Captured Voices Free Thoughts
Stephen John Hartnett
Oppression and a Call to Action
by DeAnna Albright
We women are the most oppressed group on the face of the planet. In every culture, nation, and religion, we are second-class citizens. In our male-dominated society, we have had to fight the right to vote, to work, to own land, to divorce, to not be treated as the property of our fathers and husbands. Patriarchal forces have abused us since the time of Eve! We have been subordinated by men, dominated sexually, and deemed biologically inferior and suitable only for sex and reproduction.
But we have always been far more than this.
In 1968, the first Miss America pageant was held in New York City. The women’s movement was there. In fact, this was where the feminist bra burning myth began! The movement asked the fundamental question: “Can make-up mask the scars of our oppression?”
The beauty fanatics crowned a 16-year-old child Miss America, declaring that a teenager exemplified the pinnacle of beauty and womanhood in the United States. This industry created and enforced standards of beauty that are upheld to this day.
A national survey conducted by Rita Freeman, author of Body Love, asked 200 women the following question: “If you could change one thing on your body, what would it be?” Not a single woman answered “nothing.” The survey asked, “At what age do women reach the peak of their attractiveness?” The winning answer was 33 – apparently it’s all downhill from there!
Whether we want to admit it or not, women are active players in the beauty game. We lower our self-esteem, as well as that of other women, by absorbing the unattainable ideal of beauty fashioned by the beauty industry. We then compare that falsehood to our actual appearance.
So here is how I propose that we begin to solve the problem:
- Boycott the practice of comparison.
- Start a letter campaign protesting the small range of women’s sizes and shapes depicted in magazine advertisements marketed towards women.
- Resist the wide range of plastic surgeries, including labium plasty, otherwise known as “designer vaginas.”
- Raise awareness of the social and medical risks of plastic surgery. With each surgery, we bow down to the societal abuses we’ve fought against, allowing ourselves to be identified exclusively as sex objects.
And now I need to ask you to start to visualize a different you…
Picture your ideal self… Maybe you’re 20 pounds lighter with shapely hips, or 10 years younger and have a flatter stomach. Or maybe you’re big breasted with thin thighs…
Now tip that mirror over and shatter it.
See yourself instead in your every day appearance – that’s beauty.
The 56 year old career woman who speaks four different languages and closes multi-million dollar deals – that’s beauty.
The woman with a scar on her knee from partying too hard a Pride – that’s beauty.
The women who can give you laugh lines with just the thought of her – that’s beauty.
So let us start now: love your body, love your mind, and learn our histories, because women, we are so beautiful.
Looking Out From Mona’s
by Shontel Lewis
Looking out from Mona’s
Wanting more for my people
Why aren’t we able to unite?
Ignite an uproar
That will demand the attention of the world
I adore my people
How deep can we go
To reach our full potential?
Wishing community unity was a given
Not a hallucination
Or just a saying
Wondering where my place is in this dream
I need the right team
So we can be a powerful machine
Spread our wings
The Black American dream
Give our community the means
Necessary for healing
And remember that this very spot
Was the epitome of blackness
Business, expenses, parades, celebrations
A collaboration of our people
United as one to achieve
The Black American dream
How will we achieve that?
Looking out from Mona’s
I see my people hurt, confused
Lost in poverty lifestyle
Wondering as to how
I as a child
Hung out with this same crowd
Yet avoided the life of my friends
Addicted to drugs
Used like rugs
Trapped in a gang
Loss of their real name
Being called “Lil C Loc Cuz”
Looking out from Mona’s
I wonder how this family business was able to strive
When everyone suffers hard times
And Blackberries still remains in our minds
Where corners are all lined
With our youth
Decked in their true blue
Chasing the dream they have been shown
On the videos
Alone in their homes
Grandparents step in
But when will we step up?
My people must get up
And no longer accept defeat
I wonder what they see
Hopefully the same conviction as me
While looking out from Mona’s
Editor’s note:Mona’s is the soul food landmark in Denver’s Five-Points neighborhood, the historical center of African American Denver. Blackberries was a local, alternative coffee shop that closed in the summer of 2010.
Violence & Loss
by Jacquelyn Bond
A life inside slowly began to die, even before taking his first breath in the world. With every beat of my heart and every blow from their hands, Death was ticking closer. I tried to curl in a tight ball and I prayed for God to keep this child and me safe. While he clung to life, still inside my womb, I began to foresee his death, and possibly my own. Questions ran deep through my mind, and in my heart I was screaming, “I’m sorry, my child, no more fight can I find!” In the end, my son did not escape death that fateful night, and even though I am alive today a part of me died with him.
To place your child into the ground knowing that you will never hold his hand or watch him play is the hardest situation a mother can face. A mother’s primal instinct is to protect her child no matter the situation, but I must tell you that there are some situations so out of our control that no matter how much we would wish to trade our lives for our children’s, it can’t be done; the power is not in our hands. This happened to me. It is my loss and my tragedy.
This is my story.
On October 10, 2009, I was nine months pregnant with my second child. I was the wife of a street hustler and drug dealer, who was also my best friend. I was five days away from my due date and was supposed to have been out of the state, in Indianapolis with my husband. Instead, I stayed home because I was having pre-labor contractions. My husband and a partner of his had quarreled a few months into my pregnancy, and there were a lot of threats in the streets between the two of them. On the night of October 10, I was home alone, just getting out of the shower, when two men broke into my townhome and proceeded to rob us. One of the men was my husband’s ex-partner and the other was an acquaintance of his. My presence startled them. They clearly hadn’t expected to find me there, assuming I had gone out of town with my husband. Because I had seen their faces and would be able to identify them, I would receive the most dreadful beating one could ever imagine. The tow of them pistol-whipped me and beat me into oblivion. I could hardly hold myself together with all the blows. Even so, my primal instinct kicked in and I did everything in my power to protect my child. I would not give in. I remember one of the guys saying, “Hey man, she isn’t going down without a fight and I am not shooting her. I’m out!” The other man kicked me in the back and I feel hard into the corner of the sink, slamming the middle of my nine months pregnant belly. I immediately felt fluid running down my legs. I clutched my stomach and all I remember from that moment was that I was on my knees praying to God to save my child and me.
The next thing I remember was being told that my child was brain dead with a severed spinal cord, and that the surgeon had almost lost me due to blood loss.
I held my child several days later. He was swathed in a powder-blue jumpsuit and wrapped in his blanket, as if he were only sleeping. For two hours, during his celebration of life ceremony, I held this innocent child who had lost his life to a vicious death. I placed my child into the casket instead of a bassinet; I put him into the ground instead of into the car to go home.
I still feel loss, I still grieve, and I still wake up clutching my stomach with silent screams. I have been through grief and loss counseling and I have sought out emotional release. And even though my child is dead, I remember that he still breathes in my soul and lives in Heaven. Somewhere, Dequarius Ke’Shawn Marques Bond is free. He is my angel, always watching over his family and me.
Having been a victim of violence and one that resulted in death, I pledge to walk out of these fences and take my place in “Stopping the Cycle of Violence.” I will find somewhere that I can volunteer, speaking to, and maybe even counseling, youth at risk, gang bangers in juvenile halls, or kids in group homes. I will enlighten them on recognizing the needless violence behind the “dope game” and the “street life.” They are too someone’s child, once innocent in the womb. The fact remains that we are guaranteed only one thing after life is created, that is death, so let it be timely and arrive only after much living. Don’t let it happen from needless violence done to someone you love, or to yourself.
So please, take a stand with me against violence by helping to promote peace and understanding.
My Beautiful Child
by Laura Martinez
I can’t be there
Because of choices I made
I knew they would hurt you
But couldn’t stop
Because of my addiction
The only thing I can ask you
Is to please learn from my mistakes
Make the right choices
And surround yourself
With caring, positive people
I’m not made at you
I’m mad at myself
I will always love you
My beautiful child
I Have to Love Myself
by April Murphy
Hope was gone
Only faith was left
For the love I needed
Was lost doing meth
Now I’ve had four years in prison
To contemplate life
And have learned
That love I want
Won’t come without a fight
Now I know
The love I need
Has to start with me
I have to love myself