Wednesday, May 30, 2007

viBE


I always like to highlight projects that are using the arts to engage youth to make a difference in their worlds. Thanks to Women's eNews I discovered viBE -
a performing-arts education organization that provides a safe, creative space for under-served young women to share their stories and use their voices to build and transform themselves and their community.
May discovering our creativity lead us on a peaceful and fulfilling path.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The New Immigration Proposal

The new immigration proposal does not work for me.

Why?

Here are some reasons:

1. I am not only suspicious of guestworker programs but the idea that people can be integral to the fuctioning of our country's economic sustainability and yet be considered less important and without the same rights as "citizens" does not sit well with me. If people are contributing to the economic survival of the United States, why can't they also be given some respect, protections, and basically RIGHTS? Oficially, it isn't slavery but am I the only one who sees similarities?

2. $5, 000 and an 8, 9, 10, ... month long trip to one's country of origin no matter what the economic and political situation. Think what you will. I have a good job and $5,000 is still a chunk that is hard for me to save. And the prolonged stay? If someone is escaping a human rights abuse that has yet to be defined by our U.S. gov, will they be sent back at their own risk?:

3. English language fluency, job skills, and basically one's ability to "assimilate" are increasingly defining those who can obtain citizenship and those who cannot. What about the conservatives' big drive towards "the family" when job skills win over family unity?

I could say more but am ready for bed. I will make a point to respond to comments if someone wants to open up to discussion.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Trouble in Lebanon

Trouble in Lebanon. 40 dead in Tripoli. I don't even want to think about it. I am reminded of last year when I attended a weeklong workshop right after the war in Lebanon started.

I just returned from another incredible workshop with Power of Hope. All of us who attended know that the arts can make a powerful and positive difference in people's lives. It is my most deeply held belief. I believe in people and the power of groups to make a difference. I believe that people do care about each and do not want to kill one another. They just turn themselves off from their feelings. News reports like the one I linked to above are what propelled me to come to this awareness.

I may be impatient, and definitely idealistic, but there is no reason why we should be killing each other. It is as simple as that. I believe that if we all really believe that violence is not even an option, violence will cease to exist.

To the people of Tripoli and the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, I am thinking of you.

Cool Seeds

Long silence, sorry. I've been away at a retreat, then in Seattle at a Power of Hope workshop and visiting my dear L. Hopefully, I will get around to writing about it all later. In the mean time and before I go to bed early in preparation for my long drive and day tomorrow, I thought I'd share the really cool jewelry I discovered today.

Zena McCoy, the artist behind Semilla Designs, makes these beautiful necklaces and bracelets out of seeds that she gets from Colombia. I ended up buying a simpler version of the one in the photo. She uses seeds of all shapes, colors, and sizes which appeals to me as I have tendency to collect this sort of thing. Plus, I like the fact that the beads are biodegradable!!! Some of the seeds are super funky looking and look like tree leaves and such. What fun.

She has a website in the making. You can check out a few of her creations here. Ah, how much I appreciate creativity.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Nails and Nail Polish

I filed my nails and put nail polish on this evening. Every once in a blue moon I decide that doing this will help me stop biting my nails and the skin on my fingers. It works, but only temporarily.

When I was a teenager my father gave my friend P. and I five dollars each to stop biting our nails. It worked for P. She reminded me of this when we saw each other this December. As for me, my father always asks for his money back. I told one of my teens this story and she had a great response: "What was the time limit on the stipulation? Did he actually say that it was forever?" Yes, it has been awhile since I could think like a teenager. I had never considered the idea that his request could have a time limit. And here I was slathered in guilt all of these years. This is how I will respond to my dear Papa the next time he asks, instead of my late 30 year-old turning into a 14 year-old whining response of "Whatever, Daaaad."


As you can see, the polish does little to hide the black and blue marks from my hike this weekend or my fingers and nails that have been bitten down to the hopeful essence of all of my mundane thoughts. I have yet to figure out the fine art of keeping the polish on the nail either.
This weekend, before hiking but after kayaking, I complimented a woman on her purple nail polish. The woman, of athletic build, thanked me and told me that it helped people realize that she wasn't "one of them. " "What do mean?" I had to ask. "Well, you know... a lesbian" she mumbled. "I know lots of lesbians who wear nail polish" grinning Margaret responded. A teachable moment. Will I ever stop?
And so I brushed on the polish this evening. I couldn't decide between "Creamy Opal" and "Bronze Beauty" on my toe nails. I now have one foot of each!!!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Art Activism

I am feeling disillusioned or at the very least conflicted about an artist whose work I have appreciated. I just read an article in the New Yorker about Banksy. I still appreciate some of his work such as the work that he put on the West Bank barrier of a little girl trying to escape apartheid by sailing away and the image of two policemen kissing.

But the artist has also become quite the rave, selling his art work for high prices at Southeby's and to the stars in Los Angeles. I like his commentary but is it becoming less potent as he is going way beyond just making a simple and decent economic living? Are people heeding his message or does he even want them too? Is bringing an elephant painted with the words "global poverty" to an art opening just an extravagence?

I am an activist art purist and only a few can make my approval list. Most likely Banksy could care less about my reaction and in fact anticipated it. This is the nature of art afterall right? To cause people to think, even Margaret? Perhaps his art is activist afterall.

While I lived with my disenchantment, I switched magazines to MS. and was once again reminded how powerful visual statements can be. Don't "Tease" These Eyes shines light on a wonderful project and group of women that are confronting the sexual harrassment that they face in India. Through installation and performance art, Blank Noise Project is saying no to eve-teasing, the Indian euphemism for sexual harassment.


In the installation We Never Asked For It that took place in Kolkata, Bangalore, and New Delhi, women brought clothing that they had been sexually harrassed in and displayed them all over the cities. In another performance piece, women stared men down on the streets just as women routinely are. For me, this is activist art- art with a purpose and an unblemished message.

You go amazingly courageous and creative women!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gut Feelings

I am going through one of those days where my gut is trying to tell me something.
I tend to listen.

When I returned from Lebanon, being as passionate and somewhat impulsive as I can be, I signed up to go to an Augusto Boal Workshop. Augusto Boal is the brain behind Theatre of the Oppressed. Well, he will be at a conference in Minneapolis in a few weeks and I signed up for that and the pre-conference workshop. But now, after plane tickets and lodging, I am questioning that decision.

I am quite content in the Pacific Northwest. I could explore a mountain, a body of water, an island, a peninsula, a local workshop and my wonderful L. with the time and money. I could even do all of the above.

Part of my reasoning originally was that a Palestinian/Israeli troupe was on the program. They are no longer. And the presenters are predominately associated with universities. Not that I do not believe in universities, my mind was able to go wild in them; but I would like some more grassroots presenters. I paid my share in part so that others could afford to go. They still cannot afford it.

And so, I am thinking of not going and working on a project at work that I need to get done. And maybe taking a few here and there to climb, cuddle, or stick my feet in something.

I will sleep on it a little more; but, as always, welcome thoughts.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Smattering

I made magnets this evening in addition to other projects. I am really enjoying my evenings. I read, I write, I create. There is not enough time in my non-work day for everything that inspires me. Sigh.

For the magnets, I just used found objects that I have had no particular use for besides storing in a wood bowl but that originate from a few of my multicontinental travels.


I tried putting magnets on rocks but be careful about that idea. The magnets have to be significantly strong to hold a rock. I glue gunned more and more magnets but each time my rock quickly slipped down my thin layer of metal fridge.





I am also including some visuals from this weekend..





And as this is a smattering, I am also including a recent read that deserves some recognition, Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East by Brian Whitaker. It speaks more to men's experience in the Middle East, but does give examples of what it is like to be a lesbian as well. Basically, it has its challenges. Just to make the point, one chapter is entitled, "Should I Kill Myself?"

Of course being me, I latch onto the groups that are trying to improve their situation and one such group is Helem.
I have already mentioned them on this blog because I am so excited about the work that they are doing. They have a rainbow flag flying from their office window in Beirut, but this isn't the reason I like them so much. Besides being one of the few LGBT groups in the Middle East, they have formed partnerships with other human rights organizations and have succeeded in convincing these groups that sexual rights are human rights!
They are actively campaigning for the abolition of article 534 of the Lebanese penal code which criminalizes "unnatural sexual intercourse" (whatever that means). They are also involved in advocacy and health promotion around HIV and safer sex. Most importantly, they are visible and feel that this is an important part of their work. In their view, being visible leads to the realization that same sex love exists and is perfectly normal.

Monday, May 07, 2007

What it Means to be a Woman


Creation (Creacion)
Sergio Velasquez
Today was a pretty decent day. After a most wonderful weekend from which I am filled with contentment and hope, I went to visit a project that gives women who are in a transitional space a place to explore and strengthen themselves at their core. It was a wonderful way to start my week.
After meeting with the volunteer coordinator, the mother of one of the amazing teens that I work with, I attended a reflective art class. Our assignment was simple. We read some poems and quotes and were asked to use art supplies to describe what it was like for each one of we participants to be a woman. I would say that after the facilitator, I was the youngest in the room. I cannot tell you what struggles the women in the room have endured and are enduring. I know that one woman was struggling with addiction. Probably others were too.
We put our creations on the outside and inside of an old wooden crate. One woman made a small version of herself dressed in orange, another wrote a poem and made a collage about going on a date with a woman. I made a little basket out of shades of orange with a touch of green and purple chenille sticks (pipe cleaners) that I hid in the utmost interior corner of the crate. My nest.
Sorry, no photos.
I was thinking of the above Sergio Velasquez painting reproduction that I have above my altar when I made my "Creation." I will now leave you with my favorite quote from our sheet of quotes for you to ponder...
Amazons in Appalachia
"Where are your women?"
The speaker is Attakullakulla, a Cherokee chief renowned for his shrewd and effective diplomacy. He has come to negotiate a treaty with the whites. Among his delegation are women " as famous in war as powerful in Council." Their presence also has ceremonial significance: it is meant to show honor to the other delegation. But that delegation is composed of males only. To them the absence of their women is irrelevant, a trivial consideration.
To the Cherokee, however, reverence for women/Mother Earth/life spirit is interconnected. Irreverance for one is likely to mean irreverance for all. Implict in their chief's question, "where are your women?" the Cherokee hear, " Where is your balance? What is your intent?" They see that the balance is absent and are wary of the white men's motives.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ma Vie en Rose

L. and I saw Ma Vie en Rose this weekend when she came to visit.

Oh, what a wonderful film. In some ways, sad; in others, uplifting. Ludovic is a seven-year old sweet as can be little one who is outwardly a boy but knows that he is a girl inside. His family struggles with this, but deeply loves him. It is a sad film because of all they face but so hopeful that he has a loving family and that he is so sure so young. I know people who have gone half a lifetime without being able to reconcile all of the mixed feelings.

I recommend this film and She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Having always loved the fact that I am female, feeling as if you are in the wrong body in terms of gender is something that seems insurmountable to me. Emotional support and financial stability can make the transition a little easier I imagine but still difficult.

How courageous Ludovic is and all those that take the risk to become the gender they truly are.

Here are a few links to definitions at Wikepedia that might interest you:

Transgender

Transsexual

Genderqueer

And if you are in Lebanon reading this or care about Lebanon and LGBTQ issues, you may want to check out Helem.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dear Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,

Thank you for dissenting. I have been wanting to write a thank you and a position piece on my blog ever since that fateful day, April 18, when the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that in your own words is "devastating to women's health."
Today is no more the day. However, I did want to acknowledge your dissent and thank you. It is especially impactful today as I help a friend with a difficult decision. And oh how I wish she could make that decision without all of the false messages of never being able to have a child again or how dangerous it is! Childbirth is more of a risk than abortion. Not that this is the decision she will need to make and I will support her no matter. I just thank you for dissenting and reiterating to all that this is a decision that women need to make for themselves. Not lawyers and politicians. This is a difficult enough decision to make, why do politics have to get involved?