Black Looks: Haiti Cherie

Haiti Cherie

What word can encompass stretch its arms and wrap them around
A day when the world returns to the dust it was
Before we fashioned orderly chaos and became free
The First Negro Republic raises weakened arms to wipe
The Ash
From its eyes water and ash to mould human tragedy
What word can encompass… we have asked before
Encompass passion itself when it screams whimpers
Haiti mwen
Haiti nou
Nou la épi zot

The word that encompasses has not yet been created
Bondyé ki pa bon
The word cannot be found
Under the rubble of ash and water edifices
Buildings made from tears and dust that crumble into a void of screaming and loss
A hellish void of independence and burnt out communication lines sparking revolting revolutionary pain
And yet is Haiti so epic that
Hurricane-proofed we sink into the earth from which
Yo di
We came
The dead in the streets and the word cannot be found the dust will not settle for the word to be found
She hides in the folds of warm pervasive stench heavy and loud as shattered eardrums
She cavorts with criminals buried under police stations and wives caressing newborns to deep deep sleep

Reveal yourself, word!
One hundred French citizens buried beneath a thousand Haitian bodies
Ki té ké soucouri corps mwen
And they keep coming
The hits
The hits
Les coups n’arrêtent pas
What more do we ask but to find the word that can
That will
Reach long arms around the day when God gripped us in His loving hands
And shook and shook
He set us down gently like lambs beautiful black sheep and
Poured ashes onto our heads?

Annie Quarcoopome

Annie Quarcoopome writes at Black Looks. This poem appeared on Black Looks, January 13,

Uganda is … A plea, a prayer, a demand, an invitation

An anti-homosexuality bill has been tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. Many have risen to denounce and oppose it, many others have risen to support it. Remember that in Uganda, homosexuality is already a criminal offense. This `homosexuality’ is defined as engaging in same- sex sexual relations or being identified as such. The new proposed legislation adds a possible death sentence, and other niceties.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, SMUG, and Freedom and Roam Uganda, FAR-UGANDA, have issued A CALL TO ACTION. It reads, in part:


Dear Partners, Allies and Friends,

As you already know, the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.” was recently tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. The Bill’s provisions are draconian and among them are;

• Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in some circumstances the death penalty;

• Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $ 2,650.00 or three years in prison;

• Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties;

• And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.

• Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, civil society leaders active in the fields of sexual
and reproductive health, hence further undermining public health efforts
to combat the spread of HIV;

• All of the offences covered by the Bill as drafted can be applied to a Ugandan citizen who allegedly commits them – even outside Uganda!

The existing law has already been employed in an arbitrary way, and the Bill will just exacerbate that effect. There is a continued increase in campaigns of violence and unwarranted arrests of homosexuals. There are
eight ongoing cases in various courts. Four accused persons are unable to meet the harsh bail conditions set against them. As a result, Brian Pande died in Mbale Hospital on 13th September, 2009 as he awaited trial.

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) calls upon you our partner, ally and/or friend to action. Denounce this bill through a protest at a Ugandan Diplomatic Mission in your country on November 9th 2009, where applicable.
Urge the Government of Uganda to reject this Bill in its entirety….

Thank you for standing in solidarity with the Uganda LGBTI community.

For more information, please contact:

Frank Mugisha Tel: + 256 772 616 062

Valetine Kalende                  Tel: +256 752 324 249”

Any person alleged to be homosexual, any parent, any teacher, any landlord or landlady, any doctor or nurse or caregiver, any neighbor, any stranger.  Everyone, everywhere. Anyone, anywhere. A landscape of allegations, a horizon of torture and death.

Freedom and Roam Uganda, FAR-UG, says its vision “is to build an organization, which will strive for the attainment of full equal rights of lesbians, bisexuals, Transgender and Intersexual (LBTI) women as well as the removal of all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and Empower LBTI women.” Its mission is “to empower, lobby and press for the recognition of same sex relationships, especially lesbians in Uganda and thereby attain full equal rights and freedom in all aspects of life.”

Its aims and objectives include the following: “To integrate a legal, ethical and human rights dimension into the response to discrimination based on sexual orientation and also to equip them for full participation in the political, social, economical and health set up of Uganda. To create, raise and promote awareness of discriminated causes and effects in regards to LGBTI (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and Intersexuals) persons especially LBTI (lesbian bisexual, transgender and Intersexual) women in Uganda….To raise self-esteem among LBTI women in our society. To provide education, homes, jobs as well as health resources to the needy in this cause….To bring LBTI women in Uganda and those outside our borders together in order to build one great family. To advocate for the establishment of a legal framework to reach those in society that are legally and socially marginalized. To educate the general public on issues of human rights within the context of sexual orientation.”

Freedom and Roam Uganda is “the only all Lesbian, Bisexual Women, Transgender  and Intersex women’s organization in Uganda.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda has a vision, “a liberated LGBTI people of Uganda.” Its mission “is to oversee and support member organizations to achieve their objectives aimed at LGBTI liberation.” SMUG has five objectives: “1. To advocate and lobby through coordinating efforts with local and international partners for the equality of all Ugandan irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation, social status or creed. 2. To build and strengthen visibility through media and literature. 3. To fight against HIV and AIDS in LGBTI, MSM and WSW community. 4. To speak out on gender-based violence e.g: Homophobia 5. Empower activists through trainings on leadership, social entrepreneurship etc.” SMUG breaks its activities into five categories: “1. Litigation. 2. Research and Documentation. 3. Media Campaigns and debates. 4. Awareness and Outreach. 5. Mainstreaming with civil society and NGOs with similar goals.” Sexual Minorities Uganda concludes its introduction of itself to the world with this:


Is it a plea or is it a prayer, a demand or an invitation? Yes to each, yes to all, together.




(Photo Credit: The Feminist Wire)


“Eclipsed” Last 10 days! See it now!

“Eclipsed” Last 10 days! See it now!

Written by Danai Gurira, directed by Liesl Tommy, world premier at the Woolly Mammoth, Washington, DC, until September 27, 2009 

In case you’re only going to read this one paragraph, I’m going to jump the gun. Don’t be put off by the subject of this play – five Liberian women in a rebel commander’s compound. Don’t file this event under “worthy but arduous.” Because this is the real deal: credible breathing funny characters emerge within minutes. You know them from the first volley of dialogue and action, and you understand the situation. This shack exists to serve and service CO, the commanding officer aka warlord who issues orders from just off stage to wives who call each other Number One and Number Three. As the lights come up, they are concealing from CO and the other men in the camp a third woman, a girl really, who has fled the fighting. The war, largely offstage, presses down on the play, as it did and does on Liberia. 

I like information, analysis and argument as much as the next woman, but the things I really know – outside my own experience – I learned from stories, through the powerful engagement that conjures empathy. The emotions experienced inside a story’s world burn into you and, fire-tempered, that knowledge stays. Such a story and such a world has Zimbabwean playwright and actress Danai Gurira written. 

A photograph from the conflict, featured in a New York Times article, sparked the play: three women combatants sporting tight jeans, attitude and AK47s. Gurira filed away the image and all it evoked. Years ago, she says (but it can’t be that many; she’s an elegant slip of barely 30), Gurira resolved to create stories about African women as real characters, not the usual stereotypes. If you were fortunate to see “In the Continuum,” the two-hander she wrote as her NYU drama school graduation project and performed in 2006 across the US and in her native Zimbabwe, you know she’d already begun to make good on that promise. Then, in 2007, she headed to peace-time Liberia to run workshops and interview numerous women about their experiences as combatants, wives, and survivors, as well as Peace Women in the mass movement credited with forcing the adversaries – Charles Taylor and the warlords opposing him – to the negotiating table and finally to a settlement. (As an innovative marketing strategy for “Eclipsed,” Woolly Mammoth held two screenings of “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” a powerful documentary about the Peace Women.) Gurira taped many hours of interview and promised the women that she would tell their story. 

Pledging to do justice to real, live women’s experiences makes perfect moral and emotional sense, but compromised drama, right? In this instance, happily, wrong! I could tell you about Bessie, the wise Fool of the piece, and her wig (“it still mek me look like Janet Jackson oh”), or about Maima, wife Number Two who takes the war name Disgruntled when she becomes a soldier (“now Disgruntled do whot Disgruntled like and no man come do no stupid ting to me or tell me whot to do”), or about the girl, who “can read and write and do all dem book ting,” reading juicy snippets from the biography of a certain American president, or about Rita, the peace woman, and her double quest in this particular camp. But you’d do better to meet them yourself, embodied with great skill and conviction by five African American actors. Five of the twenty – as South African director Liesl Tommy points out – who are employed in productions of “Eclipsed” in Washington, DC, in New York, in Los Angeles, and at Yale. Under Tommy’s direction and through a process of physical and visual immersion, the actresses at Woolly Mammoth (especially Uzo Aduba playing Helena, Number One) move like women who pound cassava, who kneel to scrub clothes in a tub or on a river bank, and who carry water in buckets on their heads, that swaying gait that gives African village women such straight-back carriage. 

What is this, you’re asking, a commercial? Where’s the critique? Ok, then. My major beef with Gurira is titles. “In the Continuum”? “Eclipsed”? These could name just about anything, including the latest soft-focus teen vampire porn series. Then, one of the actresses is more difficult to hear than the others. More interestingly, on Q+A night, an audience member was concerned that the wider context wasn’t clear enough from the play – although the ties between Liberia and the US – “America our fada,” says Bessie – are woven throughout. Political artists and audiences want it all – the art and the analysis. Think of 1986’s “Place of Weeping,” Darrell Roodt’s first film: one slim story staggering under the burden of representing all of apartheid South Africa’s types and tribulations.

I wonder, too, how Gurira will fare with male African critics. We don’t see a single man in the play, but like the war itself their presence surrounds the stage. Of the men of the LURD army and their demand for village girls after fighting, Maima/Disgruntled tells the girl, “Dey is beasts and beasts need to be fed. It dat simple.” Will Gurira, like novelists Alice Walker and Tsitsi Dangerembga, be accused of betrayal? Or have we moved on? And/or does the context of war qualify the situation – and therefore men’s behavior – as extraordinary? Perhaps Women In and Beyond the Global will make space for more discussion on this. Once you’ve seen the play, that is. The Woolly Mammoth run ends on September 27th. I’m all done pressing and exhorting. It’s up to you now. Except, to close, a few predictions:

You will leave Woolly Mammoth after a performance of “Eclipsed”

  • speaking like a Liberian (at least inside your head) for many weeks to come – “Ya dat funny oh”
  • your hands tingling from applause (and you might still be crying)
  • with a new awareness of women and war
  • living with and thinking about five characters, as if they were women you’ve known well and laughed with and care about, which by now they are. 

 Reviewed by Annie Holmes, knowledge coordinator for JASS ( and writer (


More about the play in Woolly Mammoth program notes:

Danai Gurira on NPR:

“Eclipsed” rehearsals in LA:

Washington Post Review:

Variety Review:

El Salvador: Las Hermosas Factory Struggle – Background

[Editors’ note: Yesterday CISPES released an action alert concerning the struggle of workers at Las Hermosas maquila in El Salvador. We invited them to give us a background on the situation of women workers, who make up the majority of workers and of leaders in this struggle. They sent us the report below. Thanks to CISPES for its work, to Estelle Jamira Ramirez, and to the women workers at Las Hermosas, and do go to  for the action alert and things you can do in support.]

Beginning in 2005, a group of women workers at the Las Hermosas maquila, a factory that formerly produced university clothing for Nike, Adidas, and Russell, began to organize to change unjust working conditions, including forced overtime, verbal and sexual harassment, and wage violations. Immediately after the workers began to organize, the factory owner closed the factory, leaving over 60 worker organizers unemployed, blacklisted from neighboring maquilas, and owed over $825,000. This money accounts for legally-due severance pay, salaries, overtime, two years of vacation pay, bonus pay, disability pay, and compensation for maternity leave, as well as deductions that were taken from our paychecks for housing, bank credits, health care contributions, and pension funds. 

Since then, a determined group of 63 women workers have organized protests, participated in international speaking tours, and joined students in the US to pressure Adidas, Russell, Nike and the Salvadoran government to comply with Salvadoran labor law, to ensure payment of the outstanding wages, overtime payments and severance pay, and to respect the right to organize in a union. Despite international pressure, the brands have ignored these codes, refusing to compensate the Las Hermosas workers the money that they unjustly deducted from their paychecks. 

While the case has fallen from international attention, the workers are continuing to fight the factory owner in the Salvadoran court system for violations of Salvadoran labor law. Currently, the Las Hermosas organizers and allied organizations are preparing a socio-economic survey to compare the current living situations of the Las Hermosas workers with their economic and social experience prior to the factory´s closure.

Testimony from Estella Jamira Ramirez, Former Las Hermosas Factory Workers

On February 2005, a group of 10 women workers sought to organize. In November, 2003 the factory Hermosa had cut wages. Even before that conditions had been precarious. There were long hours. There was maltreatment physically and verbally. There were frequent incidents of sexual assault by the owner’s nephews and an open environment for the supervisors to do the same thing. There was little access to medical care. There was a clinic in the factory but the doctor would not allow us to get check-ups at the Social Security Hospital. Workers did not generally get care at the Social Security hospital. They punished pregnant workers saying that they were going to the bathroom more frequently, vomiting and therefore their production had fallen. Additionally, the company would take pregnant workers out and segregate them to work 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The company would only bring them out when there were foreign visitors. 

One day, one of the workers who had been there for 9 years mentioned a union and was fired immediately. After November 19, they began to not even pay our salary. They insisted that we work Saturday and Sunday and did not pay us extra. In 2004, the Social Security Administration cut gynecological, neurological, and optical treatment. So the women who were pregnant could not go to that hospital and had to go to the national hospital, where they had to pay the expenses themselves. We would come to work but did not have enough money to eat. At our rest periods we would talk about what were we going to do.

In the summer of 2004, the majority of workers quit. Out of 600 workers, 250 stayed. These workers left with a promise that the owner would pay the salary, overtime and vacation that was owed. But to this time, none of those have been paid. In 2005, we were in deep debt. The company was taking out money from workers’ checks to pay their mortgages but was not paying their mortgages. Many were evicted including Norma. We went to FENASTRAS, the union that represented us.  

After the Peace Accords, the government had been able to buy off the heads of these unions. They organized us but then sold us out and negotiated with the owner of the factory. We had legal standing that we were the union. We made our demands against the company with the ministry of labor. We denounced all the things that Hermosa owed us and all the violations that had occurred. They scheduled two appointments but it was hard to get the company to come to them. It wasn’t until the last one that the company came. 

The Minister of Labor said that the company would have a month to pay us. In the same week, the company took out all of the materials from the factory. The owner had another maquila set up north of San Salvador. He completely closed the factory. On May 11, we stopped our work and took control of the factory. We were 14 women and one man. We divided into two groups. One went to the gates of the factory. The other went to the offices and began to demonstrate there. We were few people but very courageous. The police came. We said we are the ones who work this factory we decide who comes and leaves and at this moment nobody leaves. The police began to shake and said OK you run the factory just give me the key. 

We did everything so quickly and we took hold of the locks and we said to the women “Come and unite with us this man is trying to close the factory and has not complied with the agreement.” At this moment there was a big group of women – 64 women and seven men. The police came to kick us out and they accused us of taking private property. But we took the locks and put them in our pockets so they couldn’t see them. They said we were guerrillas and we kept screaming “We want them to pay us.” 

They went into their offices. There was a group that didn’t support us that told the police to take us out of there. We spoke to the police and said we haven’t done anything and there were no locks to begin with and what would you do if your children had nothing to eat. He finally left. We said to the owner “From this moment we are on strike and we are not going to work until you pay us.”

For a month, we cooked there, slept on the floor and had a committee to find resources. After a month the company asked for certification of the strike as a legal strike. The government ruled that the strike was not legal and ordered us back to work on June 19. We had to leave. We couldn’t risk going to jail for violating the order. They kicked us out but we stayed out on the street in front of the factory for five months. The owner hired a woman to follow us every day. FENASTRAS was saying that you already negotiated with the company. At first it didn’t matter, we were out on the streets making a huge ruckus. But we couldn’t get the press to cover us. From there, we started to look for other organizations and that is how we found the STS. 

We met a friend who was a journalist who helped us write letters to different social organizations and unions. That is how we found out about different organizations. They invited us to participate in the closing of a street in front of the Minister of Labor. There were 15 of us. We were there screaming “Minister of Labor – we are starving in the streets and you caused us to be starving in the street.” We saw a woman with green eyes. We came up to her and said “Are you here helping us?” She said “Why are you protesting?” We said “Because the Department of Labor doesn’t do anything for the workers.”  She was interested and went to look at the protest in front of the factory She asked a lot of questions about the brands we made. She came back with two compañeros – two real big guys. They did a whole video of us. They took us to eat at Mr. Donut which was nice because we hadn’t eaten for days. They said they were going to take our demands to Adidas which was really responsible.

They gave us $125 for food but asked for a receipt to show that we received the money. We asked what organizations they were with and they said Christian Romero in Germany and we said so you are not gringos. We felt a lot of fear because of the repression we had been through. When they asked us to sign the receipt, I thought “What if the owner had sent them to mess with us. We talked to them again on the phone and they said that Lauren from the Workers Rights Consortium was coming. This was the way our struggle moved to an international way. We continued marching in the streets but also had started judicial procedures.  The Germans helped us take the campaign internationally.

 Contact for more information or call (202) 521-2510

Announcing a new feminist journal: Women In and Beyond the Global, WIBG

Women In and Beyond the Global, WIBG, a peer-reviewed online journal

Women In and Beyond the Global, WIBG, is an open access feminist project that analyzes and works to change the status and conditions of women in global households, prisons, and cities. WIBG involves activists, academics, information specialists and others. WIBG has established a blog site,, and, in collaboration with the Center for Transnational Women’s Issues, a monthly seminar. We are pleased to announce our newest project, a new peer reviewed, open access online, international feminist journal: Women In and Beyond the Global, WIBG.

WIBG will publish interdisciplinary analyses, creative expressions, reports from the field, interviews, and artworks. The journal will create a common space for activists, academics, and information specialists to share their work and views, to interact with one another, and to change, in whatever way, the world.

WIBG intends to support and encourage publication around the globe. Our current Editorial Committee includes the following: Kelly Cooper, Cuernavaca, Mexico; Cheryl Deutsch, Mumbai, India; Cathy Eisenhower, Washington, DC, U.S.A.; Dan Moshenberg, Washington, DC, USA; Siphokazi Mthathi, Cape Town, South Africa; Rachel Riedner, Washington, DC, USA. We invite others to apply to become members of the Editorial Committee.

On February 1, we will circulate the call for papers for our first issue. Stay tuned.

If interested, please contact Dan Moshenberg,, or Cathy




5th Conversation of the Transnational Network on Women’s Issues

On Saturday, Feb 7, 10:30-12:00, Lisa Rabin and Catherine Berrouet of George Mason University

 will speak about


at the 5th Conversation of the Transnational Network on Women’s Issues.

To join the conversation in person, please go to George Washington University Phillips Hall, Room 411, 801 22nd St, NW, or Towson University Cook Library 404A, Towson, MD, 21252.

To join us by phone, please email

To view the flyer for the event, please click here:

Feb-7 transnational_network_flyer

Visit to hear the podcast of our previous talks.

WIBG on Facebook

We started a Women In and Beyond the Global Facebook group!

If you are a Facebook member, please join the group to connect and share ideas with transnational feminists working around the world.

If you are not on Facebook yet, be sure to join here so that you don´t miss out on WIBG events, discussions about women in global households, prisons, and cities, and opportunities to colloborate with feminists.

Thanks to all the predators

For those of us following prison/carceral issues, this is one way in which Madoff affects the work. This period will have been bracketed between “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” and “Bernie, you’ve done a helluva job.” Thanks to all the predators who make this world possible.
See ya, Dan

Statement of Robert Crane, President of the JEHT Foundation, on behalf of the Foundation’s Board of Directors

Posted under General News on Monday, December 15, 2008

The JEHT Foundation, a national philanthropic organization, has stopped all grant making effective immediately and will close its doors at the end of January 2009. The funds of the donors to the Foundation, Jeanne Levy-Church and Kenneth Levy-Church, were managed by Bernard L. Madoff, a prominent financial advisor who was arrested last week for defrauding investors out of billions of dollars.

The Foundation was established in 2000. Its name stands for the values it holds dear: Justice, Equality, Human dignity and Tolerance. It supported programs that promoted reform of the criminal and juvenile justice systems; ensured that the United States adhered to the international rule of law; and work to improve the voting process by enhancing fair representation, competitive elections and government transparency.

The JEHT Foundation Board deeply regrets that the important work that the Foundation has undertaken over the years is ending so abruptly. The issues the Foundation addressed received very limited philanthropic support and the loss of the foundation’s funding and leadership will cause significant pain and disruption of the work for many dedicated people and organizations. The Foundation’s programs have met with significant success in recent years – promoting change in these critical areas in partnership with government and the non-profit sector. Hopefully others will look closely at this work and consider supporting it going forward.

Robert Crane, President and CEO
JEHT Foundation

3rd Conversation of the Transnational Network on Women’s Issues

On Saturday, Nov 8th, from 10:30am-12:00pm, ANGELA HEWETT, PRIYA MURTHY, and TRAM NGUYEN, will speak about “Women in the Political and Electoral Processes” at the 2nd conversation of the Transnational Network on Women’s Issues.

Angela Hewett is a Virginia voter registration canvasser.
Priya Murthy is the Policy Director at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).
Tram Nguyen is the Associate Director at Virginia New Majority.

To join in person, please go to George Washington University Phillips Hall, Room 107, 801 22nd St, NW, or Towson University Cook Library 404A, Towson, MD, 21252.

To join us by phone, please email

To view the flyer for the event, please click here:

nov-8_transnational_network_flyer_revised (DOC)

Visit to hear the podcast of our previous talks.

2nd Conversation of the Transnational Network on Women’s Issues

On SATURDAY, OCT. 4, from 10:30-12:00pm, RAJ PATEL and UMA ASHER will speak about the “Global Food Crisis, Women, and Feminist Uses of Media” at the 2nd conversation of the Transnational Network on Women’s Issues.

Uma is a journalist with the Times of India, Mumbai, India, and Raj is the author of “Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System.”

To join in person, please go to George Washington University Phillips Hall, Room 411, 801 22nd St, NW, or Towson University Cook Library 404A, Towson, MD, 21252.

To join us by phone, please email

To view the flyer for the event, please click here:

FLYER Oct 4 Transnational Network on Women\’s Issues (DOC)