Category Archives: Identity

Saddi Khali in Ottawa Neo-Negritude Expressions: Reclaiming Our Sexualities

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InSol: Womyn of Colour Collective, Agitate: Queer People of Colour, 3 Dreads and a Baldhead and Black Caucus presents…

Neo-Negritude poster-3

Neo-Negritude Expressions: Reclaiming Our Sexualities

Renowned artist Saddi Khali in Ottawa!!!!

“Let’s see ourselves beautiful again” Saddi Khali

The ultimate mix-master, Saddi Khali is a nationally respected New Orleans-born poet, performance artist, and photographer. He has worked for the last 20 years to blend the most effective mix of art and activism. Khali’s emergence on the field of photography has been groundbreaking. His images have been featured in ESSENCE Magazine and on the cover of the Random House book, Triksta and the instruction book, The Naked and The Lens.

Events Breakdown:

Friday 18th Nov
After Hours Party with Saddi Khali!!
Venue: The Legion
359 Kent Street (Kent and Gilmour)
Doors open at 9:00pm
dj yalla!yalla! and DJ Prufrock
Erotica readings, Bar and Refreshments available
Sliding scale $5-$10 at door

Saturday 19th Nov
Day- Reclaiming Our Sexualities workshop
Venue: Bruce House
251 Bank Street
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Donations at the door

Ottawa premiere of ‘Red Lips’ by Kyisha Williams.

Kyisha Williams is a vibrant, radical, black, queer, high femme, sex positive, activist, survivor, fighter and writer. She is a community organizer and support worker within black/queer/trans/racialized/criminalized /HIV+/HCV+ communities. She directed “Red Lips” [cages for black girls] her debut short film which explores black/racialized/criminalized/queer/trans identity and its relationship with the prison-industrial complex. It attempts to articulate links between interpersonal and systemic violence, while celebrating the ways in which we survive and celebrate ourselves.
Venue: Venus Envy
320 Lisgar
Time: 7pm
Donations at the door

Sunday 20th Nov
Black Sexualities Workshop with screening of documentary ‘Still Black’
Please note that our events are taking place during the Trans Day of Remembrance and the organizers of TDOR will be hosting a few events as well.

Directed by Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Still Black is a feature-length documentary that explores the lives of six black transgender men living in the United States. Through the intimate stories of their lives as artists, students, husbands, fathers, lawyers, and teachers, the film offers viewers a complex and multi-faceted image of race, sexuality and trans identity.

Here is the Official Website: Still Black

Venue: Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
233 Gilmour Street
Time: 1pm to 4pm
Donations at the door

From Friday 18th folks will be able to book and do private or group photoshoots with Saddi.

Check out his amazing work here: http://www.saddikhaliphoto.com/

*Bus tickets and childcare (advanced notice required) can be made available*

Print the pamphlet: Neo-Negritude pamphlet

THANK YOUUUU to our sponsors:
Womyn’s Centre (Carleton University)
Venus Envy
Pride Centre (University of Ottawa)
Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC)
Sexualities Department (Carleton University)
OPIRG-GRIPO, University of Ottawa
OPIRG Carleton University

I don’t get St. Patty’s Day :S

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So yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and many of my friends from various social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds were excitedly discussing the multiple ways to which we could celebrate St. Patty’s Day a.k.a get drunk. And I have never been one to refuse alcoholic splurges but I don’t get how and/or why drinking is automatically associated with the supposed celebration of a Catholic Saint. So I didn’t engage in the celebrations and continued asking myself….what’s the point of St. Patty’s Day until I came across this well written blog post that helped to shed some light on my state of confusion.

Thank you to the folks at RacismReview. Original post at

Bodies in translation

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Warning – this is a brief missive perhaps full of contradictions that is not about the perambulatics of air travel but about corporeal recognition/misrecognition and translation. And the fact that the body is/may be the seat of all knowledge.

I am one of those lucky (or perhaps if you knew the real circumstances of this endeavour perhaps you would deem me unlucky) people who one week ago was able to be in three countries in one week. I left Toronto on Thursday, was in Rome on Friday night and was in Nairobi the next Wednesday morning. In all of these places my body sought to tune in to the corporeal norms, sought to lunge into the masses and move within the uniformity that was corporealy and consistently being established in each location.  My ventures in these performances were not always free of folly and failure, and I wonder if that has to do more with me as an individual or what the body and perhaps what a black womyns body means in all of these locations. I guess to elaborate more on this and finally get to my point I have to make you privy to these performances….. dang… just don’t tell my mother  and especially not her church going friends..

You see having being regimented into a somewhat Ottawa body uniformity (rather as much as my African (?) womyn body would allow) lets just say my ‘swagger’ was bit diminished.  Ok I wont blame everything on Ottawa as I usually do ( nevertheless I implore you to remember I am NOT from OTTAWA),  it was the multiple coincidences of  school, immigrant life, lots of jobs and other diagnosed frustrations… that also worked to hinder this swagger,… And so for the most part the southern/ ‘tropical’/ rhythms in my hips sounded more like a beginners first violin lesson, choppy, staccato, un-unifom,  rigid, uneasy(?)….

So check it, I am in Toronto and for the first time since my escape from Ottawa, I am seeing lots of people of colour and so my body that in Ottawa that had manifested those violin lessons, was now manifesting itself a little less staccato…a little less opera, a lot more jazz…

Amsterdam airport…. dang… only the airport and I feel like I just joined the ceremonial guard. My body feels rigid as the school chair I sat on…. is this lack of sleep or has the atmosphere given me an early onset of osteoporosis?

Italy… I get of the bus in this seaside town having forgotten crazy Rome airport, and I’m feeling lighter, more mellow mood, less ceremonial guard… more southernity.. I’m getting comfortable until… I see a black woman standing in the night, tight clothes, bleached face, cold in this night, with a countenance sad… so far from home, waiting waiting waiting for whatever will be her salvation this evening…. As I ask my friend if I saw right (he confirms indeed that I did see right).. I can feel my body going from polka dancing group back to that violin…

Interestingly the next evening having followed one of my hosts to partake in the nightlife that this little town had to offer, the course of the evening saw three men try to use their mack to give me some local nightlife and then some. My body is now back to that staccato that was increasingly made defiant by the sight of my sister on the street the night before and I resolve not to in any corporeal way respond to those advances ( if any of ya’ll sisters are from Ottawa you will know that that was pretty hard considering the absence of any kind of this love in Ottawa) because I have yet to discern what a black womyns body means in this location… and I was not going to give in to any man’s black womyn raunchy fantasy.

However  three very strong beers later – beers that somehow have channeled my ancestors back to my body – I have danced the shuffle multiple times in a very small bar on this one street and I am now making my way to the rave space for the ‘ after party.’  My body now thinks that it is a Bahian/Brazilian street party (albeit in the hills of Abruzzo) and so I dance and dance and dance… and kiss and kiss and kiss (the recipient of these kisses did not have as bad mack as the previous three men and also found me when I was manifesting my ancestors and so you really cant blame a sista…) and in a strange way find my body back again…

The next morning, the rigidity has found its way back to my body, the violin still playing in every corner … (although not as loudly and staccato as it is in Ottawa)… and I never hear from my kissing friend again.

Consequently, I begin to think that perhaps I should have been more resilient and protective of this black womyns body (even though my dancing was pretty pg 13, and the pg 13 of the 1980’s and not of the present… and also all I did was just kiss, pretty relaxed for someone whose ‘morals’ are on holiday…) until I could discern what these types of bodies mean in this location…. But… you know at the same time, I really quite enjoyed being in a Bahian street party all by myself in Abruzzo, so should I really care to think about what images I was giving out ?

In reality, as I sit here a week later I still have not reconciled myself to what I should have felt during all of these travels, and especially in Italy. My body now has for the most part attuned itself to this East African vibe, and I have even become re accustomed to seeing people walk with their whole bodies and people dancing with their pelvis’s (life is good yes!). Nevertheless, I also wonder if I am being too naïve in thinking that this abundance of body signals a pervasive self body ownership and comfortability all of the time.

What I take though from this one week of corporeal investigation is that the body, this place of much knowledge, is consistently being recoginsed and misrecognised, read and misread, constantly being translated in idioms that may not be so kind. However, at the same time I see that my own translations of my own body/bodies are perhaps not always valid and rather as a result of my own defiance, experiences… perhaps also of my own fatigue, work, stress and holiday morals…

So the question remains (finally I arrive at my point) should we be having our own street party in our bodies always (even if I truly believe Amsterdam airport gave me osteoporosis)? Or should we work to discern what our bodies mean in every location and then choose whether of not to be ourselves? Should I in a bid to feel my own body forget about the image of my sister in the street, forget about the translation of coloured bodies as well as female bodies in many locations? Or should I always aim to be responsible for the remedying of racialized stereotypes and thus refrain from any corporeal expression that may affirm stereotypes?

I am still torn, for the solution that I am more drawn to, the one that sees me defiantly tackling these translations of the body … may not always allow me to live and make my own translations of my body.

Why Did You Make Me Black?

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I struggle sometimes with this notion of identity and how it may limit or free us to be or not be.

I love the notion of ‘threshold’ people…those whom exist on the outskirts and do not necessarily fit into one category. I love how Audre Lorde refused to be categorized and labeled as that versus this. In fact, I am constantly questioning, challenging and tweaking who I am…as a person…as a womyn….as a citizen of this global world. But one thing that I cannot and will not deny…something though which I may not always explicitly show, but that I am in fact undeniably proud of…is that I am a black womyn.

Hence I would like to share one of my favourite poems with you (since we all seem to be in a poetic type of mood :)) This poem, I came across when I was much younger and though my thoughts towards it have changed to an extent, it was still a defining moment in my life when I started to really appreciate parts of me and my ever changing and layered identy(ies).

Caveat: There is mention of God and one may argue that the inclusion of this traditional deity takes away from the essence of the piece but I challenge that. Regardless of your religious and/or spiritual beliefs, I think that this poem serves a purpose that should be recognized.
Also, though this poem may seem a bit distraught, it is the sad reality of many and should not be reduced to simply being a defeatist analysis on race.
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Why Did You Make Me Black Lord ….

Lord …. Why did you make me black?
Why did you make someone
the world would hold back?
Black is the color of dirty clothes,
of grimy hands and feet…
Black is the color of darkness,
of tired beaten streets…
Why did you give me thick lips,
a broad nose and kinky hair?
Why did you create someone
who receives the hated stare?

Black is the color of the bruised eye
when someone gets hurt…
Black is the color of darkness,
black is the color of dirt.

Why is my bone structure so thick,
my hips and cheeks so high?
Why are my eyes brown,
and not the color of the sky?

Why do people think I’m useless?
How come I feel so used?
Why do people see my skin
and think I should be abused?

Lord, I just don’t understand…
What is it about my skin?
Why is it some people want to hate me
and not know the person within?

Black is what people are “Labeled”
when others want to keep them away…
Black is the color of shadows cast…
Black is the end of the day.

Lord you know my own people mistreat me,
and you know this just ain’t right…
They don’t like my hair, they don’t like my
skin, as they say I’m too dark or too light!

Lord, don’t you think
it’s time to make a change?
Why don’t you redo creation
and make everyone the same?

GOD’s Reply:
Why did I make you black?
Why did I make you black?

I made you in the color of coal
from which beautiful diamonds are formed…
I made you in the color of oil,
the black gold which keeps people warm.

Your color is the same as the rich dark soil
that grows the food you need…
Your color is the same as the black stallion and
panther, Oh what majestic creatures indeed!

All colors of the heavenly rainbow
can be found throughout every nation…
When all these colors are blended,
you become my greatest creation!

Your hair is the texture of lamb’s wool,
such a beauti! ful creature is he…
I am the shepherd who watches them,
I will ALWAYS watch over thee!

You are the color of the midnight sky,
I put star glitter in your eyes…
There’s a beautiful smile hidden behind your pain…
That’s why your cheeks are so high!

You are the color of dark clouds
from the hurricanes I create in September…
I made your lips so full and thick,
so when you kiss…they will remember!

Your stature is strong,
your bone structure thick to withstand the
burden of time…
The reflection you see in the mirror,
that image that looks back,..that is MINE!

So get off your knees,
look in the mirror and tell me what you see?
I didn’t make you in the image of darkness…
I made you in the image of ME!