I Be Who I Be: Media Poetry and Re-Imagining Identity
IBeWhoIBe: Media, Poetry, and Re-Imagining Identity
by Ebony Golden
(see brokenbeautifulpress.blogspot.com for copies of the love note journal "i be who i be")
This workshop is designed to debunk and recreate ideas and popular notions of identity that work to warp the minds and self-esteem of young brothas and sistas. This workshop is necessary because the constant barage of negative press, media, and art constructed to confuse and tear down our children is doing just that. This workshop is necessary because it empowers young brothas and sistas to write and construct (a la Bearden, a la hip hop, a la Lucille Clifton, a la my aunties lemon pound cake) a self-portrait that builds them up and builds us up in the process.
Read my poem entitled Self-Portrait: July, 2005
Discuss the self-image of the speaker in the poem
Show several popular images from magazines
Have the participants create a cut-and-paste list poem based on
Have the students paste their poem on poster board
Have the students rip out/ and paste pictures that represent who they or
what they want to be and what they want their communities to be
Have students write 8-word poems to describe who they be or who they want to be
Find a space where we can post our collages and do a impromptu poetry reading
Take Away Activity
Give each participant a journal (i can make these) and pen to continue writing a love letter to themselves and other stuff too.
Any questions or suggestions please let me know, i'm flexible!!!
Because We NO! On Aishah Simmons' Documentary as Community Accountability
The UBUNTU education working group has chosen to use NO!, Aishah Simmons’ groundbreaking film about sexual violence in African-American communities because it exemplifies, informs and pushes our struggle to create a world that is free of sexual violence and full of community accountability and a sustaining, transformative love.
This is our collective reasoning for using this film and our vision for its impact on our communities.
NO! Because we love this film. Because this film is made up of warriors showing up for their own liberation, starting with Aishah Simmons, a survivor who created this film through 10 years of sustained community work to raise awareness about rape. Because the stories of survivors of sexual assault are powerful and sacred. Because there are survivors here. Because this story speaks to and for all of us. Because this story pushes us beyond words. Because this story has the power to heal. Because men need to be aware of the effects of sexual assault. Because this lets you know what you need to know fast. Because you have shown up and you will recognize your own fears and experiences here with a new clarity. Because you have shown up and you have survived and you are not alone. Because this film will make you think about sexual assault in your own community and in your own life. Because the history of sexual assault matters. Because you have shown up and this film might provoke you to demand and create your own freedom. Because this film can make you recognize your own situations and your own actions. Because this film will remind you that you can act. Because this film is brave and honest about fear and asks us to be brave and honest with each other. Because this film is real and encourages us to be real in this space. Because this film can push us all to acknowledge and share our emotions. Because this brings this issue home to all of us. Because this film insists that all oppression is connected. Because this film holds us all accountable for the world that we comply with and perpetuate. Because this film encourages us to change the way we respond to sexual assault on an institutional level. Because this film shows us how to hold our communities accountable without always buying into the flawed legal system. Because this film is about responsibility and not blame. Because this film teaches us something new every time. Because this film shapes and propels our analysis and our action. Because this film demands that we reimagine the whole world. Because we believe that the best place to make a new world is right here, together, with you.
So we challenge you as you watch this film to see yourself, your own fears and your own responsibility. This film is not about other people. This film is not about some pathology that is unique to the black community. This film is a specific and necessary examination of the manifestations of sexual assault in black women’s lives, but it calls all of us to recognize our own survival, our own silence, our own complicity, our own violence and our shared responsibility to create a world that honors us.
UBUNTU Education Working Group
on gender and violence
development in process with the students at New Horizons
What is Violence?
silent writing to music- what is a time that you have been hurt?
Definitions: facilitator asks the participants what their definitions of violence are. What are some examples of violence that people you know have experienced?
1 Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing: crimes of violence.
2 The act or an instance of violent action or behavior.
3 Intensity or severity, as in natural phenomena; untamed force: the violence of a tornado.
4 Abusive or unjust exercise of power.
5 Abuse or injury to meaning, content, or intent: do violence to a text.
6 Vehemence of feeling or expression; fervor.
(American Heritage Dictionary)
Breakout groups: (each group presents on their definitions of the following terms)
Violence Against Women
Collectively write a definition of violence.
follow-up segment...silent writing to music: What is your relationship to violence?
What is gender?
Definitions: The facilitator asks the participants their definitions of man, woman, boy and girl. (All of these get written on the board.)
Discuss: What is the difference between a boy and a man? A girl and a woman? A boy and a girl? A man and a woman? A girl and a man? Do these words describe everyone? What if I am neither a girl nor a boy nor a man nor a woman?
The facilitator brings definitions of gender and sex. Volunteers read the definitions out loud. The participants discuss what’s the difference between gender and sex?
How do people experience violence differently because of their gender? Age? Sex?
Session 3 Recognizing Violence:
follow-up segment—how do you identify
Music video clips, magazine/newspaper clippings, photographs, song lyrics as examples for breakout groups.
Each group presents their clip....etc and presents answering the questions “Is this violent? If so, who is it violent towards? What is violent about it?
screening of short film on the after-effects of assault on black women (by Bonita Walker)
Session 4 Engendering Peace
silent writing to music- (this is a free write to Common’s “Heaven” on the Electric Circus Album)
visualizing exercise: facilitator has the participants close their eyes and visualize what a peaceful day would look like for them...from when they woke up to when they went back to sleep
partner interviews: what does peace look like to your partner (try to arrange partners across gender). use only verbs to respond.
(e.g. sleeping, loving, eating, hugging, swimming, struggling, listening, leaning, healing)
create a collective definition of peace (do people experience peace differently based on gender?)
individually writing: what are 3 things that you can do to create peace as we’ve defined it in your life?
collective discussion: what are things that we can do as a group to create peace for members of our community?
what are demands that we have from our communities (schools, parents, government) that would make our lives more peaceful?
(possibly have participants do their writing about peace on a photocopied hand portrait)
Body Rock: A Summer/Semester of Self-Esteem and Social Action
Body Rock Timeline:
Week 1: Introduction (This is Where I Live!: My Body/My Community
Monday: Inside Out Introductions (a visual exercise in which participants draw a two sided picture contrasting how they believe they are perceived on the outside vs. how they see themselves inside)
Wednesday: Welcome to.... (Participants make maps of what they see as their communities and give each other virtual tours)
Friday: The walk (participants learn about collage poems and write a collage poem about what they see when they walk around everyday)
Week 2: Reading the Body
Monday: Read a poem by asha bandele about the body and discuss
Wednesday: Analyze some pictures of bodies in advertisements in groups
Friday: Analyze a music video in groups and write an individual remix
Week 3: Speaking the Body
Monday: Pick a part of your body: if it could write you a letter what would it say?
Wednesday: Make life sized body sillouettes in partners
Friday: Fieldtrip ask everyone in Northgate Mall a question about the body (questions to be brainstormed in partner pairs)
Week 4: Moving the Body
Monday: Radio exericise (in groups pick a song from the radio that has instructions, present those instructions and your own new instructions. show us your instructions in the form of a dance!)
Wednesday: Guest Yoga with Michele Berger!
Friday: “Move Your Butts!” (a circle game in which the participants learn about what about their bodies they have in common)
Week 5: The Body at Risk
Monday: personal journaliing and discussion about what threatens our bodues
Wednesday: magazine collage group project (whose body is this?)
Friday: brainstorm for public art project
Week 6: Fashioning Selves
Monday: fieldtrip to the thrift store: (keep asking people about their bodies AND choose a t-shirt that you want to talk back to)
Wednesday: transform the shirt using scissorts, fabric paint and iron on transfers
Friday: Fabulosity: a fashion show in the park
Week 7: The Body Public
Monday: come to consensus on public art project and make teams (and group armbands with fabric markers)
Wednesday: what needs to be done group brainstorms and in group presentations
Friday: Who cares? Different audiences (older community members, seasoned activists, other kids act as focus groups and give feedback to the group presentations)
Week 8: Re-working
Monday: new ideas based on community feedback
Wednesday: visioning (make comic panels describing group vsions for the final project including justification, process, and outcomes)
Friday: logistics (make phone calls do research etc.)
Week 9: The Community Artist
Monday: read example artist statements and write individual artist statements
Wednesday: create a group description of the project
Friday: pose for provocative bio photos to accompany statements
Week 10: Body Construction Paper
Monday: free writing session (what would your body say now?)
Wednesday: brainstorm a title for a favorite piece of writing, write that title on a body part and direct a partner in taking a digital photo
Friday: collectively put the pieces in order and create a zine that accompanies the artist statements.
Week 11: All Week: Implementing the Project
Week 12: Unvieling the Project
Monday: Last minute adverstisement...citywide flyering in chaperoned groups
Wednesday: Promote the project with a taped public radio announcement
Friday: Unveil the project!
Week 13: Processing
Monday: Evaluating the success of the art presentation
Wednesday: Critiquing the program as a whole
Friday: End of Project Party!
Spontaneous Publishing and Direct Action
Impulsive Activism and Pressed for Knowledge
Both of these workshops are designed to
1. emphasize and model the limited resources and urgent time contraints we work under as activists and scholars
2. stage an action/ produce a publication respectively during the conference
3. build relationships through group work
4. freak us out and start us up
The participants will stage an action/somehow transform the space of the conference during the time span of the workshop session. We will miraculously brainstorm, plan, execute and debrief about an action before the workshop is over.
Pressed For Knowledge:
The participants will create a collaborative publication during the time span of the workshop session. We will miraculously brainstorm, plan, make a publication before the workshop is over. We’ll even have time to debrief! I’ll make enough copies of the publication for us to distribute by the end of the conference.
Time: At least 45 minutes, but as much time as possible.
Space: A classroom would be a good place to start. The Impulsive Activism participants will probably choose to plan in a classroom and move to a more public space for their action.
1. a map of the place
2. a black/white board or easel
Pressed for Knowledge-
1. Random paper products: including the contents of the paper recycling bin, conference programs, brochures and old magazines
2. An easel with markers, or a black/white board
Leaving Home Becoming Home
a companion workshop for the anthology Leaving Home Becoming Home edited by Linda Bryant
(workshop made up by Bea Sullivan and Alexis Pauline Gumbs)
Leaving Home Becoming Home
Basic Workshop Structure
(everyone sits in a circle facing each other, preferably on the floor)
What this book is: A collection of writing by young women and the writers they admire about the ideas of home, self and growth. This book is about why you would leave home and ever want to come back.
How it was produced: This book was developed by the High School Women Writer’s Group at Charis Circle, the non-profit organization of Charis Books and More, a feminist bookstore in Atlanta Georgia.
You can do this too!
M&M exercise: (materials: one package of m&m’s)
Everyone answers the question that matches the color of M&M they choose.
red: what state were you born in?
yellow: where is your mother from?
orange: where is your father from?
green: what is your favorite place that you’ve visited recently?
blue: where do you live now?
brown: where do you spend most of your time? (e.g. at school, in the bookstore, in the park)
Art Project: (materials: markers, big sheets of butcher paper, floor space)
Everyone takes one big piece of paper and draws their home space (and the people and things that make them feel at home). They sit on/in/behind/near this “home”.
Share about your “home” by presenting your drawing.
Everybody Switch!: Move and sit by/in someone else’s “home”.
Could you live here?
What is different from your home?
What is similar?
You can find home in a person, a moment, a meal and of course in yourself. Make a poem out of small descriptions of different homes in your life.
1. list of different homes in your life/ things or people that make you feel at home
2. three lines that describe three of those places
Whoever wants to share can share.
Go back to the lists of “homes” that everyone made. Starting with whoever wants to start read items from your list that relate to what the person before you said. Jump in whenever you want, but try to speak one at a time. The workshop facilitator should be taking it all down, and after the group poem is created read it back with the group.
Brainstorm-What are ways we could make our (community/school/class/club/bookstore) feel more like home?
What are first steps to making these things happen?
(a volunteer from the group can write these ideas down on butcher paper, and maybe everyone can volunteer to be accountable for at least one idea)
email us and let us know how it went, send the poems to us!!!!
Because I Said So! A Radio Exercise
introductions/go around: who is a singer that you identify with/that
reminds you of you?
radio exersize: break into small groups (choose someone to write and
someone to lead the report back)
choose a song you've heard on the radio that has instructions
tell us what you think about those instructions
make up some instructions of your own
for...the school board, the president, the mayor, other young people,
your best friend, your local supermarket, anyone!
and report back! (feel free to perform/sing/show the dance for the
song that you chose)
individually: choose a set of youth-made instructions that you liked
and write a poem/song/creative piece that promotes those instructions.
Create a Newsletter: Brainstorming Session Redux
From 6-8pm on any given day
(successfully tested at North Carolina Lambda Youth Network with a brilliant age-diverse group of queer kids of color)
6:00-6:05 musing: play one song and have everybody freewrite until the
end of the song (in order to move past the thoughts of the day and
move into workshop mode!)
6:05-6:15 go around: everyone says their most current nickname and a
talent or interest that they have
6:15-6:20 newsletter needs: present the
basic framework/timeline for/function of the newsletter.
6:20-6:55: major brainstorm. brainstorm questions
1. what would be the coolest possible outcomes of this newletter (our vision)
2. who do we envision as our audience(s) (with logistical help...in
regards to who actually gets the newsletter)?
3. based on our vision and our audience(s) what would be a cool theme
for this first newsletter?
a. follow-up...where do these themes intersect? how can we bring
most of them together? how can we address other themes.
4. What would be good articles? Who wants to do what?
6:55-7:30 Writing (with a pencil) time. The computer is also
available for any research that we need to do for our articles.
7:30-7:45 Article exchange. (quick groundrule moment if needed) Ask
someone you trust to read your article, and also read theirs. What do
we love about each other's articles? What do we need more info about?
7:45-debrief (what worked, what didn't work...how will we get the rest
of the work done)
Intergenerational Sex Talk
Do this with your mom!
(made up by Pauline McKenzie and Alexis Pauline Gumbs)
Keeping it Real Around the Kitchen Table*
Talking About Sex from Generation to Generation
materials: an easel or a blackboard with markers/chalk,
a television with a vhs vcr
a cd player
-Facilitator Introductions: the mother daughter team introduces itself
-Go-Around Introductions: (10 minutes)
(name, where you're from and ONE thing you want
your daughter to know/wish your mother would tell you about
Share stats about how studies have shown that black girls whose
mothers talk to them about sex wait longer and make more healthy
choices (like being less likely to have sex under the influence of
drugs or alcohol).
see Pro-choice Popular Education Project Document "She Speaks" at protectchoice.org
and blackaids.org for stats
(you may split into mothers and daughters at this point)
screening of a music video
mothers and daughters each freewrite and
share everything that comes to mind when they watch the video
we talk about what is different and what is the same
-Roadside Radio Role-play:
set up two chairs and mother's and daughter role play a conversation
they could have about sex and relationships sparked by a song that
comes on the radio (we'll have two mother daughter pairs do this) and
in one instance the daughter will spark the conversation (using an old
school song that comes on the radio) and in the other the mother will
spark the conversation about a contemporary song.
a group brainstorm of possible everyday opportunities for
conversations about sex and relationships.
Discussing Memoir and Rape
An agenda for discussing Charlotte Pierce-Baker's Surviving the Silence: Black Women's Stories of Rape
(designed for students in a classroom setting)
1. "the elephant in the room"- a freewriting exercise designed to
enable students to be present in the class discussion. instruct everyone to write for two minutes about whatever is in their mind as they get ready to discuss)
2. introductions-facilitators, instructors and guest introduce each other
3. directed writing assignment- the students
write about the dynamic of silence as it appears in the second section of Surviving the Silence
4. class discussion (during which students may voluntarily share some
of their writing aloud) in which we discuss the specific approach to
memior represented here and the politics of the structural choices
5. ask students to respond to the text and our discussion as
"experts" from the perspective of their disciplinary majors (i.e. what
does this text offer to psychology, how would a cultural
anthropologist respond to these interview methods, how does this text
relate to/revise literary generic definitions of "memior")
6. ask students (though this may have come up by now) to think
about this text particularly through the (inextricable) lens of race
7. discuss different contexts in which this text could be useful and the
politics of publishing as they relate to this text and this topic
8. class discussion of the function of gender in the text and the relationship between trauma, violence and silence.
9. assign students a two-page response (that may
or may not expand on their in-class writing assingment or their
These are discussions and activities to supplement a performance/reading of Audre Lorde's
NEED: A Chorale for Black Women's Voices
The ideas and items included in this toolkit discuss the themes of violence against women in Black communities. These activities can be done in break-out sessions or in whole-group sessions where more time is given to explore responses to violence. These ideas are fluid and change from community to community and should change as necessary.
Folders with pockets
Use the following questions to encourage the workshop participants to think about the images, themes, and concerns raised during the performance of NEED.
1. How did it feel to experience NEED as an audience member? What were your gut reactions and responses to the performance?
2. What prevents community from speaking about violence against women? How does the community create safe spaces for women to speak about violence perpetrated against them?
3. What affect did the nursery rhyme on your interpretation of the performance? Who is the nursery rhyme speaking to or about? How does the nursery rhyme silence the person accused of being tattle tale?
Power and Relationships
“We have a grave need for each other
but your eyes are thirsty
Think about how we are accountable to each other in community. Consider the actions that are necessary to create viable relationships. How are we accountable to power we have over those we relate to? How does family, love, Blackness put us at each other’s mercy and silence our needs and desires to end violence against women?
Write a poem, letter, or short essay, or other type of creative response that envisions sisterhood and brotherhood that works against violence and oppression of Black women.
One time I needed you to love me and care for me. But instead you
took my voice and I feel sad about this. I want to be your sister.
I want to love and work with you in making our communities better,
but I don’t feel safe with you. I am working through and healing and
I want you to own your part in my pain. Can we heal?
Will we heal? Our community needs you to be accountable
and needs us to be healthy.
So what’s up?
Lending an Ear
“I don’t even know all their names.
Black women’s deaths are not noteworthy
not threatening or glamorous enough
to decorate the evening news…”
Supporting a survivor of violence can begin with listening. Many times women are silenced and threatened by acts of violence if they go to the police, religious leaders, or family members. Attentive listening can empower a friend or sister to keep telling her story and ultimately reclaim the beauty and strength of her active voice.
1. Choose a partner from your break-out group to interview.
2. Choose three of the following interview questions to ask your partner.
3. Ask each question and write down as much of each response as possible.
4. Give all responses to the person you interview.
5. Repeat the process for your partner.
1. What is your relationship to the struggle for liberation of oppressed people?
2. Have you experienced any trauma or violence that has silenced you?
3. Have you ever been asked or forced to keep a secret?
4. Do you feel empowered to speak about violence or trauma that happens in our communities?
5. Have you ever tried to speak about a family or community issue and was forced into silence?
6. How does your voice function in making your feel free and empowered?
Instrument of Resistance: The Body
“How many other deaths
do we live through daily
we are alive?”
The rhythmic aspect of beat(ings) must be resisted and arrested. Need invites us to pay attention to the guttural reactions to violence as it happens in the body. Need also invites us to interrogate how rhythm in news, music, poetry, and everyday occurrences numb us to the violence against women in our communities negating what happens between the beat(ings). How does the body carry and hold violence?
Create a series of body movements which resist the numbing beat of violence. Feel free to make sounds with props, mouth and body that resist the rhythm of oppression. Get verbal consent before touching or moving with someone else.
1. The soul clap
2. Lunch table beats
3. Heart beat
“How can I build a nation
afraid to walk out into moonlight
lest I lose my power
afraid to speak out
lest my tongue be slit”
What effect did the nursery rhyme have? What does it mean? Who is speaking to/about (tattle tale)? How does it silence the person or woman being spoken to? What are some nursery rhymes you remember from your childhood? Do you remember the rhythms, hand “games”, jump rope games, themes that accompanied them? What stereotypes persisted in these “games” about women or girls?
Create or revise a nursery rhyme that encourages community to challenge language that supports silence of and violence against women. Use the rhythms of familiar nursery rhymes and hand games and write new lyrics. Write a nursery rhyme or hand game that celebrates women and our voices.
Sample Desire Poem
*What We Need… a riff on desire, voice, and empowerment
I need to scream some more.
I need my father to read this piece.
I need honest dialogue with black men.
I need to know what I need.
I need my body to speak for me.
I need to be free.
I need to express myself, without fear of what's coming back at me.
I need to acknowledge what my body says.
I need to be heard
I need black men to speak about their experiences of sexual abuse.
I need to not be numb.
I need black men to talk about their fear.
I need to be held.
I need to be trusting of love with a black man.
I need a black man (period).
I need to voice my experience and know that someone is hurt by it, not
just trying to make me feel better.
I need to talk to my mother about her life.
I need to forgive my mother.
I need to talk to my sister about my experience with sexual assault.
I need to write the stories that I'm not supposed to tell.
I need to not be afraid of strong black women.
I need to commune with black women.
I need to accept and love the black women who can't handle this.
I need to not be so angry.
I need to be angrier.
I need to acknowledge history.
I need other people to acknowledge the full history.
I need to challenge black women who revictimize other black women.
I need to get naked in my house.
I need more black people at these meetings.
I need more black men at this meeting.
I need the entire community to see "no!"
I need to not be afraid to speak to my close friends about this.
On the Continued Relevance of Audre Lorde's NEED
We NEED….to live with our lives
The UBUNTU artistic response group has chosen Audre Lorde’s NEED: A Chorale for Black Woman Voices as a performance and teaching tool to enter the ongoing conversation about silence, body, and the systemic infrastructure that creates and maintains violence against Black women.
Our collective reasoning for using NEED and our vision for its impact on our communities follows:
We NEED because Audre Lorde’s spirit empowers us to speak and affect change in our homes, neighborhoods and communities.
We NEED because our communities must engage in direct action that stops violence against women.
We NEED because women must stand in solidarity and sisterhood voicing our collective trauma.
We NEED because we must end the silence of violence.
We NEED because the idea of Black on Black violence is not relegated to knives, guns, and sometimes does not leave visible scars.
We NEED because Black communities can not flourish and thrive when Black women are victimized by the Black men we trust and love.
We NEED because we must create a world that is free of sexual violence and full of community accountability and a sustaining, transformative love.
We NEED because community can bridge the gap between victim and victor.
We NEED because we can empower and heal our communities.
We NEED because WE CAN NOT LIVE WITHOUT OUR LIVES!
So we challenge you as you participate in this workshop to see yourself, your own fears and your own responsibility. NEED was written and performed about the intimate and violent relationships between Black women and men. NEED examines the manifestations of sexual assault in Black women’s lives, but it calls all of us to recognize our own survival, our own silence, our own complicity, our own violence and our shared responsibility to create a world that honors us.
UBUNTU Artistic Response Group