Letter to My Unborn Daughter on International Women’s Day

poetry, talk, Uncategorized, Words

By Katie Harvey

riley

To my little girl on International Women’s Day:

Today we celebrate & honor what it means to be a woman. We celebrate the women before us who fought for our rights. The women who got arrested trying to vote, the woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus, the women who let the credit for their work go to men while they quietly landed men on the moon.

But really Sugarbean, we honor them every day. We honor them by being the most true form of ourself. We honor them by empowering our fellow women everyday. By helping our sisters in need. I hope you’re never afraid to speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.

I hope you know that if women had stood quietly by and asked politely for equality, it never would have happened.

Women roar.

Never let anyone make you feel inferior, because chances are they came from a vagina.

We are the creators of life. Do not back down. Do not be afraid to be loud.

Do not be afraid to be called bossy or intimidating.

Those are just labels slapped on women of greatness. Never be afraid of your wings, and never forget you can always come home to mom & dad. We love you sweet girl.

The future is female.

The future is you.

The world is yours.

 

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Walidah Imarisha Talks Punk, Genrecide, and Her Racial Ideology

Art, poetry, talk, Uncategorized, Words

Interview by Alyssa Campbell

kaylaartArtwork by Kayla Gutierrez

“I think writing should be less like a factory and more like a garden, nurturing and watering, but allowing what is growing to take new, sometimes surprising, and often beautiful shapes,” Walidah Imarisha tells me.

The first time I met Imarisha was in January, 2015, when she was featured as the keynote speaker to present “Oregon’s Racial History and King’s Vision of Justice,” for a Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at the Majestic Theatre, in Corvallis, Ore.

You couldn’t deny the power of her presence when she spoke: she was confident, fearless, and completely unapologetic for who she is and what she stands for. I remember the instant goosebumps when she kicked off with a spoken word poem, and by the end of her presentation the entire theatre stood for a round of applause. I thought to myself “I want to be like her one day, I want to have that kind of impact with my words.” Since then, I’ve attended a book signing, multiple lectures, workshops, and have been lucky enough to sit one-on-one for a personal interview with Imarisha.

Imarisha is a public scholar, spoken word artist, writer, activist, journalist, and educator, who currently lectures at Stanford University’s Program of Writing and Rhetoric. She’s taught at Portland State University’s Black Studies Department, Oregon State University’s Women Studies Department, and Southern New Hampshire University’s English and Literature Department.

Growing up on military base, Imarisha says the support from her mother showed her the possibilities of what she could achieve.

“My mom has been very foundational to me. She doesn’t necessarily call herself a feminist, but she absolutely is where I learned feminist principles,” said Imarisha. “She was like ‘We’re going to travel, we’re going to see the world, we’re going to do what we want to do, and I’m not going to let someone tell either of us what we can or can’t do.’ She also always taught me to be true to myself.”

She is well known for her statewide presentation: “Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon?” and for creating the expression “visionary fiction.” Some of her work includes but is not limited to: author of the poetry collection “Scars/Stars,” and the creative nonfiction “Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption,” co-editing the anthology “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements,” and was an editor for the anthology “Another World is Possible.”

Has it always been a dream of yours to be in the position that you’re in with your career?

I definitely always wanted to be a writer. And I think the idea of communicating ideas and thoughts is something that’s foundational, and kind of the core of everything that I do. I think it’s more about finding different mediums for conveying ideas, and starting conversations, getting folks to think differently.

I definitely see all of my work as intertwined and interrelated. Sometimes poetry is more effective for some things, sometimes an academic format is more effective, sometimes poetry writing workshops are more effective. All the time science fiction is more effective.

I also feel the core of everything I do is a commitment to justice and a commitment to trying and revisioning the world and dreaming better futures, and so I think my life has taken a very circuitous route and gone many different places, I’m doing things that I didn’t imagine I would be doing. But I think that it was kind of keeping that as my guiding light, as my north star, and it has never steered me wrong.

When did your love for sci-fi begin?

Science fiction was one of the few genres where you actually got to see through the eyes of “the other.” And they may be a green person, or someone with tentacles, but the ways they were treated felt much more familiar.

Part of what drew me was that I got to hear stories from the alien’s perspective, from the perspective of people who felt familiar. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting to read literature written by folks of color, but it felt like I was getting closer to hearing marginalized voices than in most other genres.

The space of saying whatever you can imagine is possible was incredibly compelling to me. I also think even though I wasn’t able to articulate it as a child, I understood that the aliens were more like me, than I was like most of the main characters.

How do you decide which outlet you want to use when curating new writings?

Most of the time it’s not a conscious decision, if I’m just writing, it’ll come out however it comes out. Sometimes I have no idea what it is I’m like: Is that a poem? Is that a short story? I don’t know what that is. Is that an essay, a personal essay? Sometimes it’s about the projects I’m working on, or things people ask me to do.

I used to be in a punk band; I started liking punk in high school and I definitely felt like it spoke to my feelings and my rage and my sensibilities. I really was drawn to the idea that we can do it ourselves, to be creative, and to question everything we’re told.

And also, when I discovered mosh pits I was like: this is an amazing outlet for the rage I feel as a young black woman every single day.

How old were you when you when you started getting into punk?

I started getting into punk while I was going to high school, I must have been 15 or 16, when I lived in Springfield, Ore., and it was all white. The bands I listened to were white, the people were white, and there were three of us who were brown. So I was like “I guess this is a white thing and I like it.”

I was lucky enough when I moved to Philadelphia, to the East coast, I got to meet punks of color, and folks who were very clear that actually punk music is rooted in black music. So I ended up hearing the band that I joined Ricanstruction. They’re all Puerto Rican, and considered themselves to be black.

They talked about the fact that Puerto Rican folks, caribbean folks, all have African heritage, and are black regardless of shade and facial features. It was really helpful because my mom is white and my dad is black, so obviously I grew up with white people being very clear that I was black. But also not necessarily feeling like I connected everywhere with “blackness” entirely.

So it was really useful to engage with these folks who were like “black is a political decision, and we choose to be black because we stand in solidarity with people who are the most oppressed.” And I was like “Word! Alright.” They were incredible musicians, all of them were some of the best musicians for their fields that I’ve ever met, and they were also all rooted in the intersections of music.

They loved punk, they also loved salsa and reggae, and hip hop; every form of music, soul and rock. Our lead singer used to say we committed “genrecide” by saying “these aren’t neat boxes, this is all music,” and he was like “this is all black music,” and it all has common roots, so we don’t have to be like “this is our punk song, this is our soul song.” So people would listen and be like “we don’t know what ya’ll are doing.”

That’s the best part, when you can’t fit someone in a category, when it’s just something that you feel.

I’m really glad I came into punk, and came to that band for many different reasons. I think it gave me my political ideological foundation, but I also think it really influenced my own writing of saying “I don’t have to accept genres, and I can commit genrecide in my writing as well.”

I think with “Octavia’s Brood,” and the science fiction anthology written by organizers that I edited, when I approached publishers they were like “we don’t even know how to sell this, or market it.” And we were like that’s fine we’re committing genrecide, we don’t have to be put in a little box.

Especially with my latest book “Angels With Dirty Faces,” I actually had an agent who said “I love this book, it’s amazing, but I have no idea how I would market it to a publishing company. Because it’s memoirs/true crime/analysis/racial ideology/sociology/ with poetic writing, I don’t know where it fits.”

It certainly makes commercial success harder, but I think it makes life more organic and real to be your full, complete self, and bring all of your pieces to all that you do.

*On her racial ideology*

It was really important for me, learning about black liberation movements, especially the Black Panther Party, and getting to engage with political prisoners from that era. Specifically Sundiata Acoli, a former Black Panther and political prisoner.

I started writing him while I was in college, and then when I moved to Philadelphia he was being held in Pennsylvania, so every month I would go visit him. I think it was really helpful for my racial ideology, because I think I had a little of what I call “the bi-racial blues,” of being like “I don’t fit in anywhere, no one wants me.”

Sundiata was helping me see the differences between different community’s reactions, because I think a lot of times, when, especially mixed black folks are feeling like “white folks don’t want me; black folks don’t want me.”

But what Sundiata said was often times when black folks were saying things like “you sound white,” or “why do you act like a white girl,” what they’re saying is, “are you going to take the privileges that you have, that I can very much see you have and leave us when it becomes convenient, or are you going to be part of this community?”

It was life changing. I think I was 18 or 19 when he told me that and we were in a prison visiting room, and I wanted to cry.

*On Black Lives Matter*

I think it’s an important movement that’s happening right now. There’s a struggle for justice in every generation, every generation has work to do.

I feel like Black Lives Matter is part of a long lineage of black survival movements in this nation that says “we will claim our right to exist. And we will claim our right to exist as we want to exist, not as you tell us we should exist.”

I think focusing on Black Lives Matter, what we do want, is visionary. It’s also science fiction, because black lives don’t matter to mainstream America, and they have never mattered to mainstream America. It’s kind of pulling this future into the present.

It’s saying “we will live this science fiction dream as if it was reality, until it becomes reality.”

hope this time

Art, poetry, talk, Uncategorized, Words

Poem by Alyssa Faye Campbell

Art by Jessie Petrylak

blm

 

in the face of adversity the load becomes

heavy – as we strive towards so much

more. we arrived with words as keys,

discovering our strength from their

energy – “Black Lives Matter.”

forsaken chants – no remedy,

another hashtag. awaiting

brighter days; and there

will be.

even in

the dark

we grow – in

the

dark

we glow.

so much pain –

still, there’s always hope.

where is heaven for a

Black

angel –

when

will

all

Lives

really

Matter

 

Calm Down, Witch

music, talk, Uncategorized

The Ultimate Guide to Self-Love Through Enchantments & Witch Tips

By Jess Petrylak

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Life comes at you fast (surprise, bitch) and sometimes you need a little something extra that will remedy the seemingly uncontrollable bad vibes. The following are easy, totally do-able, totally safe, and affordable spells/enchantments/tips that can get you through even the toughest of times, while still embracing the supreme witch that you are:

 

1. Go Crystal Shopping at your Local Occult Shop

There is truly nothing more spiritual and magical than letting a crystal choose you. Upon walking into your local occult shop, gaze over the crystals, pick them up and experience them. Crystals have a unique way of knowing what you need and call out to you (try not to be biased based on color and shape!). For example, selenite, which is a personal favorite,aids with mental clarity, and is often used to help with anxiety. Once you have picked out your crystal, research it and make sure you know when and how it is charged for full healing properties. Just having a little crystal companion to keep on you wherever you go will definitely give you a feeling of protection and safety.

 2. Burn Away the Bad Vibes with Incense and Candles
Much like crystals, burning certain colored candles and specific incense can emit a healing energy with a few simple steps. Choosing a candle color is essential to releasing the correct vibes you wish to obtain; for example, if you were seeking change, you would choose a turquoise colored candle. To prepare your candle, you must cleanse it by rubbing lite olive oil upwards towards the wick. This process strengthens the candles abilities. The spiritual meanings of incense fragrances bring forth clarity of mind as well as other magical properties. Burning  frankincense can purify negativity and bring forth courage. (Remember to never let your guard down when experimenting with fire!)

3. Brew Up a Tea Potion
Teas are yummy and easy potions for beginners on a budget. You simply mix the ingredients, let them steep in hot water, and experience the potion as it emits throughout your being. Make sure your atmosphere reflects the qualities you are looking for and is protected. You can find Sucker’s Beginners Guide to Tea Potions here

 4. Have a Bewitching Night Out with your Coven
Although indulging in solitude is totally necessary when feeling overwhelmed, it can add gloom to your already stressed out vibes. Ring up some of your closest friends, dress in all black, fly over to your favorite haunt, drink a couple brews and relax. If going out isn’t your scene, inviting friends over for a cozy night in is a fun, serine experience for everyone. Watching a Sucker recommended movie gathered around a glowing crystal salt lamp will definitely heal your aura.  

5. Cleanse your Being in the Bath or Shower
Showering or bathing seems like too much work and a waste of time when you have so many other things to do. We’ve all had those days (..or few days) where we have gone without showering, but it will calm you down and make you feel even better if you do. Just using natural shampoos and soaps in the shower can sometimes leave you and your being feeling entirely refreshed. If you opt to bathe, soaking in a homemade bath spell, accompanied with crystals and candles most definitely do the trick as well. The following is a fairly simple, vegan friendly, bath spell that can be used to heal one’s spirit (specifically those who have experienced trauma):

• 1-2 cup(s) Milk (Powdered or Liquid, Dairy or Non-Dairy) for Nurturing
• ¼ cup Honey (Protection) and/or Maple Syrup (Rebirth, Healing)
• 5 Drops Lavender Oil (Tranquility, Peace of Mind, Eased Sleep)
• [Optional] 5 Drops Clary Sage (Protection, Related to the Reproductive System)
• ¼ Cup Himalayan Pink (Cleansing, Self Love) or Sea Salt (Cleansing, Purification)
• Lemon Slices (Cleansing– Avoid sun exposure for 6 hours after using lemon in bath; do not use if having a dairy milk bath, as it can curdle. And that would be yucky).
• Oatmeal (Soothing)
• Rosemary (Protection)
• Rose Quartz (Self love)
• Amethyst (Healing and Restful Sleep)
• Rhodonite (Recovery of Trauma– Do not put in water as it might dissolve, leave on edge of tub)
• Pink, White, and Light Blue Candles (Healing, Self Love, and Purification)

 

6. Channel the White Witch and twirl like Stevie Nicks
Getting out of bed is sometimes the hardest part of day, let alone getting up the energy to do any physical activity.  If you’re not in the mindset to jog or go to the gym, at least get on your feet and do some signature Stevie Nicks twirls (but do it responsibly), and when you do it, do it cool.

89e8c2af-149c-4479-ab26-1ea845ee21a4
7. Listening to our “Calm Down, Witch” Playlist
When practicing any form of self love, it’s important to have a soundtrack that calms your spirit and makes you feel invincible. This playlist is specifically made for practicing self love through enchantments and witch tips, enjoy!:

Slamming Sexual Violence

Art, poetry, talk, Uncategorized

University of Oregon’s Student Poetry Slam Addresses Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Words by Alyssa Campbell

Illustration by Kayla Guttierez

slamming sexual violence

Illustration by Kayla Gutierrez

 

Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words are also weapons.

When saying “no” is not enough, how do you cope with the trauma of being violated?

On April 5, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Team at the University of Oregon held round three of their Anti-Sexual Violence Poetry Slam. The first round took place fall 2014, followed by the second round fall 2015.

It started as a release party, a way to get people in the same space to pick up the newest issue of “The Siren Magazine,” a feminist magazine on the UO campus.

Students and guests showed sincere respect and expressions of deep compassion.

It was a safe zone.

“If I lose my voice I lose everything,” said poet and member of UO’s Organization Against Sexual Assault Sofia Mackey. “You cannot protect yourself from isolation.”

This year the slam was geared towards SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month).

“There’s a lot of talking at people and informing them. Getting the word out and not a lot of survivors getting to stand up and say ‘This is my experience and I’m gonna talk about it the way I want to talk about it,’ ” said Sophie Albanis. “This is valuable in that sense, it lets people define themselves and their experiences.”

Albanis is the organizer of the slam event, a member of Associated Students of UO and an advocate for the UO student government.

“This is definitely the biggest turnout we’ve had for this event,” said Albanis. “This is the most overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve gotten. I really feel motivated to do more poetry slams.”

These poetry slams have helped her become comfortable identifying as a survivor.

Albanis` experience is one that she has no memory of. Someone had to tell her about what happened the next day and although she doesn’t remember, she knows it happened.

“A lot of people feel because I didn’t remember it or because I didn’t feel the pain after it happened, I’m not a real survivor,” said Albanis. “This event is what enabled me to say ‘Fuck you, I am a survivor.’ ”

Through poetry, readers shared experiences of rape trauma, repressed anger, new love and generational trauma.

“I was suffering a lot, for me what really helped me figure some things out was writing,” said poet Vienna Soulé. “I didn’t have to keep that inside of me anymore. I could write it out on paper and that’s where it stayed.”

Vice President for the UO student government Claire Johnson works as a member of the Organization Against Sexual Assault.

“I strongly believe too often our society puts these ideas into survivors heads that it’s their fault or they deserve it,” said Johnson. “All of your stories really make a difference.”

It was her first time sharing a piece she wrote since becoming a survivor a month ago.

“Art expression is a super valuable way for people to release feelings and thoughts they may not be able to get out otherwise,” said Johnson. “Expressing myself definitely helps me one way or another.”

Working at past poetry slams and speak-outs inspired her to let her voice be heard.

“I really learned how important it is to have a safe space for people to feel comfortable to express themselves and their experiences,” said Johnson. “Without these safe spaces, it’s hard for someone to heal. I definitely resonate with that.”

The support she’s gotten from her coworkers, friends and other survivors she knows has given her the courage to share her story.

“I looked to them for strength and found courage within myself from the courage they had,” said Johnson.

Emma Sharp and Charlie Landeros, members of UO’s Sexual Wellness Awareness Team switched the mood up with rhythm and poetry.

The crowd responded back with praise as the duo rapped lyrics like “It’s my body and you’re not God motherfucker.”

Concluding the slam a man named Julius Alecsandre shared his story about being sexually assaulted and his family not supporting him.

“I’m very openly gay,” said Alecsandre. “Pertaining to sexual awareness, this is my story.”

The crowd covered their mouths and put their heads down as Alecsandre shared vivid details about his horrific experience.

“Even though I was fighting back his fists felt like bricks to my face. I felt him tearing me open,” said Alecsandre. “I remember waking up in the hospital surrounded by my family. They were embarrassed and angry.”

Dealing with the trauma of being sexually assaulted isn’t something that is easy to overcome, the scars never heal. But there are ways to help, you don’t have to suffer and isolate yourself. You don’t have to live feeling alone. There are people who care and you do matter.

“I want to challenge people to educate themselves on sexual assault. Go to events like this. There’s very real humans behind the stories, get to know them,” said Landeros. “Art is one of the last forms of magic we have in this world, especially poetry, it’s just raw emotion.”

At a Glance:

  • According to the Bureau of Justice, “Sexual assault is a wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling.  It also includes verbal threats.”  
  • Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network has reported that every year there’s an average of 293,000 cases of sexual assault.
  • Every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted, 44 percent of victims are under the age of 30.
  • Four out of five assaults are from someone known by the victim and 47 percent are a friend or acquaintance.
  • Sixty-eight percent of assaults are not reported to police, meaning 98 percent of rapists will never face jail time.

 

Poetry Month Highlight: Walt Whitman “The Father of Free Verse”

Art, poetry, talk, Uncategorized

By Alyssa Campbell

Landscape

 

In honor of poetry month I wanted to write something to celebrate one of my favorite American poets, Walt Whitman. He was a poet who wasn’t afraid to reject the traditional poetry style. By challenging it he created a new style, known today as free verse. His genius wasn’t appreciated during his time but he opened new doors by consistently showing a strong sense of self, confidence and devotion towards human dignity. He was able to see the beauty and love in all people and represent that by tying everything back to himself. He did this in a completely non egotistical or vain way. Instead he was able to see the divine within himself that he saw in all people.

He has inspired some of the greatest writers including Langston Hughes, with his admirable unapologetic desire to express himself truthfully. His use of repetition helps to place importance on certain feelings that are brought forward through his poetry. His choice of diction and word placement give his poetry a completely new form because it carries so much depth and opens new possibilities. I especially enjoy the way he describes the senses and the natural world. His outlook shows that he loved the mystical and saw this all as a part of who we are.

Essentially Walt Whitman is a reflection of all of us, the confidence we all seek to find within ourselves. He truly had a love for helping people. He was someone who wanted to bring forward the good in humanity by demonstrating it through his own acts of kindness. The poem by Whitman that inspired this piece is from “Song of Myself” beginning number 24 and ending on line 544. I wanted to try to create a piece that would capture the different points he made by using myself. He starts by introducing himself, “Walt Whitman, kosmos, of Manhattan the son.” By adding “kosmos” after his name he is embracing the idea that he is a part of the universe, therefore from the beginning he introduces himself as a part of everyone and everything.

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I wanted to mirror that first line, but I put “infinite” representing that we are all full of many possibilities and our souls are endless. This also ties into Whitman’s view on death, which he saw as something just as beautiful as life. He believed it is just the beginning for something else, another life. Although Whitman was not from Manhattan I believe he wrote “of Manhattan the son” because he drew a lot of inspiration from there. It inspired a lot of his work, including “Leaves of Grass.” Although Oregon is a new chapter in my life and has been inspiring so much of my work, being from Long Beach, I wanted to use that. It’s where I came from and has made me who I am today.

He talks about basically cutting yourself loose from whatever it is that is limiting you, “Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from the jambs!” My take on this was to use a window, the idea of flying and being free. When referring to “free fall” it was NOT to glamorize the idea of death or suicide, but to represent letting yourself go and not holding yourself back.

In line 506 he touches on his belief that we are all equal and that is what he lives by. I definitely wanted to mirror that in my poem. Starting line 508 he wrote how he is the unfortunate in this word. He doesn’t look down on them nor separate them from himself.

Portrait

Going further Whitman does a beautiful job touching on the senses. In each line of “Leaves of Grass” he uses diction that expresses the human body as a beautiful creation, by making that connection to everything around us. Whether it be “shaded legs,” “rich blood,” “breast that presses against other breasts,” “trickling sap of maple,” “fibre of manly wheat,” “broad muscular fields,” “branches of live oak.”

People looked down on and shamed Whitman for being so open about his sexuality. He wrote “voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil’d and I remove the veil.” Which he certainly did. I wanted to talk about a veil that I hope to lift through my poetry which is not feeling bad for FEELING. A lot of the time we are told to suppress our feelings, deal with it, keep it to ourselves. Channeling those emotions into poetry and art is an amazing form of therapy and there is definitely something out there for everyone to connect to.

 

“Re-examine all that you have been told… dismiss that which insults your soul.”

 

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

 

“I exist as I am, that is enough.”

 

“I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also.”

 

“The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel.”

 

“The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.”

 

I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”

-Walt Whitman

 

Song of Myself

by Alyssa Campbell

 

Alyssa Campbell, Infinite, of Long Beach the daughter,

Sensitive, sincere, millennial, bleeding and healing

No saint, no stranger to the fabricated reflection of my ancestor’s through my parents

No more guided than misguided.

 

Push through the fog of depression and fly through open windows!

Push through the windows and free fall!

 

Whoever belittles another belittles me

And those who hurt with longing to be loved are loved by me

 

Through me is hope and feeling and feeling , through me the sheeple and the

Awake.

 

I cry the tears of the empathetic and I give voice to the voiceless.

For He is my witness! I will settle for nothing less than equality for all until it is practiced by all through love and compassion.

 

Through me the struggle of the streets,

Whispers from the darkest places of the mind creating prisons out of flesh

Whispers from the sick and the suffering and of the crazy and cool

 

I believe in the tired and the trapped,

Loving, hurting, overcoming, are things to look forward to and the pain I have felt has been necessary in shaping me.

Whole am I, never craving the love of another to fulfill the void in my heart. I am love and loved.

 

If I look where I worship it is not in any figure or person or being but the divine within me that is a part of something greater

Growing and going further it is because of you!

Broken branches and colorful flower petals stand out because they mirror both sides of you!

The sound of the rain on my roof, sinking into the earth of my skin is in praise of you!

The sun shines and gives me life, cleansing what no longer serves my soul inspired by you!

Faces I have seen and have never seen and that I am waiting to see are all revealed in the image of you!

 

The depths of the ocean, the rays of the sun, the hypnotizing glow of the moon, the possibilities of the stars shining confidently show all the greatness you shall become.

 

The Whitewashing of Punk Rock

talk, Uncategorized

By Kayla Gutierrez

Bad-Brains-19791.jpg

 

Bad Brains

 

In all honesty, every other morning I wake up paranoid. Simple paranoia that creates panic. Not for anyone anymore but for myself. That I won’t make it through anything in life because of my pigment.

Punk Rock has always been a huge part of my life, but as I was growing up, I’ve been humiliated and belittled for it, because of my skin.

The fact that in reality, there is bias in punk rock is discouraging alone. People of color can’t enjoy the music without being debunked for it; although the origins of rock music come from colored people. There haven’t been a lot of articles written by people talking about their experiences with the white-washing of punk rock.

My experiences weren’t easy; it made life a bit hard to swallow. At the age of ten, I remember hearing Bikini Kill playing on someone’s CD player; the volume was incredibly loud. I loved it so much that I began making harsh enjoyable movement to it; the person playing the music was a Caucasian female with faded purple hair. She turned to me and said, “I’ve never seen a black kid like rock. It’s kinda weird to me.” Her tone was playful, but I felt her strain.

As if she was territorial for the culture.

Not to long ago, I was standing outside with a friend and a group of pale goth girls came up to us; and proceeded to insult my black eye makeup. They told me it was weird how a black girl wears black eye makeup, and basically told me to take it off. Telling me I’m “stale and cheap” for trying to be goth.

Is it wrong for wanting to be who I am? Apparently so, due to the whitewashing of punk rock. The stereotype of colored kids is that we only dribble a ball, rap a lyric and be insanely ghetto; and it’s driving me off the wall.

Another time, when I was in the seventh grade, a couple, both white punk rockers, came up to me when I was waiting for my mother to pick me up from school; and began bothering me about me listening to rock music (my volume was too loud and others could hear it.)

The boy began saying that “a nigger shouldn’t be listening to Iggy Pop,” “black kids can’t listen to rock,” “stop trying to be like us,” whilst the female companion began laughing at the embarrassment.

After more insults, both of them began punching me and hitting; making me fall off the concrete seat that is provided for people to sit on outside of the school.

I fell hard on the rough floor, my earphones ripping off my ears, and cried silently. They took my phone to stop the playing music, and threw it at me.

They left quickly, I fixed myself up, and waited for my mother to pick me up.

There are incredible bands that are notable that have line-ups that have African-Americans, such bands like: Death, Pure Hell, Bad Brains, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Kennedys, Fishbone, Wesley Willis Fiasco, Suffrajett, The Templars, and Rough Francis.  

I have been spat at, have been screamed in the face, beaten over, and rejected all because I’m black and I love rock music.

Yes, the Riot Grrrl movement in the nineties had primarily white women on their line-up, but those women stood up for all types of women, including the ones of color. These female musicians being able to express raw emotions on either the government, social injustice issues, domestic violence, sexual assault, and many more day-to-day problems.

Regardless of the media only wanting to portray white women in punk rock, these musicians didn’t forget punk rockers of color and in any other situation. And for that, I will always love the Riot Grrrls of this special, powerful movement.

They spoke for me, they screamed for me and to the day I die, I will not stop listening to punk rock. It made me stronger, gave me skin of steel.

Punk Rock is for everybody. It’s meant for all humans; this white-washing has destroyed that moral of rock n’ roll. It has turned such an ugly direction that has caused racism and hate; when really punk rock was made for people to understand that we all go through struggles and create an unspoken equality among each other.

Ironic.

GIRLS TO THE FRONT

music, talk, Uncategorized

An Open Letter to the Original Riot Grrrls

By Dylan Conner

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First off, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you for forcefully paving a way for women in punk, thank you for showing young and aspiring girls that they had a place in the scene. But mostly thank you for carrying a legacy that will be cherished for generations. You sparked a sense of community among women that nobody had quite seen anymore, and while it was a hard pill to swallow, you made it known that you were no ordinary goddamn pill. The vast importance of the conversations your music and art sparked is absolutely endless, and as young women, we appreciate you. Every time you made us feel like it was okay to be angry about mistreatment, to the loud guitar riffs that made us want to scream at the top of our lungs, we thank you. For all of it.

So to the original Riot Grrrls of the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast, we thank you. For the endless inspiration and the voice you have given so many women.

With love,

The girls of Sucker Magazine

“Language of Fish”

talk, Uncategorized

Words & Photos by Jenn Endless

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[sek-shoo-al-i-tee] – noun. an organism’s preparedness for engaging in sexual activity


I had elaborate daydreams about running away to the big city or Europe. I couldn’t stay at
home anymore, and the band was bust. Sexuality was an enigmatic thing.


I hoarded money until I had enough to board a plane taking off into the skies towards the wide Atlantic and touched down in Paris seven hours later before transferring to a southbound TGV.

 

I listened to conversations in the carriage as the train approached yellow and violet lights.

 

***


[kweer] – adj. strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint


When I was living in Bordeaux, I wasn’t “out.” I wrote stealth posts in a blog about life there. When you walk through a shop door you say bonjour monsieur, bonjour madame.


I still couldn’t escape a world where “male” and “female” have separate roles.


On the way upstairs to my room in Bordeaux, my landlady says, “you have short hair for a
girl.” I didn’t have an answer, so she asked her next question, “Why don’t you have a
boyfriend?”

 

I didn’t explain that I only like boys sometimes. That long hair was a pain, and I didn’t like
brushing it anyway. I walked up the rest of the stairs to my room and locked the door.


***


[lib-er-uh l] – adj. favorable to progress or reform


Friends in Paris don’t ask intrusive questions. They’re conscious of social space. Life is private in a way that’s denied in all the others places I’ve known. I can be anonymous here.


They say that they’re upset marriage equality hasn’t been ratified in France yet, but Paris is a cosmopolitan city. This isn’t necessarily a liberal viewpoint.


I was staying in Bordeaux, en province, away from the big city.


***


[mar-ij] – noun. interpersonal union


I visit the cathedrals in Bordeaux to walk over the same flagstones as medieval popes. Prayer candles light dark corners when mass is not in session.


A pamphlet says accepting familles non traditionnelles is God’s work, but their lives aren’t sacred. “Marriage equality” is pandering to the liberals, not progress.


My bus is re-routed from the city centre, which is cordoned off by police barricades for a
traditional family rally. un père, une mère, une famille. Kids are marching with their parents.


The French government is wavering on its decision about marriage equality. Church is separate from state, but people go to sermons where priests still preach tradition.


***


[streyt] – without a bend, angle or curve


In high school, I was into a girl from Brazil who said she could make me “feel like a real
woman.” We sent messages back and forth late at night.

 

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I was nervous. Everybody knows everybody, and they have the same Protestant upbringings.


I hung out with boys and tried to convince myself I liked sloppy make-out sessions and
mutilated foreplay, that I believed in their God and the second amendment.


I tried not to notice that I didn’t like kissing these boys, that they used the word “faggot.”


Right before I left town, I typed a message to Veronica from Brazil. I wrote down the b-word. She didn’t respond, but there was the word staring back at me.


***


[lang-gwij] – a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people


Lavender shampoo is in French. Fresh onions are in French. Train tickets are in French


Feminist groups are still fighting the good fight against l’Académie Française. They want la
docteure formally added to their vocabulary because le docteur doesn’t describe their profession.


Words are a breathing creature, and moving from one language to another is not a simple act of translation. Sometimes another language is a better communicator.


***
[kuhl-cher] – a particular form or stage of civilization


Sex shops line the streets in the Pigalle neighborhood of Paris, neon signs blinking.


The Queer Scene isn’t glitter and leather like those in New York City or London. Passersby are subdued.


Maybe they don’t feel the need to be “out.”


Maybe all cultures don’t reject femininity/queerness like they do in the States. Maybe queer people in Paris want to keep their scene to themselves.


A lady waves frantically at me from across the street, “No Pictures.”


***


[jen-der] – a category system of human beings


I sit in a room with paisley walls at night, and the corners are illuminated by a pink lamp. The room leads out onto a balcony and a damp courtyard. Leaves are rotting in February.


I’m reading articles about gender roles & fluid sexuality online. The problem with definitions is that they’re arbitrary. The advantage of language is that it’s malleable and without master.


We share a cup of wine at a café in Toulouse, en terrasse, and he asks me what bands I’m into.


He’s not prepared to hear me say the music industry only wants girls to write about what guys have done to them. We can’t write songs about other girls. We can’t write songs about us.


***


[rayht] – to express or communicate on the surface of some material


In the French film “Tomboy” Mickaël is forced to wear a dress to visit a friend in the apartment downstairs when he’d rather wear shorts.

 

Adèle falls unexplainably in love with blue-haired girl Emma in “Blue is the Warmest Color.”


France ratified marriage equality two years before the US.


French voices helped me find my own language before English ones.


I’m twenty when I move to Chicago, and I am starting the first lines of a poem, a song, a story in a familiar language, an intimate language, an ancient one.