BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


donors choose

Florence’s ever resourceful teacher has been funding what chicago public schools cannot provide thorough an awesome website called Donors Choose. i am weary of how money is becoming the only way people are made to feel involved with social justice issues, but sometimes it can be quite effective.

or at least a better way to use a bit of tax return cash…

here is the link to her proposal

http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/proposal.html?id=355925



jane addams
February 7, 2010, 1:38 am
Filed under: rants and such | Tags: , , , , , , ,

i am taking a class that is based upon an historical chicago site, this semester the jane addams house. i have learned about her in bits and pieces in the past few years, but never did i understand her incredible badassness. i am sure she was not perfect, but there is still  something really compelling and striking about her story. her essay about her reasoning behind opening Hull House blew my mind. it was written over one hundred years ago, and it is so contemporary. i felt myself reflected in her thoughts, and in her understanding of society.  it is depressing in a way that in a century the conditions of people are uncannily similar, and that the solution not more evolved. it also makes me feel strange that my understanding of the world is not new, nor original or revolutionary. i still have to come to grips with the fact that to everything there is a history. ideas are not new but come from a progression of theory from the past recent, and not so recent.

i am hopeful also, because it’s undeniable that there is something essentially altruistic about people and good, even amidst all the pain and selfishness.

it made me fantasize about what is possible to do with one’s life, and the impact it can have. 

i am including the speech i read that i found so compelling:  Addams,”Subjective Necessity”



the fly by months
October 14, 2009, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

for all the activity that is been going on in my brain it’s surprising i have not sat down for a second to actually put in into words. there are different kinds of busy, the one i am experiencing now is non stop from the moment you wake to the moment you close your eyes at night kind of busy. it seems impossible to always be doing something targeted and deliberate, but it is my present condition. i was thinking about the name of this blog, and how gender justice has been such a undercurrent for my life, i thought my involvement with social justice stuff would never change.
however i have to come to terms with my choices and what it is that i love doing VS who i would like to be in theory in my head.
the thing is i love making visual things. it is the space, besides music where i am the happiest and most satisfied. but i don’t know how to come to terms with what that life choice involves. i am going to one of the most elite schools in the nation for art, without paying for it, granted, but i still have to contend in how to orient myself with that privilege, and with the reality of taking up space and resources for my own happiness and fulfillment.
maybe i just lack imagination, but artistic practice seems so fraught with elitism, and intellectual prejudice.
incomplete thoughts for now, gotta go!



invasive and pervasive
May 9, 2009, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

a couple of days ago i went to oona and florence’s 3rd grade music performance of “how does the garden grow?”, expecting some awkward cuteness and cheesy music, and instead got some not so subtle racist doctrine.

the story began with a song about a thriving flower garden, sang by  (white) girls dressed like flowers. then the weeds (all boys) took over, with their “rap” song about being tough, invasive, rough and less refined.  and how can then the gardener get rid of the rapping weeds? by singing a hoedown. for real. so they sang their hoedown, and the first time it did not work, but when they sang it again they finally got rid of the invasive weeds.

bloomington is a mostly white town in indiana, a state with a brutal history of racism, and i just can’t dismiss the fact that such a plot is only perpetuating a certain narrative, and specific stereotypes about blacks. most kids in this town have no african american friends, and get their sense of people of color mainly from the media. it saddens me that such prejudices are put forth by the school system too.

i am so sick of just letting things go, and believing nothing is a big deal, because this shit keeps on going on if it is mostly overlooked.

i wrote to their music teacher the following email:

Ms. Nesbitt,

I really appreciated your efforts in putting together the recital for
Ms.Krothe’s class and all the time spent practicing. However, being in
the audience tonight i could not help but to be deeply uncomfortable
about the dynamics of the story.

I felt that the story had a blatant racialization of characters, and
followed stereotypes about people of color, especially considering the
lack of diversity in Bloomington and at Templeton. The story tells of
a thriving garden that is taken over by weeds. The weeds happen to
rap, which is a traditional form of African American expression, and
sing about being tough, about taking over, and being invasive, which
has been historically an accusation made by whites about blacks.
Indiana has a long history of racism, segregation, and “sundown”
counties and towns, which were and are places where ethnic groups, and
especially African Americans, were driven out by violence or not
allowed to reside. The justification that whites made for such
violence was precisely that blacks were invasive, aggressive, and
“less than”.

In the story the rapping weeds are then driven out by a hoedown, which
is undeniably a very white form of expression. Again with the history
of Indiana, and the U.S., it is appalling to me that such references
are not recognized and discouraged. Yes, the kids are young and might
not be aware of the violent history of racism of this country, but it
does not help to perpetuate stereotypes that lead to more
discrimination, and definitely do not challenge the existing
misconceptions about people of different ethnic backgrounds.

her response?

“Interesting view.”

that is it. wow!



sex ed VS abstinence based
March 26, 2009, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Building Healthy Relationships | Tags: , , , , , ,

while i was in the middle schools today the health teachers were discussing the new sex. ed plan that will substitute the previous abstinence based curriculum. they were shocked at how explicit and crude the information was, how mechanical and graphic. i asked if i could read the lesson plan, and honestly i was surprised. it was very much like reading a car manual, an instruction booklet on sex: this is how you put on a condom. dry? use some lube. oral sex? use dental dam or rubbers.sex_ed_by_boundsparrow

it was full of statistics about who is having sex and how much. graphs, precisely. it was so cold and sterile. i am all for sex ed., but not one that equates knowing how to put on a condom with a safe, healthy sexual relationship.

the two teachers i spoke to at length were both men, and shared some of their experiences. one of them recalled that the only thing his parents told him about sex was to “keep it in his pants, and don’t get in no trouble”. the other teacher had a sister that became pregnant at 15, and remembered feeling safe in the fact that he, as a man, could not get pregnant and “screw his life”. they both thought that the information would not be helpful to the kids, because it was way over their heads, and inappropriate.

i don’t think it’s inappropriate because kids should not know about sex, but because it teaches nothing about the reality of sex. the much needed information is not only how to not get pregnant, or avoid STIs, but the foundation of trust, communication and mutuality that are necessary for having a healthy sex life. it’s either “no sex, you will ruin your life and go to hell”, or a superficial overview of the physiological reality of a variety of sexual acts.

i am nervous that it’s gonna make people feel even more pressured to have sex when they don’t even know what they think of it yet, because they get a sense that everyone is doing it. so many times as an advocate, or just a friend i listened to people that “gave in” to sex because it seemed like what they were supposed to do, or felt pressured by peers and boyfriends ( and sometimes girlfriend), and then felt like shit about it.

in the end it makes sense that the school system is either offering a firm no to sex, or a cut and dry instruction booklet. it’s easy! there is no discussions, or nuances, or difficult conversations about consent and safety. it’s just another sterile piece of information removed from the real, complicated lives of youth.

i am going to look more into this, because i have no idea about who is responsible for choosing one sex ed. program or another, but sitting here and bitching doesn’t feel right.



why would you even care?

that is one of the questions i got from an anonymous middle schooler last week,  ” why would you even care about what happened to some random person?” more precisely, which is a perfectly legitimate question.

i took my time explaining the services we offer for survivors of violence, and for people around them. i spent long periods discussing  what impact people can have as bystanders, but failed to talk about emphaty.

what i omitted to elucidate is the very idea that each of us is a random person, a stranger to more people than not, an arguably insignificant being. we often revel in an artificial sense of self-importance, of indispensability. we come to believe that our pain is more significant that another’s, our joys a cause of greater celebration. we surround ourselves with people that feed that sense of uniqueness and individual worth, and end up leaving everyone else behind.

i did not say all that, i just made up some fast, unsatisfying answer about the world being a shitty place if we stopped caring about people we don’t know, if we only protect and feel for our kin and close friends. but the question really stuck with me. maybe because i ask myself that all the time.

i do care, at a visceral level. not about life itself, or the essential worth of human existence. i am well too aware of the smallness on one life, which causes me frequent fits of anxiety. no, what i react to mostly is the unnecessary nature of violence, the pain that holds people captive and could be prevented way too easily.

those are the things i want to try to change. the gratuitous hatred, the avoidable worries. we can’t do much about sickness, or death , or unrequited love. but there is so much unnecessary shittiness, so much hurt that is a choice and only that. the violence we decide to deliver, or the judgment, or the prejudice can be avoided.

i was recently listening to Karen Amstrong on PBS, a religious scholar that studies the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity), and she was claiming that the base for any religion is emphaty, more precisely  the simple “golden rule” of treating others the same as you would treat yourself. she was challenging the viewers to do that, truly, even for just one day and experience how hard it is.  it made me feel like a bad person, as i am sure i don’t behave in such manner all the time.  i can justify that by calling upon an instinctual sense of preservation, or self-defense,  but there is no excuse. i know that until the time when blind egotism surpasses our sense of emphaty and compassion all the preventable pain will not cease.



excuses and failures
March 6, 2009, 8:09 pm
Filed under: rants and such, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

i don’t know when failure became a bad word. it’s inevitable, and it opens up possibilities that we had not yet considered. if everything always went as planned, we would probably still live in a middle ages-like world. science progresses because of failures, changes of course and the unexpected. 

but we treat failure as the ultimate judgement about our self worth.

no, thanks.

as i am waiting for the responses from graduate schools and getting rejection letters, and acceptance letters, i am trying to make sense of all the pressures and expectations i am putting on myself, and the ones i am getting from others. i am trying to figure out how much the rejection letters are saying anything about me, or say more about a system where privilege, again, is the key to receiving a thick admission letter. how much does it matter that you can pay someone thousands of dollars to take professional looking photos? or to buy material to make art, or to not have to work and have the time to spend hours making stuff?

my guess is, a lot. so i am torn between refusing to make excuses for myself, and taking into account that i am not playing on an even field. i am exhausted, and frustrated and sick of seeing the ramification of privilege, at my own limitations , and the reality that working hard sometimes it’s just not enough.

it’s too easy to be bitter, to watch the calls of admission being strongly correlated to who has the cash between my school mates, and not even really knowing what to do with that observation…

what i know is that i refuse to sit quietly in the corner carved for me by society, by all the -isms. and that i will try to leave people the space to be themselves, and to support them in their search for a meaning. and that i will try not to become a hater.