Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Moro de Habicuelas Negras

From Izayaa's Kitchen:

The origin of the word Moro originates in Spain. The Moorish “conquest” of Spain and other parts of Europe, brought with it an inevitable genetic takeover of the dominant Black people. Due to the dual reality that developed in Spain the custom of referring to the rice and beans as "moros y cristianos," referring to the "Moors" who were a civilized people from Africa that brought many amazing inventions, like libraries, universities, string music to Europe, and the Christians, who were the white Catholics descendants of the Caucasians, became common. Simply referring to the dish as “Moro” denotes that this dish was distinctly Moorish and was learned by the Spaniards. This Moorish dish is a very common recipe in the Caribbean & Latin America and it varies in form, depending on the process of cooking and the ingredients used. In Cuba this dish is called "Congri" with pieces of pork added to the mixture. In Central America the dish is known as "gallo pinto," and in the Dominican Republic (Quisqueya) is simply known as "Moro." It is the Dominican version of this dish that I will share with you.  You can make this recipe however you want, with any kinds of legumes. Legumes meaning any dried fruit produced in a carpel that opens along its sides. Different types of legumes include lentils, beans, peas, carob, and soy. This particular recipe will be presented made uniquely vegan, void of any meat or dairy ingredients, commonly associated with diseases like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and even cancer.

Ingredients
  • 1 can of Organic Black Beans or 2 cups of boiled bag beans
  • 2 cups of Brown Jasmine Rice 
  • 1/4 tsp of annatto seeds
  • 1/3 diced green Italian pepper
  • 1/3 diced red onion
  • 2 garlic ears, mashed into a juicy mixture
  • 2 tablespoons of Adobo, Organic brand or your own mixture of Tumeric powder, Garlic powder, Salt
  • 1 pinch of Oregano
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • 1 pinch of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of Soy Sauce (Tamari)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons of cold-pressed Canola, Sunflower, or Safflower Oil
Preparation
  1. In a pot, place two tablespoons of Canola Oil, turn up fire and let oil heat.
  2. Once oil has heated, place the annatto seeds and allow to simmer until it releases its color and fragrance.  Remove quickly as oil can quickly become bitter. 
  3.  Place the diced onion, italian green pepper, and garlic into oil. Let heat for 1 minute, until garlic is a bit brown.
  4. Add Adobo, Oregano, black pepper, and the soy sace. Let these ingredients mix well with the rest.
  5. Add the cup of Black beans, lower the fire, close the pot, and let all ingredients mix for about 3 minutes.
  6. Open the pot and add 3 cups of Water, the tomato paste and vinegar. Mix well and close pot.  Let the water simmer.
  7. Once bubbling occurs, add rice. Mix all ingredients.  Make sure that the tomato paste dissolves.
  8. Close pot until water simmers. 
  9. Turn the fire low, add the cilantro on top of mixture, close the pot, and cook the rice and beans for about 45 minutes. 
  10. Open the pot, move the rice over, and close again.  Let the low fire cook the rice and beans for an additional 10 minutes.
  11. Serve the moro with anything you want.
  12. Don’t forget to enjoy your meal. Peace!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Secondary Education in Quisqueya Part 1

Dominican education, specifically referring to the high school sector, has undergone an evolutionary change through the transcendence of many years by those in charge of making education reform. The decisions made by curriculum specialists in high school education are greatly influenced by the demands made; within the time education reform takes place, to achieve the satisfaction of the people and their needs. There are many different ways in which Dominican education at the high school level has been defined, but throughout the years the definition of this sector in education has solidified. In terms of the region that is known as Latin America and the Caribbean, which is part of the geographical area that the Dominican Republic is a part of, in 2001 this region affirmed that education has to be more than the teaching of specific subjects to adolescents. As they thought, education geared towards youth should be a preparation to the work/job they will embark in their lives and for their participation as citizens in their respective town/city within their nation. The concept of everyone receiving an equal education is very important because it gives great value to the public school system, which is the organism that promotes the philosophy. This way of looking at education promotes the passion to change the structure of the educational system with the goal of bettering it for the youth. For this reason,

“The option to incite new and flexible forms of learning will serve as an answer to the adolescents and young people living in poverty and marginalized communities, who tend to abandon formal education because they have not attained access to good quality education” (1).

Defining Secondary Education 
Education personnel have been aiming towards a new form of pedagogy. In search of this new identity, the question “what is Dominican education?” has to be is defined. Other questions such as, “what is the basis of Dominican education?,” “What’s its purpose and how will it educate and prepare the youth?” These questions could be answered once a concrete understanding of education's meaning and practice has been attained. Furthermore, once educators are able to distinctly provide pedagogical practices and aims for each level of education, one has a wider perspective of the overall workings of the education sector within the island.

In keeping with the later proposition, current basic education provides the tools to youth so that in high school they are able to understand and analyze topics or problems that are of a higher thinking order. Throughout the four years of high school, focus is shifted to learning how to build, do, and live. These coincide with the teachings of the Nation of God and Earth, particularly within the 12 Jewels of Islam, truly summative words that provides us with simple words that express how to think, how to live, and the elements that we must master so that they refine this way of Truth both outside and inside the devil's civilization. The first three jewels (1.Knowledge, 2.Wisdom, 3. Understanding) gives one the tools of how to gain and contextualize ideas, the other three jewels (4. Freedom or Culture, 5. Justice, 6. Equality), express how what is understood by the individual is applied in one's life, which is the culture that we live.  Through the liberation of our mind, attaining the understanding of who and where we are, the principles of freedom, justice, and equality are attained to further a culture in its most supreme form. A freedom that is guided by ridding ourselves of the manifestation of devilishment within and outside of us while adapting a set of ethical codes that are only relevant to God and Earth, so that one is able to move the culture rightly and exactly. It is then that an Equality can be reached again in terms of living within the Earth, using all of the useful land, where we have access and can roam freely without the perils of the once unequal capitalist oppression, while each universe's (black family) shares their "variation" and level of seeing and living the culture. With Justice being naturally served, original civilizations must take shape once again by incorporating the fundamentals, which are 7.Food, 8. Clothing, 9. Shelter. This reality is one that can only be deepened by an endless propellment of 10.Love, 11.Peace, and 12. Happiness. These are the jewels of a true offering in rebuilding ourselves after the death of illusion and devilishment. And even if the illusion has not yet seized after its expiration date, this process of life after the devil, can be applied within the spaces of heaven we make within this Babylonian reality. After emancipation, it was Booker T. Washington who took it upon himself to hustle one of the most successful industrial schools in the United States. With the purpose of serving true justice to his people he freed former slaves from physical and mental bondage. They would no longer depend on "massa," if they could build their own food, clothing, and shelter. Thus, making a space of love, peace, and happiness as best as they could in the devil dominated nation.

In the Dominican case, however, but very much like the African-American case, the reality of attaining self-sustainability is within the confines of the devil's conditioning and imperialist modifications within the island.  They need to make sure that at least every Dominican can do for self when left even in the worst impoverished conditions. This means that the intensity and effectiveness of Dominican education is really a result of Capitalism, Imperialism, and Globalization. Using this framework, High school requires students to use their intelligence, what they've learned, and  how to apply it to their subjects, their lives and within the society at large. Although Dominican education is in a process of reform and change, it has always maintained the purpose of keeping students in educational environments where they are prepared for: higher education, to work/get a job, and for a productive and responsible citizenship (2). Based on this ideology of education, one can say that high school education is:

“Every formal and informal educational offer essentially oriented towards adolescents and youth, that aims at consolidating and amplifying the four pillars of education throughout life, and that according to the normative actual process, it initiates once the person has accumulated at least eight years of basic schooling” (3).

Every Dominican is capable of acquiring a superior education, work productively, and be a citizen adaptable to changes within a society that is in constant evolution. It is particularly a good trait to have had more than eight years of schooling. As a matter of fact, it is encouraged that kids be schooled from the time they are 3 years old. The earlier instruction takes place, the easier it is to mold the characteristics that will allow a person to thrive in Dominican society. This is achieved both through formal and informal educational methods. This means that the person must partly go through educational experiences that are ascribed to a pedagogical institution as well as through experienced knowledge. Once finished with high school, students are able to matriculate in universities and colleges to specialize in a field. It is very common to go into one specialty upon entering college. Once students have passed all required exams and other forms of assessments, they can start looking for employment in their fields. This specialization could not have been achieved without going through eight years of basic schooling.

Basic schooling is the period before high school. Elementary education prepares the individual to learn the main components that will allow them to flourish in more complex educational environments. During elementary school students are gaining the tools and preparation to advance intellectually. This is a time where teachers focus heavily on the teaching of skills, through a very demanding, but efficient educational practice. For example, in order for a student to write a sentence they first need to understand the different parts of the sentence, such as the noun, verb, and the adverb. In the future, this will help the student to express intricate ideas to the point where they attain the capacity of writing books. Therefore, teachers will have students dissect sentences to the point where a student can become experts at manipulating the language, and become superb writers. At the high school level, students are then ready for the more difficult language activities, which might include an analytical paper. This is where the students own thoughts can start to be manifested.

The Structure of the High School Educational System
Within the high school education system of the island, there are existing organisms with different responsibilities. All these components, working together, assemble the educational structure and depend on one another to carry out the pedagogical processes. The outline is as follows:




Administrative Organisms
The varying educational bodies can be divided into two sectors that interconnect to make education a reality. These are the administrative organisms, in charge of processing and managing partnerships with the government, containing general information on jobs, pedagogical tools, and schools. Under the administrative organisms are the institutions that deal with carrying out the educational operations. These organisms are responsible for the way the school runs, the culture of the school, the teaching, and all the other facets that surround the everyday life in the schools. Within the administration, The Board of Education is the overarching educational institution in the country. New legislation, modifications and changes to the educational structure are formed as well as distributed by this institution. All the varying levels and departments are under the board. The office of liberal arts and arts education oversees all issues relating to the public high schools (not polytechnic institutes) within the country. One of the main responsibilities of this organism is to develop and implement the curriculum for the educational programs in the liberal arts and the specific forms of art (4). This track of education requires that students continue their academic occupation at an institution of higher learning (university or college) where they can study a career of choice. The Office of General High School Education also supervises the Office of Technical/Professional education, whose main purpose is to increase and accommodate those centers dedicated to technical preparation. The study of commerce, seamstress, mechanics, electronics, and other technical specialties are offered to students who want industrial jobs and a university/college education is not mandatory. However, there are those students who do go on to college with the goal of furthering their specialization or to attain a Bachelor’s in addition to their technical studies.

Operative Organisms
The regional educational office is in charge of overseeing the functions of the different school districts. Every regional office monitors the activities carried out by the district offices in the area of that regional educational office. There are about seventeen regional offices in the country (5). District offices are grouped depending on their region. If they are in the same town, then the same regional office oversees them. Anything that has to do with the school system, such as the infrastructure, hygiene, the curriculum, and other related topics, are taken care of by the regional office. The types of schools that the districts manage are both private and public with students gaining a general education. The district offices also manage the polytechnic institutes that are under the same region.

Polytechnic Institutes
The establishment of polytechnic institutes has a specific history. The growth of these institutes is strongly tied to the rapid industrialization within the country due to the influences of external forces (U.S.A), and the need for the country to catch up to the first world.  Generally, Dominicans who want to continue their education beyond high school attend an institution of higher learning and go directly into studying that specific profession. Polytechnic institutes formed with the purpose of attaining a specialized instruction in a technical/professional field.  The level of depth covered in the study of a technical career varies depending on what position one wants to attain in the working world. For example, an introductory computer course prepares a person to become familiar with the computer system.While a computer engineer has become specialized in all aspects of the computer.Not only is the engineer aware of how programs are installed and how they function, but they can also put an entire computer together. Computer courses have a limit on how much a person learns about the machine. There are about 187 technical centers where people in the island can receive technical instruction (5). One hundred and thirty of those centers offer more than one technical specialty. Similarly to high school, the polytechnic could be private or public.

The rapid formation of polytechnic institutes in the Dominican Republic did not come about until the 70s, a time where there was a drastic growth in the industrial sector.It wasn’t until this time that new machinery (far more technologically advanced) were brought into the country’s industrial sector. The growth in this sector brought in a high demand for manual labor. This means that more people were needed to work under the new system of productivity. However, the industrial growth of the country demanded that qualified people, in technical and vocational fields be permitted to work in the industrial sector.

By 1980, a law called “Ley 116”(6) was created by the Technical-Professional National Institute (INFOTEP)(7)precisely to meet the selection criteria of the industrial sector for those seeking employment. This institution made it possible for youth and adults to obtain a practical education if they wanted to pursue this field of work. A year after its construction, this polytechnic institute served many Dominicans through its course offerings and other educational activities. From the time of INFOTEP’s opening until recently, the institute has served more than one million people (8).This entity continues to serve Dominicans on a daily basis to prepare those that want to get technical/vocational education.


----------------------------------------------------------
(1)Amargos, Oscar (Coordinador). “Panorama de la Educación Secundaria en República Dominicana 2003.” Secretaria de Estado de Educación: Santo Domingo, 2003. pg. 4
(2)Ibid, 5.
(3)Ibid, 7.
(4) Liberal arts refers to a general course of study, without a focus on any subject in particular.  A student studying Liberal art engages in coursework which includes a specific art (paint, dance, singing), sociology, history, physics, chemistry.  It is not a curriculum based on specializing people in any trade or study.
(5) Ibid, 8.
(6) Ibid, 9. 
(7)“Ley 116” makes it legal and initiates the process of the first politechnic institute in the country.
(8) Ibid, 11.
(9)Ibid.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Applying the Science of 3/4ths

Self-expression and identity are a combination of various factors, those of which include cultural context and economic status(1). The 85%, “…the uncivilized people…slaves of a mental death and power…those who are easily led in the wrong direction but hard to lead in the right direction” choose their dressing style based on what the capitalist consumer society markets as its current trends (through a number of Media outlets, which include TV and advertising) with a pricing system dictated by the quality of the clothing material, also determined by the value system of that particular society, whether it was made outside or within the United States and the access to the designer, his/her clothing store via social economic status.

In today’s world we’ve seen a decline in Folkloric and traditional clothing styles from original peoples. Although there are preservationist movements as well as the older generations inability to seize using these clothing items, these fashions are far from popular. There are some mainstream designers, whom have morphed traditional styles into modern European ones for their clothing lines. Men's alignment with the struggles against white man’s hatred for his woman has resulted in a beautification model based on rebellion and misapplied freedom. A freedom that doesn’t take into consideration the science of a woman’s predominant nature as Creation, which must be preserved and aligned appropriately in a high level of refinement. From the ample existing proof that the grafted man and woman are in direct opposition to the reality of Creation and its ideas of refinement, then the history itself is right. The white woman is supposed to rebel in the way that she has, for she seeks recognition for a freedom that will allow her to carry out devilishment in the constructed Babylonian illusion. She is fighting for her piece of the pie in the carrying out of oppression and inequality. What is of most concern is the adaptation of this ideology by most 85% Original women, whom are either involved in Black, Asian, Latino feminist movements who share this same idea, or are just plain living a savage freedom.

Economics, technology, white woman’s ideology, and loss of knowledge, have all contributed to the adaptation of an inaccurate clothing practice for the original woman. One should be developed where it is based on her scientific nature, cultural/historical context, and awareness of her natural role in the sacred partnership of man and woman. Thus, before the original woman can even attain adequate clothing practice, one that embraces her individual and whole identity, the factors mentioned above must be explored.

In a set of lessons from the Nation of God and Earth, the build (8th)degree in the 1-40, states that the planet Earth is covered with water ¾ths of its surface. This statement, not being the “meat” of the understanding in that degree became the most important to the culture of the woman with a Knowledge of Self. This planetary fact was taken and applied to the dress codes of the Earths, as women who are living with Knowledge of Self are called. Being that the majority and first waves of women attaining the knowledge were of so-called African-American (Black) background, a dressing style was adapted that traced back to the cultural dressing styles of Africa. This style generally consists of a hair wrap, a long skirt or a long dress, with tops that do not show cleavage. This African based style has been correctly adapted, as the history of the so-called African-American is one rooted in Slavery and the ancient civilizations in Africa. Within the nation, it simply became the norm that Earths would dress covering ¾ths of their bodies. This metaphor became the lived reality of the woman, as she embodied natural aspects (birthing and nurturing life) like the planet does to all within it.

In many Nation of God and Earth sub ciphers, a prerequisite in getting Knowledge of Self is to drastically change the dressing style in the traditional African garb of  ¾ths. I once met a sister who was fully geared up in 3/4ths. While she visibly looked refined, this woman was still dealing with high levels of unrighteousness. She spoke of 3/4ths in a regurgitating manner, not truly showing her understanding on why she was dressed the way she was. This sister was appropriately guided by the other Earths to dress and do as expected from a woman receiving the knowledge of self. What was not provided for this sister, however, was an adequate learning path where she could individually explore all issues related to dressing as an Earth. This sister was not given tools to question the current state of original women and its relation to their choices in clothing. The processing of becoming Earth is one that lacks in providing an adequate way of learning: one where following a culture, rather than questioning it first, proving its right and exactness, and adapting it as her expression as Earth, is followed blindly and its corresponding understanding parroted.

As I made these observations on the way in which original women were being taught a ¾ths dressing style, I thought of the details within the culture (4th) degree in the Supreme Mathematics of the Nation of God and Earth, as a component of the ¾ths reality, and a quote I had once read in the book by Daniel Roque entitled, The Culture of Clothing, where he argues that the clothing culture of the 1600s and further eras was based more on style rather than functionality and usefulness, came to mind. There he states that “the history of clothing tells us much about civilizations, it reveals their codes.” This means that with Knowledge of Self comes the most right and exact codes proven through its questioning and testing, as well as its application to the individual adapting this component of the culture. In this case, what I found to be missing (based on my own observations on nation pedagogical methods, my understanding on the lessons as it relates to the original woman) from the reality of the collective dressing of ¾ths was precisely the individual component of its application. Is ¾ths the same for every woman? How does the scientific understanding, her cultural background, body type, ideas of dressing, and personality inform her Earth attire? Is there one attire that is more ¾ths than another? How can these factors (from second question) combine to make clothing attire that is in tune to the present reality of righteousness?

The first step I took, as I continued on my path towards understanding myself beyond my sociological identity (Latina/Dominican), seeing that the original woman was to cover 3/4ths of her body, leaving 1/4th of it in exposure, led me to a contextualization in my mind that went as follows:

Universal Reality – Macrocosm – Earth – 3/4th Covered in Water

Human Reality – Microcosm – Woman – 3/4th Body Water (Circulation &Reproductive system)

Supreme Culture – 4: Culture-Freedom – ¾ Clothing

I also took into consideration and contextualized various degrees within the Student Enrollment 1-10 and the Lost-Found Lessons #2 1-40 set of lessons of the Nation of God and Earth. The equality (6th) degree states that 29,000,000 square miles is the total land that’s useful and used by the total population of the planet Earth out of a total of 196,940,000 total square miles of the entire planet earth, but that 23,000,000 square miles is used by the Original Man. The power (5th) degree in the 1-40 states that 57,255,000 is the total square miles of land. This means that 40%, attained by multiplying the 23 million times 100 and then dividing that value into the total miles of land, gives the percentage of useful land coverage. When the same type of calculation is done to receive the water coverage of the planet Earth, by taking the total area of the planet earth (196,940,000) and dividing it by the total of 139,685,000 times 100, a total of 71% of water coverage is attained. This means that
¾= 139,685,000x100/196,940,000=71%-Modern day 75%(3).

If the original woman was to cover ¾ths of her body, which in its planetary reality is more than the useful land coverage; I refused to accept that there was nothing useful about the water coverage. Some of this water mass had to be useful. What made most of us think that useful was only land? Why couldn’t useful land also be what’s inside the Water? What led me to these questions was finding the percentage of the useful land by including the entire square miles of the whole planet (23,000,000/196,940,000). The answer is 11%. These digits are just a speck in comparison to the massiveness of the planet. While the degrees are very clear in pointing out that useful land constitutes only the dry land, there is an indirect inclusion of other fertile land.  Useful land is also the Earth's wet fertile land that’s represented by the woman’s vagina and breasts,the vagina constantly secreting a self-cleansing juice from within her uterus and the breasts, which produces and stores the milk for the newborn baby.These areas are ¾s covered and must be protected.  The understanding is when we apply the microcosmic reality of the woman’s universal nature into her supreme culture and freedom, she is protecting two important physical traits related to nurturing and developing the new and future generations of man=mind. This means that as long as you cover your breasts and thighs thoroughly you are good or else you'll be causing unnecessary volcanic eruptions (attraction) drawn up by the Sun of Man, especially if you already got a man.

The second step lies in studying the history of clothing as a way of including this component into the scientific framework of what 3/4ths is to original women with knowledge of self. The historical part is very important; it clues us into the styles and its moral influences of our predecessors. It should be included within our showing and proving our ¾ths dressing reality. In the nation, the woman is automatically accepted if she is dressed in ¾ths, gives the traditional planetary metaphor as her reasoning to her dressing, and bears children. No real scientific analysis with a supreme mathematics application has been truly internalized by the Earth. She is merely a parrot of her God’s and/or other Earth’s knowledge on the topic. This impedes an appropriate development of her ¾ths understanding rooted in research.

In researching one should go as far as one can in learning about the topic. For me, it started with the traditional and folkloric styles, as well as other Latin American styles, of Dominican women. Whatever I could find on the Tainos, colonial Dominican Republic and Moorish Spain that might possibly lead me into Ancient Africa and Asia would provide a thorough understanding on the clothing styles as well as the moral and ethical codes of these societies. In turn, I would be learning more about my origins of ¾ths.

Because there is vast research unavailable,one should also study European dressing, take the best part because it will eventually lead into Africa and Asia. Of example is Ziryab, who is extensively discussed in Golden Age of the Moor edited by Ivan Van Sertima. In Moorish Spain,
 “Ziryab is said to have had a lasting influence on fashion, bringing styles from the Middle East to Al-Andaluz, including sophisticated styles of clothing based on seasonal and daily timings. In winter, for example, costumes were made essentially from warm cotton or wool items usually in dark colours and summer garments were made of cool and light costumes involving materials such as cotton, silk and flax in light and bright colours”(4). 
In addition, Ziryab added different dressing styles depending on the time of day,  
“he also added dresses of half season for intervals between seasons. Through him, the luxurious dress of the Orient was introduced in Spain. Under his influence a fashion industry was set up, producing coloured striped fabric and coats of transparent fabric, which is still found in Morocco today”(5). 
Here we are presented with advances made in dressing by an original man in Islamic-Christian Spain. Ziryab, specifically taught the Christian Europeans (whom after 500 years grafted back into the original) the meaning of garments based on the corresponding time of year due to the planet’s changing seasons (weather patterns). This means one of the principles behind the dressing of the people, as taught by the Moors, was based on scientific facts regarding weather patterns and usability of materials used to make clothing. Therefore, the woman’s dressing was dictated by the seasons. 3/4ths was a fluid adaptation based on weather. It is simple logic that a woman will not dress in a winter ¾th attire during the summer or vice-versa. This was Ziryab’s major teaching to the Christian European world. As seen through the quotations above, the original Cultural contexts of dressing were African, Arabic, and Asian, exemplified through long skirts, short sleeve shirts, and other varieties. Most designs came from these areas as the Moors were from these places.

Lacking from a real cultural context the Europeans have always sought the help of original people in building their own civilization, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. It all started with Musa (Moses) who in 2000 B.C. went to civilize the people within the Caucus Mountains because these people did contain the necessary intelligence to build a thriving civilization(6). The extreme weak condition these people were in (could not synthesize the rays of the sun into their own bodies, did not know how to grow food, thus eating raw animals) led them to a wicked state, one that was guided by devilishment (greed, violence). This means that during and after the 8th century, when it came to creating fashionable attire, the white woman looked towards the original woman as the example. Thus, European fashion was made to mimic the Black woman’s body. Different part of the dresses women wore was meant to add curves, voluptuous breasts, and accentuated hips. What was naturally the original Black woman’s body had to be artificially constructed for the white woman. Three very important objects used in European dresses helped white women attain this physical image: the corset, panniers, and crinoline.


The corset's most common function and usage were to slim the body and make it conform to a fashionable silhouette. For women this most frequently emphasized a curvy figure, by reducing the waist, and thereby exaggerating the bust and hips.


Panniers were “three or more hoops of cane, metal, or (later) whalebone…suspended from tapes attached to the waist, giving a dome-shaped structure to the skirt”(7)Eventually, these types of hoops became very difficult to walk with and other forms of hoops were adapted, where two bag-like structures were tied to the sides of the thighs. These were referred to as “false hips." You can see these kinds of clothing material in Disney's Cinderella. The step sisters, the women at the ball, and even Cinderella's shining silver dress have these "false hips."


The crinoline was a steel object made to support and add volume to the skirts and dresses of mainly the upper middle classes of Europe. This volume aimed at emphasizing the overall voluptuousness of the woman. In the royal courts it was common to see the women sporting their oversize dresses, making it hard for them to walk, but in their eyes, the bigger the dress, the more physically appealing was the woman as she would appear to be one whose body was filled with curves.

In the wider view of things if Egyptian society was the blueprint for Western civilization with Moorish society bringing it to its fullest development, it makes sense that even in clothing the original woman was looked at for proper orientation. The desire of wanting to be and look like the original woman was so strong that European women endured pain, health problems and infertility resulting from wearing such absurd objects. Eventually, due to certain sects of European society, these dressing styles were critiqued and protested. The Victorian Dress reform is such example, where “various reformers proposed, designed, and wore clothing supposedly more rational and comfortable than the fashions of the time"(8).  Even when making reformations in the dressing styles, the white woman looked towards the original woman for guidance. In the 1850s, an English woman by the name of Elizabeth Smith Miller adopted a style of loose pants gathered at the ankles typically worn by Middle Eastern and Central Asian women. They became known as Bloomers because it was featured in the happening magazine of the time named the Lily, headed by Amelia Bloomer.

White women and white gay men would continue to look towards original styles of clothing for inspiration in their grafted versions. However, a new look that was more centered towards the white woman’s real body frame, one characterized as bony, linear, and frail, would develop. The culture of clothing turned towards less clothing as well. Modern society would be ruled by the Twiggy look, a supermodel with thin figure. The change in shape standards (from voluptuous to skinny-thin) simultaneously changed the clothing standard. Less curves, simply meant less clothing. These then become the standard of beauty throughout all societies, resulting from internationalizing products of world powers. Capitalism, imperialism, neocolonialism, and globalization played a huge part in feeding unalike clothing styles to original women in the United States and around the world. Inevitably, original women adapted a clothing framework unlike them. This causes major damage and confusion to the original woman, currently suffering from major self-esteem problems, and an internalized hatred amongst each of the various shades of Black.

When researching my immediate history of clothing through the Latin American-Dominican lineage, I found traditional garments are worn for vudu ceremonies, traditional dances, and carnaval. As the majority of the population is poor, national folkloric clothing comprises campesino identity, of those who live and work the land, descendants of the Black Moors, White Christians, Taino natives, and Africans once enslaved. Clothing includes long skirts with short sleeve shirts that drop down the shoulders or are shoulder length. Some of the shirts are tube tops while others reach the neck and different parts of the arms, ranging from tight to loose. The skirts are wide so women are able to hold the sides with ease during a performance. Both the skirt and shirts contain floral ornaments and vary in colors of green, red, white, and blue, but are not confined to these colors only. The long skirts also serve to keep the lower body from overheating and obtaining too much sun. The breeze naturally seeps in through the bottom and fabric of the skirt. Skirts also come in variations. Some are made knee length. Head wraps are also very popular, as well as floral hats made from palm trees. Flowers (hibiscus) adorn the hair in buns or more elaborate hairstyles. I saw so many commonalities between the Caribbean forms to the Central and South American traditional dressing to even the East Asian styles. Truly it is meant to show that the a-alike mind is even present within the dressing styles of the Original woman wherever she is. These styles are definitely ¾ in that they cover the most valuable assets in women (her upper and lower reproductive areas). Dominican vudu (the Cuban and Puerto Rican version of Santeria), plays a big role in the ethical guidelines of the people. The traditional clothing worn is in direct alignment with the many rituals and ways of life that this belief system is based on.

The last step as women with knowledge of self, learning about 3/4ths is to realize the current cultural reality we are in. Most of my generation was born during the beginning of Hip Hop (1970s) and were teenagers by the Golden Era of this genre (1990s). I also grew up in a big city (New York) in a one bedroom apartment for six people, where my family is still enduring some of the hardest adversity yet. This means I come from an urbanized environment, where the clothing styles that were most popular were those designer based fed to us via the media channels that were made specifically for youth: BET, MTV, and VH1. I am from an urbanized consumer-driven clothing reality. Athletes also played an important role in the designation of popular sneakers, most notably Michael Jordan. I never owned a pair, and was picked on for being a hick, someone right off the boat. Other choices of footwear were Adidas, Reeboks, and Timberlands. In the early 90s, many girls wore baggy jeans, with oversized shirts with a tank top underneath, big hoop earrings, red or dark brown lipsticks, with buns in our hairs. Gel was an important hair product to own. Clothing brands were Polo, Guess, Gap, Old Navy, and Levi’s, among others. By the early 2000s, loose hair became more popular and more feminine styles of dressing started to appeal to us high school girls. I would blow out my hair; wear tighter shirts and jeans with high black boots or Nikes. These styles are still relevant for today’s youth, especially for girls, as man’s style has feminized. Actual Hip Hop clothing lines were made for girls like Baby Phat, Tommy Hilfiger (Tommy Girl), and others of the time. Clothing was big in high school. If you didn’t rock the brands, you were cast out and ridiculed. As I grew older, clothing lost its importance, as long as I looked decent, I was good. One thing was for sure though; I had lost touch with my femininity. I hardly wore skirts or dresses as a result of my low self-esteem.

By the time I got knowledge of self, it’s when I really started to see the importance in my womanhood via dressing. After exploring the scientific reality of dressing and looking at my immediate history of this topic, I thought about my body type and the current fashion trends of the Earths. I had been told by some middle school friends and family that I had an “hourglass” figure. Supposedly, there are 4 major body types: Banana, Apple, Pear, and hourglass. Banana resembles a thin frame with curves that are not over accentuated, apple is a woman whose upper body is curvy while lacking hips, pear shows a thin top with a curvy lower body, and hourglass is an overall curviness throughout the body. I feel like each body type are intertwined, and some women can have aspects of two or more of the body types. It is important to note that the banana figure is not the white woman. The white woman’s original body type (the time when they were in the caucus mountains) is a different form of skinny, one that is weak. A banana frame on an original woman is much different as it is rooted in strength. This entails more heavy research on anatomy and physiology I have yet to delve into.


When putting together all the factors, the science, the social history, the body type, Earths’ current fashion trends, and individual tastes, then I knew I could truly come up with a style that reflected my own Earth individually with a collective ¾ths comradiere. Keeping in my mind that I should protect my upper and lower useful land, the curviness of my figure, I combined these with my research and tastes in Native American, African/Caribbean/Muslim, Asian (East and South) garments, with of course my urban gear. This means that depending on the occasion I will mix and match different clothing styles for some occasions I may be ¾ths with pants, long skirt/dress, or knee length skirt/dress. Shirts vary from turtle necks, tunics, short, long sleeves, and tube tops that cover the chest properly. In this way, you are able to maintain a unique ¾ths expression, while still adhering to a commonality of righteousness with the Earths within the nation. Thus, there is an individual Earth style, for only each earth can represent who they are and how they manifest righteousness through what they wear, taking into consideration all that has been discussed above.

"Showing off your ass 'cause you're thinking it's a trend
Girlfriend, let me break it down for you again
You know I only say it 'cause I'm truly genuine
Don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem"
-Lauryn Hill, "Doo Wop (That Thing)

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1-Cultural context as described in this piece refers to the lineage of the original civilization an individual or group of people belong to that developed in a certain area of the world. It includes the moral and ethical codes that govern that group of people. Clear mention of adapted European ideas and ways will be clarified to provide a clearer analysis on the issue of self-expression, both as a collective and individual identity.
2-Referenced is being made to the Nation of God and Earth 4th set of lessons called the 1-40.
3-Although these calculations might be a little bit off, one must take into consideration that the Earth and other universal bodies, are in constant fluctuation. The Earth’s land mass was once all connected until a separation occurred and we now have the different continents. The same with the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. This means since the writing of the lessons, the land measurements varied slightly due to natural change. Our current percentages are 75% water and 25% land coverage.
4-“Ziryab.” Available at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:oo4DzNjdlrUJ:www.classicalarabicmusic.com/ziryab.htm+Ziryab,+clothing&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a. 16 September 2008.
5-ibid.
6- 2nd degree in the 1-14 of the Nation of God and Earth.
7-"Panniers[British] (1973.65.2)." Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1973.65.2 (October 2006).
8-"Victorian Dress Reform." Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_dress_reform. 18 August 2010.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Women and Menorrhagia

The Original woman today has behavior patterns that are unmatched to other times in history. It is not what has been described as “urbanized” ways of acting or socialized behavior, which is culturally based. It is one rooted in both the societal conditions that partly dictate the mentality and behavior of people, and the scientific elements within the woman’s biology that leads to her ways and actions. This combination has morphed the original woman into an angry, daily frowning, self-hating, thoughtless individual that commits erratic, compulsive actions that further takes her from righteousness and from being other than who they truly are. For other women, it can morph into behavior patterns where they are extremely submissive and hardly talkative. Their experiences, rather are internalized deeply without an ability of expression. All these women carry a broken soul reflective upon the dimness of their inner light inside their eyes. One such contributing biological condition is menorrhagia, related to the unbalancing of hormones within the woman’s body.

Menorrhagia is when an overflow of blood occurs and will not stop for a prolonged period of time. It can be physically draining and weakening for women who experiences this condition. Doctors have described that women who have this condition sometimes view themselves as a victim to various circumstances, overworks herself, and keeps pouring out her energy, spreading herself thin, without any form of conservation. Chinese medicine has pointed to the causes being an excess in toxins and an overheating in the blood. Foods containing high amounts of preservatives, additives, which are put into synthesized foods to preserve them, are filled with destructive elements that lead to a hormonal imbalance. This means that unnatural foods and chemicals harm the body. Other important factors that may be affecting blood flow are thyroid problems and a hormonal imbalance.

Hormone Imbalance
In her body, the woman naturally produces progesterone and estrogen. Both these hormones work together; balance each other out, to undertake all cellular processes in the woman’s body, which include the sexual organs. The estrogen hormone is used to stimulate tissues and cells that are estrogen-based, or are related to organs that are only prevalent within the female biological prototype. These include the breasts, ovaries, and uterus, all parts of the woman’s reproductive system. This hormone also forms the overall curviness of the woman. These are the equivalent of the phenotypical markers that defines “femininity,” the label given by society to describe this scientific difference of the woman from man. Estrogen is then, the hormone that enables the development of cells, tissues, and organs that are for female function only. Progesterone works alongside estrogen, to provide the stability of mature cells so that they do not overgrow. Therefore, while estrogen allows the growth and enhancement of cells particularly involved in reproduction, progesterone controls and manages these processes to not cause overproduction.

During the woman’s ovulation and menstrual cycle, both hormones are present and work in a rhythmic pattern to ready the body for possible reproduction and cleansing. The first half of the cycle is filled with ovarian estradiol, the name of the primary estrogen hormone within the woman’s body. When the levels rise, the ovary prepares the sac that becomes the egg released during ovulation. It is at this time that progesterone levels rise significantly to form a gland around the surface of the ovary, to regulate its function before fertilization. This means that progesterone is very important in maintaining the regulation of the ovary in case it is to be inseminated with the male sperm. If the progesterone doesn’t do this, then the woman cannot ovulate. The ovary will not release an egg. In a normal case, when the progesterone is produced, the estrogen level rises, but not as high as in the first half, and when the egg is not fertilized, both levels drop again. The body then lets out the lining of the uterus and starts again.

Menorrghagia is caused precisely because there is a progesterone deficiency that doesn’t provide a control to the blood flow, therefore allowing the estrogen to continue to take a strong hold and inform that body that there will be sterilization, while the body still bleeds. It becomes a disconnection between body and brain that doesn’t allow the control of the blood flow.

Prevention and Regulation

Diet: As mentioned before, a diet that is high in artificial flavoring, additives, preservatives, as well as animal proteins, dairy, will throw out of balance the hormone levels in our bodies. This is because meat is already embedded with hormones and man-made antibiotics that are not needed and are not compatible to the human body. Coffee is not good either. It will not allow the acid that makes the body’s natural hormones to get made. Alcohol does the same thing and it drains out all the water needed from the circulation system (blood) to transport the necessary nutrients to our cells. Alcohol breaks up the bonds between the electrons in the cell, and in turn, forms free radicals which toxify an entire area of cells, making them reproduce illogically, possibly leading to cancer. This is why the blood heats up. Foods that contain phosphates and polyphosphates (meats, dairy, soft drinks, and processed foods) are not good for the body because they prevent the cells from absorbing important nutrients. Sugars are also not good for the body. They prevent it from absorbing B vitamins and do not allow for the hormones to reach their points of destinations. They are literally blocking agents for the hormones.

A diet that will help in balancing the hormones within the body is one high in natural foods. Not ones already cooked in the frozen sections of the supermarkets. Beans and legumes are high in proteins. They are also high in gammalionelic acid, which is the natural chemical that produces the hormones in the body. Fruits, vegetables, natural rices, can all help in bettering the hormone balance in the body. If you are a big meat and dairy consumer, try to diminish these for organic, natural foods. Try not to buy processed foods, artificial condiments. There are also natural condiments for seasonings in health food stores.

Lifestyle: Stress is a big contributor to the imbalance of hormones. Altercations in the nervous system cause the rapid release of hormones and a decline in its production, therefore, leaving the body with hardly any hormones. Taking Birth Control Pills as a way to regulate one’s blood flow and hormone production is detrimental to the body. Not only will they destroy all major processes of the reproduction system, they will drastically weaken the uterus wall. Birth control pills are literally little atomic bombs for the woman's womb. They destroy everything inside the uterus (the wall, the egg) and its why some get their periods irregularly or none at all. It can lead to sterilization and/or death.

A lifestyle with less stress combined with an exercise routine of cardio (30min/day) and meditation can help. Deep breathing exercises are extremely beneficial.

Supplementation: Aside from adequate eating and exercising there are some nutrients and vitamins that one should be taken daily as a way to strengthen and maintain hormone balance that will prevent blood overflows. Buying Vitamin B12 pills, making sure they are vegetable capsules, which help build up and strengthen the uterus wall, is a good start. If one buys the B-Complex capsules, one gets all necessary B vitamins, as there is more than just one, for a cheaper price. I also use a brand called Eternal that contains a combination of herbs that are beneficial to woman's hormone growth and balance. These include chastetree berry, Passion flower, Don Quai root, and many others.

Peace!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Exercises for the Young Earth

From 2005 to 2007, I had the opportunity to run a Leadership program for girls ages 10-14, in Central Falls, Rhode Island. The program focused, as I designed it, on developing the girls’ inner strength, by focusing on exploring internal and external issues relevant to their experiences. In the end, the girls were able to truly learn new things about who they were. In 2007, when I got a Knowledge of Self, I drew connections between the purpose I gave the program, and how it related to what became who I am now, my natural self: The Earth. Below, is part of the curriculum of only the retreat. These were the two main activities engaged in and just wanted to share with those that might find it useful.

The following exercises can serve of great help, especially the journal writing, for young Earths getting knowledge of self. Journal writing is essential to the experience of growth. One should start with simple exercises that can get girls comfortable in talking and sharing moments of their life. This will instill within them the idea of sharing, documenting, and exploring themselves. All processes natural when gaining knowledge of self.

Asset Building Activity: “Self-Awareness through Journal Writing”

Asset to work on this workshop: Sense of Purpose, Positive view of Personal Future

Facilitator: Izayaa Allat.

Objective: In this training, the girls will be able to begin to develop their own “personal story” and use their life experience/expertise to find their “VOICE.” Using a number of exercises/discussion they will become familiar with the concept of self-awareness, getting to know who they are. They will learn how to get in touch with their inner voice through meditation techniques and use journal writing as a way to document their life experiences.

Materials: pens/pencils, paper, life story handout, journals, binders, and yoga mats.

Step One: Opening circle—Participants will make a circle and say one word that reflects their state of mind. Facilitator should start as a way of providing an example to the kind of words that accurately express our feelings. (i.e. “Today I feel excited about what I can learn.”)

Step two: Ground rules—Participants will draw on their experience to list 5 essential rules that will apply to all following workshops/trainings.

Step three: What is Self- Awareness? The girls will start to explore the concept of “Self-Awareness” and what that means. In small group formation, girls will write down their thoughts on the concept. Through group discussion, the answers will be explored to arrive at one concrete definition.

Step Four: Presentation of Journals—The girls will be presented with their journals.

Step Five: The Game Story—participants will pair up and have a few minutes to tell each other their “Life Story” then the group comes together. Facilitator will pass one handout to each girl and explain the handout. The handout is in a timeline form and girls are expected to fill out each space with significant events in their life up to present time. Facilitator will provide examples of the kind of events to write in their timelines. Once timelines are completed, each girl will choose an event they remember vividly and would share with the rest of the group. They are to write about this event in their journals with details. Facilitator will say, “talk about an event where you were able to grow as a person, learn something new, or that impacted you? What did you learn from this experience?” Facilitators should aid those that are having problems talking in details. Girls will then get with a partner. The partner is responsible for reading the other’s work and to provide feedback on what other information she thinks her partner should add on. By asking questions to each other about their events, the partners will be able to complete their narrations. After, the whole group will unite in a circle. Each girl will share their own stories.

Step Six: Mindful meditation—participants will learn how to meditate. By sitting or laying on the floor they will be guided to relax and begin to monitor their breath, body, and mood. This exercise will aid their self-awareness and to be present at all times. This meditation will allow the girls to also become in contact with their inner voice (being self-aware) so that they can then document it in their journals. Facilitator will ask, “How did you feel when doing the mediation exercise? What kind of things were going on with your body? Did you get sleepy? Did you have trouble relaxing? What do you think meditation does to the person that practices it? Girls will write in their journals.

Step Seven: Closing Circle— the girls will come together in a circle (if not in one already) and will talk about one word that reflects their state of mind as the session ends.

Peace!

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Means Switch: The Blackness of the Asian in Contemporary Literature

The story of Mona Chang, a young Chinese American girl, is one informed by the complexity of topics correlated with Mona’s ethnicity and her position as a second generation Chinese living and acculturating to the United States. Throughout the story we see how living in an all white environment shapes Mona’s experience as it is one characterized by her racialization, partly because of the differences between her and her white peers. In the story were are presented with another character, a young Japanese boy by the name of Sherman Matsumoto, who is most different from the rest of the students, including Mona, because he is an immigrant and doesn’t speak “Americanized” English. Through his interactions with Mona various cultural boundaries shape their relationship, resulting from their belonging amongst diverse Asian ethnic groups (Chinese and Japanese) and the historical tensions between both groups. Simultaneously, we see the more obvious cultural confines existent between Sherman and the white students. Taking aside the differences present between Mona (because she was a Chinese American) and Sherman (because he was Japanese), when both students are put into the context of the entire school (all white)  the experiences of both are not entirely unique. In this sense, their culture and identity navigate in not so different patterns amongst what is the normal: White middle-class society.

Although born in the United States with an impeccable fluency in the English tongue, better than Chinese which she can’t hardly pronounce, Mona’s friends look to her as an "other" because her way of living out Americanism is not quite like theirs. She’s recognized as American, but not fully, due to her connection to a culture that is other than Caucasian. She becomes a sort of coon whom the rest of the kids come to hear “unbelievable” stories about. Her teachings in Karate, how her mother cooks dishes that are not in the cookbooks, and has to explain to them what Tofu is. Through her circle of friends Mona becomes racialized for being Chinese. When describing her enthusiasm with her neighborhood (Scarsdale, NY) Mona says, “Scarsdale is a liberal town, not like Yonkers, where the Whitman Road Gang used to throw crabapple mash at my sister Callie and me and tell us it would make our eyes stick shut.”(1) Moving into a neighborhood of higher economic strata changed the experience of racialization, but did not stop it. In Yonkers, the experience of difference is expressed through violence, as its most common in poverty stricken areas. Not welcoming to new groups of immigrants, refugees, settlers, gangs (formed a means to protection) usually attack those groups within the area. Whereas in Scarsdale, it is manifested through cultural variance.

The racialization of the Chinese(2) and their experiences as an oppressed minority group has a historical context, which has been documented by Gary Okihiro who wrote “Is Yellow Black or White?” Yellow certainly seems to be a fluctuation between both, leaning towards the Black side of the spectrum. Okihiro provides a historical analysis in the many different ways that Chinese, alongside Filipinos, as well as other Asians have come to the United States and have been groups traditionally oppressed alongside African Americans. The Chinese were brought to the United States, after the slave trade, as part of the coolie trade. They were brought with contracts as a form of cheap labor by labor agents from places like Cuba, California, and China (3). The coolies were brought to the United States in similar conditions as the African slaves, on ships where more than the capacity of people were carried under the deck. Many died of suffocation and other causes (4). Once brought here they were put to work in replication of the African slaves. This relates to the one of the lessons memorized and learned by a person getting Knowledge of Themselves in the Nation of God and Earth, called English Lesson No. C-1, the 1-36. The 28th degree says, “Yes, a trader made an interorientation that they would receive gold for their labor, which was more than they were earning in their own countries.” In the movie Once Upon in a Time in China, starring legendary Martial Arts Master Jet Li, at 45 minutes, 27 seconds of the movie, we are presented with the trader who fools the people. In this scene the trader tells the people interested in finding better work, “In America, people have to walk carefully because they trip on Gold. Wash your face in the river and you’ll find Gold. One visit is worth a lifetime of work in China. Have some leaflets, one for everyone. People there wear dark glasses day and night. The shining Gold will hurt your eyes. You can’t pick up Gold if you’re blind.” This is the blatant fooling of a people by a trader promoting American interests by gathering up a group of people who would be used as cattle when transported to the United States. Clearly, that scene shows the “interorientation.”

The racialization of the Chinese was furthered reinforced after the decision in “Plessy v. Ferguson", which set forth the "‘separate but equal’ doctrine, affirming the state Supreme Court’s ruling that Chinese were non-white and hence ‘colored’ and thus could be barred from schools reserved for whites (5)." This Supreme Court case established the identity of Asians as a non-white group. The categorizing of Asians as an Ethnic group within the U.S., regardless of class, is seen throughout the story of Mona. The constant subtle racialization of Mona in the story is seen again when a friend says, “You should be glad…that you have something people value. It’s like having a special talent, like being good at ice-skating, or opera-singing…you could probably make a career out of it.” The friend is referring to Mona’s culture and way of life. She’s referring to the karate, homemade Chinese food, her language. And the irony, which Gish Jen points out, is that she does make a career out if. She made a career as a writer and writes about her experience as she is made “the other” by her friends and their families. In this case, the Asian becomes one that can never be like whites, she/he moves within mainstream space as a person much different than what is defined as American. Thus, the story of the Asian is not too much different than that of the African-American or Latino.

Another reading that focuses on the issue of racialization is the poem by Willie Perdomo “Nigger-Reecan Blues” and the writing by Santiago “Black and Latino.” In this poem Willie portrays the harsh realities of being a Puerto Rican, but on top of that being a black Puerto Rican. People are not sure what he is. Is he black? Is he Puerto Rican? Is he a black man with an accent? In this poem one sees how this man becomes racialized. He has to reaffirm his Puerto Ricaness because people confuse him for being black. But then again, he is black right? But to him, he feels, that he “ain’t even Black and here I am sufferin’ from the young Black man’s plight/a Black man/I am not/Boricua I am (7).” In this way, the man is racialized as being black although he is a ‘spic,’ a Puerto Rican. Within this example, we see that in this country you are forced into categories that must go in either ends of a spectrum. You are either Black or White. For Puerto Ricans, it was like a schizophrenic choice to make. Why? Because they were all Blacks who spoke a different language. The same idea is expressed by Santiago when he says that although he’s not black he can always expect the white people to treat him like he is. Thus, when Santiago says he’s not Black, he’s meaning not African American, but the whites do not understand his background of blackness. To them, he is colored regardless. In School, Mona, although an American, is treated in a “special” way. She’s reminded everyday of her life when she has to talk about karate and food not allowing her to express who she is freely, without having to conform so that she seems more American.

Besides the issues of racialization, the story also portrayed issues of cultural boundaries. Mona’s experience living in an all white (Jewish) neighborhood is varies greatly from the rest because of her traditional culture; her Chinese Culture. Simultaneously, Mona was as American as her friends in school were because mentality she was being reared into their ways and forms of thinking, talking and behaving. One can see that she is neither fully Chinese nor fully American. Her inability to fully immerse herself in either space, won’t allow her to fully incorporate herself into neither of her cultures (Chinese and American). This is living in the borderlands, as Gloria Anzaldua describes. It is like not being able to be fully Black because the society dictates that living well and peacefully requires a full level of assimilation into white mainstream society. Indeed, Mona lives within these cultural boundaries. This relates to the article, “What is Indian About You?” by Monisha Das Gupta, where she argues that by constructing the identity of immigrants within the U.S. context it doesn’t take into account the continuous relations of those immigrants to their countries and how that also shapes their identity within the United States. She also argues that by looking at the issue through a feminist perspective it shows the racial and gender differences, which are not shown because of the Eurocentric language used by writers when they argue about Ethnicity in terms of assimilation and pluralism (8). Women have a much different experience, but the experiences of women do differ from each other as well. In the story, when Sherman is drawing what he identifies as being Japanese, the people he draws are all males. He connects being Japanese with men figures. There’s also a sense of nationalism that is being portrayed by him. When he draws the Japanese flags it shows how proud he is of his nation and that he hasn’t become influenced by American culture, like Mona. With Sherman, we see more of a connection to his immediate history and culture of Blackness. He is not conflicted with who he is, nor desires to become conflicted by exploring white mainstream society. He is a step closer to realizing who he is as a Japanese man. In our lessons, the 1st degree in the Student Enrollment 1-10, it says "Who is the Original Man? The Original Man is the Asiatic Blackman, the maker, the owner, the cream of the planet Earth, father of civilization and God of the Universe." Sherman, might not understand the deep sciences of who he is as an original man of Japanese descent. However, his sort of rejection for Americanism allows him to express what he has known to be original as learned in his homeland.

By interviewing four South Asian women, Das Gupta was able to analyze how these women reinvented their identity by going back and forth between the American and Indian cultures. The dominant culture, which racialized them because they were Indian and the traditional culture, which only tried to prohibit any harm from the culture that saw them as being the Other. Some of the women interviewed by Das Gupta were controlled by their parents and some even planned out their whole lives. This same type of dynamic is seen in “What Means Switch” when Mona tells her mother she wants to move to Chinatown. Her mom asks her whether it has to do with school and then she proceeds to say that Mona doesn’t have to go to school everyday because it’s “no good for a girl to be too smart anyway (9).” A cultural clash occurs that is a product of the legacy of the grafted man’s ideological infusion into the original mentality. As Mona becomes fluid in navigating through the spaces of freedom provided by white women, it clashes with her cultural legacy classified as one of submission and obedience. The mentality of the white man as a natural hater of the woman, has made white women fight for their own societal freedom and equality. A freedom based under the same characteristics of savagery and devilishment of her root: the white man. This gained equality of the white woman is one where assimilated original women have been able to “prosper” from. However, it is in contradiction to the gender norms of their own societies. These norms have been adapted precisely from the same root: the white man. His dominations, for more than thousands of years, have led to an internalized behavior and thought by the original man about the original woman. Indeed, a mental grafting about building inequality with the woman. Inevitably, it is an idea that also becomes accepted and internalized by the original woman in their countries. This is what we see with Mona and her mother. It is two opposing cultural norms developed by the same root: the white man.

The conflict in levels of cultural infusion is seen when Mona tells her mother she likes Sherman and her mother gives her an explanation about the historical tensions between both Japanese and Chinese as an incentive for Mona to loose interest in Sherman. This long lived history of acts of domination and colonization was a behavior mimicked from the grafted man, which affected their own internal policies as well. In Japan, the Samurai, a respected and high ranking class of warriors immersed within the teachings of the self, Zen Buddhism, become eradicated as the government seeks to integrate Europeanized ways of governing. Inevitably, it complicated the relationships between the Chinese and Japanese. It became more complex when the element of acculturation into white mainstream society was added. The different levels of Black dilution both kids were at, varied based on their immersion into "Americanism." Being Chinese and American for Mona was very different from being Japanese. Because of their cultural differences throughout the story one can see the many times when both characters (Mona and Sherman) clashed. In one of their conversations Mona tells Sherman that whoever is born in the United States is American therefore making her American. She also told him that he could become an American through assimilation: “You could become American…sure you could…you only have to learn some rules and speeches (10).” Here one can see the disconnection there exists between Mona and her Chinese culture. She has been easily led in the wrong direction by following what other original people do to be less connected to their branch of blackness. Mona was becoming less black. To her being an American meant assimilating to the language and accent. A component she was not aware of is that her mentality was also changing as well and becoming American grafted. Sherman refused to assimilate and reaffirmed his ethnicity and culture by telling Mona that he was nothing more but Japanese. Japanese, in our context of knowledge of self, meaning Black. Eventually, Mona brings up the concept of switching. She switches from being American to being Chinese whenever any of the two was what she felt she needed to be/use. Clearly, there was a cultural boundary between Mona and Sherman. Sherman lives out his Japanese culture while Mona lived within the borders of two. It is like Gloria Anzaldua described in her poem “To Live in the Borderlands mean You,” where she stated, “In the Borderlands you are at home, a stranger (11).”  As presented by Mona code-switching is when we are able to live within our own cultural norms, but change to the adapted culture whenever necessary. This is the reality of the most 85% who are of different branches of Blackness. This demand to belong into the society of white has divided the behavior of our original people. Oftentimes, they go from being themselves, to being other than themselves. It is precisely why our people have been led to believe they are different from one another. The more we conform to white mainstream, the more distanced we become from our true selves and the unity we all share as the one Asiatic tribe.

When looking at Mona and Sherman through the eyes of their white peers and through the larger mainstream system where anything other than white, is different, other, and Black, one can see the interrelations between  their cultures and ethnic identities. This is because groups that are non-white and whose cultures are different will experience similar situations because they become the "other." Eventually, original cultures can eventually trace back their branches to the same source of originality. On a contemporary level, this certainly occurred with Mona and Sherman. While Mona was known for her karate and Chinese people eating monkeys, Sherman became popular because he knew Mister Judo, the reason for this being that Sherman would show the rest of the kids how to flip people (a fighting method used in Judo). In this way Sherman becomes racialized as well. When Sherman first arrived at the school everyone assumed that he was also Chinese because the person they assigned for acclimation around the school was Mona. She herself thought he was Chinese, until she saw his name. Racial slurs such as “cuz you black, nigger” are also present in the story when Barbara who learns about the ‘relationship’ between Sherman and Mona, tells Mona “first comes love, then comes marriage, and then come chappies in a baby carriage (12).” This racial slur that combines Japanese and Chinese physical traits is racist. One can see that under one racial slur two ethnic groups are being spoken about in a negative connotation. When Sherman first got to the school, Mona stopped from being the center of attention. She no longer had to speak, for example, of ancient Chinese eating habits. Now she had to speak of Sherman and her connection to him. As if there had to be a connection because they were both Asian. The issue of how culture and racial identities relate can be seen here. The culture and racial identities of Mona and Sherman (although a bit different) are connected by the larger society, white mainstream society, and somehow it turns out their cultures are similar. This is the way in which cultures and racial identities were related throughout the story.

The story truly shows how there is not much of a difference between groups of original peoples. Asian, African American, and Latino/as alike go through similar historical processes of migration resulting from white domination, as shown through the 1-36. The issue of having to navigate through two different cultural realities because they are indeed Black people, surfaced throughout the story. The law of unalike attract and alike repel is very real as we see Mona’s character living it. She immerses herself within white mainstream society, but no matter what she is still seen as Black.

Peace!

(1) Jen, Gish. “What Means Switch” from Growing Up Asian American. Pg.237
(2) Although, in the story it’s not something that’s done as blatantly racist, but rather as “interesting” and “different” it is still racializing Mona. The reason why her friends don’t blatantly racialize her (although they did blatantly racialize during her stay in Yonkers) may have to do with class. They say upper-middle class Asians are more educated and assimilated, but at the same time they are still “interesting” because their Ethnic background.
(3)Okihiro, Gary. “Is Yellow Black or White?” pg. 47
(4)It is true, that Chinese were admitted into the United States as coolies, but this doesn’t include the later Asian immigrants that came after 1965, when immigration law lifted the ban on Asians entering the United States, which turned out to be the rich Asians. Also, the original Chinese that came as coolies, after facing a lot of racism, slowly entered into the middle class.
(5)Okihiro, 53.
(6)Jen, 239.
(7)Perdomo, Willie. “Nigger-Reecan Blues.”
(8)Das Gupta, Monisha. “What Is Indian About You?: A Gendered, Transnational Approach to Ethnicity” from Gender and Society. Volume 1, No.5, 1997. pg. 573
(9)Jen, 252.
(10)Jen, 245.
(11)Anzaldua, Gloria. “To live in the Borderlands means You.”
(12) Okihiro, 242.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Sketch of Tranquility Book Review



One of the greatest virtues in being a creator is sharing with other great minds of the time who born their own creations. It is like Che when he met different revolutionary leaders from the countries he visited or like Fidel, who til this day, maintains a close friendship with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, writer of the Latin American masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude. In my world of humble apartment living in New York City, creating as the True and Living Earth, it has been of great pleasure to meet and share with minds of my time. Whether it was the time I met Booker T. Coleman at Juice Bar and we discussed his lecture on how the Crusades was truly a violent race for the accumulation of sugar, the newly discovered drug of the white man, or seeing and briefly talking to Assata Shakur, while in Cuba, about life in exile and her revolutionary activities in the great island-country. Of most pleasure has been engaging in conversations and/or builds, whether virtually or in person, with the great Gods and Earths of this time. One such person is the DaGod Emblem. His builds and writings have truly added on to the realm of the known. This God is definitely one of the great conceptualists of this time. His latest novel is one that you cannot put down once you’ve started on its journey. It will make you crack up like you haven’t laughed in years, feel angry, frustrated, and it will teach you information that you have not learned before.

Written through the perspective of its two main characters: Tranquility and Infinite, the reader is introduced to an added element within the writing never before included into a creative project; that of the urban subculture of the Nation of God and Earth. It is through this framework that one sees how each character develops through the story, with its underlying theme of Love. The dialect of the teachings adds-on and enriches the cleverness in the writing. The many expressions from several of the characters indirectly teach the reader what the knowledge of self is about. It provides a general view of the teachings, how its members talk, and how it informs their lifestyles. It blends well in all the other layers, within the story, of so-called African-American culture beautifully captured in Emblem’s writing.

A Sketch of Tranquility provides a creative forum of expression that enables the reader to connect, at varying levels, to the situations and/or characters of the story. For women it can become a story not too foreign from their own lived experience. For its female main character, it is the battling between success in the white-minded world and its contradictions with what she’s been taught to be as a righteous Black woman. Is she embodying more of the white man’s nature by getting her law degree and living on her own, rather than living out her nature as the true and living Earth, who is the Mother of Civilization? It is this contradiction, as it is brought to her attention as a form of mental abuse by the male main character that becomes one of Tranquility’s battles with him. More than an independent woman, Tranquility is an expert in mastering both the grafted world (by extracting an expertise that will bring her financial security and serves as a way to help original peoples) and her world of truth embodied by her mother, sisters, and Infinite, whom she wants nothing more but his upliftment. She’s a woman that has it all together: a successful schooling career, a job in her field of study, a tight-knit family, knowledge of herself, and the ability to inspire. Infinite is the archetype of what most men in urban United States go through. Falling victim to savage passion and his inability to properly activate his talents were some of his struggles. Knowing the white man’s traps (i.e. more Black woman in college than Black men), he rather deal with his reality by attacking his black woman and trusting a female devil in providing him artistic guidance. His defeat and loss of power is felt all throughout this amazingly written novel.

This has been one of the most powerful stories I’ve read in quite sometime. Peace, Earth Izayaa Allat.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All Mistakes Become Lessons Part 3

“This life we’ve had, it hasn’t been a good one has it? We’ve always just wanted to have fun, but look at this, look what it’s come down to. Do we not care about our lives? Are we willing to do worse shit, to die for a cause that really has no meaning? You girls have a chance to find a meaning to this shit and I demand you do it.”

At that very moment Beba lifted her head with all the strength she had left. Looking up at both her best friends, she smiled, gasped her last breath, and tilted her head on Milagros’s hands.

“NOOOO! BEBA! HABLAME! TALK TO ME! NOOOO!” –Milagros screamed.

Soon after the ambulance arrived Beba had been pronounced dead and Kathy was hurried to the hospital. Fortunately, Kathy had survived, but for the rest of her life she was to live transporting herself on a wheelchair. How could she live with herself as a handicapped? She thought. She would never accept living like a vegetable. Perhaps the worst blow for both girls was Beba’s death. They cried for days and would not separate from one another. Milagros slept in the hospital and made sure that she was there for Kathy. Each couldn’t accept the fact that Beba was not with them anymore. A profound shock had stricken them that doctors provided psychological support to both girls.

“Let your emotions be crucified
Renounce all your thoughts
Repent and let your mind be re-taught
You'll find what you sought...was based on the deception you bought
A perception of naught
Where the majority remains caught…”
-Lauryn Hill

Two years had passed. The shootout had changed all three of the girls’ lives drastically. Beba was no longer with them. It was as if a piece of each hearts was missing. They mourned Beba and constantly spoke to her wherever she was. However, it was precisely Beba’s death, which led to many internal changes within the girls. Although Kathy was to remain paralyzed for the rest of her life, she attended weekly sessions where she learned how to live like a regular person. Weekly meetings with a therapist and with a Dominican sister who was dealing with the teachings of the Nation of God and Earth had helped her deal with an anger problem that had accumulated through years of abuse. For the first time in all her live Milagros saw Kathy smile. In one of their many conversations Kathy confessed to Milagros that in many ways she was blessed with what had happened. Her condition had allowed her to stop and finally think about who she was. This led her to map about who she wanted to be.

“ Kathy, what are you planning on doing?” Milagros asked.

“I was thinking I move down to Florida you know? My Earth Enlightener was telling me they have amazing facilities for people with my condition and the change in geographical location will help me study myself deeper at peace . She said I can get a scholarship. I don’t ever want to go back to our neighborhood. I don’t want to be like those kids that get shot and spend their whole lives doing nothing but sitting in front of the building. I want to make myself a better person. I want to honor myself and Beba. I’ve been thinking about what she said right before she died. Doesn’t it make sense to you Mily? It really does to me. All my life I thought Beba had nothing smart to say, but what she said right before she passed, struck me like a pin. I woke up really. Now I’m ready to start a life without any resentment or anger. I’ve put behind all that bullshit about my father. I’ve realized that all those experiences have made me stronger.” -She looked at Milagros with a glow in her face.

“I entirely understand everything you’re telling me beautiful. I have made the decision to do the same. I was thinking of going back to school. You know we were pretty smart in the few classes we passed at G Dubs. Remember? Also, I want to contribute positively to my relationship with Fernando. I want us to build a foundation.” –Milagros positively stated.

Milagros had found love. She met him at her local YMCA. A true love that did not judge her for the things she did, but rather taught her that whatever she had done in the past were lessons to be learned. This most supreme feeling of living brought her to a place that felt right. A place of focus and tranquility that would allow her to explore what next move she would take in life. Through her experiences she learned that she had been deaf, dumb, and blind to the reality of the world. Being so young and vulnerable to what she had dealt with, her senses automatically became numb. She lived, but feeling as if every moment was just one more picture in a dream she would soon wake from. When she woke, she realized why she had been placed on this Earth. It wasn’t so she could party, drink and smoke her life away, or feel bad because her father was never been there for her and because her mother had become a whore. It was so she could became a strong woman, that she learned no matter how she grew up, what she went through, it was up to her to make her own destiny. One filled with peace, love and happiness. Beba and Kathy were right.

She got her GED and enrolled in Community College. While in school her interests were History and Cosmetology. History taught her that she could trace back where she had come from and that by learning this, in turn, she would learn more about herself. Awareness of her past was necessary to make sense out of her present and future. She graduated with Honors and decided that in a few years she would go back to school to get higher degrees. For the meantime, she focused on receiving her Cosmetology license. She was currently in the process of setting up her own salon. Using her knowledge of history, she was going to apply hairstyles from the past, but adapt them to modern times. This technique no one had and it was a hit. They were setting a trend all over NYC to the point where famous people from the entertainment industry were coming to Milagros for consultations.

Some years later, Milagros in an interview was asked, “What’s the advice you want to share with girls and young women of this society and the world?” In her mind, she remembered years earlier being in the car and listening to the girl whose name she couldn’t remember, talk about not eating meat or white rice. This combined with her own experience brought her to a place of understanding. With a look of passion she answered, “I want all women out there to know that they are the only ones responsible for their own peace and happiness. Sometimes we find ourselves and make our own situations appear harder than they really are. We have to remove these self-inflicted chains and free ourselves. Knowing that, in itself, has given me back my freedom today.”

Kathy proudly watched her friend share her wisdom to the entire nation. It was times like those where she knew that what they had been through were not mistakes, but rather lessons from which they learned from. She turned off the TV and went to bed. She had an early start tomorrow, Milagros was coming into town…

Friday, July 9, 2010

All Mistakes Become Lessons Part 2

Milagros met Kathy and Beba when they were just kids. They must have been around five years old. They each attended the daycare that Doña Yayi was running illegally in her apartment. Although they disliked each other at first, mostly due to Kathy’s bossy personality, through time they became the best of friends. They ended up in the same schools and coincidentally in the same classes. They were known as the notorious trio for their associations with one of the toughest gangs in the city: The Trinitarios. Beba was clearly the passive one of the three, the one that was easily led to believe everything she heard. Truly gullible she was. This made her the protected one of the three. Kathy, on the other hand, was well aware of right from wrong and loved reenacting the latter. To her bad was synonymous with good, at least that’s what she grew up watching in her neighborhood. She was always ready to fuck up anybody. Her thirst for violence was insatiable. Every time she fucked somebody up, she pictured that this was another victory over her father, the mothafucka that physically abused her while growing up. She dreamed of the day she bumped into that drug addict and fixed him good, like she was doing with so many people that threaten her and the girls. The look of relief and satisfaction after breaking someone’s face gave her and the girls a reputation that no one dared mess with them. Milagros was really the sexiest girl of the three, she got down and did her dirt, but she always reiterated to her girls that she did it femme style. This meant she got down and dirty, but maintained her girly posture all throughout. This made her a classy gangsta bitch and she loved it. Most of the guys loved her. She couldn’t walk down the street without the niggas from the block hollerin’ at her. So many guys wanted to hit it, but she, knowing how much power she had, only had sex with who she chose. Whomever she found cute and a true papi, she would take him to an apartment her and the girls were renting, and have sex with him there. Whenever she fucked a guy that she chose, she felt a rush after her experience. She felt this way because she was the one doing the choosing and not the other way around. No guy would ever have the satisfaction of fucking her and then leaving her. After just one night, they always came looking for more and only the lucky ones got to hit it again.

Most times the girls plotted how they would get away from their mother’s grasp. Although they were not the best motherly examples, they tried to control their daughters to prevent from getting in trouble with the law. Whatever the moms did to prevent them from leaving the house, it was unsuccessful. Days would pass and no word from the girls. While the mothers worried, they enjoyed life how they had come to define: have fun and don’t give a fuck.

“So what we doing today?” Beba asked.

“You guys are going to school, that’s what you doing. I’m taking you over there myself.” Minorka said.

“Don’t worry; after she drops us off we will sneak out through the back door of the school. No one is ever there after first period starts. Chelo, Manolo, and Gary are going to pick us up in their car.” Kathy reassured.

“Say word, Manolo is coming with them? Cause ya’ already know how he’s been trying to hit it. that nigga aint getting shit…hahahaha.” Milagros said.

“Yea meng, he’s been wanting you for a minute now, give him a chance. He seems to like you.” Beba said

“Come on’ Beba. You already know that nigga just wants to fuck Mily so that he can say he got that. He don’t care bout her.” Kathy said.

“Word. That’s true Beba. Look all you gotta do today is have fun with Gary. He cool peeps.” Milagros said.

“Aight, ya know I listen to ya. I ain’t gonna do something stupid. I love you, ya my sisters.” Beba stated.

The entire day the girls spent it at the apartment they rented with the money they each made pulling stunts for the gang or dealing drugs every once in a while. They had smoked about ten blunts of haze, popped a bottle of Henessy, and made out intensely with the guys. All had made an agreement they wasn’t going to have sex because they needed to conserve their energy for the Trinitario meeting later in the evening. Although the guys seemed upset they didn’t dare force them. They knew Kathy’s strength. It was rumored that Kathy could fuck up more than three guys at the same time. One time she beat up a guy so bad he was taken to the hospital and put in intensive care. This was not just any guy from the block. It was Big Mike, one of the hardest drug dealers around. He tried to play her by giving her fake drugs. When she tested the drugs and noticed it was baking powder, she plotted how to get back at the nigga. A meeting with the girls and it was all planned. Milagros was to call him and ask for a dime of haze. They all knew how bad Big Mike wanted Mily. Anytime she called he would drop whatever he was doing just to tend to her. That night she called his celly and he agreed to meet her on the corner of 188nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Milagros drove up to him on the corner and told him to get inside the car. Big Mike thinking got in and she drove off. She gave him a wet juicy kiss on his cheek that had him in a trance for a minute. He seemed to regain composure when Milagros threw the dutch on top of his lap and smiling told him to roll. He reached into his pocket and at the very minute Kathy sprung up, from the back seat of the car, and held him with a knife. She sliced his face and told him to get out the car. Beba took out his gun from his right side and Kathy proceeded to hit him. She messed up his head and face mostly, giving him a serious concussion. They left him for dead and sped off in the car. It was a good night for the girls; they were celebrating with the haze left behind by Big Mike.

At around 8pm, the girls left the apartment and headed to Cabrini Park. It was at that location that their meeting was taking place. They arrived fairly early to make sure they didn’t miss anything. As high ranking individuals within the organization, they had to show the respect and love they had through their actions. The meeting started with updates. Kathy, Beba, and Milagros made theirs together as usual. Amongst their announcements was the idea of setting up recruitment areas in selected positions around the hood. They thought this would be most beneficial because people would then know where exactly to meet. The old skool way entailed asking around for the leaders and this sometimes took days for people to provide answers. Having set locations would provide a space where the leaders could look from afar and choose those with most potential. Some could even infiltrate and talk to the interested people. Everyone loved the idea and all voted to do it this way from now on. As the meeting continued, all thirty people were caught by surprise with gun shots and punches. The girls quickly gathered together and fought as hard as they could. In just a few minutes the girls would realize that this night would change their lives forever.

They continued to fight with their knives. A big disadvantage was that they were caught without their gats. They all managed to stay away from gun fire. Kathy had caught a body she grabbed for protection against bullets. They stayed behind the body and right as they were making out of the chaos, a bullet hit Beba in the chest. Kathy let go of the body to catch Beba. Milagros quickly moved to allow Kathy to hold her. At that very moment another bullet hit Kathy in her back. Milagros fell down with both of them to pretend she had been hurt as well. After about ten minutes everyone had dispersed and sirens were heard approaching. Milagros quickly got up.

“Get up Beba, get up Kathy. ¡Parate Coño! Let me know if you guys are okay dammit!” -She screamed while crying.

“Milagros I can’t move, I can’t feel any part of my body right now and I feel weak.” -Kathy whispered.

“Stay right there Kathy, the ambulance is coming. You are going to be okay sis. Stay with me okay, don’t let me go. Beba hablame, Beba why won’t you answer me.”

“I’m dying…I can’t talk (cough,cough). Why this happened? Who are we? I know you girls never listened before, but I demand you listen now!”

“We listening Beba, all ears.” –Milagros screamed.

 
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