Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

I Do Not Consent: Musings on Sexual Terrorism

In Commentary on November 18, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I am the history of rape

I am the history of the rejection of who I am

I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of


I am the history of battery assault and limitless

armies against whatever I want to do with my mind

and my body and my soul and

whether it’s about walking out at night

or whether it’s about the love that I feel or

whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or

the sanctity of my national boundaries

or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity

of each and every desire

that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic

and indisputably single and singular heart

I have been raped

From A Poem About My Rights by- June Jordan

I have been steadily dodging the writing of this blogpost, however the words you are reading haunt me.  I would like to say that my thoughts about rape began just a few months back, but this would be a lie.  As a woman, and especially a Black woman, unkept and unsafe, the threat of rape is almost as constant as breathing and books.  What I will say is that rape has been at the forefront of my thoughts since POTUS Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which may seem odd, although it is not.  Once the announcement was made, I became curious to see who else had been

nominated.  I consider myself solution oriented and felt that if I would denounce my support of the committee’s choice, I certainly would need to provide the name of a more deserving victor.

As I searched the list and read the stories, one name in particular was familiar to me, although unfortunately not in cheer. It was Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, who has dedicated his life to treating the women of DRC who are the victims of rapes so brutal that I would need an entirely separate blogpost to describe them.  Dr. Mukwege’s hospital is overrun with battered, tortured, mutilated women, whose only offense in this world is being born into it. In one province alone, over 27,000 rapes were reported, which accounts for at least 70% of the women living there.  While addressing the US Senate last year Dr. Mukwege made the following statement, that has etched it’s way into my memory much like my favorite lovers or Baldwin quotes, “It is important to point out that this sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner”.  It had never occurred to me previously to describe rape as terrorist or methodical, but therein lies the truth of it.

Moving forward in time, again my thoughts and heart are bombarded with the ugliness of rape after reading an article about a fifteen year old girl being gang raped by five boys as more than twenty people spectated.  My blood boiled so terribly that I assumed it was fever and that this world had been successful in literally making me sick.  And as I spoke about the incident on twitter, I began to receive all of these private messages from women who had been victims of gang rapes themselves.  I didn’t want to believe that such violence against women was so prevalent, so commonplace. Subsequently, the days and nights following the details of that rape were exhausting.  Thoughts of my and my daughter’s safety began to eat away at my sleeping hours, and I kept wanting to embrace all of the women who contacted me, somehow allowing my love to spill through my pores, providing protection where others had failed them.  Yes rape is terrible and a terror, even for those women not raped.

Rape is terrorism, especially if one defines terrorism as, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce”.  Certainly, there is no stronger example that one could present to contest an individual’s (and possibly a group’s) humanity than a publicly viewed rape and torture, as were the cases in the Congo and in California.   Suddenly there did not seem to be so much distance between the US and the DRC.  Consequently, as tragic as these rapes are we cannot afford to limit our anger and remorse to these specific cases of abuse.  Sexual violence against women also includes sexual harassment/extortion, spousal abuse, incest and child rape (May peace be upon Shaniya Davis), forced sterilizations, and an overall inability to choose, as a woman, what happens to one’s body.   My revolutionary crush, Angela Davis, agrees, which I noted while reading an address she presented at Florida State University in 1985 entitled, We Do Not Consent: Violence Against Women in a Racist Society. She writes:

These particular manifestations of violence against women are situated on a larger continuum of socially inflicted violence, which includes concerted, systematic violations of women’s economic and political rights. As has been the case throughout history, these attacks most gravely affect women of color than their white working-class sisters.   The dreadful rape epidemic of our times, which has become so widespread that one out of every three women in this country can expect to be raped at some point during her life, grimly mirrors the deteriorating economic and social status of women today.

If we disconnect rape, and consequently, all sexual violence against women, from their socio-economic foundations, we cannot adequately discuss solutions to said abuses.  We dis-serve women by only acting or objecting to sexual abuse in extreme cases.  We have to understand that a woman should control her reproduction, or desired lack thereof- and be allowed to do so safely and with no judgment.  We must admit that, no matter how “provocatively” dressed or sexually explicit a woman appears to be, we have no right to objectify her and/or harass her.  We cannot emotionally abuse women, use women, treat them as receptacles, even if they contend that such treatment is okay, because we know that it is not. We have to sincerely view women as human beings before we can wholeheartedly respect and protect them.

There is no truth but this.

Please read the rest of June Jordan’s poem A Poem About My Rights here:

To truly understand the intersection of race, class and gender, please read Angela Y Davis’ Women, Culture and Politics

More on Dr. Denis Mukwege and his mission here:


The Question of “Precious” and Monolithic Representations of Black Life.

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Thus all Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda. But I do care when propaganda is confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent. ~ From The Criteria of Negro Art by W.E.B. DuBois

I have not gone to see the film Precious, nor have I read the novel Push. It is a personal choice really, mainly attributed to the sort of funk that I find myself in these days.  As I read headline after despairing headline, I realize that I have somehow become hopeless in the facts of life; a hopelessness that packs the room so tightly that there is no room for fiction.   I also rarely watch television, as I have learned to sensor what I allow to penetrate my thoughts. Thoughts become things they say. I also believe that they become spirits, which steal sleep and appetites, if one is not careful.  I find myself though, out of curiosity, reading many reviews of the film that lead me to believe it chronicles some of the most profane and bestial abuse that one could imagine one human being inflicting upon another.

I would be remiss to pretend that the tragedy of child abuse, child rape, and the stealing of innocence from children is not a dark part of our community-festering like a sore- never healing.  I’m reminded of this reality specifically today as I read headlines surrounding the murder of Shaniya Davis, a beautiful five year old who was sold into sexual slavery by the woman who gave birth to her and murdered by the man who procured her.  I choke trying to pronounce my feelings for her as I witness video stills of her murderer carrying her to a hotel room where he will undoubtedly do things my heart won’t allow me to imagine.  I’m nauseous, my hands are jittery, and I am slowly unraveling at the core behind what we have ceased to be, and subsequently what we have become.  As people continue to question why or why not a film like Precious needed to be made, my ponderings stretch beyond this.

I am not as much anti-Precious as I am pro- a film that depicts the lives of healthy, happy, well-adjusted Black children.  For I realize that, as much as we choose not to embrace this fact, we are at war for control of our image, our story, and our legacy.  Now, do not lose my message by believing that I do not support the telling of this story, as I realize that it may help and cure someone, just in its telling.  However, for every Precious, there needs to be an “insert film about beautiful Black love and beautiful Black babies that are a product of such love”, precisely because anything other than this creates an awful monolithic caricature of Black life that can be wielded by our oppressors as a sharp sword shanking our sanity (Check my fresh with that alliteration).  Television, film, written works, are propaganda that will either be used to further our cause or retard it.

I am simply in love with Black people, and I am a jealous lover. I care about how we look. I care about how we feel. I want to ensure that everyone who sees us at our worst, also sees us at our best.  In my fit of possessiveness I reflect upon the lives and strivings of those like W.E.B Dubois (who I’ve quoted above), Carter G Woodson, John Hope Franklin, and others who became determined to scribe our history after they were told as children that the Negro had no legacy beyond slavery.  Their fancy love affair with Black people led them on a life long quest to uncover all of our hidden treasures.  It is important work that requires dedication, protectiveness, and an almost infatuation with the manner in which we are presented.  These men are now of the spirit world. Who among us plans to fill their shoes and tell a story that stretches far beyond hate, abuse, and mayhem?

I, for one, am plenty full of the tragedy and hopelessness that is presented as Black life.  I have earnest plans to speak of us victoriously. I would besiege you all to take upon yourselves a similar labor of love, and if not be prepared to explain to your children why they are looked upon with the contempt of being dire and destitute, and nothing more. Of course, in the end, we all have choices to make. Choose well my friends….Choose well.