October 30, 2016

The Prejudices Come Out At Halloween

On Halloween adults can pretend to be someone other than who they are: a splendid cover for deniability of one's true self though, if but for one night, it is on display.

"I wrote an article for Time.com on the idiocy of being offended by Halloween costumes, which we all know will inevitably happen," Jim Norton posted on his social media page. 

On a thread sharing Norton's post, Tricia Montes replied, "Let's think about this: Jim Norton says that people should be permitted to wear ill-advised costumes (and in most cases, nobody is stopping them) and learn from the embarrassment of doing so, but he says that right after chastising people precisely for calling out and embarrassing those people. How are they supposed to be embarrassed and learn from it if nobody points out that wearing blackface is some racist, hateful shit? He gives some examples--some real, some made up in his fevered imagination, of people taking things too far, but I can't even pay attention to that when he's already contradicting himself and basically said that people shouldn't even point out that someone is being an asshole, which we should all do."

Norton didn't recognize the idiocy in the impossibility of his own recommendation!

"However, there is a line," I replied on that thread containing Michael McGuire's contention that "nothing is sacred." And, importantly, I added, an individual's choice of "comedy," "satire," or choice of costume speaks to that person's personal values and beliefs. These are performative ways to voice those closely held ideas and prejudices.

Let's be clear, it is inaccurate to believe or claim such acts arise in a vacuum.

Fact is, not everyone agrees that nothing is scared in comedy and costumes. Hara Kiri magazine, e.g., was banned for mocking the death of former French President Charles de Gaulle. France didn't think it was funny. In 1970, Hara Kiri remade itself to become Charlie Hebdo.

We are all too happy to hand carte blanche free speech privileges to folk as long as we are not the butt of their "jokes." But what if that costume was of a deceased loved one of your own: you mother, wife, husband, or your child. Would you join in the fun of mocking them and making light of your huge loss?

Would it be fair that people expect survivors of the deceased to not "be too sensitive" about this, as Norton said?

McGuire stated that the Irish laugh at funerals. That may be true, but there are some things the surviving family would not find funny. Besides, Imma go out on a pretty sturdy limb and bet that the Irish tradition of laughing at funerals is not the same thing as mocking the deceased.

Besides, laughing at funerals is not peculiar to the Irish. I have attended many funerals and have heard laughter at many. But that laughter would have fallen flat if, e.g., the "comedian" mocked the deceased for giving in to their battle with cancer.

Some things are sacred. Period.

What Norton advocates is non-verbal incivility. Its verbal cousin floods televised political discourse today, much to the dismay of multitudes of American citizens, nay, the world.

The sacred exists and there is a line that should not be crossed. What is sacred varies from person to person, culture to culture, and group to group. What American society needs is greater awareness and investment in the kind of sensitivity that makes the world a safe space for everyone, not just the mocking few.

The questions asked by Michael:
How do we draw the line in comedy? What are the things we can't joke about? And who decides?

Michelle Johnson's response was apropos: "Easy. Draw your own line. Just don't bitch when somebody gets in your face about being offended [by what you said or did]. That's my only point--folks can't have it both ways. Do [sic] what they want and then scream political correctness when they get called on it. It's like the N-word. Be the white person who says the N-word. [N]obody's keeping you from doing that. Just deal with the consequences, whether it's a job loss or an ass beating."

Deal with the consequences of your actions, absolutely! If we weren't taught this by our parents at an early age there is still time to learn.

Yet, it is sad that short of economic or physical discipline we, as a society, can't figure out what is offensive and/or demeaning and choose to avoid those things.

Two strange things happened yesterday:

A psychic was the guest on a local radio show. The host asked, "what is the source of all the problems in the world today." She immediately replied, "there are too many people in the world. War is one way reduce populations." The psychic then went on to something else with nary a follow-up question by the host to that bizarre statement. I couldn't help wanting to know who she thought should be eliminated. Certainly not her or her in-group.

Right before that, I was at an event and some were talking about Halloween costumes. I was the only black person there. A young white man said the words "black face" and, I swear, my mind performed some sort of protective intervention, because I never heard his words following that phrase.

That's how traumatic such experiences can be and in most instances are for the brunts of "jokes." The whites engaged in that discussion happily skipped along the conversation for there was no problem at all for them that "black face" even arose at the expense (regardless of purpose or intent) of someone else in the room.

Lawdt, what comes out at Halloween!

October 29, 2016

The High Cost of Masculine "Peace"

First, women need to cease being silent about the range, type, and frequency of assaults* upon them by men. We, women around the world, have been conditioned to remain quiet about these intrusions.

Second, men must stop pretending that their inappropriate speech and behaviors do no harm to women. Men must begin to be honest, "tell it like it is," about how they are socialized and how they socialize young men to interact with women as if we are toys for male sexual pleasure.

Men must begin to be honest about their physical violence toward women (from inappropriate touching to beating) being rooted in their emotional, social, and psychological violent toward women--in the family, romantic relationships, the workplace, even religious circles. These are among the spheres where women are stripped of their dignity (that's woman's work, that's a woman's instrument, my wife belongs to my other room) and in many cases terrorized by the men who claim to love them, leaving women emotionally naked.

Oppressors never want to be held accountable. The slightest push back from the target of their tyranny disturbs their peace.

The "peace" of oppressive males exists at dangerous and high costs to females.

Men have built, continue to participate in, and perpetuate the emotional, social, and physical abuse of women that is the foundation of patriarchy. Men must dismantle it.

"If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you liked it." ~Zora Neale Hurston

Women, disturb the peace. Disturb *their* peace!

*My earliest memory of being assaulted was when I was nearly abducted from Marshall Fields Department Store in Chicago when I was around 7-years-old. When I was in graduate school I was cornered by two men in a laundry mat. A third man intervened, drawing their attention, allowing me to escape. Just last week, a man followed me from the building as I left my gym (most creepy, he yelled to me, "have a blessed day!"); after stalling 10-minutes waiting for me to leave the facility parking lot, he proceeded to follow me by car. Miles away from my destination and 30-minutes later, I was able to shake his tail. It is clear: He intended to follow me to find out where I live so he could "visit" me any time he wanted. I was scared to death. I am still frightened. The micro and macro aggressions, from strangers and the men in my life, have been continuous since I was seven. No human being should have to live like this.

October 25, 2016

The Order of Things

Across Abrahamic and indigenous religious traditions, it is widely held that man's God-given right to dominate women is inherent in the order of creation of Adam and Eve. 'Every Woman' invited me to engage in a follow-up conversation about black women being "over protective of black men," which was raised based on interactions between a guest and co-hosts during the radio show's broadcast one week earlier.

My approach on the topic is from the perspective of mass incarceration, the historic threat to black life and break-up of the black family in America, and that female servitude/protection is not a notion peculiar to the black woman. Listen in [26:43]

The 10/15/2016 podcast with Melvin Merritt was posted following the broadcast of our 10/22/2016 show. The Every Woman hosts referenced that podcast during our segment.

Click if you'd like to listen [57:59]

Black Twitter

October 19, 2016


Artist: Tayo Abiola
Yemoja reclines
Braced against
Tramplin' her

They know
Snuff out

Their own

She is energy
Without her
Muscle shrinks
Flakes blown
In southerly winds

Needs be they
Consume not
What makes
Life itself

Her peace
Stolen in
By the hour
In the name of

Teach them


Cannot float

Broken waters
Buoy no

They must

Secrets of
Yin and Yang

Letter of universal law


Lest we all perish.

Z.Hall, 10/17/2016

October 15, 2016

She Is A Woman

 She Is A Woman
Batili Ashabi

They live in the past ... they still do
Clutching their decrepit notions and views
Rigid in mindsets
Myopic in thought process
Stuck in their pasts
Unchanging in their stance
We need to knock them really hard
We need to throw their asses out in the yard

Image Credit: Artist Unknown
In the kitchen and the other room?
What's that all about?
For food and rumping no doubt
And that's all a woman's good?
I ask these oafs
These geriatric fools
Who see no better use
For womanhood
Other than trivialities
Other than frivolities
Is there no iota of substance
Nothing remotely significant
In the one who carries the womb
That births the entire manhood?

She is "trump groped"
Smeared and thumb poked
Muffled, subdued
Subjected to ridicule
Whipped by your ego
Silenced by your veto
For how long O man
Will you trample on your woman?
For what length of time
Will her sufferings suffice?

Enough already!
Not a day longer!

Enough Trumphari!
Your vituperating days are over!

She will not be denigrated
No she won't be derided
She is more than a pussy
Certainly not your snack cookie
She is not confined to your kitchen
She is not your pet dog or kitten

She's dared to soar
And rise beyond the Stars
Where the galaxies spread
There she dwells
Amongst the best
And she is a Woman!
She is not a Man!

© Batili Ashabi 2016

October 5, 2016

No. You Can't Touch My Hair.

On September 15, 2016 the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had this to say about dreadlocks (a black hair style): “We recognize that the distinction between immutable and mutable characteristics of race can sometimes be a fine (and difficult) one, but it is a line that courts have drawn ... [and] There have been some calls for courts to interpret Title VII more expansively by eliminating the biological conception of ‘race’ and encompassing cultural characteristics associated with race,” but that he wasn’t prepared to lead that inquiry regarding discrimination." ~U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan, Huffington Post

Jordan shrinked back from stetting precedent in that case, but I can tell you that legal fictions have no bearing on reality.

My hair grows from my head and is not separate from me--I am a whole person. There is no either-or representation.
My hair is not a "mutable" medium. A wig is not one's hair. That is a medium. My hair is part of me--just like my eyes, skin and lips. How I style my hair has everything to do with the nature of my hair and my Afro-Latina culture.

Channel 4 News, South Africa

The politics of skin and hair are fundamental to racism and white supremacy. This effects how black persons move through this world. It is the reason the issue of black hair reached the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This court, instead of setting precedent, followed numerous other courts that handed down negative rulings which limit the life prospects of black persons whose hair does not conform to white culture.

Solange, 'Don't Touch My Hair'

October 4, 2016

Disposable Lives

On Saturday, September 24 I delivered a public address entitled 'Disposable Lives' through which I reached out to audience members relating the traumatic effect of police killings on individuals and communities of color. I asked attendees, "how safe is a society where large populations of people live in fear of "public safety" authorities?"

Z. Hall, 'Epidemic': fiber, acrylic, ink, 2016

Between January 2014 and July 2016, 2,996 unarmed black people were shot and killed by police in America. Twelve names in ‘Epidemic’ represent 12 months in each year. The distressed fabric and stitching symbolizes oppression experienced at the hand of the state. The frayed threads express the lives and families torn apart and communities of survivors in anguish. Black dots are symbolic of bullets shattering lives. Their names rise above the sea of blue that should protect and serve. We say their names.

Common Threads: Anatomy of the Wound' curated by Sonie Joi Ruffin and Arzie Umali, is on exhibition at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, KCMO; August 2, 2016 – October 29, 2016.

The Murder of Alfred Olango

“He did not do anything; he had no gun; he was not mental,” explained Pamela Benge, the mother of Alfred Olango ... My son is a good, loving young man
She said the police shooting of her son has forced her to feel pain similar to what she felt in the midst of war
[As refugees from Uganda, she] came to America with her children seeking safety and a better life for them. Coming from a place of war, she said she did not expect this ending for her son." ~NBC San Diego

October 3, 2016

Female Nude and the Male Artist

Nzekwe Phillips Lexie Okai; clay and fiberglass on wood which is evolved using traditional Benin methods.

This is an absolutely gorgeous piece!*

The unclothed human form, male and female, is beautiful. I am comfortable with it as an art form, in many instances enjoy the works. I'm not even bothered too much by the ones that border on porn, except when the artist tries to pretend it is high art rather than a titillation piece. In those cases, artistic dishonesty is a turn-off more than the artwork itself.

Personally, I don't question expression of the body and actually believe that the unclothed form is more natural than covered, just as pre-colonial societies demonstrate.

That said, we live in different times. And as much as I respect the nude form, I am, many times, torn between appreciating a particular artist's nude female work and struggling with his entrenched, patriarchal stance as expressed by the artist. When engaging the work of male artists that are new to me the question is in the back of my mind: "Sure, he states how much he appreciates the nude female form, but who is he really?"

How does the artist's patriarchy inform his work and selection of subject matter? At the foundation of patriarchy is objectification and silencing of females.

To me the question is: Can a patriarchal male inhabit another dimension in his work with the female nude such that she, in that instance alone (no other areas of his life), becomes a full human equal to him in intelligence, maturity, creativity, sexual choice, and spirituality?

The male artist-female nude is a complex domain.

*NOTE: This discussion of patriarchy and art has no reference to artist Nzekwe Phillips Lexie Okai or his masterful art. The image of his piece is shared solely because it is exquisite and exhibits tasteful representation of the nude female form.


October 2, 2016

Vulva Art

The sacred orifice.

It only makes sense that God created woman first. 

If you believe in the miracle of Jesus' birth (and she will bring forth a son, Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31), why can't you accept the creation of woman and her miracle birth of the first man. 

It makes much more sense than some first abdominal surgery story! I mean, with that story we're talking anesthesia, ICU, pain meds, months of recovery, post-surgery abnormalities, etc., etc.

Woman created first: Miracle conception and we're good to go! 

Every pattern in the universe is efficient. Every single one.  Creating man first would have been inefficient. Period!

There is no other instance in the Bible of miraculous surgery. However, Eve giving birth to Adam would set precedent for Mary's miraculous conception of Jesus. 

 If you are on Facebook you can read my original 'Vulva Art' post dated September 27, 2016.

Listen to my appearance on 10/22/2016 radio program Every Woman.

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