Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vielka's Guide to the Propositions: Prop 6


Prop 6 gives more money to law enforcement and tags on a little something something to increase punishment for so-called gang-related crimes. Let me tell you: if any state entity needs less money, it's the po-po! Second, if those pricks could identify a "gang" or something "gang-related" with any ounce of accuracy, I might be down. Actually, probably not.

When I was teaching high school in a large, suburban high school in the Bay, we were having an issue with fights. Some of the teachers freaked out and asked for the cops to come to a staff meeting to ease our minds. "What should we do!?" the panicked teachers begged to know. "The gangs are here from Oakland!" The officer told the crowd of two-hundred teachers, administrators and staff the following: "if his name is Juan and he is wearing red, send him to me." That's it? Really? Ummm, racist! Classist. Homophobic! Dumb. And I'm not paying any more for that.

It's always good to know how the police defines things. In this case "gang," happens to include any group of three or more folks of color. And for the people on the Califorina Gang Database, it's especially boo-boo since they don't even know they are on that list until they are in a courtroom for swiping a Snicker bar and the prosecutor is like, "hold up, you're on the gang database so this crime is gang-related." And dude gets six months. This is real. It has happened. A lot.

The problem gets even worse when we look at how people get on the database. It is a completely subjective, almost arbritrary system. So Officer Pig sees someone who s/he thinks is in a gang. Perhaps dude is talking to someone on the corner. Officer Pig is sitting in her/his patrol car, could be fifty yards away, and pulls out a camera and takes a picture. It's too far to hear them so Pig writes down a name, "Flaco," figuring that should cover it. And that's the beginning to Flaco's file. That weekend, Flaco goes to a family party. Who knows, they could all be gang members, thinks Pig and s/he takes pictures of everyone at the party. And that's how tens of thousands of Californians are on that list. Some of you all might want to stay away from my ass.

So if that didn't convince you, know that Lee Baca, LA County Sheriff, supports this thing. And he might be the wackest.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vielka's Guide to the Propositions: Prop 5


Imagine drug offenders go to prison and instead of getting access to more drugs and their addictions getting worse, they go to rehab. What a world! So that's Prop 5. Currently, some drug offenses will get you rehab with a reduced sentence or no sentence at all. Prop 5 expands the list of drugs that fall under this list (and amounts). Of course, these are non-violent drug offenses, so nothing involving weapons, etc. And this does not apply to folks who have been to prison before.

This one is pretty easy so I really want to drive a few points home so that you don't ignore this one. As we know, the majority of prisoners are Black and Brown men (somewhere in the 80 percentile). The majority of them are in prison for non-violent drug offenses (about 60%). Once someone goes to jail, s/he has something around an 87% chance of going back. Finally, a Black man between the ages of 18-25, is six times more likely to be in prison; for Brown men it's four. We also have a major prison overcrowding situation in California. Instead of investing money in schools or rehab, the state keeps building more prisons. If you add up all the CSUs and UCs, you still wouldn't have the amount of prisons and jails in the state. With the Prison Industrial Complex, schools and neighborhoods have become basically a pipeline into the prisons.

If that doesn't convince you, let Hollywood try to convince you:

"Blood In, Blood Out: Bound by Honor"--Meeklo's story should do it
"Mi Familia"--Jimmy Smits' character's story
"American Me"--Damn, that entire movie
"Boyz in the Hood"--when Furious breaks down how buying houses leads to poor neighborhoods

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vielka's Guide to the Propositions: Prop 4

Short Answer: VOTE NO

Currently, a teenager (and I believe the age is 13), can see a doctor or health care worker without her/his parents knowing. Again, I'm not sure, but I believe that is the same age in which a teenager can seek an abortion without parental consent. If it isn't 13, then it's 15, but I'm pretty sure it is 13. Regardless, teens can currently seek an abortion without a guardian's approval. So Prop 4 says that the doctor, not the teen, has to tell the guardian within 48 hours of the abortion. So a young person can schedule and discuss the abortion sans guardian but the guardian will be notified 48 hours before the abortion, and can persuade or dissuade the young person in whichever way.

I have been a middle and high school teacher for a number of years and during that time I have had the uncomfortable task of teaching sex ed to young people, who frankly, knew a whole helluva lot more than my naive ass did. I'll keep that first part real. But if I was somewhat blind, no one was more blind than the guardians. I can't tell you how many meetings I've had with guardians about not wanting their 15-year old to hear..."penis"...because little Jimmy wasn't interested in those things yet. Ummm...okay. And I saw little Jimmy doing some bump and grind outside my classroom, but whatever.

So I guess you're wondering why I would say to vote no on something that would require someone to tell the parents what is going on. It's easy. When little Jimmy's guardians were sitting there saying how they wanted to keep him "virginal," I didn't say jack. Because that wasn't my job. When I say that wasn't my job, I'm not saying anything about snitching because, keep it real, half of teaching is snitching. My job wasn't to mend poor communication in a family. Could you imagine blurting out, "well Jimmy does all sorts of things and has like five STIs! I mean, you should know that. Everyone here knows that." What do I look like? I would feel bad for a doctor whose patient doesn't talk to her parents, to be the one to deliver a message that may sound like this: "This is Dr. Hoy and your daughter has been here to see more for the past three months. She has been talking to me and not you, because she feels you are too rigid. Well, that isn't the point, but that's what she said. Anyway, it's Tuesday today and she is having an abortion on Thursday. I'm just hollering so you can know that, but regardless, she can still have the abortion.[pause for effect] Yes, I'm sure you're a nice person and a great listener...Right, right...Me neither...You can say that again...Well, you guys have a lot to talk about. Talk to you later."

Honestly, this is a bit tough because I think communication in families is extremely important. But my family was on a total other level with the communication. I mean, I knew way too much. My dad worked for Planned Parenthood for a while and even before that, he let us know the real deal. I knew what was up when I was about eight! I didn't know what my friends were up to, but I knew what was out there. I didn't know much about, shall we say, tricks and strange names for ordinary acts, like those kids do, but I knew what I needed to know. I would love it if all families communicated like that. But they don't and no external party can make it that way.

So if that doesn't work, here go some other reasons:

The Spears: Jamie-Lynn gets pregnant. Mom writes a book about her ordeal. Mom's on the best-sellers list. Lots wrong in there. I mean, clearly she can put her thoughts out there. Can she do that with her daughters?

Sarah Palin: I'm just thinking about Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin and the doctor that would make that call to Mrs. Pro-America, and having to explain how abstinence-only education doesn't work, clearly! And that poor doctor would get in some argument about moose-hunting and Russia and just hang up. Poor guy.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I need to take a break from serious election commentary. I just can't stop watching this:

That is some funny mess. I just keep laughing and laughing although at times, I get a little sad. I'm not sure if I am sad about my stand-up comedy career being all of two weeks long (okay, a little longer than that. Point is, I'm not doing it anymore) and watching SNL take it away as of late. Or if I'm thinking, dang, she might be president and she is absoltely ridiculous and everyone knows it. But, I'm really happy for the people at SNL but then again making fun of Sarah Palin is hella easy. Biden, Todd Palin, McCain, hell even Gwen Ifill..., okay Obama too...all funny bits. I've also watched that Al Smith dinner thing a few times. They were pretty funny too, except when McCain tried to make a joke about ACORN and it was like, really dog, give it a rest. Don't get me started on this ACORN mess, by the way. Okay, real quick. If Mickey Mouse shows up to vote, let the mouse vote. He's in McCain's target age group anyway so he should stop complaining!

Back to SNL. I am a fan, like most people, of everything from Gumby to the Mary Catherine Gallagher. And then they just sort of fell off. But watching Todd hella getting down...I mean, he even makes it rain at the end. And then the moose gets shot and I'm just thinking about Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Not to mention Amy Poehler, about to give birth, and hella rapping and working the stage. I admit that my smile fades when the camera pans over to Palin during "all the mayors in the house, put your hands up." I really wish she didn't have rhythm too. Oh well. But my biggest wish is that in a few weeks, we won't have anymore Sarah Palin jokes since she will be going back to Alaska and taking care of her business over there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vielka's Guide to the Propositions: Prop 2

Short Answer: VOTE YES

I am a little mad that Oprah beat me to the punch on this one. So Prop. 2 says that for hens, veal, and pregnant pigs, their cages or pens have to be large enough for them to spread their wings and turn around. They will not be cage-free; the cage is only a bit larger. To keep it real, Cali doesn't have any veal and very few pig farms so we are only really talking about hens and eggs. The opposition says that it will cost them too much money and with the competition with Iowa's eggs, California farmers will go out of business. I hear that and I would be down if we weren't talking about humanity, something I don't believe you can put a price tag on. That's first for me.

But I'm also trying to put a budget together (like many of the homies out there) so it is really important to consider how much more money we are talking about. If it means that we have to make a real effort to buy California eggs, even if they will be something like $0.12 more per dozen (really, that's about it), I think it is worth it. In all honesty, I already buy cage-free eggs, so I'm paying about $1.50 more per dozen. I don't anticipate switching over to the more humane regular eggs, thereby putting the cage-free farmers out of business, in case anyone was concerned about that.

It would also mean that other states will follow the lead. I'm sure eventually we will move to getting rid of the cages; if you've ever compared prices with cage-free eggs, you know you are definitely paying more for those cage-free joints. But only 5% of consumers buy those. The more people who buy them, the lower the prices will be. And if in the end, all eggs and meat are cage-free and free range and AFFORDABLE, how is that a problem?

I am definitely biased. As many of you know, I was a vegan for a long time and even though I am not anymore, it does take a minute for me to be settled with the idea of chowing down on a steak. I eat meat about once a week or less but I really love cheese. I'm still stuck on tofu and milk and protein alternatives. The switch had a lot to do with the cost of being vegan, financially and mentally, always thinking about if I had enough protein or calcium that day. That's brain space and stacks that I definitely don't have, with grad school and all. But, who knows, one day, I may be back. The choice for me had a lot to do with my spirituality: how the animals lived and were killed, not wanting to put such bad energy in my body. Thus, I now do the best I can with the cage-free, free range stuff, when I can and try not to trip when I can't.

So if that didn't convince you, here go some alternatives.

Housewife in you: If Oprah said it and she isn't even in California, then it must be important, right? We can ignore the fact that she had Arnie and Maria Shriver on the show when he was running for governator. In that case, I was hella hot since that really solidified his governorship in a state that she doesn't even live in most of the time! But she balanced it out when she endorsed Obama. And she is redeeming herself here, with Prop. 2. Yes, again in a state that she doesn't spend most of her time, but understanding it may affect federal commerce and other individual states sometime in the future.

Charlotte's Web: You know when you read that book you couldn't mess with bacon for like a week. Go with that feeling. Now, the pig will be killed anyway, but imagine a place where the pig has homies on the farm, gets to wander around, literally, in a circle, communicate...perhaps with his homie living in a web...What if the web was behind him? And Charlotte couldn't talk to him because he can't turn around? He doesn't even know Charlotte is there! Let that tear fall like it did when you were eight years old!

Obama: Since he is a Muslim and therefore doesn't eat pork, we can be supportive of our next president by eating humane pork. ;)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vielka's Guide to the Propositions: Prop 8

Every election there is a grip of propositions that most people don't vote on because they are confused or don't give a hoot (at least that was the excuse for Arnie). So I'm putting together a list of propositions in California, how I am voting and why, and if that doesn't convince you, a list of ways you may be persuaded to agree with me...because Vielka said so. First up, Prop 8, the Gay Marriage Amendment.

Short answer: VOTE NO.

California Supreme Court said it was cool for the gay homies to get married despite the voters saying a few years back that they weren't down. Since then thousands of our gay brothers and sisters have tied that knot hella hard! Ellen's wedding even brought a tear to my eye! Now some folks are trying to amend the Cali constitution to say that gay marriage is illegal in the state. Listen, I don't care much about whose God says what, I just don't want that God manifesting Herself as "moral voters" popping up in my bedroom one day telling me what I can and can't do. We tend to impose our moral high ground on people, sometimes equating eating meat with slavery or driving an SUV with murder. Watch what happens when that Big Mac looks mad appetizing or your kid buys an Escalade. The same folks who are talking about pro-life will be the first to shoot your ass as soon as you say "Allah." Moral lessons are selected at random. Divorce. Lying. Stealing. Cheating. All in the Bible. All punishable by death. So, if we want to go with that morality tip, we can start there. In short, keep your morality out of my, and anyone else's, home.

If that isn't helpful, here are some other reasons.

Comedic: As one comedian said, if gay people want to be miserable too, go ahead and let them.

Your Wallet: Look at all those wedding chapels in Vegas pulling in a ton of money for Nevada. My understanding was that in just a few months, those chapels and honeymoon spots in California made hella money. Tourism is always good for the economy.

The Ads: That law professor at Pepperdine in the commercials is not making any sense. How can you teach kids to be gay? And I don't know what he is talking about in Massachusetts. Whatever he says to do, do the opposite. And the older couple who don't want us to treat their kids differently, alright, you got my vote.

Philosophical: Anytime we create the Other, we must understand that the Other is not limited to one group of people. The Other can and will eventually be anyone.

Political: Neither presidential candidate is for gay marriage. My hope is that Obama knows the federal government can't do what is outside of the Constitution. Whatever the Constitution does not state (and there really isn't an amendment that can be used to interpret gay marriage other than the First), the individual states must make a decision. But Obama/Biden are going to extend all the privileges of heterosexual marriage to gay couples, whether or not they are married. McCain/Palin say no to any of it. You can look at this as, well if Obama gives them all these things, they will be okay if I vote for the proposition. Remember, Republicans have cheated hella times in elections and gotten away with it. Just to be sure, vote against Prop. 8.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


This is one of those blogs that I have thought about doing before but I haven't quite gotten around to it. I was at a party tonight and a typical thing happened. Some guy came towards the end, and the one person who knew him, did the polite thing and introduced me:

"This is Vielka."
"No, with a V. Vielka. She's Central American too, from Nicaragua."
He started with my feet and gave me a slow long look over. By the time he got to my face, his mean mug was only matched by my own. Why the hell was he looking me up and down? I was already a bit annoyed. I know people feel obligated to share my family history with strangers who don't seem to get it, and that makes me uncomfortable. But the inevitable next few minutes are the worst.

So I walk across the room to avoid having to ask a fool something about the look on his face and I hear the person who introduced me say "She's a Black Nicaraguan. There are Black people in Nicaragua," hella loud over the music. And then I catch him looking at me again, he still looks upset, like I've robbed him of something.

I've encountered this situation many times. I almost feel like it has happened multiple times in a day. If someone isn't explaining my name, they feel some strange obligation to explain a plethora of other things with "she's Nicaraguan":
She likes to read.
She listens to music in Spanish.
She does well in school.
She doesn't sound that ghetto when she talks.
She has immigrant parents.
She has never eaten grits.

She's Nicaraguan.
She's Nicaraguan.
She's if to say, she isn't really Black. Or as some people have said, not that Black.

The person who did my hair last month explained to me that I was an "acceptable" Black person, like Barack Obama, having parents who did not grow up in this country. "You all don't hate America yet, you don't have that chip on your shoulder." I answered with "I would like to see a Nicaraguan in this country that doesn't have a chip on his or her shoulder" and that ended that conversation.

The thing I hate most--and trust me, the explaining away is pretty close to the top--is having to prove an identity. So I get asked to speak Spanish quite a bit. It usually goes like "You're Nicaraguan? Speak Spanish then." Speaking Spanish has become such a spectacle for me, I won't even do it when I have to. When I worked at Burger King in high school, one of the managers asked if I could translate "please mop the floor" for the guys in the back. Another manager ran across the "restaurant" to hear me say it in Spanish, so I said "please mop the floor" instead of "por favor, mopiar el piso." I told the manager that I didn't understand why she had to run across the dining area like that, causing most everyone to turn and stare at me. When people ask me to speak Spanish, just to prove I am who I say I am, I tell them how insulting that is. Since I work with young people a lot, I take the time to explain why I won't do it, in case they run into another Afro-Latino one day.

If I'm not asked to prove I'm Nicaraguan, I'm covertly asked to prove my Blackness. I've been asked how to prepare collard greens and grits on countless occasions even though I have no clue. I've been asked about Black colloquialisms, still mostly without a clue. I've been asked to attend certain meetings or become parts of groups for African Americans and I have made people angry when I decline this invitation for a Latino function. What I know of the Black experience in this country is from what I've read or what my father taught me when I was younger. I know about the Black immigrant, Afro-Latino experience.

As of late, I have also been asked to prove an Afro-Latino identity, as people start to see more and more African-descended people from Latin America. But in these cases, I'm asked to play capoeira or dance samba and merengue. I'm not too mad at this since we are in the general area at least, but all Afro-Latinos are not made the same.

My family is from Bluefields on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Bluefields and Corn Islands in Nicaragua, along with Limon in Costa Rica and some of Colon's Black population in Panama, are part of the same migration from San Andres island in Colombia. San Andres is actually much closer to Corn Island than mainland Colombia. Most Black people in Nicaragua and Costa Rica can trace their ancestors to San Andres. During a recent conference in San Andres, the hotel people kept telling me about all the Hoys on the island. One person came by and even drew my family tree for me. If that wasn't validation enough, the conference was the Caribbean Studies Association held in San Andres, a place they deemed, along with Bluefields, the capital of the Western Caribbean. Some people have said that Bluefields is figuratively closer to Jamaica than Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. To say that I am from Bluefields was not a shock to anyone there; actually, it made perfect sense.

This is what I do now. I'm working on my PhD, discussing the experience of Afro-Latinos in California. My cousin often times reminds me that a lot of people are waiting for me to finish, so that I can tell their story, so that we don't have to explain constantly who we are. Another friend once said to me that I will be the first Nicaraguan PhD that she knows and most definitely the first Afro-Nicaraguan one. The pressure is immense but when I have experiences like I had tonight, it is well worth it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Newsweek Cover

My parents are avid Newsweek readers. They ditched Time when OJ was on the cover looking too dark. I'm sure the operator who deals with Time subscriptions wasn't ready for my mom's call to stop sending Time magazine to the house. He probably quit after hearing "Time magazine is racist" over and over again from my mother in her Nicaraguan Coast accent.

So my parents got me on Newsweek. I enjoy the commentary, the comics and quotes of the week. Good stuff. But this week, I sure wasn't ready when I opened my mailbox to find a MAD close-up of Sarah Palin, so close you can see the brand of eyeglass frames (get those product placement dollars!). I stared at it for a minute and just said "damn" and shook my head. When I put the magazine down, I was sure to put it face-down, not to accidentally peep that cover again.

I'm not mad at her. We all have pore issues, a few facial hairs that we prefer the world not blog about, and a wrinkle or two (although black doesn't crack so that's an issue for someone else, not me). She has the foundation caked on but her lipliner is on point. A little dos mucho with the eyeliner for my taste, but whatever. But just as when Gwen Stefani busted out with those Harajuku girls who speak English but aren't allowed to in Stefani's presence, I thought, someone has to be saying something about this one.

And they are. Those Republicans are hot! But check it. They are mad because it is such an flattering picture of her and as Fox News said, none of the other candidates have had to deal with such an unflattering cover. Really? Don't get me started! No one else? Straight tripping. Unflattering? That's what she looks like. How can she claim to be a feminist, and then mad when folks see her before her highly painful, expensive, and unnecessary lip waxing?

Listen, I can't stand Sarah Palin. I really am thinking of moving out of the country should these fucks cheat again and McCain wins. But as wack as McCain is, Palin only makes it worse. What pisses me off most is when people on both sides of the table say how important she is for little girls, so they can say "I can be Vice President when I grow up." But people don't seem to realize that this "Barbie goes to the White House" image of women is, at the very least, detrimental for young ladies. Palin equals "I can be Vice President and I don't even have to worry about experience or education. I just need to make sure my eyebrows are done and I use my Thigh Master each day."

It's insulting. But the insult isn't just on her part. This country values seen but not heard women. Belle, Ariel, and Snow White. The South hated Hillary Clinton because she talked too much. Oprah talks too much...she's talked her ass right into hella courtrooms. She got sued because she SAID she wouldn't eat beef! If she said that in a tube top, more weave, and while winking, she probably wouldn't have been in the courtroom. Unfortunately, I can go on and on with the examples.

I wouldn't describe myself as a feminist, in the traditional sense: I like marriage, romance, and razors. But I like being smart and letting people know I'm smart. And I aspire to be a politician one day. But when my Newsweek cover comes out, you'll see my pores, zits, and possibly a gold tooth.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Registry, Part I

So with all the homies getting married and having kids in the last year (2008 is definitely the Year of the Zygote), I have been dealing with a lot of registries for all sorts of knife sets, jungle gyms, and coffee makers. And I started thinking that although my own wedding isn't for a good while (stop tripping, I haven't announced anything and I'll announce it when I'm good and ready...and have a ring and a date), I should start thinking about my own registry, especially since it will take a while for some of these items. So here goes:

A "No bitch ass-ness" t-shirt from P.Diddy (make that two)

5 dissertation chapters or get Apple to invent iDissertation

To free Kells for life (he will probably come due for another trial in a few months)

5 minutes with Zach de la Rocha (to give him one last chance to propose)

World peace, an end to world hunger, and Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin impersonations forever

To quarterback for the 49ers. One game. Just to see if I am right and can do a better job.

The Election

It's no secret that I am voting for Obama: I get my daily e-mails and texts from the campaign. I even have an "Obama 08" application on my phone. But with less than a month before the election, I am really wondering why there are so many undecided voters. And why on earth, after these debates, would anyone say things like "neither candidate answered any question" when that's the McCain/Palin strategy, not Obama/Biden or "they didn't talk about healthcare" when they spent a smooth thirty minutes talking about that mess. So I decided (see, making decisions is good) to create a new list. Here goes:


10. The only way some of these rednecks know to answer those Yankees with their fancy polls and big city cameras and recording devices is to say "I don't know," reminiscent of when those high-falootin' lawyers who would come from the North looking for their civil rights workers in the 60s.

9. The hippies are still working on solar-powered televisions and haven't watched any of the debates, ads, since they don't use anything from the 21st century. Hell, the 20th century too.

8. Wall streeters are still trying to make their multi-million dollar conglomerate appear to be worth less than $250,000 while saying their employees are all robots who don't need health insurance.

7. The pollers are asking folks in the prisons, Guantanamo, or immigration holding cells, who can't vote anyway and have bigger things to worry about.

6. People are still distracted by the smoke and mirrors known as Sarah Palin, falling in love with the winking and dumbass routine, thinking it might be kinda neat to have a White House hockey team with Todd racing his snow machine down Pennsylvania Ave.

5. The Obamas might be too tall, slim and good-looking for the White House while McCain looks like he can barely get up each morning. Who will take a better picture for the peace talks?

4. Ohio and Florida voters still think we are deciding between Bush and some other guy. Can that guy be McCain? What luck!! Two Republicans!

3. Virginia, as a swing state, finally feels important, and wants to keep everyone on their toes to stretch out their 15 minutes of fame.

2. All the polls pass through the hands of Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman, who are both hoping the race will be perceived as so close, the candidates will ditch their running mates and pick one of them afterall.

1. They're racist and feel too guilty about saying "The White House needs to remain white" even though that is what they are most definitely thinking.