A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Amazing Spoken Word just in time for Halloween

This spoken word piece is fierce, especially coming from young girls. What do you do when you grow up and realize that Halloween costumes for women just get smaller and smaller?

This is a must-see for every woman who hasn't decided what to wear for Halloween. Spoiler: You can wear anything, as long as it's your choice! 

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A Feminist Guide For Overcoming Rejection

Last night I got an email saying that I didn't get this pretty exciting job that I had applied for. That's the 3rd job rejection I've had in less than a month. That rejection and a recent heartbreak have left me feeling like shit.

Overall, I am confident in my capabilities. I think that every employer should want me. So I get overexcited every single time that I submit a resume. I also don't have a problem telling a guy that I like him. I mean, really? What would possibly go wrong? I'm smart, talented, and I look good! (I'd post a picture but that would be too much).

Anyway, something could go wrong: he could reject me. Just like I've rejected guys who I just wasn't "feeling". And when these rejections happen, I'm left hurt and whining about nobody loving me.


Well. Unlike men, women aren't taught how to handle rejection. Instead we get words of encouragement that might seem spiteful and that undermine the other party as oppose to empowering us: "he doesn't deserve you", "they're idiots for not hiring you", "it's their loss", etc. And not that these are useless, but they just don't cut it when you honestly felt that it was not about whether they deserved you but about you deserving them. AND YOU TOTALLY DESERVE ANYTHING THAT YOU WANT.

Luckily, these let-downs have made me a bit well-versed in the art of getting over rejection. So here is some advice for all my feministas out there who are struggling to get over that awesome job opportunity that didn't come through, or that perfect-sexy-feminist-lover that you thought didn't exist and once you found him/her/they, that person just didn't want you back:

Don't let it get to you: Initially, you may feel like you're not good enough and like the rejection was all your fault. Some thoughts that pop up in your head: "Maybe I came on too strong." "Maybe I should have sent a  follow-up email 2 days rather than 3 days after the interview". Well, it's too soon to look back at the should've's and could've's.

Recognize that there are moments when a connection just isn't reciprocated. There have probably been times when you've questioned your own reasons for rejecting someone because, although that person seemed perfect, there simply wasn't a "click". So, just because someone whom you were attracted to rejected you, doesn't mean that you're less awesome, it just means that you weren't his/her/their type. And for this I will say to simply move on to the next! You don't need to objectify or undermine that person by saying that he/she/they're less awesome. Simply accept that he/she/they disagreed with your point of view on how good of a catch you are, and move on.

Same for jobs. It's a disagreement on your capabilities. And with unemployment still at a high 7.2 percent, (the unemployment rate for black women is at 10 percent), there is tons of competition out there and someone with years upon years of experience might have applied for the same job as you.

It's okay to be sad: "Okay, I understand that I can't let it get to me...but I still feel like shit".

That's perfectly fine. You were really excited about this opportunity-- you might have even bought things to decorate your new desk! So, take a few nights (a couple of days please- not more), to just mope.

Eat a whole bucket of ice cream or chocolate or whatever makes you feel good; Watch movies that make you sad; Stay in your PJ's for the entire weekend; Drink some wine and sing to your favorite heart ache tunes. Here's one:

Just let yourself be sad for a couple of days...but, on a serious note, don't drive yourself into a depression. If you do feel like it's getting too far, and like you've been moping for weeks or even months, please make sure to call a relative, a friend, or your doctor.

Pamper yourself: Ok, it's time for the good stuff! Get off your PJ's, put on some clean panties and go do some of the things that you love! If you're broke, consider borrowing some money to really invest in yourself. Go get your nails or hair done. Go have some drinks with your friends. Go dancing! Whatever it is that you love doing, just do it.

And if you use your imagination, you might not even need money. For example, I taught a my first ever belly dancing class for free, and joined Facebook's Guerrilla Feminism network by starting they're New York City page. Go self-empowerment!

Be creative: If you're agnostic like I am, then the statement "God has something better for you" or "Maybe it's not your destiny" might not really cut it. In this case, creativity is key. Those who view God or destiny as an answer for moving on understand something crucial: when a door closes it simply means that another one will eventually open. There are other jobs! There are other fish in the sea! Now might be the perfect opportunity for you to change up your career and try something new. Or you can finally try online dating and see what all the fuzz is about.

You can also just go back to enjoying being single and loving yourself. Read bell hook's All About Love. Also, here's a recent blog post on my thoughts on romance and love. 

This is a perfect time to be creative when moving forward; especially since you feel pampered and energetic and got all those tears out of your system. Now is your opportunity to think outside the box. If you dare, it might also be a good opportunity to look back at the rejection and learn from it. Maybe there was a typo in the last email that you sent your employer. Maybe your resume needs some dusting-off. Or you might be surprised and find that there were no mistakes made and it truly was just a disagreement.

Either way, accept that you have the ability to look forward and continue pushing through.

Sister, it is tough out there. Feminist men (or whomever you're into) and good jobs are difficult to come by. But just know that soon enough a good opportunity will catch you because (believe it or not) awesome people like you are difficult to come by too.

Have any tips or thoughts on how to overcome rejection?Leave a comment below!
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Problems of a new activist (originally on instagram so sorry for the typos)

This is me today. It was 1pm and I was still in bed. That's what happens when u have zero motivation to get up because u can't find a good job. Your friends have become distant because of busyness and change of interests. I've changed a lot too. I've become too radical for a lot of people. And even though I've met awesome new people who r politically involved and filled with beauty and strength, it's not the same as those good old friends who now feel so distant. What would u say if I told u that I dont believe in God but in spirituality and that I respect your beliefs in Him as long as its not hurting you (I'm pro-choice)? That I don't believe in romance or marriage as much as I believe in relationships? That gender pronouns can be self-determined? That I won't become intimidated if you call me a slut (I'm all for sexual freedom)? That I don't believe in words but in actions? That I dislike Obama.  That I believe in mutual growth rather than competition? That I think I'm pretty awesome and I'm tired of fear of being told that I'm conceited for acknowledging that I'm beautiful, intelligent, talented and that all women should feel that way rather then try to be humble and let others say it?

These feelings are prevalent in a lot of people who've just become political. Once you let go of the mainstream ideas and start questioning everything from movies and songs to food labels, you can become distant. It is difficult, but it is not an end. It is rather a transitioning period. Right now, unlike other times in my life, I at least know a lot about myself, my potential and what I want.

And what I want is a loving work environment, loving friends, and just loving people around me. It takes time, but those spaces exist. All we need is patience. 

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Here's another sketch and a quote

By Yesenia Cortinas

"Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise"- Maya Angelou
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Awesome art by awesome people

I love this drawing done by my sis Yesenia Cortiñas. She's been drawing a lot of sketches for a bigger mural that we're painting in Queens. If you'd like to participate via donations or on the actual painting day, visit the facebook page Radical Arts Collective !
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Thoughts on romance, loneliness, and #cuffingseason

Life has become so dull that my weeks are all compiled into what feels like one long day. Reminds me of the fact that we have to put life in years if not they feel shorter (read that in Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer).

I guess it has to do with the fact that my most recent love interest (because I just don't want to get into how awesomely beautiful it was) is over.. And so the little excitement that my life had feels gone.

But why can't I feel excited about other things? 
I'm leading a belly dancing/body image workshop on Saturday. And although finding the motivation to go through with it is hard, every time I work on it I heal. My mind relaxes. I dance and hope to bring this healing to other women through dancing too.

I'm also waiting to hear back from work opportunities. And if I don't get either one then I'm moving on to get a master's degree.

I guess things are going well!

And yet, life is just dull. I think it's a result of living alone. I dread going home, it gives me too much room to think. I feel forgotten. Alone. Lonely. Waaaahhhh. 

Is it because it's #cuffingseason?

Ugh. This brings me to the question: how do you begin wanting a partnership without the possibility of being set-up for failure? 

I wouldn't mind a partner. And saying that doesn't mean that I'm not strong, or that I'm not capable of being on my own. Unlike this silly comic strip:

Saying that I wanna be pampered doesn't mean that I'm not an independent woman. In fact, I understand that my worth isn't determined by society or a male partner, but rather by how I view myself. And I deserve to get what I want, and right now I want somebody to cuddle with. And to share space with. And to connect with. And to complain about society with. And to read with. And to eat with. Shit, I wanna get taken care of. 

And yet a balance is necessary. If I simply sit around and wait for this person to come and don't seek to move forward on my own then that just leaves space for disappointment and feelings of worthlessness. 

Forget if your older tía keeps asking you if you're seeing anyone. Forget that so many of your amigas are getting married and having babies. Marriage feels like the obvious next step because we were brought up to think that way. 

I have personally granted men the power to make me feel beautiful. And alive. And just better when I'm down. Sometimes better than I can make myself feel. So I'm working toward giving that power to myself. I grew up in an environment where everything that women do is framed in terms of our marriage-bility. For example, at least in my cultura, when a women learns to cook everyone says "ya se puede casar" as a huge compliment (it means "you're ready to get married").

So now, even if I don't want to, my brain just finds it easier to feel happy when it distracts itself with thoughts of a significant other rather than thoughts of new projects, ideas, friendships, news, etc. Is it because picturing romance is simply easier? Unlike positive thoughts and words of encouragement that so often lack in women's lives, we know what romance looks like because we've seen it in movies, in music, all over pinterest, on Facebook...everywhere. El romance esta en todas partes. 

When is female empowerment going to be everywhere? When are positive images of women who handle their own--not for the purpose of impressing men but for their own fulfillment--going to be showcased? Without (!) needing to repurpose their lives if they do find a partner. Even most of mainstream's attempts at showing women as independent are meant to impress men... there's this underlying "show-him-what-he's-missing" theme. Why not write a song about just being a woman?

Okay, I'll stop there and take a second to remember this--a song that got me through high school:

Anyway, these songs aren't the cultural norm. They aren't the norm but rather the exception, even if coming from pop artists like Christina Aguilera. 

We need spaces where women can learn to feel strong, empowered, talented, and worthy of all the love that they receive- especially the love that they're able to grant to themselves through self-care, patience, and inner-growth. A space where women feel free to just be.

I'm worthy of mad love. No matter where it comes from--me, friends, family, or a romantic partner.

Ah, writing this helped me feel so good! The fact that I'm alive and able to indulge in some late-night reading with wine is exciting! Tomorrow, I can wake up and do a bunch of other things. Wooo! Go self-empowerment! Go being! Go women of the world who kick-ass! And thank you forces of the universe for giving me another day! I am alive! 

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Google celebrates Celia Cruz! Uepa!

Thank you Google for celebrating today what would've been Celia Cruz' 88th birthday!

Like many other Latinas out there, I grew up listening to Celia Cruz. Her music brings me back to simpler times when my abuela was also still around.

Although she got some criticism for not using her music to express issues of poverty, or disillusionment of Latino lives in the US like some of her peers did (i.e.Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, etc), she's still a symbol of strength, talent and beauty for Afro-Latinas in Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries. In fact, looking back, Celia Cruz' image and marketing was based largely on her voice and her sazón. 

Azucar! La Reina vive! 

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Willow Smith's "I Am Me" has the potential to be every girl's new anthem

Putting aside the fact that Willow Smith was born to a wealthy Hollywood couple, and is therefore able to afford singing and dance lessons, and to pretty much develop her talent in ways that many other young girls in different situations can't, this song is kind of awesome. And so is she.

I love her personality. I love how she dresses. I love her natural hair. I love how her persona shines throughout this video. Her personality comes out so beautifully. I also love that she encourages her listeners to also be themselves and to learn to love and live in harmony.

Young black Hollywood girls are subjected to a different kind of criticism than their white peers, something that we saw earlier this year when The Onion called Quvenzhane Wallis the c-word, and some even resorted to calling her "little q" because they "couldn't" spell her name. Outside of Hollywood, black girls and Afro-Latinas get constantly criticized for not fitting the norm. Examples: a student in Oklahoma got sent home for rocking some awesome dreadlocks; and Dominican women grow up in an environment where they learn to deny their black heritage and straighten their hair. So seeing Willow Smith shine in this video can definitely continue shaping her into an awesome role model for all girls out there. Mainstream media desperately needs more Willow.

I'll leave you with these words from Jada Pinkett Smith where she defends Willow's decision to shave her head:

This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day.
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Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Case for Love

Malalai Joya spoke at CUNY’s Graduate center on October 4th about the impact that 12 years—some say more—of U.S. presence in Afghanistan has had in that country. Joya was joined by Sharmin Hossain, a student activist at CUNY,who is organizing to get CIA war-criminal David Petraeus out of the school where he is currently teaching a course.
Malalai Joya was a member of the Afghan parliament.
She singlehandedly challenged Afghan
warlords backed by US political power.  

Many things can be said about the discussion and how both of these issues are connected. The "War on Terror" has spawned a lot of hate that allows for U.S. intervention and for the general public to support CUNY's choice in inviting Petraeus to teach an honors class at the school. Joya spoke of her experience in parliament, of the dangers of being a woman in Afghanistan, and of the U.S. funding of warlords. She showed some pictures of young girls (as young as 4) who had been raped and killed, their murderers still free.
 Joya also called for the need to allow the people from Afghanistan to liberate themselves. The U.S. cannot save someone else she said—and indeed "saving" the people of Afghanistan is not the goal of the military presence in that country. Like in many other places, the "War on Terror" and national security are only an excuse for the use drones,  Guantanamo Bay, military intervention in the Middle East, FBI spying on Muslims in New York City, and many more violations of human rights. All of these issues can be tied to an even bigger problem of criminalization of people of color. We have the largest prison population in the world. This population is comprised mostly of African Americans and people who committed non-violent, drug-related crimes. CUNY, as Hossain pointed out, has been heavily policing its campus, and allowing Petraeus to teach a class only normalizes the militarization of our schools and of our streets.

Sharmin Hossain is a youth mentor and a student activist organizing
to oust David Petraeus out of CUNY. 
To that we may add the criminalization of immigrants who are constantly under the threat of deportation. As a first-generation Latina from the Dominican Republic, although I was born here, I still don't feel that I rightfully belong here. Almost as if I was criminalizing myself. Yet when one reads about the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America, one realizes that corporations are the ones to blame for the desperate need that pushes families to come North. It's a terrible cycle: U.S. corporations interfere with the sovereignty of other nations by essentially stealing resources using "free commerce" as an excuse, which results in corrupt third world governmental systems that disengage politicians from the needs of the population. The NSA spying on the Organization of American States (OAS) is no surprise. And what happens when you make people poor by taking their resources away? They come to the one place that symbolizes a beacon of hope: America.

In the midst of all these violations committed by the American government, the public says nothing. There was an outcry over Trayvon Martin's death, but except for the occasional attention that George Zimmerman gets, that seems to have died down.

And so our hands feel tied. To continue fighting, and to feel that our voices are actually heard is difficult in times when even small victories are cut short—like Herman Wallace who was finally released so that he may spend his final days with loved ones, and still he was re-indicted by a county prosecutor (!).

Malalai Joya's meeting was intense despite the small turnout. Although she was tired from days of no sleep after a long flight, she was still available to speak, sign books, and spread her anger among those of us who were present. This raises the question, how does someone like her find the strength to keep fighting when there seem to be no victories? How do we, the activists who everybody hates, keep fighting when it seems like we're so few and so weak among so many uncaring people?

Behold the answer:

"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love." –Che Guevara

Wow. Saying that love is the answer is so cheesy. I wish I had a better response but as a young revolutionary who is just learning the ropes, love is the main thing that guides me. I noticed it today. My coworker told me that it's Thanksgiving in Canada, and for some reason we both laughed. I responded "Well, they have healthcare to be thankful for, but we have a government who's taking a break just to get away with not giving people the American version of healthcare". His reply was that he has a lot to be thankful for. He said that at least he's not enslaved, in prison, or sick.
In that moment, after hearing his answer I realized that although I'm grateful because I too am not in prison or sick, or arguably not enslaved, I am not actually okay. And that is because someone somewhere is hurting as a result of capitalism. The only way in which I can express my gratitude for the things that I have is by standing in solidarity with those who can’t fight back.

I guess solidarity is a synonym of love.

bell hooks tells us in All About Love that "“When angels speak of love they tell us it is only by loving that we enter an earthly paradise. They tell us paradise is our home and love our true destiny.”
The neoliberal ideology of "survival of the fittest" leads people away from love and into a place of selfishness and, essentially, a loss of their own humanity. That’s why our earth is far away from being a paradise.

One time, when I was probably around 11 years old, I was walking down a busy street in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic with my mother when we saw a Haitian man being dragged by the arm by several men. He was sweaty, scared, and clearly trying to run away. If I recall correctly, I believe that he was wearing no shoes and his chest was showing. I asked my mother what was happening, and she replied nonchalantly "oh, he probably tried to steal something". Then she added that those men were probably going to beat him up. She said this as if it was nothing!  As if it meant nothing. And no one in that busy street seemed to care either. This is what the system does to people: it strips them of their humanity and of their ability to love. Because of the racism against Haitians and negritude tied to global anti-blackness which Dominicans are victims of as well--a racism that is a symptom of white supremacy, a racism that many Dominicans are fighting against--the Dominicans in that street viewed that man as less than human.

Although my memory of that moment is faint, my emotions aren't. I do recall feeling sad, and I do remember thinking of that man for several days. But no adults were around to tell me that my confusion was completely understandable because that man's rights were being violated.  Children are too young to be deeply corrupted by the underlying racist ideologies of the capitalism system.  Adults aren’t always safe of this corruption.

In moments when we are unable to stand up for what's right, our humanity is violated. And it is violated mainly because we are stripped away from our power to love.

bell hooks explains this process very well in the following excerpt from her book:

The growing number of gated communities in our nation is but one example of the obsession with safety. With guards at the gate, individuals still have bars and elaborate internal security systems. Americans spend more than thirty billion dollars a year on security...

Culturally we bear witness to this madness every day. We can all tell endless stories of how it makes itself known in everyday life. For example, an adult white male answers the door when a young Asian male rings the bell. We live in a culture where without responding to any gesture of aggression or hostility on the part of the stranger, who is simply lost and trying to find the correct address, the white male shoots him, believing he is protecting his life and his property. This is an everyday example of madness. The person who is really the threat here is the home owner who has been so well socialized by the thinking of white supremacy, of capitalism, of patriarchy that he can no longer respond rationally.
White supremacy has taught him that all people of color are threats irrespective of their behavior. Capitalism has taught him that, at all costs, his property can and must be protected. Patriarchy has taught him that his masculinity has to be proved by the willingness to conquer fear through aggression; that it would be unmanly to ask questions before taking action. Mass media then brings us the news of this in a newspeak manner that sounds almost jocular and celebratory, as though no tragedy has happened, as though the sacrifice of a young life was necessary to uphold property values and white patriarchal honor. Viewers are encouraged feel sympathy for the white male home owner who made a mistake. The fact that this mistake led to the violent death of an innocent young man does not register; the narrative is worded in a manner that encourages viewers to identify with the one who made the mistake by doing what we are led to feel we might all do to “protect our property at all costs from any sense of perceived threat. " This is what the worship of death looks like.

Indeed, those of us willing to fight for a better future for society are simply fighting for love. And love is within every human being. One of the tasks of each activist is to pretty much wake the people up and unmask the loving human being beneath each person.

If love guides us, then we'll never stop fighting. Just like Malalai Joya keeps fighting. Just like Sharmin Hossain keeps fighting. Just like Herman Wallace fought till the end.

I'll leave you with this very inspiring poem written by Herman Wallace:

"A Defined Voice
They removed my whisper from general population
To maximum security I gained a voice
They removed my voice from maximum security
To administrative segregation
My voice gave hope
They removed my voice from administrative segregation
To solitary confinement
My voice became vibration for unity
They removed my voice from solitary confinement
To the Supermax of Camp J
And now they wish to destroy me
The louder my voice the deeper they bury me
Free all political prisoners, prisoners of war, prisoner of consciousness."

May Herman Wallace rest in power. His voice indeed remains loud. 
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