Friday, December 25, 2009

why ftq? ---entering 2010

So the movie mean girls is based on my high school, well not my high school experience, but Tina Fey's experience when she attended my high school. She has said in interviews that she based the character Damion on a boy who attended the catholic school down the street. When I think of the boys I know who attended that high school it makes me laugh, one in particular, we worked together, life-guarding at the Y near both our schools. The homophobia, sexism, antisemitism and racism he could poses was sometimes shocking at at the same time, we had a thing going on. Mutual flirtation, which worked out well until I told him that his personality made me not want to spend time with him and that ended things pretty quickly. I think about the life that I lead as a straight girl and what that was, the webs that I wove and the ways that boys hurt me.
Repeated patterns of what had happened before over and over. Spun me into cycles of pain and depression. Never physical violence when I was a straight girl; but oppression hurts.
The pain that I have spent years running away from I begin to confront in myself as I journey into the blury lines of transgender-whatever.
I say FTQ because I hope and pray and feel, that there is something out there that can fit me, without me replicating the pain that I have felt. There must be a place outside the borders and lines and divisions we create for ourselves that will allow me to find myself. Until then I don't know.

I have lived many lives, I have experienced things through viewpoints that now seem so strange and foreign, but at that point seemed the only answer. Moving foward I do what I have always done, I take the best parts of the lessons I have learned and the truths that I have found.

I move on in a way that respects the former aspects of myself, because I cannot turn my eyes on myself, I need to have my own back, or who else will?

And yet respect for the connections, between myself and others, the struggles that we share and the ones that others carry that I do not even know. If I only stand up for myself, then what am I?

There is no good time for me to come to an answer, there will never be a convinient time, the only way to live is to understand that we cannot wait for change, we must start it, within ourselves. It must be now.

The new year brings a new decade, it brings the end of a project that has taken me on intense and long journeys of self reflection, years of growth have changed me in the last decade and the new year brings a time of cleansing. For myself, for my community, for my country, for my people and for everyone, I hold out that there is something good that we can create.

to the next decade, and all that it brings.
to life, לחיים

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am only for myself, who am I?
If not now, when?

אם אין אני לי, מי לי?
וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני?
ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Upper Drive-by?

At a recent football game between my previous high school, Upper Darby High School, and another high school in the same league, Lower Merion High School, "spirited" chants turned in hate speech, the media portrays the incident as primarily anti-semetic; however, there are a lot more complicated issues going on here.

From what I have heard/read here is what happened:

The game started out with friendly chants the LM team shouting "Merry Christmas" at UD and UD responding with "Happy Chanuka". Things escalated when Lower Merion students began rhythmically chanting "SAT scores". A few Upper Darby students responded to this with "warm up the ovens". Additionally, a few parents overheard some students saying something along the lines of "we'll send you letters in Auschwitz". Lower Merion students have also been reported as having signs that said "Upper Darby", and chanting something to the extent of "you are poor" at students from Upper Darby.

My response to the situation is split.

I have been thinking a lot about growing up in Upper Darby lately, they just tore down the only synagogue in UD. It had been filled by a population that was old and dying 15 years ago when I was young, I am sure there are few left in Upper Darby who even knew of the buildings existence or mourn it's loss. Growing up as a jew in Upper Darby I understand the anti-semitism that permeates the school district and the students. From the truant officer who came after my mother for pulling me out of school for so many jewish holidays in 3rd grade to the ex-boyfriend who threw pennies at me. Not to mention countless more taunts and ways that I was made to feel my existence as a jew in a negative way over and over again. With this in mind I am glad to see the school district forced to confront it's anti-semitism.

On the other hand the media reporting of this incident almost exclusively fails to confront the classism and racism of the chants being spewed by lower merion students. The constant taunting of Upper Darby as a poor, dirty and dangerous place is also something I grew up with and continue to hear echoed to this day. The students in my jewish middle school thought that by opting to attend Upper Darby High School instead of applying for scholarships to a private jewish high school I was signing away my future and likely to get stabbed before my high school graduation. Even this past semester someone at Hampshire repeatedly referred to UD as Upper Drive-by and said that we were too dirty to get swine flu.

While I do not wish to excuse the chants of UD students, I find it despicable that while 4 UD students were expelled and 12 suspended and yet no action was taken against the students from LM. This is not a one sided battle of anti-semetic students from Upper Darby. But rather a larger problem between understanding, media coverage, anti-semitism but also jewish privilege, class privilege and many other factors that have been ignored in the coverage and response to this incident. Why did UDHS need to issue an apology while Lower Merion walks away to resume business as usual?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

working conclusion of queer gender research journal

men create impossible standards of beauty, seduction and femininity that pit women against each other in the struggle to achieve them and to gain the affection of the male. This competition among women is such that their power is undermined, which has the effect of strengthening the power of the man, or any of those folx who are benefiting from women fighting for sexual attention; which, includes not only cis-men, but also dykes, trannies and female bodied people who like to fuck female bodied people. Someone who participates in the system of laying back and watching/enjoying the benefits of over sexualized women is participating in the epitome of masculinity and is swimming in misogyny. The level of analysis that both sides possess can only go so far, the actual actions do carry significant weight. Within the society that we live in it is impossible to separate masculinity from it's connections to misogyny; unless the system of binary genders was to be destroyed and entirely new constructs were to emerge (in which case 'masculinity' as a word would likely have a different meaning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

And yet a world continues to spin outside of Hampshire

I guess with Thanksgiving coming up I have been thinking a lot about traveling home; the ties and strains between me and my home, my community, my values. As a Jew I believe that I life in Diaspora, both at my home in Philadelphia and here. On a much smaller scale living away from my culture at home I believe that I live in somewhat of a cultural diaspora/disparity. My home is like the everyday, anti-climactic. Here in this environment (hampshire/academia) it is a narrative of destruction, of imminent danger. Just as Hampshire college radicalizes everything else, we radicalize the everyday, we create danger and urgency out of the experiences that we have experienced our entire lives and will continue to experience after we graduate. And this environment of the academic and excitement is fun, challenging, and easy to get caught up in, but it is not my home. It is not what I come from. I would try to make the case that institutions such as this are a vehicle for academic imperialism and yet I choose to come here. But then again, how much of a choice do I have?

In this society what value am I without a college degree? The only way that I can prove my validity as an intelligent person is by participating in this institution. I realize that which college I go to is (for the most part) my decision; however, I cannot get past the disparity in values and urgency between here and my home. I suppose what it comes down to is my struggle in my purpose for being here. There are many facets to this. For one, coming from my family the only question around college was which one I would attend, it was not so much an option as a requirement. However, I wonder, if I were not attending Hampshire if I would have made it this far. I am constantly frustrated living in this valley so far away from home because I feel like it is a disservice to my home, there is so much I could be doing, and want to be doing, and yet, here I am for another year and a half. And its lonely up here, without other people who come from where I come from. I don't see grad school in my future, or at least my near future, there is very little that the continuance in academia would qualify me to do. At the same time I am learning to embrace the opportunity that I have here, to soak it in for everything I can, because this is an experience I will never be able to replicate. The environment and energy is incredible and I am pushed past my limits on a regular basis.

So perhaps what I can take from this strange, possibly fabricated urgency, is the energy and knowledge. The endless realm of possibility and places where we can go. However, I also believe it is crucial for me to remember that I will leave from this place, and return to my home, to a place that doesn't see things the way that we have been transformed by this school to see things. A place outside the bubble.
My ultimate departure from here is what prompted my name change, I see my name as a way to identify and mark myself in the world away from Hampshire. A world in which I will likely always be perceived and gendered as female. And in many ways I am OK with that. I don't need the markers and the fight for my identity, I would rather speak with my actions and presence then fight for words with limited meaning in any other setting.

And so, in about 2 weeks I will leave for home, to see my family that doesn't always understand or respect my identity. And yet, I love them and love the part of me that exists with them, and will never exist here. Just as I take the best parts of every kind of Judaism I have learned and turn it into something that I support and embrace, I must take the best parts of what academia has taught me and combine those parts with all of the knowledge that I receive in the rest of my life and only when I can put all these parts together will I be able to move forward in my life and my thinking. And perhaps then I can begin to reconcile the disparity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What does a Colonizer Look Like?

There are 4 elements at play in the definition of a country as a colonial power over another:

(1) the economic: appropriation of land, exploitation of labor, and control of finance; (2) the political: control of authority;
(3) the civic: control of gender and sexuality;
(4) the epistemic and the subjective personal: control of knowledge and subjectivity.

With regards to the US and Latin America the United States has some hand, if not a full fist, in all of these areas. I have started reading the book The Colonizer and the Colonized by Albert Memmi. The first section of the book attempts to define and depict the colonizer.

"Today, leaving for a colony is not a choice sought because of its uncertain dangers, nor is it a desire of one tempted by adventure. It is simply a voyage towards an easier life." Memmi goes on to describe the colonizer as one who leaves their country not simply for adventure, because if that was the case why would they not go somewhere among their own country men? "Our traveler will come up with the best possible definition of a colony: a place where one earns more and spends less". As he goes on it descibes the difficulty for a colonizer to leave the colony. After a few years returning to the "slow progress" of home, and more expensive lifestyle is no longer appealing. Additionally the colonizer has laid roots in their new home, and lost roots in their old one. Why should the colonizer then leave the colony, especially when their privilege makes life in the colony easier then it would have been in the home country.

This perspective on the colonizer brings me back to the expatriate community that I saw when I was in Guatemala last January. For the most part the people I met were white US citizens who for one reason or another (primarily political) had decided to leave the United States. While I understand the desire to leave the United States out of frustration, I also feel the need to stay out of loyalty and obligation to my people. One of the fellow students at the Spanish school where I was taking classes mentioned to me that all the expatriates there seemed to be lost. To me the idea of leaving the US in political protest seems to be in vein. First off, no change can come from a few individuals, that were likely to radical for the government anyway, leaving. Secondly, their efforts to escape the US government may as well be void because they have moved to a place that is, in many crucial ways, a colony of the US, or at the very least a place that the US holds colonial power over.

In his book, Memmi describes 3 types of individuals in the colonizer/colonized relationship. They are the colonial, the colonizer and the colonist. The colonial is described as a European (or for our purposes one from the United States) living in the colony but having none of the privileges of their position. "a colonial is a benevolent European who does not have the colonizers attitude towards the colonized", in the next sentance Memmi goes on to say "a colonial so defined does not exist, for all Europeans in the colonies are privileged".

What I am attempting to begin to examine here is what is the role and power that one posses in moving to an expatriate community in Latin America. How can one move in an effort to escape the imperialistic policies of the US while simultaneously re-enforcing that colonialism.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Respect the Elders and Envision a Future

I wonder sometimes at night why I have never seen my future past the age of 40. Perhaps its my youth, incapable of imaging spending another 20 years on this earth, but at the same time I realize that I have almost no role models past the age of 40. I exist in a community with few visible elders, and I wonder, does 'queer' age well? There are aspects of queer society that do not in fact age well, through a combination of disease, substance use, depression and other issues that infect our community there are many who live on a different time-line of life events, much shorter than the hetero-normative standpoint.

Another factor that plays into that is that the concepts of queer and genderqueer as identifying terms is rather new and there are very few older queers who grew up around this language, and while some do identify with these terms many do not. However, that does not mean that sexualities and gender deviance that we think about today in connection to the queer and genderqueer community, are not represented in the older generation. Speaking with my aunt once she told me that had the terms 'transgender' or 'genderqueer' been available to her at my age she would have likely chosen to identify as such. However, despite not having these terms as definition I would say that my aunt still lived a very genderqueer life.

Within the "young/hip" queer community today we have created labels and identities that "fit" our needs. However, in the mess of this search for identity we often loose the people who could be of most value, the elderly. Queer chronology doesn't work in the same way as hetero chronology. While we all have families and connections to them, we also have a legacy of gay people who came before us a paved the way for us to be there. WE need to stop thinking about terms that only apply to modern subcultures as the end all be all of identity. Identity is molding and changing every second; within the ways that we perform for the camera and with the ways that we perform for others (/how others see us).

Regardless hopefully as the queers I know begin to age I will be able to envision a model for myself; although of course, there is always something relieving in the concept that I will die before age 50.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who wears the strap-on?

I had gotten up to go to the bathroom before the movie started during a date with my high school girlfriend and when I returned to my seat I sat down and kissed her. As I settled into my seat we heard the 20/30 something (presumably) straight male behind us turn to the female that he was with and say "I wonder which one wears the strap-on?". Of course we turned and pointed at each other.

Binaries of gender are perpetually created by the queer community as often as they are projected on us my straight communities. Who wears the strap-on? How does that legitimize sex, specifically looking at couples where the dominant partner does is not the typical hetero-normative masculine figure. What does it mean for the femme to strap it on and fuck the butch? Does this act take some how diminish the masculinity of the butch, or better yet can a trans-man identify as a trans-man and still like to be fucked by a cock?

We use our roles in the bedroom to legitimize our identities, to examine ourselves and to define our selves. And yet if the concept of queer is about embracing fluidity then why must we divide ourselves into who wears the strap on?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Response to GenderKid

I have been reading the blog Genderkid ( for a while now and occasionally we comment on each others blogs, looking at my blog earlier I found this comment and as I wrote my response I found myself wanting to post it in a way that people would be more likely to see it-

Comment on the last blog post (Memories, 8/5/09):

"I really liked this poem. I haven't been in any situations like that, but I'm also afraid that, when I'm perceived as male, people will see me as menacing. They probably won't --I'm small--, but I still do my best not to look intimidating when I see a woman walking alone at night. Even if I'm just as scared as she is."
Genderkid (

"yea, I definitely try to be aware of how my perceived masculinity can effect women in ways that I may not even notice, because in many of the negative experiences I have had with men were not overt, but rather there are subtle ways that masculinity is enacted that establish men as dominant over women.

Also, I totally hear what your saying about being as scared as she is though, it is strange because the violence that is enacted on me is enacted and felt by me because of my female body, and yet I also participate in systems of masculinity that perpetuate violence.

I wonder is it possible to operate masculinity without playing into misogynist gender roles and privilege? "

The concept of transmasculine misogyny as well as the delicate relationship among transmasculine folks, masculinity, misogyny, and straight men is something I hope to continue to touch on with more posts, but I wanted to keep the discussion going.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Cotton Underwear, newly cleaned
5-year-old tighty whiteys
That was the first time.

Everything else is a blur
Until the words come to me at age 12
campfire, telling stories
take back the night

and then the blur comes back
photographs of memories
so much hard work to forget
but his body is always the same
spread out,
gripping onto doorways,
and bus seats, same pose, same male body stance
fighting back

I always managed to get away, after that first time
And I thought it couldn’t happen again
And I thought it couldn’t happen with a woman
Until that sweaty afternoon when I told her to stop.
but I never fought back when she didn’t.
She couldn’t have done it, she said she loved me.

And now as my body becomes more like his
I know that it is the subtle movements become my memories
I fear that I am creating these memories for others.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

1 year and almost 60 posts later...

I began this blog in July of 2008 and now as July of 2009 comes to a close I thought it might be appropriate to acknowledge the year anniversary of my blog. I started this blog to as a way to deal with the issues that came up in the production of Impacting Girls Influencing Life, Now that that documentary is completed and I am working on my next project ( this blog has become a way for me to process and express all the issues that come up within my life. With the new project, my focus has also shifted to examining global systems of power and concepts of global influence. Ilha Das Flores is a short non-fiction video orginally created in Portugese that examines the value of human life and the caste system of human worth that has been created by the capitalist system we are born into as members of this world:

it is in two parts and about 10 minutes long total (not including credits), definately worth watching.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


For the one that I have know all my life:
How can you tell me that my body is a temple.
How can you tell me that my body is perfect.

When you do not know the scars that it contains.
When you have made no effort to uncover my scars.

And for the one who I know so well, and yet not at all:

How can you tell me that my scars don't compare.
How can you tell me that mine do not exist.

When you have never taken the time to hear my pain.
When you have never given me the safety you expect me to give to you.

The story of the scars that I carry with me:
moments like photographs of time, positions, my body, his body, her body.
violations of our bodies.

Scars that I cannot control replaced by scars that I can.
Blood and violence out of choice to regain my control.
To fight against the scars of the past.

A fight for my life.
A fight to get back my life from the memories of the scars.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


The Oxford American Dictionary defines diaspora as the Jews dispersed from their homeland. In the sub definitions it continues to define diaspora as the dispersion of any people from their homeland and the people so dispersed. Why is the Jewish diaspora so emphasized in academia? The privileging of the Jews despite their status as an oppressed people is a difficult one to dissect. While Jews in Europe and early American history (until the early 20th century) were systematically oppressed, the Jewish people today receive a great many rewards for their position as such. The factors related to this are vast but the paramount factor lies in skin tone. For Jews to assimilate and pass within white America it is easy. I myself pass all the time as Christian and this is true for most Jews even those who are not of mixed ethnicity. Therefore, while Jews live within a culture of diaspora and oppression they can also escape this culture with ease.
"This is precisely what the generality of while Americans cannot afford to do. They do not know how to do it--: as I must suppose. They come through Ellis Island, where Giorgio becomes Joe, Papavasiliu becomes Palmer...So, with a painless change of a name, and in the twinkling of the eye, one becomes a white American".
(Baldwin xix).
Due to the fact that white Americans of European decent can assume the white privilege that maintains oppression within the US that is and has always been denied to those without white skin they must work to realize their own diaspora, as well as their own privilege, so that they can move forward in working against the oppression of others.
Do all people with the exception of Native Americans in America live within a Diaspora? Throughout his introduction to The Price of the Ticket James Baldwin discusses the idea that, even white Americans are living separately from their homelands. For a person of European decent in America to live in diaspora they would have to not abandon their ethnic heritage. The ability to shed ethnic heritage is something that was never afforded to the black inhabitants of the United States. Thus diaspora is forced onto them, whether they be from Africa or other places. And the diaspora is something that is enforced by the neo-colonial structures that maintain the Black Nation as a nation within a nation.
"Later, in the midnight hour, the missing identity aches. One can neither assess nor overcome the storm of the middle passage. One is mysteriously shipwrecked forever, in the Great New World" (Baldwin xix). In this quote Baldwin alludes to the pain of diaspora, the loss of cultural connection, a pain that I feel in my heart, and that I know Baldwin feels. But it is a pain that is ignored by so much of the country as they retreat into manufactured "American" culture. The pain of missing a language and a culture can be seen in the efforts to maintain languages, such as Yiddish or Geechee.
"The colonialist bourgeoisie is aided and abetted in the pacification of the colonized by the inescapable powers of religion" (Fanon 28). Many things create the connection between African-American tradition and religion; the syncretism of African traditions and Christianity and the adoption of the story of exodus are indicative of the roots of the connection. In the fields slaves were allowed to sing because it was believe to increase productivity and in their own time the church (or center of prayer) became a crucial meeting spot for slaves. In modern times the black church has become a crucial point in the examination of black culture. The traditions of African Diaspora often connect with the tales of Jewish diaspora in unusual, and sometimes powerful, and sometimes uncomfortable ways.
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, =
may my right hand forget its skill .
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
Psalm 137
This psalm originally referenced the exile of the Jewish people from the land of Judea to Babylon and the destruction of the Jewish temple. Throughout the years, as with other biblical stories, Babylon has become a symbol of the exile of the African American people from Africa. One of the primary ways that this adoption of “Babylon” can be seen is through the musical renditions of the song "By the Rivers of Babylon". The song, originally psalm 137, has been covered by numerous Jewish as well as African American artists. This song is extremely powerful for both the Jews and African Americans, as the "missing identity aches" (Baldwin xix), the people yearn for a connection to their land.
The random house dictionary defines diaspora as:
-noun, 1. The scattering of the Jews to countries outside of Palestine after the Babylonian captivity. 2. The body of Jews living in countries outside Palestine or modern Israel. 3. Such countries collectively. 4. Any group migration of flight from a country or region; dispersion. 5. Any group that has been dispersed outside it’s traditional homeland. 6. Any religious group living as a minority among people of the prevailing religion.”

With the common definitions of diaspora predominately reflecting the Jewish diaspora the question of what then qualifies as a diaspora emerges. Diaspora is a loss of connection to a place; however, the ties to the lost land hold a great deal more weight then simply a sour real estate deal. For most, the exile from a homeland is also an exile from the guaranteed language and culture of that land. Preserving this culture then requires work and living as the other in a strange land. For Jewish Americans it was easy to avoid this painful existence if they so chose to. As Baldwin continues to explain, for African Americans this was impossible. To maintain diasporic communities those communities must remain at least culturally bound to the homeland, and remember the loss of the homeland.
The Gullah people used to inhabit the lowlands of the Carolinas all the way to Florida, but now only inhabit parts of South Carolina and Georgia. Gullah culture originated when black slaves were left alone a great deal to grow rice in the rice fields during the 1700s because yellow fever ran rampant and whites fled to the high lands leaving overseers in charge of the plantations. In this less restricted environment a culture emerged. While the slaves had been stripped of everything when they came to this country, all possessions, clothes, even names, they had not, and could never be stripped of their cultural identities and collective memories. Out of this environment a unique culture evolved, one that is uniquely diasporic. Gullah can be linked in many ways directly to the culture of Sierra Leone; which, is impacted in many ways by the city of Freetown, where thousands of freed African-American slaves were sent.
The movie, Daughters of the Dust, directed by Julie Dash, is a narrative about the migration of the Gullah people from the Sea Islands to the mainland. The Sea Islands and the mainland, while they both reflected a diasporic culture did so differently, the islands were much more secluded, and isolated from the rest of the world. The movie demonstrates a number of things about the contrast between American Culture and Gullah Culture. For one, the pacing of the movie defies the rules of most American cinema. As the film continues to take on unconventional styles as well as portray the culture, which, in itself is vastly different from American Culture. These techniques further the actuality that there is a divide between African-American diasporic culture and mainstream/White American culture.
To live in a diaspora can have many interpretations. The biggest theme seems to be strictly geographic, removal from one’s homeland. However, diasporic culture must reflect more than this, it must reflect a connection to one’s home due to a loss of one’s home. However that loss may come about, through physical removal, or colonial structures, and often a combination of the two.
In the story The Seabirds Are Still Alive Toni Cade Bambara breaks from her usual settings within the United States to demonstrate the internationalism of the Struggle. This short story about a displaced young Vietnamese girl being interrogated opens up the discussion of diaspora in numerous ways. Farah Jasmine Griffin writes about the story, “She uses a vocabulary familiar to the African Americans, the loss of home, of language, of culture-- and the creation of a new, dynamic culture of resistance in the New World”. As Griffin emphasizes throughout the rest of the piece as well, but especially in this quote, African American experience within the United States is always connected to life in the Diaspora. One need not live within the closest connection to African culture to be part of this diaspora. The diaspora is part of the collective memory; and will remain there as a part of the culture.
“From the earliest days of the colonization, white Christians had represented their journey across the Atlantic to America as the exodus of a New Israel from the bondage of Egypt into the Promised Land of milk and honey. For black Christians, the imagery was reversed: the Middle Passage had brought them to Egypt Land, where they suffered bondage under a new Pharaoh” (Raboteau Strangers and Neighbors 57-8)
Diasporic cultures that connect a people to their homeland can never be considered neo-colonial appropriation. While it is true that most African-American family trees were erased by the middle passage and subsequent slave trade, the one thing that could not be taken from the people who were brought to this continent from Africa was the collective memory. The position of the Gullah is unique in that they were able to develop a culture predominately free from white interference because they were isolated and left behind in the rice farms. For many, the collective memory drew out certain elements of culture that contribute to what is now termed African American culture; the roots of which lie in what can only be seen as the maintenance of diasporic tradition. Within the Jewish context it has been nearly impossible to trace any family back to the destruction of the Temple; however, the story remains within Jewish culture and community and within the collective memory of the people.
Walter D. Mignolo defines colonialism as:

“(1) the economic: appropriation of land, exploitation of labor, and control of finance; (2) the political: control of authority; (3) the civic: control of gender and sexuality; (4) the epistemic and the subjective personal: control of knowledge and subjectivity.”
(Migolo 11)

It is easily seen that this definition of colonialism can be applied to black people residing within the United States today, a nation within a nation. And a colony within a "free" nation. It almost seems oximoronic, until we consider the systems that put it into place. Since the writing of the constitution the black population has been othered and set aside as a separate nation, a separate entity to be dealt with. From the 3/5ths clause to the 1 drop rule, white institutions of power have continually set up the black population as a separate unit, present for exploitation but never allowed to step out of the bounds that maintain that oppression. The American machine needs people at the bottom in order for "free" market capitalism to function. In my high school history class we discussed the motives for the civil war and spent a great deal of time discussing the economic motivations of the south to maintain a system of slavery. Although, today slavery is illegal, these systems of oppression are maintained, primarily to continue to fuel the US economic system. By maintaining this colonial structure that has been in place since the middle passage the US maintains the need for a diasporic community. Diasporic culture is inevitably tied to culture of the oppressed; to live in a diaspora means that there is somewhere else waiting, a homeland is out there somewhere.
So what is the path forward? Baldwin might suggest that first white Americans need to examine their own histories, to find their diaspora, and then once they have found that there is no way that they can ask of him a song, ask of his captivity a performance. How can the oppressor remember their oppression and still continue to perpetuate the systems that create oppression. Within the Jewish context it is necessary that Jews in America today reverse their mindset, out of the mindset of the colonized and oppressed, because we are a people with great power and only after that is realized can we move forward as activists, as allies and as people.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dear Mother.

Dear Mother,
You ask me if it offends me to use the woman's restroom because that is the only way that you see your gender interacting with your life...
in short, yes. It does, I learned to pee fast because public bathrooms make me uncomfortable, you probably don't notice the anxiety in my eyes everytime I walk through the woman's bathroom with you, but it is there. And you probably don't notice the relief I feel when we walk into a place with a unisex bathroom. I often do not go into the bathroom even when I need to... In the same way that I do not speak at events because I am paralyzed by anxiety over what name to use and how that will effect me and those around me.
I am affected by my gender every time I see myself in the mirror, or in a reflection or a shadow and every time I touch my body I am reminded that it is not a reflection of who I am. And I have known since I was little that it never felt just right, this label of woman, this body of woman.
I think that it grows from your second wave feminism, this idea, that your gender has no impact on you, and I think that is good, I do not mean to diminish you, or your gender, or your ideologies. But they do not work for me. I do not belong at the Michigan Womyns Festival. Believe me I would like to go to Michigan, I've been intrigued since I found those pictures hidden away in a box of photos, or since my aunt told me of the time the two of you went together. But my vagina does not make me a woman, and I have been living this life knowing that I float somewhere in between not only the societal definitions of man and woman, but in the actual space between male and female.
I am not attempting to cop out, and hide, or thinking that it would simply be easier to become a man and assume that privilege. In fact, I feel that it would just as easily be a lie to call myself a man, I consider myself to be an effeminate boy, where I will go next I do not know. In fact, I know very little about where my life is headed, or what it or I will look like.
That is why I chose my new name, I am sure that you remember mother, how I never liked my female name, it was popular and feminine and I did not feel like a Hannah. I don't know if I feel like a Helyx, but what I do know about that name is that it rests in the middle, much like myself, it gives me a chance to define me for me, outside of labels of femininity and masculinity.
So, yes mother, it does offend me to use the woman's restroom, every time I enter that space I am scared, of what I am never sure, certainly of the fact that someone could call me out on my gender in a second, certainly of the strange looks I get from young children, the people who have to look twice at me and the old women who hold their purses closer...
I know that my gender does not soley rest on my outward presentation, but I attempt to create a presentation that reflects the way I feel inside... and this is what I get...
so mother, please try to understand, I am not trying to leave you, but this second wave feminism isn't working for me, because I am not a woman, I am not female, I am female and male and neither all at the same time, and I do not like the labels available... so I try to just live, without the need to identify in one word...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

to tell you the truth

Hello everyone,
I am passing this on for a friend of mine who is about to embark on a new project...
its a really great project and I am excited to see it happen!

Dear fellow mamas and community caregivers,

I am writing you today to share news about my new project- To tell you the Truth- with you. You are receiving this letter because you have have been an inspiration to me; sharing your work with me, your lives with me or simply by sharing your presence. As fellow mama's and caregivers I wanted you to be the first to receive this letter. Many of you have previously expressed interest in, and support of my work as an artists, mama, organizer and program coordinator. I hope you will be as excited about this project as I am! To tell you the Truth is a multi-media project with a strong community building and self-empowerment emphasis. I am writing today to ask for financial support in beginning the workshop portion.

As many of you know, I am an experienced multi-media arts maker, arts educator and community organizer, most recently working with Video Vanguards (Youth Action Coalition) for 4 years as program coordinator, where I created and implemented programming that supported young people of color and their allies as they empowered themselves through use of video making, media analysis and youth leadership development. In 2007 I completed my first multi-media performance piece entitled, Permission Perform. Permission Perform was based on the interviews of 40 women and created a space for self-identified single, teen and welfare mama’s to tell the truths of their celebrations and struggles. Permission Perform was accepted into the 2007 WORD Multicultural Theater Festival and was performed for two sold out shows upon its opening. As a media-maker and community organizer I believe in the power of arts to create personal transformation and as a tool for healing. I have seen this manifest in the projects I’ve worked with, and, this belief has guided me to begin work on To tell you the Truth.

To tell you the Truth is a healing project. It is a call to create a network for mamas/daughters and caregivers who are invested in transformation; a transformation which integrates healing tools and subversive media making as we vision and support an anti-violence agenda that is informed by our voices and our experiences. This work is about self-empowerment. It is about creating spaces where we can gain back our power to vision and move out of the spaces where we hold ourselves as victims. This work IS about lived and experienced social justice. We will explore arts for healing and ritual; combine personal narrative with systemic analysis and subversive media making within a space that honors and affirms self and communal care.

Through the use of a workshop and multi-media performance process we will explore questions such as; where does personal choice and systemic oppression intersect? What are the complexities that we need to navigate to support mamas/daughters and the caregivers of our communities more fully? How can we heal our communities and still honor and create the spaces for personal healing to be at the helm of our work? How do we effectively move from victim into visionaries? Beginning with an honest look at inter-personal violence and moving through an exploration of what forms of systemic and institutional violence (re)victimize us this project provides space for our mamas/ daughters and caregivers to name what they need. The workshops series is designed to support this exploration and will be implemented in collaboration with community organizations, academics, artists and healers.

Some themes that we will explore in workshop are:
• Our body as home- how public policy impacts our sacred spaces
• Re/Imagining ourselves- how the media impacts our identity
• Using Sacred Tools- using art as ritual, personal transformation and healing, and;
• I know what I need- naming the support that we need to create a more just society

I believe that healing spaces should be accessible to ALL, and in order to work towards a true social justice agenda we MUST make space to heal on a personal level as we simultaneously address social injustice on all levels. Therefore, in an effort to provide workshops that are accessible to participants of all income levels, I am reaching out for your financial support. I would like to avoid asking participants to cover costs towards their participation. There will be plenty of ways for them to contribute towards this project. I am asking each of you to contribute towards co-sponsorship of a seat.

There are several ways to do this:

1. Personal Donation: Though no amount is too small or large I am suggesting a contribution of 70.00- 20.00 per seat. Please give as much as you can.
2. Become a Fund Raising Agent: Commit to raising funds from friends. Please help distributed this letter and begin taking checks/pledges. Contact me for more information about this option.
3. In- Kind Donations: We will need art supplies, ongoing community collaborators and space to hold meetings. Please contact me for more information.

If you choose, in exchange for your sponsorship, your name will be included in the program and accompanying literature for this project.

I believe that we are all able to make this project possible on a grassroots level. Thank you for your support and I am so glad to have you all in my extended community. If you, or someone you know, would like to participate in this project please contact Thank you for your time in reading this and, thank you in advance for your support!

In peace and light.

International Outreach Granting Group

I have just been awarded $400 dollars through the International Outreach Granting Group:

"IOGG supports individuals engaged in activities that support international understanding, justice and peace; travel outside one's own country for purposes consistent with Friends concerns. Any project within the United States must have an international aspect to qualify." (

This money will be primarily dedicated towards the purchase and creation of the solar charging unit so that I can re-charge my camera batteries while living in the Nicaraguan village.

Thank you to the International Outreach Granting Group!

This brings the total up to- $1120.68

Again thank you to everyone who donated! I am having another event May 1st and everything seems to be going well!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Academic Privilege

So one thing that seems to come up a lot lately both personally and in my conversations with others is the privilege associated with academic language. There are a lot of things I think about when I look at the stark contrast with the language I built in high school and the language I built after coming to Hampshire...

People at home don't use the same vocabulary that people around here use, even those who are enrolled in colleges, seem to be less a part of 'the academy' than I see around here. Which leaves me to examine the concept of academic elitism. Academic superiority. While the concepts that are analyzed in my home environment are no less complex than the ones I study at length in my classes and talk about amongst other students, they lack the vocabulary of superiority, and because of this seem far less complex.

Additionally, these issues come out of a place of necessity, it is far different to study queer oppression than it is to feel someone shove you into a locker and call you a dyke or rush to your girlfriends house in the middle of the night because she threatened to take her own life (which are experiences I had in high school).

Being at Hampshire, being enclosed in the bubble of Hampshire allows me to forget the reality of the things that I dealt with on a daily basis in High School and that my friends, who continue to live in the same area that I grew up in continue to deal with daily. Instead of confronting the issues that shaped me I am allowed to forget the very real ways that I was hurt and study the roots of why systems of oppression exist. This is not to say that the ability to study these systems is invaluable, in fact I feel that it has been of great personal reward, but none the less every time I go home, or talk to the people I know who still attend my former high school, or watch video footage of my high school, I confront the reality of life and the privilege of my academic status.

I also consider where this academic privilege comes from, it comes in many ways from a lack of necessity, my white skin allows me to ignore the oppression of others and internalize my own oppression. My parents academic knowledge is undeniably both a product of their own hard work and my own academic inclinations are indeed a product of their emphasis on my education, which translated into me in the form of access to educational tools that they did not have and that many of my peers did not have, including the ability to consider attending a school which costs $50,000 a year. College was never a question, but an answer. My parents academic pursuits were in many ways limited by finances and because of this they promised me a long time ago that mine never would be. For years, they went to every end possible, driving themselves into the ground, and limiting our mobility in order to secure the best education they could for my brother and me.

I learned early to transcend academic places and ‘street’ places within different social groups. There was always a disparity between the students at my private school and my friends from my neighborhood. Even when I was young I realized that there were communities I did not belong in, communities of class, which are forever inundated with academic privilege.

I think that one of the things I really like about video and most art forms, is that when using visual analysis, vocabulary is not important. I can express things visually that I cannot express in language because I still find myself on the outside of this academic language, and I believe that I can show other people concepts through video no matter what the language barrier may be between the two of us.

Recently I visited an installation that contained a portion with a significant amount of voice over that was composed using high academic language. As I sat there listening to the track repeat for the third time that day I realized how inaccessible this installation would be to most of the people I know outside of the Hampshire community. The self-perpetuated rhetoric of both Hampshire College and the academic world only serves to fuel itself. It is language and practice that serves to fuel the oppressive systemic institutions that create the normative discourses that my art, and this instillation strive to comprehend and take apart.

As for how I proceed it is hard to say with certainty. I do believe that it is necessary to learn the tools of the master but I also realize that these are tools of oppression, and tools of the spaces that I have not be allowed entrance to on the grounds of my class, sexuality, gender and societal status.

During the Arts and Activism workshop at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy conference at Hampshire College we began to enter this discussion. One of the participants mentioned that in order to avoid compromising ones art to enter the spaces of the academy, she finds it more effective to build her own spaces. But I am inclined to remember that while art can be a powerful way to carve out space for marginalized communities we have to bare in mind what the intentions of carving out that space are.

Do we carve out are space to simply live among those like us, or do we seek to reach out to others, outside of our community?

As marginalized artists with academic privilege we can choose to be with each other and create our own space.

Or we can attempt to enter the ranks of the un-marginalized through our art by compromising the message.

Or we can choose to speak back to the communities we came from, where we felt so alone so others won’t feel so alone.

But we must beware of the corruption of the revolution, the “marketing of revolution”…
It comes in the form of “be green” pins for sale in target and anti-authoritarian screen prints at Hot Topic, Obama posters with black power fists that you buy at FYE…. and many other forms.

What was the last political craze you remember? I can tell you that right now Obama, and the Prius occupy the majority of the glamorous hipster activist’s time. But once these messages reach the mainstream they are so diluted that there is often little point and they lack the passion that they started with.

So what is the point of my art? What is the point of yours?

My art is a conversation with my former self, an examination of my journey and an attempt to bring out the lessons and truths of my journey so that others can embrace theirs. I want to speak to the 13 year old me, I want to speak to my community, because I want to speak to the 13 year olds who feel more alone than anything because no one knows what to tell them about themselves and they sure as hell can’t figure it out, and when they try to read books they just don’t understand the language that those books are written in. (I mean damn, is that stuff even English?).

How do I reconcile my journey through academia and the ultimate product of finding my self on the other end?

How do I create art that is accessible to those without my language that would have been accessible to me when I needed it?

How do I use my languages as a tool of inclusion, instead of exclusion?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Passed on to me... examples of things I like!

passed on to me from my aunt-

"I was with my mom today, she’s looking at apartments. So we’re in the leasing office, and the bathrooms are “one person at a time”, but there are two of them, marked Men and Women (of course). The women’s is in use. The rental agent sees Mom waiting and says, “If you need a bathroom there are more. Go through that door, down the hall and on the left you’ll see mens and womens”. Mom thinks she’ll be funny and says “and which one should I use?”, and this very ordinary middle-aged woman pauses for a moment and then says with a perfectly straight face “whichever one makes you comfortable”

… I thought that was great!!"

and i thought it was great to...

just sharing stories (and making up for almost never posting in March)

check out the blog for The Trek Project -->

Fundraiser Update


The Fundraiser was pretty good. Didn't really have the attendance I would have hoped for but none the less between the actual event and the call for donations before hand I raised about 600$

remember my ultimate goal is 2000$

so 1400$ to go, but 600$ is a great start!

look out for more events to come, in Philly

I am looking to set something up with the A Space, and Cafe Mocha.

As a point of clarification right now my working title for this experience is "The Trek Project". Right now this consists of two parts, the first is a study on the ways that Western structures (specifically United States of America based), on a governmental, NGO and personal level interact with Latin America. It is an examination of US perspectives on Latin America, as well as a study of how organizations that do work within Latin America function, choose locations and ultimately "improve" the lives of "those people". I will pay particular attention to the concept of "helping those people" and where this attitude originates.

The second part of the project is the larger goal, the actual documentary about the Trek for Knowledge. This documentary will explore the ways that we construct communities as well as the idea of accountability to one's community on a local and global level.

I am publishing the full descriptions of the project and its components at

please follow that blog for full updates on the progress of The Trek Project.

Friday, March 20, 2009

If You Seek Amy/cheesy pop songs/the soundtrack of spring break 09.... in my head

I wish... that I could be your romeo...
"marry me juliet, youll never have to be alone,
I love you and thats all I really know..."

but alas, I have spent way too much of my spring break listening to the radio...
which brings up the point of my newfound appreciation and mixed feelings about Britney Spears....

ok, so yea yea big deal, at this point most people know but I will reiterate,

"All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy"
'if you seek amy" - eff.u.see.kay.ME - f u c k ME
that line at first doesn't make sense but if you examine the sounds of 'if you seek amy' what comes out is the spelling of 'fuck' me. This would be part one of the appreciation, but part 2 of admiration and mixed feelings come out in the first half of that line...
if she is indeed saying (and I for one believe she is) fuck me at the end, then what does it mean that she says that both the boys and girls want to fuck her...

so points of interest as I continue to explore this song...

the meaning of all of the boys and all of the girls
the implications of the constant representation of seeking> 'amy', a clearly feminine name
the idealism of Britney eventually heading out side the suburban home with the pie 2.5 kids, husband, etc... as she retreats from the world of the wild partiers and into the psuedo rhelm of the american dream...
the role of the news clips placed on either side of the "actual video"...

and more...
there are answers coming I swear...

and btw- incase you forgot the josie and the pussycats existed, now seems like a good time to put some in...

ps- remember to count down...

6 whole hours,
5 long days,
4 all your lies to come undone, and those
3 small words came way
2 late, cuz you cant see that I'm the

o, and i do know that this has been a little scattered, but its kind of like watching a little brain explosion...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Madly Multi-Arts Party to Back Documentary Filmmaker on Saturday, March 14
March 7, 2009, Philadelphia – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
What unites a rapper, a singer/songwriter, three jewelry-makers, a documentary on women in the media, a raffle, a silent auction, and a music video? Stumped? They’re all coming together for an Arts Free-for-All Party to raise money for filmmaker Hannah ‘helyx’ Horwitz’s documentary about American teens in Nicaragua.
All that and more will be happening Saturday, March 14, from 6-9 at Saladworks on the Penn Campus, 3728 Spruce Street, 19104. Lee G the rapper/singer will host and perform, and songwriter Kevin Ricci will sing. Works by artists and jewelry-makers Julia Eckenrode, Lisa Horwitz and Danny Kulp will be offered at silent auction, and Horwitz’ documentary on the impact of media images of women on girls will be shown. Rounding off the eclectic mix will be a raffle of a CD set, and a showing of Sandsnake, a Lee G and Delon music video filmed and edited by Horwitz. In short, the evening offers a madly mixed arts menu making one fun party.
The event is part of a broader fundraising effort to support Horwitz’s trip to Nicaragua this summer with a group of Philadelphia teens who will work with a small community there to build a school. Their trip is part of buildOn, ( an organization that combines after-school service in teens’ home communities here in the states with raising money and sending volunteers to build schools (295 to date) in developing communities around the world. 13 Philadelphia area high schools are working with buildOn ( and a group of students from those programs are headed to Nicaragua this summer. Horwitz’s film will document their work and the impact it will have, not just on the community building a new school, but on the lives of the American teens. Horwitz knows this impact well, as she describes her own buildOn experience in Nicaragua at age 17 as “life-changing.” Part of the money will go to fund a solar-powered battery charger to allow her to film in the remote community which lacks electricity.
There is no cover, but contributions will be joyfully received.
Madly Multi-Arts Party Backing buildOn Film
Saturday, March 14, 6-9
Saladworks on the Penn Campus, 3728 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Contact for more information: Hannah ‘helyx’ Horwitz, 610-539-9359,

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Babylon, Baldwin and Exile

"[white/european americans] they come through Ellis Island, where Giorgio becomes Joe, Pappavasilu becomes Palmer, Evangelos becomes Evans, Goldsmith becomes Smith or Gold, and Avakian becomes King. So with a painless change of name in the twinkling of an eye one becomes a white American.
Later, in the midnight hour, the missing identity aches. One can neither assess nor overcome the storm of the middle passage, One is mysteriously shipwrecked forever, in the Great New World.
The slave is in another condition, as are his heirs: I told Jesus it would be all right/ If he changed my name.
If He changed my name.
The Irish middle passage, for but one example was as foul as my own, and as dishonorable on the part of those responsible for it. But the Irish became white when they got here and began rising in the world, whereas I became black and began sinking. The Irish, therefor and thereafter-- again, but for one example -- had absolutely no choice but to make certain that I coult not menace their safety or status or identity: and, if I came too close, they could, with the concent of the governed, kill me. Which means that we can be friendly with each other anywhere in the world except in Boston.
What a monumental achievement on the part of those heroes who conquered the North American wilderness!
The price the white American paid for his ticket was to become white: and in the main, nothing more than that, or as he was to insist, nothing less. This incredibly limited not to say dimwitted ambition has choked many a human being to death here: and this, I contend, is because the white American has never accepted the real reasons for his journey. I know very well that my ancestors had no desire to come to this place: but neither did the ancestors of the people who became white and require of my captivity a song. They require of me a song less to celebrate my captivity than to justify their own."

-James Baldwin, Introduction: The Price of The Ticket

This is the end to the introduction written by James Baldwin that precedes of a compilation of his work. In this passage Baldwin is contending that the privilege of european descended (white) Americans is that they are able to come to this country and change their names so that they become white, immediately. And through the ease at which they assume white privilege they forget their own history, their own exile from their home country. The last sentences reference psalm 137, originated from the Jewish exile from Judea to Babylon in 586 BCE.

Direct Psalm:
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, we also wept when we remembered Zion.
On willows in its midst we hung our harps.
For there our captors asked us for words of song and our tormentors [asked of us] mirth, "Sing for us of the song of Zion."
"How shall we sing the song of the Lord on foreign soil?" -Psalm 137, Judaica Press Translation

Within recent years this psalm has become a song that not only permeates both Jewish and Christian worship but has been covered by Bob Marley, Sublime, The Melodians and many others...

Song Lyrics, from which the Baldwin Quote seems to be directly derived:
"By the rivers of babylon, where we sat down,
and where we wept,as we remembered zion.
and the wicked carried us away in captivity
required of us a song.
How can we sing the lord's [king alfa] song in a strange land"

Baldwin criticizes white america for not examining themselves, and their own history, for he believes that societal change in America must not come from the black population but from a true examination of how white people constructed and forced black america into creation. In the end he says:

"I know very well that my ancestors had no desire to come to this place: but neither did the ancestors of the people who became white and require of my captivity a song."

he asks, how can the people who are also in exile forget their own history so well that they request a song from me in my exile? It is because of the way that european immigrants, and their decedents can so easily assume american whiteness that they are able to forget that they too are part of the exile, they too are separated from their lands, and they forget what it means to be separated and so they ask that the black population perform, and prove themselves, despite the fact that they, the white population never had to prove themselves, the color of their skin and their assumed white name was enough. Black people cannot assume that whiteness, they cannot change into it by assuming a white name and stepping onto american soil, it is there. White americans can forget their history. So Baldwin asks us to remember that history, and consider what we are asking of him, someone who was never given the privilege to assume that whiteness (and along with white privilege: power, access, etc)...

Baldwin asks us to examine the ways that we have created the system that has forced him into oppression...

Coincidentally the recent Hampshire Divestment from the Occupation of Palestine has forced me into an examination of my history that I was always privileged to be able to ignore before, as my blond hair and lack of strong amherst based religious connection allowed me to pass in some ways as a christian american... or at least to ignore the ways that my jewish identity impacts me

My family changed their name when they came to this country, my fathers grandfather, in the 1910s changed his name to 'horwitz' which in that time did not assume complete white privilege, although of course white skin meant white privilege and white status. However, the name was identifiable as a jewish name, which still carried with it some weight. Which continued as anti-semitism did and still does (although on a much more minor level) exist in society for a period of time. And in the era of post-holocaust fear that my father and uncle were born into they were given middle names that they could use as last names to protect themselves from having to keep that jewish identifier. And yet, had they ever had to modify their names in that way they would have picked up the white privilege that Baldwin talks about. And as time progressed, they, as do I, assumed that white privilege. The marker of the Jewish last name has no negative connotations, and can often carry benefits, I never fear using my name... and only occasionally fear outing myself as a Jew...
But I also never forget about my exile. My people, the jewish people were a people living in exile and were for almost 2000 years, and many still are. This is not to say that I as a jew intend to return to the holy land, nor do I believe that all jews should. But it is to say that I do feel my exile in the sense that I feel a yearning and pain to connect to my former land.

When I was in Israel we went to Jerusalem for the sabbath, and as I walked through the old city to the Wall (the only remnant of a time before the second and final exile) I felt at home, I felt that I was no longer in exile, I felt a place where I could belong. And a place that had been promised to me by the community I grew up in. And so I continue to struggle with how I live out my jewish identity... it becomes a balancing act between my yearn for my promised home land, a rational that says no people have more right to a land than any other people do, and an anger that boils within me for the way that my people have treated the Palestinian people. I do not know if I am still a zionist, I do not know if I will ever return to Israel, I am not a jewish nationalist, and I do not believe that all jewish people should return to the land, but I do know that "Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it". So without my homeland to sing in, I stand across the river, in babylon, in my exile and sing to my history, so that I might not forget, and so that god might not forget me. But I am sure that in my 19 years I have forgotton my history, and my exile? I ask myself not only how to realize what I already have done, but also how to avoid forgetting history and my yearning song again. How do I prevent them from becoming the weapon that Baldwin is subjected to? How do I prevent myself from asking Baldwin to sing for me in his exile?

"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill].
May my tongue cling to my palate, if I do not remember you, if I do not bring up Jerusalem at the beginning of my joy."

Final Project Proposal - Indigenous Politics of Latin America


For my final paper I want to analyze how western media portrays indigenous culture and how that has created the “need to save mentality” on a governmental and personal level. Indigenous people of all nations and continents are brought to the US in the form of National Geographic, and other media sources, with painted faces and cultural practices that we fail to understand; we place indigenous people into the category of incompetent. US government has time and time again attempted to play the role of super heroes and save the undeveloped from themselves; this culture of US imperialism has contributed to the creation of a mindset that we must save the “other” people. This mindset has progressed to the point where it has almost become a right of passage to travel to Latin America to conduct community service. This rise in “aid tourism” has become a way by which westerners, and especially white westerners can attempt to eliminate their guilt and come away feeling good about themselves. This tourism has impacted indigenous communities in both negative and positive ways.
The project will be based on analyses of media imagery in television and magazines of indigenous Latin American Cultures, as well as examinations of various United States based government and non-government based organizations that travel to indigenous communities. I intend to investigate US government policies in Latin America and study the history of where those policies are rooted. In the end I will examine how different organizations have effectively and ineffectively operated within indigenous communities and what impact those efforts have had on the indigenous communities.

What is the impact of western aid tourism on indigenous communities?
How has the US government/media system created the savior mentality?
Who actually is helped by these organizations?
What kind of “help” do westerners bring to indigenous communities, is this actual help?
Do western organizations have a right to give aid in these communities?
How can westerners and western organizations work within communities in a way that respects and preserves them?

Thoughts? Sources for me to check out?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


When I was a kid I used to draw maps of israel from memory, in my binders, on my notes in classes. The land stood for me like a promise, a promise of a homeland, somewhere that I could belong.
What do I do when my homeland betrays me?
I feel like my land and my people have betrayed me, left me high and dry and defensive. How do I explain this to my friends, where do I put my reluctant loyalty. What do I do when my values and my land go from being one in the same to opposing forces???

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Operations of Western Privilege in Latin America

The relationship between the west, and specifically the United States and Latin America is a particularly strange one. Starting very early on the American Government mandated that European entities were not allowed to touch Latin American meanwhile the US had the right to go into and interfere in all Latin American countries. Throughout the year CIA sponsored coups have removed countless democratically elected leaders from power, assisted in the assassinations of others, and essentially reeked havoc on the continent to the south of our artificially constructed borders.

On a micro scale US citizens seem to be miniatures of their parents (the government) and now head into Latin American countries in an effort to "save" the poor people of those countries. I myself am guilty of this, in 2006 I traveled to Nicaragua to build a school, and this summer I am heading back to create a documentary about the organization Build-On. I have mixed feelings about the ways that I am involved in community service projects abroad. On the one hand I believe it is a duty of my privilege to share what I can with others, especially with manual labor when I cannot contribute funds, nor do i believe throwing money at a problem makes it go away. On the flip side, as an outsider to a culture and an area I cannot possibly be equipped to asses theirproblems, and therefore I cannot possibly meet all of their needs, nor should i feel the right to 'save' a people who do not need to be, or wish to be 'saved'. I believe that buildOn does good work, and I fundamentally agree with the mission of the organization, which is why I wanted to make this documentary. However, I have been struggling internally with these issues for a good deal of time now and a friend brought them to the forefront when they asked me the following questions.

"I think many times well intentioned westerners go into developing nations. They get to do volunteer work for a month or a year and then feel good about themselves. Have you thought about what it means to go someplace else to help "those poor people"? How can westerners help people in developing countries without the underlying prsumption that they know what the other people need? How do you make sure that people maintain contorl over how thier homelands are developed? How do white people remain respectful of the fact that this is not your home?"

I intend to go into the research segment of my documentary with these questions in mind. I have started to work out answers, and started to compile reading lists that may help me arrive at answers or may push me into further confusion. Either way as I work on this documentary I intend to bring to highlight the ways in which white people interact with Latin America (and other developing countries, but for my purposes and knowledge base, Latin America) and how or if they should interact in a way that would reap more benefits for all involved.

more entries to come as I continue to parse out that block of questions/begin work on the documentary. I am looking for feed back and insights into these questions as well, does anyone have an answer? does anyone know of good resources?

I chose to include these pictures because I feel they show two distinct ways that Americans interact with latin America in a direct basis, the first is one of my trek-mates taking a picture of one of the little boys in our villages. Not that taking pictures of the people you just spent two weeks with is bad, but often times these photos (not from my trip specifically but western photography in general) end up being exploitative and used to evoke emotions of 'o, that poor brown baby'...

The second picture is of me, my morning ritual in the village was to launch into my latest book, which at that time was "Lullaby" by Chuck Palahniuk. While this only lasted about 30 minutes in the morning it was my way of de-stressing and coping with the language immersion. However, looking in this picture I also see an American (and by American i mean US citizen because Latin America is in fact part of the American continents) oblivious to the world around them. Absorbed in a book...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Because I am a jew...

Because I am a jew, I signed the petition for the divestment from the occupation of palestine.
Because I am a jew, I learned to respect my father, my mother and my history.
Because I am a jew, I feel the ghettoization of people who are "dangerous to us" sounds a little too familiar for me to support.
Because I am a jew, I learned jewish values that told me to respect the stranger.
Because I am a jew, I learned to value all life.
Because I am a jew, I learned to spill my wine in respect to the pain of others.
Because I am a jew, I learned to pray that one day ALL people will be free.

Just because I am a jew does not mean I am a zionist, and just because I am a jew does not mean that I support the actions of the Israeli government and the occupation of the NATION of Palestine. Hampshire College, the institution at which I currently attend school, recently made the decision (after months of petitioning from student groups, primarily Students for Justice in Palestine) to divest from companies who are benefiting from the occupation in Palestine.
I have been thinking a lot about my identity as a jew and the way that it is torn up. I was raised in between reconstructionist libralism, conservative movements, and liberal, activist, socialist zionism. I grew up learning that arabs were bad, wanted to blow us up and destroy my family. I grew up thinking that the arabs and muslims that I knew were simply the exception to the rule... And then I realized that they were not, and one day I saw a movie that reminded me that Palestinians were people too. Perhaps it should not have taken me till I was so old to realize this, however, the propaganda within the jewish community is deep. I grew up and my heros were the zionists that founded the state of israel... I grew up hoping that one day I would go to Israel. And I went to Israel, and they told us look- there is an arab village, and there is a jewish village. And they told us that rubber bullets can't hurt. But rubber bullets do hurt, and they neglected to mention that while Jews in Jerusalem are living a 1st world life, arabs in Gaza are living in the third world. They showed us a rocket fired into an israeli village, but neglected to mention the Palestinian children dead because the hospitals are inadequate, the water of poor quality and the living conditions terrible.
I live in a world of mixed feelings over my jewish identity, I balance a desire to re-learn my hebrew and reconnect with my people, and a deep hatred and resentment for my people who I feel have turned the other cheek while the Israeli government puts Palestinians into ghettos...
WE CAME FROM GHETTOS, from spain to germany to poland to russia, we came from ghettos, our people have been locked up and pushed out, disenfranchised for 2000 years, and yet, as soon as we get the upper hand we turn around and lock innocent people up behind big thick walls designed not to protect or help them, but to "save" us from them. We have turned our backs on members of the human race, and the words that come out of our mouths echo the sentiments of the third reich.
When we learned about the Holocaust in hebrew school we read about the Sneetches, the sneetches is a classic Dr Suess book about the division between the plain belly sneetches and the star belly sneetches. In the end, after capitalist driven exploitation they learn that it doesn't matter if you have a plain belly or a start belly, that all sneetches are the "best on the beaches". So I learned that money talks and all people are equal, and divestment (no matter the statement an administration makes) talks, and divestment matters. And because I am a jew, and because I grew up with "jewish" values, I signed the petition for Hampshire College to divest from the occupation in Israel. And because I am a jew, I am extremely proud of my institution for divesting.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sex Bodies Shame

The moment you pop out and the doctor sees a vagina you are put on this conveyor belt to femininity, and ultimately sex… because isn’t that what the patriarchy is all about, maintaining women for sex, as objects. Young girls are waiting to become objects. Everyday all children are bombarded by media. They are the primary target of the media, they move from dolls to barbies to magazines.
After all, even with the most progressive parents you learn things on the “street”. I learned what sex was when I was very young, and when I learned that sex was bad, I also learned what it was to be forced into sex. Regardless of the innocent nature of child sexual play, by the time I was 6 I had developed shame. Shame over my body, and shame over my sexuality. And then I forgot…
Then I learned that sex could produce a baby, and that when a woman was a grown up she would get married and go on her honeymoon. On her honeymoon sex would occur and then she would have a baby. I learned this in a dark basement, and I emerged that day knowing how life would be…
But then I learned shame again… I learned shame because young kids laugh when they think about private parts, because they have learned shame too. And then I learned shame when I felt cornered by the boy in the doorway at school. I learned shame from big boys teasing me, and I learned shame from feeling unsafe as men examined my body. Even with clothes I felt cornered when ever my body was looked at, if I was hit on, or hollered at.
And then one day, I learned pride. I learned about how a woman could be sexy, and all of the sudden it was like someone had lifted the chains of shame and allowed me to be free…
Young girls poor into media imagery of sex because it is nice to be relieved of the shame that comes with a female body. When boys are being taught to show more of their bodies, for example removing a shirt to reveal a bare chest, girls are taught to hide their bodies,
“put your shirt back on,
girls have to wear shirts,
your cousins are boys,
boys don’t have to wear shirts”

Girls are taught that their bodies are shameful, to cover up, cower and hide.

My own body is a mystery, and my own body is fluid… and my current body has a mix of pride and shame…
… what if all our bodies were allowed to be fluid from birth? How would it change the way that we perceive bodies, gender and sex?

Saturday, January 31, 2009


So my senior year if high school the local branch of NBC came to my school to follow around 10 seniors for their senior year...

I dont know how, but somehow I ended up being one of those seniors....

I should have turned and run, I remember talking to my girlfriend at the end of my junior year about it, she was like, your gonna be the gay one... and "I was like no one knows Im gay"... (yea riiiiight...)

For the day of the launch of the project we got to go to NBC studios and check it out, and they took video and pictures of us and it was cool, and then there was a newspaper reported, she was talking to us in like a group of 4, and she was like "SOOOO all these reality TV shows have like a token gay character"... so at this point I am holding my breath... but thinking to myself, im not really out to these people, or am I?

and all these things flash through my head in the .5 of a second it takes this woman to change her position so that she is starring me down and she says "AAAAND that must be you"... and she stairs at me, waiting for me to, i dont even know, do something dyke-y i guess?

I should have run out, and screamed, or told her to fuck off...

but i just said "Im no ones token anything" and that seemed to shut her up...

during the year we got to pick segment topics, and so I thought I would take advantage of my platform, and reach out to other gay students, we did an interview and i talked about coming out... and after that one kid did come up to me and say, i saw your segment, it helped me come out, and that one is enough for me...

but what damage did I do? show that, in the words of my ex "turn into one of those gay people who only cares about gay people"....

I won a scholarship my senior year... for media production, and the anchor that had worked with us was presenting the award, I wasn't there to receive it (I was fighting off brainwashing in Israel) and so he made a little speech about me... and he started off with "and so, the next scholarship goes to Hannah Horwitz, and well first off... SHES GAY..." he went on to say some very nice things... however, that one sentence at the beginning..."

is that all I am to you?

there are many ways in which NBC saved me my senior year... the administration would have loved to squish me, but NBC stood up for me...

Not to endorse NBC as a news source, or ally with coorporate media, but the people I knew there were on top of their shit, and they were good people...

but I still wonder, where does it leave me? Will I just always be that gay kid?

It was a mixed battle, I could hear myself bringing up gay issues in our interviews throughout the year, but as much as i didnt want to be that token, I wanted to speak for my people, and speak to my people, the kids who were in their living rooms on a friday after noon, sad, and watching the news...

so I guess its a double edged sword...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So I am not exactly the biggest fan of slam type poetry, however, i really like this one/Andrea Gibson in general...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


So I don't know when it started, but as far back as I can remember the name Hannah never seemed to fit me,
as far back as I can remember I recall my knee-jerk reaction whenever hearing my name,
as far back as I can remember I have always felt like other names fit me better,
I have sought refuge in nicknames, some of my relatives call me magz, derived from my middle name,
My most prominent name was Mouse, given to me by a school friend in the 6th grade, and then stuck at camp,
I remember wanting to change my name everytime I changed schools... but I never found the courage.

High School:
1st day of 9th grade, study hall period:
senior: Whats your name?
me: Hannah
senior: thats such a nice name
me: you can have it...

I think his name was Ricky, I like Ricky better...
Although this happened in 9th grade I can remember feeling like that was my auto response when people complimented my name...
no matter where I went I always heard how pretty my name was, and I always talked about how much I hated it...

When one of my current best friends came out as Bi just before 10th grade I remember hearing the word, and although I probably couldn't put together a definition of the word I immediately knew what it was, and knew that I was one. I had the same reaction when I first heard about genderqueer, it was about 11th grade, and I was watching coming out stories on Logo (the gay channel) and there was a young, female bodied GQ coming out to their mother, immediately I identified with that person, on the TV and that term.

I founded my schools GSA, although we wern't technically a GSA, we were a diversity club. My senior year we were having a discussion about trans issues and immediately the tone of the room switched, I remember my then girlfriend shouting passionately at the room that you could be as butch as you could be but you should never change your gender. She then asked if anybody disagreed with her and I raised my hand, but I was the only one... in an instant I felt very alone, and I stopped talking about my gender. But I never stopped thinking about it...

By the time I entered hampshire I knew that my gender was not clear cut, for the most part I think about it as fluid, or non-identified... at this point I am using FTQ to express my gender, female to queer/questioning... im not FTM, im not female... FTQ

and so we are back to the name... I am using the name Helyx, it fits better, it makes more sense internally, and it doesnt have the same knee-jerk reaction, and so I think its worth a try...


Thursday, January 15, 2009

DvDs of Impacting Girls Influencing Life

Hey there all,
So distribution of a film is quite costly and in order to offset that cost on a personal level I am selling DvDs of Impacting Girls Imfluencing Life for a suggested 5$ donation. The DvDs will also include a wide array of other tools to further the discussion about women, media, gender, youth, and race as well as more work by the artists featured in the documentary and more of my own work. This is a great way to help support me as a video maker and get a great tool for discussing the issues sorrounding women in the media.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Inspiration...

Enhancing education and empowering youth to make a difference in thier own communities while helping people of developing countries increase thier self reliance through education.
Building With Books Mission Statement

I think that the reason it is so hard for me to separate myself from Building With Books is because BwB does the important job of emphasizing two equally important goals, accountability to local and global community. As a member of Building With Books for 4 years (high school) I never had to separate myself from these two goals. BwB does the crucial job of emphasizing education and community service not only to a global community, but also to a local one. It is easy to look at all of the priveledge embraced and often taken advantage of in the US and think that work in developing countries is more important. Likewise, it is easy to look at the vast inequality, classism, racism, ageism and homophobia and preach that to fix other places we must first fix ourselves. My work with Building With Books emphasized a more wholistic approach. All year we worked in different places in our community, some of the richest and poorest schools in the Philadelphia area came together to bake bread, unpack toy donations, rebuild community centers, repaint the peeling paint in the walls of our own schools, and dance with underpriveledged youth at a holiday party. The work we did within our own community was crucial. Also the impact and importance that BwB gave me, as a youth, growing up in the inner ring suburb of Upper Darby, was life changing. As I rose through the ranks as a leader of the club I gained the empowerment and leadership skills that carry me on to this day. As I continue to do work on a personal, local and global level I realize the importance of the tools I left BwB with.
The trek to Nicaragua also profoundly, but differently changed my life. When we went to that village tucked in the mountains close to the Nicaraguan Hondoran border we met people living in a way radically different from our own. One of the ways to measure class is through the variety of food in a persons diet. We met people who ate beans and rice (gallo pinto) and homemade corn totillas. Not to say that they had never eaten anything else, and believe me our host moms knew how to spice up the food with gourds, avocados, fried bananas and the occasional chicken (but for very special occasions). The people in this small village of maybe 30, with 100 or so living out of the center in the mountains, people lived without electricity, running water (aka showers, bathrooms...) and essentially all of the things that are considered basic nessesities in the US.
My work with them changed me forever because of my fundemental belief in education, and the importance and power of education. The education I recieved through this organization was not only how to lead an activity or plan a fundraiser but also my education lay in the experience of working along side a 10 year old as we dug the foundation to his own school. Through BwB I gained the understanding of my accountability to a global community. And through BwB I gained the understanding of my accountability to my local community.

Tras el Sueno Mexicano

Chasing the Mexican Dream

So Ill keep this short because it sucks to type on this keyboard, but we were reading and article in class about how alot of Guatemalans living near the mexican border are immigrating to Mexico to work, both illegally and not, underage, alone, whole families, part of a family, a phenomenon that much regflects the wave of movement from Mexico to the US for work. We talked about how it was interesting that the Guatemalans are chasing the Mexican Dream while the Mexicans chase the American dream...
just some thoughts...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Rural Guatemala, Trek to Nicaragua, can you compare?

So yesterday we went to a water park about an hour out of Xela which involved riding a chicken bus, named for the commonality of live cargo, for a little over an hour out of the high lands and into the warmer costal area of Guatemala. As we rode out of the city, and we passed coffee plantations with a distinct resemblance to the ones we lived in while in Nica, small timid coffee plants protected by the large leaves from neighboring Banana trees. My two experiences in these countries are hard to compare because, for one they are different countries and two they are experiences based on living among completely different classes. In Guate my family has running water, electricity, a wide variety of diet, TV, internet, a digital camera... etc the list resembles the one that I have living in America... The family in Nica had no electricity, or running water, ate beans, rice and totillas for every meal, lived in a three 4 room house and used corn cobs as torches to privide light at night. I know that families like these exsist in both countries, however my isolated experiences in each make it difficult to figure it out. I also know that as a nation I believe Nica is poorer then Guatemala, and there seems to be a recognition of this among the people in each. One of my only real conversations with my host father in Nica was about how Nica was very poor, and when I came to Guatemala on the first night I was talking about my other travels and my host mom said that Nica is very poor.
One thing that was hard to ignore throughout the Guatemalan countryside was the vast disparity in wealth, homes with no electrical or water lines standing 100 feet away from vast fincas (plantations, farms). Clearly more investigation needs to happen on my part, but with little guidence about the lower class in Guatemala or the upper class in Nicaragua, it is hard to figure out.