Paraguayan protest against raping 10-year-old girl, banning abortion


This video says about itself:

Pregnant 10-year-old ‘denied abortion after being raped by stepfather’

2 May 2015

Amnesty International is calling on Paraguay’s government to allow a 10-year-old girl to get an abortion for the sake of her health. Report by Sarah Kerr.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Paraguay march poised to draw record crowd after 10-year-old denied abortion

As authorities insist child rape victim must give birth, hundreds are expected to protest sexual abuse in Asunción: ‘Her case is emblematic’

Jonathan Watts, Latin America correspondent and Sarah Boseley, Health editor

Thursday 28 May 2015 12.00 BST

Fury over Paraguayan authorities’ refusal to allow an abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim is expected to bring unprecedented numbers of pro-choice protesters to the streets of the country’s capital, Asunción, this week.

The case has prompted outcry around the world and prompted a national debate about the prevalence of child abuse and underage pregnancies.

But that debate has focused more on adult violence than child health. And while many have called for tougher penalties for adults who abuse minors, few expect any change in the Catholic country’s strict abortion laws.

Despite a plea from the girl’s mother, Paraguayan authorities have ruled that the 10-year-old who is now 25 weeks into the pregnancy must give birth, unless she develops complications that put her life in danger. A medical panel is monitoring her condition.

Pedro Pablo Guanes, a gynaecologist based in Asunción, said the authorities are likely to release a tentative date for the birth soon. One option is for a cesarian section to be carried out in the next few weeks to avoid the biggest risk, which is that the girl’s body may not yet be developed enough to accommodate a fetus in its final stage.

On average, two girls under the age of 16 give birth each day in this country of 6.8 million, according to local media reports which have reflected fears that the rape of minors has become “normalised”.

Congressmen have proposed raising the maximum sentence for the rape of a minor to 30 years in prison, up from 10 years. But attempts to raise awareness over the issue of sexual abuse have been modest: the government has urged people to wear green ribbons on the National Day Against Child and Adolescent Sexual Abuse on 31 May.

A day earlier, hundreds of demonstrators are expected to attend a march from the Plaza Uruguaya to El Panteón in the capital with banners declaring “My body, my territory, not for use or abuse”. Similar small rallies have been staged every year, but organisers expected double the usual number of marchers this year because of the commotion caused by the 10-year-old’s pregnancy.

“Her case is emblematic and motivates many people,” said Rosana Ríos of the Grupo Luna Nueva, which is one of the participating organisations in the protest. “We are marching against the inaction of the state in the face of this problem.”

Petitions have been sent to the Ministry of Children demanding the government stop treating this problem as “normal” and asking for the establishment of a medical board to evaluate the options for the girl’s well-being. The global online campaigning organisation Avaaz presented a petition to the Paraguayan congress with half a million signatures calling for the decriminalization of abortion for women under 15 years of age.

This coincided with a public hearing in Asunción on whether to reform the nation’s abortion laws. Feminist and pro-choice groups argued that decriminalisation was long overdue because more than 50,000 illegal abortions are carried out each year for those who can afford them, while the poor have no choice but to bear the health and economic risks associated with an unwanted pregnancy.

The situation in Paraguay reflects that across Latin America, where abortion is illegal or severely restricted in most countries. Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador ban abortion completely, even if the pregnancy threatens the life of both the mother and the foetus.

The World Health Organization has said botched abortions are a leading cause of maternal death worldwide, and in 2008 accounted for 12% of all maternal deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean.

But the strong influence of the Catholic church in the region makes reform unlikely. Earlier this week, Peru’s congress rejected a bill to decriminalise abortion in the case of rape. …

“This shows how the situation here has become normal, at least to those who work with these cases,” said Cecilia Caniza, a psychiatrist based in Asunción. “Everyone needs to understand that this is not normal. Just because there are lots of cases does not make the situation OK.”

International research suggests the potential hazards for very young mothers are considerable: even though a 10-year-old may be able to conceive, her pelvis is not fully developed, raising the likelihood of complications during birth.

“One big study in Bangladesh showed a five-fold increase in risk of death among 10- to 14-year-olds compared to women aged 20 to 24,” said Dr Mickey Chopra, Unicef’s global chief of health.

“Even if the mother doesn’t die, the physical complications of pregnancy can be quite severe, running from prolapses to being physically disabled,” said Chopra.

Young girls who become pregnant also experience higher rates of pre-eclampsia – dangerously high blood pressure – which can be life-threatening for mother and baby.

And even when rape is not an issue, adolescents can have difficulty adapting to motherhood when they are still growing up themselves, said Daghni Rajasingam, a consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK.

According to Unicef, the teen and adolescent birth rate in Paraguay is 63 per 1000 girls aged 15 to 19. In the UK, which has one of the highest rates in Europe, the rate is 25 per 1000 and in the US, which has the highest rates in the OECD, it is 39.

Religion is not the only factor. Some Catholic countries do not have high teenage pregnancy rates – in Italy it is seven per 1000 and in Ireland it is 16. “Access to abortion is obviously important, but it is also about social norms,” Chopra said.

Additional reporting by Shanna Hanbury

Islamic poetess against ISIS


23-year-old Sana al-Yemen recites a poem at anti-war conference in London, May 2009 (photo: MEE)

From Middle East Eye:

‘A message written in blood’ – British poet takes on Islamic State

After writing a poem attacking preachers calling on Muslims in Europe to take up arms in the Middle East, Sana al-Yemen found herself at the centre of a media frenzy

Tom Finn

Wednesday 20 May 2015 11:40 BST

Last update: Thursday 21 May 2015 11:58 BST

Hours after Sana al-Yemen posted a video of herself last month reciting a poem about the Islamic State (IS) on YouTube her phone started to ring.

This video says about itself:

This is not my Islam: A message to ISIS and all extremists

3 February 2015

The Muslim Vibe presents ‘This is not my Islam’ by Sanasiino. A spoken word poem speaking out against the hijacking and tarnishing of the name of Islam, by extremist militants such as ISIS and others. (Arabic subtitles available).

The Tom Finn article continues:

A producer at Al-Jazeera news channel who had seen the clip wanted to interview her. Minutes later CNN called, then the BBC. Sana’s poem, a blistering attack on the militant group that has overrun large parts of Syria and Iraq, had gone viral.

“It just exploded. Hundreds of strangers started messaging me saying how much they appreciated the poem… I got a message of support from a soldier in the US army. It’s been crazy,” said Sana.

While the Islamic State has stirred fear – at times hysteria – amongst people in the West and the Middle East, the militant group’s rise to prominence has also prompted a cultural backlash.

Through soap operas, rock musiccartoonssatire and parody Twitter accounts, young Arabs have used art and humour to denounce IS.

Sana, a 23-year-old journalism graduate who was born in Yemen and raised in west London, wrote her first poem about the Islamic State last year after a friend sent her an IS propaganda video showing young British recruits bombing tanks and carrying out drive-by shootings in northern Iraq.

“There are plenty of people my age, from my area in fact, who have left and gone to Syria,” Sana explained on a recent afternoon in a juice bar near London’s Oxford Street.

“People are obsessed with knowing who these men are and what went wrong in their lives. But for me it comes down to who it is they’re listening to. Who are the religious figures giving them that push to leave their lives here in Britain?”

In a video of her poem This is not my Islam: a message to ISIS, Sana appears in a dimly lit room. Dressed in jeans and a purple headscarf, a shadow across her face, she denounces what she calls “layman preachers,” clerics who cite religion to encourage Muslims in Europe to take up arms in the Middle East.

“My crusade is against those who manipulate the message. Split my people in half and misguide the masses,” she recites, staring at the camera as images of young men with beards – IS recruits in Syria – and radical Saudi clerics delivering angry sermons flash across the screen.

Sipping at a banana smoothie, Sana smiles and glances at her phone. She speaks in the same careful way she recites her poetry; pausing for thought, then unleashing words in rapid fire.

“I wanted to get this message across to preachers… to tell them that, despite their religious education, playing with people’s emotions – dashing in a verse from the Quran – it’s manipulative and unethical. It’s not religious guidance, it’s a way of getting what you want politically.”

“I’m wary of religious sheikhs who are involved in politics, because of who they are aligned with. They have relationships with politicians.”

Spreading the message

Sana moved to the UK in 1991 with her father, an architect who worked under the British in occupied south Yemen.

She grew up on a housing estate in West London. Her life, she says, was rooted in “British society but infused with Arab culture”.

As a teenager she was an introvert. She stayed at home on the weekends and wrote poetry in a book she kept under her bed, “mainly about life and friendship… If I got depressed, it was my line of expression,” she said.

She admired American rapper Eminem. “I like how he plays with words and their properties, splitting language into musical bits. He has flow.”

In 2010 Sana started sharing online the poems she’d written about women’s rights, US drone strikes, the Israel/Palestine conflict and the rise of the right in British politics.

In one poem, Mr BNP, she challenges the anti-immigration policies of the far-right British National Party: “I tell you what, I’ll wear my hijab, I’ll risk it, because regardless I’m more British than your tea and biscuit.”

This poetry video is called Sanasino-Mr BNP.

Later she released “My name is not Irak” which laments the destruction inflicted on Iraq after the 2003 US/UK invasion and mocks the American pronunciation “I-rak” (“The difference is one is an American fake, and the other is Arab, genuine and great”).

When uprisings broke out across the Arab world in 2011, Sana and a group of “politically minded young Arabs” began organising rallies outside Arab embassies in London in solidarity with protesters in the Middle East.

“It was a shock… we’d been constricted for so long as a people. Seeing women on the frontlines in Yemen, as a poet it fired me up. I wanted to write more…spread the message,” she said.

In 2012, as many of the Arab uprisings descended into civil war and sectarian strife, Sana’s revolutionary crowd started to splinter.

“It got complicated, suddenly there were all these divisions and difference of opinions between us,” she said.

“Some were pro Egypt’s revolutionary, but anti-Syrian. When the Arab Spring got really complicated people didn’t want to be involved anymore.”

This video says about itself:

10 December 2011

Yemeni poet, activist and journalist Sanasino reciting her poem “Mr BNP” for Revolutionary Rhymes.

The Tom Finn article continues:

‘A ripple effect’

Her poem about Islamic State has not been without criticism. IS sympathisers on Twitter, who Sana refers to as “trolls”, have called her poem misguided.

Others, pointing out that only Sunni and not Shia preachers feature in her video, accused her of being sectarian.

Sheikh Mohamed al-Areifi, a Salafist cleric from Saudi Arabia who has been accused of encouraging young British Muslims to head to Syria and Iraq, appears three times in the clip.

With over 9 million followers, al-Areifi is the most followed individual on Twitter in the Middle East. He has said a huge conflict in Syria “will herald the end of the world”.

“I understand that al-Areifi has respect within the Muslim community around the world but he was one of the most vocal in trying to engage the youth and encouraging them to leave their homes and go to Syria,” said Sana.

“The fact that he was inciting our youth, to go out there to Syria while his own kids were in his home, is something that annoyed me a lot.”

Sana finishes her smoothie. Her thumb pauses above her phone, before flicking downwards as she hunts for a message in her inbox.

“Here it is,” she reads it out. “Thank you. It’s good to see a strong Muslim woman on camera.”

Asked if she feels there are stereotypes about Muslim women in the UK she says: “Definitely, the only thing you hear about is how oppressed we are; I’m definitely not oppressed,” she says laughing. “Neither are my family members. I’m glad I’m breaking the stereotypes.

Women banned from driving, after Saudi Arabia, London


This September 2011 video from the USA is about women in Saudi Arabia.

Do I really have to point out to those ultra-orthodox rabbis in London, that, just like the ban on women driving cars is not in the Quran (not even in the Saudi royal family‘s copies of the Quran … well, it is not Saudi law either … but still, Saudi women get flogged and jailed for driving), it is not in the Torah, or in the Talmud, either …

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Leaders of Jewish Hasidic sect in Stamford Hill ‘ban’ women from driving

Letter signed by Belz rabbis also reportedly said children driven to school by women would be banned from classes

Heather Saul

Thursday 28 May 2015

The leaders of an Orthodox Jewish sect in north London have reportedly declared that women should not be allowed to drive in a letter sent out to the community.

Rabbis from the Belz Hasidic sect in Stamford Hill have said women driving cars contravenes “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and goes against the conventions of hasidic institutions, according to a report by the Jewish Chronicle (JC)

The letter, which was signed by Belz educational leaders, also said women would be banned from their schools if their mothers drove them there from August.

It cited increasing numbers of “mothers of pupils who have started to drive” which it said had led to “great resentment among parents of pupils of our institutions”.

Stamford Hill’s residents are predominately Hasidic Jewish and only New York is believed to have a larger community of Hasidic Jews outside of Israel.

Dina Brawer, UK Ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, confirmed she had seen a copy of the letter to The Independent.

“The instinct behind such a draconian ban is one of power and control, of men over women,” she told JC. “In this sense it is no different from the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia. That it masquerades as a halachic imperative is shameful and disturbing.”

Goverment, stop lying on forced prostitution, Japanese historians say


Dutch ex-World War II Japanese army forced prostitute Ellen van der Ploeg during a demonstration in The Hague in 2007

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Japanese historians: tell the truth about the comfort women

Today, 12:14

Thousands of historians in Japan call on their compatriots to face the truth about the history of the ‘comfort women‘. Comfort women is the designation for women from Korea, China and the Dutch East Indies who were forced during World War II to have sex with Japanese soldiers. That happened in camps of the Japanese army. Many Japanese politicians and media maintain that there is no evidence that there was coercion.

The historians disagree. According to them, sticking to this “irresponsible” position means that Japan sends the message to the world that the country does not respect human rights, they write in a manifesto published yesterday.

Unreliable

The immediate reason for the call was the decision by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun to retract a series of articles on these foreign sex slaves. In these articles the newspaper wrote that there had been coercion. In November last year, the newspaper retracted this: the main source of previously published articles was said to have been unreliable.

According to the historians that does not alter the statement of the Japanese government in 1993, that the Japanese army during the war ran brothels in which foreign women were forced to work on a large scale. They also refer to historical research done into the fate of the comfort women.

The president of the Historical Science Society of Japan said at a press conference that university teachers engaged in research on the comfort women are being threatened. They are also made to choose between not lecturing on this or to resign.

Korea objects to heritage status for Japan’s World War II ‘slave labour’ sites: here.

Whitewashing war crimes, attacking civil liberties in Japan


This video says about itself:

UN human rights panel calls on Japan to provide compensation to its wartime sex slavery victims

24 July 2014

A UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime system of sex slavery.

The call comes as two elderly victims continue their mission in the United States to raise awareness about the horrors they faced.

Park Ji-won reports.

Two victims of Japan’s wartime system of sexual slavery visited the city of Glendale in California this week.

It’s where a monument dedicated to them and the thousands of other victims,… a bronze statue of a young girl dressed in traditional Korean clothing,… is set up.

“Please help us, the victims, receive an apology before we all die.”

Lee Ok-seon says she was abducted by Japanese soldiers when she was only 15,… and sent to a military brothel.

To this day,… the Japanese government denies its military operated the brothels, despite a huge amount of evidence that shows the military did.

The two women, now in their late 80s, spoke out against some Japanese Americans and Japanese officials who want the statue removed.

“They’re saying really inhumane things.”

Both women will stay in the U.S. for another couple of weeks.

They’ll travel to Virginia and New Jersey and to other monuments set up in memory of all those who suffered under Japan’s cruel system of sexual slavery.

Meanwhile, a UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime sex slave victims before it’s too late.

The UN Human Rights Committee said Thursday that, after reviewing the records of several countries,… it’s concerned about the re-victimization of the former sex slavery victims.

The panel criticized the Japanese government for continuously denying its responsibility and even defaming the victims,… rather than taking the necessary steps to help them.

The committee, made up of 18 independent experts, also noted that every compensation claim brought by victims has been dismissed, and every call to ask for independent investigation on the sex slavery has been rejected in Japan.

Park Ji-won, Arirang News.

From the Japan Times:

Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan?

by Jeff Kingston

May 16, 2015

Certainly it’s worse in China, South Korean security recently beat demonstrators and Spain faces a blanket gag rule, but are concerns about the anti-democratic forces of darkness in Japan unduly alarmist? How bad can it be if protestors in Hibiya Park can carry placards depicting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Adolf Hitler?

Bad enough, alas. New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Martin Fackler, among others, recently implicated Team Abe in getting Shigeaki Koga, a prominent Abe critic, axed from Asahi TV’s “Hodo Station” program.

“I am afraid that media organizations’ self-restraint is spreading and, as a result, accurate information is not reaching the public,” Koga said at a press conference, claiming he was the victim of a political vendetta and corporate media timidity.

Mindful of the orchestrated attacks on the Asahi’s news organs and fearful of right-wing reprisals, self-censorship is a growing problem. Columbia University’s Gerald Curtis told me about the recent cancellation of a planned television interview that was to take place in New York. The local correspondent informed him that the Japanese network’s management in Tokyo nixed the interview because it was going to assess how Abe has handled the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and this topic was deemed too sensitive.

Curtis says the worrying lesson here is that “the government doesn’t have to muzzle the press if the press takes it upon itself to do the muzzling.”

But the government is taking no chances.

Conservative Abe cronies were appointed to NHK’s top management last year, and Katsuto Momii, a man without any media experience, was named chairman. He later declared to the press, “When the government is saying ‘Right’ we can’t say ‘Left.’”

Since Momii began promoting this curious vision at NHK, staff have complained that managers are strictly insisting on wording that hues to government views on controversial topics such as Yasukuni Shrine, disputed territories and the “comfort women.” To ensure conformity, NHK now publishes an internal censorship manual, called the “Orange Book,” banning the use of the term “sex slaves” and other phrases identified as problematic. NHK insiders told me that some recalcitrant staff suffered career derailments because they didn’t toe the line, including a group that openly called on Momii to step down.

There is no smoking gun, and it could be a routine staff rotation, but an apparent casualty of the purge is NHK’s “News Watch 9″ anchor Kensuke Okoshi, who has spoken out against nuclear power and committed other “transgressions.”

Controversy erupted last summer when Naoki Hyakuta, a best-selling writer and conservative on history issues, was handpicked by Abe to serve on NHK’s board of governors. Hyakuta criticized Okoshi’s on-air comments about ethnic Korean residents in Japan that were aired July 17, 2014. Okoshi said: “The first-generation Korean residents were those who were forcibly brought to Japan or moved to the country to seek jobs after the annexation of Korea in 1910. They had a lot of difficulties establishing their foundations for living.”

At the subsequent NHK board of governors meeting, Hyakuta reportedly asked: “Is it acceptable to say ethnic Korean residents are those who were forcibly taken by Japan? That is wrong.”

The acting chair informed Hyakuta that as a governor, comments about the content of an individual program violated the broadcasting law. Hyakuta has since resigned his position, complaining he wasn’t able to have any impact, but one can imagine that NHK staff felt his presence, and indeed Okoshi is no longer a newscaster despite being one of the most respected in the business.

“The systematic suppression of the press and freedom of speech by the Abe government and its functionaries is very, very disturbing in terms of its effects on the future course of Japan and its democracy,” says Ayako Doi, a journalist based in the United States who is currently an associate fellow of the Asia Society. In her view, things have gotten significantly worse under Abe. She cites the Liberal Democratic Party’s summons of Japanese media executives, the Japanese consul general in Frankfurt’s visit to the editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and a Foreign Ministry official’s visit to publisher McGraw-Hill in New York to ask for changes in the descriptions of Japan’s comfort women system of sexual slavery written in a U.S. history textbook.

“They have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” she says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.

Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”

“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.”

Well-placed sources in Washington previously told me that even overseas the Japanese government actively disparages Abe’s critics, something that Doi isn’t surprised by.

“It seems that under the Abe government, efforts to silence critics of his policies and interpretation of history have become systematic,” she says. “It now appears to be a concerted effort orchestrated by Kantei (the prime minister’s office).”

Japan’s right-wing media also engages in trans-Pacific intimidation. For example, a rightwing pundit slammed the National Bureau of Asian Research’s Japan-U.S. Discussion Forum, making groundless accusations about an anti-Japan bias. He also attacked the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership for sponsoring a research project regarding Sino-Japanese relations and history issues. This research project was deemed a waste of Japanese taxpayers’ money and some of the researchers were subject to defamatory attacks on their professional integrity. But it would be a sad day for Japanese democracy if the right wing gets to set the research agenda, pick the scholars and decide what they should conclude.

Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.

“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”

Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”

Exposing such orchestrated attacks and highlighting the dangers of self-censorship are all the more important in contemporary Japan because, as Doi puts it, media freedom is “sliding down a slippery slope” and it’s important to “speak out before the momentum becomes unstoppable.”

Jeff Kingston is the director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan.

African-American poetess Aja Monet on police bruatality


Aja Monet, Say her name

From the Huffington Post in the USA:

Poet Aja Monet Confronts Police Brutality Against Black Women With #SayHerName

Posted: 05/21/2015 3:32 pm EDT Updated: 05/22/2015 5:59 pm EDT

Melissa Williams,” Aja Monet reads, “Darnisha Harris.” Her voice is strong; it marches along, but it shakes a little, although not from nerves. She’s performing a poem that includes the forgotten names of girls and women who’ve been injured or killed by the police. She finishes forcefully, then pauses, exhales. “Can I do that again?” she asks. “It’s my first time reading it out loud, and … ” she trails off.

Monet had written the poem — a contribution to the #SayHerName campaign, a necessary continuation of the Black Lives Matter movement focusing on overlooked police violence against women — earlier that morning. That evening, she’d read it at a vigil. Now, she was practicing on camera, surprised by the power of her own words.

As a poet, Monet is prolific. She’s been performing both music and readings for some time — at 19, she was the youngest ever winner of New York City’s Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam — and her work has brought her to France, Bermuda and Cuba, from where her grandmother fled, and where she recently learned she still has extended family. Next month, she’ll return to visit them. But first, she wants to contribute to a campaign she believes in.

Though she’s disheartened that a hashtag is necessary to capture people’s attention — “I think #SayHerName is the surface level of the issues but beneath that there is the real question of, ‘Why?’” she says — Monet wields her art to achieve social and political justice. While discussing political poetry with a fellow artist in Palestine, he observed, “Art is more political than politics.” “I feel him,” she says. “I think he’s right.”

Can you explain #SayHerName in your own words?

It is us calling out the lack of attention on women of color also affected by state violence. We recognize the power of our voices and so we raise the spirits of our sisters by daring to utter their names.

A recent Washington Post write-up said it’s difficult to even quantify police brutality against black women. How will #SayHerName honor those whose stories are lost?

I can’t speak for what a hashtag will do in the actual hearts of people but I know that anything worth paying attention to these days in America has to be sold and marketed as if worth buying into. We recognize that the attention span of our generation is so short: How else do we make the issues we care about accessible and also relevant? This is what activism has come to. This is where we are at in the age of the Internet. We must be honest with ourselves about how human interaction is now only affirmed or confronted based on the projected world we live in through screens.

I think #SayHerName is the surface level of the issues, but beneath that there is the real question of “Why?” Why do I need to make saying her name a hashtag for you to pay attention? The goal is to use this as an opportunity to redirect the attention of people, to hopefully get folks researching the names and stories of all the women we’ve lost. To educate themselves so we are all more informed on how policing works. Black women’s bodies are the most policed bodies in this country.

Also, I didn’t read the Washington Post write-up, but it seems silly to me. Like, of course it’s difficult to quantify any brutality against human beings. It’s not more difficult when it comes to black women, I think it’s just easier for us to ignore them because if we acknowledge them then we must acknowledge all of the women affected by violence and brutality, not just by police but by an entire patriarchal, racist system. We keep scratching the surface of these issues and neglecting the root, which is this country never loved black people, and of course that meant black women. We who birth the men they also hate. We are an extension of each other.

What inspired this poem, and what inspires your poetry in general?

I was at an event where I read a poem in solidarity with my Palestinian brothers and sisters, and Eve Ensler was in the audience. We spoke briefly after and she admired the poem I read. I was honored and she gave me her email. I followed up immediately the next day and informed her that if she ever needed a poet at any point, I’d be there, no questions asked.

She responded with this vigil for #SayHerName and asked if I’d be willing to read a poem. I have been meditating on this issue of women of color affected by police brutality, but the poem hadn’t quite come to me yet. I started writing a piece for Rekia Boyd but it just isn’t ready to be done yet. So I woke early the morning of the vigil and forced myself to write this poem. I sat with all the names of the women and I asked them that I may find the words to do justice. They came to me hours before I had to meet with you all to record.

And maybe they’ll change, but the process of inspiration is a strange thing. For the most part I call on my ancestors. Not to be all, “I call on my ancestors,” but it’s true. I know I’m not the only one writing when I write. I also know that more times than not inspiration is subjective. You can find inspiration in anything if you pay attention. If you’re careful enough to notice how divine this world is and we are, to be here together, creating.

Obviously you appreciate overtly political art — why do you think political art can be powerful?

I met an artist in Palestine who said “art is more political than politics.” I feel him. I think he’s right.

I think being an artist, you are in the business of telling it like it is. You create of the world you live in, unapologetically. What that means is you aren’t catering to an eye or group or specific niche so much as your own truth as you see fit. Politicians, on the other hand, are constantly determining their worth and issue relevance based on approval ratings and polls. They are always campaigning, which becomes less about the issues we need to be dealing with and more about who can be bought to speak about what you want them to speak about. It’s an ugly game I want no business in.

Art that addresses the business of politics recognizes its power and influence. It unveils the mask of “politics” and gets to the people we are fighting for. It does the difficult work of reaching people’s hearts and minds. No great change takes place without art. It’s necessary.

Who are some fellow poets you currently admire?

Since we are in the spirit of saying her name, here’s a few names: Jayne Cortez, Wanda Coleman, Carolyn Rodgers, June Jordan, Audre Lorde and, of course, my sister, Phillis Wheatley.

Monet’s two books of poetry, Inner City Chants and Cyborg Ciphers and The Black Unicorn Sings are available online.

Women without high heels banned at Cannes film festival


This video, recorded in France, says about itself:

EMILY BLUNT Shocked at Cannes High Heel Rule

19 May 2015

The director of the Cannes Film Festival may have put his foot in his mouth! During the film event of the year, women were reportedly being turned away for not wearing high heels and one A-list celebrity isn’t happy. Emily Blunt was shocked to hear the report saying it is very disappointing. The actress added women shouldn’t be wearing high heels anyway in her point of view. Check out the video to see what else Emily Blunt had to say about the rule.

After banning women from wearing miniskirts, and banning women from wearing maxiskirts, and banning women from wearing any type of skirts, and banning women from wearing trousers … now banning women women from wearing shoes without high heels.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Cannes Film Festival rejects women from red-carpet screening of pro-LGBT romance ‘Carol‘ for not wearing high heels

Women, some with medical conditions, ‘turned away for wearing flats

Adam Whitnall

Tuesday 19 May 2015

The Cannes Film Festival is facing an angry backlash after it was accused of turning away women from a red-carpet screening for not wearing high heels.

A number of women in their 50s, some reportedly with medical conditions, were denied access to the showing of Todd Haynes’ entry Carol on Sunday night, according to Screen magazine.

It claimed the women were wearing rhinestone flats at the time – and said that the subject matter of the film itself – a lesbian romance starring Cate Blanchett about fighting against societal norms – added to the outrage of those turned away.

The festival declined to comment on the matter but, Screen reported, did confirm that it was obligatory for all women to wear high heels to red-carpet showings.

The Cannes festival bosses apparently had never heard about women’s health issues with high heels. Nor did they seem to understand that high heels do a lot more damage to their red carpets than other types of shoes :)

On Twitter, the report sparked outrage among users who called Cannes “an outdated embarrassing piece of s*** festival”.

The festival organisers were yet to respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

Vicci Ho, a Cannes regular and former festival programmer, wrote on Twitter that she was “almost turned away” for wearing leather flats, despite doing so because she was suffering ankle problems. She later wrote on the site that the enforcement of the dress code had been “ridiculous this year”: here.