hello World,

i am alive and well. how are you? doing well, i hope. i’ve been doing a lot since we last spoke, like interning, figuring out my work situation, playing around, etc. but enough about the past. let’s flow on to the present and the future. right now, i am about to harvest some gnarly crops and enjoy an immense and healthy feast of corn, carrots, tomatoes, kale, greens, chives, basil, bruschetta, as well as do some pumking carving on the roof some time in october. i cannot wait.

flowing on, i stumbled onto the art of drumming and picked myself up a kit a few months back. i’ve been banging on those 1, 2s, 3s, and 4s for a while now & im looking to jam anytime now. let me know if you’re interested.

what else? oh yeah. toastmasters. im not that good at conveying my radical ideas to large groups of people and i eventually would like to do that, not in totalitarian sort of way, but in a this could help “us” in the long run sort of way and in order to do that i need to be an effective speaker. i can write my ass off, but now i need to be able to talk my ass off. so i need to learn how to do that and toastmasters is where it’s at. that starts next week. wish me well, World. and please hold me accountable. please.

until next time (whenever that may be)

take it easy

So much to say so little time and ability to do so. Let’s see, I am almost done with school, sadly. I really like learning about the system and how it works to keep the underprivileged people down, but I can use that knowledge to my advantage, right? However, I don’t like getting up at 7:15 in the morning and I’m usually 15 minutes late to class. Yeah, how professional is that? Anywhooze, I’m trying to do a student internship at the People’s Law Office here in Chicago. Never heard of them? Well, you should know.

The People’s Law Office started as a collective in Chicago of 1968 as part of the civil rights/black power/anti-war movement to help free wrongly convicted political prisoners. They describe themselves:

“The idea was to have an office that would be part of the movement in some real way, with a workload determined by political events and involvements, and thus free of normal constraints of law firmism. Primarily, that meant we would be a collective, whatever that meant: not a firm in any event. Right on!”

archiveimage-image-3_t200

They represented groups such as the Weathermen Underground and claim that their Weathermen clients not only required legal defense, but also challenged them as legal people, questioned their sexism, personal relationships, and struggled with them to reject their privileged status as white lawyers and to further change with their lives. You were either “part of the solution or part of the problem.”

18fred


They also represented the Black Panther Chapter of Chicago in the 1973 Carbondale Panther case in which the the “Carbondale 3” were acquitted on all 41 counts thanks to the hard work done by Steve White, G. Flint Taylor and Jeff Haas. G. Flint Taylor and Jeff Haas also worked on the Fred Hampton case and in 1979, ten years after Fred Hampton’s death, the Seventh Circuit issued its opinion authored by Judge Luther Swygert and the Court reversed Judge Perry’s entry of directed verdicts, found there to be substantial evidence of a conspiracy between the FBI, Hanrahan, and the police to murder Fred and destroy the Panthers, found that the FBI had obstructed justice by suppressing 200 volumes of documents, and reversed the contempt citations against Flint and Jeff.

abuse

Nowadays, they still continue to meet their goal of providing legal representation to people and movements fighting for progressive social change, discovering police corruption and abuse through litigation and then exposing it publicly, working with political and social movements to fight that abuse, gaining compensation for victims of police and governmental abuse, defending against criminal charges, and working for the rights of prisoners. Right now they are working on an ongoing class action suit against the Chicago Police for detaining over 800 anti-war protesters on March 20, 2003, against police torture and sexual abuse, and they have worked against the death penalty stating that the death penalty is in no case justified in this country and that it is used as a general instrument of oppression, as a political stratagem by politicians, and that it targets primarily African Americans, people of color and those without resources.

That’s all for now folks.

Holler.

jdick: “Hi, my name is jdick.”

Random Man: “J dig?”

“No, jdick. you know like dick.”

“Oh. I don’t think I can call you that.”

“Oh no don’t worry there is no sexual connotation- my last name is dickerson. Since jessica is such a common name it’s easier to remember jdick- you know like j-lo.”

“oh. Well I think I’ll just stick with calling you J.”

yeah, people call me jdick. In case you were wondering, I got the nickname from a fellow grocery store co-worker in 2001. At the local grocery store I worked at, we used a computerized credit system to purchase food and we used our signatures to verify our purchases. Well it used to take me forever to sign jessica dickerson and on the day I was sporting fresh j-lo braids (ha), my co-worker got fed up and she suggested that I start signing my name as jdick since I had j-lo braids. And she wanted me to start telling people to call me jdick since I had no other nickname prior to that one. Well it worked. I began to tell my co-workers and my friends in high school to start calling me jdick and they did. People love to call me jdick. It gives them an excuse to yell out ‘dick!’ However, some people don’t like to call me jdick. People like heterosexual men who are uncomfortable with their sexuality. For some reason they refuse to use the d-word to refer to me . “Oh no I can’t call a lady a ‘dick’ ” Well I am here to tell you that yes you can call me jdick and it should make no difference as to whether or not you refer to me as genitalia. All I’m saying is lets get over this whole gender binary thing.  jdick is not to be taken sexually. It is the combination of my two names. It is my nickname. Werd.

Holler.

Just less than a week ago the website Facebook changed its appearance to a more sophisticated look (I think it’s more confusing, personally). It seems in the world of technology, everything is changing at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, the way advertisers target their consumers has not changed in the past century. Advertising today (as we should know) is used to create the false sense of need within the unaware consumer. The need to share the same normalcy as others is needed in order to fit into society because if one does not fit into society, then they are rejected from it and are left searching for that normalcy. Fortunately, there are people out there challenging the norm. Take this story for example. Inspired by the negative weight loss advertisements on Facebook, Teresa Valdez Klein redesigned them and turned them into positive body affirmation advertisements.

Here are examples of her ads that started running in April of 2008

The first ad she ran:

An original ad and her remake side by side:

Here’s what she had to say about her ad campaign:

“If you click it, it takes you to the Love Your Body Day website. I’m going to run the ad through April 7. I’ve set the maximum daily budget to the minimum of $5.00. I targeted it to single women between 18 and 30. I pirated the image of the Reubenesque Barbie doll from the Body Shop’s campaign in the late 90’s. Today, the ad had 12 clicks and 6,590 impressions.

If you like this idea, why not try it yourself. It’s relatively easy to set up an ad to run for a few days, you don’t need to spend more than $5.00 a day and you can reach thousands of people. If even a few people do this, we can reach a wider audience with the message that we’re all tired of seeing ads on Facebook that try to make us insecure about our bodies.”

This is awesome and wow, just a mere $5.00 to advertise. Just think, what if more people spent $5.00 on subvertising than on trashy magazines or dieting products? Get Inspired. Get Creative. I know I am.

I’ve been out of town lately and I haven’t had the time to post, but I want to share my latest thoughts on street harassment, and explain its connection to the unequal power dynamic between men and women, as well as address the unanswered comments from the previous power and control post, and ask readers to offer their own opinions on how to address this imbalance between the sexes.


If we carefully examined society, we would find that men have more power than women. What do I mean by power? Well let me offer a definition for power, given by Youth Together (YT). (Keep in mind that “Power” is a relational term. It is a relationship between human beings in a specific historical, economic and social setting. It must be exercised to be visible.) “Power is having access to resources, the ability to influence others, and access to decision makers to get what you want done.” (YT) So, if observed society in order to figure out who had more power, we would most likely conclude that men have more power than women. For example, men own 99% of the world’s property while women perform two-thirds of the world’s labor. And if we look at institutions like judicial government and corporate boardrooms, we can see that men reign freely in these settings and therefore have access to these institution’s resources, decision makers, and the ability to influence others. This power dynamic essentially reinforces patriarchy.

However, in order to allow the continuation of this unequal power dynamic, or rather patriarchy’s survival, there needs to be grounds for its justification. And to patriarchy’s rescue comes essentialism. Essentialism comes from ” The belief that people and/or phenomenon have properties that are essential to what they are.” For example, essentialism comes into play when people make assumptions like “men are strong”, “Asian people are smart”, or “black people are loud”. Essentialsim can be seen as “the root of all prejudice”, which as I said above, has led to the justification of discrimination or the dehumanization of women, people of color, queer people, etc and has left them with little social and economic power in society.

Unfortunately, in the realm of a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, not all men have the ability to exercise their right to patriarchal power. This power is generally limited to middle and upper class white males and excludes working class white males, and men of color. This leads some of these “other” men to find other means to exert their power. In my power and control post, I quoted bell hooks’ explanation that when black men harass black women they seek to occupy ‘the position of whiteness’ occupied by white men because men of color are not able to reap the material and social rewards for their participation in patriarchy.” I think this explanation is applicable to the men who are not white and middle class and who do not have access to the resources stated above.

I wrote my power and control post the way I did as a way to empower and show women that street harassment is fucked up and that there is something that can be done about it. Jimmy Castro, I was not trying to be anti-male, but rather trying to create a space of empowerment for women who feel threatened when say they go around the block for a jog. I have heard of other empowerment events where women get up on stage at a show and attack patriarchy with men in the crowd. (Note that attacking patriarchy is not the same as male-bashing. Patriarchy is an idea that either sex can reinforce.) And thank you to Cedric, a friend, who has always and will always be an ally in struggle.

So in conclusion, I think it is the responsibility of men and women to find ways to challenge the systemic forces that reinforce this power dynamic between the sexes as well as take steps to create to a balanced power dynamic. I believe that by raising people’s consciousness about these issues is one approach to figuring put solutions, which is essentially the goal of my blog: to inspire people to become critically aware of their social conditionings and leave the rest open for dialogue.

So as a woman of color, let me ask you this: How do you think we can begin to eradicate patriarchy and racism simultaneously? Looking back at the male dominated Black Power Movement, do you think it is even possible to work on both at the same time?

I have decided to repost my personal narrative, which explores the nature of colorism within the intersection of race and gender, because I have been told it is an insightful analysis.

Walking into Treasure Island grocery store, as a woman of color, in Chicago’s predominantly white Lincoln Park neighborhood, I immediately made eye contact with the only other person of color there, the black female cashier and gave her a smile that she returned with a brief look of disdain and continued to look past me. As she briefly took in my appearance with her eyes, I knew that she had come to the conclusion that she and I came from separate worlds. At first, I ignored her look of disdain, I got used to receiving those looks from white people in Madison, WI, but now, after moving to Chicago, I receive them on a regular basis from black women, which has caused me to question: why is it so hard for me, as a self identified black and bi-racial woman, to connect and relate to the majority of black women?
Okay, so maybe I get those looks because of the fact that my hair is locked, my skin is lighter, due to my bi-racial background, I ride a bike all year round, and I dress differently than my black women counterparts; be rocking the converse all stars and skinny jeans, 24/7.
Thinking about it more and more I became curious to see if other light skin/mixed women of color had the same problem of connecting to other black women and I began to look into the history of interrelations between black women in the United States and I came across the term colorism. Defined, colorism is the practice of placing value on skin tones, where lighter skin tones are valued more so than darker ones. This practice is very prevalent in the United States and is practiced heavily by black women young and old. For example, it is practiced when we refer to straight, long hair as “good”, and kinky hair as “nappy”. One can also view BET music videos to see colourism at its finest, where the women depicted are lighter toned and have straight or loosely coiled hair. Colorism stems from our own internalized racism, which comes from our socialized conditioning to value western-European characteristics over African ones because representation of our own people in the media hardly exists and when there is representation, it favors people of color that posses those western-European characteristics.
Fundamentally, we have internalized the historical, racist ‘black people are inferior’ ideology that white people have projected onto us through the means of racial projects. According to Margaret Hunter’s Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone, racial projects are campaigns that set out to establish the meaning and construction of race in any given time period though the use of images, representations and explanations about racial categories. For example, during colonial times the racial project of racialization, through color, was established in order to justify the enslavement of African people. Consequently, the concept of blackness came to represent primitiveness, ignorance, and ugliness in the form of dark skin, while whiteness came to represent civility, intelligence, and beauty in the form of white skin.
However, throughout the history of slavery, a new skin tone of ‘light brown’ began to emerge among Americans, due to white slave masters sexually terrorizing and raping black slave women as means for maintaining social control and a number of enslaveable people. Yet, as a result of being the offspring of white slave owners, these light brown children were often given special privileges, such as access to education, opportunities for skilled labor, and essentially freedom and once economically secure, began to serve as leaders of local businesses, churches, and civic organizations. Accordingly, these violent sexual unions created a color hierarchy through systematic privileging of light skin mixed African Americans over dark skinned African Americans and led many whites to confirm that white blood and lineage was superior to that of black blood and lineage. We, as black people, have internalized and therefore come to believe this racist ideology as truth and have begun to perceive black light skinned people as better and more intelligent than black dark skinned people.
As a result of this internalization, the contempt that dark skin women hold for light skin women of color exists because society systematically privileges women who more closely resemble the aesthetic of ‘whiteness’. Studies from the National survey of Black Americans show that having light skin garners privileges in terms of educational attainment, income, mental health and spousal status. For example, using a five scale color palette, ranging from very dark, dark, medium, light, and very light, annual income increased $673 for every increment on the color scale. Essentially, a woman described as very light brown earns over $2,600 more per year than a woman of similar background who is described as very dark brown. Consequently, in this white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, light skin is seen as a form of social capital for women and therefore viewed as a valuable asset.
More so, this systematic privileging based on physical features not only reinforces racism, but sexism as well. Evaluating women by their physical attractiveness objectifies and commodifies women, by presenting women’s bodies solely for the male gaze. Even worse, this physical attractiveness or beauty is typically defined in the United States by whiteness or western European features. As stated above racial projects established dark skin as representative of primitiveness, ignorance, and ugliness and white skin as representative of civility, intelligence, and beauty. Therefore, some facial features are associated with the terms barbaric and ugly, while others are associated with modern and beautiful. Essentially, racism involves an aesthetic appraisal of physical appearances and features and that aesthetic is typically defined in the United States by whiteness and western European features, which is why light skin is deeply rooted in an aesthetic of whiteness. Therefore, beauty is a racist and sexist construct and many women of color are not viewed as beautiful by mainstream society, unless they possess light skin, straight, long hair, a sharp, pointy nose, etc.
Yet, beauty is an integral resource for women because society teaches us that beauty matters more than anything else and the pursuit of beauty becomes a capital investment for us. That is why much of the interaction among women of color over skin color and beauty is centered upon the perceived competition for the male gaze and male partners. This leads to a lack of trust or intimacy in some African American women’s relationships because of the perceived scarcity of African American men. As a result, some darker skinned women distrust and resent light skin women because light skinned women are considered by men to be more attractive than dark skinned women. However, that competition among women over skin color is a diversion from larger oppressive systems, such as racism and sexism and perpetuates them simultaneously.
The woman who gave me that look of disproval and the many other women here in Chicago who have ignored me when I have tried to smile or say hello have all been the victims of colourism. Yet, it is not her fault or any woman’s fault when she finds herself being distrustful and cautious towards other women of color, especially towards those who are lighter than she is. I have come to conclude that colorism is the reason why it is hard for me to relate to darker skinned women. In a sense, I have a double consciousness when I interact with people from my own race, meaning that I have an awareness of myself as well as an awareness of how others, such as black women, perceive me as a light skinned woman. For example, when I am around darker skinned women, I find myself on the defense for fear of rejection because I am aware of the feelings and thoughts that darker skinned women have towards lighter skinned women. But as light skinned women, we must not victimize ourselves, but rather take action by acknowledging that we are privileged in this white heterosexist patriarchy and that we have a responsibility to challenge and dismantle the discrimination of these systemic forces faced by all of our peoples.
Unfortunately, many people do not realize how these systemic forces condition them. And that is exactly what the master has always planned: to withhold that knowledge from the slave so as to maintain their systemic control over them. However, it is imperative that we understand these systemic forces as well as deconstruct ourselves from these conditionings by addressing these as pertinent issues in the black community because we are currently divided because of them. I once read a quote: “If everyone put as much time into making a difference as they did their hair and make-up, the world would be a better place.” I think that quote is quite applicable and I could not agree with it more. We must not use the media and its definition of beauty to define who we are. We must find new ways of understanding who we are as a people and the only way to do so is by beginning to think critically and talk amongst ourselves about our identity and the way we view ourselves within this white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

So that I don’t sound like I am trying to dictate how we should view ourselves, how do you think women, women of color, and men alike how can deconstruct our minds from this patriarchal thinking? Or better yet, do you even think colorism is a problem within communities of color?

On the continuation of expressing my frustration with street harassment, I would like to further point out that street harassment has patriarchal roots and is essentially about maintaining power and control over other human being’s actions and that for people of color street harassment has racial implications. Take these two stories for example:

“On May 19th, 2008 Orlando police say three to four men drove up beside Beaubrun and two of her friends at a red light near the intersection of John Young Parkway and Princeton. The men were asking for their telephone numbers, but the women refused. After being rejected, one of the men fired a shot into the car.

Her friends were uninjured, but Beaubrun was shot in the back and rushed to the Orlando Regional Medical Center in critical condition, where she remained until she died Tuesday.” More information here

or worse:

“Five years ago, Sakia, an African-American 15-year old girl who “dressed like a boy,” was attacked while waiting for a Newark, New Jersey bus after a night out with friends. The girls were approached by two African-American men in a car who made uninvited sexual advances. When the girls declined, stating that they were lesbians, 30-year old Richard McCullough fatally stabbed Sakia while shouting homophobic slurs. She bled out at the intersection of Broad and Market during the wee hours of Mother’s Day morning.” Article is here.

What, besides the urge to physically dominate and control another human being, would prompt another being to take another’s life over rejection? In a world where men are told to day in and day out that they are the bread winners and the head of the household, men who do not fit into the powerful white, hetero, capitalist paradigm may feel powerless and may try to find other means to lay claim to power, ie subjecting another to one’s will. This is where I would like to point out that black women not only have to deal with inter-racial harassment, they have to deal with intra-racial harassment as well. Historically, women of color have always been viewed as sexually approachable beings. White slave masters would sexually terrorize their black female slaves in order to control and induce fear into the slave mentality, white ‘scientists’ othered and hyper-sexualized the black female and objectified her body as one of many means to justify the inhumane treatment of black people, and as result, nowadays white men, with out conscience, can approach black women as prostitutes on the street and get away with it in the courts. This idea of racialized sexist thinking has transcended race and now many black men, instead of questioning the racist implications behind the sexualization of black women, now harass black women as well. Addressing the reason as to why black men can harass black women with ease, bell hooks reasons, ” that when black men harass black women they seek to occupy ‘the position of whiteness’ occupied by white men because men of color are not able to reap the material and social rewards for their participation in patriarchy.” Street harassment ultimately stems from the deeply rooted notion of patriarchy and it allows men of color to ‘rightfully’ exert power and control and falsely boost their sense of self-esteem, while women of color suffer as their scapegoats. Sadly, these men are dealing with psychological issues as a result of low self-esteem. See my self-esteem post.

Also, had you ever heard about these incidents? I am guessing more than likely not. Note that the two above victims and perpetrators were black. Unfortunately, news coverage on black on black violence against women of color is hardly ever as widespread as the coverage is on violence against black women by white men or violence of white women by black/white men. And the same standards apply to Latina women as well. Take for example, the Dunbar Village case where Gem from what about our daughters writes about the gang rape in Dunbar Village of a woman by 10 African American teens who in addition to repeatedly raping the woman ( FOR OVER THREE HOURS) while beating her 12 year old son made them lie naked in the bath tub together and forced the woman to perform oral sex on her own child before burning her skin and blinding her son by pouring cleaning solution on their skin and eyes. They also took cell phone pictures of their deeds and were so brazen that one of these monsters left his condom behind. Surely indicating that they thought they would get away with it. Oh yeah, and the neighbors that didn’t see or hear anything and are currently not talking to police…. Well not a single living thing in this “community ” of folks even bothered to offer a glass of water when this was over. This woman and her blinded son had to trudge to the hospital in the dark on their own.

This behavior abhors me, but I needed to post that in order to give a voice to their story and the countless other horrific stories that go undocumented. My heart goes out to that poor mother and child.


Apologetically, I forgot to offer solutions or alternatives to street harassment in my last post. Here I have included advice taken from the website, stop street harassment, on how to approach a person in public that they find attractive.

How to Talk to Women in Public:
How should a man interact with a woman in public? Politely and repectfully.

Instead of whistling, honking or yelling something about the way she looks as a way of saying hi, treat her like a normal human being and actually say hello and smile or nod. If you want to meet or talk to a woman, follow a similar pattern. Say hello and if she says hello back and doesn’t hurry away, try to politely start a conversation. Don’t touch her or call her names. If she looks busy, distracted, or nervous, leave her alone! She may not have the time or inclination to talk right then. Don’t be rude if she doesn’t talk to you. You don’t know her personal history or what’s on her mind or her schedule. Be respectful of her as a human being.

stay positive and keep talking.

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