Ancient Cultural Exchanges May Have Driven Modern Human Behaviors ~ Bennett McIntosh

Source: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/evolution/ancient-cultural-exchanges-may-have-driven-modern-human-behaviors/

Before we ever wrote on paper or even stone tablets, humanity was unwittingly writing its history in the DNA of each successive generation. Now, after tens of thousands of years, scientists reading the history written in—and omitted from—those genes are re-writing the story of how human culture began.

By combing through 100,000 years of genetic history, scientists say they have shown that modern human behaviors which arose about 50,000 years ago traveled from person to person through cultural, not genetic exchange. The genetic data also add new layers to the history of human migration out of Africa and provide a valuable medical resource. The findings were published last month in the journal Nature.

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Human innovations like art are thought to have arisen from cultural exchanges, according to a new study.

Ancient humans became a lot more like modern humanity around 50,000 years ago, developing innovations like art, fishing, and blades within a relatively short span of time, said Stanford University anthropologist Richard Klein, who noted this change in his 2002 book The Dawn of Human Culture. “[There] was a radical change in human innovative ability about 50,000 years ago,” Klein said, “and I speculated that genetic change was responsible.”

Without genetic evidence, though, others argued the change was not a sudden genetic leap but gradual cultural change. The “human revolution” was instead “a gradual assembling of the package of modern human behaviors in Africa,” argued anthropologists Sally McBrearty and Alison Brooks in a 2000 paper.

The DNA evidence was collected by sequencing the genomes of more than 300 people from around the world. To ensure that a full history of humanity was represented, scientists made a special effort to collect DNA from a diverse grouping of humans. Thus the project became known as the Simons Genome Diversity project.

With each generation, our DNA accumulates small, mostly harmless mutations, which scientists can use as a sort of marker to trace which populations the DNA has passed through.

“Our genome is not just ours,” said Shop Mallick, a computational biologist at Harvard Medical School, and a co-author on the paper. “Your genome contains signals from all of your ancestors.”

By measuring how different the DNA of people from disparate populations are, the scientists could answer one critical question: “How far back in time do you have to go before the populations that two samples came from are linked?” Mallick said. For many populations in the study, enough mutations had occurred since their last genetic exchange that their last common ancestor must have been at least 100,000 years ago.

This paints a picture of humanity 50,000 years ago as a species consisting of sparsely separated geographical groups with little genetic exchange between them. If the groups were genetically separate before the “human revolution” and before the migration out of Africa, it is extremely unlikely that all of humanity underwent the same genetic change at the same time.

The “human revolution,” the study says, was a cultural one.

Examining this history didn’t just lead to a picture of humanity 50,000 years ago during the “human revolution.” It also confirmed how humans left Africa—finding that everyone from Europeans to Australian Aboriginals shared DNA from a single migration. Though there may have been earlier migrations which left small traces on non-African humans’ DNA, “we can be quite sure that less than 2% of genomic DNA that may have come from an earlier expansion,” Mallick said.

Because of the diversity of the sampled populations, the data from the study could prove valuable for more modern medical purposes as well. The researchers found 5.8 million new mutations in human DNA that had never before been encountered; the list of these mutations is a valuable resource for scientists researching the genetics ailments from cancer to developmental diseases. To aid these studies, the authors have posted the data online for other scientists to use.

The resulting depository, Mallick said, “creates a snapshot of humanity as it is today.” In this DNA is a sort of family photo of the seven billion of us—one that both hints at our past and could aid in a healthier future.

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FEATURE: NOIRE 3000 STUDIOS’ PHOTO SERIES ‘AFRICAN KINGS’ ~ JAMES C. LEWIS

Atlanta-based photographer James C. Lewis changes the narrative about Black men, one king at a time. Tired of biased representations from mainstream media, Lewis decided to take things into his own hands. With his studios Noire 3000, he released ‘African Kings’, a photo series celebrating African historical figures including pharaohs, Kings of the Songhai Empire, of the Kingdom of Ashanti and many more.
Check out some of the stunning images below.


http://www.noire3000studios.com

http://www.afropunk.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2059274%3ABlogPost%3A1291204&commentId=2059274%3AComment%3A1292185&xg_source=activity

5 Ways Taylor Swift Exemplifies White Feminism – And Why That’s a Problem ~ Melissa A. Fabello

Make no mistake: I love Taylor Swift.

“I Knew You Were Trouble” is one of my favorite shower songs, I’ve cried incessantly to “All Too Well” after a breakup (and, um, every time I hear it), and I could kick your ass at “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together” karaoke.

By far, she’s my problematic fave.

But goddamn, is she ever problematic.

And as much as I appreciate a pop artist that I love donning the feminist label, I really hate when they do so in the name of the special brand of fucked-up anti-oppression work known as White Feminism.

Now, White Feminism, for those of you who may not be aware, is not a pejorative term coined to describe all feminists that happen to be white.

Rather, White Feminism refers to the practicing of a feminism that assumes white (cis, straight, able-bodied, thin, middle-to-upper class) women as the default, actively avoiding critical analysis on any axis other than gender, thereby leading to a cookie-cutter feminism that can only possibly be useful to those it’s intended for: white women.

And that’s a problem.

And as much as I’m a Swifty, I’m a feminist first (and a white one, at that), and I’m not here for any kind of feminism that would excuse, for instance, Taylor’s misunderstanding that race is irrelevant in pop culture politics (a la the feud with Nicki Minaj that never was).

So for those of you still confused about how Taylor’s version of feminism is too, um, white to be useful, here are five examples from each of the videos that she’s released in tandem with her singles off of her latest album, 1989.

1. Shake It Off

Also known as: “Women of Color Sure Can Shake It”

Taylor, people may argue you’ve got nothing in your brain (that’s what people say, mmm mmm), and I would debate with them for sure. You’re smart and savvy, and you know exactly what you’re doing — which is why the world was unsurprised by both your cultural appropriation and objectification of women of color in this video.

Sure, many people have argued that, perhaps, the video isn’t appropriative or objectifying, since the scenes in question (see: break dancing in a hoodie, fitted cap, and boom box; see also: twerking in short shorts and a load of jewelry) follow the same script as the rest of the video: Taylor not quite fitting in and finding herself in awe of the (more talented) dancers who surround her.

And I get that argument. Because the same joke runs throughout the video.

The question, really, is this: Taylor, is hip-hop really yours to joke about?

And when you present an image of your squeaky clean, desexualized-by-way-of-assumed-purity self literally crawling under the asses of women of color, and then laughing off how impossible it would be for you to emulate something so sexualized by the male gaze, who’s the joke on, really, when you still reign triumphant (albeit awkwardly) by the end of the video?

Because there’s a huge difference between appreciating and exchanging cultureand straight-up trying it on for size and then shedding it at the end of the day when that benefits you. The latter is appropriative, and it is always, always, always harmful.

2. Blank Space

Also known as: “Intimate Partner Violence Is Cute and Amusing in Some Contexts”

For the most part, I really enjoy “Blank Space” — both as a song and a video. While I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that in it, she’s “the woman we’ve been waiting for,” I most definitely do appreciate Taylor’s jab at media portrayals of herself.

About the inspiration for the song, Taylor explains that “there’s been a sort of sensational fictionalization of [her] personal life,” whereby the media paints her as “a serial dater” who “can’t keep [her love interests] because she’s too emotional and she’s needy.” And when the relationship ends? “She goes to her evil lair and writes songs about it for revenge.”

High five, Taylor Swift, for joking on that bullshit. And the song is catchy as hell. Right away, it was one of my favorites on the album.

But then the video dropped, and I was kinda like, “Um…”

Because although we can say plenty of great things about it, there’s one huge problem: It trivializes dating violence. In fact, it kinda makes it look sexy.

The entire video, with the lyrics set against it, is a story about entrapping men in a fantasy world with lavish gifts and activities, only to keep them by means of what can only be described as abuse.

She drops his phone into a pool when she assumes that he’s cheating. She goes on a rampage — “screaming, crying, perfect storms” — where she yells at and then pushes him. She falls apart crying, taking on the “This is all your fault,” victim-blaming role. And then she threatens him with a knife not to leave, sets his clothes on fire, possibly attempts to poison him, and smashes his car.

If the tables were turned and this was a video where a man was doing this to a woman — even under the guise of a joke — no one would call it feminist or progressive.

It’s scary as all hell.

But through the lens of a feminism where only straight, white women can experience intimate partner violence, it’s cute and amusing that Taylor might enact revenge on her on-screen boyfriend — and serially. After all, the video ends with her snagging another man.

3. Style

Also known as: “I Have No Idea What’s Happening in This Video, But It Makes Me Want to Go to the Beach”

Okay. I admit it: At first glance, I couldn’t see anything vehemently, inherently anti-feminist about this video. And even in preparation for writing this article, I rewatched it, scrutinizing it for something obviously racist, homophobic, or ableist. But nothing jumps out at me in particular.

So I’ll take this space to state the obvious: Every love interest that Taylor has ever had — to my knowledge, both in real life and in her videos — has been a straight, cis, able-bodied, fit, middle-to-upper class, white dude.

And while it’s in Taylor’s right to be attracted to and date whomever suits her fancy, her ivory tower fantasy worlds aren’t doing much to push back against systemic oppression — which, like, is what feminists are supposed to do.

4. Bad Blood

Also known as: “Squad Goals – If You’re Only Friends with White Women”

Look. The video has Lena Dunham in it. Need I say more?

Anyone who calls themselves a feminist after learning about the movement from, of all people, Lena Dunham, is not to be trusted. I mean, she actually had to be called out for not including any women of color in a TV show based in New York City. And I think she passed that same oversight to Tay, because I’m really not sure Taylor has any friends of color.

And if you watch the “Bad Blood” music video — which is supposed to be a miniature action movie about girl gangs — the evidence is clear.

Sure, Taylor includes both Selena Gomez and Zendaya in the video, as well as other women of color, but here’s the problem: Selena, admittedly one of Taylor’s best friends, herself has been known to perpetuate White Feminism via cultural appropriation. And while Zendaya consistently says on-pointfeminist things, I’m not buying the notion that her relationship with Taylor is really that close. Their relationship feels a little, well, “this is my black friend” to me.

The issue isn’t the video in and of itself (you could argue that considering his feature, Kendrick Lamar — a black man — gets plenty of screen time to offset the blizzard of whiteness). The problem is how the video highlights one of Taylor Swift’s biggest problems as a feminist IRL: She constantly surrounds herself with beautiful, thin, rich, famous, white women.

And personally, I don’t trust fellow white people when their only friends are other white people.

And has anyone else noticed that the more Taylor gets called out for her White Feminism, the more people of color are popping up as guests on her tour?

That’s not friendship. That’s not authenticity. That’s not intersectionality. That’s PR.

5. Wildest Dreams

Also known as: “The Colonization of Africa Was Très Romantic”

Um, okay.

Taylor’s latest video takes place on a 1950s-era movie set on desert plains in what is judged, based on the wildlife, to be an unnamed, overgeneralized “African” country – without a single person of color to be seen.

But there were plenty of zebras! And giraffes! And a really calm lion who just hangs out on set all day!

But as if the implication that all “Africa” (an entire continent, mind you, not a country) consists of is stunning landscape views and wildlife safaris isn’t bad enough, the video calls to mind European imperialism and the “Scramble for Africa” — but, like, romantically.

Zoé Samudzi (who is brilliant — please, please, please go follow her on Twitter) deconstructed this video perfectly as “[t]he romanticization of an era of white domination (through violent conquest [and] genocide) because of beautiful aesthestic” and “the literal use of black Africanness as a cultural aesthetic sans the employment of black bodies who created and deeply embody them.”

That is to say, the biggest problem with “Wildest Dreams” is that it isn’t. It isn’t a wild dream. It’s a direct representation of historical accuracy: the colonization of Africa, through the eyes of the colonizer.

And if you don’t think that — of all things — colonization is racist, then I fear that you’re suffering from White Feminism, too.

The video for “Wildest Dreams” perfectly demonstrates the ways in which Taylor continually misses the mark: By seeing life through only her experience (and that of those similarly sociopolitically positioned), she’s unable to notice — let alone prioritize — the needs of the most marginalized. So her feminism only helps herself.

That’s White Feminism.

 

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/taylor-swift-white-feminism/

Here Is A Blog With Photos Of Vegan Food From Literally Every Single Country In The World by Christine Byrne

Animal rights activists Ryan Huling, 31, and Joel Bartlett, 34, are both avid travelers who’ve managed to stick to their vegan diets everywhere they go.

Animal rights activists Ryan Huling, 31, and Joel Bartlett, 34, are both avid travelers who've managed to stick to their vegan diets everywhere they go.

This vegan take on classic Brazilian stroganoff, is served at Rio Vegano in Rio de Janeiro.

So, they decided to start a blog to prove that eating vegan while traveling isn’t only possible, it can be downright delicious…

So, they decided to start a blog to prove that eating vegan while traveling isn't only possible, it can be downright delicious...

This falafel from Paris’s legendary L’as du Fallafel is just as tasty as any boeuf bourguignon you’d find at a Parisian bistro.

…and that cruelty-free food is a pleasure, not a burden.

...and that cruelty-free food is a pleasure, not a burden.

This root vegetable and hummus platter from Glo Laugavegi in Iceland.

Starting in early 2015, they posted one photo a day on Vegan Wanderlust, each one showcasing a vegan dish from a different country.

Starting in early 2015, they posted one photo a day on Vegan Wanderlust, each one showcasing a vegan dish from a different country.

Coconut-based cheesecake in a jar from the United Arab Emerates.

A few of the photos are taken by Huling and Bartlett, but most have been submitted by fellow vegan travelers.

A few of the photos are taken by Huling and Bartlett, but most have been submitted by fellow vegan travelers.

This sabaayad–flaky flatbread from Somalia.

They pledged to continue posting until every country in the world was represented.

They pledged to continue posting until every country in the world was represented.

A veggie burger from Guatemala.

Their project proves that veganism is possible anywhere, not just in affluent countries where an animal-free diet might be “trendy.”

Their project proves that veganism is possible anywhere, not just in affluent countries where an animal-free diet might be "trendy."

Bayo Adedge / Via veganwanderlust.org

This is a banana with strawberry jam and “groundnut spread” (basically peanut butter) wrapped in flatbread, from Burundi in East Africa.

Some of the foods highlighted are decadently outrageous, like this “Vegan McGriddle” from The Badasserie in Downtown Los Angeles.

Some of the foods highlighted are decadently outrageous, like this "Vegan McGriddle" from The Badasserie in Downtown Los Angeles.

Others are simple and wholesome, like this plate from a restaurant in Benin, a tiny country in West Africa.

Others are simple and wholesome, like this plate from a restaurant in Benin, a tiny country in West Africa.

A lot of the dishes, like this communal bowl of rice topped with cassava leaves from Sierra Leone, are traditional local foods that just happen to be vegan.

A lot of the dishes, like this communal bowl of rice topped with cassava leaves from Sierra Leone, are traditional local foods that just happen to be vegan.

Others are vegan versions of iconic foods, like this full English Breakfast from Cornucopia in Ireland.

Others are vegan versions of iconic foods, like this full English Breakfast from Cornucopia in Ireland.

There’s even a plate of avocado maki served at a research station in ANTARCTICA.

There's even a plate of avocado maki served at a research station in ANTARCTICA.

Yesterday, the final photo was published on Vegan Wanderlust — a veggie plate from a Juice bar in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Yesterday, the final photo was published on Vegan Wanderlust — a veggie plate from a Juice bar in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

So, never worry that you won’t be able to find great, vegan food on your next exotic vacation.

So, never worry that you won't be able to find great, vegan food on your next exotic vacation.

Vegan carrot cake from Babette Bakery in Luxembourg.

Delicious, animal-free options are available literally EVERYWHERE.

Delicious, animal-free options are available literally EVERYWHERE.

Fried potato pakoras from Veg-Delight in Malawi.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/vegan-wanderlust#.pmgWN9y1Z5

A Queer African Tale: On Trauma, Gender Transitions and Acceptance ~ Ola Osaze

When I first embarked on this journey of queerness I was a woman. I went to lesbian bars because that’s what non-hetero women did, while ignoring that nagging voice in me that spoke of an identity more complicated than gay. In these bars I was usually the most femme presenting person in sight and, in retrospect, the prettiest thing around — my black body sticking out like a flagpole in a sea of weather-beaten white faces. I didn’t think myself pretty then, blinded as I was by ideologies that maintained people like me — dark-skinned African women like me — could never be beautiful. With my long braided hair extensions and dark brown lipstick-ed lips, in my form fitting clothes and my undulations on the dance floor, I rarely got the attention that I longed dearly for because, then as it often is now, a high femme expression of femininity was reviled in lesbian spaces.

My friend Candy – the tall and husky white butch dyke I used to hang with who had a thing for fucking femme cis boys – called the lesbian bar I frequented “the chicken rotisserie room,” because “every dyke in there is over fried and over done.” She was referring to the way all the mullet-bearing and flannel-wearing white dykes in there repeated the same pick-up lines and carried on the same tragically doomed relationships with each other. I went there often because I thought that’s where you go to find love. What I found instead were the empty expressions and foolish acts of betrayal at the arms of forlorn dykes, many of them white, many of them confused out of their minds about what this life was supposed to give them.

There was Star, a stout stonebutch with a shaved smooth dome, who had the shaded blue image of a star carved into her left hand, right between the thumb and forefinger. Everyone called her the resident “wigger” and it took me a while to fully understand the awfulness of such a term or the depths of confusion that would lead a white person to mimic a mode of blackness they think they understand. She talked with a Southern black drawl, peppering her language with tired sayings America liked to call ebonics, making college-educated me feel like I’d gone white. And she called me as much when she was trying to pick me up. On that night I strolled into the club with newly done braids, wearing a tight black on black button-up and jeans combo. I walked in there imbuing my steps with a confidence that I didn’t even halfheartedly possess. Through my thick glasses I stared into the cavernous hall of the club. A few disco balls dangled from the ceiling, buckled here and there by water da mage. Disco lights flashed red, blue, yellow, and purple while something resembling techno music droned on overhead through speakers precariously nailed into the walls high above the dance floor. People swayed, moving in dreamlike motions. I took all this in then eyed the bar where the bartender stared into space, boredom a more prominent feature on her face than her actual facial features.

Why am I here, I asked myself. I’d left the comfort of my warm apartment on the outskirts of Charlotte near the college I attended. I’d driven through the unusually cold January night and here I was, for what? I sauntered to the bar, ignoring that internal voice that teased me for daring to venture out alone, daring to be in this lesbian meat market alone. Was I looking to get laid? I couldn’t figure it out so I got a tequila shot. “And you’re the prettiest thing in here,” Star said, leaning towards me from her perch on the barstool. I was so desperate for acknowledgement that I leaned right in, gobbling her attention right up. On the dance floor she moved in a way that let me know I was supposed to respond rather than initiate, I was supposed to let myself be dominated. She grabbed my hips and slid her hands down the back of my jeans as she pulled me closer to her, but I wrenched myself free because I didn’t want to give in, or at least not in the way she demanded. After a few run-ins at the club, Star stopped coming to the bar for some unknown reason. Did we make out? No. I was too disturbed by the stereotype she was performing. As confused as I was by my black identity, her performance of swagger and ebonics both intimidated and repulsed me.

I moved on to Angel, another butch white dyke I met through an online lesbian dating site. She was everything I was supposed to stay away from: newly out of prison and on parole, drinker of Robitussin like it was water, passionate about alcohol, weed, cocaine and ecstasy. She had a mother long dead and a rich father who wanted nothing to do with her “because I’m a druggie bulldagger,” she laughingly revealed. I wondered what he reacted the strongest to — the drugging ways or her gender nonconformity. The latter I was inexplicably drawn to, wanted to try on in my own way but didn’t yet have a lexicon to capture and understand, trans not being a word or identity I was familiar with at the time.

At night, steeped in herb and alcohol, we’d fuck relentlessly, exploring each other’s bodies and surfing our mutual highs when the drugs in our systems crested, then devolving into grouchy teeth grinding trolls when their effect wore of. I was so feverish with desire for everything her body was about and weed took that feverishness to a ferocity I didn’t recognize. One night, Peter, her drug dealer friend came over to her apartment and all three of us occupied her brown threadbare precariously tilted couch, passing the pipe from hand to hand, smoking and watching crappy TV. I climbed onto her lap, took her face in my hands and stuck my tongue in her mouth. She in turn clasped me closer to her warm cough syrup smelling body and the make-out was epic. We looked up after what felt like hours later to discover Peter had quietly slinked out.

The first time I smoked bud, it was with Sam, a thirty-something slim-framed white man in his 30s. We spent so much time together that everyone at Gray’s bookstore, where we both worked, thought there was something going on. I can’t tell you why I chose Sam as my friend. Maybe it was because in a way we were both outsiders, him the oldest in the group and me the sole immigrant, African for that matter — an exotic species to the staff who’d known nothing but bible belt America their entire lives. “You need to get back to your roots,” one black man in his early 20s said to me, befuddled by my musical excursions into the worlds of Fela and Nine Inch Nails; by “roots” he meant Hip Hop, not Afrobeat.

One night, sitting on the steps of a co-worker’s house, a ruckus party was happening around us. Sam, his easygoing nature creating an isle of calm around us, was as perplexed as I was by the drunken college kids — many of them screaming at nothing but just sheer air, fueled by a chemically induced joyousness. Sam and I chatted about nothing special. He passed me what I thought was a rolled cigarette. I took a hit, after he told me what it was. I choked, spat in mild disgust. “That’s disgusting,” I said handing the burning spliff back to him. The end glowed deep orange suddenly; smoke trailing off it curling into a blue haze. I noted that. Noted also the feel of seeing something as mundane as smoke anew. As the curiously jubilant people around me came into sharp focus, I noted the hidden truths seemingly unearthed by this thing that charred my throat and smelled like skunk. That was the beginning of my belief in the church of weed and my dependence on it for connection with others. Thanks, Sam, wherever you fucking are.

My two-month affair with Angel brought a sexual freedom, the likes of which I’d never seen. The weed, drugs and booze probably had a lot to do with that, but just as crucial was the absence of gender when we were in bed. I didn’t feel like a girl or any gender in particular. We were just two warm soft bodies — one black, the other white — fitting together in ways that made sense for us. I remember sitting up in her bed one night my hands still sticky from her, letting my eyes roam over her body in the dim light of her bedside lamp, settling on her flat chest and square shoulders, wanting her again, wanting a body like hers.

In spite of these self-discoveries that led me to question a gender I’d assumed was unquestionable, we were dysfunctional. For we traversed the terrains of coy sex to reckless sex to passionate sex, but we never had sober sex. And how unready was I to be out about being queer. I couldn’t dare come out to my very traditional Nigerian family, most of who were either back home, in the case of my parents and extended family, or in the case of my sister, had escaped the oppressive 2nd class status of Nigerian womanhood for the UK. The only relative who lived in the same town as me at the time was my older brother and, given that year in the early 80s when we were both still in Nigeria and he did those strange unwanted things to my 7-year old body, I didn’t like to be around him much and didn’t like to reveal any details of my personal life to him. I remember clearly the day I tried to introduce Angel to a co-worker we’d run into at the local Hollywood Video. Anxiety over being seen with my gay lover by a straight co-worker forced me to momentarily forget her name. High as she was at the time, she laughed it off like it was nothing, like she didn’t expect anyone to remember her name — least of all her lovers.

When she later dumped me for the love of her life who was getting out of prison, I too swallowed the heartbreak like it was my lot in life to be left for someone else. What never came into our relationship were the realities of our lives outside our drug-fueled fuckfests. I never told her about the lifetime of physical and sexual abuse at the hand of my family I was doing my damndest to flee. Nor did she know about the ways I was hustling for under the table jobs or lying about my immigration status to claim jobs that paid me a pittance and called it wages. Or how every other Saturday I drove my Dodge hooptie to the other side town to sell plasma for $25 a pop. During intake at those vampiric clinics, right after the blurb about gay men not being eligible to sell their fluids, the form would ask me if I was Nigerian, because apparently Nigerian blood, like gay men’s blood, is tainted by AIDS. I needed the $25 something fierce so I decided to shirk my Nigerian identity, all hundreds of years of Yoruba and Edo history, all 19 years of my born-and-bred-in-Port-Harcourt life, to lay in a stupor for the hour or two or three it took to drain the requisite amount of blood out and pump the plasma-less gruel back into me. “Make sure you eat,” the attendant would say to me as I stumbled out of there disoriented and ashamed.

Driven by deep feelings of unworthiness, I spent my early queer years chasing broken white women like Angel. I surrounded myself with people, white people in particular, that so ardently invested in a vision of me that was anything but me. Dating broken white women became a way to reprise a powerlessness that years of sexual abuse and generations of blackphobia had tricked me into believing in. I drowned this feeling of powerlessness in weed and seeking out relationships in which I could engage in yet remain completely hidden from view. Neither did I really want to know these lovers either, because that required a deeper level of engagement that I was unprepared for. This is what happens when you can’t bear to look yourself in the eye in the mirror: you can’t bear to look at anyone else either.

As I write this essay, I’m well into my 30s, no longer that twenty-something who wandered wide-eyed into the chicken rotisserie room. I am now living full time in a body that’s beefy and slim in the places I want, square shouldered and hairy in the places I like. People call me “sir” and “man” and throw a male-gendered “dude” my way in salute. I tell the ones that will listen that I’m neither a man nor male-privilege-seeking. I’m starting to occupy the complicated transgender space I spent years carving out for myself.

And yet. Why am I staring at the ruins of another weed-soaked and silence-filled relationship? Why am I once again looking at that confused twenty-something, the me who tried to escape childhood trauma by drowning in invisibilizing relationships?

Rather than cast that confused twenty-something aside, I’m realizing I have to take her hand. I’m learning she still has much to teach me.

 

http://www.autostraddle.com/a-queer-african-tale-on-trauma-gender-transitions-and-acceptance-287227/

How Going B(l)ack Can Provide Perspective by Naeemah

Amazing article about the value in knowing your history. It is important to have self-value and recognize that there are things beyond your day to day life that matter, that impact, that change who you are.

The below is written by Ernest Owens.

5 Lessons Traveling to Africa Taught Me About Being Black in America

 by Ernest Owens

2014-10-28-IMG_0130.JPG

Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to Ghana for 10 days to explore the history and culture of the region. And contrary to America’s heightened fear that traveling to West Africa would give me Ebola, I am fortunate to reassure you that I am happy and healthy.

Now that your potential conditioned hysteria is reduced, here is something you should be concerned about:

Black America, we have so much to actually learn about Africa — and yes, it does matter.

For far too long, our perceptions have been negatively impacted by white dominated narratives that have plagued our grade school text books and public discourse about the Motherland. The separation between our people across the diaspora is not just geographic, but philosophic. And while both sides can assess blame on boasting superiority against the other — Black America’s constant dismissal of the continent in our identity makes us the bigger culprit.

I, too, was once guilty of this — but sometimes it takes one to go back and re-direct the masses. Consider this my form of “Sankofa.”

These were my five major takeaways during what has now become my restored relationship to the ancestral homeland:

1) Privilege is real. 

During my stay in Ghana, for the first time in my life I felt what it was like to be in the majority. Most of the population is black and the experience of seeing my skin color on nearly every television station, public arena, and facet of society gave me a psychological gratification and confidence. A sense of pride that allowed me to walk in the street without feeling targeted. A level of high self-esteem when I told people my professional aspirations and was sincerely heard and not interrogated. My time in Africa gave me a first-hand look at what it feels like to not be a second-class citizen in society. It showed me how much America has tried to ignore the existence of white privilege when it is actually engrained. On a lighter note, please don’t believe American companies when they say they cannot produce quality black television commercials and programs… I saw tons that would put ours to shame.

2) Understanding slavery in the past explains the current struggles of today. 

“Get over it,” they tell us back home in the United States. There is absolutely no way we can and should when it paints a larger picture of the current systematic obstructions that are relevant to our present. In Africa, slavery is discussed and they actually have renowned museums and tourist attractions that cater specifically to the topic… I’m still waiting America. When visiting the former Elmina slave castles near the coast of Ghana, I felt a sudden sense of immediate anger, emotion, and frustration in how much of the manipulation and strategic disenfranchisements blacks faced then are still prevalent. Same crap, just a different day.

3)Sorry, Raven-Symoné — but we are indeed African-Americans.

Just because you cannot find your exact roots on a continent, doesn’t mean they aren’t apart of your ethnic make-up. That would be just as dumb as assuming that not knowing your father means you weren’t conceived by one. Coming to the realization of what it means to be an African-American rather than simply “American” gives me a more honest rationale as to why I face the current obstacles in a nation that speaks of “equality and justice for all.” Furthermore, it re-teaches me that my legacy didn’t start when my ancestors entered the West from slave ships (that’s only the second half of my identity), but that there was an enriched culture before America — and that was in Africa.

4) Oppression of black people is an international concern. 

Just as we fight for justice in Ferguson here in America, our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic are dealing with the discrimination and mistreatment of mass hysteria related to Ebola. Across the diaspora, blacks are feeling ostracized from the global discourse of how to protect their own communities. Such lack of representation of Africans being able to address how to eradicate their own problems reflects a worldwide stigma of having black leadership. Although our issues at surface level are distinct, fundamentally we are tackling the same mission: making black lives matter.

5) There needs to be more cross-continental discourse of connecting blacks across the diaspora.

Enough with just having cultural food and music fairs… let’s have a discussion about universally helping one another socially. When I attended college, it often aggravated me how black Americans felt Africans were another foreign group of people they could not identify with. And it was also troubling to see some native Africans look down on blacks in the country for not feeling as self-confident and culturally strong about their heritage. At this very moment in our present history, we now more than ever need to put down our media-driven stereotypes about one another and have real conversations about it. I am tired of seeing too many people of color help one another among regional affiliations and not the diaspora as a whole. Because the truth of the matter is that the rest of the world do not see us any differently and by strengthening our connections we can better combat these problems.

In closing, my travels to the continent gave me a fresh perspective on how I relate to blacks across the diaspora and how their burdens shape my work here in America. A lot of what the black community is trying to look for in themselves in our media, education, and economy can be found in the legacy and teachings that come from our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic.

This is not to say that I am entirely dismissive of American values and opportunities, I have been privileged on a technological and industrial level. However, I do believe that now is the time to expect more than just survival, and begin to thrive.

It is going to take more than just a village… but an entire continental shift in unifying self-value for all people of color.

Salubrious Saturday – What Does the World Eat for Breakfast?

This I found to be a fun little side trip into the ever popular world of breakfast. So what does the world eat for breakfast? Well for me eggs are always a safe bet, but some of these other options look quite good. I do love food. Stay Healthy and Enjoy!

 

 

Breakfast is the first meal taken after rising from a night’s sleep, most often eaten in the early morning before undertaking the day’s work.[1] Among English speakers, “breakfast” can be used to refer to this meal or to refer to a meal composed of traditional breakfast foods (such as eggs, oatmeal and sausage) served at any time of day. The word literally refers to breaking the fasting period of the prior night.[2]

Breakfast foods vary widely from place to place, but often include a carbohydrate such as grains or cereals, fruit and/or vegetables, a protein food such as eggs, meat or fish, and a beverage such as tea, coffee, milk or fruit juice. Coffee, milk, tea, juice, breakfast cereals, pancakes, sausages, French toast, bacon, sweet breads, fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, mushrooms, baked beans, muffins, crumpets and toast with butter or margarine and/or jam or marmalade are common examples of breakfast foods, though a large range of preparations and ingredients are associated with breakfast globally.[3]

Some nutritional experts have long referred to breakfast as the most important meal of the day, citing studies that find that people who skip breakfast are disproportionately likely to have problems with concentration, metabolism, weight, and cardiac health.[4][5][6] The nutritionist Monica Reinagel has argued the metabolic benefits have been exaggerated, noting the improvement in cognition has been found among children, but is much less significant among adults. Reinagel also explains that the link between skipping breakfast and increased weight is likely behavioral—compensating with snacks and/or eating more later—and therefore not inevitable.[7] Some say that skipping breakfast may even lead to diabetes as well as coronary disease.[8]

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakfast

Fresh Face Friday – Chris Keeley

If I had to use just one word to describe Chris Keeley’s work it would be soulful. How he does it I do not know but even docks on a harbor speak with character and an intangible spirit. In this week’s Fresh Face Friday profile, Keeley speaks about his work as an artist and his recent life changing trip to Tanzania. To learn more about Chris Keeley visit: www.chriskeeleyphoto.com, www.facebook.com/chriskeeleyphoto, www.instagram.com/chriskeeleyphoto. Enjoy!

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Background:

1) Name:

Chris Keeley

2) Website Address:

www.chriskeeleyphoto.com, www.facebook.com/chriskeeleyphoto, www.instagram.com/chriskeeleyphoto

3) Mediums you work in:

Digital photography

4) Examples of your work:

See Below

5) Brief biography:

Chris Keeley grew up in Midcoast Maine and now resides in Dover, New Hampshire. He became a photographer at age 25. From humanitarian and portrait photography to business promotion and seascapes, Keeley is an artist drawn to all areas of photography. Most recently, Chris was capturing images in southwest Florida, Downeast Maine, the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountains, and Tanzania, Africa. His work can be viewed at galleries throughout New Hampshire and in numerous environmental publications.

Life:

1) What does wholehearted and mindful living mean to you?

Wholehearted and mindful living means applying myself to everything I do while being conscious of all of my surroundings and where I am in time and space. This means considering where the light is coming from, whether it’s the sun or artificial light, and how that light changes the subject, and how the subject or landscape might change or the stories it holds in its current condition. It’s also about considering how this photo will affect the future and what it means to the subject, especially if it’s a photo of a person or family. I think it’s only when you consider these and other elements, when you’re being wholehearted and mindful, that you succeed in capturing “the shot.”

2) How do you practice wholehearted and mindful living?

Well, being a photographer certainly helps. A camera is an incredible conduit for meeting new people and discovering lesser known places. I think it’s also incumbent upon photographers to give back with our skill set. That’s why two friends and I ventured on a philanthropy-photography workshop in Tanzania, and have since started an exhibit series and school supply drive to bring attention to the needs of schools in Tanzania.

3) What or who inspires you?

I am inspired by many talented photographers in my area who I’ve been fortunate to shoot with and share knowledge. My family is a galaxy of inspiration, especially my mother. She sets goals, works hard, and has the patience and selflessness of a saint.

4) Answer this quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one, wild, and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver

I aspire to live a life such that if someone were to write my biography, it would be something worth reading over and over again. To that end, we don’t have much time, and so I want to make every day count. I want to feel and be accomplished in all that I do.

5) What words of wisdom would you offer to your younger self?

Set goals, work hard, and when you meet your goals, set them higher! Never settle. Also, surround yourself with role models, people that posses skills or experiences that you strive for, and learn from them and their challenges along their path to success.

Work:

1) What is your project “Journey To Tanzania”?

Journey to Tanzania is a project that grew out of my experience from two weeks in Tanzania in 2013. I went with a team of photographers as philanthropy-meets-photography-workshop trip. We were there to capture photos for on-the-ground NGOs to help them show the work they do with HIV/AIDS programs, orphanages, and schools. I fell in love with the country and its people. I want to help them. So when we got back to the US, myself and two others who I went with developed a mission to use our photos to share insights into their culture while raising awareness of the critical need for school supplies for children. As we launch gallery exhibits, we are collecting school supplies and holding mini-workshops about Tanzania.

2) How have your travels through Tanzania influenced your photography and life?

Tanzania really opened my eyes to humanitarian photography. It also surprised me to see how such happiness can shine through people who are meeting only basic survival needs. It was such a reality check on what’s important in life, and how trivial all of our material possession really are toward reaching true happiness.

3) What have you learned about humanity and life through your work and artistry?

Everyone has a story, a moment to share, an impression to leave. In Tanzania, the people I met and the places I saw really drove home to me that we are all one community on this planet. It’s easy to say it, but it’s harder to understand it. Once you experience it, it becomes very clear. We’re all people, we all have so much in common once we take down our cultural barriers.

4) What is the relationship between art and service?

Art is service! A friend of mine describes sustainability as all that “sustains” us as humans. And art is a major part of that, it distinguishes us from other lifeforms. Photography, as a form of art, is a tool to give back and help those in need. I feel fortunate to be developing this skill set that allows me to give back.

5) What do you hope is the impact and meaning of your work?

I hope for my work to show that the world is an incredible place, with interesting places and compelling stories in every direction you look. You only have to open your eyes.

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Eye Contact by Chris Keeley
Coastal by Chris Keeley
By Chris Keeley
Strength by Chris Keeley
Spectral Seascape by Chris Keeley
The Docks of Prospect Harbor by Chris Keeley
Ducks at Menomin Morgan Horse Farm by Chris Keeley