Socialist and feminist culture

  • Mountain Moving Day, by Yosano Akkiko
  • The Ballad of Paragraph 218, by Bertolt Brecht
  • Sickness Slept in Us, by Karen Brodine
  • The revolutionary life of Claudia Jones, by Muffy Sunde
  • What is Activism?, by June Jordan
  • It Pleases Me, by Tatiana Lobo
  • Canción Sin Miedo/Song without Fear, by Vivir Quintana & Mon Laferte
  •    (En español – Me Agrada)
  • We Eat Chicken Feet and We Are Not Dead, by Nellie Wong
  • Women of the World, by Nellie Wong
  • Jelly Beans, by Merle Woo from Yellow Woman Speaks

  • abstract sculture of a woman's head done in a black material
    by Elizabeth Catlett

    "What is Activism?" by June Jordan
    Harlem-born poet (1936-2002) active in civil rights, feminist, antiwar, and gay and lesbian rights movements.

    Activism is not issue-specific.
    It's a moral posture that, steady state,
        propels you forward, from one hard
    hour to the next.
    Believing that you can do something
        to make things better, you do
    something, rather than nothing.
    You assume responsibility for the
        privilege of your abilities.
    You do whatever you can.
    You reach beyond yourself in your
        imagination, and in your wish for
    Understanding, and for change.
    You admit the limitations of individual
    You trust somebody else.
    You do not turn away.

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    "Women of the World," by Nellie Wong

    Women who plant rice
    Women who sew pants
    Women who weave rugs
    Women who compose songs
    Women who launder, who wash and wash
    Women who clean rooms, who dig ditches
    Women who agitate for a living wage
    Women who give their bodies
    Women who invent
    Women who dance
    Women who work
    And all women work
    Women who sacrifice sleep
    Women who weld, who paint, who doctor
    Women who see with their ears, hear with their eyes
    Women who resist, their brains and bodies in united fronts
    Women who build coalitions
    Women who organize, strategize, materialize
    Women who teach, who learn
    Women who are migrants, refugees escaping violence
    against their bodies, their children’s lives
    Women who fight against sexual slavery
    Women who abort, who choose
    Women who act for clean water, clear skies
    For education for all
    Women who lead
    To end wars that promulgate profits, destruction
    Women who cross borders
    Women     she     they     we
    Women of the world unite
    We are waves, rivers, mountains
    We who cover the earth
    Fighting to be free.

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    blue backgound with graphic of a woman with a baby carried in a cloth on her back and holding a gun with muzzle pointing skyward

    "Mountain Moving Day," by Yosano Akkiko
    Japanese poet, author, and activist, 1878-1942

    The mountain-moving
    day is coming.
    I say so, yet others doubt.
    Only a
    while the mountain sleeps.
    In the past
    All mountains
    moved in fire,
    Yet you may not believe it.
    Oh man,
    this alone believe,
    All sleeping women
    Now will
    awake and move.

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    “The Ballad of Paragraph 218,” by Bertolt Brecht
    Published in “Bertolt Brecht Poems 1913-1956”

    Please, doctor. I've missed my monthly . . .
    Why, this is simply great. If I may put it bluntly
    You're raising our birthrate.
    Please, doctor, now we're homeless . . .
    But you'll have a bed somewhere
    So best put your feet up, moan less
    And force yourself to grin and bear.
    You'll make a simply splendid little mummy
    Producing cannon-fodder from your tummy
    That's what your body's for, and you know it, what's more
    And it's laid down by law
    And now get this straight:
    You'll soon be a mother, just wait.
    But, doctor, no job or dwelling:
    My man would find kids the last straw . . .
    No, rather a new compelling
    Objective to work for.
    But, doctor. . . Really, Frau Griebel
    I ask myself what this means
    You see, our State needs people
    To operate our machines.

    You'll make a simply splendid little mummy
    Producing factory fodder from your tummy
    That's what your body's for, and you know it, what's more
    And it's laid down by law
    And now get this straight:
    You'll soon be a mother, just wait.
    But, doctor, there's such unemployment. . .
    I can't follow what you say.
    You're all out for enjoyment
    Then grumble at having to pay.
    If we make a prohibition
    You bet we've a purpose in mind.
    Better recognize your condition
    And once you've agreed to put yourself in our hands, you'll find

    You're a simply splendid little mummy
    Producing cannon fodder from your tummy
    That's what your body's for, and you know it, what's more.
    And it's laid down by law
    And now get this straight:
    You'll soon be a mother, just wait.

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    painting of a furnished room white curtains and three people. One woman is painting a picture

    Meagan Murphy

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    “Canción Sin Miedo/Song without Fear” Vivir Quintana & Mon Laferte
    dark-haired women singing into golden microphone with other women singing behind her

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    “It Pleases Me,” by Tatiana Lobo
    Costa Rican poet born in Chile

    It pleases me that they tell me I'm
    hysterical because then I can
    throw dishes at anyone's head who
    tries to harm me.
    I like that they call me "witch" because
    I can burn the bed
    where they rape me.
    I like that they call me weak,
    because it reminds me that unity makes strength.
    I like that they call me gossipy,
    because nothing human will be alien to me.
    But what I'm most thankful for, what
    pleases me the most, what I like
    the most and what makes me happiest is
    that they call me crazy,
    because then no liberty will be denied to me.
    It pleases me to know that my brain is
    smaller than a man's brain,
    because then my brain fits everywhere.
    It pleases me that they tell me I lack logic,
    because then I can create a logic
    that's less cold and more vital.
    It pleases me that they tell me
    I'm vain, because I can look at myself in the mirror
    without feeling guilty.
    It pleases me that they tell me I'm emotional
    because I can cry and laugh as I please.

    One and a thousand times the inquisition burned me
    and I learned to rise from the ashes.
    They locked me in a harem,
    and locked up I didn't stop laughing.
    They put me in a chastity belt
    and I acquired the arts of a locksmith.
    I loaded bundles of firewood
    and it made me strong.
    They put a veil on my face
    and I learned to watch without being seen.
    The kids woke me up in the middle of the night
    and I learned to keep myself in wakefulness.
    They didn't send me to the university
    and I learned to think on my own.
    I transported pitchers of water
    and learned to keep my balance.
    They removed my clitoris
    and I learned to enjoy with all of my body.
    I spent days embroidering and weaving
    and my hands learned to be more
    exact than those of a surgeon.
    I harvested wheat and I harvested corn, but they
    took away my food
    And with hunger I learned to live.

    They sacrificed me to the gods and to the men
    And I returned to live.
    They hit me and I lost my teeth
    And I returned to live.
    They assassinated me and defiled me
    And I returned to live.
    They took away my children and in the crying
    I returned to life.

    I'm thankful to be an animal because
    men have put the survival of
    the planet in danger.
    I'm thankful to be a woman, because the man
    is not the center of the universe,
    rather just another link in the chain of life.
    I'm thankful that they tell me I'm
    irrational, because reason
    has led to the worst acts of barbarity.
    I'm thankful not to have invented technology,
    because technology has poisoned the water and the ozone.
    I'm thankful that they have placed me
    closer to nature,
    because I will never be alone.
    I'm thankful they have confined me to the home and the family,
    because I can do everything on earth, which is my home and family.

    I'm happy that they call me housewife
    because I can get hold of all my things.
    I am happy I'm not competitive
    because then I will be supportive.
    I'm happy to repose with the warrior
    because I can cut his hair while he sleeps.
    I am happy they excluded me from the battlefield,
    because death is not indifferent to me.
    I am happy to have been excluded from this patriarchal power,
    because far from this, I am further from ambition and greed.
    I am happy that they excluded me from art and science,
    because I can invent them again.
    With so many accumulated strengths,
    With so many abilities and learned skills,
    Woman, if you try, you can turn
    the world upside down.

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    “Me Agrada,” por Tatiana Lobo
    poetisa costarricense de origen chileno

    Me agrada que me digan que soy
    histérica porque entonces puedo
    lanzar los platos a la cabeza de quien
    intenta hacerme daño.
    Me gusta que me llamen bruja porque
    puedo quemar el lecho
    donde me abusan.
    Me gusta que me llamen débil,
    porque me recuerdan que la unión hace la fuerza.
    Me gusta que me digan chismosa,
    porque nada de lo humano me será ajeno.
    Pero lo que más agradezco, lo que mas
    me agrada, lo que mas
    me gusta y lo que me hace más feliz es
    que me digan loca,
    porque entonces ninguna libertad me será negada.
    Me agrada saber que mi cerebro es mas
    pequeño que el cerebro del hombre,
    porque entonces mi cerebro cabe en todas partes.
    Me agrada que me digan que carezco de lógica,
    porque entonces puedo crear una lógica
    menos fría y más vital.
    Me agrada que me digan que soy
    vanidosa, porque puedo mirarme al espejo
    sin sentirme culpable.
    Me agrada que me digan que soy emocional
    porque puedo llorar y reír a gusto.

    Una y mil veces me quemo la Inquisición
    y aprendí a nacer de las cenizas.
    Me encerraron en un harem
    y encerrada no deje de reír.
    Me pusieron un cinturón de castidad
    y adquirí las artes de un cerrajero.
    Cargue fardos de leña
    y me hice fuerte.
    Me pusieron velos en la cara
    y aprendí a mirar sin ser vista.
    Me despertaron los niños a medianoche
    y aprendí a mantenerme en vigilia.
    No me enviaron a la Universidad
    y aprendí a pensar por mi cuenta.
    Transporte cantaros de agua
    y supe mantener el equilibrio.
    Me extirparon el clítoris
    y aprendí a gozar con todo el cuerpo.
    Pase días bordando y tejiendo
    y mis manos aprendieron a ser mas
    exactas que las de un cirujano.
    Segué trigo y coseche maíz, pero me
    quitaron la comida
    Y con hambre aprendí a vivir.
    Me sacrificaron a los dioses y a los hombres
    Y volví a vivir.
    Me golpearon y perdí los dientes
    Y volví a vivir.
    Me asesinaron y ultrajaron
    Y volví a vivir.
    Me quitaron a mis hijos y en el llanto
    volví a la vida.

    Agradezco ser un animal porque los
    hombres han puesto en peligro
    la supervivencia del planeta.
    Agradezco ser hembra, porque el hombre
    No es el centro del universo,
    sino apenas un eslabón más en la cadena de la vida.
    Agradezco que me digan que soy
    irracional, porque la razón
    Ha conducido a los peores actos de barbarie.
    Agradezco no haber inventado la Tecnología,
    Porque la tecnología ha envenenado el agua y el ozono.
    Agradezco que me hayan colocado mas
    cerca de la naturaleza,
    porque nunca estaré sola.
    Agradezco que me hayan confinado al hogar y la familia,
    porque puedo hacer de toda la tierra, mi hogar y mi familia.

    Estoy feliz que me llamen ama de casa
    porque puedo apoderarme de la mía.
    Estoy feliz de no ser competitiva
    porque entonces seré solidaria.
    Estoy feliz de ser el reposo del guerrero,
    porque puedo cortarle el pelo mientras duerme.
    Estoy feliz de que me hayan excluido del campo de batalla,
    porque la muerte no me es indiferente.
    Estoy feliz de haber sido excluida de este poder patriarcal,
    Porque lejos de este, me alejo de la ambición y de la codicia.
    Estoy feliz de que me hayan excluido del arte y la ciencia,
    porque los puedo inventar de nuevo.
    Con tantas fortalezas acumuladas,
    con tantas habilidades y destrezas aprendidas,
    Mujer, si lo intentas, puedes volver el mundo al revés.

    abstract art- gray and black images and faces

    Meagan Murphy

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    “Jelly Beans,” by Merle Woo
    from Yellow Woman Speaks

    The harmony of a million languages —
    Colors never before seen;
    People with
    Cultures so many so rich always changing
    Each with a sense of place
    Not ownership.

    And also,
    We began to see people
    Becoming tangible and real,
    Becoming their potential.

    A thousand-fold of gender expressions —
    A wild flourishing of sexualities —

    The nuclear family unit had
    Dis appeared,
    Because everyone had everything
    Males and females were equal
    Children were no longer
    Blue and pink incipient workers.

    It didn’t matter anymore if you
    Were mannish or womanish —

    Why, you could be
    Two spirits, three spirits, four —
    Fluid, changing by choice
    Or desire,
    Interpenetration of sexualities —
    And genders —
    For some
    Clearly male and female for others —
    So many expressions
    And speakings out
    We no longer laughed at
    But admired
    The chick who kept her dick —

    The tomboy who grew up to be a man,
    The tomboy who grew up to be a lesbian,
    The tomboy who grew up to be a woman —

    The girlboygirl who is still changing
    The girl man who is trying to find
    The boy he had lost.

    We decided that gender expressions
    Like racial expressions
    Were like jelly beans —
    One alone is pretty enough
    But one among many
    Multi-flavored, multi-colored
    Jelly beans

    painting of white woman standing, dark-skinned woman sitting on red wavy background

    Meagan Murphy

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    black and white photo of Claudia Jones at the microphone

    "The life and times of Claudia Jones, early Marxist feminist and race liberator,” by Muffy Sunde

    “Black women—as workers, as Blacks, and as women—are the most oppressed stratum of the whole population… The super-exploitation of the Black woman worker is thus revealed not only in that she receives as woman, less than equal pay for equal work with men, but in that the majority of Black women get less than half the pay of white women.” – Claudia Jones, 1939    more...

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    “Sickness Slept In Us,” by Karen Brodine
       from the poem series “No One Immune” (1985)

    It was a time when sickness slept in us waiting
    It was a time when birds dove through slick oil
    and came up without feathers
    a time when no one was immune

    Are you now
    or have you ever been
    a member of those
    who face the days with no natural defense?
    who face a slow and certain death?
    diagnosed, the new lepers
    under wrath of god.

    Can they lock us all up?

    bright abstract painting with red and purple squares and diagonals on blue background
    Meagan Murphy

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    “We Eat Chicken Feet and We Are Not Dead,” by Nellie Wong

    We eat chicken feet and we are not dead
    Our bowls are rimmed with bats and fire flies
    Our feet pedal sewing machines making blue denim jeans
    We march in Chinatown protesting discrimination
    Corona virus has no yellow skin nor brown eyes
    We are delivery workers, doctors, dancers, actors
    Our ancestors memorized the number of doors and windows in the home village, whether our fathers had more than one wife
    Our foremothers sold their bodies to feed their children
    Ah Bing cultivated wild and sweet cherries in Oregon, disappeared in China
    We make masks and we don't hide
    We fight for Asian American Studies
    Agitating for inclusion is a political act
    We strike for higher wages, rest periods for our aching backs
    We are immigrants at home all over the world
    We are natives, born in Eureka, Augusta, Oakland, Phoenix, Flushing
    We dispense herbs, make soup to heal our bodies
    Harvest chrysanthemums, grapes, pea shoots, taro
    Oh yeah, we yakety yack, we jitterbug and jive, play flutes and drums
    We dream and we braise and steam and we write
    We eat chicken feet and we are not dead.

    brightly colored abstract painting with mountains, flowers, and blue diagonal lines across green

    Meagan Murphy

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