Thursday, January 7, 2021

Amerikkkan Bloodlust



By Sikivu Hutchinson

In 1967, Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael commented, “When you see an individual white boy, you are not afraid of that individual white boy. What you are afraid of is the power that he represents because behind him stands the local police force, the state militia, the Army and the Navy.” Yesterday’s bloodlust at the Capitol bore out Carmichael’s statement, as well as the power of state violence manifested in the protected bodies of individual white people across gender (white women played a key role in the terrorist attack. According to the DC police, eight of the current arrestees are female and the sole individual who was killed during the attack was a white woman). Black Power exposed the fundamental lie of American “democracy” and its basis in white supremacy, white terrorism, and white imperialism. Black Power, like the Black Lives Matter movement that draws from its legacy, identified the heart of terror in a police state that normalizes white violence via the courts, the jails, law enforcement, public policy, public education, and private capital. Hence, it should have been no surprise that there were no riot police, rubber bullets, tear gas or pepper spray deployment on the protected bodies of white terrorists in contrast to the violent backlash against BLM protestors.

A decade ago, after the election of President Barack Obama, white Tea Party terrorists and armed militias stormed state capitols across the nation in resistance to the Affordable Care Act, “illegal” immigration, and delusional threats to the Second Amendment. In townhall after townhall, they ginned up violence and hate against Obama, “criminal” Black communities “on welfare”, and undocumented immigrants while infamously screaming ignorant bullshit like “keep your government hands off my Medicare”. Throughout the rise of both the Tea Party and Trumpism, white pundits across the political spectrum have invoked economic grievance as an explanation for these displays of unadulterated white racism and white supremacy. But the white supremacist terrorism that the entire globe watched on January 6th had nothing to do with white “proletarian” angst or class struggle. It was fueled by the same barbaric anti-Black demonization that fueled the Confederacy, Jim Crow terrorism, and Northern style apartheid. Poor whites, such as those who boarded buses and planes to ransack the Capitol while flying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, gain capital from white supremacy just as they did in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 (which, among other things, codified the right of working class whites to assemble, bear arms, and hold property). To all Black folks watching, the Capitol violence was yet another gut punch reminder that being white confers concrete class privilege and carte blanche to commit mayhem on public institutions with impunity. White pundits and politicians who lamented that the assault desecrated Western democracy were soundly smacked down on social media by Black folks who schooled them that Amerikkkan “law and order” has always been forged through the violent domestic and global suppression of Black and brown bodies. Even though the superficial targets of the January 6th terrorist uprising were the Capitol and the election certification process, the assertion of Black self-determination, human rights, and social justice — as embodied by last summer's racial justice uprisings, Black mobilization around the presidential election and the Georgia Senate race — were the ultimate targets.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Black LGBTQI+ Youth and Mental Health Resilience in the Pandemic

 


By Sikivu Hutchinson

After the four-year barrage of homophobic and transphobic policy rollbacks by the Trump administration, the Biden-Harris administration’s pledge to push queer-affirming civil rights policies offers a ray of hope. Before the pandemic, queer BIPOC communities were already besieged by rampant unemployment, homelessness, and educational disparities. Since the pandemic was declared in March, 38% of LGBTQI+ workers have had their hours reduced (while 34% of the overall population have) and 22% have become unemployed. Biden has prioritized “corrective action” such as reversing Trump’s ban on transgender military personnel and aggressively advocating for the passage of the stalled Equality Act, which would amend the federal Civil Rights act to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals in employment, housing, public education, and public accommodations. Currently, 29 states do not have LGBTQI+ civil rights protections. Building on campaign promises to lift up transgender issues, the administration would also increase violence protection funding for the trans community and seek an end to the harmful practice of conversion therapy.

The pandemic has brutally exposed the nexus between health access and economic inequality for queer communities of color. LGBTQI+ youth of color have borne the brunt of this fallout. While health care access is abysmal for communities of color overall, LGBTQI+ communities of color are least likely to receive culturally competent, quality health care. Practitioner ignorance of and disrespect for transgender and nonbinary patients are contributing factors, as health care training and medical protocols are still designed to meet the needs of cis-straight patients. School closures and the downsizing of other support facilities have taken an especially large toll on Black and Latinx LGBTQI+ youth who are more likely to experience family rejection and separation. As one advocate noted, “Many LGBTQ students rely on student health insurance for mental health services and other healthcare needs, including hormone replacement therapy. All students are struggling with social connectedness and belonging, but isolation may be especially detrimental for LGBTQ students, particularly those who lack loving familial relationships.” This viewpoint is amplified by the pre-pandemic Gay Lesbian Student Education Network (GLSEN) and National Black Justice Institute (NBJI) report “Erasure and Resilience: Black LGBTQ Youth in Schools”. Published earlier this year, the report concluded that the intersectional trauma that Black LGBTQI+ students routinely experienced with racism, homophobia, and transphobia was amplified by disconnection from health and social safety net resources. While in school, Black queer and trans students disproportionately rely on supports provided by counselors, health practitioners, ally teachers, and queer-affirming organizations like the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Network (GSA). A majority of students who participated in the GLSEN/NBJI survey consistently heard anti-queer statements at their schools. As a result, “Black LGBTQ students who experienced higher levels of victimization based on race/ethnicity (as well as sexuality and gender) at school were more than twice as likely to skip school because they felt unsafe.” These students also experienced lower levels of “school belonging” and greater levels of depression.



For Black queer students, not having access to therapy can potentially lead to a vicious cycle of invisibility and erasure. In the GLSEN/NBJI report, over 90% of Black queer students heard the word “gay” used negatively. It was also the norm for students to hear negative comments about gender expression, as well as comments about not acting “masculine” or “feminine” enough. Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) South L.A. students who surveyed students at their school reported similar experiences, expressing dismay about transphobia among peers they believed would be accepting. As one Black GSA-WLP youth said, “Youth of color who were born in the colors of the rainbow flow to heaven’s gates four times faster than anybody else because we lack emotional and mental support.”

The cumulative effect of these experiences can lead to trauma and long term depression. Due to systemic mental health barriers and faith-based stigmas (e.g., messaging that emphasizes prayer and trusting god/Jesus as magic bullets for dealing with trauma), only 39% of Black queer youth have sought help from mental health professionals. By contrast, nearly 47% of non-black LGBTQI+ youth have. In addition, Black LGBTQI+ students who attended majority Black schools were less likely to have GSAs than those in majority white schools. Having a GSA at their school increased Black students’ feelings of school belonging and helped stave off leaving school.

These stressors reverberate throughout life. A recent study by UCLA’s Williams Institute concluded that anti-LGBTQI+ attitudes in families and the workplace were major contributors to high LGBTQI+ poverty rates. In addition, the absence of childhood support for LGBTQI+ folks who did not grow up poor is one of the biggest determinants of adult poverty later in life. And for both older and younger LGBTQI+ folks grappling with HIV, COVID “has disrupted the health system, making it much more challenging for people living with chronic conditions like HIV to see their healthcare providers in person or feel safe going to a pharmacy to obtain their medications.”

Going forward, public policy and legislation changes under the Biden-Harris administration, and a potentially Democratic-controlled Senate, will be critical. But in the midst of pandemic surges that weigh most heavily on BIPOC communities, schools and families must act immediately to ensure that Black LGBTQI+ youth are provided with the social and academic supports they need to thrive.

Youth serving BIPOC LGBTQI+ community resources in the L.A. area and beyond:

· GSA support for LGBTQI+ students is available virtually in partnership with school advisers and mentors

· The Standing4BlackGirls coalition and WLP will launch a 2021 wellness fund and task force focused on providing counseling and therapy for Black queer and cis/straight female-identified youth and biannual LGBTQI Youth of Color Institutes

· Brave Trails LGBTQ camp offers year-round virtual programming for middle school, high school and college age youth

· Colors LGBTQ counseling service provides free therapy for youth in the Los Angeles area.

· Mirror Memoirs is a “national storytelling and organizing project uplifting the narratives, healing and leadership of LGBTQI+ Black and indigenous people and other people of color who survived child sexual abuse, as a strategy to end rape culture and other forms of oppression and injustice”.

Twitter @Sikivuhutch 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Black LGBTQIA+ Parent and Caregiver Group

By Sikivu Hutchinson
 

A parent repeated the right wing slur that greater media representation of LGBTQ lifestyles is “turning youth out” and encouraging them to become gay. A South L.A. school employee said she had a problem with the use of the Black Power fist by a Black and Latinx GSA Network campus group during last November’s global Transgender Day of Remembrance. A Black father told his eleven year-old daughter not to display her Pride flag because it will cause conflict within the family. And, at a March LGBTQIA+ Youth of Color Institute with South L.A. students at King-Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, virtually every young person in attendance expressed anxiety about their family’s religious-based homophobia and non-acceptance.

These exchanges occurred before the pandemic shutdown, the lynchings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Tony McDade, the Black Lives Matter uprisings, SCOTUS’ recent decision on LGBTQ civil rights, and the massive educational upheavals that have forever changed the lives of Black and youth of color. When I completed the article "Black Queer Youth and the Family Divide" in March at the beginning of the pandemic, I had a hard time finding a publisher for it. Some of those rejections were no doubt due to the demand for COVID coverage. But most were undoubtedly due to the usual erasure of Black queer youth and family issues in the dominant culture when it isn’t Pride Month.

As the number of openly-identified Generation Z LGBTQIA+ youth increase, the exchanges that I reflected on above have become more commonplace in African American schools, homes, and families. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, African American youth in L.A. are more likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual than non-black youth. As a result, they comprise a significant portion of all youth who identify as LGBT in L.A. Nationwide, LGBT African Americans are more likely to be raising children than are white LGBT individuals. And over fifty percent of queer families are headed by Black women, bucking mainstream depictions that privilege white gay and lesbian parenthood.

Although intersectional approaches to mental health and wellness are widely touted in social justice circles, educational and family support platforms that specifically meet the needs of Black queer K-12 youth are few and far between. Meeting Info: https://www.meetup.com/Black-LGBTQI-Family-Parents-and-Caregivers-Meetup-Group/


Friday, October 30, 2020

#Standing4BlackGirls: Rape Culture. the Election and the Pandemic

 

By Sikivu Hutchinson*

This week’s GOP Senate confirmation of dangerous theocrat Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court capped an epoch-defining year of unrelenting assaults on the bodily autonomy and reproductive rights of women of color. Barrett, whose fierce opposition to abortion rights and contraception is medieval, was Trump’s 220th federal judicial appointee. With Trump’s fascist judicial legacy firmly in place, Black women’s self-determination is even more imperiled.  Nonetheless, in the runup to the November 3rd election, there has been little public engagement with how this historical moment of political turbulence resounds for Black girls and the #MeToo movement against sexual violence. Although #MeToo was founded by Black feminist Tarana Burke, it has not emerged as a mass movement with substantive long term impact on poor and low-income communities of color (even though women of color employees in the service industries and other low wage sectors have long challenged systemic sexual abuse in the workplace).

On October 17th, teachers, students, artists, and organizers from the Women’s Leadership Project and Positive Results Center took to the streets to rally and raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of rape culture and domestic violence on Black girls and Black communities. Domestic violence rates have skyrocketed since the pandemic began, highlighting already existing socioeconomic disparities within vulnerable communities of color where access to preventive health care is limited. The rally was the first time I had ever seen Black and Latinx girls march through Leimert Park (or anywhere in L.A. for that matter) calling out the normalized sexual violence they experience every day. The Standing4BlackGirls coalition was spearheaded by L.A.-based Black women and girls-led gender justice organizations and supported by affinity groups such as the California Black Women's Health Project, Media Done Responsibly, and Rights4Girls. Although there were many who stepped up to support the action, there were also many in the community who did not, underscoring the difficulty of organizing around sexual violence, misogynoir, and patriarchy from within. Coalition demands include creation of a fund for Black girl domestic violence survivors, creation of a regional task force focused on Black girls, and development of safe spaces, housing, treatment and mental health and wellness resources for Black girls across sexualities.

During the event, youth and adults spoke of the toll misogynoirist victim blaming, victim shaming, and slut shaming have on Black girls who are more likely to experience sexual abuse before the age of eighteen than non-Black girls. These experiences are magnified by poverty, homophobia, transphobia, and foster care placement. WLP alumni activists Zorrie Petrus and Brianna Parnell discussed the double and triple burden that Black girls and women are saddled with. Black women comprise a disproportionate number of essential workers who do non-unionized minimum wage jobs in hazardous working conditions with minimal PPE. They are often the primary breadwinners in families where Black girls are also caregivers.  For sexual violence victims, silence and shaming from Black families, faith institutions, and the community at large contribute to this triple burden. Being at home with limited access to counselors, teacher advocates, afterschool programs, and affinity groups puts Black girls across sexual orientation at even greater risk of abuse.


                                                Ashantee Polk and Brianna Parnell speak

In addition, when Black girls are told to just pray or trust that “God has a plan” as antidotes to sexual abuse, true healing and treatment are hindered. Exclusive reliance on faith remedies for healing, rather than humanist alternatives, can be problematic for queer and trans youth dealing with faith-based discrimination. Moreover, psychotherapists who are not trained to understand the culturally specific impact of misogynoir, adultification, and hypersexuality on Black girls may not be effective in treating Black girl clients. WLP student Desja Sheridan expressed frustration about the dearth of Black women 



practitioners in psychotherapy. The practitioner pipeline issue has deep implications for the long term mental health and wellness of Black girls into adulthood.  As Skid Row activist and poet Suzette Shaw noted during a recent coalition meeting with South L.A. Assemblywoman Sidney Kamlager, unresolved trauma is a major source of stress for older Black women. Older Black women’s struggles with poverty, domestic and sexual violence, racism, criminalization, and ageism can lead to long term homelessness in a system that already blames and revictimizes Black women for being unhoused.

                                            Desja Sheridan, Jamie Kennerk and Kali Playter

In the runup to November 3rd, these issues have not been on the national or local radar. As a result, the coalition is advocating for policies that redress the nexus of domestic violence, poverty and educational injustice.  Black girls have some of the highest rates of domestic sex trafficking in the nation, as well as high rates of death by gun violence. Not only are they impacted by the sexual abuse to prison pipeline, but easy access to firearms in the community puts them at greater risk for homicide. One of the new House provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would essentially bar stalkers and unmarried individuals who abuse their partners from owning guns. However, reauthorization of the act has languished due to the GOP’s corrupt alliance with the NRA, as well as the GOP's opposition to expanded provisions for the LGBTQ and Native communities. The coalition is also in support of Justice L.A.’s Measure J ballot initiative, which would allocate ten percent of the County’s budget to community and support services and shift revenue from police, jails, and legal services (which eat up 42% of the County’s budget).





As Kandee Lewis, executive director of the Positive Results Center, noted during the rally, the number of Black girls who are victimized by sexual violence before the age of 18 is probably higher than the 40%-60% cited in a 2012 survey conducted by the Black Women’s Blueprint. Shaming, blaming, fear of police violence, and community pressure on victims to stay silent to protect Black men play an insidious role in this regime. According to a recent survey conducted by  King-Drew WLP 10th and 11th graders Mariah Perkins and Kimberly Ortiz, nearly 70% of BIPOC teen sexual abuse survivors have never received therapeutic or community assistance to address their trauma (the majority of the youth in the survey were female-identified and African American). Bucking community silence and 



resistance, this cannot be the legacy that we leave Black girls and women with.  Expressing solidarity as a teen Latinx feminist Kimberly said, “We need change now! We are on the brink of having LGBTQ rights, same sex marriage and abortion legalization taken away. Our community has to unite. Black and brown girls need to support one another and use our voices. We can no longer stay silent because silence kills. Together we can be heard.”




Kimberly Ortiz

*Photos by Zorrie Petrus and BlueGreen


Monday, October 5, 2020

Big Black Sun: Sleep Dystopias Podcast







































`Somewhere in Los Angeles, colonists from a parallel universe find a genotypically "perfect" host to invade

It was in the hum drum dreary of driving to work east on the 10 freeway, that Miz Cheryl Ann noticed two things. A black spot that she’d never seen before was stamped on her putty pale hand.

And didn’t the sun always rise in the east?

In point of fact, there are approximately three trillion galaxies in the observable universe. And at this precise moment, Miz Cheryl Ann was just a speck of a speck of a speck of a speck of dark matter, quivering because her whole department was about to be audited. Every unit turned upside down and shaken out, held up to the light...

Featuring Cydney Wayne Davis and Elvinet Piard. Music and narration by Sikivu Hutchinson. 

Available at

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

On Breonna Taylor, Criminal Injustice, and Trauma

 

Breonna Taylor L.A. memorial June 2020
Breonna Taylor L.A. memorial June 2020


By Sikivu Hutchinson, From The Humanist 

Last week was the first time in US history that thousands have taken to the streets to demand justice for the life of a Black woman. In cities across the nation, the Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name movements converged to stand for twenty-six-year-old Breonna Taylor, murdered in cold blood by Louisville, Kentucky, police in her own apartment.

The terrorist attack on Taylor has elicited global outrage for and reckoning with the erasure of Black women from mainstream narratives of police violence. After months of legal silence, the September 23 grand jury decision exonerating three officers of Taylor’s murder was a collective gut punch to her family, Black women, Black people, and Black communities.

Only one officer, Brett Hankison, will stand trial for the charge of “wanton endangerment” for firing ten rounds of his gun that, according to the conclusions of the grand jury, struck the exterior of a nearby apartment. The charge is considered the lowest of four classes of felonies and carries a maximum sentence of five years and a minimum of one. This means that Hankison will more than likely serve less time than a dog killer.

Incidentally, it was announced yesterday that one of the grand jurors filed a request to speak to the public and for the grand jury recordings to be made public, contending that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron misrepresented their deliberations and that they weren’t given the option to indict the two officers who shot Taylor. Those recordings will be released on September 30th.

Cameron’s sickening declaration that no one was to blame for Taylor’s execution would have been inconceivable if one of Donald Trump’s vaunted white “housewives” had died similarly in the white suburban homes he has sworn to protect. Indeed, Taylor’s killing underscores the danger that “being home” poses to Black women across the nation.

According to the African American Policy Forum, which spearheaded the #SayHerName campaign in 2015, Black women and girls are often victimized by police terrorism in their homes. This threat is magnified by the disproportionate rates of domestic and intimate partner violence Black women experience overall. In October 2019, Atatiana Jefferson was murdered at her home in Fort Worth, Texas, by police officers conducting a “welfare check.” In 2010 seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was murdered during a police raid of her Detroit home. In a brutal echo of the charge in Taylor’s case, the officer who murdered Aiyanna was charged with the sole count of “reckless endangerment” and ultimately acquitted.

Decades before, the 1979 murder of Eula Love by LAPD officers in the front yard of her South Los Angeles home was one of the most prominent early examples of domestic police terrorism against Black women. Her killing was a watershed for local activism around police violence and excessive force. I vividly recall attending a community protest and call to action for Love when I was in elementary school. What her murder highlighted to me as a Black girl growing up in Inglewood and South L.A. was how Black homes could never be safe spaces insulated from state violence. Unlike white women, Black women could never expect to receive “domestic” protection, nor be shielded by presumptions about their feminine innocence.

Many Black women and girls have been in deep trauma over the grand jury’s decision in the Breonna Taylor case. It has reopened profound wounds that reflect the everyday dehumanization Black girls face. And it has underscored the way Black women are socially constructed as racial others and “fallen women” (to paraphrase bell hooks). The racist-sexist vilification of Taylor as the girlfriend of a drug dealer who “got herself killed” only reinforces this vicious narrative. It has been widely noted among Black folks that white male murder suspects, from Dylan Roof to Kyle Rittenhouse, who go on savage killing sprees are always treated with Emily Post-like care and civility when apprehended. In a Covid summer that has seen the savage police murder of Dijon Kizzee in Los Angeles three weeks ago for bicycling while Black, and countless others for breathing while Black, the police state has become an even more oppressive everyday presence in Black folks’ lives.    

As a teen, I have vivid memories of guns being pulled on me and my friends by police officers in Inglewood, California, when we were on our way home one night. The police later claimed that our car backfired and they mistook it for gunshots. In a matter of minutes we were surrounded by squad cars as the police screamed at us to get out of the car. Panicked by being at gunpoint, I struggled to open the front passenger door. My friend’s brother, who was driving, was handcuffed and forced to lie on the ground. We managed to escape with our lives, but, like so many other Black teens in similar circumstances, a night of fun and frivolity had been transformed into one of terror and trauma. Unlike so many other Black teens, we lived to tell.

Prior to being hired by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) in 2003, Hankison received a scathing evaluation from his former supervisor at the Lexington Police Department (in Lexington, Kentucky), where he’d worked from 1999 until 2002. He had also been accused of sexual assault. Neither of these issues discouraged the LMPD from hiring him. In any other profession these deficits would be disqualifying, but for far too long the thin blue line has shielded incompetent to murderous officers from due process and accountability.

Reform measures that were promised as part of Louisville’s $12-million settlement to Taylor’s family have been touted as a first step in addressing the police department’s complicity in her death. Yet, these reforms have to be negotiated with the police union, whose notoriously corrupt practices enable officers to operate as though they’re above the law. One of these reforms includes expanding records maintained in officer personnel files. As critics have noted, piecemeal reforms fall well short of addressing the core issue of how entrenched police-state terrorism led to Taylor’s execution. Until the American police state is defunded and ultimately abolished, being at home will continue to be a public health threat for Black women and girls.

 

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically Black, Feminist, and Heretical and the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project Black feminist humanist program for girls of color in South L.A. On October 17th, The WLP will be holding a #Standing4BlackGirls community action in Los Angeles to end rape culture and sexual violence for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.