Friday, August 19, 2011

Truth Stands Tall

I've started writing with some of my girlfriends. We have a poem/song a week challenge that's meant to sharpen our writing skills and provide topics for discussion. This week's challenge just happened to be writing about a woman you admire. I chose a woman who fought hard for women's rights. See if you can guess who I picked.It's just me and my ipad. This is my first time using the Garage Band app so don't expect perfection. If I waited for perfection you might never hear it. Take a listen...

Truth Stands Tall

My arms have lifted heavy loads
With no help at all
Had none to steady me
If I were to fall

(Cm- Fm )
And ain't I a woman? Aint I a woman?

My children sold and sent away
My heart ripped apart
I never lost my way
Not even In the  dark

And ain't I a woman?Ain't I a woman?

Ab (barre)-Eb(barre)
Now you extend a gloved hand armed with chivalry
Ab (barre)- Bb (barre)
You're telling me you want to help me cross the street (ha!)

Ain't I a woman?

Oh I have ploughed and I have planted
but reaped no fruit
You took it all away
Well, all except the truth

You think I'm fragile, you think I'm weak
But I'm resilient and I'll prove that I'm not meek

You seem surprised I am not broken
I will not crawl
I will not falter, will not fall
For Truth stands tall

Ain't I a woman? (a million times)

Truth Stands Tall by alicebag

Friday, August 12, 2011

To a Friend in London

For the past few days, I've been exchanging emails with an old friend who lives in London. I've watched with dismay the news reports and videos of the destruction and looting and read to my further dismay that the British government has threatened to shut down forms of communication including Twitter in response to what is taking place. Our emails touched on some of the causes of the current situation as perceived by my friend. She has a unique perspective, being an American ex-pat who has been living in London for several years. As the conversation has recently touched upon the topics of nations, national identity and multiculturalism, I thought I would share this with you.

"Thank you again for sharing your perspective with me. I don't think I'm necessarily more political than you, I've sort of soured on mainstream politics. There's not a whole lot of difference between the left and the right as far as I can see, though if I had to choose a side I'd be hanging off the edge of the left.

In the past few years I've had to reassess what it means to have a national identity. Do you consider yourself English now that you live there? What does it mean to be English? I ask myself a similar question, what does it mean to be American? I grew up loving this country, being fiercely patriotic. Indeed, even now when I see the corruption in our government and the bigotry of a large portion of its citizens, I can still see the beauty of America's spirit trying to shine out from under the muck.

I'm not sure that the concept of nations makes much sense to me anymore when I see that the multinationals are the ones who are running the world. Governments don't act in accordance with the needs or wishes of the people they represent, they act in accordance with the demands of the corporations who paid the money to put them in office. I really believe that. The big multinational corporations don't pay taxes, they can't really be sued except by their stockholders if they are publicly owned, and their sole reason for being is to make money, not to provide goods or services to the people. They are virtually unregulated. Governments help to create the illusion that there are nations and some even pretend to have a democracy but in the end when it comes to serving and representing their citizens, they fail.

It's comical to me that we have the Tea Party in Arizona claiming that Mexicans are taking their country from them. They're too blind to see that America doesn't belong to the people, it belongs to big business. Why don't they rally to tax corporations instead of complaining about immigrants who do the toughest jobs for pennies? Why do the immigrants come here in the first place? Why for work, of course. The thing is that in today's world they may not need to come here because so much work is outsourced these days to places where labor is cheap. If I were a Teabagger (as we on the left refer to the Tea Party members), I'd push for businesses to hire where they sell, I'd push for just wages for all workers, documented and undocumented. In the end that would help their cause, unless their real cause is just to spread racist paranoia because they're too afraid to tackle the real enemy, which would be a monumental task and require real patriotism and not just theatrical flagwaving.

As for culture, I think of myself as a citizen of the world. I love that there are cultural differences between us, but I do not value those who dominate or suppress human freedom in the name of culture or religion. I cannot be silent when women or minorities are discriminated against. It's funny, maybe that's just part of my Mexican-American upbringing.

Multiculturalism is a difficult dream to achieve, we have so much to learn before we can expect to be respectful of others. I know it would be a challenge for me. I am so damn opinionated! But can you imagine what a beautiful world it would be if we did achieve it?"


Monday, August 08, 2011

MALCS and Ladyfest IE

What a fabulous weekend! I got to see some of my oldest and dearest friends. I only wish I'd been able to visit all my L.A. pals, I tried. It was just a tad hectic, what with eating breakfast in Covina then rushing off to lunch in Silver Lake, then coffee in Montebello, dinner in Pasadena and then working on late night panel preparations. It was just crazy, fun but crazy!

I presented twice this weekend. On Friday at Cal State L.A. I did a workshop for MALCS, Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (Women Active in Letters and Social Change). This is a group of Chicana/Latina and Native American women working in academia. These women are fearless. It was great talking to them and hearing how they take on the challenge of being women of color in the largely white, male dominated world of higher education.

Presenting at MALCS was one of the most challenging things I've done in a long time. I have an intense fear of public speaking. I can get up on a stage and sing and dance for you but to stand still and speak...well, it was terrifying. I am lucky that I have such wonderfully supportive friends. Teresa Covarrubias, Martha Gonzalez, Quetzal Flores, and Michelle Habell-Pallan performed a song with me and that helped ease my fears.

Martha and Michelle were co-presenters with me, the overarching theme was Community. I spoke about the sense of community in the early L.A. punk scene and the importance of community today. I also read a couple of excerpts from my upcoming book Violence Girl, but since I was taking the pieces of writing from a larger chapter and I only had a short amount of time I realized that I had to shorten my readings. Unfortunately I did not edit them down to the proper size before getting up to present. I tried to crop out parts that didn't fit the presentation as I read and ended up mucking it up. Now I know better. I'll dust myself off and get my shit together before the next reading.

Martha spoke about community activism and building relationships through music. She showed slides of her work with the Zapatista community in Mexico and shared a song-writing technique where she guided the entire group through collective song writing. It was phenomenal!

Michelle Habell-Pallan, Ph.D., spoke about becoming an archivista and performing the essential task of documenting and archiving our work. She should know, since she's written several books including Latino/Latina Popular Culture and Loca Motion, The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture. She also curated American Sabor, Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, an exhibit that is currently at the Smithsonian.

The presentations on both days were only slightly varied. We had some technical problems at Ladyfest, so Teresa and I sang an old Las Tres song called Nuevo Amanecer, accompanied by Quetzal while Michelle and Marta tried to fix the laptop/projector issues. Both days ended with the audience writing a collective song. That was the most fun for all, it got everybody singing and in a good mood.

MALCS had a more formal feel than Ladyfest but was no less exciting. Ladyfest is a community organized event, it's a grassroots DIY festival that celebrates womyn arts and consists of workshops, music, speakers, poetry, vendors and much more.

I was moved that some women came up to me to speak of abusive situations they had escaped. They said that my writing and singing about the subject had touched them. I felt an instant kinship with them. Thank you, ladies, for sharing a painful portion of your private lives with me as I have tried to do with you. There was healing in that exchange, I could feel it.

I could fill pages and pages with all the wonderful things I saw happening at both conferences. So many strong intelligent women banding together, what a powerful experience. I am truly grateful for having been a part of it.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Bags - Live and Raw - 1978

"Musically in keeping with the fundamentalist pick-up-guitar-and-go punk aesthetic, the Bags frequently trumped "melody" with raw, enraged emotion, speed and overall sound, more hallmarks of hardcore speed thrash; hence they anticipated and set the tone for hardcore extremis to follow." - Brendan Mullen, an excerpt from On Surviving the Manimal and the Origins of US Hardcore.
Here we have a bootleg recording of the Bags playing live in 1978, circulated for years by tape traders despite the nearly unlistenable sound quality. Intro, instrumental and Violence Girl. We've tried to clean it up as much as we could and present it here for your enjoyment.

Bags Intro and Violence Girl Live by alicebag

Monday, August 01, 2011

Angelitos Negros

Just unearthed this cover version of a bolero made famous by Pedro Infante in the movie of the same name: Angelitos Negros. This a song I used to sing with Cholita back in the day, one of my character's (Sad Girl) rare turns in the spotlight. Cholita was a band where I was very happy to collaborate on songs and ideas and let Ms. Davis be the star that she is.

Angelitos Negros by alicebag