Monday, October 27, 2014

Dorothea Lange's Impounded Photos

"In 1942, shortly after the U.S. entered World War II, President Roosevelt issued Executive order 9066, which declared areas of the country military zones. This led to the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps. The U.S. War Relocation Authority hired photographer Dorothea Lange to document the relocation process in the Pacific Coast area. Although she was against it, she felt it was important to record what has happening.

“The military didn’t know anything about Dorothea, essentially. They were looking for a photographer and here was someone who was in California. She’d already worked for the government. And had a reputation as being a very hard-working, responsible photographer,” explains Linda Gordon in a film excerpt from American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.

“What the military wanted from her,” she continues, “was a set of photographs to illustrate that they weren’t persecuting or torturing these people who they evacuated.”

via PBS - watch the film here.

Her work was impounded, and can be seen in full in this book.

All photos by Dorothea Lange.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blood & Honey Icons: Biosemiotics & Bioculinary: A Book Review by Donna Snyder

Blood & Honey Icons: Biosemiotics & Bioculinary by Danica Anderson, Connie Simpson and Erin Hilleary (Dec 28, 2012)

I bought this book to support work with South Slavic survivors of war and war crimes in the Balkan conflicts of the late 20th Century. For my money I got a complex book that ably serves many roles: a socio-political history of that specific conflict and related prior wars; an anthropological study, particularly of the women there, its mythology, its cultural artifacts from pre-historical times to the present, and the Slavic immigrant community of Chicago; a primer on reading tea leaves and coffee dregs; a set of iconographic images to use in self-discovery; a book of recipes of traditional ethnic food; and a lesson on healing practices useful for victims of violence and trauma anywhere. All that in one book of 208 pages.

The first section of the Book, subtitled Biosemiotics: The Pedagogy of South Slavic Female War and War Crimes Survivors [and] Female Social Collective Practices is written in the language of academic social studies, a study of how the bodies and neurobiology of South Slavic women have been affected by threatening and frightening episodes expressed through archetypes. The technical jargon makes this section somewhat dense, but not impenetrable, due to the ample and vivid illustration of scholarly concepts with lucid and compelling examples from Danica’s own childhood as a member of the South Slavic immigrant community of Chicago. Her father, a rural man, and her mother, who had been interred in a World War II prison camp, immigrated to the United States, where Anderson was born, although she did not learn English until second grade.

Danica Anderson

Anderson’s experience as the child of non-English speaking immigrants mirrors the life of many immigrants where I live on the border of El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Chihuahua, people whose families live here but surrounded by the culture of the country left behind. As the children of immigrants living on this side of the border, once Danica learned English, even as a small child she had to interpret for her parents and other elders. Her close involvement with the immigrant community resulted in her own emotional experience of the traumas suffered by those older than she, as well as providing her direct experience of the culture’s female social collective practices. The South Slavic traditions were inculcated into her heart and life, particularly the kolo, the ritual and social circle dances she learned as a child and which she draws upon in her healing work with trauma survivors, not only victims in the Balkan wars but also elsewhere in the world such as Haiti, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and Uganda where other great catastrophes and atrocities have occurred and people have suffered the affects of constant war.

The book itself reflects the kolo, the circles and repetitions of the dance, the stories and images repeated in various sections in such a way as to integrate memory with understanding in the reader. In addition to the linguistic, anthropological, and neurobiological discussion in the section on pedagogy, the book has a section of artistic images, icons taken or adapted from prehistoric art and later folk tales. These lavish images can be downloaded from the kolo website, along with the text of the book, and instructions are provided on how you can use the images to find insight into your own history and personal growth. This section is truly beautiful, and yet conveys complex data of many millennia of life in the Balkan region, which can be translated and integrated into a universal consciousness.

Each icon accompanies a description of its cultural source and its relationship to the current situation of the widows and children survivors who populate the region. Each of these modern stories are moving, even horrific, yet are shown in the context of movement from trauma to an indigenous form of treatment and healing. Each icon is also associated with a recipe for traditional South Slavic ethnic food, with an emphasis on locally grown, natural foodstuffs, agriculture, and husbandry. These recipes mirror the current upsurge of an interest in local products and self-sufficiency in the permaculture movement here in El Paso, which has close ties to the political advocacy and cultural work of La Mujer Obrera, the region’s garment worker labor organization. I find these parallel connections between women’s cultural and political work and the movement to buy locally grown and natural foods fascinating, and not at all likely to be coincidental.

Because of Anderson’s focus on the healing of the widows and victims of mass rape and other military violence and terrorism, there is also a focus on women’s traditional ways of finding community. In South Slavic culture, one common practice is the reading of tea leaves or coffee remnants after sharing a hot drink and sweet bread. Consequently the book provides a section explaining the practice and providing instruction. In the Mexico and US borderlands, many women practice indigenous healing, from curanderas, who use herbal remedies, to sobadoras, who practice a fierce and effective type of massage therapy, to brujas, women who practice indigenous magic or witchcraft. While some grandmothers read tea leaves, others use eggs in a variety of ways.

The book is divided into overviews, summaries, icons, cup readings, and bioculinary traditions, as well as lengthy endnotes and an index, reflecting the scholarly practice of Anderson, who is working on her PhD while continuing her international work and writing.

Reading this book, I became enamored of the imagery from the South Slavic culture throughout its existence. I developed a keen admiration of the folk ways of the region’s women, the kolo and healing practices, the passing of memory from mother to daughter, both in their homeland and in their immigrant communities. I found hope for healing, not only for the women and children of the Kolo, but for our own sisters and brothers of Juárez, the families of the murdered women and girls who are victims of the internationally notorious femicides, and the entire Juárez community wrecked by years of narco wars and military violence. I hope others here and everywhere will buy this book and share its lessons so that we can all move into a future of health and peace.

-Donna J. Snyder

Blood & Honey Icons: Biosemiotics & Bioculinary: The Pedagogy of South Slavic Women War, by Danica Anderson, Connie Simpson and Erin Hilleary (Dec 28, 2012) is available in paperback and in Kindle editions through Amazon.

Versions of this book review were previously published in the El Paso Times and Return to Mago.

Bio of Donna J Snyder

Snyder is the author of Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal, released by Chimbarazu Press in 2014. In 2010, Virgo Gray Press published her chapbook, I Am South, which will be reissued in Fall of 2014 as a perfect bound book. NeoPoiesis Press will publish her collection, Three Sides of the Same Moon, poems about Goddesses, crones, and oracles, in 2015. Her work has been published over 100 times in journals, anthologies, and ‘zines. Currently, Snyder’s poetry or book reviews appear often in VEXT Magazine and Red Fez, and she is a contributing poetry editor for Return to Mago. She founded the Tumblewords Project in 1995 and continues to present free weekly writing workshops in the borderlands, where she lives in El Paso. Snyder worked as an activist attorney until recently, advocating on behalf of indigenous people, immigrant workers, and people with disabilities. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Who Was Rosa Parks?

I enjoyed reading this with my daughter. She had read some other picture books about Rosa Parks previously, but this one went into much more detail. She enjoyed learning about how the other people - like Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fit into her story. She was also captivated by the story of 15-year-old (pregnant) Claudette Colvin, who also refused to give up her seat to a white passenger but is often left out of HIStory.

The unfairness of living as a black person in the South sparked anger in my daughter. She did not like how she was treated as a woman either. She was dumbfounded that Rosa did not get more credit for all she had done throughout her life.

"The woman who had refused to give up her seat helped change the world wither quiet courage. Some people thought Rosa did not get up because she was tired or because she was old. Rosa said no. Those were not the reasons. "I was not tired physically,' she said, "or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

Who Was Rosa Parks? By Yona Zeldis McDonough / Illustrated by Stephen Marchesi
Amazon description: In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. This seemingly small act triggered civil rights protests across America and earned Rosa Parks the title "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement." This biography has black and white illustrations throughout.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A New Glossary for Crete: The Power of Naming and the Study of History by Carol P. Christ

The words we use affect our thinking. In the case of ancient Crete the repetition of the terms “Palace,” “Palace of Knossos,” “King Minos,” “Minoan,” “Priest-King,” and “Prince of the Lilies” shape the way we understand history–even when we ourselves know these terms are incorrect. We must engage in “new naming.”

Ariadne. May have been a name of the Goddess of pre-patriarchal Crete. The ending “ne” signifies that Ariadne is not of Greek or Indo-European origin and thus predates the later Greek myths.

Ariadnian. The name I have given to the Old European pre-patriarchal culture of Crete, from arrival of the Neolithic settlers from Anatolia c.7000 BCE to the Mycenaean invasion c.1450 BCE. Arthur Evans named the Bronze Age (c.3000-1450 BCE) culture of Crete “Minoan” after King Minos of Greek mythology, son of Zeus and Europa, husband of Pasiphae, father of Ariadne, whose gift of the secret of the labyrinth to Theseus led to the downfall of her culture. Evans assumed that Minoan Crete was ruled by a King.

This image I call “Ariadne Dancing” could become the new “icon” of Ariadnian Crete.

It could and should replace the “icon” of the “Priest-King” Arthur Evans’ “imaginatively” reconstructed and named the “Prince of the Lilies.”

Once we remove the crown which probably belonged to a Sphinx, the figure’s white color and athletic body suggests it was intended to portray a young female bull-leaper leading a bull.

A-sa-sa-ra. A name found in pre-Indo-European Linear A libation formulas and thought to be a name of the Goddess. Its similarity to the names Asherah, Ishtar, and possibly Isis, led to the suggestion that this name was brought to Crete c.3000 BCE by new settlers who also brought the bronze smelting technology. However, it is possible and not unlikely that the name came to Crete with the original settlers from Anatolia, especially since unlike her counterparts in the Middle East, the Ariadnian Goddess was not subordinated to a Father God.

Could Asasara be the name of the Snake Goddess?

Bronze Age. Defined by the smelting of bronze, but not yet iron.

Ida-Mate. A name found in Linear A, the undeciphered non-Indo-European language of Bronze Age Crete, thought to be a name of the Goddess as Mother Ida, Moutain Mother of Mount Ida.

Ida Mate appears as twin peaks or breasts when viewed from the Sacred Center of Phaistos.

Incubation Chamber. A small underground room entered by a series of steps in an “L” shape. The chamber could made dark or light through the use of shutters on an upper level, and it would have been possible to look down into the chamber from above. There was usually a small square ritual area in front of the steps leading down. May have been used for initiation, prayer, sacred dreaming, healing, or even giving birth. Found in the Sacred Centers and in smaller buildings. Arthur Evans called these rooms “Lustral Basins” (bathing chambers) despite the fact that they have no drains.

Indo-European. A group of languages originating in the Russian steppes north of the Black Sea, including European languages (except Basque which is pre-Indo-European and Hungarian and Finnish, which are Finno-Ugric) and Sanskrit. Indo-Europeans invaded Europe in waves from the north, beginning c .4400 BCE. Greek-speaking Indo-Europeans known as Mycenaeans established fortified strongholds in the Peloponnese of Greece by c.2000 BCE. Indo-Europeans domesticated the horse; their culture was patriarchal, nomadic, warlike, and not highly artistic; they worshipped shining Gods of the sky who were reflections of their bronze weapons. The Indo-European Mycenaens invaded Crete c.1450 BCE; their language,Linear B, is an early form of Greek. A different Indo-European group invaded India c.1500 BCE.

Labrys. Double wings, a symbol of the bird Goddess.

Matrilineal. Identity and property pass through the female line, often through the mother clan.

Matrilocal. Daughters and sometimes sons live with their mothers, remaining in the maternal clan for life.

Matrifocal. Societies that honor mothers and values associated with motherhood—love, generosity, and care.

Matriarchal. Scholars define matriarchies as societies where women “ruled” and conclude that they never existed. Heidi Goettner-Abendroth redefined matriarchies as societies that honor motherhood as their first principle. Matriarchies are: 1) generally in the early stages of agriculture with land held in common by maternal clans; 2) economically egalitarian with differences of wealth redistributed through gift-giving; 3) politically egalitarian with power shared by mothers and uncles and in participatory democracy; 4) matrifocal, valuing love, generosity, and caring as the highest values for both sexes, and usually viewing Earth as a great and giving Mother.

Neolithic. New Stone Age, referring to the invention of agriculture (c.8000 BCE in the Middle East) and the change from gathering and hunting to farming. Scholars “concede” that “woman the gatherer” invented agriculture and the other new technologies of the Neolithic, pottery-making and weaving—but do not correlate the invention and probable control of new technologies to female power in society.

Old Europe. The name given by Marija Gimbutas to the pre-Indo-European, pre-patriarchal Neolithic cultures of Europe c. 6500-3500 BCE. Old European cultures were settled, agricultural, artistic, peaceful, egalitarian, matrilineal, probably matrilocal, matrifocal, worshipping the Goddess and celebrating the powers of birth, death, and regeneration in all of life. Crete, at the southern end of Europe, was the last flowering of Old European culture.

Sacred Centers. The name I have given to the complexes called Palaces by Arthur Evans. The Sacred Centers were the ritual heart of the surrounding communities. They were community gathering places and provided communal storage areas for a portion of the harvest and workshop space for the creation of sacred objects from clay, stone, bronze, silver, and gold.

Sacred Horns. Celebrate the importance of cows, bulls, and oxen in Ariadnian society. Horns like bones outlive the flesh and may become a symbol of death and regeneration. The sacred horns symbol echoes twin peaks or breasts of mountains and the upraised arms of women in ritual.

As new names take root in our minds, new interpretations of history will occur to us. As I was writing this blog, something shifted in my mind. I had always “thought of” the ancient Cretans as “individuals” who “for some reason” brought a portion of the harvest to be stored in common. Duh, it just occurred to me that if the land was held in common by the maternal clans then communal storage of the harvest requires no explanation.

By Carol P. Christ, shared with permission from the author. Originally published on

Carol is looking forward to the fall Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete–$150 discount for the next two women to sign up for the fall 2014 tour– Carol can be heard in a recent interviews on Voices of the Sacred Feminine, Goddess Alive Radio, and Voices of Women. Carol is a founding voice in feminism and religion and Goddess spirituality. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. Follow Carol on GoddessCrete on Twitter.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Universities won't be a safe place for women until they're a safe place for feminism - by Glosswitch.

"The work of feminism ought to be cumulative, self-correcting, self-critical, repetitive, doing whatever is necessary to make women’s lives safe and valued. Instead, it seems to me we are stuck in an endless cycle of reinvention, hurling more and more ideas onto the scrapheap in the hope that they, and not actual oppression, turn out to be the problem we were dealing with all along." - Glosswitch, excerpt from Universities Won't be a safe place for women until they're a safe place for feminism

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Women Are Persons

"Today in the year 1929, the law acknowledged for the first time that the women of Canada are persons.

Up to then, women thought they were, but the law disagreed.

The legal definition of persons did not include women, so the Supreme Court had decreed.

Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Edwards and Louise McKinney drank tea and conspired.

And they trounced the Supreme Court."

~Eduardo Galeano, Children of the Days

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homage to Harriet Tubman

"By Any Means" by Alyscia Cunningham is included in the "Homage to Harriet Tubman" exhibition, as apart of permanent collection at The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture also known as the Black History Museum in Baltimore MD.

Homage to Harriet features a range of media, including photography, paintings, sculpture, and video. Artist Tina Martin Wyatt, a descendant of Tubman, celebrates Tubman’s legacy in her mixed media work. Photographer David Allen Harris honors his ancestor, Frank Wanzer, who was an Underground Railroad conductor and contemporary of Tubman. Also on view are works by Bruce McNeil, Alyscia Cunningham Photography, and filmmaker Pierre Bennu, among more than 15 other artists who explore Tubman’s historical, cultural and spiritual impact.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Who Was Harriet Tubman?

My daughter and I read this together last week over the course of 2 days. It's a relatively short, but powerful read.

Harriet's bravery stuck out the most to my daughter. She put her own life at risk many times, even as a very young woman. Her courage was remarkable. The author did not try to hide the unpleasantness of her life, including when she came back to rescue her husband and she found he had married another woman. While this fact shocked my daughter, I think it's important information for young girls to absorb in the midst of Barbie and Disney movies.

Harriet was her own heroine. And, she saved thousands of men and women despite her personal limitations.

The book did a very good job on putting a human face on the horrifics of slavery. Like most eight-year-olds, she was aware that slavery existed, however, prior to reading this book, I don't think she had any understanding of what life as a slave actually entailed.

My daughter was also thrilled to see how Harriet's path crossed with Susan B. Anthony's, who we just finished reading about it in another book.

We fell in love with Harriet. We both cried when she died at the end.

This was truly a great read, even for grown ups.

Amazon Description: "Born a slave in Maryland, Harriet Tubman knew first-hand what it meant to be someone's property; she was whipped by owners and almost killed by an overseer. It was from other field hands that she first heard about the Underground Railroad which she traveled by herself north to Philadelphia. Throughout her long life (she died at the age of ninety-two) and long after the Civil War brought an end to slavery, this amazing woman was proof of what just one person can do."

Who Was Harriet Tubman? by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Author), Nancy Harrison (Illustrator)      

“I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.”
-Harriet Tubman         

Sunday, October 12, 2014

No Fear! Suhair Sibai, Syrian-American Artist

Suhair Sibai was born in Syria in 1956. Through her work, Suhair explores the concepts of identity and the Self, using the female form as her preferred medium. According to Suhair, who was educated as an artist in the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles, the level of multiculturalism and diversity to which many of us are exposed to these days has the potential to cause the discord, displacement, and division of the Self.

As a result, as Suhair posits, ‘Ideas and ideals are mingled and morphed; metaphors are understood and misunderstood according to context and audience; cultures cross and clash. All the while, the authentic Self – if there is one – is via distortion, alteration, and compromise, made and unmade, struggling for accessibility to popular culture’.

Accordingly, Suhair strives to determine who we are as individuals, and how we came to end up in our current predicament. Using emotionally-charged colours, Suhair intentionally provides a contrast to the melancholic narratives, which are intended to ‘create alienation among audiences’. As well, the relatively large sizes of her works are meant to engage her viewers, and ultimately, by combining the emotional elements of her work with their own ‘biases’, Suhair’s audiences are able to experience something totally unique.

Suhair currently resides in Los Angeles, where she works as an artist full-time, and exhibits her work. In addition to LA, Suhair’s work has been received with great enthusiasm elsewhere around the world in Europe and the Middle East.

via Suhair Sibai Art

No Fear!
by: Suhair Sibai

Friday, October 10, 2014

We are not worthless.

“Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worthless.”- Dr. Myra Pollack Sadker

Dr. Myra Pollack Sadker (1943-1995) pioneered much of the research documenting gender bias in America’s schools. From grade school through graduate school, from inner city to rural towns, she uncovered not only blatant gender discrimination in textbooks and sports funding, but also subtle patterns of inequities that shaped the lives of girls and boys. She is deceased, but the Myra Sadker Foundation now carries on her work. For more information about this admirable woman, go to: source cited:


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The time has come....

“The time has come to put woman back into the history books, to readmit her to the human race. Her contributions to civilization have been greater than man’s and man has overlooked her long enough.” – Elizabeth Gould Davis

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Colonial State of America: In a new book, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz unearths our bloody origins.

Westward expansion was neither as peaceful nor angelic as John Gast’s 1872 painting ‘American Progress’ made it out to be. (George A. Crofutt/US Library of Congress

"The idea of the United States as a peaceful democracy at heart, occasionally pulled into overseas wars, is a comforting verse in the national gospel. It’s part of the origin story told in high school textbooks: A fledgling nation threw off the yoke of British colonial rule and settled the West to become the world’s indispensable democratic nation. Sporadic imperial fits notwithstanding (e.g., the invasions of the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq), the soul of America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” as John Quincy Adams once said.

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (Beacon Press), Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz dismisses this story as “patriotic cant”—a piety recited by President Obama and his predecessors to cover up the country’s violent colonial DNA. A retired California State University professor who is part Native American, Dunbar-Ortiz served as an expert witness for American Indian Movement activists put on trial following the deadly 1973 protest at Wounded Knee.

Culminating her nearly half-century career as an activist-academic dedicated to justice for Native people, her concise and disturbing new book dismantles culture national myths to reveal the country’s true foundation: a land grab that required the government-sponsored erasure of millions of indigenous people. Before the start of European colonization, an estimated 15 million Native people lived in what is now the United States. Their descendants number 3 million today, spread across 500 different federally recognized nations. A lack of immunity to European viruses accounts for much of the devastation, but not all. Rebuking the trope that Indians were doomed to die from epidemic diseases, Dunbar-Ortiz writes: “If disease could have done the job, it is not clear why the European colonizers in America found it necessary to carry out unrelenting wars against Indigenous communities in order to gain every inch of land they took from them.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Women’s role in U.S. history should be honored on the Mall by Elizabeth Dole

A view of the National Mall in Washinton D.C. (Marvin Joseph/THE WASHINGTON POST)
Excerpt from The Washington Post

"Today there exists an opportunity to right the course of history. In May, bipartisan legislation to form a privately funded congressional commission to study and recommend a building site for the National Women’s History Museum passed the House by a landslide vote of 383 to 33. I am hopeful that the Senate will follow suit. The achievements and contributions of women, as individuals and collectively, are woefully missing from much of U.S. history. Is it any wonder that women throughout the nation have struggled to “lean in”? If the critical and indispensable contributions that women have made to our nation were woven into mainstream U.S. history, they would already be in.

Our children learn about Einstein, Edison, Franklin, Whitney and many other male scientists and inventors in elementary school. Where are the women? Millions of dollars are being invested in projects and programs designed to encourage girls and women to pursue careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. Extensive research has been conducted into why more women have not chosen this route, and one of the findings that comes up again and again is the lack of female role models.

Read the full article here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

"The People of the Storm God" - by Layne Redmond When the Drummers were Women

“The culture of these invaders was fiercely patriarchal. They worshiped a violent storm god who resided not on earth but in the heavens. Unlike the indigenous worship of the Great Mother, tied to the natural world and the miracle of birth, their religion was firmly centered on man. The gods existed to help him establish his rightful dominion over nature, animals and womankind.
Aryan war tactics included massacre and rape. They attempted to impose their cultural values on their victims in similar fashion, by forcibly marrying the local goddess to the storm god. This entailed usurping the powers of creation that gave the goddess her authority. The result was some new and rather startling creation myths: Eve created from Adam’s rib, Athena springing from Zeus’s head, male deities masturbating the world into existence. “-Layne Redmond, When the Drummers were Women