Toi

Toi
the philosophactivist

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Journalist struggles with Lenovo Thinkpad, Makes Public Plea OR Why You Haven't Seen New Writings from Me

Hi folks,

I haven't been able to blog as much from my new abode as I expected to. My laptop has crossed over. Some of you may know it's been on it's last leg for some time. I was holding out because it has so much important info not only on the hard drive (I've backed up a lot of it) but those bookmarks I have saved are gold! Ah! So ...I'm writing an open letter to Lenovo to rectify this situation caused by this defective product I have and I hope to post some positive feedback and a resolution. I really want to be able to get these new zines, books, and articles completed! I've got a lot of Queering Herbalism 2 and Herbal Freedom School 3 completed and I've finally got most of the Putting Down the Master's Tools zine ready. Hopefully it will be ready in time for the National Women's Studies Association conference here in Puerto Rico next month.

I'll keep you posted! And hopefully not from my phone...

Here is the letter (minus identifiable details, product details and actual case numbers):


Hello,

I'm Toi Scott, an author and a journalist with thousands of national and international readers. My books can be found in college libraries, resource centers, and as required reading in university classrooms across the nation, Europe, and the Caribbean. My articles can be found in print and online. My laptop is key to my career and livelihood and for almost three years I have struggled off and on with the Lenovo Thinkpad X100e.

The beginning of my woes started with a purchase on lenovo.com. I bought it in graduate school because I had rented a similar model from our college resource center and liked the experience. I had using it while doing social justice and community work and writing papers. (It was superior to the Acer that had let me down)[...]

The first month of having the fire-engine red laptop it began overheating after just 2-3 hours and subsequently shut down, so I sent it back. The technicians changed the fan and it functioned for a few weeks until it began to overheat and shutdown again. Mind you, I was in the middle of finals and I desperately needed this laptop to work. Over the course of the next year, at the most inopportune times, when I had deadlines the computer would act up, overheat and shut down repeatedly. I called technical support numerous times and told them how hazardous the laptop was. I had been burned a number of times. I told them it was defective, but still, all the technicians would do was replace the fan or battery, which did not address the underlying problem.  And then the warranty ran out.

I have sent the laptop back to Lenovo at least six times and have had even more cases opened. Each time I have told the representative that the laptop is defective and the core problem has not been handled. I've called technical support and customer care for these case numbers so that they can be included in this communication but I have been told that the archives before 2014 have been deleted since there is a new system in place and that my former case numbers cannot be retrieved, which is unfortunate. I have documented the two cases from this September and another few that I was able to find before this year, below.

I'd like to point your attention to something disturbing that must be addressed for your customers. I was told  both that there was and wasn't a "customer advocacy unit" by customer care. During my last conversation with Lenovo 'customer care', a supervisor exposed the fact that he'd never heard of this unit before which was a little unsettling since just a week earlier my information had supposedly been taken and sent to the department and I was to hear from them in 5-7 days. It's non-existence could certainly explain why I did not. This is really deceptive and not a very good business practice to not have a department that is dedicated to addressing customer service issues.

This would be almost comical if not that the current situation is dire and extremely frustrating. I am in the middle of writing a series of magazine articles and 3 new books and the keyboard, mouse and all usb ports that support external devices have stopped working. Since I do not have a warranty any longer, I do not qualify for technical support assistance. I called Lenovo two separate times only to be told that my laptop did not 'qualify' for an extended warranty and was told by billable accounts that I needed to charge $650.00 to a credit card as a deposit in order to get the technical assistance I need to possibly have my computer repaired and functional again.

I should not have to foot the bill for the repairs of a defective product that malfunctioned from the first month I received it. The deposit and repairs cost as much as the laptop.This must be rectified. The years of anguish, lost papers and articles and hours of no sleep that I have dealt with can be rectified in two ways:

Firstly, by having the technical unit retrieve my information from the hard drive, since the unit is defective and cannot be salvaged without additional frustration. Even if it runs again, it will still overheat and shut down and eventually melt important parts needed for it to function. If the technical unit does not have the capacity to do this, the expense for the repair and retrieval could be covered.

Secondly, this could be rectified by replacing the laptop.
I was contemplating replacing the laptop with the orange Yoga 11s Ideapad but am extremely apprehensive about having to deal with any further technical issues or frustrating customer service interactions. It has excellent reviews and is a comparable price to what I paid for the X100e. An extended warranty would make me a lot less apprehensive.

I would appreciate any assistance that you and your team may be able to provide on resolving this situation. I will post this letter and any follow-ups that occur on my websites for my readers, as they are heavily invested in my progress toward finishing my next books and news articles. I look forward to posting a positive response and resolution online for them.

And just so you know, I have written the majority of this email on a tiny smartphone since my laptop is not functioning.

Please help me resolve this situation as soon as possible.

Thank you for your time.

Toi Scott


My ordering info:

Customer Number:xxxxx
Order:xxxxx
Order date 2/2011
S/N:xxxxx


A few of my case numbers:
[I list six different case numbers]


UPDATE:

So within 24 hours I got an email from a customer advocate in "executive customer relations"

"I write in response to your message to William Delong , VP or Lenovo service.
I apologize for your frustration and  the problem with the laptop.
I will assist with a repair  for the computer.
May I have your phone number and address?
I will call to discuss this and provide a box and label to send the unit to Lenovo’s HQ repair lab in NC.

Regards..."
I emailed back with all my contact info and he gave me a call. He told me that I'll have to pay my own shipping to their office in NC since I'm in Puerto Rico. I don't understand why a billion dollar company can't pay my shipping or figure out postage to the states (PR is part of the same postal system).  I guess Lenovo just wants me to be grateful that they are even looking into the situation. The advocate seemed exasperated and ready to go home for the day or maybe he just wasn't into dealing with my situation.

Here is his email to me after the phone call:

Please check if you can ship this to my address. If possible , please have a tracking number for it so I can keep track of the incoming package.
 

 Now I've got to find the nearest post office here in San Juan and see how much its going to cost me to send this defective laptop back to the states. Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate that they've gotten back to me quickly and that they are claiming that they will to try to fix it. Though I explicitly stated that it will just keep overheating and melting like it has since I got it. I guess Lenovo says better something than nothing....ey? I wonder how this would be addressed if I was the CEO of a corporation or a business owner. Hm.
Hopefully this will be resolved soon so I can get back to writing...
I just want to get back to writing.

UPDATE #2- 10/10/14:
I headed out to the post office just in time for a thunderstorm. Just as they were weighing my package and ringing me up, after I'd bubble wrapped all the goods (well, I wouldn't actually call the laptop "good". Good and defective) there was a clap of thunder and some serious lightening and everything turned off in the building and, of course, the machines went offline. I can't make this up. So, I had to walk back to the house with a garbage bag over myself and the laptop in a torrential downpour dodging trucks and buses driving through deep, murky puddles. You know, I wouldn't have to have gone through all this if they'd sent me a box with pre-paid postage. So...tomorrow I head back to the post office again.

I sent this message after returning from the post office this afternoon:
Mr. xxxx,
It will be $21.90 to send the laptop flat rate with tracking and insurance covering $600. I will be sending the laptop tomorrow and it should arrive next week. There was a power outage today due to a thunderstorm right as I was sending it! The estimated date of arrival is Thursday. Will I be reimbursed? If so, the easiest way I can be reimbursed is through PayPal to the email account xxxx. If a check is sent it will need to go to:
xxxxx.Please let me know if any other information is needed.

Let's hope I can get reimbursed for shipping and that things go smoothly tomorrow at the post office and with the rest of this saga. I'll keep you posted...


AGQ

Update#3 10/14/14

I received an email from the customer advocate stating that I would not be reimbursed for the $22 I spent to ship the defective and malfunctioning laptop to them.
Here is the email:

[Mx.] Scott,

Thanks for the note. Is there any tracking number?

We will repair the machine , if possible and sent it back without cost. We will not reimburse you for the shipping cost.

Regards,
xxxx

---------
So I am out of pocket postage. Maybe it is Lenovo's way of proving some point...I don't know. They already spentquitei bit on shipping over the past years because they refused to replace the unit. Wasted time, energy and money. I don't have any of that to waste. This is my livelihood so I finally took a stand.

Today the customer advocate received my laptop and during another couple emails about the system not booting and needing the log-in he said:

"I will take it to the repair lab and get back to you  in 2-3 days."

Here's hoping for good news from the lab. I'm weary of typing hundreds of emails to universities and libraries on this tiny phone. It auto-corrected genderqueer in one message to gender quest, which I dutifully forwarded nearly twenty times before noticing the sentence. I'm actually on the trustee Samsung now. Good thing it was affordable when my other ancient phone decided to cross over.

 I'll be back with more updates as soon as I hear back. I must say that I am impressed with the the timely follow-up, though disappointed with the hassle and questionable tactics of having a customer whose product is defective foot the bill for postage. Puerto Rico does not cost any more to send a package. It is part of the U.S. Postal system. I send merchandise for a living. I've been getting to know shipping from the island well. I can't think of any reason for them to have me pay postage other than to have me pay something and share the burden since they've graciously agreed to repair the machine...after hours and hours of customer service calls and years of dealing with a faulty product. Sigh. I hope it runs like a dream when it is sent back. And for more than the usual few weeks before it melts down again...

 Excuse the typos. Like I said, I'm doing this from a phone and it's frustrating editing on this tiny thing.

AGQ


UPDATE#4 10/18/2014

I got an email from the customer advocate on 10/17 saying that the the repair lab is backlogged but that he foresees them resolving the issue by next week. But wait! Just a few days ago I received an email from Vice President of Global Corporate Communications at Lenovo:

Toi,

I have been following your story online a bit… and of course apologize both for the trouble you have had with the product, and for the hassle you have faced in rectifying the problems. This is not what we would want the experience to be. Sometimes things go wrong. You have been fair – not always favorable, but always I think fair – in your portrayal of your situation. I appreciate that. We don’t ask for everything anyone anywhere says about us to be pleasant, praising or positive … but we do appreciate fair when there are issues with us or with our products.


That said, I truly am struck by how you dealt with this, and how you presented it. I’d like to thank you for that. It seems you are OK in terms of ALMOST getting back your PC. I hope that is the case. (If it is not, let me know). Unfortunately in my job I can’t see or follow every customer activity, repair, etc. So, given that, I would like to send you something else – a Yoga tablet. No strings attached, though if you like it feel free to say so. I simply appreciate the fact that despite the problems you had, you seemed willing to understand that even big companies usually are made up of mainly decent people trying to do a good job. You never made it personal, and you made your points well. So, thank you.

If you are interested, let me know, and we will handle the details.

Regards,
----

Excellent! We started a few message dialogue over the last few days in which I acknowledged that he has many other tasks as VP and said I sincerely appreciated his attention to the issue. He seemed sincere in his replies and got how this has affected my work. I accepted his offer with gratitude and also used the opportunity to take a moment to mention the LGBT* tech community and organizations who are committed to educating and economically empowering our (especially the Trans*) communities. It would be be inspiring and amazing if they became a sponsor for some of the conferences or programming that are happening like Trans*h4ck, TransTechSE, Lesbians Who Tech, The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals' Out to Innovate conference, LGBT Technology Partnership and Institute and others.

Here was my email:

Thank you for the follow-up note. I received an email that I may get my laptop back sometime next week. The repair lab is backlogged. I would prefer to patiently await the tablet pro so that I can write a product review and do a write-up of my positive experience with the resolution of my computer issues for the growing amount of tech savvy organizations and groups in the LGBT community (like trans* h4ck, LGBT Technology Partnership and Institute,TransTechSE, and many more) who are committed to educating about technology and providing economic empowerment.

My address is:
xxxx

My phone number is xxxx in case someone needs to contact me.

I truly appreciate your attention to the resolution of my computer issues, your understanding, and generosity.

With much gratitude,

Toi Scott

More info for the Lenovo marketing team about the growing LGBT tech community and perhaps possibilities to sponsor: (here I added a list of links, the links I have above this email)
I'm not sure that the links I sent will be forwarded to the proper department for potential sponsorship or partnership but here's hoping. I'll definitely keep an eye out for that and mention it if there are relationships formed.

I got to thinking, I'm not sure if Lenovo offers domestic partnership benefits to its employees. They do seem to have employment policy that addresses discrimination against trans* folks as per their 2013 Sustainability Report.

 "Lenovo is committed to providing a work environment free from harassment, including harassment based on race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex, age, disability, veteran status or any other characteristic protected by law."

I was able to find some information online from 2004 that indicated that they were looking into domestic partnership benefits and this interesting article written in 2011 about companies requiring couples to enter into a civil union in order to keep their benefits once same-sex marriage became legal in states like NY, where there are employees. But- I also found mention of company-wide diversity initiatives promoting women's leadership (Women in Lenovo Leadership or WILL) and a global LGBT employee network. Lenovo has also coordinated, sponsored and been an annual participant in some LGBT business summits addressing diversity and inclusion and LGBT leadership.

IBM (whose PCs ---personal computers--- they acquired a few years ago) received a rating of 100%---a perfect score-- for the 10th consecutive year on the Human Rights Campaign's 2012 Corporate Equality Index. Apparently they have at least one transgender-inclusive health care coverage plan, domestic partner benefits, "competency" training, accountability and resources, along with meeting a list of other criteria. (Check out Appendix A of the report for the list)

So ...maybe, just maybe these policies and culture transferred over as well if they were not already in place.

Our communities are hella innovative due to centuries of oppression and having to be creative to survive and deal with constant marginalization. Lenovo speaks about "differentiation through innovation" so we've got some stuff in common, right? Seems like a natural partnership to me. I like that the HRC Corporate Equality Index actually looks at fortune 1000 and Fortune 500 companies' actual (positive) engagement with external LGBT communities. This includes more than advertising and marketing. It includes corporate philanthropic activities ranging from financial support to in-kind donations of products or services, recruiting efforts, and public commitment to supporting policy changes (i.e. marriage equality). HRC also looks at LGBT workplace inclusion abroad for all those multinational companies on their list.

Well folks, hopefully the next update will be photos of the tablet and my fixed laptop. This has really been an interesting exercise in standing in my power, getting to truly know the companies I purchase from, and seeing my interactions and their potential impact on communities.

Post soon,
AGQ

Update #5 10/2 3/14

I received this email:
[Mx.] Scott,

The technician replaced the system board and was able to use the USB ports in the [bios]or safe mode.
This points to a problem with software corruption on the hard drive in the machine. I asked the technician  to save the existing HDD and do not remove data. He will install a new hdd, reload the unit so you have a working system.  We are waiting for the recovery disks to load the unit. When they arrive, the repair can be completed.

The hard drive with the data will returned to you so you can attempt data retrieval.

I will update you once the unit is loaded and tested.

Regards, xxxx

It looks like my laptop might be returning soon in much better condition, I hope. I'll figure out the hard drive stuff when I can. I'm glad they could salvage the machine and save the hard drive. I hope the overheating and subsequent shutdown is nipped in the bud as well. So much was going on with that tiny netbook but Lenovo's working it out and the customer advocate has kept me updated and has been professional through email.

Well...back to the lab. I'm using a friend's laptop while she's at class so I can work on these new zines and resource guides!
AGQ

Friday, September 12, 2014

Puerto Rico: My Home

It's been 4 weeks and here I sit reflecting on the last few years of my life that have brought me to heal on the island of Puerto Rico. For the last few days I've been frequenting the beach- my confidant, my teacher, my altar. There is so much knowledge hidden deep in the warm, fierce waves of the Atlantic off the northeast coast of Puerto Rico where I now reside.



In the first 2 weeks of being here, during my artist residency at Patio Taller, I contracted a (mosquito-born) virus much like the dengue fever, called chikungunya. I was already beginning to feel lonely and having a hard time getting grounded and BOOM! I started getting these immense headaches, then the next day I threw up over and over and over and then the next day was a rash that started on 2 limbs and spread to all 4 and my face. I questioned the ancestors...WHY?! Already I was trying to adjust to being so far from my created family and then I get this disease with no cure. Luckily at Patio Taller there were a number of herbs and fruit trees that had anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. The chikungunya's symptoms are arthritic. So yep! I get a double dose of joint pain with having Lupus and this virus. Luckily (?) I am already taking pills for joint pain so I believe that with my pills and the copious herbs and fruit and coconut milk and mushroom tea,etc. that I've been able to have milder symptoms than some folks that have contracted it.

In reflection, having this illness brought me full circle to my love for herbalism. Well, even before the chikungunya, while being on the grounds of Patio Taller I began connecting with the plants and making teas right away thanks to Michelle (one of co-founders of the space) introducing me to local herbs. Within the first week I met a really awesome group of herbalists and healers and they invited me to table with them at a festival on Calle Loiza. I had a good time speaking with folks about Queering Herbalism and the Herbal Freedom School Zines and even sold a few.













After tabling there I decided that Queering Herbalism 2 will be bilingual. It will have both Spanish and English articles. I am excited about the themes for this one. Stay tuned for either a series or the entire guide.

Depende...

I hope to meet Maria Benedetti soon! I'd love to be more involved with botanicultura and learn more about the plants here on the island. I've been studying up...TRUST. And I've even been making some of the folks in town remedies for the chikungunya and other ailments.

Other than my artist residency, the chikungunya, medicine making and ideas for a new Queering Herbalism, I have been meeting all types of artists, farmers, travelers, healers, visionaries and all around buena gente. Right now I'm staying in a town that is directly on the coast.

The house I'm living at is about 200 feet from the beach--the Atlantic is my backyard.




And from the front yard, I can see El Yunque Rainforest.




The other day I was torn about this situation. A paradise filled with poverty. So many people are struggling. Especially here. The struggle is so real. In Carolina I saw folks that some days just didn't eat. But I also saw neighbors who came together and shared their resources. Fruit from their fruit trees, fish that they'd caught themselves. It was true community and soooooo different than the so-called 'communities' I've known over the years. Though it is similar in sentiment to those of my created families.

You know...I've been thinking long and hard for months on this whole "community building" and "movement building" rhetoric. We need to reevaluate our definitions of community and get on the same page. If  folks aren't breaking bread together, watching each other's kids, concerned if folks are eating and housed or employed and staying out of detention centers and prisons, then it's not a true community, in my opinion. How can we build together if we aren't helping each other to survive. We need to be invested in our neighborhoods before we try to start movements in other states and countries.True, we can think globally and support our global community, but it shouldn't come at the expense of those suffering on our blocks and in our cities...state...country.

I've also been thinking that there can be no movement without community or acknowledgement of those there before us and those working toward justice at the same time as us. I see handfuls of folks trying to create movements and maybe they'll make waves but in order to have a movement we have to realize the waves before and after us. The continuity. Our generation is bad about that. We talk of standing on shoulders when I believe we really should be walking side by side with those who have contributed to our foundation. There is no hierarchy of organizing based on a new decade and younger organizers. We are not further or of higher consciousness a generation  or 2 later with only a handful of knowledge from our elders. We should be advancing together not standing with our feet on elders and ancestor's shoulders, rendering their work static and in the past. A movement moves, changes, is transformed. In Sankofa we look back to move forward but it's never static. The wisdom is in the knowing that all this is not linear. We continue to learn and grow and our past is our future is our present. Nothing is ever done. We are never 'post-' anything and it's really hard to build on a shaky foundation with just a few architects and no true community co-operation.

More on that later...

So here I am in Puerto Rico- piecing together suppressed histories. Healing myself with mango teas, papaya leaves, lemongrass, oregano brujo, and other herbs that some have lost faith in or become disconnected from. I am thankful for herbalists like Maria Benedetti and curandera historians like Aurora Levins Morales. Healing justice is something we've got to step up and own if we ever want true freedom. Western medicine...the medical industrial complex...Big Pharma....the food corporations...the 'greenwashing" of the so-called sustainability movement, they are all exploiting us and at times working in conjunction. There are a handful of companies profiting from our demise. And it's just the truth. We need to own our healing.



                      So...back to the struggle...and the importance of   healing....


I struggled for years and years- economically, with my health, etc. And now here I am, in Puerto Rico meeting such awesome people and slowing my life down so I can heal and do what I'm here to do on this journey. I began to feel a bit of guilt as I stood knee deep in the Atlantic looking at the crystal blue, see- through waves. I wondered why everyone couldn't feel this. Just stop being on the grind...and feel this. And I became even more committed to co-creating a space where that is possible. A space where people can stop hustling and just BE and heal in all the ways they need to. Whether that be growing food, building their own home, learning about herbal medicine or birth work, or anti-oppression or their own internalized oppression. I've been talking to so many friends who want to create this type of community. I don't know how far off it is from now but I'm going to keep working toward it slowly as I heal myself from this virus and this autoimmune disorder.

Please send healing energy and good vibes as I continue to transition and walk this path. I look forward to keeping you posted about my research and writings- though I can't promise the frequency just yet!

Wishing you all healing and a sense of community and belonging,

AGQ

Friday, July 11, 2014

Community Supported Artivism




Hi folks,

I'm raising funds to move out to Puerto Rico where I will spend the next year or more writing liberatory literature, developing skillshares, and using and sharing my knowledge/gifts/skills and abilities as an art activist, educator, visionary organizer and medicine maker to help our communities re-discover our power.

As a person with limited ability and chronic illness and pain and with multiple marginalized identities, I've realized that I have to navigate in this world a bit differently in order to survive. I have spent the last 5+ years pouring my life into visionary organizing, writing liberatory literature, and bringing knowledge to marginalized communities through dialog and skillshares. It is my vision to sustain myself through doing this important work while supporting the larger vision of economic justice and freedom from internalized oppression for our communities.

You can help with this vision.

Be a co-visionary and contribute to a larger vision of giving readers and the community a sense of their power through stories, skillshares, and workshops.

Please contribute any amount if able and/or spread the word by re-posting.
Go here to be a co-visionary






In healing, freedom, and solidarity,

Toi
Afro-Genderqueer
Philosophactivist

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Afro-Genderqueer at the Austin African American Book Festival Showcase

Here's the audio and transcript for Saturday's Austin African American Book Festival Showcase. I'm excited and, at least, less nervous than I was about tabling and talking about my books there. This is bigger than me, I have to remind myself. And there will be at least one other QTPOC writer and some 'allies' present. I won't be alone.

Here's the audio:
https://soundcloud.com/toi-s-1/aabookfestival2014audio

Transcript:

"Well, hello hello...

I'm Toi Scott, author of Notes from an Afro-Genderqueer 1 and 2 and Philosophactivism volume 1 and 2.

So, a little bit about the Afro-Genderqueer moniker...
Being black and queer are two defining identities that heavily influence my perspective. These identities affect how I move in this world. I struggle for visibility as Trans* and genderqueer or gender non-conforming in communities of color and as black in the LGBT/Queer community and as someone who is deeply spiritual and someone who connects with nature-based spirituality  and the spirituality of my ancestors. Essentially, every identity is the antithesis of who we've been socialized to believe should have value in this society.
I should not exist. People like me are not meant to survive. Using "Afro-Genderqueer" is my way of establishing visibility and asserting what I'm about. Who I am in these spaces and at the intersection of marginalized identities.

Though I write from a black, queer perspective- giving voice to those intersections- I also write across issues. Giving voice to common struggles like economic injustice, environmental injustice and racism, food injustice and apartheid, and the struggle to be heard and to be all of our identities- as Audre Lorde ( a black lesbian poet and author) wrote frequently about.

History is also very important in my work. In all my writings I focus on helping folks to see the history of our many struggles- the historical context. Especially institutional and structural racism and the way it affects many aspects of our lives from employment to access to food to clean air and water, healthcare and even our perceptions of Self and the many manifestations of internalized oppression (such as internalized racism, internalized sexism and internalized homophobia).

Solutions are extremely important. We can find a lot of what's wrong in this world- or with our communities in the media, online and in print. We don't need help determining our oppression or that we're oppressed- or what they call that 'foot on our neck', am I right?

We usually have an idea of who our oppressors are even if we don't understand the history (or have an analysis) behind why we're oppressed. Through my work I try not only to talk about the history of our oppression and why we are where we are now- but also to give people a sense of their power and help people to see that not only are we powerful inherently, but that there are ways to do something about the situation we're in.

Many times it starts with education and even skillsharing before action. Awareness and then organizing with folks who see a common problem. Hopefully, we're organizing toward the eradication of the actual root of that problem. We can pick leaves and branches all day long, but we have to get to the root of our crises. This is why organizing across issues is so important, though we may have different end goals- it's all about civil rights. Rights to access. Equity. The right to have our basic needs met. We all want to be happy and not suffer and struggle to survive. We all want to be heard and acknowledged and not just for our struggle.

Philosophactivism...
Being a philosophactivist is about looking at these issues, this oppression, with deep insight and then strategizing to do something about it- taking action.

The most important thing is this- I'm not the first to say any of this. I stand on the shoulders of many organizers and activists, foremothers, ancestors who didn't have these labels of 'organizer' and 'activist'. Ancestors who saw organizing, spirituality and art as one and the same. It's the same message- but just now embodied in this black, queer, anti-authoritarian...dapper...2014 package, if you will."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014

Hey, hey folks,

A lot's been going on this year and we're only halfway through. I've traveled almost every month this Spring and last winter. I dealt with a serious 'flare' in my lupus conditions throughout these same months. I doubted...I questioned...I raged...and then I found peace and clarity. A mentor recently told me that the tools are in the struggle. Somewhere in all that darkness is light. And in the past few months I've been finding balance in my perceptions of them both. I've been reflecting about my writing my organizing and my healing and how I choose to write about this trinity springing from the same root.

I said that 2014 would be a year of education for me and it has been. I've gone to the Trans* Leadership Summit, the Black Trans Advocacy Conference, allgo's QTPOC activist/organizer retreat, a permaculture design course, an Undoing Racism Training. Not to mention the hundreds of conversations I've been a part of with friends and created family, and community members- all skillshares in their own right. Realizing how fortunate I've been to be a part of so many conversations and trainings and conferences, I began to ask myself what my responsibility was to our communities and to those who couldn't be present at those tables or on those couches. It's our responsibility as people who are privileged to inhabit/bear witness in those spaces to report back. I do this through my writing. It's what I like to call neo-griot style. It's news, stories, fables, sometimes part workshop or history class but always bent on informing folks and giving people a sense of their power through this information. There's enough out there to keep us feeling disempowered. 

What are the ways that we can continue to awaken our People and provide real ways that we can thrive and get out of survival mode? Where is the pending revolution that the survival programs of the 60s and 70s were to lead to? 

I'm on a journey to heal and to figure out ways to sustain myself that are in line with my values.  Namely, continuing on my Path, being committed to personal and community healing, spiritual growth and inner transformation, respecting and sustaining the land and planet, and honoring our ancestors. 

Writing is a part of this healing. My writing is the journey. I am in the process of writing a number of books and zines. I just finished Philosophactivism 2: The queerbomb edition. You can get it here. I am also working on  Resistencia: Sangre. You might remember me going  to do preliminary research for a couple weeks last fall. Well, I got an artist residency at Patio Taller in Carolina, Puerto Rico and I'm moving to the island indefinitely to do research, full-time writing, and some much needed healing. 

Here's the video I sent Patio Taller about the work I will do:


video

I actually just purchased my one way ticket to Puerto Rico yesterday and I'm leaving the second week of August. I'm so excited. So, so excited to research suppressed histories of ancestors, revolutionaries, revolts and rebellions. Our legacy.

I have 7 whole weeks to fundraise for the first 6 months that I'm there (housing, food, medication). I've set up a co-visionary page where you can contribute to community supported artivism by:

1.subscribing to the AfroVisionary e- book club

2. contributing as a sustainer

3. coordinating/providing space for one of the workshops.

4. Donating directly through paypal (message me for information)


Every dollar of every sale, subscription and workshop is going to go toward my $5,000 goal.

Please support QPOC-centered art and visionary organizing. Like Audre Lorde said- art is not a luxury. This book I'm writing and the workshops that come out of it are all about healing and liberation for our communities. I will document queerness, healing, the African Diaspora, Taino history, radical organizing of current day activists and their predecessors, and there will be discussion about sustainability in our communities and the eradication of systemic oppression.

Please consider buying a book, subscribing to the AGQ book club, contributing as a sustainer, or coordinating/providing space for one of the workshops.

Find out how to support here:
http://www.afrogenderqueer.com/resistencia#!covisionaries/c1izm


You can also buy from here:
etsy.com/shop/afrogenderqueer

**a note on why I'm moving toward selling only e-books-
1)Shipping can be costly and I want to keep things affordable,
2) Most importantly- some of my books are 100+ pages long and I want to be environmentally conscious, as a person who is trying to live my values.What does it look like for me to be contributing to deforestation while claiming to be all about sustainability in our communities and doing workshops on environmentalism and permaculture?


Thank you so much for all those who have supported and for those who continue to support!

AGQ

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Note on my perceived anger and bitterness. Silence, Release, Conviction and Standing in my Power



After a note from a friend, I decided to respond to a woman who sent me an email through my website. At first I wasn't going to write back because of the tone and level of assumption, but then after reflection and a chat with my friend about comunity to write back. Usually I wouldn't think it necessary to address a person's assumptions about me, but I felt it a good exercise for my future as a writer who writes about issues that may make me seem "angry" and "bitter" to many folks. I feel many of us bloggers, journalists, writers and artists who use our work as a form of expression come into contact with folks who might misunderstand our work or who may write us off because of their perceptions of us. 


There are a lot of assumptions made about writers based on the tone of articles. I'd like to challenge folks to be mindful of your assumptions and expectations. A few articles and your perceptions on who that person must be does not allow for the reality of who that person actually is. We shouldn't be so quick to write someone off or assume that they are "just angry". I am glad that she wrote me though because in writing her back, I felt self-affirmation of who I am and what I'm here to do and how I'm here to do it.


M's email:

" Hey Doll, I think you are so cute but why are you so angry.I really think living in Texas would make anyone bitter.I am a Certified Herbalist,have been since 2011.I am also a Certfied Personal Trainer and soon to be Raw Chef.Adopting this lifestyle has made me a lot calmer.As a black woman I know of the pain and suffering my people had to go through.It's time to let go.It's HISTORTY not our FUTURE.Let's heal ourselves mentally...Be safe and Take care...I would love to make a donation to your site... M"


My Note back:


"Hi M...,


Thanks for taking the time to reach out. At first I was hurt by words I'd never expect to see from a person in our community...words that confirmed the stereotype of being an "angry black person." But then, I sat in reflection and thought about the fact that you may not have read many of my other writings where I talk about healing, community, and empowerment. I also thought about the fact that you may not have read about my own personal healing journey and the fact that you don't know about my committment to a plant-based diet.

I have spent much time working on ancestral healing and understanding my history and my place as an organizer within marginalized communities. There is much trauma in our communities and I believe that the mere act of letting go is not enough. Though it is key, there is much to work through spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and physically. There are patterns deep in our DNA that we must work through and release, as you've expressed. We also need to understand systems of oppression and the ways they affect us physiologically, emotionally and psychologically and what we must do to heal internally from external oppression and childhood and ancestral trauma.

Writing is a form of healing for me and I write with conviction. Some of my writing is fiery and some is soothing. I've reflected on some folks' reaction to my writing, and I believe that a lot of it is rooted in how we have been socialized to speak (or not speak) about our oppression. If we do decide to speak about it, we must sugar coat it- so as to attract bees with honey. Dr. King didn't do this. Malcolm X and the Panthers didn't do this. Gandhi and Mandela didn't do this. We have to be real and speak our Truth, regardless of what others may think of us. Many white folks and even our own people thought that the leaders I mentioned were angry and bitter and disturbing the peace. Maybe even rocking the boat.

Despite what some may think or assume, I am not a person brimming with anger. I am a person who sits in meditation and goes to annual silent retreats. I am a person who sits with plants and trees and spends time cultivating inner peace. I am a mediator, I believe in non-violence and peace activism (and understand the need for other tactics). I am a child of Obbatala and Oshun. I'm also a person who was voiceless for many years, like many other female-bodied people of color. Part of this letting go that you speak of, for me, is the healing inherent in writing the Truth and speaking out, which culminates in taking action against injustice. There is no liberation in suffering in silence. Audre Lorde speaks about that. Sometimes the "letting go" folks speak about really has to do with not holding space for the expression of our anger or sadness caused by violence committed against us. And this is disempowering and damaging. Lorde said that this silence will not protect us. This idea of not acknowledging what systems are externally causing us pain and being expected to just release emotions tied to our oppression seems anti-liberatory.

I believe there is a place for anger (and sadness). Thich Nhat Hanh talks about this. Many spiritual leaders have. Anger can move us to action, as long as we don't remain in this state for prolonged periods. It can consume and destroy us if we do so. But we can't remain in a state of bliss either. As with anything, there must be balance. We can choose how to channel our emotions toward liberation.

Thank you for your email which has caused me to really reflect on others perceptions, and in doing so, remain firm in my convictions about the work I'm here to do and the ways I do it: with compassion, conviction, and unapologetically- all the while hoping for, and taking action to co-create the healing of our communities.


Healing and Wisdom,



Toi "


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Building with Boricuas at the D'el Otro La'o colloquium in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was such an amazing experience that it almost hurts to be back. As I left the island for the third time I felt a sadness come over me. I met so many beautiful spirits at the Del Otro La'o conference who are doing phenomenal work in their communities. The experience was healing for me after all I had been going through here in Austin. I'd really been doubting the way I've been walking on this path. I was ready to change the perspective I was writing from and be more "objective" and possibly write about things that I wasn't as passionate about to pay the bills. I was ready to compromise who I've become because I thought it was necessary to my survival. How many of us have to do that on the daily?

When I got to San Juan, a good friend cooked delicious meals and showed me around Old San Juan and gave me new perspective on the city I'd always tried to avoid (because of tourists and the neo-colonial aesthetic). I also got a tour of Rio Piedras and visited a really inspiring coop called, La Chiwinha.

 The town of Lares symbolizes the struggle for Puerto Rican liberty and national identity. On September 23 of 1868, after loosing hopes of acquiring a change in the political situation of the island through peaceful means, a group of Patriots, acting under the leadership of Don Ramón Emeterio Betances, took up arms against the Spanish colonial government. Their goal was to rescue our national sovereignty and to proclaim the independence of Puerto Rico. In the mountains of the towns of Lares and San Sebastian, the cry of "Patria y Libertad" was heard. This glorious historical event is known as "El Grito de Lares", for it was in that town that the Republic of Puerto Rico was declared after the up-rising.   Sometime at the end of May or the beginning of June of 1868, Don Manuel Rojas presented to the Revolutionary Committee Centro Bravo in Lares the original design of a flag conceived by Betances himself. This flag was formed by a white Latin cross in the center, two bleu squares situated above the arms of the cross, two red squares situated below, and a white five-pointed star situated in the upper left square. This design served as the model for the first Puerto Rican flag, sewn by Doña Mariana Braceti. The cry of "¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!" and this flag became the symbols of the revolution and of the first _expression of national identity in Puerto Rico. During the Grito de Lares, two other flags were used, a red flag, and a white flag with the inscription "Libertad o Muerte, Año de 1868" (Liberty or Death, Year 1868).   It was the flag with the white cross (the Lares flag) the one which became the symbol of the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement until the end of the 19th century. This flag was an adaptation of the flag of the Dominican Republic, the first Spanish speaking country in the Antilles to gain its independence from Spain. Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances’ family on his father’s side was of Dominican descent. The flag symbolizes the bond of the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement with the Dominican struggle for independence.
To Lares, Holy Land, we must enter on our knees.  - Don Pedro Albizu Campos


The town of Lares symbolizes the struggle for Puerto Rican liberty and national identity. On September 23 of 1868, after loosing hopes of acquiring a change in the political situation of the island through peaceful means, a group of Patriots, acting under the leadership of Don Ramón Emeterio Betances, took up arms against the Spanish colonial government. Their goal was to rescue our national sovereignty and to proclaim the independence of Puerto Rico. In the mountains of the towns of Lares and San Sebastian, the cry of "Patria y Libertad" was heard. This glorious historical event is known as "El Grito de Lares", for it was in that town that the Republic of Puerto Rico was declared after the up-rising.

Sometime at the end of May or the beginning of June of 1868, Don Manuel Rojas presented to the Revolutionary Committee Centro Bravo in Lares the original design of a flag conceived by Betances himself. This flag was formed by a white Latin cross in the center, two bleu squares situated above the arms of the cross, two red squares situated below, and a white five-pointed star situated in the upper left square. This design served as the model for the first Puerto Rican flag, sewn by Doña Mariana Braceti. The cry of "¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!" and this flag became the symbols of the revolution and of the first _expression of national identity in Puerto Rico. During the Grito de Lares, two other flags were used, a red flag, and a white flag with the inscription "Libertad o Muerte, Año de 1868" (Liberty or Death, Year 1868).

It was the flag with the white cross (the Lares flag) the one which became the symbol of the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement until the end of the 19th century. This flag was an adaptation of the flag of the Dominican Republic, the first Spanish speaking country in the Antilles to gain its independence from Spain. Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances’ family on his father’s side was of Dominican descent. The flag symbolizes the bond of the Puerto Rican revolutionary movement with the Dominican struggle for independence.



Back in August I got to know Santurce (a gentrifying neighborhood in San Juan)  a bit better and I got to hang out with some folks who were all about food and environmental justice, anti-authoritarianism, and economic justice and sovereignty. I also visited Mayaguez and couchsurfed with an agroecologist who had a business helping coffee growers in Central and South America improve the quality of their coffee and business and sell internationally.

This time I visited Mayaguez in a different capacity. I was there as a presenter and panelist at an LGBT colloquium/conference that's been happening for 5 years at the university. I had no idea how life changing and affirming this gathering would be for me. That second day while sitting on the race, racialization, and queer sexualities panel with the awesome and aspiring Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (poet,author,educator,activist), out gay boxer Oscar "Fenomeno" Cruz, and activist and journalist Dania Lebron- I began to see that this trip had greater significance than I could have ever imagined. Here I was in Puerto Rico with Afro-Boricuas talking about our experiences with blackness and its intersection with our queerness. This doesn't happen a lot folks. There is much silence about racism and anti-blackness and colorism on the island though it is entrenched in every day interactions and in the makeup of certain areas of the island. Loiza is where a lot of black boricuas live on the island and it is one of the most impoverished towns.
Race, Racialization and Queer Sexualities Panelists



Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro y yo


During the coloquio there were  plays and music performances, films, workshops on queer writing, presentations on transwomen in latin america, a panel on sexuality and polyamory and many, many more. Our "Austin contingent" presented on different projects and activism they've been a part of for reproductive justice here in Texas. They gave a much broader definition of reproductive justice (yes, more than abortions) and talked about the importance of expanding it from the white, hetero-, cis-female, middle class narrative  and centering experiences of transmen and women, folks with disabilities, and queer and POC communities. You can check out some of the presentation here.

What was so moving and powerful was the committment that each of the presenters,panelists, and attendees had to the LGBTQI/queer movement and to the expansion of our organizing and activism beyond just the right to marry. The folks at UPR were really committed to using their positionality in the university and/or as artists and activists to further the movement and be involved with intersecting movements happening not just on the island but internationally.

I met Rashidi Williams from Nigeria who is doing incredible work within the LGBT movement there with the organization Queer Alliance Nigeria which also partners with the Queer African Youth Network, the first lesbian‐led LGBTQ regional organization in West Africa, with the aim to become the hub for LGBTQ youth activists and youth-led movement building. It  was humbling to share dialog with him about how to incite people to join the movement and organize across issues. I can't wait to learn and share more with him. Building internationally is necessary for the revolution we seek to create.

And speaking of resistance and revolution- (when am I ever not?) I've decided to make my presentation on Putting Down the Master's Tools into a zine, so be looking out for that in the next few weeks. Prezi just isn't my thing but an e-zine I can do. Sharing about the origins of my activism, my coming into my various identities, and the ways that I've chosen to walk this path as an artivist and a visionary organizer felt so fulfilling and healing during my talk. To see people truly moved after sharing my sometimes painful stories and the work I've been honored to be a part of makes me feel that I must continue with this work. Even when I want to walk away because I feel that it's not financially sustaining me. Even when I feel wounded, misunderstood or alone. It's not really completely my decision to make. This work is bigger than me. That's what I continue to find out as I present, do workshops, or go on tours. And traveling and meeting so many beautiful spirits helps me to see that I'm not alone after all. And I know my place now- my place is showing our people a sense of their power by helping our communities reclaim their suppressed histories and knowledge. My place is helping our people find ways to heal, envision, and create  our own autonomy and, if not a world  free of oppression and marginalization based on our identities, at least communities that are free.

I hope that you'll find ways to heal yourself, your family, your communities. Remember that liberation starts with something as seemingly small as feeding yourself healthy food and taking care of your mind, body and spirit. If we aren't whole, neither are our communities.

Healing and Solidarity,
AGQ