“First…. Many Indigenous Nations have calendars which have
been counting the years for a very long time. I am aware that
the calendar of the Mohawk Indian Nation has been counting
the winters for over 33,120 years. This pre-dates the so-called
‘land-bridge’ of the Bering Strait theory, unless, of course, the
Bering Strait scientists decide to move their interestingly illusive
time period for “early migration” of Indians back to 40,000 years!
Many American Indian early histories tell of events that took
place on this Turtle continent (North America) long before any
so-called ice age. But, for political reasons, these histories
have been mostly ignored. You see, the Bering Strait, in truth,
is a theory that was born of the politics and propaganda of
early America. In the midst of the American ‘Manifest Destiny’
social climate, the Bering Strait theory provided a ‘scientific’
means to justify the taking of ancestral Indian lands. In short,
the mythical theory eased the conscience, as it was a way for
land hungry immigrants to believe that, because Indian people
were only ‘recent inhabitants’ of this land , it was not really their
‘homeland’. Therefore Indians were, in their minds, not any more
the ‘original people’ of this land than they were. This was, and
still is, the political power of the infamous ‘Bering Strait theory’.”—
The B.S. (Bering Strait) Myth By John Two-Hawks
The Bering Strait Theory was made to make colonialism seem less like exploitation.
Wow, definitely did not know this but definitely makes all of the sense in the world. One thing I try to teach my students is that every piece of information was created by someone. Whether it is numbers, words, or pictures they are all susceptible to the filters of people. That, in conjunction with the our culture of racism (to say the least) means we must question everything.
Ok kids, listen up. I’m about to explain to you, to the best of my ability, why there are 40,000 people protesting in Tokyo’s Nagata-cho as I type this, why it matters, and why you should be talking about it, too.
What Started This Protest?
The short answer —> Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed a round-about way of changing Article 9 of Japan’s constitution, which basically states that Japan will never go to war ever again. This constitution was written by US officials in Japan after WW2 and is actually more balanced than America’s own constitution in certain ways (there is equal pay for women, for example). There have been various Nationalist (think Japanese Tea Party-esque displays) public demonstrations supporting Japan having the ability to go to war again- usually subtly, or not so subtly, naming out potential foes such as China and Korea. But none of that compares to what’s going on right now in Nagatacho AGAINST any changes to Article 9. Last Sunday, a man sat himself on top of a bridge in Shinjuku, protested the changes, and then set himself on fire over all this.
(The man survived. He’s now being sued by the government for damage to public property)
The long, complicated answer —> Japan has had problems with its top government officials for nearly 10 years now. After a long string of PMs resigning, Abe (who was originally one of those resigning PMs) was reelected and has stayed in power this time the longest in the past several years. Until this issue with Article 9 came about, the biggest issue was the Fukushima nuclear plant, which is still hemorrhaging radioactive water to the point where workers have temporarily given up trying to stop it and recently told everyone that they were now ‘purposefully’ dumping contaminated water into the pacific ocean (although now the current plan is to create an “ice wall” - yes “ice wall”- around the affected ground water in an attempt to stop it. Somehow). TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), who owns the plant and has been responsible for the cleanup, has failed repeatedly to do their job and has consistently rejected outside international help for reasons, at this point, that can only be attributed to hurt national pride.
At the beginning of this year, Abe’s administration passed a ‘State Secrets’ law which forbade any publishing of Japanese ‘state secrets’ which conveniently included anything to do with nuclear sciences (this would included Fukushima). Not only is this bill extremely vague, leaving it open for the government to essentially call anything they want a state secret, but as I recall, about three days after this was passed, the news was suddenly reporting that all was well at the nuclear plant.
At the end of LAST year, Abe announced that he purchased some battleships- specifically aircraft carriers- that had actually been seen floating off the coast of different parts of Japan up to a month before they were publicly announced. On a personal note, I have seen those ships, and last month I saw one other as well floating off my local waters. Below is a picture I was able to grab while on the train:
While the state secrets law riled up academic circles who claimed that the government had just eliminated the right to free speech, it didn’t gain a lot of news coverage and eventually faded away. It might be worth noting here, too, that NHK (Japan’s BBC, essentially) is chaired by government officials- some of whom Abe seems to have personally appointed.
With the state secrets law now in place, which has limited what one has to assume are more ‘negative’ stories and updates about the Fukushima nuclear plant issue (which its admitted failure by the government would oblige Abe to step down as prime minister), we’re brought to the main course- significantly altering/reinterpreting/removing Article 9 of the Japanese constitution:
"The Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution Chapter ii. Renunciation of War Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."
Now, Japan DOES have what is essentially a National Guard, which participates in non-combat efforts in both their own country and abroad, so Japan is not totally helpless here- they’re just confined to their own borders when it comes to personally rolling out ammunition (which happens whenever North Korea makes a missile threat where the path of the missile is supposed to go over Japan- the US military assists in this temporary defense bubble whenever it has to go up).
What Abe wants to do, however, is “reinterpret” this article in a way that allows Japan to expand and use their military like any other respectable country does. That seems fairly reasonable, right? Except that Abe’s chosen route to accomplish this goal is to go around the Democratic process, ignoring the public’s opinions, and holding what are basically closed-door votes amongst a group of people who are already on his side, instead of, say, passing an actual constitutional amendment instead. This has made people angry- people that might agree with having the military restored are angry because of how shadily it’s being done, and people who *don’t* agree are angry because they don’t want Japan to go back to war and they *don’t* like Abe’s tactics.
Then there’s the potential US angle to all this. Paranoia over China seems to have gotten so high that there’s the rather strong theory going around that it was actually the US behind the state secrets bill getting passed and that it’s the US again behind trying to restore military rights to Japan. While that seems like a giant big ball of irony and contradictions, this handy image popped up on Twitter:
(I’m so sorry- there’s such a rush of info going on right now that I’m not sure where this diagram came from but it makes a point.)
China, as many of you may know, has been relentlessly heckling neighboring countries such as Japan, Korea, and The Philipenes over who has rights over tiny islands (some of them literally just rocks jutting out of the sea) that nobody lives on. Even the largest of these islands (Japan was particularly riled up over an island it has dubbed “Takeshima”) are uninhabited except for wild goats. Japan has unfortunately taken the bait over what has been a magnificently farcical dispute and decided to engage China over these useless islands. At the height of the Takeshima dispute, NHK took to telling you the weather for the island with the regular forecasts (remember- nobody there but wild goats), and airing documentaries about the occasional Tokugawa-era fishermen who used to camp out for the day to fish there before going home again. One of these, which I caught, consisted of nothing but old guys sitting around talking while background footage perpetually looped showing nothing but these goats frolicking around on the rocky terrain of the island. That one went on for at least an hour. It was, in a word, ridiculous. So while China has even started going so far as trying to “reinforce” its claims and even “create” new islands by dumping sand in the ocean, Japan hasn’t exactly been mature about the situation either.
(“Stop war!” “Protect Peace!”)
Basically, guys……I could go on, but it would probably just end up going in one big circle. Maybe I’ve not presented this the best way possible, and I truly do apologize for that, but hopefully this has helped to explain a few things. What I will say, though, is that after everything I’ve mentioned above, things have piled up so badly and so messily that for at least the second night in a row, 10,000, and now reports say around 40,000 people have taken to protesting outside government offices in Tokyo, and other smaller demonstrations have taken place in at least Osaka and Nagasaki as well. They’re fed up, they’re chanting for Shinzo Abe to leave Article 9 alone and to resign. They’re calling him a facist. They’re mocking him with Nazi symbols. Japan- today’s Japanese- which is a people of almost bottomless patience and calm and who will go out of their way so that you never have to feel awkward or uncomfortable about anything- these people are out there and they’re fed up. They’re doing these things which are radical for them because they don’t want this to happen. And the media here is in such an iron grip that the guy who set himself on fire on Sunday in Shibuya and these protestors are lucky to get even a brief mention on the nightly news. 40,000+ people out there. And they need more people to spread the word.
ALL PROTEST IMAGES (**EXCEPTfor the individual being carted off by police- that one came from a friend who does not wish to be named) USED WITH PERMISSION AND BELONG TO @KjeldDuits AND @asianskys ON TWITTER. These two people are on the ground posting live updates so go follow them for more info and even more pictures.
i wish my gender had a points system where it becomes more cool and evil looking the more trans i get. i could be surrounded in an ominous particle effect of somekind, perhaps giving off a distinctive harsh Glow. level up your gender. strange gender… unusual gender… festive gender. gender with sound effects. lv 666 gender mage
Photography in the social media age often means minimizing or ignoring the role of race/gender and more in the lives of both photographers and (especially) subjects. This is something that people (like me, as a Black woman and a photographer) who experience racism/sexism (and other intersecting oppressions) do not have the luxury of ignoring. The reality is the experiences of race/gender etc. will always be a question of “how” is it relevant, not “if” it is relevant, simply because it is always relevant.
How Black women experience race/gender/class and more shapes our experiences in unique ways; in other words, for Black women it is not “just” being Black, or “just” being a woman, or “just” struggling in the 99% and usually among the poor that impacts our experiences; all three intersecting and affecting each other in a world of anti-Blackness, White supremacy, racism, sexism, misogyny, misogynoir, poverty, classism, colourism, homophobia, transmisogyny, ableism and other oppressions and institutions is what does.
Ignoring/removing key experiences, identity and culture away from a person to approach them via a “colourblind” (which actually is a bigoted approach) lens (pun intended) is antithetical to being a skilled photographer, as the core job is to actually see, not to ignore; to allow interpretation, not to erase, to allow presence of story, not to force it to be hidden out of discomfort or guilt. It most certainly is not only interpreting Black women as artists/professionals and subjects through a privileged gaze meant to minimize or dehumanize.
The perspective I chose for selecting these articles is one that focuses on Black people, especially (though not exclusively) Black women as photographers. Clearly Black people are not the only people of colour in America who photograph; however, this is my chosen focus for this particular list.
1) A Forgotten Group Of Photographers Is Revealed In Black And White by Carol Kleinman in Chicago Tribune is an article almost 30 years old (published in 1986) and is still relevant. Still. She points out how few women photographers are ever noted, and even when they are, they tend to be White. So here, many key Black women photographers throughout history are named, with a good portion on Jean Moutoussamy-Ashe. (Also see 2 great books by Deborah Willis that I mentioned in 55 Great Books For Photographers for more on Black photographers and Black people as photographic subjects.)
2) Black Women Who Rule The Art Scene by Brandee Sanders on The Root is awesome. Not only photographers are mentioned here (though the awesome Deborah Willis and Lorna Simpson are mentioned) but other Black female visual artists as well; 23 total. Great slideshow with blurbs.
4) The Black Photographer: Race and Photography (a Conversation With Brent Lewis) by Suchitra Vijayan on The Huffington Post is an incredible read not just about visual representation and the Black body in terms of images but also in terms of how we are actually viewed as non-persons and interchangeable. Lewis is a Black male photographer who the author discussed this with and he shared some important insights, especially so since Black photojournalists/documentarian photographers are so underrepresented. While he is a male photographer, being that his gaze includes Black women as a Black man, I definitely wanted to include this piece. (Note: there is some ableism in the article towards the bottom, re: ability and speaking, and a Chris Rock joke.)
5) Photographing A ‘Difficult Love’ In South Africa by Alexis Okeowo on The New York Times: Lens is a beautiful article on the experiences of Zanele Muholi, a Black woman and photographer who photographs Black lesbian relationships in South Africa. Worth a read. And I’ve seen some of her work. Incredible. Nuanced. Beautiful. Humanity. Her gaze is not objectifying but confirms their subjectivity and humanity of their experiences as Black women.
6) African American Women and Photography by Crystal Am Nelson on Oxford African American Studies Center is really great and takes an important and in-depth look at Black women as both subjects and as photographers, citing Black feminist scholars such as Patricia Hill Collins and Angela Davis, and Black female photographers such as Jean Moutoussamy-Ashe, Carrie Mae Weems and Deborah Willis. She writes about how Black women reshape our identities and realities in truthful ways by viewing ourselves as subjects in our own experiences and not objects for others’ lenses. Great great piece.
7) Teaching The Camera To See My Skin by Syreeta McFadden on BuzzFeed (I don’t like this publication at all, I mean at all, but this particular article matters) is a good read that looks at colourism and conception of beauty for Black women, and how photography as a medium and as media is biased against this.
oh oh listen to me oh oh you can trust me oh oh come on baby why you gotta get so crazy it’s all in your head and i thought you liked it? i thought you liked it that’s not what i said and who you gonna fight with?
don’t you know me? check your memory - seems a little hazy. i would never do that, baby.
“Once upon a time there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. And they grew next to each other. And every day the straight tree would look at the crooked tree and he would say, ‘You’re crooked. You’ve always been crooked and you’ll continue to be crooked. But look at me! Look at me!’ said the straight tree. He said, ‘I’m tall and I’m straight.’ And then one day the lumberjacks came into the forest and looked around, and the manager in charge said, ‘Cut all the straight trees.’ And that crooked tree is still there to this day, growing strong and growing strange.”—Tom Waits, Wristcutters: A Love Story
“This is a brave zine. This is a zine that makes me believe in the power of zines. This zine is powerful and raw and heartbreaking. You need to read this zine.
“Clocking in at an impressive 114 pages, Stacey-Marie traces the lines of her five-year relationship with her abusive, alcoholic partner. She includes snippets from her extensive journals she kept throughout their relationship, looking back at the early warning signs, detangling the web of deception and manipulation he spun around her, and detailing how she prepared herself to leave him. She writes a lot about the psychology and tactics of abuse as well as a great deal about alcoholism and its impact on alcoholics and those who love them. It is a complex, messy, horrifying, and powerful narrative, and one that I believe is essential reading. Don’t be scared off by the $10 price tag, it’s well-worth every cent.”—
Warning: the following may be too badass for you to handle.
Today the Conservatives filed out of the House of Commons in Ottawa early. The NDP followed. Moments later, all the NDP MPs came back into the house and took their seats. They had realized that, with time still on the parliamentary clock and no Conservatives in attendance, they had a very rare majority. In Canada, the conservatives have a majority-controlled house. What followed knocked my socks off. We have a big problem in Canada. Aboriginal women and children have been disappearing for decades from their communities. Sometimes the bodies are found, but often times they’re simply forgotten by everyone but their family and the aboriginal communities. This is a growing problem all across Canada, with the numbers of missing or murdered aboriginal women becoming more and more alarming. The police won’t do anything. The government, despite the pressure that’s been put on them by the NDP, won’t do anything or even talk about the issue. So with a sudden majority in the house and no Conservatives there to mess things up or heckle too loudly for us to be heard, the NDP forced the debate on the Missing or Murdered Aboriginal Women of Canada. It was a stunning moment, made even more so by the fact that the Opposition (NDP) had to literally trick the government to get the issue to the floor. I’m amazed. What a moment. Well done, especially to Mr. Romeo Saganash and Mr. Tom Mulcair. Bravo, New Democrat MPs. Jack would be so proud. To see a video of the incredibly emotional moment in the house, see my blog, I just posted a link.
One correction. The majority of the conservative MP’s had left the house but there were a small number still in attendance. But definitely less than the full NDP caucus which is why they were able to force the debate.