Monday, April 27, 2015

Guante: "Consent at 10,000 Feet" (New Video, Plus Links)

UPDATE: Thanks again to Button Poetry for capturing this and broadcasting it out to so many people. Thanks also to George Takei (and many others) for sharing. The poem is in my book, which is available here.

Also, there's a whole section of poems on consent, from many different voices, in my big list of poems/videos for use by social justice educators.

The poem itself is maybe one of the more straightforward things that I've written; I wanted something that could work as a teaching tool, a resource, an additional frame for anyone doing work around this issue. In that spirit, I'd like to share a couple of links for further reading:

"Consent is a mutual verbal, physical, and emotional agreement that happens without manipulation, threats, or head games." --more on consent from Project Respect

"The idea of enthusiastic consent is quite simple. In a nutshell, it advocates for enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity, rather than passive agreement." --more on enthusiastic consent from Persephone Magazine

Book: "Yes Means Yes" from Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti

The classic "Five Ways We Can Teach Men Not to Rape" by Zerlina Maxwell

Feel free to add more links or resources in the comments. Thanks!

Full text of the poem:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Framework For How I Think About Social Media Supporting Social Movements + Links to #BaltimoreUprising Info

I've written about this kind of thing before, and I'd like to be clear that this framework is what I try to remind MYSELF of, not how I think all people everywhere need to operate. If other people can relate to this or use it, great, but I'm not trying to dictate anything to anyone. Especially when I think about my own identities and positionality, these points only really make sense in that context. For example, telling a Black person "you should do more to educate people" would be a super messed-up thing to say. But telling myself that would not be. So please read this spectrum with that in mind.

Also, I'm not particularly interested in being "deep" here. This isn't some profound philosophical discussion about how human beings relate to change-making processes, or a poetic exploration of the roots of racial violence; it's a concrete look at how social media practice can relate to movement-building.

With regards to the #BaltimoreUprising and #FreddieGray protests, a few examples:

1. Silence: So some people are silent because they're ignorant, or because they don't care, but there's also a case to be made, especially for white people, that silence could mean listening, not trying to take up space: two good impulses. But as the rest of this list shows, there are ways to speak up without without speaking over others, especially when we're talking about social media practice. And there's just too much at stake to be completely silent.

2. Platitudes: "We all just need to LOVE each other!" Some platitudes are innocent, but a good amount of them implicitly amount to "why are you talking about this? I'd prefer to not think about it." And then, of course, there's the "All Lives Matter" crowd.

3. "Thoughts and prayers:" The last thing I want to do is disrespect people who are authentically trying to process tragedy and injustice. But I struggle with this one. If saying "my thoughts and prayers are with Baltimore" helps you survive, then I support that; this spectrum, after all, applies to me and yours might look different. But for me, I don't give my own thoughts or prayers much weight. Sometimes a phrase like this can be an excuse to disengage, to say something when you feel powerless to do anything. But I don't believe in powerlessness, as the following points illustrate.

4. Outrage: Sometimes, this is just raw emotion, and that's fine. "This country is messed up and we need to DO something" is a great sentiment, and one I agree with. But this point is in the middle of the spectrum for a reason.

5. Outrage + links to more information: Social media can be really powerful, but not just for the vague push-and-pull of culture battles. It can be used to legitimately transmit information that can be used for the building of movements. So saying "this country is messed up and we need to DO something" AND linking to something like one of the following is more valuable to me than the previous point. A few examples:
6. Outrage + links to concrete actions or organizations: When the question "but what can I do?" is on so many people's minds, I return to the idea that systemic problems require solutions that are bigger than just "striving to be a better person." That means organizing: joining and/or supporting activist organizations that are doing the work. Of course, no organization is perfect, and no single event can magically "fix" things. But these are vital first steps. A few examples:
7. Signal-boosting the activists on the ground: I don't always do this, since it can be tempting to center my social media practice on my own thoughts and opinions. But I think the "tweet less, retweet more" impulse is important. I have opinions, but I'm not in Baltimore, or Ferguson; beyond that, I'm also not Black, and this movement is very much about how #BlackLivesMatter. So shout out to people like @osope, @aliciagarza, @opalayo, @deray, @prisonculture, @karnythia, @blacklivesmpls, @nvlevy, @micamaryjane, @eveewing, @blklivesmatter, @dreamdefenders, @wintanamn, @mnnoc, and the hundreds of other activists and organizers out there. Feel free to add others in the comments.

If you're one of the many people who feels like "I want to say something, but I'm not an expert; I don't have anything to contribute," then finding ways to signal-boost others can be a good option.

I don't think it's unfair to say that there's extra pressure on anyone who has a significant social media audience (whether you define that as 5k, 25k, 100k or beyond). ESPECIALLY because, as artists, it is very easy for us to veer into performative allyship, posting the hottest hot-take, being super vague, abstract, and faux-poetic. But we can do better. Artists (especially hip hop artists, my community) reach audiences that organizers don't. When you're tweeting/posting, please keep that in mind. Like this whole continuum illustrates-- you can do some good by tweeting about the movement, but you can also actively help BUILD the movement with a little bit of intentionality.

The key word here, I think, is "specificity." Even though so many of us are conditioned to strive for "timeless" rather than "timely," sometimes being timely is simply more important. This is about how even though we're all planting seeds, there's a difference between randomly scattering wildflower seeds and planting crops.

Also feel free to add other links or resources in the comments. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

City Pages' 2015 "Best of the Twin Cities" Observation

I hate to make other people's accomplishments about me, but this was too funny. Every year, City Pages runs a "Best of the Twin Cities" feature, honoring different local artists and establishments. I've been in it before, as have lots of people. This year, I noticed something cool; not sure if anyone else has made this connection yet:

Best hip hop artist: deM atlaS

Best female vocalist: Claire de Lune

Best producer: Big Cats

Now, aside from these artists being phenomenally talented and wonderful people whom everyone should know about and support, does anyone see the connection between the three of them? I'll give you a hint:

Me and deM atlaS made an album with Rube under the name Sifu Hotman. Me and Claire made an album called A Loud Heart. And me and Big Cats made two albums together, the most recent being You Better Weaponize. Click the links to listen to and/or buy them.

ALSO, the Re-Verb open mic, organized by TruArtSpeaks (the organization I work with as comm director and as a roster artist), was awarded best open mic!

All of this is less about how much impact and influence I have, and more about how good I am at latching onto talented people before they blow up, haha. Congratulations to everyone!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Power Youth Voice with #7UpForSocialChange and TruArtSpeaks

1,429 donations of $7.00 will raise $10,000 towards the sustained programming, mentorship and artistic spaces for Twin Cities youth to engage with in with quality artistic practices that challenge them to view themselves and the world differently. Be part of the change in our community by changing the lives of the youth who shape it - Donate by July 1st, 2015 and Power the Movement.

I got to host the Finals slam this year (which was sold out), and just last night hosted our weekly open mic (which is free, all-ages, and routinely packed). From the big events, to the small events, to the workshops and in-school residencies-- this has already been an incredible year for us, and we are just getting started.

This is about grassroots support for youth voice and youth power. We appreciate big grants and wealthy patrons, but a thousand people each donating a little something means much more. This is about more than just raising money; it's about claiming our collective power and building something that matters together.

Donate $7 at the link. Spread the word!

Also, you can get TruArtSpeaks shirts and chapbooks here!