Browse Author: Spectra Speaks

Carol Film Review Spectra Speaks

CAROL Film Review

#RoadtoOscars… Reflections on CAROL.

I must confess — I have been avoiding this film. There was something about the wistful trailer overlaid with piano music that signaled the kind of drama I would resent for its resonance, particularly given all the crap I’ve had to deal with in Nigeria. It seems it doesn’t matter what time period or continent I escape to; girl meets girl can never just happen in peace.

In Carol, the film’s subtle narrative is sporadically interrupted by reality, be it sudden jolts back to the present from a female utopia with the intrusion of men’s voices; or stunning street scenes that the camera can’t seem to hold in focus. And while watching two women wade innocently towards their curiosities makes for good melodrama, the world all around them, made simple and nonsensical in juxtaposition, brought my own discouraging circumstance to the forefront.

I recall an evening my partner and I went out to dinner for a semi-business meeting. One of the men began to hit on me hard, and then put his hand on my thigh. I winced, and after a few minutes of my courage failing, asked him to remove it. I felt my partner freeze next to me, then reach for my glass of water, from which she took a long slip, most likely to keep from screaming. Loud music played in the background. The guy removed his hand laughing, then rubbed my shoulder in parting, almost the way you would pat a dog on the head for bringing back a ball. And our bond broke a little, in that moment, as we shared the dessert he had paid for, and then again, as the two girls who sat across from us chair-danced in sync. No one would know.

In Carol, much like being in love with another woman in Nigeria, the building and breaking of a forbidden intimacy in between the tiniest cracks of conversation, lingering moments, and the invisible parts of the mundane carry all the weight, and yet yield so little satisfaction. Girl meets girl and chases a happily ever after that seems to be constantly around the bend, and yet somehow, always out of reach, or dangerous, or both.

Cate Blanchett gives an absolutely breathtaking performance (as always). And Mara Rooney, though I don’t quite get the Supporting Actress nomination (more on that later), captures the curious innocence that so many of us, now fully bloomed rogues, can recall from our early days awkwardly navigating the thick hegemony of heterosexuality all around us, burdened by a latent, yet gnawing dissatisfaction, and armed only with a gut feeling that we could be loving, laughing, and f**king so much harder. Incidentally, Cate and Mara’s on-screen chemistry is refreshingly convincing, a testament to the two actors, and delicate direction by Todd Hayes.

The Verdict: I’m not sure this film will stay with me the way the “Saving Face,” or “Pariah”, pioneers in queer POC cinema did — two white ladies trying to figure out their lives and damning everything in the process, though typical of mainstream lesbian dramas, ain’t all that relatable on the surface. Yet, it’s hard not to appreciate the deference the film grants so many of us, especially those like me, worlds away, who have had to conjure and re-conjure love for each other, and ourselves, within the confines of society’s outdated definition of “normal.” CAROL’s courage to imagine a world in which girl meets girl could end with a happily ever after, though predictable, is perhaps exactly what we need to keep fighting for the same in ours.

What is Your Real Name Define Real Name

The Politics (and Privilege) Behind “Real Names”

This news story about a woman who used pseudonyms to create a Facebook account in order to protect herself from online violence, and then was ‘outed’ via their perfectly legal but aloof “real name” policy really got to me today.

Perhaps it’s because for some reason this week, so many people have been asking – often in rude, dismissive, invalidating ways – what my “real name” is. Well, here’s my answer…

 

Message in a Bottle

Define Culture

So… despite my tumultuous relationship with poetry, I recently committed to participating in ‪#‎NaPoWriMo‬ (National Poetry Writing Month), during which the challenge is to write a poem a day. I wrote something earlier this week that I’d like to share.

I’ve been a recluse about my writing lately so posting this publicly is part of my attempt to get back into the practice of sharing (rather than spend so much time lamenting all my writing’s imperfections). I hope to return to the practice the self-love I preach so often, and more regularly celebrate even the smallest of victories, like the fact that this piece of work didn’t need to be perfect to be done.

Note: I’d like to say a special thank you to one of my favorite poets, Idalia, for gently yet firmly nudging me to finish it and to the amazing friends I have who sent me the affirmation I needed to amass the courage to share it. 

Define “Culture.”

Attempt #1:
a simple roll of the tongue;
salt in the wound of history’s affair
with Spanish conquerors
that didn’t burn fast enough in the sun
to save nations from genocide,
or mothers from marrying
their daughters to the wrong ones;
if we define culture to be
a simple roll of the tongue
then I guess the murder of
a millenia of bloodlines
is justified as language preservation.

Attempt #2:
Culture is a cautionary tale;
If superstition were a weapon
then Africa would be considered
a nuclear bomb;
we would never have welcomed strangers
with cocoa beans and open arms
the way our government still does
to D-List celebrities and modern day missionaries, while
rich white housewives on the verge of a nervous breakdown
search for salvation in the smiles of orphans on sale.
If we defined culture as a cautionary tale
told by pale narrators who lack introspection,
perhaps we would have paid attention
when our grandmas told us
they could feel their left eyelids twitching
at the expectation of visitors upon our shores;
perhaps we never would have wished the mermen
who called us moors, “safe passage”
in our native tongues
as they staked their claim
and carved their names
into our homes.

To define culture…

Attempt #3:
A synonym for “Home”
Neither a place or person,
these days, home is a political position
– the privilege of passing through
unrecognized as
an intruder on lands built on the backs of your forefathers.
But to the generation whose parents
cast us across the Atlantic,
raised captive in colonizer lands as cultural orphans
who never learned
to speak their native languages,
– home offers compromise
and forgiveness
to those with even less familiar roots.
A synonym for home…
only ever understood
in absence or disenfranchisement,
in dearth or gentrification,
in silence,
in loss,
in ostracization,
like a place that could never exist
for two queer brown women
and their extended family members
to settle down,
raise a kid,
or join a yacht club.

Attempt #4:
To claim culture
– to testify survival
of a massacre,
a genocide,
a raping of nations.
to dispute discontent,
or belonging
to feign knowing despite
the frenzy of stabilizing
a leaking boat
Culture is a usurper,
a lost turn
adrift from harbor
as fleeting as seagulls
in ocean light
and as slippery
as oysters
in search of
an anchor.

Do you know where you’ve come from?
Or how far you’ve sailed from harbor?
What glass containers of sea water keep your memories of belonging afloat?

 

African Women Entrepreneurs in Tech Lean in Social Media Week

African Women Entrepreneurs in Tech “Lean In” for Social Media Week

Last year, for Social Media Week in Lagos, I organized CODE RED, an event that convened African women entrepreneurs in tech and media. The experience of watching women connect across sectors, exchange ideas, share experiences, and swap business cards was magical, inspiring, fulfilling. For this year’s Social Media Week (themed “Upwardly Mobile”), I hoped for a similar space and, so far, the program does not disappoint.

The first panel I attended – Face the Facts: Lessons from Leading African Women Entrepreneurs in Tech – was described as “a discussion on practical strategies for women and tech companies seeking more women talent,” featured a refreshing mix of women tech professionals and entrepreneurs, including:

Though the panel was only an hour long — which definitely impeded a deeper (and, honestly, more authentic and vulnerable) conversation about key challenges faced by women in the tech industry in Nigeria (another post, another day) — each of the panelists managed to offer the audience at least one nugget of wisdom acquired from successfully (and unsuccessfully) navigating their careers as women in male-dominated spaces. I’ve shared a few of them below, with a few of my own… Enjoy.

1. Tech and “Masculine” Aren’t Synonyms, No Need to “Man Up”

The FutureSoft CEO’s accounts of having her interest in technology constantly questioned (and, at times, dismissed) due to her very feminine gender presentation was poignant, and refreshing; I’ve seen way too many women entrepreneurs dress more “masculine” in an attempt to dissociate themselves from femininity’s (ill)perception as frivolous, unsubstantive, and less intelligent, than stand up to this harmful stereotype. (Funny, since I am yet to hear about women with more masculine gender presentations enjoying sexism-free careers, but hey…). Fact: Whether in heels, power suits, gender masculine or gender non-conforming ensembles, African women founders and CEOs are on the rise all across the continent.

2. Succeeding in Tech Isn’t Just About Knowing How to Code

Of all the women on the panel, the co-owner of Tranzit Nigeria (a local taxi app) seemed to be the most tech savvy (to me at least). Perhaps that’s why most of her remarks focused on the importance of developing other non-tech skills necessary for business. She encouraged women interested in careers in technology to adopt the habit of constantly assessing and investing in the development of broader skill sets. Her comment underscored an oft overlooked fact about tech businesses, which is that they are still businesses; women in tech need to acquire – or at least familiarize themselves with a range of skills (such as people management, finance & accounting, marketing etc) to grow, and ultimately succeed.

3. Knowing (Enough Of) Your Shit Is Enough

African women entrepreneurs in tech should be wary of imposter syndrome (an irrational worry that they won’t measure up if they don’t credential-up). Every single one of the panelists mentioned developing deeper technical expertise as a necessary path to success. I don’t necessarily disagree, but, in my humble opinion, there was almost a little too much emphasis placed on education and credentials, and not enough on raw talent, or even experiential learning. It makes sense that in order to combat the gender discrimination rampant in the tech industry, many women place more emphasis on the acquisition of technical skills and credentials higher than their male counterparts, focusing mainly on their shortcomings over their accomplishments. “You need to know your shit to compete” is often the mantra, and justification for passing up valuable opportunities. I offer an alternate: “Know (enough of) your shit, then go for it.”

4. Create a Support Network

Almost all of the panelists shared their positive experiences reaching out to other women – and men! – for advice and/or ongoing mentorship. The founder of Women in Tech Ghana expressed deep appreciation for a prominent long-time mentor in her life, and both the CEO of FutureSoft and Founder of Ella.ng cosigned the importance of seeking both emotional and financial support from friends and family. But just as a strong inner circle can be crucial to staying motivated, so can colleagues and acquaintances be to staying grounded. The co-owner of Tranzit Nigeria reminded the audience that reaching out to peers for constructive criticism – even if they happened to be outside one’s industry – could lend invaluable perspective.

Check Out These Other Awesome Women-Friendly #SMWLagos Events: 

The full schedule is available on Social Media Week Lagos’ website here.

Spectra Speaks on White Allies Racism Fergueson

Dear White Allies: Stop Unfriending Other White People Over Ferguson

Earlier today, as I was scrolling through my news feed, I noticed  declarative statement after declarative statement from a number of my white friends either threatening to, or professing that they’d just unfriended several of their white friends based on “wrong,” “terrible,” “racist,” (read: conflicting) views about the grand jury’s decision to not indict the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown – an unarmed Black teenager – in Ferguson.

If you haven’t been following the story, start with this Jon Stewart recap here.

With each “unfriend” post, I felt myself getting angrier and angrier, wondering how on earth white people (who understand racism) disconnecting from white people (who don’t) was supposed to help anyone.

As a Black person enraged by the blatant racism in Ferguson, I felt involuntarily benched by my emotions; I was too angry, sad, etc to engage on the subject period, let alone with white people who felt differently and required that I engage “objectively.” This stood out to me as a moment in which white allies could come in really handy. So, I shared the post below on my Spectra Speaks page in an attempt to articulate my thoughts and propose an alternative to disconnection: empathic engagement with the “other side” on my behalf.

The post was well received and felt too important not to share on my blog, so here it goes…  After reading I encourage you to share your thoughts — on being  a good ally, on facilitating critical conversations, on connecting with unlike minds — by commenting below.

———-

Dear white allies, this is not the time to “unfriend.” This is the time to “engage.”

This is the time to remember that the outrage you feel can in no way match my own and therefore you have way more emotional capacity than I do to talk some sense into the “other side.”

This is the time to remember that your “solidarity” does not render you powerless; in fact, the entire point of your solidarity is to lend the power you DO have to folks who do not.

And by the way, this is the time to remember that you do have power.

It may not feel like much – your empathy may temporarily make you forget that you’re not like Brown, you’re not “one of us” and that in fact you are still one of “them” – but please try and remember how USEFUL you could be should you decide to be brave enough to speak up to the folks more likely to hear YOU than me.

I’m seeing one too many white people bragging about defriending other white people. I don’t need your condolences. I don’t need rash actions that absolve you of the responsibility of facilitating hard conversations with folks I will never be able to reach.

I need you to step up in a major way, and leverage the connections you DO have to address ignorance with conversation and interrogate white privilege with compassion. Because I will not do this. I cannot do this.

My rage as a black person witnessing yet another moment in the endless cycle of racism in the US prevents me from engaging in “level headed” conversations with people who see this terribly unjust Ferguson ruling as just another news story to banter about at the water cooler.

But you, don’t do me any further injustice by claiming to stand in solidarity with me while really (really) excusing yourself of the hard work that is engaging with fellow white people on this issue. Don’t hide behind “being a good ally” without actually doing any work beyond merely echoing my cries of pain, anger, and soul wrenching disappointment.

You’re a socially conscious white person? You don’t share *their* views? It’s disappointing to hear your friends say racist things? You don’t wanna talk to them? I hear you. I really do. But if you don’t speak to “them” who will?

Who will?

(Hint: Not me.)

So before you squander the opportunity before you in an attempt to demonstrate your solidarity, ask yourself which choice would be easier: unfriending the guy who attended your birthday party last year because he posted support of the non indictment OR responding to his post with an open ended question to begin a (likely long and strenuous) conversation?

What would a good… actually, forget good… What would a useful, valuable, effective ally do?

We need you to be brave, now more than ever. Stop with the Unfriending. Speak up.

And to those of you doing this already, thank you thank you thank you.


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