Women Who Read Are Dangerous!

(left to right: Dr. Shamika Mitchell, Natalie N. Caro, Laura Alvarez, Carli Braithwaite and Lorraine Currelley) Saturday March 4, 2017

I had the pleasure of participating as a panelist for Women Who Read Are Dangerous by Stepfan Bollmann. The book focuses on artist’s fascination and interest with women who read.  What is it about women reading that has captivated hundreds of artists over the centuries? Stefan Bollman’s Women Who Read Are Dangerous explores this popular subject in more than sixty artworks-drawings, paintings, photographs, and prints-by iconic artists such as Henri Matisse, Edward Hopper, Suzanne Valadon, and more. We expanded the framework to include sex, race, class, and gender within a historical context. I was joined on the panel by my fellow panelists Natalie N. Caro, Dr. Shamika Mitchell, Carli Braithwaite and our host and curator Laura Alvarez.

Dr. Shamika Mitchell stated during the discussion that women were allowed to read within strict social constructs, and gained access via the Bible. Historically reading women were wealthy, books were expensive and only the wealthy could afford to purchase them. Carli Braithwaite gave a Powerpoint presentation based on Stefan Bollmann’s book prior to the start of the discussion and referenced how these women showed up throughout history.

Who are these dangerous women? Dangerous women are relatives, friends, colleagues, partners, etc. They’re women who dared and dare to challenge the status quo. Women who with threat to life and limb spoke out and speak out against injustices. Women who were and are yesterday’s and today’s pioneers and warriors. Women who refused and refuse to keep silent, knowing  their silence and our silence would not and will not protect them nor us.

Powerful moments included panelists and our host Laura Alvarez sharing personal stories. Stories centered on generational struggles to realize dreams and goals. Our common thread, the similarities that shaped and grew us.  We have successfully created paths for ourselves becoming role models for women and girls. We are duty bound and stand on shoulders of those who sacrificed for us. Everyone stressed the importance of having strong support systems and being one.

My presentation was centered on bringing my female ancestors into the room. This discussion could not happen without their represented voices. Living in critical times demand our courage. We are called to take advantage of all opportunities to share information, and speak truth. This is how we heal, This is how we grow. This is how we breathe. This is how we strategize for coping in a society that threatens to crush us, when speaking truth to power. During the discussion I pointed out enslaved Africans were not given access to books, not even the Bible. Enslaved Africans were maimed or murdered if caught reading.

Here are some names of powerful and brilliant African American women artists. Women creative’s who used and use their art in protest. Names many will not recognize nor their contributions to the struggle for equality and liberation.

I speak the names of dangerous women:

Sculptor Betye Saar challenged historically negative stereotypes of African Americans. She began working in assemblage in the late 1960s. She
uses the medium to express heritage. In 1972 she created The Liberation of
Aunt Jemima. It addressed race and gender by subverting a racial stereotype and turning it into empowerment.

Printmaker & Sculptor Elizabeth Carlett, “I’m not thinking about doing things new and different. I’m thinking about creating art for my people.” She’s known for fighting racial equality in the arts and her expressionist portrayals of Black culture in the 1960s and 1970s. Her famous Sharecropper, created in Mexico shows Catlett’s activism for African-Americans and females in the South.

Sculptor Augusta Savage, began sculpting at a young age, using her red clay soil from her Florida backyard. She attended Cooper Union in the early 1920s and was commissioned to make a bust of W.E.B. Du Bois for the
Harlem Library.  A key artist in the Harlem Renaissance, Savage was important for fighting both racial and sexual prejudice throughout her career, becoming a social activist and encouraging the work of others while nurturing her own  career in the
US and Europe. One of the most famous works, Gamin (French for “street urchin”), depicts what may be her nephew Ellis Ford or a homeless boy.

Conceptual Artist Adrian Piper has studied art and taught philosophy at
renowned institutions across the globe. Piper was a trailblazer in introducing the concepts of gender and race into a feminist art movement
and has integrated drawing, street performances, and costumes into her art. Her 1981 drawing Self Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features has a
permanent home in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the
Brooklyn Museum.

19th Century Antislavery Women
Journalist/Anti Lynching Activist , Ida B. Wells
Charlotte Forten (1784-1884)
Margaretta Forten
Harriet Forten
Sarah Louise Forten
Angelina Grimke
Educator, Sarah M. Douglas

20th Century Dangerous Women
Fannie Lou Hamer
Poet/Author/Activist, Audre Lorde
Author/Activist/Quilter/Mother/Publisher/Editor, Cheryl Hudson Willis
Poet/Author/Nurse-Healer, Nella Larsen

I speak the name of the woman who birthed me
and gave me all.

Mother/Writer/Dancer/Activist/Community Leader, Annie Daniels Currelley

I speak the names of women who influenced me.

Godmother/Community Activist, Beulah Gardner
Nurse/Journalist/Activist/Educator, Alma John
Godmother/Community Activist, Lorrayne Younger
/Community Activist/Educator, B. Taylor
Mother/Community Activist, Helen Currelley
Historian/Author, Paula Giddings

I’m honored to be one of these dangerous women along with my fellow panelists. A
panel of women who understand we have nothing to lose but our chains!

Our audience contributions of shared experiences and questions enhanced the overall discussion. We were enriched by their added voices. Thanks, Laura Alvarez and the NYC Department of Parks and St. James Recreation Center. Thanks, to my fellow panelists
for sharing their experiences and insights.

©Lorraine Currelley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

“Jazz In Jail”A Celebration & Book Launch for Louis Reyes Rivera

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Congratulations Blind Beggar Press and Barbara Killens Rivera on a great book launch and celebration! January 8th brought together a standing room only audience of family, friends and colleagues, to celebrate Jazz In Jail, the visionary work of Louis Reyes Rivera. The event venue was Sistas’ Place. Sistas’ Place is a welcoming and comfortable space known for its educational and cultural events and gracious staff. A great place for artists and community residents to gather. The celebration started with opening remarks and a warm welcome by Blind Beggar Press, co-founder and publisher Gary Johnston who was the co-emcee with yours truly Lorraine Currelley, Executive Director for Poets Network & Exchange. Excerpts from Jazz In Jail  were read by prominent poets, all long time friends and colleagues of Louis Reyes Rivera. The first group of poets to read were Jose Angel Figueroa, Tongue of the Vile & Convention’s Call,  E.J. Antonio, The Womb of Night & Concerto for Sonny Carson,  Americo Casiano, When Word Got Out & A Sextet Wailing and Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Visiting Jail & Jazz Free Now.
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A musical interlude proceeded the second set featuring trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, who was joined on stage by the Jazzoets. The Jazzoets were phenomenal and jammed with some of the poet readers, throughout the event. They were met with resounding applause, shouts of approval and some attendees arose from their seats to dance.It was an honor to emcee for the second set. The second set of readers were poets Jacqueline Johnson, Witness: Mother G Flat Blues & Sultry Blue, Layding Kaliba, Musicians on the Run & Rap Swing,  Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Beneath the Maze & En Viejo San Juan, Atiba Wilson, That Haunt of Freedom & Concert for the Yard, and Baba Ngoma Hill, The Voice of Jazz & Witness: The Expert.  Barbara Killens Rivera, came to the stage to give closing remarks. She shared her gratitude, reflections, and thoughts. She was later joined on stage by her family, poet readers, the Jazzoets, Gary Johnston and yours truly.

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What people are saying about Jazz In Jail.

Jazz in Jailis his gift, one of this century’s great works of art.  His poetry jabs and swings, cuts and caresses, moves and schools.  And he emerges the victor, liberating our music from the corporate chains and cages that have trapped our people, body and soul.  Jazz Libre!” – Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (2009)
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Books are available $19.95 plus $ 3.00 shipping from:
Blind Beggar Press
P.O. Box 437
Wiiliamsbridge Station
Bronx, NY 10467

Thanks, to poet readers, Jazzoets, family, friends and all those who came out to celebrate Louis Reyes Rivera, “Jazz In Jail. Thanks to Carolyn Butts, Editor African Voices Magazine for sharing the event with your readers and subscribers. Thanks, to everyone who purchased books, books were sold out. Thanks, Edward Currelley for covering the event for The Currelley Literary Journal and Blog.

Photo Credits Edward Currelley and Lorraine Currelley.

©Lorraine Currelley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 
 

Needed a White Women and Men March of Allies

White Women and Men allies on the front lines earnestly addressing supremacy, oppression, privilege, racism, genderism, all of the isms and poisons. Needed are White Women and Men allies speaking to their families, friends, and neighbors. Their silence equals my death! My question is, will their sons and daughters bodies  be met with growling dogs, water filled hoses, harassment, guns, brutality and murder? The known terror People Of Color meet with daily. Will they be attacked for demanding
their rights?

I was added to the  FB group (formerly) known as the Million Woman March. Once there, I protested the appropriation of a name with historical significance for the Black community. I shared the herstory/history of both the Million Man March and the Million Woman March. My comment was deleted by the Facebook Administrator said to be orchestrating the march. Only after several protests from myself and others did a name change take place. While there I found myself engaged in serious battle with some women whitesplaining, and an Asian woman who assigned herself the role of protector. Protector of what? Her tone was one of extreme anger. She said, I disgusted her. She was combative and mistakenly thought she could gather the troops to attack  me, and failed. No one engaged with her. She left after verbally attacking me. My crime? I had the audacity to share my truth. I was her embarrassment. I wasn’t the obedient WOC melting into the background. the backdrop. A backdrop placed for visibility, to give the march “inclusion legitimacy”.

Unlike her, my goal while there was not to gain anyone’s friendship and comradeship, at the expense of selling my self respect and dignity. Nor was I on board for some mythological sisterhood. A vagina and breast does not automatically make us sisters. I’ve been betrayed by women of all hues who called me sister. I do not know the organizer, her politics and agenda, nor the politics of the women in the group. The administrator and orchestrator for this facebook group, I found myself  placed in. I do know she’s a white woman lawyer living in Hawaii. Women of color in this group were determined not to allow the status quo to prevail. My post continued to be deleted and

I was blocked by the Admin. Clearly, she was not in the mood to hear about oppression, all of the isms, entitlement, and privilege.  My oppression  is not for sale, and will not be used as an opportunity to falsely be seen as inclusive.  My truth was seen as divisive. The result was more whitesplaining and others speaking about voting for HRC and the wonderful things they were doing for POC. Some members owned their entitlement and privilege. Eager to learn, listen and desiring a dialog in earnest. Needed are people on the frontlines doing whatever is within their means. I urge POC to continue speaking our truth and stand firm, even at the risk of being misunderstood and vilified.

66% of White women, 29% Latina women and 4% Black women voted for the newly elected president. 94% of Black women voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Black women did the work and Hillary’s so-called White women constituency failed her. It was this statement that angered the administrator and others. I’m not blindly participating in any activities, because someone says I should. I’ve been down this road before. I have every right to have my questions answered in detail. At 65, I’m not new  to protest, far from it.  It appears this group’s banner women rights and opposition to the newly elected president.  Racism, sexism, genderism, entitlement, privilege, LGBTQ rights etc. were not being addressed in this group.True allies must come center stage and give voice to the oppression of POC, and the privilege and entitlement they live safely in.

Freedom comes with a price. POC when participating in demonstrations in DC or elsewheres. We must make certain our voices are placed center stage, speaking our truth. We must come with our banners and voices,and address our concerns. We do not have to beg inclusion. If need be, organize a separate march or become a part of a coalition, with true allies.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Why I Can’t F**king Breathe: The Murder of Deborah Danner

Deborah Danner suffered from mental illness, and lived alone. Reports state, police had been called to her apartment in the past and she was taken to the hospital without incident. What made this time different? On the night of her death, Danner’s sister called for help to take her to the hospital as she had in the past. Sadly, she will have to live with this memory for the rest of her life. The very act of calling for help for her sister, resulted in her death, at the hands of an officer sworn to protect.

She was murdered in Castle Hill. NYPD said, officers responded to a 911 call. Deborah Danner age 66 was said to be behaving irrationally. Allegedly she was armed with scissors,  a responding officer convinced her to put them down before allegedly picking up a baseball bat, and attempting to hit NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry, who fired two shots into her torso. She was taken to Jacobi Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead. Sgt. Barry had a taser, he chose not to use it. He was trained to physically subdue an individual without drawing his weapon. Instead, he ignored his training on how to de-escalate situations, Deborah Danner paid the price. This fact alone is reason enough to bring him up on charges.

Bronx resident Deborah Danner was murdered by Sgt. Hugh Barry, let us not skirt around the facts. Fact, had Bronx resident Deborah Danner been white and lived in a white neighborhood her life would have been spared. She would have been treated with the utmost care, gently subdued and escorted to the hospital. Sgt. Barry did not see a human being standing before him. He saw an upset Black woman and that was enough to end her life. He did not see his mother, aunt, or neighbor in her Black face. He did not see humanity in need of help and compassion.

When I read of her death I was overcome with feelings of sadness, anger and horror. Deborah Danner was one year my senior, I could have been her. I thought of my death. The  words mental illness and the circumstances of her murder exacerbated my horror. The 1984 murder of Eleanor Bumpers, a grandmother with mental illness came rushing back to memory. Here is one more case of murder added to an already existing list of traumatic experiences. I demand justice for Deborah Danner! I’m sick and tired of
the usual investigations, the modified desk duty, blaming of the deceased and the NYPD sanctioning of murder.  NYPD is drowning in the blood of innocent murdered civilians. Every time a murder is justified and the murderer set free, we are all at risk. The prevailing mindset by those who murder is we can kill without impunity. Daily Blacks and people of color are assaulted with traumatic event after traumatic event. Brutality, murder and assaults to our humanity and bodies are America’s norm for those of dark hue.

We hear a lot about PTSD. What is  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the result of being traumatized. An individual (s) has/have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Police brutality and murders of civilians, the death of a loved one, pet and experiences as a veteran contribute to PTSD criteria.

Are you finding it difficult to cope? Sometimes, a good talk with a friend, family member or clergy is enough. Other times it is not enough and you may have to contact a professional.  Here are some available resources. Please visit the links below.

Mental Health & Advocacy for information, resources, data etc. on mental health disorders.
http://lcinformationandresourcecenter.wordpress.com

Protective Service for Adults Program in NYC
http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/psa/

#JusticeforDeborahDanner #BlackLivesMatter #StopMurderingBlackPeople

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Afro-Writing on the Margins, A Necessary Discussion

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The Bronx Council for the Arts and BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance presented Afro -Writing on the Margins, with yours truly, Lorraine Currelley, Executive Dir., Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. and Ron Kavanaugh, Editor Mosaic Magazine. The theme was Afro- Writing on the Margins. The program started with a poetry reading  featuring me. Following the reading I was joined on stage by Ron Kavanaugh and moderator  Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Co-founder of BAAD! the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, for a panel discussion. Both panelists and moderator examined feminism, ageism, sexism, racism and LGBTQ rights through the lens of afro-diasporic perspectives and how they inform contemporary literary production in the age of #BlackLivesMatter. It culminated with a Q&A and public discourse.
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As artists we work as activists and cultural workers, seeking to provide spaces and opportunities where these needed discussions can take place. Safe and supportive non-judgemental spaces. Saturday’s panelists and moderator did not skirt around issues. Speaking unapologetically and authentically, we spoke of the threats, brutality and murders of Black and Brown people of color.  Both panelists and attendees spoke passionately and emotionally about trauma experienced witnessing repeated video and audio recordings of the murders of innocent citizens. Needed are more spaces for expression, healing and free agency over our minds and bodies, an agency this society does not afford people of color, the poor and marginalized.

According to BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance The series delves into the work of acclaimed writer and public intellectual James Baldwin who spoke about the tense relationship between America’s democratic ideals and our fraught racial history. Each week we will explore how Baldwin’s readings impacts contemporary issues and movements such as Black Lives Matter!, Queerness, gentrification, and police brutality. In addition to the herstory of revolutionary possibilities between Audre Lorde and Baldwin.

The consensus from attendees during the Q&A segment,  activism depends on the degree individuals as artists and citizens wish to or not engage issues of social injustice and equity. The individual as citizen and artist defines how and what that activism is to look like. (Paraphrasing) Ron Kavanaugh shared we can each do what we can. My activism might not look like your activism. I do know that I can write an excellent lesson plan. One that addresses societal concerns via Mosaic and programming. We left inspired and strengthened, with a sense of hope by the exchange. Thanks to Charlie Vazquez, Bronx Writers Center Director at Bronx Council on the Arts, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, the BAAD! staff, Ron Kavanaugh, Mosaic Magazine, and attendees.

BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance is a Bronx-based arts organization that creates, produces, presents and supports the development of contemporary dance and all creative disciplines with a unique focus on women, People Of Color and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual & Queer communities.

Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) is a private, non-profit membership organization that has been the official cultural agency of Bronx County since 1962. Recognized nationally as a leading arts service organization in providing cultural services and arts programs, BCA serves a multicultural constituency of almost 1.4 million residents. BCA provides an array of services to 5,000 artists and more than 250 arts and community-based organizations.

The Currelley Literary Journal is an online blog founded by African American poet, writer, educator,  mental health counselor and advocate Lorraine Currelley. The Currelley Literary Journal features commentaries, articles, interviews and reviews. We write about the African diaspora through a historical, herstorical, educational, cultural, socio-political, context, nuance and lens.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Ryan Lochte, Entitled & Privileged

I set in front of my television outraged by the prejudicial spins on the Ryan Lochte robbery fabrication. Listening as journalists tried their best to justify his behaviors and worse his lies. Behaviors and an arrogance deeply rooted in an American history of White entitlement and privilege. Journalists looked into cameras urging us to excuse Lochte and his buds behaviors. We were asked to give them a break. Afterall, they’re kids and kids make mistakes. Life goes on. This was followed by praising Lochte’s athletic abilities. Give me a fukking break! What does his athletic abilities have to do with anything? This is not about some young folk getting drunk at a party. This is about entitled and privileged White men drunkards pissing on gas station floors, destroying property, trying to escape and making false accusations of being robbed, robbed by an armed person of color. No innocent children in this scenario, no boys will be boys. Lochte is thirty two years of age.

What makes Lochte’s behavior extremely frightening is his belief that he would be believed. A belief based on the color of his skin. It’s the accusing Black men of kidnapping White babies, only to discover their mother strapped them in car seats and pushed the car into the river. It’s the belief his whiteness would exempt him from laws the rest of us follow. The racism embedded in his psyche. He believed the same American rules would play themselves out in Brazil. Black sons and daughters don’t get the same understanding, compassion, love, empathy and forgiveness. Yet Blacks are demonized for speaking truthfully about systems of oppression. We’re said to be privileged and entitled for having the audacity to do so. We’re called out for not placing our hands over our heart during the American national anthem.

His lies nearly caused an international incident. Brazilians have every right to protest the audacity of Lochte, to come to their country and behave badly. The Brazilian government could have initiated a manhunt for Lochte’s fabricated perps. I’m horrified by what could have resulted. Innocent lives could have died because of his lies. The facts are Brazil has a history of being racist and abusive to her Black people. His actions could have fed this monster. I have no doubt Blacks in the poor favas of Brazil and worldwide understood the unspoken realities entrenched in his lies. For me, I saw America.

Blacks and people of color live daily with these historical and present day realities. Whether in America or Brazil. We have a history of paying the price for America’s sons entitlement, privilege, ignorance, intention and stupidity. Innocent Black bodies swinging from trees, beaten to death, imprisoned, crosses burning on the lawns of Black people, threats, dragged from their homes, communities bombed, set on fire and men falsely accused of rape by America’s daughters. America continues to coddle her White sons, while she justifies the murders of Black mothers sons and daughters. Lochte? Lochte is not deserving of anyone’s forgiveness, nor a second chance. I give less than a damn about his future and endorsements, and believe all corporations that employ him should be boycotted.

No America, your sons will not be held nor suckle at the breast of my compassion. Your poisoned womb gave birth to this liar. My arms and heart remain heavy with the blood of my murdered Black sons and daughters.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Harlem Fine Arts Show Honors Congressman Charles Rangel and Author and Entrepreneur B.Smith

The Annual Harlem Fine Arts Show celebrates its seventh year at New York City’s Riverside Church. The opening reception honored Congressman Charles Rangel and Author and Entrepreneur B. Smith. The annual exhibition features a group nationally and internationally acclaimed black artists. Among the many guests on hand to celebrate the honorees were Hosts Journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Poet Nella Larsen, Journalist Ann Tripp, Assemblyman Keith Wright, Playwright Vy Higginson, Visual Artist Shimoda Donna Emanuel, Poet Patricia Arthur and Aleathia Brown/ Unveiled Unlocked.

Some highlights of Harlem Fine Arts Show were dynamic female Pastor Wright. She delivered the opening prayer and welcome. Lovingly referring to those present as beloved. Journalist & radio personality Ann Tripp introduced B. Smith and Dan Gasby co-authors of ‘Before I Forget’. Dan Gasby utilized this as an opportunity to educate about the devastating disease Alzheimers. He said,”It’s also about understanding that Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that affects 5.2 million people. Almost two-thirds of Americans with the disease are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to have the disease than older whites are.”

There was an unveiling of a portrait of the Congressman Charles B. Rangel. He thanked everyone for attending and delivered a powerful message about the importance of community involvement. His lovely wife thanked those in attendance as well for honoring her husband. Congressman Rangel shared even though this would be his last year in congress, he would continue to be actively engaged in the life of the Harlem community.

Thanks to the gracious and welcoming LaZette McCants and volunteer Divas and Divos for a job well done!

Harlem Fine Arts Show, Riverside Church New York City until Sunday
February 8, 2016.

Harlem Fine Arts Show Gallery

 

 

 

(Photos Lorraine Currelley unless noted otherwise.)