29 07 2010

The Asian American Writers Workshop has just announced what their calling Wordstrike, or a boycott of Arizona by writers (and mostly writers of color), in protest of the racist / xenophobic SB 1070. Some of my favorite writers and/ or writing teachers, including Jessica Hagedorn, Junot Diaz and Chris Abani, have signed on. I’m also heartened by these images of the protests happening in Arizona right now. I also stumbled across the video below on Twitter last night, which was ironic given that I’m in San Antonio right now at Macondo workshop in San Antonio, home of the Alamo. It’s a great video that draws the connections between pro-slavery, white supremacist forces and the anti-immigrant forces at play in Arizona and elsewhere. I love how it illustrates how African-American and Latino folks have more in common around this issue and its history than not. Now I wish someone would make a good short video relating this racist Arizona law and others like it to the plight of Asian and other immigrants in the US.


A Great Day for Writers of Color: Congrats Geoffrey Fletcher!

8 03 2010

Geoffrey Fletcher Accepting His Oscar

I was already pumped last night watching the Oscars because I knew that Mo’Nique was a shoo-in (and deservedly so) for the Best Supporting Actress award, for her portrayal of Mary Jones in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. But I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled when, before Mo’Nique had her turn on the stage (where she KILLED it, by the way, on so many levels—but I’ll let the rest of the blogosphere write about that)—‘Precious’ screenwriter, Geoffrey Fletcher won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. What a win! Not just for Fletcher, who has now made history as the first African-American writer to ever win an Oscar, but also for Sapphire, whose novel Fletcher adapted for the film. She looked ecstatic when Fletcher won—I saw her in the audience, standing up and applauding with the rest of the ‘Precious’ crew, who all wore some shade of sapphire, I’m guessing in her honor, and I have to say as a writer I could feel her joy. Even if it wasn’t ‘her’ award per se, it was originally the story she wrote, and without that story, ‘Precious’ wouldn’t exist.

As for Fletcher, he seemed as surprised as everyone else was when he won, and his acceptance speech was one of those sincere, spontaneous and emotional speeches that make the Oscars worth watching. And while his award isn’t getting nearly as much press coverage as Kathryn Bigelow’s first-female Best Director win for ‘The Hurt Locker’, as a writer of color, I feel the impact of Fletcher’s win—for a movie about Black folks directed by a Black man, based on a book by a Black woman—more than anything else.

Congratulations, Geoffrey Fletcher, and thanks for giving all the rest of us writers of color something to be hopeful about and proud of today.


16 01 2010

I’ve been doing what many millions of people all over the world have been doing these last few days–donating money, educating myself about the crisis and trying to do the same with others. As someone who lives in ‘earthquake country’ (California lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur), as well as someone who has long admired and respected Haitian culture and political movements, I feel doubly moved by this tragedy and have been thinking about it constantly.

My first conscious contact with anything having to do with Haiti was when I was a dancer in my high school company in the late 1980s. My dance teacher taught Dunham Technique, a dance technique pioneered by the late, great Madame Katherine Dunham, whose travels to and cultural studies in Haiti and other Caribbean nations strongly influenced this new style. It’s a challenging, rigorous and beautiful technique and is often used in conjunction with teaching Afro-Haitian dance, which I’ve studied as well, and love.

Then I encountered Haiti again around 2001, when I wrote an article about the progressive Haitian publication, the Haiti Progres, which had had an important role in breaking news from a lefty perspective about President Jean Bertrand Aristide and other major events in that country. I interviewed the editor of the journal (whose name escapes me now) as well as well-known Bay Area Haitian-American activist Pierre LaBossiere about the paper’s role as a ‘movement’ paper that still maintained a critical voice when needed on Aristide and his Lavalas political party.

I was moved by the editor’s courage in tackling political journalism that could, in some cases, get him targeted for assassination. I’d never before talked to a ‘real’ movement journalist from a country where a real street protest and political movement exists. I admit, I was a bit lefty ‘star-struck’. (There’s the geeky writer in me again!)

But Haiti has an even greater importance in the world–it was the first Black nation in the world to throw off the chains of colonial rule, and the second country (after the United States) in the Americas to do so. The rebellion that resulted in this overthrow of the French was essentially a slave rebellion, as Haiti had been a colony of over 400,000 African slaves–the largest and most successful slave revolt in world history.

The Haitian revolution also inspired other important liberation movements in the Americas and Africa, such as the Bolivarian movement which sought to create a free and united Latin America, and has also inspired more modern revolutionary movements in nations such as Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador. So as a person of color and an activist, Haiti occupies a special place of honor in my mind and heart, as well as a remarkable place in history.

So please give what you can to help Haitians rebuild their country, and keep them in your prayers. Feel free to post articles or links for places to donate and stay updated.