lleva por acápite lo siguiente:
“Hasta que los enseñen a leer, o sea, hasta que los enseñen a ser personas, creo que a estos brutos habría que disuadirlos de otro modo, con otras imágenes y en el lenguaje que ellos de verdad comprenden”

Hay que examinar esto poco a poco. Doña Mayra se refiere a dos sujetos, al hombre quien le disparó a su hijo de dos años, y a un hombre de Mayagüez, que dizque inspirado por ver al primer sujeto en la televisión. Estos y los demás maltratantes son los ‘brutos.’

Hago pausa para aspectos biográficos pues son relevantes. Primero debo confesarme adicta a la lectura y educadora apasionada. Luego debo añadir que como trabajadora social en el estado de Idaho tenía a mi cargo trabajar con casos de maltrato y negligencia de menores, educación familiar y reintegración (o sea cuando devuelven al hogar a niños que han sido removidos por problemas de maltrato y/o negligencia). Además estudio los medios de comunicación, y añado que soy pacifista. Ten en mente estos datos al seguir leyendo pues muestra cuantos niveles ha logrado ofender este articulo.

El que una persona no sepa leer, no lo hace menos persona. Ni lo hace intelectualmente o moralmente inferior. Hace su vida mucho mas difícil en muchos aspectos (no puede leer una receta, no puede leer los rótulos de las calles cuando existen, no pueden anotar una fecha en un calendario…) pero no los haces animales coño. Mi bisabuela (la mamá de crianza de mi madre) era analfabeta funcional. Apenas si leía pero tenía una habilidad legendaria en la familia para los números. En algunas sociedades aun hoy en día, no se practica la escritura. No son ni personas ni culturas inferiores, se trata de una destreza aislada.

Aparte de eso, los maltratantes son tan humanos como tú y como yo. Cualquiera que tenga niños propios o que haya cuidado los ajenos recuerda, si es sincero, en algún momento haber sentido que se le aprieta el puño por voluntad propia y que desea, por un instante, zamparle la bofetá al muchacho. Pero, nos controlamos. Respiramos profundo. Usamos las herramientas a nuestra disposición para recordar que la violencia no es buena.

Si se ha crecido en un ambiente en el cual la violencia ha sido normalizada, porque papi le pegaba a mami, o mami te pegaba a ti; porque tío y papi no se llevaban y en las fiestas de familia se fajaban, porque en el apartamento del lado le pegaron un tiro al que vendía droga, ya la violencia se ve como solución aceptable al problema.

Quede claro que no excuso al maltratante. No existe excusa para quien dispara a un niño (o cualquier ser humano a mi entender). Pero me preocupa lo cómodo que resulta distanciarnos de los hechos al quitarle su humanidad al tipo. Era un cabrón. Si. Pero un cabrón muy humano y muy persona. Si ha leído a Cervantes, a TeVe Guia, o los artículos de una Hustler importa poco. Muchos de los padres y madres maltratantes no saben otra manera de criar. Muchos de los padres y madres maltratantes aman a sus hijos, aunque los maltraten a la vez.

Lo otro que nos distancia de estos sujetos es cuando asumimos que solo los de clase baja maltratan. Eso es en las barriadas na’ más. En los caseríos. En mi urbanización con acceso controlado eso no pasa. Nadie esta inmune. Llegué a intervenir con maltratantes que eran diáconos en su iglesia, con médicos y abogados. Leían muy bien. Pero igual abusaban. No podemos hacerlo ver como solo un problema de la gente de grupo x. Es problema de todos. Y es problema de todos preocuparnos de que existan los recursos y los servicios para ayudar a esos niños sobrevivientes del maltrato, abuso sexual y negligencia. Ayudar a proveer recursos de ayuda para los maltratantes. Ayudar a proveer recursos para las mujeres en situaciones de violencia doméstica.

Si, porque aunque Mayra se pregunta que le vieron las mujeres a esos hombres, de nuevo asumimos mal. Ella declara que “le miraba la cara al tipo que cogió al hijo por el pañal y lo lanzó al suelo, y me preguntaba cómo puede una mujer embarazarse voluntariamente de semejante larva.” Luego dice “Que nadie venga a decirme que eran caballeros y luego cambiaron.” Pues sí Mayra. Hasta cierto punto, si. Ella lo mira en un acto de violencia y con toda la información a la mano. Los maltratantes lucen muy normales si te los encuentras en la calle. El tipo no anda siempre con el cañón afuera. En el trabajo se comporta como cualquier otro tipo. No tiene un tatuaje que lo distinga de los demás hombres. Y muchos de los hombres que maltratan niños también tienden a tener comportamiento violento en sus relaciones de pareja. O sea, violencia doméstica, que no es otra cosa que violencia en el hogar. La violencia conlleva toda una serie de comportamientos y patrones que resultan en la manipulación de la mujer. Es un fenómeno demasiado complejo para reducirlo a un enculpamiento de las madres.

Las imágenes no son un sistema inferior de comunicación como implica Mayra Montero al declarar que como no leen ni razonan “Lo poco que les llega, bastante fragmentado por cierto, les llega a través de las imágenes de la televisión.” Luego pasa a decir que “lo único que interiorizan es que un tipo en la televisión se ha hecho famoso porque acabó con el niño que no era suyo.” En realidad encuentro esa declaración cínica y no creo que ayude en nada al análisis o consideración del serio problema que semejante comportamiento representa. Son vidas humanas.

Finalmente, cierra el articulo con la sugerencia de que “los reciban en la cárcel a la manera tradicional, y que saboreen, por fin, la verdadera gloria.” ¡Por Dios! La violencia que implica esta sugerencia no hace mas que resaltar la culturas en la cual vivimos la cual normaliza e institucionaliza la violencia (¡no voy a hablar del PNP!)

La violencia contra cualquier ser humano es perniciosa. La violencia contra los niños es el síntoma más horrible de la crisis en la cual se encuentra nuestra sociedad. Los periodos de alto estrés son periodos de alto riesgo para los niños. Miren nada mas el estado de nuestra economía, la falta de recursos, la falta de servicios para las familias, la falta de ayuda para personas con problemas de salud mental y/o adicción, la falta de guarderías para emergencias, de hogares de crianza, de apoyo sistemático todo influye en el maltrato a menores.

Amen?

I have been to a variety of church services in my life. Not growing up in a religious household was both liberating and constraining. It freed me from enforced loyalty to any one religion, church or creed but it also had the effect of making organized religion all the more foreign and mysterious to me. I am not fully versed in all the strange rituals religions follow in their services.

A few years ago I was privileged enough to attend an Islamic prayer service as part of an Interfaith alliance. We were providing a human shield so that the services could be held even after both the school and mosque buildings had been vandalized and threats had been made against the community. The rituals reminded me of the first time I attended a Catholic service: The ritualized gesture, the ablutions and the responses had been foreign to me in both cases. Even though I didn’t understand the religion, the language or really exactly what was going on, I felt the breath of the sacred in that service.

This weekend I went to watch a procession (by water) in honor of the Virgin del Carmen who is the patron saint of fishermen. I am partial to her as I am to all things water. The procession departed from a small fishing barrio. The boats were humble and were already in the water for the most part when we got there. Kids were running around and diving off the boats, older women stood around with their rosaries, old fishermen stood watch and gossiped, some young women still had curlers in their hair.

A statue of the Virgin was secured onto one boat that was still on the shore. She was beautifully decorated with flowers and ribbons and love made visible. When the men gathered round to push the boat into the water no prayers were needed. Their wading, their gentle carrying, their devotion and respect were visible. We all watched, many like me in tears, others taking pictures. The boat took the lead with others getting into a line behind her as they headed for a neighboring fishing village. The procession was small but awesome. There were about 10 or so boats total and the crowd dissipated relatively quickly. Many were going to the next village to hear the mass and receive the procession, still others were headed home to life. The older fisherman and a few of the older women were left watching. As I was walking down the shore, watching the line- up we noticed a dog jump into the water. It was a mutt, medium sized dog. It swam out quite a ways while we watched. We were all starting to get concerned as we watched it keep swimming out to sea. I’d never seen a dog go quite so far. I was already thinking to myself that if it started to flag I’d have to dive in after it. But no, it was headed for a boat that had stayed behind the others. It kept swimming out to the boat. The dog was unaffected by the waves pushing on it, it just kept going. It would not turn back. The owners saw him and hoisted him onto the boat and then headed out to join the procession. The old fisherman decided that the dog just really wanted to join the Virgencita and pay his respects in the procession. Amen!

I did not go on to hear the mass. That simple ritual was enough to me. Some of the most sacred moments I’ve had have been simple ones… usually outdoors too: Chanting on the beach, Pagan dances under the stars, an evening service during a regional MCC church camp held just as the sun is setting, blessings by the river, group meditations.

Then there are the rowdy, the loud blessings: singing in a gospel choir and watching a little girl with Down Syndrome rock out to the music, the sheer power of voices in song, the thundering of an organ, the chorus of Amen! and Hallelujah! The loud drum circles growing louder and louder, the blessings of sound.

And, of course, there’s always the blessing of service, of giving and helping and working to make the world a better place. Those are countless moments of smiles, of time, love, energy, money, compassion given freely.

I think one of the coolest things I grew to understand growing up in a non-religious household is that God/dess is everywhere, and in everything. No one building, or, for that matter, no one religion, has licensing rights for the sacred. Every breath, every smile, every heart wrenching tear, every kiss, every fight, every orgasm, every ripe fragrant mango, every one of Whitman’s blades of grass has God/dess in it.

Amen.

I SHOULD be working on lesson plans for tomorrow and Thursday. I SHOULD be working on papers and on grading student work. Instead, I’m fuming.

After writing about the wonderful coloquio del otro la’o where respect and diversity were the norm, I go into a classroom today where the word “nigger” is used as a joke. And people laugh.

And I’m the only one who stops it all and says

“Dude, that’s NOT funny!”

A few other people looked uncomfortable and/or shocked.

Many laughed.

What on earth is wrong with people??

I am not a major defender of Political Correctness. I don’t think everything is solved by calling it “the N word” and I think in some contexts it has its uses. When I am quoting song lyrics I do not excise it. When it is in a work of literature I don’t avoid it. I pay attention to its presence and the political and ideological messages attached but I’m not completely allergic to a word, which some argue has been reclaimed by some expressions of Black culture. That’s a whole other debate which I don’t even want to get into.

But damned if I am letting a Puerto Rican man–who should know about prejudice, who should know, even if only second-hand, how words can wound, can transform, can deny, can minimize, can belittle, can mislead–use the word as a joke “this word sounds like N—!” As a joke nonetheless.

What the hell is funny about the history of the word “Nigger”?

As usual, I fail to see the humor. Just like I see no humor in jokes about dominicans, or ‘maricones’ or ‘spics.’ Where is the humor in the humiliation, death, abuse, systematic mistreatment, and dehumanization of entire groups of people?

I have a wonderful sense of humor. I laugh often and I laugh loud. But some things are just NOT funny.

“If you want peace work for justice” the saying goes. That doesn’t just mean go dig wells with the peace corps in Central America. If you can, Fantastic! But, justice is in these everyday moments where we stop people from perpetuating hate, abuse, racism, homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, transfobia, misogyny, ageism, and prejudice in all its forms.

Butterflies

“If you watch a butterfly
with someone you don’t know
then you can both enjoy it
and start to be friends.”
elementary school girl

from “A Million Visions of Peace: Wisdom from the Friends of Old Turtle” edited by Jennifer Garrison and Andrew Tubesing