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So I decided to dress up this year… as Frida Kahlo (see pics).  She’s one of my artistic inspirations.

frida looks away

frida

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As a child, my siblings and I went ALL out for Halloween. The holiday wasn’t about dressing as goblins or monsters, but rather a time to be creative and have the most innovative costumes.. My mom would sew our costumes.. It was the best. So with this Halloween I’m going back to those days. I love dressing up and seeing people express creativity!

Have a good one and be safe!

Mississippi+Damned+Poster

Greetings readers!

Check out my review of the groundbreaking film, Mississippi Damned, featured in Post No Ills Magazine: http://www.postnoills.com/main/?p=115#more-115

-Nijla M.

chicago-2016-olympics

When I heard that some people in Chicago were crying because the city was eliminated as a potential host of the 2016 Olympic games, I was baffled. I could see disappointed,  but crying? Come on.

You see, the Olympic Games has a clever way of making it’s host city seem like a pristine, harmonious haven for the entire world to see.  In order to market the games, the host city must undergo an arduous process of revitalization and glamorization. But with this marketable image, comes a huge disregard to the real societal undercurrents at work in these locations.

This past 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was a perfect example. The Chinese government has been engaging in the systemic persecution of Tibetan people and society for years, and somehow, the Olympics was supposed to come in and erase this tumultuous past and legacy.  That is what many Beijing officials had in mind as journalists were harassed and their cameras confiscated and smashed. The Olympics brings with it an international lens of sorts- the world watches as a city hosts the most spectacular athletic competition in the world- and many times host cities want to ensure that the international audience gets the best “picture.”

Derrion Albert was beaten to death when he was caught in the midst of a fight between two high school gangs on September 24th. He was only sixteen years old.  Chicago was in no place to host the Olympic games when a young man was brutally killed in broad daylight. Beijing should not have hosted the games when so many Tibetan people have perished over the years, with no trace.  Recently, I read that Rio De Janiero was looking to a “new beginning” with their hosting of the games. Well I visited Rio De Janiero for a study abroad trip in 2005 and it was one of best experiences of my life- the cultures, the people, and the spirituality all amazed me. However, I don’t think an “Olympic” image can help the thousands of people living in the hills- in the favelas that line the perimeter of the country- the kids without water who are swept into gangs like those same teens in Chicago. I am not sure if the “Olympic” image will help the many women in Rio who turn to prostitution because their color and gender deems them powerless and exploited. And I am not sure if all the hype over the Olympic games will stop corrupt, underpaid Brazilian cops from opening fire on whole favelas of innocent people.

If we want to create images of happy, pristine host cities, then we need to work on making them that way, for real. President Obama should have addressed the current plight of so many youth in Chicago- why it’s sooo backward for teenagers to be afraid to walk to school out of fear of being possibly killed, instead of flying across seas to lobby for something that would only create an illusion for the world. So no, I don’t feel sad or sorry that the Olympic games aren’t be held in Chicago. I feel pain for the family of Derrion Albert – for the hurt they must be enduring right now, and for the poor and bottom caste of people in Rio De Janiero who will be all but erased by what the games might hope to represent.

/no one can hurt you, no one kill you
like your own people. -suji kwock kim

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I am scared to go back out

among them

on their streets

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I was always glad

a layer of glass existed

between us

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that I could press on the gas

when they screamed my way

that I could run them over

if need be

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now I lost the barrier   the car

and I’m back on their streets

where terrain once tore my skin

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and I feel foolish

for worrying that I might be unwelcome

again that my purse might get ripped

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because I’m a black woman

walking and I happen to have no dog

and no status that would make me untouchable

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just had a car that let me ride

past the other women getting howled at

and pulled on

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now I’m back on the streets

the car broke down

back to worries bout my brown body

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there’s no place like home

-nijla

Al-Jannah: Paradise

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Al-Jannah is the Arabic word for paradise.

Inspired by Frida Kahlo’s “My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree)” painting, I embarked on a collage exploration of my familial, religious, and personal development juxtaposed with the popular culture and normative ideals that surrounded me as a youth. Utilizing entries from my first diary, excerpts from children’s books about Islam that were give to me when i was young, passages written by myself and my brother when we were in elementary school, excerpts from my poems, and family photos, I contrast the idea of what the “Muslim” family should be and how they should act, with how my family lived and existed. Here, Islamic passages and codes rub up against Adina Howard in booty shorts, and diary entries of familial dysfunction border illustrations of smiling Muslims. This is a collage of juxtaposition and daring contrast- all elements of my development.

Collage on wood. Mixed media. August 2009.

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“The Arab World: Waking from its sleep.” This is the headline on the front of the most recent issue of Economist Magazine. The cover depicts an Arab man and his son (presumably), holding hands and walking toward a washed out landscape. http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14082930

This headline is interesting considering that this very magazine is published in a country (England) that didn’t grant women the right to vote on the same terms as men until 1928 with the Representation of the People Act. Women in the “Arab World”  were granted the human right of equality to men, rights to obtain an education, rights to own independent property, and the right to divorce and retain all independent income (among many others), 1400 years before that, under the religion of Islam, which the article cites several times in a paternalistic, condescending way. According to the article, “Islam complicates democracy.”

It is not my intention to excuse or gloss over the societal deficits of any country or people, but when the teachings of Islam, as set forth in the Qu’ran, are conflated with the unjust actions of people influthe cover of the magazine without the headline enced by patriarchal norms, I have to object.

Look at me- I haven’t even seen it yet and I am publicizing for it! Well, rightfully so. The cinematography looks full of depth and feeling, as does the story.

http://www.mississippidamned.com/

If anyone knows when this is coming to the DC or NYC area, please post!!

I know I am probably SUPER late but I just found out about this film while browsing the internet at work:

http://www.olderthanamerica.com/

I really want to to see this!

I read an article while attending Howard’s Film School, entitled “Fantasies of the Master Race: Categories of Stereotyping of American Indians in Film.” In it, Ward Churchill asserts that the representation of American Indians in commercial US Cinema is “racist on all levels.” He identifies three major categories of these representations.

The following is my summary of the article:

The first is the American Indian as a Creature of Another Time. Churchill claims that the American Indian has been restricted in terms of the times of their collective existence. The mainstream image of Native Americans is that they came to existence with the arrival of Whites on their land, and then vanished thereafter. There is an apparent problem because there is no “before” or “after” as Churchill states. In addition, Native Americans are continually defined in relation to Europeans and Whites, and not in any autonomous light. There are also not many contemporary films that deal with present Indian realities, making the extensive span of indigenous past and present unrecognized in mainstream film.

The second area of emphasis, according to Churchill, is Native cultures defined by Eurocentric Values. Churchill recalls a story where his Chippewa friend visited a museum and noticed that an artifact featured, her grandmother’s root digger, was mistakenly featured as a Winnebago hide scraper. When she called the mistake to the attention of the museum’s experts, they asserted that she was wrong. This situation reflects the ways in which Native cultures are continually interpreted and represented under Eurocentric perspectives, contexts, and motivations. Thus, the inherent meaning in Native practices is washed out and appears nonsensical and comical. For example, Churchill states that this is primarily carried out through the white characters’ narration of stories that involve Indian characters. He states, “ To date,… there has not been one attempt to put out a commercial film which deals with native reality through native eyes.”

The third area of emphasis is “Seen One Indian, Seen ‘em All,” wherein there is an implied assumption that distinctions between Native groupings are irrelevant. Several films, including A Man Called Horse feature an amalgamation of Indian cultural traits reflective of different tribes, in attempts to create one homogenous grouping of the “Indian experience.” As a result of these gross generalizations and mainstream creations of the generic, inauthentic “Indian,” the true meaning and humanity of all Native people become compromised and lost.

In his conclusion, Churchill states, “Genocide is, after all, an extremely ugly word.” He calls attention to mainstream beliefs that Indian “savages” were defeated during the birth of America rather than the honest acknowledgment that European settlers actually murdered intelligent human beings. The popular memory of the “Cowboys versus the evil Indians” serves only to feed the mainstream myth of America’s victory and rightful manifest destiny over this land and the Native peoples that inhabit/ed it. Churchill asserts that “only a concerted effort to debunk Hollywood’s mythology can alter the situation for the better.”

Some questions I pose in light of his critique:

Churchill speaks of a concerted effort to debunk Hollywood’s mythology of Native peoples? What do you think would have to be done to alter mainstream representations of Native people? Do you think that this reform can take place within the mainstream film industry, or would it have to continue to develop in the independent film realm?

Do you see any similarities between mainstream representations of Native cultures and that of Black people? Churchill also speaks of the homogenization of all Native people in mainstream films so that the authenticity of different Native cultures is lost. Do you see that happening in representations of Blacks in mainstream films? Is there a uniformity present in stereotyping both Blacks and Native Americans that empties our cultures of their diversity and richness?

Are you a fan of Cowboy and Indian films? Think about why you relate or enjoy these films. Do you think your enjoyment of these films is related to your place as an American citizen and the popular American narrative of “us against them?”

I really hope that a film such as this can serve as part of the “concerted effort to debunk Hollywood’s mythology” as it pertains to Native/Indigenous peoples. I can’t wait to see this film. If you know of any screening information for it, please post!

When I was nine years old, I was embarrassed at Ashley’s slumber party. Not the usual embarrassment- admitting you pick your wedgies in public, wearing Payless shoes, or farting underneath your sleeping bag. I was embarrassed because I didn’t eat the pepperoni pizza.

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There, it lay, hot and greasy in the Little Caesars box, each slice fighting to hang on to the adjoining slice by loose threads of cheese, as hands grabbed at them. I stood watching my friends partake in pepperoni bliss.

Have some, Ashley’s oily-faced father says as he pushes a slice toward me. No thank you, I reply. He looks at me as if I have four heads and a fifth one growing in at that moment. He’s trying to read me; a 9-year old slumber party participant who doesn’t want a piece of pepperoni pizza. How weird. I continue to stand there, awkward, as some Disney movie lights up the living room and my friends’ hands are made greasier with each slice.

What’s wrong with you? Are you Jewish or something?!, he probes. I’m not expecting this accusatory question and my nine-year old mind struggles to answer it. No, I just don’t want it.

I am now struggling to conceal information in this foreign house in the middle of Castro Valley. I know I should’ve never begged my mother to let me come to this sleepover. It’s hot in here, smells like some odd concoction of cheese and leather, I’m hungry, and I have someone’s oily father trying to figure out my non- existent Jewish heritage. I figure this is the perfect time to exit the living room area and go into Ashley’s room. I don’t care if it’s not time to go to sleep yet- I want to go home so bad that I will sleep now to make tomorrow appear.

I am now in Ashley’s room. Sleeping bags line the floor. I find mine. I overhear my friends asking where I went. I hear Ashley’s father. I just wanted to know what was wrong with her- why she didn’t want to eat the pizza. I hear Ashley get angry with her father. Dad, why do you have to ruin things!? I bury my head beneath my sleeping bag, snagging some of my hair in the zipper, and pretend to go to sleep. My best friend Megan runs into the room and discovers me wrapped inside. Are you okay?, she asks. I nod. The next morning, after surviving cold, ultra-bland eggs, and hard waffles at the request of Ashley’s mother, Megan and I escape the pepperoni prison without telling anyone. We run to Megan’s house.

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I didn’t want to tell Ashley’s persistent father that I was raised Muslim, and that eating pork was against my religion. At 9, I didn’t feel like explaining my religious background to him at his daughter’s slumber party. I was tired of doing that. I just wanted to refuse the pepperoni pizza and be left alone, or maybe offered a cheese alternative. At an early age, I learned that personal, cultural, religious, and racial differences in people were more than often considered as something “wrong.”  As in this case, there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to eat the pepperoni pizza. I didn’t want to subscribe to that notion. At 24, I am still fighting the never-ending battle of defining myself against a barrage of normative ideals that mark me and others like me, “wrong.” I choose to stand up to the accusations most times, but sometimes, like the experience above, I just run.

on the street When I was a teenager it used to bother me alot. I’d be walking down the street, my mind wrapped around some deep thought and then out of nowhere some man’s voice would disrupt it with, “Baby girl, why don’t you smile?!” And it would bother me, but sometimes I’d still attempt a slight smirk in response, and then roll my eyes as I turned the corner. I’d think to myself, maybe I should be smiling all the time on city streets, and maybe those guys just want to see me happyMaybe everyone should be smiling. But they weren’t. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed the distinct trend of men telling women to smile, especially in public settings. It happens to me on the metro train, in grocery stores, and in malls- if my face doesn’t exude some sort of satisfaction or enjoyment, then something is wrong. Something must be wrong with women who are in deep thought, angry, pondering, or just not wanting to bend their face muscles.

Don’t tell me to “smile” when I am walking down the street unless you tell the young man behind me, the one with the frown crowding his face, to smile as well. Can you imagine? A man addressing another man on the street and telling them to “smile man, it’s not that bad.” The image in my head is almost comical and unreal, partly because I cannot conceive of that happening in reality.

I can envision it now; a society in which every woman smiles. It would be like an assembly line of homogenous facial expressions. Women would smile when studying, smile when giving birth, smile when grocery shopping, smile when changing a tire, smile when situations around them give them little to smile about, smile because it makes someone else feel better, and smile for any other reason than because they genuinely want to.

Sounds ludicrous huh? Well, because it is. Smiling is great and it’s something I tend to do a lot, but not at the request of a man who depends on my obedience to boost his ego or masculinity.