Verb Noire Announcement (Call for Submissions)

So, as some of you may have noticed I haven’t been around overly much lately. It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s just that I’m in the middle of starting a small press with a friend. Verb Noire is intended to be a platform for all those stories that have been hidden for so long because the protagonist didn’t fit the mainstream mold. What does that mean?

Submission Guidelines Ahead!!

It means we are looking for original works of genre fiction (science fiction/fantasy/mystery/romance) that feature a person of color and/or LGBT as the central character. Book-length manuscripts must be at least 250 pages, and short stories cannot be over 100 pages. All manuscripts must be double-spaced, in 12-point font (Times New Roman, Courier, etc) in black text, and must be a Word/Open Office compatible document. We ask that you insert a header with your name and the first two words of the title at the top of each page. Please do not send them as read-only files as that will make any editing more difficult.

We are also accepting poems in traditional and experimental styles with a maximum of 10 pages. The same formatting rules will apply.

Personal and critical essays are also welcome as long as they are within the aforementioned themes. Poetry, essays, and short stories may be subject to inclusion in anthologies depending upon the number of submissions fitting a specific theme.

There will be (approximately) a 6-8 week turnaround time in which submissions will be reviewed and a decision will be made as to whether or not we will be publishing your manuscript. Payment will be dependent upon sales, as each published author will received a percentage of the sales price.

There is no need to submit a query letter, nor do we require you to have an agent, but we do want a brief synopsis of the plot for longer manuscripts. We will accept works from white authors as long as the the central characters are of color and/or LGBT. Please send all submissions to verb.noire@gmail.com.

We’ve been raising money to defray start up costs and the response has been fabulous. Feel free to come check out us out on LJ as well.

The New York Post cartoon: this is my unsurprised face.

By now most of you have heard about the racist cartoon published in The New York Post. There’s a lot of good commentary out there on this already, and some calls to action, which I strongly urge all of you to heed.

That said, I haven’t said much about this before today because my feelings pretty much match Ta-Nehisi Coates’: meh. Maybe it helps to provide some “local context” here, because I think a lot of people don’t get what most New Yorkers do: the Post is crap. It’s a step above the National Enquirer in terms of quality, and that’s only because it doesn’t talk about aliens and its inanity has a focus — which is to be the voice of the substantial contingent of conservatives in this famously liberal city. It’s the paper version of Fox News, which isn’t surprising because it’s owned by the same guy. And because of this, I do not believe for one moment that the editor who approved that cartoon didn’t know exactly how it would be received. I think the Post is getting exactly what it wanted here.

Think about it. These are hard times for the Republicans right now. They’re struggling to find a way to reformat themselves in the wake of the backhand slap they received on November 4th. While the party’s leaders flounder in search of a vision/purpose/direction, however, the party’s ideologues don’t have this problem; they’re still repeating the same message they’ve been parroting for the past 20+ years. But with the leadership gone silent, the ideologues’ broken record is suddenly much more audible than it has been for the past couple of (campaign) years. Which is why we’ve heard so much lately from Rush “Crackhead” Limbaugh. He hasn’t been in rehab all this time, as I had naively assumed; he’s just popular again, largely because many Republican voters are desperate to hear someone, anyone, speak up for their side.

Likewise Fox News and, now, the Post. These media entities are jockeying for control of the party’s soul, in hopes of pushing back the darkness — pun intended — that might, just might, cause the Republican party to reform into something a little more representative of America and less representative of the angry white men who’ve been the party’s guiding light. So naturally we can expect some blatant appeals to the paradigms that have proven so effective for this group in the past. They’re gambling that this “back to basics” strategy will work. And it might. Despite all the slightly creepy “post-racial” camaraderie we’ve been seeing in the nation since Election Day, most of us know full well that racism isn’t dead and that a substantial percentage of the 46% who voted against Obama did so because they hate black people (even the ones who are half white). How does one rally this group in the wake of a national defeat, and let them know that somebody in Republican Land still loves them? This cartoon is one rallying cry. Expect more.

That said, I’m not certain this strategy will still work the way that Rush and the gang think. Sure, there are plenty of folks out there who will respond positively to this appeal to their baser nature. But there are also a lot of Republicans who are taking a hard look at themselves right now, and asking some hard questions about the tried-and-true ways of doing things. Already we’re seeing signs of an unheard-of revolt by some Post staffers in the wake of this cartoon. The Republican base might be OK with it, but the base is still the minority within the party, and it’s growing smaller as time passes. The rest of the Republicans, I’m guessing, are starting to read the writing on the wall: the old ways of doing things have got to change.

Before they do, though, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more dead monkeys.

What Is Cultural Appropriation?

A few years ago at WisCon (the feminist SF convention) there was a panel about Cultural Appropriation that sparked an online discussion about the topic that is generally referred to as the Great Debate of DOOM. This was partly due to the wide-ranging nature of it (over 20 blogs, I believe) and due to the great abundance of wank, ignorance, and utter fail on the part of some participants.

At every WisCon since, there have been other CA panels that attempted to fix the issues raised by the first. But it was clear to those of us who have these conversations and panels all the time that a 45 minute or 90 minute debate/discussion/whathaveyou was not going to get really deep into the topic. Judging from the stunning amount of ignorance and defensiveness associated with such discussions, obviously a longer, more in-depth treatment of the topic was necessary. Thus, this series of posts on the ABW.

At first I thought that we could contain everything in one post. But this topic has so many facets and aspects that I quickly realized this could never be. That’s fine with me, because it will help us get really deep into the issues in the comments (which are slightly unwieldy due to the lack of threading).

I thought it would be appropriate to first define what we mean when we talk about Cultural Appropriation. What is it? What do you mean when you apply that term? If we can all express that and put up a few loose boundary markers around the subject, that will make discussing its effects and manifestations a little easier.

As a writer of color, I’m used to discussing cultural appropriation in the artistic sphere. Remember, though, that the issue extends beyond art – spirituality, style/fashion, speech, attitudes and more. Let’s bring them all in.

A note on participation:

Everyone is invited to contribute to this discussion. But if this is your first time here, I suggest you read The Rules (linked at the top) before wading in. There are bannable offenses here, and I will not hesitate to bring the hammer down if you bring bullshit to the table.

A note on comments and moderation:

By default, all comments by first-time participants are automatically moderated. This is a measure to keep the drive-by crazies out, not a tool to suppress anyone’s voice. If your comment doesn’t show up by midnight or so, please use the contact form to query about it. It may have ended up as spam. To avoid being put in the first-timer box, please use the same name/email combination every time you post. That way WordPress will recognize you.

We will try our best to keep up with the moderation queue, but remember that we have jobs and lives away from the Internet!

Mehserle arrested

I’m tired, ya’ll. Too tired to be angry. So tired of all this shit. The tiredness won’t last forever, of course; I’ll rebound, as I must. But I need a break.

In the meantime, though — I’m cautiously heartened by this.

Mehserle was arrested in the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old supermarket worker from Hayward who was lying facedown after being pulled off a BART train by police investigating a fight. An Alameda County judge signed an arrest warrant alleging murder, and Mehserle surrendered without incident, authorities said.

The shooting, which was recorded by passengers in videos widely circulated on the Internet and television, prompted public outrage, and some viewers said that the shooting appeared to be an execution.

Sources said Mehserle was in Nevada because he feared for his safety after death threats were made against him. Douglas County is 15 miles south of Carson City in northwestern Nevada and includes part of Lake Tahoe.

Mehserle’s attorney, Christopher W. Miller of Sacramento, confirmed early today that his client was arrested on suspicion of murder. He said he would not comment further until a news conference today.

I’m waiting to hear the charges. If they’re anything less than first-degree murder, I’m going to feel very tired again.

If anybody’s going to the protest today in Oakland, can you report in on how it went, in the comments?

S.O.S., Different Year

Happy New Year, all. Took me only 5 days to get angry about something; a new record for me! Well, more annoyed than anything else. Who can really afford to get angry about all the stupid crap we see in the media? Us WoC gotta watch that blood pressure, after all.

This article in the NYT is what’s annoying me. It starts off innocently enough with a classic “duh” moment, noting that many women take dangerous risks to end their pregnancies sans medical attention or prescribed drugs. It guarantees a surge in such homemade abortions by pretty much telling the readers what drugs to ask for and how to ask for them, then how to administer them (which sounds seriously problematic to me, but fine, they’re the Times, they can afford lawyers if someone tries it, dies, and the family sues them). It goes further into “no shit, Sherlock” territory by noting the reasons women might do this: cost, shame, a desire for privacy, distrust of hospitals, yatta yatta yatta.

Very quickly, though, it becomes clear that the article is specifically focusing on a certain subset of women: primarily Dominican women in the Washington Heights area. OK, makes sense; that’s who made up the primary focus of a study by Planned Parenthood cited in the article. But see if you can spot the point in the passage below where I started to get annoyed.
Continue reading

Another News & Notes Roundtable

Quick heads up that I was on the blogger’s roundtable for News & Notes yesterday.  We didn’t get a chance to talk about the BlackBird browser, but we did talk about shoe throwing, weight gain, and smoking presidents (elect).

NPR Cancels News & Notes

The economic crisis is affecting NPR, naturally, and one of their responses has been to cancel two of their shows, News & Notes included.  I believe the story is that the show doesn’t bring in enough money in donations and has low ratings. I would be very interested in seeing the ratings breakdown of all NPR-supported shows to see if N&N is really at the bottom.  I mean, it just seems like a kick in the teeth — the only program that focuses on Black issues and now it will be off the air.

It’s especially interesting in light of what I had to say almost a year ago about why I don’t send donation dollars to NPR.  News & Notes is great, but I feel like NPR news in general feels really white-washed to me.  Others spoke up, saying they feel the same way.  And if black people’s impression of NPR mainly comes from the two flagship shows, they won’t necessarily stick around to find out that News & Notes exists.  And this doesn’t even mention the lack of coverage and perspectives for other POC.

My only hope right now is that NPR gets smart and brings Farai and the other talented N&N team into the fold for Morning Edition and All Things Considered.  I have always wanted a deeper, less white-washed approach for these two shows.  If the one show dedicated to the Black community is going away, that means it’s time to shove NPR into the 21st century and get them to cover issues of various POC communities more.

If that’s not going to happen, then I hope that someone decides to back a podcast, or maybe a public radio show on Pacifica.  There has to be a life after News & Notes.  It’s too good a resource to just let lapse.

M. Night, say it isn’t so!

I don’t post much about TV stuff because I don’t watch a lot of TV. But when I do, because my tastes have always been eclectic and a little weird, I tend to watch weird eclectic stuff. Thus was born my love of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s a children’s cartoon. Yeah, I know. But I fell passionately in love with this show, because it’s frankly some of the most original fantasy I’ve seen in a very long time. Like most good children’s shows, it’s made an effort to appeal to adults as well, through complex subject matter and multi-layered jokes — to great and successful effect. I watched the finale episode at a party with 20 other twenty- and thirtysomething adults, all of whom were literally holding their breath and cheering at various points. Yeah. Over a kids’ cartoon. It’s that good. Go rent/buy it and see for yourself.

But let me be blunt: one of the things that hooked me about this show was that it was set in an all-Asian world. And it wasn’t fucked up. OK, let me clarify. You know how usually, when there’s an Asian character in an American TV show, he (or more frequently she) ends up as the martial arts master, the (white) hero’s submissive love interest, the dragon lady vamp, or the magical elderly person dishing out nonsensical proverbs and occasionally a can of whoopass? The thing is, all of these stereotypes are present in Avatar to some degree. But because the whole world is Asian, they’re lost in a sea of non-stereotypical, non-exoticized, perfectly normal human beings. How amazing is that? Not only that, but Avatar actually depicts different Asian ethnicities. Though this is a fantasy world, there are clear allusions to the Inuit, Koreans, Mongols, Tibetans, several flavors of southeast Asian, various Indians, and more. The Chinese- and Japanese-analogues of the story actually come in several varieties (Earth Kingdom and Fire Kingdom, Kyoshi warriors, etc.). Better still, while there are lots of martial artists in the show, the vast majority of people in this world wouldn’t know a punch from Hawaiian Punch. Just like most people anywhere. I know, huh? Good shit.

Given all this, I wasn’t surprised that M. Night Shyamalan, twist-director extraordinaire, was drawn to the material in order to make a live-action film. I was actually excited about his direction when I heard. I don’t like all his movies, but at least he’s not some no-name music video director. So it sounds like he’s chosen his cast for the film.

Continue reading

BlackBird Browser — Because The Internet Isn’t Black Enough

I know I put this in the BlackLights yesterday, but I’m still so appalled by it that I think it deserves its own post.

In case you didn’t see it, there’s a new browser out called BlackBird, aimed at the Black community.  It’s essentially Firefox but rebranded, a new black and white theme, and some add-ons that put buttons in the bar at the top.  There’s a whole explanation of the thing here.

The website says that people should use this browser because it will help create and coalesce the online Black community.  It will also bring you news from a Black perspective, which many Black people want.  The real purpose behind this effort is to make money, but we’ll put that aside for a second.  Because the real question, to my mind, is: do Black people need a special piece of Black software in order to reach these goals?

I could rattle off the 20 different ways in which a person could mimic the tasks that BlackBird does — finding black news sites and putting them into your feed reader, finding the social networks and social bookmarking sites aimed at Black or POC in general, and finding relevant video and video news via YouTube and other, similar sites.  But I am well aware that a lot of people aren’t very Internet-savvy or don’t want to take the time to do all that.  They enjoy having things handed to them already collected and vetted.  This is why portal sites are popular.  This is why social networks are popular.  This is why AOL is still in business (somewhat).  So even though I do not need what BlackBird has to offer, I can see why others might.

Is it a good thing, though?  BlackBird is a sneaky application.  Because while there is all this talk of building online communities and bringing Black People together, the real reason this browser exists is targeted marketing.  There are ads in the browser — oh yes — and ads on the pages the browser helpfully points you to.

I also worry that the people behind it, about whom there is little information, will be more concerned with serving the advertiser’s needs than the users.  What if links start disappearing from the Share function because it points to something an advertiser doesn’t like?  Or links are promoted falsely?  The news comes from GoogleNews right now, but who is determining what news is revelant to Black people?  And will the nature of that news change with the advertisers.

Honestly, there are other, better ways to create and foster a Black community online.  As I said, portal sites are popular and can do a lot of what the BlackBird people are doing but without the browser itself.  When pondering the reason why they felt they even needed a rebranded browser in the first place, I have to admit I got a little suspicious.  This is just my gut feeling and not based on anything but a hunch and a small experience: I think BlackBird probably tracks users’ Internet usage without telling them.  Possibly even something worse.

One reason I started feeling this way is that, when I first installed BlackBird, it asked me if I wanted to make it my default browser.  I told it no, it did it, anyway.  When I reclaimed the defaulkt state for my regular Firefox, that took.  But when I shut BlackBird down, then clicked on a link in my email, BlackBird came back, having made itself my default browser yet again.

This is not good in any way.

So, what do you all think of BlackBird the Black Browser?

Ignorant Parents In Danger Of Raising Ignorant Children

So here’s the story as I understand it.  Every year at this elementary school they celebrate Thanksgiving by having the kids dress up as pilgrims and “indians”.  Parents, mainly those of Native descent, have begun to object to this for several reasons.  1. It’s a completely inaccurate portrayal of what went on when the pilgrims got here.  (I am also kind of sick of the way we lie to kids about history, only to have to reteach it later.  Columbus discovered America, anyone?  Lincoln fought the war to free the slaves?  But I digress.) 2. The “indian” outfits are stupid and based on racist stereotypes, anyway.  All they were asking is that they have the Thanksgiving stuff without the ignorant dress up time.  The school board agreed and said that the feast should happen without costumes.

And then.

Well, most of you who read this blog can guess what happened.

Condit Elementary School parent Michelle Raheja said she was not prepared for the backlash she got from helping to write an e-mail to a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school.

She and her daughter have been harassed as a result, she said Wednesday.

“It was a private message to one kindergarten teacher,” Raheja said. “She did not ask me if she could circulate it to others or circulate it to the principal. I don’t think she was ill-intentioned.”

On Tuesday, numerous parents and their children dressed in American Indian and Pilgrim costumes to protest a Claremont Unified School District decision to have a Thanksgiving feast without the costumes that have been traditional for decades.

Another group of protesters, many younger and of American Indian descent, carried signs that said “Racism,” “No Thanks No Giving,” “Respect” and “Don’t Celebrate Genocide.”

Raheja said she and about 15 to 20 parents in the school helped write the private e-mail message about their concerns with the dress in the Thanksgiving feast to a Condit elementary teacher. She said the e-mail was redistributed without her knowledge.

At the Tuesday feast, Raheja said her 5-year-old daughter was harassed. A parent dressed up as an American Indian, Raheja said, “did a war dance around my daughter.” The parent then told her daughter and others to “go to hell,” she said.

Let’s pause here a moment.  A war dance.  A WAR DANCE, PEOPLE.

What the fuck kind of ass do you have to be to tell a 5 year old to go to hell?  The same kind of ass who would do a “war dance” around one.

I don’t advocate violence, but if I had seen that, I would have just hauled off and hit that person.

Continuing…

On Wednesday, she said she had received more than 250 “hateful and intimidating” e-mails.

“They go from being anxious about political correctness to calling me (an epithet). They don’t know my daughter’s name, but they’ve said hateful and disgusting things about my daughter.” (Classy! –abw)

At Tuesday’s feast, Raheja said she was told “if I had any issue with the school, I need to leave the school, and my daughter would not be welcomed.”

Raheja said, “We love Condit. We love the staff. Overall, we’ve had a very good experience. But the anger and hatred has been unbearable.”

If you have an opinion on this matter, I suggest you express it to the Condit staff and administrators yourself.  Website is here, complete with contact information.  I personally think it’s a little messed up for them to have even allowed parents to act in despicable ways around kids at their school or to distribute that email in the first place.

Google News on the subject here.  Beware clueless people being quoted and yammering on about how horrible political correctness is because it keeps their children from parading around in “headdresses”.  Idiots.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 144 other followers