In Honduras, Barbados and beyond, women direct the conjunctural moment of hope

Xiomara Castro

On Sunday, November 28, 2021, Hondurans went to the polls and decided to move forward, rather than return to the past or remain in the corruption- and violence-soaked present. Hondurans voted, and in large number, for Xiomara Castro, the leftist Libre Party candidate. Castro’s victory was announced Monday, November 29, 2021. Meanwhile, at the stroke of midnight, November 29, 2021, the island country of Barbados will become the independent island republic of Barbados. This move from the last, and hopefully dying, whisp of colonialism to the full breath, and breadth, of autonomy and self-determination has been shepherded by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, of the Barbados Labour Party, and President Sandra Mason. At 12:01 am, November 30, Barbados becomes a fully independent republic. Since 1966, Barbados has celebrated November 30 as Independence Day, commemorating the day in which Barbados “was granted’ independence from the United Kingdom. This year, Barbados isn’t receiving independence, it’s seizing it.

Xiomara Castro is the first woman to be elected President of Honduras. Xiomara Castro is the first President to be democratically elected on a socialist platform. Castro has proposed a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution, a reinvigoration of international investigations of corruption, and a relaxation of some abortion restrictions. Castro has called for more independence for prosecutors. She has also called for reducing bank charges for remittances. Equally importantly, she has offered the country and the nation the prospect of unity across differences rather than the current State policies of intimidation, harassment, persecution, violence and death. Xiomara Castro has offered the vision and practice of participatory democracy, in which all sectors engage as mutual equal actors and in which no one, and no group, is excluded. On Sunday, Xiomara Castro explained, “For 12 years the people resisted, and those 12 years were not in vain. God takes time but doesn’t forget. Today the people have made justice.”

Barbadians have waited and prepared for full independence for decades, formally since 1966 but actually since the arrival of the British colonists who practically invented sugar plantation capitalism on the island of Barbados, which is to say first engaged in large scale enslavement of native populations in order to enrich `the Mother Country’, England. While discussions of removing the Queen from her position as head of state had long been simmering, 2020 saw a change: Black Lives Matter. In 2020, activists, organizers and just plain folk began demonstrating around the state of Lord Horatio Nelson, which stood in the heart of national heroes’ square. When earlier, activists had protested that Nelson was a leading proponent of the legitimacy and utility of slavery and the slave trade, the government turned the statue around, so as not to face the city. That was 1990. Thirty years later, the people said, “Enough! Thirty years is enough. Too much, in fact.” Last year, thanks to local Black Lives Matter activists, the statue came down. At its removal, Prime Minister Mia Mottley held up her phone, showed the crowds her screensaver, a picture of Bob Marley, and explained it was “to remind me always that the mission of our generation is the mental emancipation of our people”. That same day, Mia Mottley announced that in a year’s time, Barbados would remove the Queen as head of state and replace her with an elected President.

For Honduras and for Barbados, the road ahead is predictably different, but right now, on the island and the mainland, in these two `small countries’, the people have decided, and they decided to move forward, they decided to sing.

Won’t you help to sing

These songs of freedom?

‘Cause all I ever have

Redemption songs

Redemption songs

Redemption songs

Mia Mottley

 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit 1: Reuters / Jose Cabezas) (Photo Credit 2: Global Voices / Timothy Sullivan / UNCTAD)

 

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)

Honestie Hodges could have been Vice President one day, or maybe President

Honestie Hodges

“They fail to discern the beauty and they see only the disorder, missing all the ways black folks create life and make bare need into an arena of elaboration.”
                                                                                                        Saidiya Hartman

Honestie Hodges “could have been the vice president one day or maybe the president. The world was open to her”. She was “beautiful, sassy, smart, loving.” Honestie Hodges’ grandmother Alisa Niemeyer chronicled not only Honestie Hodges’ struggle with Covid 19, to which she succumbed November 22, but even more her beauty. Honestie Hodges was 14 years old when she died. Honestie Hodges was a young Black girl, living and growing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She could have been the Vice President one day, or maybe the President.

Honestie Hodges first came to national attention, on December 11, 2017, when she was handcuffed, at the age of 11, for the crime of Being Black, more specifically for Being a Black Girl. Police were looking for a 40-year-old White woman suspect in a stabbing incident. 11-year-old Honestie, her mother, and another family member were on their way to the store when police confronted them, guns drawn. They were immediately handcuffed. Honestie’s mother screamed that her daughter was only 11 years old. Honestie cried and screamed, begged not to be handcuffed, not to be taken in. To no avail. After much outcry and uproar, the Grand Rapids police sort of admitted their error, established the so-called Honestie Policy, which calls for least restraint when dealing with youth. The results have been, at best, mixed. 

Two days after that incident, Honestie Hodges asked, “I have a question for the Grand Rapids police: If this happened to a white child, if her mother was screaming, ‘She’s 11,’ would you have handcuffed her and put her in the back of a police car?” Honestie Hodges was beautiful, sassy, smart, and loving. 

Grief and horror mix with beauty. The story of State violence, systemic racism, the ways in which that racism is blended with and intensified by sexism, the ways in which boys will be boys and girls will be jailed, these are parts of the story of everyday horror in the United States. The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black and Brown communities, a story of grief, is at some level the latest iteration of the tale of national horror. But that is only the disorder. Honestie Hodges was a young Black girl in America who was beautiful, sassy, smart and loving, who could have been the Vice President one day, or maybe the President. Her words and actions suggest as much, as do those who knew and loved her. Honestie Hodges’ grandmother, Alisa Niemeyer, established a GoFundMe campaign for the family. Please consider donating. 

 

(Photo credit: Alisa Niemeyer / GoFundMe)

For our White Nation, Cannon already received justice

I come back into social media to find the story of a young boy that was brutally murdered. His murderer found after a manhunt, his mother calling and actively seeking for the death penalty. The silence from all of you on the deaths of children murdered by police—children who are black, brown, who have mental illness and learning disabilities—highlights your hypocrisy and desire to return to “normal”. Where you don’t have to confront the country’s racist past and present. Where you get to take comfort in your own privilege because your privilege benefits you personally. 

Where you don’t have to come to terms with your “guilt” or your own culpability in this nation’s white supremacist values. 

I watch as posts are made about a boy who was killed too early, by people who made no commentary about Mike Brown, or Trayvon Martin, or the children of Brittney Gilliam who were pulled from their vehicle in Aurora, CO because the police “mistook” her car for being stolen. Who have remained silent on George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain—a boy who played his violin for cats at his local animal shelter; for the lynching of Tamirat “Amani” Kildea in Morristown, NJ. So, my fellow white people, here is what I have to say to you:

You are taking the murder of a young white child by a black man as a call to disrupt the movement for black lives. You are actively working in tandem with white supremacy in equating no justice being done when, for a white nation, our definition of justice has most definitely been done. 

Breonna Taylor

Was the perpetrator arrested? Yes.

Is he currently awaiting trial? Yes. 

Will he face a jury where he may well face the death penalty for his crimes? Yes. 

I’m curious, then, what more is it you’re asking for? 

Aiyana Stanley-Jones

Are you asking for justice for the murders of black children too? Where were you when Tamir Rice was killed for having a toy gun? Where are your hashtags for the punishment of the officers that killed Aiyana Stanley Jones? Your anger over the Kameron Prescott, who was killed by police on December 23, 2017? The black and brown boys and girls who have been murdered with no accountability from the boys in blue? 

For Breonna Taylor has not received her “justice”. Elijah McClain remains the butt of jokes for police officers in Aurora. Gilliam got an apology and the promise of “age-appropriate therapy” for her children held at gunpoint by police officers. On hot asphalt, face-down. George Floyd’s death stopped being a crying call for change after some buildings burned to the ground. Not to mention, his killers got to post bail. Sessoms will not be given that luxury. 

You had better think, very carefully, about how you want to be remembered for decades to come. When the progress for civil rights does win, and we look back on this time as a reflection on how we could have done better. Do you want to be those who have actively worked against a movement that focused on valuing the black people as deserving of justice? 

Elijah McClain

Because right now, you are the villains of this story. Your moderate response to racism and white supremacy is your calling card, where the valuation of property over black people is paramount. Where you want to support the movement, but “All Lives Matter”, not just Black Lives Matter. Your All Lives Matter sure sounds like White Lives Matter Most. 

(Photo Credit 1: BBC) (Photo Credit 2: Mother Jones) (Photo Credit 3: The Cut)

#Charlottesville: And again, Black pain and tears and suffering at the hands of white supremacy

After the car rammed into the crowd of peaceful protesters

And again, Black pain and tears and suffering at the hands of white supremacy is approved and legitimated by whites saying that “they saw it”, and “yes, it definitely was racism”. Perhaps now, people who insisted on replying to the plea that ‘Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter’ and ‘Blue Lives matter’ will understand the depths of white supremacy in this country.

Would the average American–the ones who voted for Trump because they “just wanted a change”– listen to the Black, law abiding, incredibly restrained counter protestors who narrated the racism and Hate and Evil they experienced at the hands of white supremacists if white counter protestors didn’t confirm their stories?

Did the average white American believe Chaney’s murder was motivated by white supremacy and racism only because Goodman and Schwerner were murdered at the same time, for the same reasons, and in the same way?

So, this time, the publicized terror is in Virginia. Maybe for a week or so I won’t be accused by some of my fellow Americans of ‘playing the race card’ when I speak up about, protest against, and survive each day despite our country’s not so secret love affair with white supremacy. Just maybe….

(Photo Credit: Washington Post / AP / Steve Helber)

Black Lives Matter, ACT UP, and let the naysayers be damned

All movements for justice that have participated in direct actions have been maligned. Actions have been called misguided and worse by non-participants. There’s a place and time for righteous criticism but it’s not outside the doors of a movement. It’s inside, with the strategists and actors and real-world risk takers.

The last two days I have been thinking about when ACT UP burst onto the scene. I was young, a teenager, and a huge number of my friends then were gay and artists and musicians and most of them are dead. They died fast and ugly and with lesions and mostly alone. I remember how even hugging my friends in hospitals seemed like an act of resistance. That’s how deep the lies were, the fears.

And I didn’t know how to process so much loss before I was 21, but I do know how nasty the comments were when ACT UP disrupted Wall St trading for the first time in history, when they interrupted the nightly news, when activists got Body Positive naked in Manhattan. And I do know after there at least began to be a public discussion about how to save lives, a conversation that had previously been viciously squashed by the Reagan administration and stigmatized by the wider society. And then public and private funding increased for research. And more people lived. And we stopped having to whisper that someone we loved had AIDS. And there is so much more to do about HIV/AIDS especially for Black people, people living in the Global South and people living in poverty but there was also a beginning and it ACTed the fuck UP and every person in reach of this post who cares about Black lives should too and let the naysayers be damned.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Naomi Ishisaka / http://ijoarts.com) (Photo Credit 2: Queerty)