Crisis after crisis, the dead bodies look the same.

They drown; they were about 42 this time, maybe more; no one came to the rescue, at least not when they were alive. They wanted to leave behind the conflict in Yemen. 

Yemen has been the theater of power and control struggles far beyond the region. In fact, the country became another victim of the war on terrorism waged by the United States after 9/11. The war was waged from a cave-type military compound in Colorado. Under President Obama’s watch, the military drone program had become a way to attack without being in danger and without accountability. It demonstrated one more time that it does not matter who the president is, there will be a war in a third world country, and the empire would administer the war and precipitate the start of a conflict.

As a result, Yemen is a place where children and women suffer gravely, imagine giving birth with malnutrition and war around; women die in childbirth from preventable causes. In all these conflicts whose origins are related to the constant state of crisis,  Women may disappear, and it is fine with the current profiteers of this money-making machine de-territorialized and dehumanized. 

The 42 plus young people drown off the coast of Djibouti. The UN report called them migrants and states: “we do not know why the vessel has capsized.” As long as the wrangling over the reasons for these deaths goes on; as long as refugees are labeled migrants; as long as we do not recognize our responsibilities and the responsibilities of this system of profit-making in creating these crises, including the Covid 19 crisis that is part of the same vision of the world, the violence over bodies will continue, and we will live in fear. 

The Covid 19 epidemic/pandemic, interestingly, brings a new level of crisis. The official discourse claims to do everything to save lives, while the link between the occurrence of the virus and deforestation, massive killing of species, and the corporate-agriculture and its Monsanto-like

companies are not part of the overall conversation. The virus has revealed the pitiful state of health of modern society. 

Vanished also from public discourse is the discussion about the industry of war that has impoverished people from Yemen and elsewhere. Also vanished the relationship between the dreadful war weaponry, which includes drones, and the dematerialized, de-territorialized digitally organized and tax-free investors.  

These countries are the battlefields of this intricate system: the fight for natural resources, globalized markets, cheap markets, discarding cheap labor and its expendability by any means, a steril digital market, and so on.

As long as we ignore our symbiotic relationship to our planet, we will be living in fear. We all need to find the way back to ancestral technics and traditions to understand that we lost that relationship due to de-territorialization. Meanwhile, the very few pulling the neoliberal strings that dehumanize our society are eager to use fear tactics to get more power. We have to liberate ourselves from these fear-tactics if we want to find back the power of solidarity.

(By Brigitte Marti)

Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio stop shackling women (prisoners) in childbirth … and beyond!

In Arkansas, on March 23, 2021, the Governor signed Senate Bill 84, the Dignity for Incarcerated Women bill, into law. This law will ban the shackling of women in childbirth and ban solitary confinement for pregnant women. The new law will also allow women and newborn children to stay together for three days. In Ohio, a new law went into effect Monday, April 12, 2021: “Law enforcement and corrections officers can no longer handcuff, belly chain, shackle, or confine a pregnant teen or woman, including during their postpartum recovery.” In Mississippi, on Wednesday, April 14, the Governor signed the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act into law. The law, which goes into effect July 1, prohibits the use of restraints on women giving birth in prisons and jails, prohibits the use of leg restraints on pregnant women and on women for 30 days after giving birth; prohibits shackling pregnant women to other people; prohibits shackling women to other people for the first 30 days after childbirth. The new law will allow mothers and newborn children to remain together for three days. Currently, the baby is spirited away the moment it is born. As one advocate put it, “This was a huge win for Mississippi and definitely incarcerated women.” This was a huge win for Mississippi, for incarcerated women, for all women, for all people.

In 2014, Maryland and Massachusetts stopped shackling women prisoners in childbirth. In 2018, North Carolina ended shackling women prisoners in childbirth. In 2019, Utah and Georgia banned the use of shackles in childbirth. Last year, South Carolina stopped shackling women prisoners in childbirth. In each state, the bill was termed a Dignity for Women bill. Every win for women’s dignity anywhere is a huge win for everyone. It’s time, it’s way past time, to ban shackling women in childbirth, to ban shackling pregnant women, to ban shackling women postpartum. It’s time, it’s way past time, to beat our shackles into ploughshares. Abolish shackles now.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit 1: Radical Doula)  (Image Credit 2: New York Times / Andrea Dezsö)

Five Haikus for Malcolm X

Five Haikus for Malcolm X

Let’s talk down to earth 
No celestial problems
Ballots or bullets.

Not scared of bullets
More frightened of the ballot
But no new gun laws

New Legislation
Forty-seven angry states
To limit the vote.

American fear
Shaped like a citizen’s hand
Holding a ballot 

Tell the whole story
No Malcolm X no Martin
The yin and the yang

(By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry)

(Photo Credit: Library of Congress / Parris Stancell / Camilo J. Vergara)

New Jersey built a special hell for women, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women

Nafeesah Goldsmith, lead organizer for NJ Prison Justice Watch, hugs Tiera Piercy-Hollis of Camden at a protest outside Edna Mahan Correctional Facility

An ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate complaints against “maladministration” by a central government. By investigating, an ombudsman protects against governmental abuse of power. It’s that simple … unless you’re in New Jersey. On Thursday, April 8, 2021, New Jersey Department of Corrections Ombudsman Dan DiBenedetti testified before New Jersey state legislature’s judiciary and women and children’s committees. On Friday, April 9, 2021, DeBenedetti announced his resignation, effective August 1, 2021. Dan DiBenedetti has been Ombudsman since 2009. In that time, he has not suggested a single policy recommendation concerning Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, the `open secret’ open sore of New Jersey. No one from the Ombudsman’s staff has visited Edna Mahan in over a year. According to current and former residents of Edna Mahan, there’s no point in contacting the office of the Ombudsman, because they no one from that office ever does anything. Again, Dan DiBenedetti has been Ombudsman since 2009. Why did it take the state legislature over a decade to recognize that something was wrong, that women were being abused not only by the prison staff but by the entire State apparatus?

Here are just a few headlines from the past 12 months: “Sexual abuse of inmates at N.J. women’s prison is an ‘open secret,’ federal inquiry finds” (April 14, 2020); “31 Guards Suspended at a Women’s Prison Plagued by Sexual Violence” (January 28, 2021); “NJ corrections dep’t settles for over $20 million with victims of Edna Mahan abuses dating back to 2014” (April 7, 2021). The State settled with survivors of Edna Mahan, but the issue is far from settled. The abuses didn’t start in 2014. Staff sexual abuse of women at Edna Mahan go back at least as far as 1994, when Kevin Brodie was `caught’, fired and prosecuted. Not a year has gone by since without a similar incident. As last year’s Federal inquiry noted, “Current and former prisoners at Edna Mahan described sexual abuse of prisoners by correction officers as an `open secret.’ There is no indication that NJDOC officers took reasonable responses to prevent correction officers and staff from continuing to sexually abuse prisoners at Edna Mahan.” That report was filed April, 2020. Since then, no one inspected Edna Mahan and no one outside the usual suspects asked why there was no inspection. 

On the books, New Jersey’s Department of Corrections Ombudsman actually has quite a bit of power to investigate and prosecute. The Office can force people to testify under oath. But if you have, as New Jersey does, an Ombudsman who came up through the ranks of the Department of Corrections, who views his investigatory powers as a betrayal of his brothers in blue, and if the State legislature is willing to look the other way until it’s forced to look again, then the books don’t much matter. 

Now legislators demand a `clean sweep’: “`Everyone has to go,’ Assemblywomen Aura Dunn, R- Morris, Nancy Muñoz, R- Union, and Assemblymen Christopher DePhillips and Bob Auth, both R- Bergen, said in a joint statement Thursday night. What has to go is Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, and not to be replaced with a `better prison’. The Unites States is a gulag archipelago of women’s prisons, each designed as a special hell, including Julia Tutwiler in Alabama, Lowell Correctional in Florida, the California Institution for WomenHuron Valley in Michigan, Muncy in Pennsylvania, and Edna Mahan in New Jersey. Every one of them is an “open secret”, and every one of them must be shut down, once and for all. Otherwise, at some point, the State legislature will meet, in committee, and discover that the Ombudsman, whose only job is to investigate, has nothing to say about the atrocities we commit by looking the other way.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Picture credit: Keith A. Muccilli / NJ Advance Media)

Prisons, jails, immigrant detention centers are deathtraps. What else is there to say? Do not look away.

Where are the women? Where is Andrea Circle Bear? On April 22, 2020, The New York Times reported that 7 of the 10 largest Covid-19 clusters in the United States are prisons and jails. Today, The New York Times returns to the scene of the crime – prisons, jails, immigrant detention centers. Their article opens, “Worldwide, about 2 in 100 people are known to have had the coronavirus. In the United States, which has among the worst infection rates globally, the number is 9 in 100. Inside United States prisons, the rate is 34 in 100, more than three times as high …. Over the past year, more than 1,400 new inmate infections and seven deaths, on average, have been reported inside those facilities each day …. The virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population, the data shows, and at least 2,700 have died in custody.” What else is there to say? Overcrowding, criminally poor health systems, failure – or refusal – to test prisoners, laissez faire as a form of mass execution, a half century of mass incarceration come home to roost. Remember Andrea Circle Bear, who died in federal custody, April 28, 2020, the first woman to die of Covid in federal custody, Andrea Circle Bear who should have never been in prison in the first place? Andrea Circle Bear was in FMC Carswell. How are things at FMC Carswell today? In mid-February, weeks after the winter storms had knocked out electricity across Texas, of 1,288 prisoners, 30 officially were infected with Covid, although many manifest symptoms. Because of lack of planning, or refusal to plan or care, women went for days without heat or water. Women who are quarantined are “treated absolutely horribly”, according to Faith Blake, the name plaintiff in a suit against FMC Carswell. According to the UCLA Covid-19 Behind Bars Data Project, FMC Carswell’s cumulative case rate is currently 60 percent. You know what FMC stands for? Federal Medical Center. FMC Carswell is the only medical center for women in entire federal Bureau of Prisons. What else is there to say?

Where are the women? Where is Colony Wilson? Colony Wilson was a prisoner at the Birmingham Women’s Community Based Facility and Community Work Center, in Birmingham, Alabama. On May 11, 2020, Colony Wilson collapsed in a stairwell, in full view of staff and inmates. Staff did nothing for seven minutes and wouldn’t allow others to help her up the stairs to the clinic. According to inmates, Colony Wilson collapsed and couldn’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Staff yelled at her to get up and waited seven minutes. Colony Wilson died on May 11. On May 10, Colony Wilson had complained of difficulty breathing. The incident on May 11 was the second time she collapsed in the span of 24 hours. Colony was never tested for coronavirus, not by the coroner nor by the prison: “Alabama’s prisons have among the lowest testing rates and the second-lowest case rate of all state prison systems — but among the highest coronavirus death rates in the nation.” Colony Wilson was 40 years old when she died … or was executed.

According to the Covid Prison Project, as of April 9, there have been 388,520 cases among people incarcerated in prison and 2,443 deaths of incarcerated individuals in prison due to Covid-19. Remember Colony Wilson, who was never tested for coronavirus, neither by the coroner nor by the prison. Remember Andrea Circle Bear. Where are the women? Do not look away.  

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: The Guardian/Tannen Maury/EPA) 

Elegy for George Floyd

Elegy for George Floyd

Take a deep breath and sally forth
When taking three steps beyond your front door
If the breath flows predominantly through one nostril
Then take your first step with the corresponding foot
Your luck might be better 
If you believe in the old teachings

Because a human Life can be taken because of a pack of menthols 
And a counterfeit $20 bill
In god we trust still printed on its ersatz face

Is big face paper and poisonous tobacco more valuable 
Than a Human Life?
A Black Life?

Inhale, exhale 
Breath in, breath out
The whole world is watching 
Waiting 
Breathlessly
For a verdict.
How many camera angles does it take to get justice?

Breath entering our dust and we become living souls
Hong Sau, Hong Sau, Hong Sau, Hong Sau, So ‘ham
21,600 times a day 
Everyday
For 100 years
Or, until the day we die
And for every breath the heart Lub Dubs four times
How long can you effortlessly hold your breath?

8 minutes 46 seconds?
9 minutes 29 seconds?
Or until we are Genesis 7:22’ed?

Taking away what they could not give
George, You came  in like a Lion 
And went out like a lamb
To the slaughter 
Blue clad knee on a brown skinned neck
A perverse imitation of a vengeful god
Who was tired of all the rowdiness

A scapegoat baring all of our cultural sins
Lamb of god show us the sins of our world
Show us the of our world
Show us the sins of our world 
(I say beating my heart with my fist)

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH take a deep breath
Ujjāyī — the breath of victory 
A baby’s first inhalation 
Before its first scream 
Before it can even know its  mother’s face 
Breath, stamp my story onto my spine 
And let me live it until it’s end!

Mother: first Guru and first lived embodied archetypical experience
Madonna and child
Being born 
Collecting the winds of the four cardinal directions 
Into the center of my being
My navel
Let crying out to you be my last earthly act, too, 
Mother
Whether I die with steel in my hand 
Or even under the knee of cowards 

Juxtapose the children baring the weight 
Of testifying on behalf of their Elder
Too young to appear in court 
But old enough to have witnessed atrocity
Sobs
Breaths of sadness
Breaths of tears

And 46 other types of breathing that typify our human existence 
All snuffed out as 
Your breath left your dust, George.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE 
The last exhalation and the breath of leaving
George, Let your breath merge with all breaths
All breaths that have ever been sighed into the atmosphere 

Merge with hurricanes wrecking trailer parks
And Santa Anna winds feeding California fires, 
Merge with the tornado so that the world will notice your passing

Let Ọya‘s arms embrace you so that your face can be seen in the storm clouds
Your voice be heard in the thundering
And your eyes be seen in lightning flashing.

Blend with the sirocco
Zephyr
Pneuma
prāṇa with its five divisions
And the air that feeds household and sacrificial fires

Merge with Shekhinah

Blend with caressive springtime winds inciting 
The Johnny Jump Ups
Tulips
Hyacinths 
Crocus and cherry blossoms

Be the life of another 
And another
And another
A portion of you part of the first breath 
Of those newly born as you died

What is immortality if not this?

Be ¡presente! in the revolutionary voices of people crying out for justice
Who and what do they think they were trying to kill?
You would be seen see everywhere if people had hearts
Thousands of eyes
Thousands of heads arms and legs
And a spark from the light of one thousand suns.
Not other than that spark

But a blue clad knee controlled by cultural impurities saw you  as Other
Other than themselves 
Other than America
Other than one man one vote
Other than fully human
Beloved on sports fields 
And reviled on American city streets
Made menacing by your strength and size
A product of late 17th century plantation genetic engineering 
Frankenstein wasn’t the monster
He was the man who created the monster

But your promethean flame was not initially stolen
You were not a perverse imitation of life
And you weren’t a monster either
Your Flame stolen after the fact 
I take a spark of you and blow on it 
To bring a little light into this darkened world.

(By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry)

(Image Credit: Saatchi Art / Miguel Amortegui)

Not Your Yellow Fantasy: #StopAsianHate intersectionality

I went to the #StopAsianHate march in DC because I have experienced verbal and physical assault because of my Asian identity. After hearing of the shooting in Atlanta, I realized that the targeting towards Asian women was not accidental. My friend and I hoped to stress the intersectionality in the march by posting signs such as “Not Your Yellow Fantasy” and “Solidarity with Massage Worker.” I am glad to see the Asian community organizing and protesting, and hope the visibility in politics can last. 

Actually, the slogan “Not your yellow fantasy” is not my original idea. Last summer, I read about crowdfunding on Instagram to help publish a book written by a young Korean woman. In the book, she talks about her experiences being discriminated against and sexualized in the US. I donated some money for her, and in return, I can read her book chapters in advance through email. Through her emails sent to potential readers, I came to know that her book’s name changed from “Yellow Fantasy” to “Not Your Yellow Fantasy.”  So when brainstorming the signs with my friends, I immediately thought about her book’s name. The book, Not Your Yellow Fantasy: Deconstructing the Legacy of Asian Fetishization is now complete.  I have only read the Introduction but I will continue reading the whole book in the future.

(By Xiyuan Wu)

(Photo by Xiyuan Wu)

In Turkey, women refuse to go back: ‘It is women who will win this war’

Around the world, the past year has seen astronomical increases in the incidence of domestic violence. According to United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, “Since the outbreak of Covid-19, emerging data and reports have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified in what we have called the Shadow Pandemic.” While the explosion of violence against women and girls may be a shadow, around the world – from the Americas to Asia and Africa to Europe and beyond – women are refusing to be rendered shadows or specters, are organizing, militating, demonstrating and protesting, and demanding a just and better world. Women are the story. Remember that.

In Turkey, women have always organized against violence against women and girls, femicide, and silence. When women discovered that the Turkish government didn’t think the murder of women important enough to record, they set up their own platform, We Will Stop Femicide. Last summer, when yet another woman was brutally tortured to death, in this instance by her ex-boyfriend, women organized, insisting on justice for Pınar Gültekin, which justice would include contextualizing her death among the large number of women attacked, murdered, intimidated, harassed: “We are here Pınar, we will hold them accountable”. They used every means available, including famously Instagram, asking, “What is happening to women in Turkey? (and what is the Istanbul Convention?)”.

The Istanbul Convention is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Last July, in the midst of rising and intensifying violence against women and girls, in Turkey as elsewhere, Turkey’s President Erdogan began making noises that he wanted to leave the Istanbul Convention, because leaving the one structure that actually addresses violence against women and girls seemed the most reasonable State response, given the Shadow Pandemic. 

Friday night, at midnight, the Turkish government issued a decree claiming to withdraw its membership in the Istanbul Convention. While the announcement was “a surprise”, it wasn’t surprising. Recall that last year, in May, Hungary’s Parliament refused to sign the Istanbul Convention, and then, in July, Poland threatened to pull out. While the move was “a surprise”, it wasn’t creative or original or clever. If anything, it was both predictable and trite. Poland passes more and more draconian laws outlawing and criminalizing abortion and reproductive rights more generally, Hungary goes after its LGBTIQ+ communities and individuals, and Turkey promotes violence against women. The pogrom is alive and well in Europe.

While the media largely focuses on the so-called Big Men, the real story here is that of the women of Turkey, mobilizing, organizing, militating as ever. The moment the decree appeared,  at midnight, women organized. Individual women and women’s organizations responded immediately. Feminist attorney Hülya Gülbahar was among many who noted, “It is not possible to withdraw from an international convention with a Presidential decree. You withdraw from a convention in the same way you became a party to it. The İstanbul Convention was unanimously approved at the Parliament. We call on the Parliament to reclaim its own will, the people’s will. Parliament to duty, to lay claim to İstanbul Convention”. Canan Güllü, the chair of the Federation of Women’s Associations of Turkey, added, “This is a consequence of the one-man regime. They put women on the table of politics. This means “Rape women, beat women, abuse children.” The next day, in demonstrations across the country, women chanted, “İstanbul Convention saves lives” and “We don’t recognize the one man’s decision”. Others chanted, “We are not scared, we are not afraid. We shall not obey.” One placard said it all, “It is women who will win this war.”

1956, South Africa, in response to State violence, the women chanted, ”Wathint’ abafazi, Strijdom! wathint’ abafazi,wathint’ imbokodo,uza kufa!” “Now you have touched the women you have struck a rock: you have dislodged a boulder: you will be crushed.” 2019, Chile, in response to State violence, the women pointed to the Supreme Court and chanted, “El violador eres tú!” “The rapist is you!” 2021, Turkey, in response to State violence, the women say, “It is women who will win this war!” Women are the center of this center.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Bianet / Evrim Kepenek & Ayşegül Özbek)

No, Actually, This is Exactly Who We Are

Tuesday, a 21-year-old white man went on a killing spree, murdering 8 people in Georgia. His targets were mostly Asian American women, working in massage parlors across Cherokee County and in Atlanta.

He was arrested, alive. He was called a kid. He had had a bad day and was mentally ill with a sexual addiction. Apparently, the Captain decided to buy a shirt a year ago telling everyone that COVID came from “Chy-na”. 

Funny how, for men who have committed violent acts can use the mentally ill excuse. If we were really using violence as an indicator of mental illness and trauma women would have burned this entire country to the ground centuries ago. 

There must be something else to this story. 

Maybe the deaths of these women were a culmination of nearly two centuries of anti-Asian racism, policies that were designed to bar them from citizenship and deported them when they finished laboring out in the west. 

Maybe it was the continuing fetishization of Asian women, because it is not lost on me that massage parlors and happy endings are still somehow a joke that is acceptable to be shared. Maybe it’s the over-sexualization of Asian bodies, while simultaneously infantilizing them, fantasizing of raping Asian women, and seeing them as nothing more than objectified pieces for white male pleasure. 

Maybe it was the coronavirus, and an entire year of the president calling COVID-19 the China Virus, The China Flu, disparaging Chinese citizens as dirty, diseased, disgusting. 

I wonder, why the English virus hasn’t caught on (because of the COVID variant, and not the bubonic plague, or syphilis, or the many diseases that the English brought to America and wiped-out indigenous populations with) the same way all those amazing slogans above caught on. 

So, when I hear politicians or White Americans tell us this isn’t who we are…I’d like to remind them that this is exactly who we are. We spent a year blaming a group of people for “creating” a virus, when viruses do not have a race, an ethnicity, a nationality. We spent the Second World War interning Japanese Americans because of anti-Japanese racism; we’ve denied citizenship to Chinese because of anti-Chinese sentiment when they built the west; and we continue to other Asian Americans into the model minority to create tensions between other groups of people in this country. 

This is exactly who we are. This is how white supremacy works. The next shooter will still be a white man, and will be called a boy, and we’ll told he was mentally ill and just “snapped”. We’re not going to do much better until we reckon with our history. 

By Nichole Smith

(Photo Credit: AlJazeera)

Swirl: For Women’s History Month

Swirl: For Women’s  History Month

Princess Café au Lait Barbie and Prince Ginger Ken couldn’t do what we have done
United two families 
The day we were married and our hands met
We were Black and White touching
All these years together
And I have never written you a poem

Too busy loving — I guess — to write about it

But as I watch Meghan and Harry walk the tight wire between 
despair and disillusionment
I marvel at what we have done with the love that we have brought into this world
Revolutionary hearts beating revolutionary rhythms
And our breath exhaling revolutionary words
Revelatory hearts surviving the “for better and for worse’
Inhaling inspiration from the events of the day
And our own lives

As fearless as veteran warriors
And as ardent as midwives bringing new life into this world
We are not a prince and a princess
We are a King and a Queen

Think new thoughts by not eating the foods of childhood
From food you get mind
Both our families amazed because we make our pancakes from a mixture of five flours
Adding both cinnamon and ginger powder to the batter
The alchemy of mixing foods 
And of mixing peoples
Let your table be an altar and all foods be sacramental 
Because if you know how to mix
The outcome is always astonishing

We cooked mountains of vegetables from a Wisconsin garden  
And used more onion and garlic then either of our families had ever eaten at one time
Food cooked in houses that didn’t know 
The smell of clarified butter dancing with cumin and coriander
Brown and gold touching 
We watched our food disappear 

Everyone always asks for the recipes
But the alchemy of mixing is hard to learn 
And requires both artistry and skill

You have to cook the way you live
But Meghan and Harry didn’t cook their own food
And they planned for the wedding day but not for the marriage

Start the day with conversations and endless cups of chai
The only ritual we do daily, regularly, and sincerely 
Fresh ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, mint and black tea
Everyone always asks for the recipe
But the alchemy of mixing is hard to learn 
And requires both artistry and skill

Smash the cake into my face at the wedding party
Or, the women in my family will think you weak
You took me at my word 
Your Lucille Ball to my Desi Arnaz
Devils food cake covering my face as my Mothers laughed 
Punctuating their guffaws with
“Oh no she didn’t!”

They called you “Teena Marie” when you pierced your nose 
To commemorate your mother’s death
And my sister called you sister
Our revelatory hearts — again — surviving the better and worse

Maybe Meghan should have smashed cake into Harry’s face
You have to make space for yourself 
If you want to live unconventionally

So Swirl
Swirl down through the Middle Passage
And slavery
Swirl through “HAVE ME MANDINGO!”
Reconstruction
Through Birth of a Nation and the Klan
Swirl through JIm Crow
The Civil Rights Movement
And marches on Washington
Swirl through Blaxploitation Movies 
Through Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman
Through Baps, Bohos, and Buppies
Swirl through  Obama 
and through Kamala
Swirl through Black Lives Matter
Swirl through the Zoom age replacing words on the printed page

Marriage IS a political statement

Swirl Helen Pitts and Fredrick Douglas;
Jessie Walmisley and  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor;
Etta Terry Duryea and Jack Johnson 

Swirl Louisa Matthews and Louis George Gregory;
Josephine Baker and Jean Lion;
Ruth Williams and Seretse Khama 
You were Meghan and Harry before Meghan and Harry 
Were a gleam in their parents eyes

Swirl Pearl Bailey and Louie Bellson;
Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving — and thank you;

Swirl Grace Lee Boggs and and James Boggs;
Swirl Billy Porter and Adam Smith;
Swirl George Takei and Brad Altman Takei;

Swirl for the Wakandas that have already been and are yet to come
Love in Black and White
Love in Lavender
Rainbow Love
Black Love
Brown Love
And all The  loves that now dare to speak their names

This is for Hettie Cohen and her husband Leroi Jones before he became Amiri Baraka 
For Lena Horne and Lennie Hayton
Diana Ross, Robert Ellis Silberstein, and Arne Næess: 
Two scoops for Miss Ross!

And all of the other swirl couples too numerous to mention
Which is the point.

Walk seven times around the sacred fire with me and make a promise with each circumambulation
For earth, water, fire, air and space.
For self-actualization 
and for transcendence

Wed on the day winter becomes spring 
On a Venus’ day
And at the hour of the unconquerable
Our friends asked what the attire would be 
And we said:
Come as you will be for the rest of our lives 
And the lifetimes to come
Everyone always asks for the recipe
But the alchemy of mixing is hard to learn 
And requires both artistry and skill

Keep thinking:
It can be stopped at the boarder
Or with gated communities
It can be lynched out of existence
It can be gerrymandered
Or put into interment camps 
Or stifled by anti-miscegenation laws 
With 7 states still requiring racial disclosures on marriage certificates 

No one is coming to get you
We are you!

Red hair and creamy skin are genetically recessive 
Which is why they asked how dark the children would be
Meghan and Harry — a reversed living Bridgerton
AND HE BURNS FOR HER!

That the answers to our questions and concerns lie on a the path less traveled 
Is — perhaps — the greatest fear of people who think 
That salt, black pepper, and sugar 
Are the only spices there are.

 

By Heidi Lindemann and Michael Perry

(Image Credit: Sol Lewitt: “Swirl Platter”)