Intersecting Pride and Resistance

Happy Pride Month! It’s been strange to be as fragmented as the LGBT community has been even before covid19. But lack of face to face contact has in particular been hard for LGBT people, especially young people who may be living with homo/transphobic or disapproving family members.

So it’s a month to honour our many communities’ resilience, our survival in spite of centuries of exclusion, hatred and scapegoating, our many ways of being who we are in spite of difficult odds. This year the evidentiary burden of genocide against Indigenous survival and the massacre of so many vulnerable people through the market logic of the corona pandemic, along with personal grief on so many levels, has made it more of reflective time than one rooted in the raucous marchers and the desperate gawkers that characterize Pride weekend on Corporate Ave., oh sorry, i mean, Church St. I probably miss the music the most!

This last week with its revelations about the active recent complicity of Catholic Church, , and God knows how many other Christian institutions– shows us how white Christians intertwined with the ruling powers as to make separation of Church and State, a total joke when it comes to the civilizing mission of settler colonialism! Two hundred and fifteen children assassinated in the name of a merciless white God. And that is only what they have let us find. The violence of settler colonialism reveals itself as a violence against the very lives and existence of Indigenous peoples. An informal apartheid made formal through the Indian Act.

Statue of Egerton Ryerson in front of University named in his honour. There are calls to change the name of the University as well as remove the statue

So for many reasons, it’s hard to feel celebratory There’s been tons of new cultural activism and expression from Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States. But I’ve gone with a familiar voice from the long-ago days of joining an anti-racist lesbian community! Menominee poet Chrystos has definitely been a voice calling for truth to power, even if that makes things uncomfortable. So I’ll leave today’s post with this poem.

Into the Racism Workshop

For Alma Banda Goddardmy cynical feet ambled
prepared for indigestion
& blank faces of outrageous innocence
knowing I’d have to walk over years of media
declaring we’re vanished or savage or pitiful or noble
My toes twitched when I saw so few brown faces
but really when one eats racism every time one goes out one’s door
the appeal of talking about it is minuscule
I sat with my back to the wall facing the door
after I changed the chairs to a circle
This doesn’t really protect me
but I con myself into believing it does
One of the first speakers piped up
I’m only here because my friend is Black & wanted
me to do this with her
I’ve already done
300 too many racism workshops
Let it be entered into the Book of Stars
that I did not kill her or shoot a scathing reply from the hip
I let it pass because I could tell she was very interested in taking
up all the space with herself & would do it if I said a word
They all said something that I could turn into a poem
but I got tired & went to sleep behind my interested eyes
I’ve learned that the most important part of these tortures
is for them to speak about racism at all
Even showing up is heresy
because as we all know racism is some vague thing that really doesn’t
exist or is only the skinheads on a bad day or isn’t really a crucial problem
not as important certainly as queers being able to marry
or get insurance for each other
When they turned to me as resident expert on the subject
which quite honestly I can’t for the life of me understand
or make any sense out of
I spoke from my feet
things I didn’t know I knew
of our connections
of the deadly poison that racism is for all of us
Maybe some of them were touched
but my bitch voice jumps in to say
I heard back that someone thought I was brilliant
Does that mean that I speak well
Or that she was changed
It’s only her change
I need

Chrystos, “Into the Racism Workshop” from Fugitive Colors.  Copyright © 1995 by Chrystos.  

Andy Everson, Every Child Matters


nothing but the need for friendship
reduced, quest now stripped of myth
how difficult not to remember
the colour of eyes

how we ran to and from such passions
there was a time i thought i must not know you
but outside the rain howled your name
could not forget, would not, how could i?

was it this then?
all the aches leading
up to my own liberation
the essence of a touch
that carries its own
meaning, the wound that heals
in spite of who i am?

everyplace i go i see the new underclass. the ones who slink
by unnoticed and unnoticing, or the one who robs you of your place as he makes his own, leaving you behind in this arrogant male race war

i sought to remake myself
while in the air
questions hung suspended above endeavour
hard to shape the mouths just so
pronounce the squareness
of my new stiff vowels
hands loosed now by unwelcoming bone

in the dream you appeared as if back from the sunday in the country.
in the city your languid manner seemed out of place while the window framd the moving twilight street. it could have been any woman really, that stood watchng the sun set somwhere beyond the hard gray lake,
the seagulls venturing past the construction on the waterfront

did i tell you
i always wanted to meet Malinche?
she fascinated me
she who had a country to sell
a land to betray
which had betrayed her

those were the days before i discovered
you make your own country
wear your skin like a flag
your breasts like battle scars.

(1993-2019, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, from A New Remembrance, TSAR Books, Toronto, 1993)

They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds

Ever since I saw the phrase, “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds”, I have been so moved.  I am a part of so many communities that have survived burial, in the manner of the phoenix. 

We are resilient and resourceful like seeds that are nourished by hope instead of fear, possibility, instead of prisons, new and green ways of being. It is powerful to be able to turn what seems like unrelenting loss and sacrifice— both voluntary and involuntary—of our humanity in these banally brutal times, where death is just a click away. 

I first saw this expression in Spanish, in the context of the Ayotzinapa massacre in Mexico 2014, where 43 student teachers from a rural teacher training college were massacred and their bodies further dehumanized. The case has rocked Mexico, where violence has become a commonplace element of both the economy and the political environment.

I wanted to find the atrribution of this powerful phrase and see that it is originally attributed to Dinos Christianopoulos (1931) of Thessaloniki, Greece. As a gay poet, he said, “ what didn’t you do to bury me / but you forgot i was a seed”.  Since 1978 when he penned it, the couplet has travelled on the wind, in the manner of seeds, and taken root wherever the marginalized cry for social inclusion and justice. Most recently, the migrant rights movement in the U.S. has also adopted this as one of it’s slogans.

Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Loteria: A Homage to Mexico

Copyright 2019 Kaushalya Bannerji

This is a work inspired by both living in Mexico for a while, and, seeing its plight in the face of multiple challenges, both internal and external. A complex and fascinatingly diverse land, Mexico cannot be reduced to a single image or emotion. Loteria draws on the rich symbolism of images that portend an uneasy syncretism…one in which domination and subjugation are intertwined in both the sacred and the mundane .

Loteria is a game played in Mexico and similar to the U.S. game of Bingo. The images have been around for 0ver 500 years, apparently originating in Italy and being brought to Mexico in the late 18th century. Popularized by the beginning of 2oth century, even the Catholic Church in Mexico issued its own set of Loteria cards.

As a person of colour, a lesbian , a visitor to Mexico, and a “Latin Americanist” by academic training, my take on Loteria aims to subvert some of the traditional imagery and symbolism of the classic Loteria drawings. For example my use of the rainbow flag for the traditional image of the Mexican flag/La Bandera. This speaks to the hope held by LGBT activists in Mexico, that Mexico may combat its own homophobia, to which hundreds have fallen victim in the few decades. While wealthy gay tourists may enjoy resort communities like Puerto Vallarta, Mexico has a long way to go in challenging and overturning LGBT-phobia for ordinary Mexicans, both judicially and in the popular imagination.

Equally, a card like the Lady/La Dama generally represents a fair skinned woman, where as I have chosen to use the image of a brown skinned native woman. In Mexico, indigenous women are generally seen as inhabitants of a world of historical subjugation and contemporary marginalization since they are so often treated like 3rd class citizens in their country. The high rates of femicide in Mexico affect indigenous and poor women disproportionately. Thus I take a partisan stance!

For the World/El Mundo, the image of Atlas, is replaced by that of a woman of colour whose overlooked labour fuels a variety of socio-economic systems, such as slavery, debt peonage, share-cropping, informal markets and household services and maquiladora manufacturing around the world. For the image of the brave one or El Valiente, I show an elderly disabled Indigenous man, celebrating the courage it takes to live on a pittance with mobility and other problems.

With the cards of el Apache and El Negrito/the Little Black Man, I was confronted by the highly stereotyped imagery of previous cards. I wanted to show the agency of these historically disenfranchised peoples, through both the use of colour and the image of a “slave”, breaking his chains. Many do not know that the Southern coast of Mexico was historically home to a slave-based plantation economy, relying on African labour, as in the Caribbean. There are nearly 1.5 million Afro-descended Mexicans! In recent years, Afro-Mexicans are organizing and taking their rightful place in Mexican society politically, economically, and culturally.

Like the Tarot, numerous stylized images of Loteria are testament to the way in which it captured the popular imagination over centuries. The original game had the caller sing out the cards through the form of riddles. While these riddles may no longer be integral to the game, Loteria is still a potent symbol of Mexican popular culture. I hope I have contributed to an interpretation of Mexico that celebrates its beauty, colors, and hope for a more representative and just future!

Below, I have included the Wikipedia information on the Loteria riddles. Enjoy!

The following is a list of all the original 54 Lotería cards, traditionally and broadly recognized in all of Mexico. Below you will find each card name and number with the riddles (in Spanish) sometimes used to tell the players which card was drawn. However, there are several less traditional sets of cards, depicting different objects or animals.

1 El gallo (“the rooster”)

El que le cantó a San Pedro no le volverá a cantar.
The one that sang for St. Peter will never sing for him again.

2 El diablito (“the little Devil”)

Pórtate bien cuatito, si no te lleva el coloradito.
Behave yourself buddy, or the little red one will take you away.

3 La dama (“the lady”)

Puliendo el paso, por toda la calle real.
Polishing as she steps, all along the royal street

4 El catrín (“the dandy”)

Don Ferruco en la alameda, su bastón quería tirar.
Sir Ferruco in the lane, wanted to toss away his cane.

5 El paraguas (“the umbrella”)

Para el sol y para el agua.
For the sun and for the rain.

6 La sirena (“the mermaid”)

Con los cantos de sirena, no te vayas a marear.
Don’t be swayed by the songs of the siren. (In Spanish, sirens and mermaids and their song is synonymous.)

7 La escalera (“the ladder”)

Súbeme paso a pasito, no quieras pegar brinquitos.
Ascend me step by step, don’t try and skip.

8 La botella (“the bottle”)

La herramienta del borracho.
The tool of the drunk.

9 El barril (“the barrel”)

Tanto bebió el albañil, que quedó como barril.
So much did the bricklayer drink, he ended up like a barrel.

10 El árbol (“the tree”)

El que a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le cobija.
He who nears a good tree, is blanketed by good shade.

11 El melón (“the melon”)

Me lo das o me lo quitas.
Give it to me or take it from me.

12 El valiente (“the brave man”)

Por qué le corres cobarde, trayendo tan buen puñal.
Why do you run, coward? Having such a good blade too.

13 El gorrito (“the little bonnet”)

Ponle su gorrito al nene, no se nos vaya a resfriar.
Put the bonnet on the baby, lest he catch a cold.

14 La muerte (“Death”)

La muerte tilica y flaca.
Death, thin and lanky.

15 La pera (“the pear”)

El que espera, desespera.
He who waits despairs. (A pun: espera “to wait” and es pera ” to be a pear” are homophones in Mexican Spanish.)

16 La bandera (“the flag”)

Verde blanco y colorado, la bandera del soldado.
Green, white, and red, the flag of the soldier.

17 El bandolón (“the mandolin”)

Tocando su bandolón, está el mariachi Simón.
There playing his lute, is Simon the mariachi.

18 El violoncello (“the cello”)

Creciendo se fue hasta el cielo, y como no fue violín, tuvo que ser violoncello.
Growing it reached the heavens, and since it wasn’t a violin, it had to be a cello.

19 La garza (“the heron”)

Al otro lado del río tengo mi banco de arena, donde se sienta mi chata pico de garza morena.
At the other side of the river I have my sand bank, where sits my darling short one, with the beak of a dark heron.

20 El pájaro (“the bird”)

Tu me traes a puros brincos, como pájaro en la rama.
You have me hopping here and there, like a bird on a branch.

21 La mano (“the hand”)

La mano de un criminal.
The hand of a criminal.

22 La bota (“the boot”)

Una bota igual que la otra.
A boot the same as the other.

23 La luna (“the moon”)

El farol de los enamorados.
The street lamp of lovers.

24 El cotorro (“the parrot”)

Cotorro cotorro saca la pata, y empiézame a platicar.
Parrot, parrot, stick out your claw and begin to chat with me.

25 El borracho (“the drunkard”)

A qué borracho tan necio ya no lo puedo aguantar.
Oh what an annoying drunk, I can’t stand him any more.

26 El negrito (“the little black man”)

El que se comió el azúcar.
The one who ate the sugar.

27 El corazón (“the heart”)

No me extrañes corazón, que regreso en el camión.
Do not miss me, sweetheart, I’ll be back by bus.

28 La sandía (“the watermelon”)

La barriga que Juan tenía, era empacho de sandía.
The swollen belly that Juan had, was from eating too much watermelon.

29 El tambor (“the drum”)

No te arrugues, cuero viejo, que te quiero pa’ tambor.
Don’t you wrinkle, dear old leather, since I want you for a drum.

30 El camarón (“the shrimp”)

Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente.
The shrimp that slumbers is taken by the tides.

31 Las jaras (“the arrows”)

Las jaras del indio Adán, donde pegan, dan.
The arrows of Adam the Indian, strike where they hit.

32 El músico (“the musician”)

El músico trompas de hule, ya no me quiere tocar.
The rubber-lipped musician does not want to play for me anymore.

33 La araña (“the spider”)

Atarántamela a palos, no me la dejes llegar.
Beat it silly with a stick, do not let it near me.

34 El soldado (“the soldier”)

Uno, dos y tres, el soldado p’al cuartel.
One, two and three, the soldier heads to the fort.

35 La estrella (“the star”)

La guía de los marineros.
Sailor’s guide.

36 El cazo (“the saucepan”)

El caso que te hago es poco.
The attention I pay you is little. (A pun: caso “attention” and cazo “saucepan” are homophones in Mexican Spanish)

37 El mundo (“the world”)

Este mundo es una bola, y nosotros un bolón.
This world is a ball, and we a great mob. (A pun: bola can mean both “ball, sphere” and “crowd, mob”, bolón is a superlative with the latter meaning)

38 El Apache (“the Apache”)

¡Ah, Chihuahua! Cuánto apache con pantalón y huarache.
Ah, Chihuahua! So many Apaches with pants and sandals.

39 El nopal (“the prickly pear cactus”)

Al nopal lo van a ver, nomás cuando tiene tunas.
People go to see the prickly pear, only when it bears fruit .

40 El alacrán (“the scorpion”)

El que con la cola pica, le dan una paliza.
He who stings with his tail, will get a beating.

41 La rosa (“the rose”)

Rosita, Rosaura, ven que te quiero ahora.
Rosita, Rosaura, come, as I want you here now.

42 La calavera (“the skull”)

Al pasar por el panteón, me encontré un calaverón.
As I passed by the cemetery, I found myself a skull.

43 La campana (“the bell”)

Tú con la campana y yo con tu hermana.
You with the bell and I with your sister.

44 El cantarito (“the little water pitcher”)

Tanto va el cántaro al agua, que se quiebra y te moja las enaguas.
So often does the jug go to the water, that it breaks and wets your slip.

45 El venado (“the deer”)

Saltando va buscando, pero no ve nada.
Jumping it goes searching, but it doesn’t see anything. (A pun: venado “deer” sounds like ve nada “see nothing”

46 El Sol (“the sun”)

La cobija de los pobres.
The blanket of the poor

47 La corona (“the crown”)

El sombrero de los reyes.
The hat of kings.

48 La chalupa (“the canoe”)

Rema que rema Lupita, sentada en su chalupita.
Lupita rows as she may, sitting in her little boat.

49 El pino (“the pine tree”)

Fresco y oloroso, en todo tiempo hermoso.
Fresh and fragrant, beautiful in any season.

50 El pescado (“the fish”)

El que por la boca muere, aunque mudo fuere.
The one who dies by its mouth, even if he were mute. (In reference to a fish being hooked by its mouth, even though it doesn’t utter a sound.)

51 La palma (“the palm tree”)

Palmero, sube a la palma y bájame un coco real.
Palmer, climb the palm tree and bring me a coconut fit for kings. (Lit: “A royal coconut.”)

52 La maceta (“the flowerpot”)

El que nace pa’maceta, no sale del corredor.
He who is born to be a flowerpot, does not go beyond the hallway.

53 El arpa (“the harp”)

Arpa vieja de mi suegra, ya no sirves pa’tocar.
Old harp of my mother-in-law, you are no longer fit to play.

54 La rana (“the frog”)

Al ver a la verde rana, qué brinco pegó tu hermana.
What a jump your sister gave, as she saw the green frog.

La Sirena, Loteria Copyright 2019 Kaushalya Bannerji
El Cotorro, Loteria Copyright 2019 Kaushalya Bannerji
La Arana, Loteria, Copyright 2019 Kaushalya Bannerji
La Mano, Loteria, Copyright 2019 Kaushalya Bannerji
La Pera, Loteria, Copyright 2019 Kaushalya Bannerji
La Sandia, Loteria, Copyright 2019 Kaushalya Bannerji
El Violoncello, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Arbol, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Calavera, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Nopal, Loteria, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji
El Corazon, Loteria, Copyright 2019 Kaushalya Bannerji
La Palma, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Estrella, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Pescado, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Pajaro, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Corona, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Luna, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Paraguas, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Gallo, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Rosa, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Alacran, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Sombrero, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Sol, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Valiente, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Bandera, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Bota, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Borracho, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Garza, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Bondolon, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Botella, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Muerte, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Arpa, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Cantarito, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Cazo, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Musico, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Dama, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Venado, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Maceta, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Pino, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Diablito, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Barril, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Campana, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Soldado, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Apache, Loteria Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
Las Jaras, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Chalupa, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Rana, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
La Escalera, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Camaron, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Negrito, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Melon, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji
El Mundo, Loteria, Copyright 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji