AMPLIFY(HER): Call for Submissions

AMPLIFY(HER) is the first-ever zine by and for undocumented Asian women (including trans and gender non-conforming folks) residing in the United States. AMPLIFY(HER) is a collaborative project between RAISE (Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast) and DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center.


AMPLIFY(HER) is currently seeking art, prose, poetry, short stories, photographs and/or mixed medium submissions from formerly and currently undocumented Asian women. Deadline submission is May 6, 2016. We offer $100 honorariums for each selected work.


Our full submission guidelines (with translations in Korean, Tagalog, Chinese, and Hmong) can be found here: http://amplifyher.submittable.com/


Dadaism at Athen’s Flicker Bar

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down at Flicker Bar and being transported one hundred years back in time to Switzerland, to the Cabaret Voltaire. It was part of ICE’s (Ideas for Creative Exploration) commemoration for the centennial of Dada, which had its start in 1916 in Zurich. It featured a collection of bizarre performances, all trying to recapture the idea of Dada, which is no easy task.

The night opened up with composer Luciano Chessa reading “futuristic noise poetry” through a loud speaker, all in Italian. I looked around the room to find everyone just as confused as me, and I began to realize that that might be the point of the whole thing. So I settled in for a ride I knew would be strange. Following Chessa’s reading was a Dada performance of the nativity, in which the actors from the theatre department made strange noises and played with flashlights from behind a tarp that stretched completely across the stage. It featured a Joseph and Mary that spoke entirely in gibberish, and three wise men, who spoke entirely in French. All of the action could only be seen in the shadows reflected on the tarp. Later in the night a man read, and then ate, his completely incompressible poem before throwing the spit wads at another man doing interpretative dance next to him on stage.  Also of note was a piano performance composed entirely by pulling out the same number of notes from a hat as there are letters in the definition of ‘academic.’ If that doesn’t make much sense to you, it really shouldn’t, but trust me, it was surprisingly good.

Despite not being truly Dada, the highlight of the night came with a performance by a traditional Balalaika orchestra out of Atlanta (a similar one once preformed at the original Cabaret Voltaire). The three peace set was comprised of a tiny guitar, a gigantic bass (the musician’s pick was the size of his hand), and an absolutely beautiful accordion. The sound was beautiful and hard to describe, and I’d recommend giving it a listen.

What I realized as the night unfolded was the importance of the Dada movement, which sprung up in New York and Switzerland around the same time as a response to the chaos of World War I. As the poetry editor for this year’s issue, I appreciated just how unstructured the whole concept of Dada is and how it pushed artistic expression further than it had ever gone before. It created a landscape in which structure did not have to be apparent, or even there at all. The influence of the movement can be seen wide and far in more avant-garde artists like Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Boroughs, to more popular names like the Beatles and Monty Python. Dada allowed art to become something completely different than it had been before, and I for one am glad of that.

(For those interested more in Dadaism, I’d recommend reading the book Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century by Jed Rasula, who helped put on the show at Flicker Bar)

Dada Centennial (part 3) will be on February 25th at the Flicker Bar at 8pm. The event is free. This is the last installation.


Janet Mock: “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More”

Overall, I enjoyed reading Janet Mock’s memoir Redefining Realness. The title is interesting because the phrase, “redefining realness,” is the focal point of many controversial issues including race and gender identity, if you really think about it. Society likes to determine what is considered the “real” version of something in order to categorize it more efficiently. The book’s title is not negative though; in fact, it made me think about what the “realness” that Mock refers to. The term “realness” is being used here to talk specifically about what constitutes a “real woman,” since Janet Mock is a transwoman. Obviously Janet Mock is a real person, gender aside, but what makes someone value one type of woman over another? Generally in society, a woman’s value is determined by her biological gender, however, this leads to a lack of recognition among the trans community, which can be overt of more covertly hidden within our own subconscious prejudices.

The most interesting part about the memoir, besides the varying horrible events Mock encountered has a child, were the Hawaiian cultural elements that were interspersed throughout the book. Mock’s first real encounter with another transwomen was her friend Wendi. One day, Wendi come up to her at school and asked if she was mahu. As a native to Hawaii, Mock explains that mahu is a Hawaiian term for “people who embody both male and female spirit. In fact, Mock’s Hawaiian upbringing and supportive family contributed greatly to her smooth transition, but it was not without many trials and tribulations.

My only qualm with the book was Mock’s somewhat judgemental perception of other trans women who physically appear to be “female” and those who do not, since it may not be as easy for others in transition to physically appear “female.” Mock explains the privilege that comes with being able to “pass,” even if that privilege seems a bit ironic. I highly recommend the book. Mock’s experience shows that creating your own passage in life can come with detours, distractions and hurdles. Still, Mock overcame a lot in her life and should be admired. Furthermore, a her passage is not only travelled by herself, but other trans teenagers, male and female. “Redefining Realness” is Mock’s story, however, it serves as an experience to be shared with everyone in hopes of producing action and change.

-Kara Ogilvie


“Other People Situate Us”: Abderrahmane Sissako in Atlanta

A gazelle darts across the wall. Then a child’s face, running, panting, sing-praying. Then a scattering of armed jihadists across the desert landscape. Gazelle. Child. Men with guns. Gazelle. Child.

Then darkness.

And then, slowly, muted light. We are in the theater again.

Abderrahmane Sissako, arguably the most famous contemporary film director from the African continent, takes the stage with deliberation, stretching out the silence.

“To talk after a film like that,” he says in French, “is a form of violence.”

He pauses. Half the audience grimaces, the other half waits for the English translation.

“But I am here to meet you and I want to meet you, and so.” He exhales. “I will talk.”

I have come to Atlanta for the rare opportunity to view Mr. Sissako’s films Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono) and Timbuktu alongside the director, whose works have played at the Cannes Film Festival, won multiple César Awards, and received an Academy Award nomination.

The two films this weekend display the breadth of Sissako’s interest and skill. Waiting for Happiness, set in Nouadhibou, Mauritania, explores life in a liminal space between technology and tradition, home and away. Timbuktu depicts the arrival of jihad to the title Malian city in its range of human appearances, dividing attention between the powerful and the powerless.

Now, onstage, Sissako stares straight forward, and the space around his mouth crinkles – a smile, perhaps. His mannerisms are either minutely calculated or utterly idiosyncratic. I sense that we observers are not supposed to know.

In his films as in his person, precision and possibility coexist.

“Film needs to capture chance,” Sissako tells us. In practice, he blurs the line between “acting” and ordinary life. He sources actors on location, often using their own names as character names. Sometimes, he provides only slight structure for improvised movements and words.

Call it a radical approach, but to Sissako it reveals a basic humanity. “When you manage to trust people,” he says of his quasi-improvisational style, “Magical things can happen.”

This focus on a transcendent human “ordinariness” is a function of Sissako’s self-identified universalism. I’m skeptical of universalism in general for its ability to avoid essential conversations about the realities of power and privilege, but Sissako almost convinces me, using the poetic sentiment of the universal in the service of a political message.

The media only makes noise about people who resemble its audience, Sissako reminds us. His films, in their attempts to show the world that people in Mali and Mauritania look and act like they do, demand equal media attention.

It sounds like a noble goal, but doesn’t this approach still cater to the system that Western media has put in place? Is this attempt to highlight cross-cultural similarities a compromise of identity to win attention? What would it look like for a film to demand the interest of Western media in spite of difference?

These screenings take place as part of the 2015 France-Atlanta celebration of cooperation between (you guessed it) France and the American Southeast. The French consulate, represented by a man who looks like he stepped into the room off a Paris fashion runway, proudly announces its financial support, in a gesture both generous and neocolonial – France claims ownership over the art of its former colonies in the same breath it selects it to promote “French culture” abroad.

One has to assume that Sissako, who has folded himself into a half-cushion of the onstage sofa, is aware of these forces at play. When asked whether he situates himself as an African filmmaker, he keeps his gaze straight ahead. “Filmmakers don’t situate themselves,” he says, his tone flat. “Other people situate us.”

Critics and viewers treat the African filmmaker with “intellectual laziness,” he continues, assigning him a “continental identity.”

If I’m not careful, I think, I could be one of those “other people.” It’s easy for me to criticize others without problematizing my own viewing. When I acknowledge the sympathy I feel in response to the images onscreen, I think of Susan Sontag’s cautionary words in Regarding the Pain of Others:

“To set aside the sympathy we extend to others beset by war and murderous politics for a reflection on how our privileges are located on the same map as their suffering, and may – in ways we might prefer not to imagine – be linked to their suffering…is a task for which the painful, stirring images supply only an initial spark.”

What she’s saying, it seems, is that films don’t have to end – shouldn’t, in fact. If images spark, we viewers kindle vital flames of introspection and critical conversation.


[If you’d like to start that conversation now, leave a comment! I appreciate thoughtful critique and honesty.]

-Hannah Fenster

Brazil Struggles With Crack Epidemic...RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 10:  Drug users gather beneath an overpass in an area known as 'Cracolandia', or Crackland, in the Antares shantytown on December 10, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. According to the Economist, recent studies have shown Brazil to be the world's largest crack market, with 1-1.2 million users. The use of crack has   rapidly expanded and become a nationwide epidemic largely due to Brazil's proximity to cocaine-producing countries and an increase in purchasing power within the country.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Brazil’s Real Story: A Summary of “Cracolandia”

I started reading Cracolandia by Chris Feliciano Arnold with no knowledge of what the title meant nor the implications it held for how the story would unfold. It’s a story about a place in Brazil called Cracolandia (Bahia) and the high poverty and crack use in that area. I questioned if this was a good story to blog about because of its content and the fear someone might say, “Well yes it’s good you blogged about a culture that’s not your own, but why couldn’t it have been a more positive story?” I picked it because I genuinely enjoyed reading the story even with its faults.

Though I don’t speak Portuguese, I enjoyed the Portuguese words that were thrown in the story, making it feel more authentic.The author does not want its reader to forget where the story is taking place. It required me to put forth more effort than I might have normally while reading a short story. I had to look up unknown lexicon and often-times Google Translate didn’t do the trick! The words being used were more colloquial rather than words someone learning formal Portuguese would be able to reocgnize. With this language barrier (unless you know Portuguese) I could not supplant my own setting or vision of the characters for the intended because there was a persistent reminder that I was in Cracolandia. This is a sign of good story telling; especially if it’s done without isolating the readers.

The story is about a teenage boy, Othoniel de Fogo, his sister and her boyfriend. The author uses the word pazhino to describe the three of them. Paz meaning “peace” and hino meaning “anthem” or “hymn”. I couldn’t find a definition of the compound word but contextually it seems to mean a reallyclose group of friends/people. “Those three were a pázhino—together, noon or night.” The story centers around Othoniel, but the narrator is another person in the community who knew Othoniel and his friends.  The narrator says that a lot of the young people in the neighborhood don’t do much and are cheira-colas or glue-sniffers but that, “But those three wanted to make their mothers proud.”  Othoniel and his friends go to school sometimes but they often have to find ways to makemoney on the street. Othoniel becomes known for being able to juggle coconuts or cocos while Edvaldo (the sister’s boyfriend) would sometimes do a blind kid routine to wrangle up some dollars from the tourists.

The story is sad. It’s about 3 kids who are having to survive in a very broken society. They are surrounded by drugs and poverty and don’t have much choice but to sell themselves, either as entertainment or in a more literal sense in order to survive. Cracolandia is a real place in Brazil and can be read more about the article from NPR below.

The article is a bit old (January 2013)  but it’s relevant because the 2016 summer Olympics are being held in Brazil. Not that I care much about the summer Olympics but a country wants to project the best image possible if it’s hosting an event the whole world is going to be watching.  This relates to the story because it talks about how specific areas would be cleaned out (have the poor removed bascially) and then allow only certain kinds of entertainment; the entertainment that appealed to the tourists and the people with money. It’s interesting the effects drug use and poverty have on the human mind and how easy it is for upper class people to ignore the problems of the lower-class.

If you’re interested in this topic and would like to look at more, here are some suggestions from the author, Kara Ogilvie.

City of God/Ciudade de Deus: a movie about poverty in Brazil, however, is very violent. Ciudade de Deus is the name of a slum in Rio de Janiero.

The original Cracolandia Story can be found here.

A related NPR article (mentioned above) can be found here.

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.

Passage & Problems for Syrian Refugees

With this year’s theme of Passage in mind, it’s hard not to think on the migrant crisis in Europe that has been big news since this summer. Floating around in conversation and in the media we hear about the Syrian refugees seeking asylum throughout the EU. The more sensational stories rise to the top, like the German news station photo shopping Angela Merkel in a burka, or the Hungarian camera woman tripping a man carrying his child; but these don’t get anywhere close to telling the ‘true’ narrative of the situation. It is important not to get caught up in the distractions. Stories about Alan Kurdi, whose body washed ashore in Turkey, or the 71 immigrants who died in an abandoned truck in Austria, serve as reminders of the ‘collective failure’. The shear amount of people who have been dislocated since the continuing civil war in Syria and the destabilization of the region is staggering. It is estimated to be over nine million, and people often have trouble conceptualizing numbers over 100. On top of that, getting straight facts is hard considering the evolving nature of the situation.  What is clear though is that with the further involvement of the two super powers in the Iraqi and Syrian region these areas will not be safe or stable for a long time, and that a response is necessary.
The media’s focus so far has seemed to be on how different EU nations are handling the crisis, along with their internal bickering. Xenophobia and racism seem to be the buzz words. France’s Foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, labels Hungary, with their razor wire fence and tear gas, ‘un-European’. Yet, at the same time, France has also used tear gas on some of the refugees there, when the country tried to prevent entry to Britain through Calais. The Scandinavian countries, and Germany are being lauded for their response accepting the most migrants long before quotas were agreed upon by the EU.
What is interesting is that while Europe is taking in hundreds of thousands of migrants, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are taking in millions. The likely reason for the media’s inflation of the situation in Europe is xenophobia. People are afraid of the ‘other’ that is coming into Europe in large numbers. It shouldn’t be necessary to explain the negative portrayal of Muslims in western media and how this is likely influencing the situation. Some news outlets are not afraid to sensationalize the entire situation, suggesting that Europe will face countless problems from accepting these refugees. The arguments are not tied in numbers or demographics, but rather cultural bias. Some news stations have even gone so far as to suggest that ‘terrorists’ are part of the population seeking asylum in the EU. The bias against these refugees is seen clearly in the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s words, who said in September, “I think we have a right to decide that we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country.” The xenophobia is disguised by other European leaders on economic arguments, but this falls apart when one looks to Germany, who has taken in the most migrants and has pledged to take in even more.
Though there is still disagreement and debate within Germany, their approach is likely to work in the long term, even though there is a large initial cost. Because Europe’s population is aging, a large influx of young labor is exactly what they need. Germany has the foresight to realize this, and even though these reasons might be seen as ‘selfish,’ it shows that the reasons to not let these people in are founded on weak argument. It makes sense to accept the migrants both economically and humanitarianly. Any country still fighting the EU’s decided stance on the situation is going to find it harder and harder to argue against it as Germany’s response is shown successful. Of course this is a strong statement, but if the racial and religious makeup of the refugees was not an issue for some Europeans, the whole situation might not be labelled as a ‘crisis’ for Europe.

By Morgan Curtis


Belle: Ownership and Feminism

For the past two weeks, my 18th century literature class has been talking about the slave trade and how this issue is portrayed in film. Our first screening on the issue came in the form of Amazing Grace (2006), directed by Michael Apted. The film follows William Wilberforce as he struggles with Parliament to end the British transatlantic slave trade. With the help of various important British men and Equiano, a freed slave who wrote about his experience as a slave and successfully published and sold his autobiography. Interestingly, most of my peers had previously seen the film at church events. Equiano played a major role in ending the slave trade, however the film depicted him as a sort of mascot for the issue and focused more on Wilberforce’s economic and political conflicts. In comparison, Belle did a more successful job in portraying the disturbing moral issue of ownership.

Belle (2013), directed by African American female Amma Asante tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed girl born into slavery and later taken in by her great uncle in England, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. The film brings light to the issue of slavery by focusing on one case, the Zong massacre. Lord Mansfield, being the Chief Justice, must rule if the drowning of hundreds of slaves was an act of insurance fraud (I won’t spoil his decision). Asante uses this case as a way to expand the issue of slavery to include topics of feminism. Elizabeth Murray, played by Sarah Gadon makes the point that “women are property of gentlemen.” Dido, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, transitions to a woman, only to find that her race, despite the fact that she lives with the wealthy Murray’s, affects who she marries, what she does in public and if and when she can eat alongside the Murray family. Elizabeth and Dido act as sisters and friends, but both of them know that they live by different standards. It is not until John Davinier, played by Sam Reid, is introduced, that Dido begins to be self-aware and learn about her ancestor’s mistreatment. Davinier also introduces Dido to the case of the Zong massacre. Through Dido and Davinier, Asante highlights the moral issue of the slave trade, rather than the economic issue prevalent in Amazing Grace. John and Dido argue to Lord Mansfield that one can not put a price on any human life or death.

In contrast to John, The Ashford brothers, played by James Norton and good ole Tom Felton, represent the how men perceived African Americans, and women in general, during the time period.  Oliver Ashford (Norton) labels Dido as “exotic” and explains to her that she has “privilege” by living with the Murray’s. On the other hand, Divinier criticizes the fact that the family won’t let Dido eat dinner with them when there is company. In true Malfoy style, James Ashford (Felton) confronts Dido in an intense scene, straddling the line between desire and shame in his harsh treatment of Dido.

Expanding on Oliver’s point of Dido’s privilege, I think that it is very misconstrued. Oliver sees the fact that she’s an African American woman living with the Murray’s as a daughter, not as a servant, and he considers that to be privilege. However, she’s held to very different standards compared to Elizabeth in regards to marriage, her dowry, her up bringing, etc. Dido has been isolated from her history. Dido explains Lord Mansfield’s parenting skills as wanting her to “see no ill,” as if ignoring the fact makes everything better. Although realizing that she is different and oppressed elicits a very emotional scene of Dido vigorously rubbing her face in front of the mirror, it is also contrasted with a similar scene where Dido looks at herself in the mirror and smiles, as if she knows what she wants and finally knows herself.