Father’s Day, Juneteenth, & Coonvilles like Mine

June 19, 2016

Father’s Day collides with Juneteenth this year.

Juneteenth–a day of emancipation for enslaved black folk, my ancestors. Black folk who lived a stone’s throw from where their daughter would have the privilege of attending Rice University thanks to their faithfulness. Patient folk who learned quite belatedly, two-and-a-half years plus 19 days to be precise, that they were free from chattel slavery, at least that form of it.

Yet, 153 years after Juneteenth, freedom for the black male remains an oxymoron. An elusive American Dream. An embodied nightmare.

Because in 2016, black bodies, particularly black male bodies remain shackled.

Chained to a carceral Republic that only intended to commodify black bodies for the solidification of the Capitalism borne of a Protestant Ethic. And after slavery was over, left them to the fate of a white, governmental invisible hand that magically keeps thieir unemployment rates at 50%. They call this political economy.

Dehumanized by a polity that deemed them 3/5 persons and eagerly performed experiments on them–injecting syphilis into their “animal” veins. Or scraped cells from a woman’s cervix sans permission and called it proper cancer research–HeLa has a name. They call this Western Medicine.

Stripped of dignity by a country hellbent on perpetuating the myth that race does not matter where the American Dream abounds. The fact that the vast majority of humans rotting in jail are black and brown can be attributed to their pathology–a lack of personal responsibility, a culture of poverty–never mind that the institutions (public schools) purportedly positioned to elevate them to  middle class-ness are actually intended to socialize them into more grown up governmental institutions (prisons).

Because the American Dream is farcical  when you are freed to strive only to be re-enslaved by a void where educational opportunity and economic opportunity structures are supposed to exist. But you know,  the scales of justice are equal for whites and non-whites, rich and poor. And  lady liberty bids us all, tired and poor, to keep up the lie that the American pretense is for all, except Syrian Muslims.

PawPaw, Mommy, and Me
My PawPaw, My Mommy, and Me

Black men are still stripped of dignity in their death. Men like my grandfather who hopped a train from Rockville, TX to Oklahoma City, OK to study engineering at Langston University at the same time as the “Great Debaters”; who served in the Burma and South Asian sphere of World War II, only to be treated as a second class citizen upon his return home; who became the first black instructor at the Federal Aviation Administration Academy in OKC; and who having been called to ministry in the 1950s, retired early and used his own money to plant a church in an underserved area of Northeast Oklahoma City in 1962–you know, the redlined area where blacks could live and maybe own homes. And now other people want to buy up and take over my Granny’s property. Color coded maps still prevail. They call this gentrification.

My grandfather pastored New Bethel Baptist Church for 21 years. In 1983, he died at the church, just 2 days after baptizing me and my youngest sister. And today, this is emblazoned across the wall of the church that God and my PawPaw built.

Hate Speech scrawled ofnNew Bethel Baptist Church
Hate Speech scrawled of New Bethel Baptist Church

One year ago this past week, a “Coonville” in Charleston, South Carolina was shot up by a white supremacist who knows that race matters in ‘Merica. But as the good book says, you can kill the body but not the soul, So the souls of the Charleston 9 live on. They live on in their families modeling of love and forgiveness rather than dishing out the hate of Dylan Roof. Or the person who desecrated the church where I met Jesus on felt poster boards and in the King James Version of the Bible. The kind where Jesus’ words were red, warning us that hatreds and bigotries do not become those who grasp human dignity.

153 years after Juneteenth, Malcolm X’s American Nightmare and Martin Luther King’s American Dream remain in stark juxtaposition.

Coonvillians like me ain’t scared.  But we lament the Fathers bodies in jail; or relegated to the only opportunity structure readily available to them–the streets. And we hope in the hope that does not disappoint us while resisting and protesting systems, structures, and institutions that not only permit, but sanction the continued oppression of colored bodies.

Coonvilles like mine and Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC will never cower. We’ve got something within. Something America didn’t give us and America can’t take away.

Happy Juneteenth and Happy Father’s Day.

Sacred Spaces: Gay Night Clubs

June 14, 2016

Gay night clubs are SACRED SPACES for many of my LGBTQA friends whose churches, colleges, families, teachers, clergy, and yes, government, have not only failed to protect their queer bodies, but outright rejected their bodies created in YHWH’s image.

Let me share something which may offend some of your sensibilities. On several occasions during grad school, I danced the night away with gay friends at gay night clubs. It’s no different than my ethnically Korean friend from Kazakhstan going dancing with me at a primarily black night club. The majority culture welcomed me (a straight) into a celebration of life.

I can’t speak for Jesus. But Jesus was always walking with oppressed bodies. Dignifying their existence by daring to acknowledge their bodies. Walking with them on the margins where society had castigated them to rot in hell.

Jesus saw suffering bodies and declared them good. The I AM said you matter because you are. Woman at the well, your female body matters. Paralytic man, your disabled body matters. Jesus came to liberate bodies as well as souls. LGBTQA bodies. The only people Jesus called fools were the religious zealots and bigots of his day–whitewashed tombs he called them–their supposed righteousness had rendered their souls dead. Walking Tombs=‪#‎ReligiousZombies‬

I mourn the senseless loss of bodies. I am not here to pontificate about why or how this happened. I mourn that many of my LGBTQA friends feel unsafe in their bodies and I empathize because I too, am a vulnerable body.

Yet, I reject the notion that the ‪#‎OrlandoMassacre‬ is not about religion or politics. While my previous FB post raised Trump, it was to make a point about a nation unsafe for ‪#‎QueerBodies‬ and ‪#‎MuslimBodies‬.‪#‎realDonaldTrump‬‘s rhetoric is purposely inflammatory and exacerbates an already unsafe situation. He can’t take it back. It’s too late.

The sociopolitical context matters. Presidents and presidential candidates should not only mourn 50 departed souls, but protect the vulnerable bodies still with us. That’s what ‪#‎Justice‬ looks like.

Our country, our homes, our churches, our schools, our universities (non-sectarian and sectarian) need to be safe for my LGBTQ and my Muslim friends. We need ‪#‎EmbodiedSolidarity‬. Which means sitting in the fear and loneliness of our oppressed queer and Muslim friends.

Mourning with those who mourn,

Muslims & Queers in a Perverse, Trumpian, Political Culture

June 13, 2016

The Qur’an says:

Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.”(Qur’an, 5:32)

I learned of the ‪#‎Orlando‬ shootings in a hotel room in Turkey. I was awake at 3 am Turkey time as I had partaken of the morning feast before Ramadan as it was my privilege to fast with my Muslim neighbors while in Turkey. Early reports were hopeful that the situation was one of a hostage. By the time I saw the news in the afternoon, I was devastated to learn that a misguided soul had taken 50 lives during the high holy month of Ramazan.

Homophobia. Islamophobia. These are two sides of the same coin.

My laments about ‪#‎realDonaldTrump‬ are not political statements on my part. Contrary to what some of you have assumed, they do not connote how I plan to vote, whether I plan to vote, or for whom I plan to vote (although you can surmise that I will not vote for him). I’m a political scientist. I study this shit. That said…

I couldn’t care less for whom you extend the vote that my grandfather fought for in WWII while being spit on on the sidewalk at home in OKC, for which countless other uncles and cousins–men and women have served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, “War on Terror” so that Plymouth Rock can continue to crush and terrify our black bodies (but that’s a different lecture for a different day). But know this, First Nations (Nat Ams) whose land US stole, Japanese folk whom the US interned as many of them fought for freedom, black folk, gay folk, Muslim folk, poor folk, and increasingly Latino/a folk, fight for the empire that colonized(colonizes) their bodies. And Trump tramples them in his talk and he’s the real American who is going to make it great? Haha.

My statements re: him are because he and his rhetoric are DANGEROUS. They exacerbate hatred while blaming you and I for calling a spade a spade. HE’s a racist. A misogynist. A xenophobe.

Jesus says, you know a tree by it’s fruit. So I’m not calling Trump names, I’m just naming his fruit.

Trump is the name caller. Then he turns the tables and says we should be less sensitive. Toughen up. The American Dream (which incidentally, he knows nothing about since he inherited his money from his daddy) is not for wusses.

Donald Trump represents the vilest form of narcissism–if you have a problem with what he says, it’s your problem, not his because he’s always right. Recall, he never apologizes. Ever. Such a humble man.

Trump also epitomizes the height of privilege–to say whatever the hell you want to say and then say you didn’t mean it. Things like:
–I have an audience of millions whose own subconscious racist and xenophobic and Islamophobic and homophobic views have been piqued by my pedestrian ramblings.
–I’m rich so fuck you (sorry Granny and Auntie).

I digress.

The point is this. Vote. Don’t vote. Be a conscientious citizen. I’m not at all convinced that Donald Trump cares about the human dignity of the most vulnerable. Which is what the world’s major religions call us to do. To do for the least of these.

I continue to stand with the LGBTQA community in their oppression.

I continue to stand with the Muslim community in their oppression.

From the reports I’ve seen in Greece today, Muslims and the queer community are not blaming one another, they are embracing one another. I can’t wait to be back in the states to embrace you too.

We are one. It’s time for ‪#‎EmbodiedSolidarity‬.

Peace, Shalom, Salaam,
Larycia Alaine Hawkins