This week: Formation, Jennicet Gutiérrez, and SNAP

February 7, 2016

Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. “We Slay, Part I
Zandria Felice Robinson: “Formation is a different kind of resistance practice, one rooted in the epistemology of (and sometimes only visible/detectable to) folks on the margins of blackness. The political scientist Cathy Cohen talks about activism at these margins, the kind of deviance-as-resistance built and cultivated at the margins of respectable blackness. Formation, then, is a metaphor, a black feminist, black queer, and black queer feminist theory of community organizing and resistance. It is a recognition of one another at the blackness margins–woman, queer, genderqueer, trans, poor, disabled, undocumented, immigrant–before an overt action. For the black southern majorettes, across gender formulations, formation is the alignment, the stillness, the readying, the quiet, before the twerk, the turn-up, the (social) movement. To be successful, there must be coordination, the kind that choreographers and movement leaders do, the kind that black women organizers do in neighborhoods and organizations. To slay the violence of white supremacist heteropatriarchy, we must start, Beyoncé argues, with the proper formation. The proper formation is, she contends, made possible by the participation and leadership of a blackness on the margins.”

2. “Jennicet, Uninterrupted
In BuzzFeed, Meredith Talusan profiles Jennicet Gutiérrez, an undocumented transgender Latina woman who interrupted President Obama during a speech at an LGBTQ Pride Month reception in June to speak out against the treatment of trans prisoners in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers: “’How could I not interrupt and be disrespectful,’ she said, ‘when our lives are being interrupted daily?’ She then listed the ways in which trans women’s lives are regularly interrupted — by medical gatekeepers, by family, by their workplaces, and by people who inflict violence upon them — emphasizing that her own action at the White House paled in comparison to the ways that transgender women like her, especially those who are undocumented, are impeded at every turn.”

3. “The Rebellious Life Of Mrs. Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks would have been 103 this week. This new website from Jeanne Theoharis and Say Burgin chronicles Parks’ six decades of activism, “from Scottsboro, to her NAACP work in the 1940s-1950s challenging rape and legal lynching, to the ways their organizing with the Montgomgery bus boycott and Highlander Folk School was criminalized, to her decades of work in Detroit on prisoner defense and opposing police brutality and the criminalization of young people.”

4. “For More Than A Million Food Stamp Recipients, The Clock Is Now Ticking
“SNAP benefits — formerly known as food stamps — have been tied to employment for two decades. Unless they are caring for children or unable to work, adults need to have a job to receive more than three months of benefits. But after the recession began, that three-month cap was waived… Now, as the economy is improving, the time limits are being reimposed — by federal policy in some areas, by state legislators in others. For 22 states, the time limit returned in some or all of the state at the beginning of this year. It’s the largest reinstatement of the three-month cap since the recession.”

5. “What I’m Reading: Mychal Denzel Smith
Melissa Harris-Perry reviews Mychal Denzel Smith’s new book: “Mychal Denzel Smith answers the pressing but unasked question: what would happen if all those black boys felled by bullets had a chance to make mistakes, read books, fall in love, hone skills, take new paths, and grow up? The story is fully and unflinchingly Mychal’s, and because Mychal is so distinctively self-aware, so intellectually invested, and emotionally raw, it cannot simply stand in as a generic tale for all the lost black boys – except that they, too, would have had stories entirely their own to tell if only they had had a chance to write them. We owe it to them, and more importantly to ourselves, to read Mychal’s book and render visible what we would rather forget. On Trayvon’s birthday, I read Mychal’s story, because Trayvon did not get to grow up to write his own.”

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