Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sometimes It Takes An Act Of Faith

Faith Dow is a freelance writer and performer who currently resides in San Francisco. She’d like to find a way to combine advocacy with her artistic endeavours. Aside from wanting to visit  Cadaques, Spain she has a fascination with cooking shows, gourmet chocolate and mixed media art. She’s currently writes for her blog Acts of Faith In Love and Life.

    1. It is my understanding that you don’t identify as a womanist or a feminist.  What issues do you have with either label and how do you theorize a movement that critically examines the oppression of women?
    2. I choose to not self-identify as either a feminist or womanist because neither definition encompasses fully what it means to me to be a woman who is also Black. People tend to make assumptions and bring their own interpretations of what things mean in response to how some people identify.  People may look unfavourably or assume solidarity based on a title without doing any vetting to determine who may or may not be an ally. So this is more of a strategic decision on my part. For the record though I am very supportive of initiatives that benefit women and I think we could all benefit from demanding reciprocity in all our relationships.

    3. What steps do you feel need to occur to bring about a greater since of harmony between white women and women of colour thus bringing about a stronger sense of unity? 
    4. First I think we have to determine whether that’s even necessary. Every woman of the same ethnicity doesn’t share the same viewpoint so why would there be an assumption that women who don’t would? There are those who intend to be obstructionists while others are just operating out of ignorance but not necessarily with malice. Instead I think it would be best to find women who share similar goals and remember if they decide to work together that it is a business partnership not a personal relationship. We don’t need to understand every aspect of how another woman thinks or feels. I will say however that a thorough examination of the ways class and systematic racism impact those relationships needs to occur. For example a woman who has to work two jobs due to low pay may not have the same needs as a woman who’s a Vice President in a corporate field. One would often times be tired and perhaps not live in an ideal neighbourhood with access to fresh but affordable food. One may be hitting a glass ceiling. People can’t be so defensive, ready to fight or ready to fall apart without first examining what they’re seeking and a minimum standard of tangible goals.

    5. We live in a hierarchal society in which black women often find themselves at the bottom.  To what do you attribute this and why do you feel that black women continually fail to make themselves a priority? 
      It could take volumes to reply to this question! Not every Black woman is in this situation first of all. Again, this goes back to systematic racism where the infrastructure is set up to favour white men, then white women and children. One of the biggest problems I see I how the Blacks who are descended from the slaves that built the Americas is the lack of acknowledgement of that. There is a physic fissure that still resonates with a lot of people because it’s carried generation to generation – but people accept it as well. Those contracts to agree to carry this burden need to be broken. There needs to be a recognition of the different class structures that exist amongst Blacks as well. It’s funny how when things were much more difficult for Blacks overall many were in fact able to work around a horrible existence and be successful. Now there seems to be a defeatist attitude often where the focus is on all the negative things that can occur. There’s also this focus on protecting Black boys and men at all costs against the big bad (white) racism at the expense of Black women and girls. Women in general have a hard time putting themselves first because we live in a patriarchal society that teaches us to defer to men always. So for Black women it’s doubly so. In the end the only reason why Black women don’t put themselves first is because they choose not to. Society is set up to pass us over but that doesn’t mean we have to let it happen! It’s an indoctrination that begins as a child, much like the results of the test where children prefer the white doll. It’s a not always silent message being passed down generation to generation and it’s literally killing us. It has to change or most of us won’t make it.  We have to do an extensive evaluation of where we stand, what our place in the world will be and learn to make better choices. When we know better we will.
    6. As a black woman we are often told by black man that uplifting the race means submitting to patriarchal authority.  Do you believe that this is best path to social gains why or why not? What alternative solutions do you feel are possible for the black community to embark upon that would not require the subjugation of black womanhood?
    7. I’d say we are in fact told this more by other Black women with the approval of Black men. With the rate of out of wedlock births and the abandonment of Black women and children by Black men amongst the lower class structures there are often no Black men to be found. I can recall seeing this played out in my own family where my brothers were allowed to be themselves, roam the streets and be catered to but me and my sisters were constantly told we had to be responsible and carry ourselves a certain way and had to adhere to a completely separate code of behaviour. It used to drive me crazy and those were my mother’s rules. Things will not change without a fight and at the discretion of women who when they are of age to say “Enough.” Again, it comes down to knowing better and doing better, having set standards as well as consequences for violating them. No one’s life is going to be perfect though.

    8. The black church has continued to play an instrumental role of leadership in the community however some would say that it has strayed from its communal roots in terms of acting as a form of social relief in a time of economic and social strife.  To what do degree do you believe that a break down in a sense of community is resulting in what we know term the lost generation and how can we best affect change?
    9. Well we know the church hierarchy tends to be populated by Black men, but the bulk of the foot soldiers and financial contributors are Black women who give without demanding anything back in return. They often think they’re following some religious or Christian tenet instead of recognizing that imbalance. When there are no standards for behaviour expected and no consequences why would this change? There should also be a recognition that attending a church service doesn’t mean people know God. The church can play integral role in social justice. Back during Civil Rights it was as a point of facilitation and congregation where people could meet that was considered sacred and safe (usually). This happened due to the participation of like-minded individuals with a goal. Similar to greater society there was a shift into looking out for each other to focusing on the self. Except for Black women of course! It can return to more altruistic ventures just as soon as people decide to make it a priority. I do however caution by stating charity begins at home. Some residential areas may not be worth saving when no amount of money will change the hearts and minds of people who seek to be as destructive as possible. I’d even go so far as to say mental health services are probably the most underserved facilities in neighbourhoods with populations that need them the most.

    10. With the continual focus on black men by the community many of the issues that black women face are particularly ignored. Most acts of sexual violence are intra rather than inter racial.  Why do you believe we have routinely failed to deal with the violence in our community?  Also why do you feel that we seem to defend men like Chris Brown and R Kelly.  Is it that we have come to over value celebrity out of a desire to privilege masculinity. 
    11. Broken people cannot make decisions from an emotionally healthy perspective. Again I would caution the posing of this question as a blanket statement that encompasses the lives of every Black person. There are plenty of Blacks with intact families who are financially and emotionally sound where women are valued. Being around a group of people with different perspectives is absolutely necessary to avoid the sheep and herd mentality. I don’t think a study of the why things are violent should be the focus. I think the focus should be those in close proximity to it need to get away. If your house was on fire would you analyze how it got started or how long it would take before it burned to the ground? Of course not! Perhaps once you’re from a safe vantage point you may wish to evaluate all of the parameters but until then forget about that! Get out and save yourself! We ignore our intuition far too often and don’t evaluate who we allow in our lives. As for Brown, Kelly or any other male celebrity who should be in jail but isn’t – it’s not just them. There’s plenty of abusive men who don’t add anything of value being allowed to roam free and wreck havoc who are harboured by a lot of excusers and deniers. The same thing happens with racists and sexists. It can be painful to confront these issues and people are cowards quite frankly. Sometimes there’s an emotional investment where Blacks think it’s “us” vs. “them” meaning Blacks needing to guard themselves against whites. So they consider it some sort of group betrayal for holding the miscreants responsible. For a long time that was the case, but now some of our greatest enemies look like us. One of the blowback scenarios from Civil Rights is that some people of color got into positions of powers and stepped right into the oppressor role as their white counterparts. I could also offer it’s a spiritual decay and the presence of those that have given in to depravity. There’s an expression “not all skin folk are kin folk” that I think people REALLY need to apply more frequently and divest themselves from toxic people.

      7)  As a young ambitious and talented black woman to what do degree do you feel that your race and gender have combined to make your journey to success difficult? 

      I know my life has been impacted negatively somewhat but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it all originated from whites. Sometimes other Blacks can be your own worst enemy. I think where I would’ve most benefitted from was having examples of other Blacks navigating their way through the white populated corporate world and learning to wield power effectively. I’ve had quite a few white female co-workers and a boss or two who were more interested in sabotage than solidarity. Another great skill to have is learning to choose and maintain allies and thinking outside the box. Other examples would be not having the only career goal be to have a “good” job. That may have worked for previous generations but not in today’s global economy – and especially not now with the financial downturn. In the end I’ve chosen to not follow a traditional career trajectory and wanted to pursue creative endeavours which reduced my earning potential significantly. Still I’ve managed to try to have as full a life as possible. I’ve lived in London and a few other cities. I didn’t jump into a relationship with an inappropriate person that left me permanently scarred. I haven’t had an unintended pregnancies. I’ve had freedoms but I’ve also made sacrifices. So I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve had. Now I’d like to see certain changes and am hopefully making choices that will get me to where I need to be.

    12. How do you negotiate being asked to preference your race by black men and your gender by women in terms of organizing and advocating for change?
    13. Well it’s not all from Black men! I usually preference my race first. There usually isn’t any choice in that when it’s constantly under attack in a myriad of ways. Often Black women are still not considered the “women” in the conversation. I also despise the use of the word minority. This goes back to the labelling scenario. White people are the minorities of the planet yet because of their dominance they attach that word to everybody else. There are some Black men who are willing to examine and step back from patriarchy. There are white women who are willing to examine their status being put on a pedestal. So it comes down to finding like-minded individuals and calling attention to those that want to keep the status quo.

    14. You are new to the blog world.  What inspired you to start a blog and what do you hope to achieve with your online activism? 
    15. Well I’ve always been an avid reader which can open up your world and challenge you in important ways. I used to keep journals and write short stories. I’ve studied songwriting and screenwriting as well. Being the eldest child I had a lot of responsibility foisted upon me at a young age. I was always interested in stories of triumph and looked out for the downtrodden. I took a marketing class for actors where we had to select a character in mythology that best described ourselves. I am the goddess who fights injustice. So thanks to the internet opening up a bit I decided to start writing my thoughts on various topics. I’d been an avid reader of numerous blogs for almost one year before I dived in. I really enjoy expressing a form of creativity as well as getting a message out. I want to provide inspiration and challenge the way people think even as I continue to be challenged by other bloggers in their forums.

    16. What do you feel is the most pressing issue that currently is affecting POC and what steps need to be undertaken immediately to avoid disaster?
    17. HIV and STIs are going to rob a lot of women out of the best years of their lives. The violence in certain residential areas will negatively impact or take lives. This economic downturn is going to make things a bit more challenging. The first thing is to leave from any situation where one is in danger as quickly as possible. Then a plan of action is needed. We just need to keep moving forward and taking small steps. Remaining still and being stagnant will lead to your demise.

    18. Since this is in celebration of International Women’s day what are your hopes and aspirations for WOC?
    19. That we love ourselves first and pursue our inner most desires. They’re there for a reason. They have validity. We need to let go of fear and walk with faith – the belief that we are meant to do great things and that’s ok. We don’t owe anyone else anything but we owe it to ourselves to be our very best.

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