!Chicana Power!: Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement by Maylei Blackwell (A Review #AMST 525)

Some forty years after the “height” of the Chicana/o movement, there still hadn’t been a full accounting of the contributions and involvement of Chicanas.  This changed in 2011 with the publication of Dr. Maylei Blackwell’s !Chicana Power!: Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement (University of Texas Press).  Challenging readers to think beyond the binary, Blackwell (see here for interview) documents the day-to-day contributions, the activism, the theoretical work, and the struggles faced by Chicanas inside and outside the movement.  Offering a book that privileges the voices of Chicana activists, that chronicles the work carried out by Las Hijas and countless other organizations, Blackwell documents that many ways that Chicanas spotlighted, intervened, challenged, refashioned, and built upon the “conflict between American ideals and our social reality” (Imani Perry); she also makes clear the efforts to expose and curtail the conflict between the ideologies and rhetoric espoused within some spaces of the movement and the social reality.”

In her review of the book, Yolanda Padilla’s captures the essence of !Chicana Power! in her review of the book:

Maylei Blackwell’s !Chicana Power!, the first book-length study of Chicanas in the Chicano movement, uses oral history and archival research to tell the compelling story of Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, a group that emerged in the late 1960s in response to “the repudiation of women’s leadership and the marginalization of women’s issues in the Chicano student movement” (2). Blackwell’s focus is two-fold. First, she recounts the active ways that Las Hijas responded to the often severe discrimination they faced from male activists; these included concrete actions (publishing one of the first Chicana feminist newspapers, organizing a national meeting of Chicanas, and community involvement) and the development of an early analysis of the interrelated nature of gender, racial, sexual, and class power. Second, Blackwell interweaves her own analysis of how the story of Las Hijas “transforms the ways we understand these historical narratives and the political nature of the knowledge practices that produce them” (3). Thus, the politics of knowledge production is as central to the book as Las Hijas themselves. Informed by Foucault and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Blackwell underscores the stakes involved in interrogating exclusionary historical narratives, arguing that they do not “merely represent historical realities but help to produce those realities by enforcing the boundaries of legitimate political memory and the subjectivities they authorize” (11).

One of the book’s many strengths is Blackwell’s decision to foreground the voices of the organization’s former members, allowing their firsthand accounts to communicate how their struggles over gender and sexuality within the movement ultimately gave rise to the “multifaceted vision of liberation” they created, which, as Blackwell argues, resulted in the production of “a new Chicana political identity” (1). The book also provides an excellent analysis of the role played by sexual politics in the movement and details the painful divisions that marred the extraordinary 1971 national meeting of Chicanas (Conferencia de Mujeres por la Raza), shedding light on the “political fault lines of early Chicana feminism” (161). Finally, Blackwell develops a number of theoretical concepts, chief among which is her notion of “retrofitted memory,” her name for the historicizing strategies Las Hijas used to counter the erasure of Chicana political subjectivities from the movement. !Chicana Power! is a significant contribution to the ongoing process of historicizing Chicana feminist consciousness and furthers the work of scholars such as Emma Pérez, who have problematized traditional historio-graphical practices in Chicana/o studies contexts.

The book is not invested in simply filling the historical cupboards that have neglected to tell the stories of Chicana activists, those who challenged racism, sexism, homophobia, and the structures of violence, segregation, inequality, and white male hegemony in multiple locations.  Dr. Blackwell pushes readers beyond this binary. She argues that Chicana feminism wasn’t merely a response to the sexism of Chicano nationalism or the racism of the women’s movement.   Highlighting the many iterations of feminism, and the “adoption of different strategies to be heard” (p. 66) Maylei Blackwell brings many stories, many strains of history, and many spaces of resistance together in an effort to not only reimagine this historical moment but to challenge the ways that we construct narratives within the historical imagination.

She demands that readers of history account for the multiple points of entries, the multiple spaces of consciousness, and the conditions that led to action.  For example, whereas history books, which have long privileged white feminist national organizations, have imagined Chicana feminism as emanating from the writings, organizational influence, and teachings of white feminists, Maylei Blackwell highlights the longstanding history of feminism within Chicana movement that can be seen in the home, in indigenous institutions (p. 47), and in spaces that are autonomous to white feminist influence.

Moreover, she argues that to understand the Chicana feminist ethos of the 1960s and 1970s requires not simply looking at the contested politics of the Chicano movement and the entrenched misogyny and patriarchy, but white supremacy, classism, and the daily realities facing Chicana women. “Women activists learned to name the structures of exclusion and inequality they faced and how to negotiate complex relationships of power within and outside their community,” notes Blackwell (p. 61). “Familial bonds, female friendships, and relationships with political comrades were the sites through which they gained new forms of consciousness, named inequitable power relations, and strived to create new forms of solidarity, as well as a different organizational culture.” In other words, their experiences as students, as activists, as members of multiple communities, as daughters, friends, and partners all shaped their consciousness, political ethos, and repertoire of available tactics.  This was not defined by experiencing sexism in one location as often argued.

In pushing for a “retrofitted historic memory,” in documenting “multiple feminist insurgencies” (p. 21), in thinking about how conferences and print work contributed to imagined and realized communities, and in reflecting on Chicana subjectivities through a transnational framework, Maylei Blackwell offers a book that challenges our collective understanding of this historic moment; yet, it is equally invested in challenging how we make history and who is privileged through hegemonic history-making.  Pushing back at those who simply see history as the piecing together of the archives, Blackwell demands that we reflect on this process, inserting her important voice into both the history and the history making.

!Chicana Power!  thus challenges the over reliance on text centered, chronological and archival based histories (p. 36), which invariably elevates male participation, organizational importance, and the spectacular moments that contribute to social transformation.  Reimagining definitions of leadership, activism, and social movements (p. 37), Blackwell also reimagines how we write and document history:

When I began this research in 1991, I embarked on a question to turn up the volume on the stories of gender and sexuality that have been dubbed out of the Chicano historical record.  Through this journey I have found that being an oral historian is like being a DJ. As one digs through the old crates of records (historical archives) to find missing stories, the songs (narratives groups, if you will) must be selected and their elements remixed to produce new meanings.  Oral historians spin the historical record by sampling new voices and cutting and mixing the established sounds to allow listeners to hear something different, even in grooves they thought they knew” (p. 38).

Also an embodying an interdisciplinary approach that samples that necessary theories, that borrows from the useful registers of a myriad of disciplines, which builds on different traditions and understandings of the world, this book seeks to answer a series of important questions, to chronicle the spaces and means of resistance exhibited by Chicana activists.  In this regard, !Chicana Power! offers a powerful theoretical intervention.  The methods employed by hegemonically produced histories and dominant social movement theory exclude women of color in part because of the failure “to see multiple strands of intervention and contribution.” That is, this work is not simply an effort to “add-and-stir” but one invested in rethinking our historic epistemologies and how this erases women of color. An important book for those seeking to understanding the Chicana/o movement, to complicating our 1960s-1970s memory, !Chicana Power! is a treasure for its theorizing, for its methodological intervention, and for its efforts to provide future scholars and history makers with the tools to fulfill “the historian’s political project: to write a history that decolonizes otherness” (Emma. Perez, p. 15).




  1. In what ways did “Chicano cultural nationalism create a contradictory position for women” (98)?
  2. How is this work both a critical intervention against cultural nationalism and also a historic project of reclamation?
  3. How does this book’s methodological approach/history making compare to our previous discussed texts
  4. In what ways is this book in dialogue with hegemonic understandings of social movements; how does it argue that if we are to reclaim and make visible these untold stories we must “decolonize” the ways we understand and chronicle history?
  5. Reaction to DJ metaphor?
  6. How does the book challenge definition of leadership?
  7. How does it intervene within binary of Chicano movement versus feminist movement?
  8. How does it challenge the narrative that often positions activism and grassroots organizing in opposition to intellectual work, to theoretical and discursive struggles?
  9. What legacies can we see from the historiography chronicled here?
  10. How does this image defy and replicate dominant expectations of Chicana femininity?
  11. Whereas this book is not invested in documenting struggles against the state, Empty Nets is very much invested in chronicling the struggles against the state (within meeting rooms, through court cases, lobbying).  Does this reflect the different historic projects or the varied social location of the Chicana/o and Indigenous communities?
  12. How are both these books local, but national historiographies?
  13. How can we understand social movement as existing within structures of state and outside state; often times social movements are imagined as apart from political structure – limitations?

Frat Rap and the New White Negro – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Frat Rap and the New White Negro - The Conversation - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Frat Rap and the New White Negro

August 29, 2013, 2:23 pm

By David J. Leonard

Adele, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Teena Marie. White musicians and fans are embracing the cultural performance—jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm & blues, hip-hop—that African-Americans have given life to over the last century.

In 1957, Norman Mailer spoke to the existence of the “White Negro,” an urban hipster whose fascination and fetishizing of blackness resulted in a set of practices that reflected a white imagination: part cultural appropriation, a subtle reinforcement of segregation, and a desire to try on perceived accents of blackness. “So there was a new breed of adventurers, urban adventurers who drifted out at night looking for action with a black man’s code to fit their facts,” he wrote. “The hipster had absorbed the existentialist synapses of the Negro, and for practical purposes could be considered a white Negro.”

As the Princeton University professor Imani Perry has noted, “there is a sonic preference for blackness, the sounds of blackness, but there is a visual preference for whiteness in our culture.” It should come as no surprise, then, that white rappers are slowly beginning to dominate the college music scene with the ascendance of a genre that can loosely be called “frat rap.”

Be it the thumping bass of artists like Mac Miller and Mike Posner, or the blaring noise of Asher Roth, Sam Adams, or Hoodie Allen, the white rappers who are gaining a foothold in the college scene need to be seen as part of a longstanding tradition of white theft of black artistry. The popularity of those artists, alongside that of Ryan Lewis and Macklemore—who can be heard interrogating white privilege, marriage, and materialism in their music—cannot be understood outside their whiteness.

The frat-rap craze saw its origins in 2009, with the release of Asher Roth’s “I Love College.” This subgenre not only markets itself to white college students but also marries the aesthetics and sensibilities of hip-hop with the experiences and narratives of white, male college students. Rather than building on oppositional traditions of hip-hop, which the former frontman for Public Enemy, Chuck D, once identified as “CNN for black people,” frat rap rhymes about all things white and middle class: desires that begin and end with parties, drinking, girls, and fun.

The moniker of frat rap is powerful because it reflects a desired level of ownership. White-fraternity claims to the music and culture displace a long association of rap with blackness, urbanity, and the inner city. Instead, the music exists within the context of the university.

Continue reading at  Frat Rap and the New White Negro – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Drone Attacks Have Broad Support: Imagining something else


WSJ/NBC Poll: Drone Attacks Have Broad Support - Washington Wire - WSJ

It is rather chilling that 66% of the country supports drones strikes.  It is chilling not only because of the seeming willingness to be in perpetual war and the lack of public discourse about the cost and consequence of perpetual war (or the lives lost), but because it is a stark reminder how all lives are not imagined as equal.  Imani Perry got me thinking about imagining or dreaming alternatives this morning.  Imagine if the media focused less on polls and more about educating/informing the public about the destruction of drones.  Imagine if they reported the words of Shahzad Akbar (from article that Scahill quote is from), a Pakistani attorney, who reminded the American public, “Drone victims are not just figures on a piece of paper, they are real people and that’s why it is important to see what happens on the ground when a missile hits a target. We have to see what exactly is happening on the ground, what is happening to the people.” Imagine if polls would take place after watching a video from Jeremy Scahill, who in one speech offered the following:

What is happening to this country right now?” We have become a nation of assassins. We have become a nation that is somehow silent in the face of — or embraces, as polls indicate — the idea that assassination should be one of the centerpieces of US foreign policy. How dangerous is this? It’s a throwback to another era  — an era that I think many Americans thought was behind them. And the most dangerous part of this is the complicity of ordinary people in it.

Imagine if this was part of the conversation; what if there was a daily confrontation with lost lives at the hands of drones.  Tell their stories; report the death and devastation; show imagines of what a drone does and then take a poll.  Maybe I am holding onto those freedom dreams, that if people knew the facts, knew the stories, read “The Guilty Conscience of a Drone Pilot who killed a child,” the polls would be different. The policy would change.  But I don’t know.  But the imagination and the dreams are powerful, so despite my cynicism and frustration, despite my sadness, I cannot but hope, wondering if we will begin to heed the words of Dr. King,

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.



Polls are one thing but drones are not about polls; they are about morals and values, life and death; they are about people.

Here is the article got me thinking about these questions.

Amid months of discussion on the morality and legality of using drone strikes to target terrorist groups – and a week after President Barack Obama publicly defended his use of drones – a strong majority of Americans said they support such measures.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll out Wednesday found that 66% said they favored the use of unmanned aircraft to kill suspected members of al Qaeda and other terrorists, while only 16% said they were in opposition and 15% said they didn’t know enough to form an opinion.

Since Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009, more than 300 drone strikes have been conducted in Pakistan, according to the nonpartisan New America Foundation, while the George W. Bush administration conducted fewer than 50 strikes.

via WSJ/NBC Poll: Drone Attacks Have Broad Support – Washington Wire – WSJ.

via WSJ/NBC Poll: Drone Attacks Have Broad Support – Washington Wire – WSJ.

NewBlackMan: Black Athletes and the Racial Politics of Sickle Cell

Black Athletes and the Racial Politics of Sickle Cell

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

With the Raiders losing on Sunday, the Denver Broncos backpedaled their way into the 2012 NFL playoffs. Although guaranteeing one more week of conversations about Tim Tebow, a fact that no one should wish for, their playoff birth is dramatically impacting the Pittsburgh Steelers and more specifically their safety Ryan Clark. On Monday, Tomlin announced that Clark would be unable to play with the team because he has a sickle-cell trait, which can cause problems in high altitude situations. During a 2007 game in Denver, Clark became terribly ill. Doctors had to remove his spleen and gallbladder; as a result of his organs being deprived of oxygen, Clark lost an astounding 30 pounds.

While the threat to his life is significant, and the decision to skip the game would seem to be a no-brainer, Clark had planned to play. “I mean, everybody knows I want to play and I would have played,” Clark told ESPN. “I talked to my doctors and we actually had a plan in place for me to play. All things pointed to me going until (Tomlin) told me I can’t. He said he wouldn’t have let his son play and so I’m not playing either.” It would be easy to dismiss Clark’s comments, assuming that his plans to play were never realistic or possible. Yet, it is not hard to imagine an NFL player risking life and limb to play “on any given Sunday.”

In an Associated Press story on San Diego Charges offensive Lineman, Kris Dielman, acknowledged a willingness to risk his health in his pursuit to win a Super Bowl title. Dielman, who missed 10 games as a result of a concussion, had a seizure during a post-game team flight, resulting in him being rushed to the hospital. “This was definitely a scare. Waking up in the hospital with my wife standing over me, that was pretty scary. I don’t scare easy, but that was something different.” Neither this scare nor his 2 kids at home changed his approach to the game. He is not alone. Two weeks ago, the Associated Press reported that half of the players (23/44) of the players they interviewed admitted that, “they would try to conceal a possible concussion rather than pull themselves out of a game.” So it should surprise no one that Clark wants to play.

In a sport and a culture that defines masculinity through toughness, invincibility, and competitive fire. In a world of sports that values “winning at all costs” and “a never quit attitude,” Clark’s response reflects the masculinist orientation of sports culture. This is why Coach Mike Tomlin’s decision to hold Clark out of the game, and his unwillingness to ask his players to do anything he wouldn’t feel comfortable asking his children to do, is one worth celebrating. It challenges the culture of masculinity and the ways in which a football culture puts victories and a particular vision of masculinity ahead of everything else.

What has also been striking in the media coverage of Clark’s situation is the absence of any discussion of sickle cell/sickle cell trait in relationship to African Americans. There is a missed opportunity here to differentiate between the trait and disease; Clark has the trait and not the disease. While some articles discussed the medical science related to sickle-cell and how it put him at risk in high altitude settings, with most treating his inability to play as another sports-related “injury story,” there is bigger story here as it relates to sickle cell and African Americans.

This erasure fits with a larger history whereupon the health issues faced by people of color are rendered invisible. Writing about the Black Panther Party and its efforts “to raise public consciousness about sickle cell anemia,” Alondra Nelson states in Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination. “The condition became a rallying cry for other representatives of the black community.” The media missed an opportunity to highlight how this disease disproportionately impacts African Americans. In the United States, 1 in 12 African Americans carries the sickle cell trait (1 in 500 have the disease).

The missed opportunity reflects an overall failure to acknowledge the ways in which sickle cell disproportionately impacts African Americans. As Imani Perry told me, “Being at higher risk, because one belongs to a particular ethnic group, has to be distinguished from the idea that the disease is actually a consequence of race, which is a social construct” notes the Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, “Some diseases are more likely to be found in particular ethnic or racial groups, but that may be a product of environmental conditions or history rather than some genetics that correlate to what we call race.”

While race is a social construction, with zero biological imperative, this disease effects African Americans in devastating ways. In “Dying in the City of the Blues: Sickle Cell Anemia and the Politics of Race and Health,” Keith Wailoo argues that “history of sickle cell anemia in the United States,” is a story of “transformation from an ‘invisible’ malady to a powerful, yet contested, cultural symbol of African American pain and suffering.”

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan: Black Athletes and the Racial Politics of Sickle Cell.