Create, Record, Inspire!

The Gender Amplified Music Festival is a unique event to “celebrate, support and unite women in the world of music production. This festival aims at identifying and motivating next generation of women music producers.” This year, this magnificent event took place at Barnard College on September 28, 2013, uniting producers, scholars, artists, activists and music enthusiasts.
With an aim to “construct and support safe production studio environment where girls and women can learn music production with their peers and renowned industrial production,” this year’s festival gathered some renowned people in the field. One of them was Ms. Abhita Austin, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of  Hidden Chapel Studios, a boutique production facility in the Long Island which she opened in 2009.

Studio owner and entrepreneur Abhita Austin in front of her powerpoint, which displays the slide "Create, Record, Inspire"

At the Gender Amplified Festival, Abhita shared her experience and journey of starting her career as an intern during her sophomore year in college to opening up her own studio. She focused on her entrepreneurial journey and urged the young talented women in the workshop to take lesson from their setbacks. Talking about entrepreneurship, Abhita mentioned that though entrepreneurship is a life-fulfilling path, it is not for everybody. “It requires you to believe in the magic of the unseen,” she said.

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The Lack of Political Representation for Intersecting Identities

While the 21st Century has been monumental for the political representation of traditionally marginalized communities, there are still fallacies that prevent these communities from truly gaining recognition. Civil society has fallen short in unionizing the many intersections and identities that characterize many members of marginalized communities. In her article “Gender, Justice, and Neoliberal Transformations,” published in issue 11.1-11.2 of The Scholar and Feminist Online, Siobhan Brooks argues that we are in “the age of a neoliberal ‘gay agenda’  that focuses on gay marriage and the military, while at the same time poor and working-class black families are targeted by the state for perceived deviant sexual behavior as well as punished by the state…” What exactly does Brooks mean by the term “neoliberal,” and what does it have to do with the “gay agenda”?

The theoretical purpose of neoliberalism is to facilitate trade between nations, so as “to maximize profits and efficiency.” With the growth of neoliberal capitalism in the world economy, private ownership has increased and taken away much of the public sphere. The lack of public accountability, argues Lisa Duggan, author of “After Neoliberalism? From Crisis to Organizing for Queer Economic Justice,” has severely hindered democracy.  As a result, “we’ve been encouraged to believe that the private economy is more efficient and reliable than public action.” Those who lack substantial private property must rely on governmental support that is rapidly being transferred into the hands of  the private sector, creating entrenched systems of dominance.

Protestor sign states "Anti-Arab Racism is a Queer Issue!! Free Palestine!"

Activists protesting the NYC LGBT Center following the Center’s decision to cancel the Israeli Apartheid Week’s event of 2011 and to no longer allow Siege Busters to meet in the Center’s space

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“Purely Aesthetic?” An Introduction to “No Such Thing as Neutral”

In November of last year, well respected post-modern choreographer Deborah Hay presented Blues for MoMA’s dance series, “Some sweet day.” For this piece, Hay divided the dancers into two casts: the blue whites and the blue blacks. The blue whites, comprised exclusively of white dancers, were instructed to stand still in quiet observation, while the blue blacks, comprised of dancers of color, were instructed to improvise in the center of MoMA’s cavernous white atrium. According to Hay, this casting decision was purely an “aesthetic” one, because she was intrigued by how the blue blacks’ dark skin contrasted with the MoMA’s white walls.

A circle of white dancers in black leotards, with several black dancers moving around them and the audience beyond that.

Performance of Deborah Hay’s Blues (2012) at The Museum of Modern Art, November 2012. Part of Some sweet day (October 15–November 04, 2012). © 2012 Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo by Paula Court

Though Hay hotly denied  any concerted racial segregation in her casting, her claim was soon troubled by pay discrepancies that her dancers discovered following the MoMA performances: while blue white dancers received $200, the blue black dancers received $700. A series of reaction articles and panels followed the performances, as audience members and participants processed their experiences and what Blues signified for the state of race relations in contemporary post-modern dance.

At a fundamental level, I wondered how Hay was able approach her work from a “purely aesthetic” place while making a work that was so squarely about race. Did Hay’s privileged status as a white choreographer allow her to circumvent explanation for her racialized casting choices, along with the discrepancy of the dancers’ paychecks? Once a work of art is defined as abstract – particularly an ephemeral form like dance – is it absolved of any socio-political interpretations?

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Fair Labor Standards Act Helps Improve Lives of Home Health Aides

A predominately female and minority workforce has finally gained protection under federal labor laws that has been ensured to other factions of the workforce for decades. The Obama Administration announced in September that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which won’t take effect until January 1, 2015, will now entitle most direct care workers (health workers, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants) to federal minimum wage and over time pay protection.

FLSA is far from new – in 1974 it was expanded to include domestic workers who provided “care and fellowship” to the elderly and disabled in their homes. Unfortunately, “care and fellowship” was left to the interpretation of employers. Many home care workers who worked 12-hour days feeding, bathing, clothing, and providing medical care to their clients were denied their basic rights due to the ambiguity of what “care and fellowship” actually means. The home health industry includes nearly 2.5 million workers – making it one of the largest occupations in the US.

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Reflections on Queer Dreams and Nonprofit Blues

Last week, I attended the Queer Dreams and Non-Profit Blues conference held by BCRW and the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. As I moved from packed room to packed room, I was fortunate to feel comfortable in a space that reminded me of the college classrooms I left behind only a few months ago. Not every conference-goer had that privilege though (as we were rightly reminded, for example, by Reina Gossett that trans* people are still considered disposable, even in queer spaces) and not everyone could take away the messages that developed in that ivory tower space. On Twitter especially, there was a constant question: how do we make these #queerdreams more accessible to folks not in those rooms or who understand these ideas in really different terms? Keeping that in mind, here are some of my takeaways from the conference.

A word cloud of terms Jordan tweeted during the conference, including: sustainability, work, rights, LGBT, Urvashi, Reina, intersectional, time, mission, expected, bad, part, people, mass, Passion, and more.

A word cloud of terms Jordan tweeted during the Queer Dreams, Nonprofit Blues conference

Violence and Anti-Violence: A Movement?
LGBT Anti-Violence Work and Movement Infrastructure

Something that stuck with me in this first panel I attended was a quote from Beth Richie: “I don’t think that this country has a consensus that violence is a bad thing.” Listening to the panelists talk about anti-violence work, naming organizations and their structures, I couldn’t move past the idea that violence is not just a private and individual thing. Messages we get about violence so often revolve around humanizing it, putting a face to the victim or perpetrator, that sometimes the larger causes become lost. There are layers to it: the simple idea that some people deserve violence or that some people must be punished for their actions. But what happens when that hurts the community they are part of? It may bring more police into an area or cause greater silence amongst those who are victimized to know that the punishment is jail time for someone they know. The panel had no grand solutions, but they talked at length about how service providers in anti-violence often believe themselves to be part of a “movement” without really addressing these issues of bringing different types of violence – deportation, arrest, etc. – into spaces that really need other forms of community healing.
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