Morgane Richardson

is a professional feminist, lecturer, freelance blogger and birth doula who addresses race, gender, and sexuality in today’s society... without dwelling on theorists and terminology.

photos

Image Source: (r) Danny Lyon, Manhattan Bridge Tower in Brooklyn, New York City, Framed through Nearby Buildings,1974 & (l) Wally Gobetz, Manhattan Bridge, 2009.

Growing up in DUMBO, Facing The Effects of Gentrification

I grew up in DUMBO, Brooklyn when the streets where populated only with the artists living off of their own money, families who purchased dilapidated factories for close to nothing, and the handful of men and women working hard to make it through rehab at the Phoenix House on the corner of Jay St.

The age of the cell phone was just emerging - though there was no service in the area - so anyone visiting called from the pay phone in the F Train station to announce their presence. There were no trash cans at the corner, no dry cleaners, drug stores, or supermarkets to buy your food. Everyone knew each other, including the guy at the corner who always (and continues) to ask for money when you left home.

In the chaos that comes with growing up, DUMBO was home. It was my sanctuary full of memories, comfort and family.

I fell in love when we lived on Washington Street and had my first breakup after moving to Plymouth St. I played truth or dare by the rocks on the edge of the East River, and had my first kiss in the open field once polluted with glass bottles, dog shit, and unkempt grass, now blocked off by gates and no trespassing signs- the last bit of land waiting to be developed.

I became inspired by the works of great graffiti artists in the area including Neckface, Bansky, and Obey, and even placed my amateurish marks around town during a phase of teenage angst. I had my first legal drink at the corner bar (commonly known as 68 Jay Street) before all the seats became occupied by nameless faces and suits - when artists remained the heartbeat of this area. I partied on my roof top, was one of a handful of people in yoga classes when White Wave Dance Studio opened, hung out with the locals and spent hours in my room reading Virginia Woolf in my quest to learn more about the world.

I got accepted to Middlebury College in Vermont in 2003 and though I knew I would change in drastic ways, I had no idea that DUMBO would too. Every trip home meant returning to a new high rise complex, store, inflated prices or another person in a business suit whom I knew nothing about. And every time I went back to the corner bar, I listened to the artists who created DUMBO as they expressed their fears of no longer being able to afford the increased rent. I watched as slowly, they all left - they weren’t just artists, but people and friends who made sure I always got home safely at night, who helped raise me and who showed me how to let loose once in a while.

DUMBO has come a long way since those days. While New Yorkers dream of living in DUMBO, I dream of being able to see old faces in the area again, of a community that doesn’t only see art as work being hung in a gallery, and of the return of a community that cares deeply about their neighbors.

For better or for worse, gentrification is a reality in a city like New York. But rarely do you hear about the stories of individuals whose sacred places and memories become covered up by money and a desire for more. This is a little bit of mine.

quote

If Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, were to win next month’s election, the harm to women’s reproductive rights would extend far beyond the borders of the United States.

In this country, they would support the recriminalization of abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they would limit access to contraception and other services. But they have also promised to promote policies abroad that would affect millions of women in the world’s poorest countries, where lack of access to contraception, prenatal care and competent help at childbirth often results in serious illness and thousands of deaths yearly. And the wreckage would begin on Day 1 of a Romney administration.

The New York Times: “A World of Harm for Women” (via barackobama)

photos

Feminist and Natural Hair Friendly Halloween Costumes

Halloween is upon us! The time of year has come again when NYC will transform into a land of fairies and monsters, and most likely, a large number of Obama’s, Romney’s and binders full of women. For one night, people around the United States are given the freedom to be whomever they desire, without judgement or consequence (most of the time at least). 

Finding a feminist-friendly halloween costume can been a challenge in the sea of naughty school girls, and disney character outfits currently on sale. Finding a feminist-friendly halloween costume for people of color with natural hair is even more difficult. So here is a list of some feminist costumes ideas for all the natural haired people out there.

1. Angela Davis (Top Row, Left)
Embody Black Power activist, political prisoner, and academic for the night. 
Costume: Afro (Check!), Big glasses (shades or vision glasses), Hoops, Black turtleneck, Black pants.  

2. Diana Ross (Top Row, Right)
A good outfit for those who love to shine. You can even belt out some tunes from The Supremes as you trick or treat your way through town. 
Costume: Afro, Off the shoulder dress with lots of sparkle, Hoops, Heels, and a Microphone. If you are ambitious, you can even get two other friends to dress up with you as The Supremes.

 3. Billie Holiday (Second Row, Left)
Holiday used her powerful voice to expose, and protest against, American racism and lynching practices in the South in the song, Strange Fruit. 
Costume:  1930’s dress, Flower in your hair, Pearl necklace, microphone, and Clip on earrings.

4. Pamela Grier as Foxy Brown (Second Row, Right)
Here’s your sexy feminist costume. In the 1970’s, the film and character, Foxy Brown, became a symbol of female empowerment amongst communities of color while catching the villains running around town. 
Costume: Afro, Red 1970s Blouse, Jeans with brown belt, Hoops, Platform shoes

5. Sonia Sanchez (Third Row, Left)
Finally, your night to show off your talented gifts as a poet. Or at least for one night!
Costume: 1970’s garb (preferably long skirt and shirt with collar), a notepad and pen to jot down your thoughts, and make sure to part your ‘fro in the middle. 

7. bell hooks (Third Row, Right)
Kick-ass author, feminist and social activist. 
Costume:  Professional dress (think professor), an African print scarf

What feminist figure are you going as this Halloween? 

video

"For Being A Fucking Mutt!" Stop And Frisk Policies in New York City

On June 03, 2011, three New York City police officers stopped and questioned, Alvin, a local Harlam teenager. Though he is only one of 180,000 mostly young Black and Latino men who are racially profiled and stopped each day in New York City, Alvin is believed to be the first known person to capture audio of an incident of stop and frisk (he was actually the second - the first known incidence was circulated on Youtube in July, and showed a young man in Sunset Park, Brooklyn being assaulted by a police officer in the Subway station).

Alvin’s audio has become part of a new video released today by The Nation resulting in outrage and renewed efforts to end the practice of Stop and Frisk in New York City.

In the 13:15 minute video, Alvin asks the officers why they are threatening to arrest him to which an officer responds, "For being a fuckin’ mutt! You know that?!" The Sergeant then says, "I will break your fucking arm off right now," while holding Alvin’s arm tightly behind his back. 

According to Jessie Daniels, PhD at Racism Review, The audio was recently played at a meeting of The Morris Justice Project, a group of Bronx residents who have organized around the issue of stop-and-frisk and have been compiling data on people’s interactions with police. Jackie Robinson, mother of two boys, expected not to be surprised when told about the contents of the recording. “It’s stuff we’ve all heard before,” she said at the gathering. Yet Robinson visibly shuddered at one of the audio’s most violent passages. She had heard plenty about these encounters, but had never actually listened to one in action.”

The initial sentiments felt by Robinson hold true for myself: here is another horrendous case of the civillian population of color being “hunted,” as one officer in the video exclaims. But whether or not these issues come as a shock to communities of color living in New York City, these instances of racial profiling must be voiced, they must be shared with the world and they must be stopped. Hopefully, this video will have the necessary power to shed light on the NYPD’s policing tactics to control young men of color and put a stop to the injustices that Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly incite through these laws. 

photo

It’s incredible how the voice of honesty, truth and innocence scares people so much so they are driven to commit an act of violence against a child. This is an example of individuals who fight, lie and violate in order to withhold a patriarchal system of ruling.
I hope that Malala Yousafzai is safe, and that people around the world continue to listen to her story, for she is a symbol of strength, perseverance and peace. 
breakingnews:

14-year-old peace activist shot in Pakistan
BBC News: A 14-year-old rights activist who has campaigned for girls’ education has been shot and injured in the Swat Valley in north-west Pakistan.
Malala Yousafzai was attacked on her way home from school in Mingora, the region’s main town.
Nominated for an international peace award, she came to public attention in 2009 by writing a diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban.
Photo: Malala Yousafzai pictured on March 26, 2009 in Peshawar, Pakistan (Photo by Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images)

It’s incredible how the voice of honesty, truth and innocence scares people so much so they are driven to commit an act of violence against a child. This is an example of individuals who fight, lie and violate in order to withhold a patriarchal system of ruling.

I hope that Malala Yousafzai is safe, and that people around the world continue to listen to her story, for she is a symbol of strength, perseverance and peace. 

breakingnews:

14-year-old peace activist shot in Pakistan

BBC News: A 14-year-old rights activist who has campaigned for girls’ education has been shot and injured in the Swat Valley in north-west Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai was attacked on her way home from school in Mingora, the region’s main town.

Nominated for an international peace award, she came to public attention in 2009 by writing a diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban.

Photo: Malala Yousafzai pictured on March 26, 2009 in Peshawar, Pakistan (Photo by Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images)

(via sparkamovement)

text

Getting Jumped In An Alley Has Never Been This Much Fun? Not really.

Advertisment by: Bowlmore Lanes
Photo by: @ericstephenbias

A student of mine at Hunter College recently sent a tweet with an image of an advertisement for Bowlmore Lanes featuring a scantily dressed woman mounting a man who is bowling with the caption “Getting Jumped In An Alley Has Never Been This Much Fun.” 

In the last fifteen years, the world has been told to believe that New York City has become a safer place, free of much of the crime and violence that used to occupy it’s streets. Yet, according to the NYTimes,

The number of rapes and attempted rapes recorded citywide so far this year has increased by more than 4 percent, to 1,058, according to Police Department statistics. The vast majority of those crimes involved a suspect and a victim who knew each other: about 12 percent of rapes involved strangers, according to statistics provided by Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.

With a rise in violent crimes, the city doesn’t need more advertismenets that make light of assault on people’s bodies. 

NOW-NYC feels the same way and has requested that these ad’s be removed stating, 

The ad attempts to poke fun at a serious issue - rape - and instead invokes the “just get over it ladies!” kind of attitude we’ve heard again and again this summer from our lawmakers, comedians, and other public figures. With ads like this, how can rape be taken seriously? Enough with the ads that confuse sex and rape and make that OK.

Tell the MTA to remove this ad from our city subways: mta-nyc.custhelp.com or call 511

Call out CBSOutdoor, the company responsible for subway ad space: 800.926.8834 or cbsoutdoor.com/contact.aspx

Call out Bowlmor CEO Tom Shannon on his ad: tshannon@bowlmor.com, 212-777-2214

The Bowlmor CEO, Tom Shannon, has responded in defense of the advertisment saying “The ad is humorous and flirtatious, ” he said, according to Jezebel. “NOW’s position on this is extreme and laughable.”

In response to an email from Huffington Post, the Shannon went on to say: 

We are surprised and disappointed that our recent advertisement - intended to be a humorous play on the words “bowling alley” - has been misinterpreted to advocate violence against women. Our company - consisting of hundreds of talented men and women - does not support abuse or violence in any form. Since its inception, Bowlmor Lanes has strived to be socially responsible and offer a family-friendly environment to our customers. We offer our sincere apologies to anyone who was offended by this advertisement. The campaign in question was scheduled to run throughout Aug. 2012, and is no longer in circulation. There are no plans to generate this campaign again.

So why are these ad’s still up in NYC? It’s time to take action and reach out to the CEO of Bowlmore lanes and the company responsible for subway advertisements to have these removed once and for all. 

text

Equality For Whom?: Looking at communism through a gender lens


Once the veil is lifted, once relations between the sexes are seen as power relations, it becomes impossible to see as simply unintended, well-intentioned, or innocent the actions through which women are told every day what is expected and when they have crossed some line
- Catherine MacKinnon

Women In Uniform In La Havana, Copyright: Talasrum

Women In Uniform In La Havana
Copyright: Talasrum

I am always stunned when I hear young activists romanticize the need for (largely Marxist forms of) communism in the United States. My astonishment of this wide-spread obsession with communism is not because I believe that nation-states should maintain or move towards neo-liberalism or capitalism; rather, it’s because I have yet to see an example of communism that creates global peace without domination or the continuous subjugation of women. 

There is a tendency for young activists (at least in New York City) to wear trendy red shirts with images of Che in support of communism without understanding the political, social, economic and gendered implications behind the communist movement. I admit, before I stepped foot in Cuba I was one of those people. However once I saw the realities of a nation whose people live in fear to speak negatively about their leader (at the time, Fidel), where women still remain unprotected by the effects of domestic violence and sexual harassment, and where wide-spread access to abortion remains an issue, I locked up my infatuation with communism and put it in a box with the capitalism.*

In theory, communism sounds like paradise for anyone who supports equality and equal access to resources (without a gender or race lens).  Communism is most simply understood as a classless, and stateless social order in which everyone has common ownership of production. However, in a world that is highly divided not only by class, but also on the bases of gender, race and ethnicity, the benefits of communism can be limited.

Within societies exist hierarchies that have subordinated women and people of color to such an extent that their oppression is perceived as natural. Communism’s neglect in mentioning or addressing women and people of color’s preexisting oppressions in relation to class oppression makes it a system that continues to not only subjugate women and people of color, but ignores the process of their creation as subalterns.

MacKinnon claims “[m]ens forms of dominance over women have been accomplished socially as well as economically, prior to the operation of law, without express state acts, often in intimate contexts, as everyday life” (p. 161). Likewise, despite the attempts to create an egalitarian society by communist leaders and its ‘fans,’ communism remains a system that is structured and maintained by male dominance and patriarchal visions of utopia. Unless we acknowledge how systems of domination have been created to place women and people of color in subordinate positions, communism remains just as harmful to oppressed groups as capitalism, neo-liberalism, and democracy.   



_________________________________

Source(s): 

Mackinnon, Catherine (1989). Toward A Feminist Theory of the State. Cambridge, Massachusetts  Harvard.


*I do not assume that capitalism or communism are the same, rather that they are both systems of governance that fail to critique the systems of patriarchy.

text

Hurricane Isaac: Why the silence?

A woman cries as she waits with other flood victims at the Convention Center in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005. Officials called for a mandatory evacuation of the city, but many residents remained in the city and had to be rescued from flooded homes and hotels and remain in the city awaiting a way out. (AP Photo/Eric Gay), http://www.flickr.com/photos/nabibhr/5407928368/

On Monday, August 29th 2005, all eyes where on Hurricane Katrina when it hit the state of Louisiana. It was the fifth deadliest storm among recorded Atlantic hurricanes and the relative lack of status, power and resources put many women of color at risk in the hours during and years after Katrina’s wake (Knabb, Richard, Brown, Daniel & Rhome, Jamie, 2005).

Thousands of New Orleans residents – overwhelming poor, largely people of color, and majority black – were left alone to face one of the worst “natural” disasters in US history. In the case of Katrina, women, men and their accompanying children were left to die on the streets, in prisons and in nursing homes. Those who survived, were victims of sexual and physical violence in places of refuge, and were criminalized as “looters” by local authorities for fighting to obtain provisions such as food, water, medicine and diapers. Hurricane Katrina reminded the world of an ugly truth: the lives of women, the vulnerable, poor, and nonwhite remained insignificant to the US government (South End Press Collective (Ed.), 2007).

Despite the sheer number of women present in New Orleans, as well as their transparent economic disparities, the nation made no provisions to assist these families as Hurricane Katrina rolled in. No government official sought to ask what the needs of these women were in the event of a massive storm nor did they provide the adequate support necessary to provide them with either protection nor assistance in Katrina’s aftermath.

Rather, it was women’s rights organizations that stood up for these women. INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence was and remains a radical grassroots organization that challenged the economic, political and social structures of New Orleans that placed women of color in dire positions. INCITE! understood that women living at the intersection of systems of oppression were paying the price for militarism, the abandonment of their communities, and the ongoing racial and gender disparities in employment, income and access to resources and support (INCITE!, 2005). As a collective organization, they demanded that there be no further criminalization of survivors of the hurricanes and that attention be placed on those with the least access to privilege.

This evening, we sit quietly as Hurricane Isaac  hit Haiti and now strikes New Orleans. Though we are well aware of the hazards and inequalities ‘natural’ disasters can inflict on a community, it appears as though most media attention has been placed on the 2012 GOP Convention, and feminists speaking on race and gender issues online remain silent on the potential impact of Isaac.

What has lead to such silence? Have the continuous strikes on our lands by “natural” disasters jaded us? Why are we so preoccupied with politics when destruction may come to the people of New Orleans once more? When did we become a community that waits for a disaster to strike before we take action?

In the moments before and in the wake of a disaster, there exist great possibilities for radical activists and local community members to address the deep veins of social injustices that exist and will likely remain long after the roads, homes, levees and bridges are rebuilt. We must not adopt the strategies of our nations government – we must address the issues that come with disasters head on, and before they arrive. Let us name the issues that still exist for women and men living in poverty in the city of New Orleans. Let us use our voices and fight for those who are, quite literally, silenced in the moments of a disaster. 

text

Unfair Housing Laws and The Lessons You Learn When Moving (Back) to NYC

After an incredible year in Costa Rica (and a few years by the beach in LA before that), my partner and I made the decision to move back to Brooklyn, NY where I will be teaching at Hunter College and my partner will be studying Traditional East Asian medicine. 

The decision to move back to NYC was certainly not an easy one for us perpetual wanderers and lovers of wide open spaces. Though the thought of being closer to friends, family and the feminist community were exciting, the prospect of being back in a concrete jungle (rather than a lush green one) was a bit terrifying.

Nonetheless, here we are! 

I adore this city for everything it has to offer but the process of settling was certainly trying. I assumed we would immediately find a home that we loved: in an area that was close to the best subways and friends, with a backyard where we could plant our organic garden and our dog, Joplin, could frolic in all year. I know - any NYer would say that we were crazy if we thought that could happen but we did find many of those spaces. The problem was getting accepted as renters.  

See, for those of you who don’t know, NYC is so jam packed with people that the competition for housing is steep. If you are lucky to find a place before someone else grabs it, you then have to prove that you make 3x the rent, have proof of employment, a credit score of 700 (considered “good”) or have a co-signer who looks even better than that. As students (coming from an international location) we had no recent tax returns or employment. And though my partner and I started our own company, get paid well- but by contract - we didn’t have proof of a stable income. If you couple that with the intense amount of loans I have had to defer because, well, we are living in a recession (among other societal issues) - we don’t look that good on paper though we are probably better off than most (thanks to our hard work, pinching pennies, and the kindness of our parents). 

In Costa Rica, we got our apartment off of craigslist and the landlord accepted us largely because we were nice, had friends in common (we only learned this after we spoke) and were both activists. There were no questions about our dog, income, or our personal lives, etc. So, you can imagine how much of a shock it was to be reminded of the extent to which the NYC housing hunt runs on image and money. If you have a good look, and lots of money, you are in. This city that is overly accepting of individuals also has a side that discriminates against those who are younger and haven’t had the opportunity to build up their “good on paper” image, live in a recession, and/or have decided not to join the masses in a “deskjobforlife” career by adopting an untraditional lifestyle (i.e. Travelers, artists, etc). Unfortunately, we fit all of those categories. 

After being told that we couldn’t live in a few apartments because we didn’t have “the right look on paper” or because we had a service dog (which, by the way, is illegal to say) we have finally settled into a little and adorable apartment in South Park Slope. 

I am completely in love with our new home (see picture below), but I don’t want to forget about the process that we had to go through to get here. I know that we are not the only ones who faced such difficulties in finding a home and it’s important to me that something shifts with NYC real estate laws. I can only imagine how difficult it is to be a single woman of color, a undocumented citizen, a retired veteran, and/or persons with disabilities looking for good housing in this city. 

_______________

For more information on Fair Housing, please visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

likes

group

follow