forty-three septembers-jewelle gomez

“miss piggy is a trucker trying to be a woman”

“you can consume whatever you want, sitting on your couch-but where does your garbage go?”

how excited am i that we have a documentary theatre in town? opening week of the hot docs bloor, i saw there great films-wasteland (to complete the first half, as i caught the last in september during manifesTO), the topp twins (which must have been part of the inspiration behind the flight of the conchords), and being elmo, which was the perfect reminder of the joy and sacrifice of following your dreams. shout to bust magazine for recommending jewelle gomez‘ work.

“At first I felt disappointed, tricked. Like I used to feel when I learned that my favorite movie stars were only five feet tall. But I later realized that it was an incredible act of bravery and intelligence for her to pass on to me a skill she herself had not quite mastered-a skill she knew would always bring me a sense of pride in accomplishment.” (28)

hmm, this gives me new perspective on the swimming lessons, the piano lessons, the skiing, and the languages that my father gave me…a discussion with my date for elmo (and dinner at fresh-finally!) brought up another perspective of feeling like she also raised her parent(s). when your folks are the youngest of seven or nine, they can grow up feeling like they’re lacking attention, and act out long past their “childhood” years, and end up having one child to combat that, but the opposite effect/affect occurs when we end up packing the weight of the world onto our shoulders. lionel richie also reminded us that michael never had a childhood, so he stayed forever a child.

“Or maybe we were both too much the same: afraid of being dependent on each other and wanting, at the same time, someone to take care of us. I feel fooled by appearances, not that it was her fault. My eyesight just wasn’t good enough to see the signs.” (43)

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One thought on “forty-three septembers-jewelle gomez

  1. friends, strangers, witnesses:

    “When I talk with heterosexual Black men we speak of The Movement as if it were a shared adolescence that makes us siblings for life. But, like any vision of the past, it’s never exactly the same in everyone’s memory. And my assessment of the disadvantages of being a woman within the context of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements is certainly different from that of my brothers. None of them seem to remember Stokely Carmichael’s heartily greeted pronouncement that ‘the only position for women in the Movement is prone.’ That’s not a sentiment any revolutionary can endorse. Feminism has not taken away my pleasure at the hope that period signified for me. It does require me, however, to insist that both political consciousness and action can be, however, to insist that both political consciousness and action be more comprehensive this time. In the ‘90s I demand that my brothers look past rhetoric and see me.
    With our past in deep shadow, being continually reinterpreted by revolutionaries turned stockbrokers, it is increasingly more difficult to find the shared contemporary experiences or opinions that might help me as a Black woman work with Black men to shape a bright future. There were always several groupings of Black men with whom I was never able to make a serious connection. In college there were the strivers, those who I suspected would drop ‘the community’ as soon as the right job came along. I could recognize them by the elaborate efforts they made to keep their dashikis well pressed. Growing up in a tenement, living on welfare with my great-grandmother, I wanted crisp pleats and the right job as much as anyone, yet I thought their attitude reeked of escape rather than social consciousness.” (49-50)

    “Until the mid-1980s the public worlds of lesbians and gay men remained relatively separate. Except for the annual pride marches held around the country, we shared few cultural events, clubs, or political activities. But for Black lesbians and gay men the world was not as easily divided. The history of oppression remained in our consciousness, even for some who were too young to really remember The Movement. And since we often were not accepted fully into the white gay world, we frequently socialized with each other. We hung together in the corner at the cast parties and invited each other for holiday dinners knowing the food would taste just like home.” (52)

    “I do not now call myself a lapsed or fallen-away Catholic, as the church would have me do, because that sounds too passive. My faith in Catholicism or any western religion did not slip out of my grasp. My faith was stripped away by the years of revelation about the horrors that had been done in the name of those religions. The missionary work, examined more closely, looks like colonialism; the catechism lessons sounded like patriarchy. My faith was rejected vehemently. And even now, with the development of institutions like the gay-identified Metropolitan Community Church, and groups like Dignity that interpret Catholic precepts with lesbians and gays at the center, I find that my spirit does not rest peacefully in any of that religious ground.” (72)

    “It is there that the ordinary events of living are made into mythology as I draw upon my own experience to make the ideas come alive. The key is in the sea change: the place where the small incident is transformed into the belief, the daily wine into the blood. In that change I am learning to treasure the things of my past without needing to relive them. To make the past a dimension of my life, but not the only perspective from which I view it. In that way my youth is not more important than my middle years; my father was not a god but simply a man able to be special to me; my knowledge is not better or truer than anyone else’s, its value comes when it is made useful to others.” (78-9)

    “I relaxed, listening to speeches, scanning the crowd, simply taking everyone in. I saw Black faces scattered in the groupings, but no one I knew. Until I spotted Audre Lorde. She was standing several yards away from me, tall above those seated on the ground. I’d been reading her work since the 1960s but had only seen her from a distance at readings. She was unmistakable, though-the brightly colored African-print cap on her head, her penetrating eyes. I started to wave, as if I really knew her, and continued to watch as she talked to someone sitting below her. Then she looked over and caught my gaze. She winked conspiratorially, as if she knew I needed to make that connection with another Black lesbian. The wink was both flirtatious and sisterly. It opened up a dialogue between us that lasted for more than a decade.” (95-6)

    “When I thought about it later I realized that a good part of the difficulty of that conversation, and others like it, was the result of (in addition to the specific issues) having our discussion of hard topics defined and focused by men who are usually pursuing a political agenda, men whose primary goal is the accumulation of power, not the resolution of conflict. Issues of power are perpetually played out as if the Jewish Defense League and the Nation of Islam have squared off at high noon. They each represent extreme patriarchal responses to real oppression, but do not represent me or most women I know. Yet it is the extreme passion of those groups, as well as the opportunism of the news media, that keeps the public’s political focus so narrow. Our interests can never appear to be in conflict, and that kind of conversation is terrifying. Nobody wants to be called anti-Semetic or racist, certainly not by someone you care about. And behind each tentative word lies the possibility of those accusations.” (106-7)

    “Later literature, fueled by the Black Power Movement of the 1960s, created a curious dichotomy. The movement rescued Black women from the precarious emulation of Eurocentric manners and elevated us to the pedestal of the African princess. The prime role was now to bear children for a Black prince and help give birth to a new African world. The Black female experience was removed from the shadow of white society and reconstructed under the shadow of Black men.” (111)

    “Gwendolyn Brooks, widely respected for her poetry, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950, but was ignored or disparaged by literary critics when her first novel, /Maud Martha/, appeared in 1953, the same year that James Baldwin’s /Go Tell It On the Mountain/ was published. The book’s intensity and social realism was startling to some, a welcome relief to others more in tune with the actual role of women in African-American society.” (112)
    “Not financial security, not men, not approval, not any of of the things that traditionally relegate Black women to the uncomfortable balance on the pedestal or to the rearguard vantage point of the kitchen.” (125)

    “It was Audre herself, who made me most aware of this issue when I called to ask if I could interview her for the flim, /Before Stonewall/. Her response was to ask if she were the only Black lesbian in the film. She did not want white audiences to use her to feel satisfied, as if having seen her they’d seen all Black lesbians. To avoid this Audre suggested the inclusion of another of her contemporaries, Muaua Flowers. The result is a lively discussion between friends who are relating their experiences rather than a singular Black spokesperson.” (143)

    “Once she was proclaimed the reigning queen of Black drama by critics, Hansberry did not let up. In her next play, /The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window/ (1964), she had the audacity to make the central characters white. The play’s production was met with scorn from both white and Black critics, in spite of the fact that white people had been describing and defining Black people for centuries, both on paper and in real life. Although that play also included a gay male character, people were not interested in talking about him at all, much less in examining Hansberry’s reasons for his inclusion.
    Lorraine Hansberry had many stories to tell. She did not feel the need to justify any one of them. She had strong concern for a variety of issues affecting this society and did not cower in the shadow of 1950s political repression. Hansberry flew to a Peace Congress in Uruguay in 1957 to deliver a speech in place of Paul Robeson, whose passport had been revoked by the United States because of his leftist organizing. When she returned to the United States the government revoked her passport.” (158-9)

    “There are several aspects to the tragedy of the loss of Lorraine Hansberry. When she died of cancer in 1965 she was not only a young woman (thirty-four), but a young writer. Her talent, her style, her ideas were being shaped by her emerging political consciousness. She was a young warrior in this ‘most expansive of revolutions’.
    She acknowledged that there is a unified system of thought that allows little Black girls to be blown to bits in Birmingham; that allows the flesh of Jews to be turned into lampshades; that allows generations of an indigenous people to be decimated in a place called the land of the free. It is the same system of thinking that allows women who have been raped to be treated as culpable, to have to justify their anger; that allows Dan White, who’s killed a public official-Jewish and gay-to do less time in prison than if he’d robbed a bank.” 162-3)

    i don’t need no richie rich muthafucka to teach me about trayvon, and then liken him to a hanged circus elephant (“lynching an african). strange fruit is strange fruit-but you still have no right to appropriate it. damn spoken word to all hell.

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