Roy G. Whiz

Uh oh.  It’s a code red (black and green).  The bat signal is out.  bell hooks has started spelling her name in all CAPS.  Call up your elders, pray to your ancestors; conjure up your inner fairies, spirits, and goddesses.  Tyler Perry is turning your favorite play, excuse me, choreopoem into a movie.

Oh No He Didn't . . . Tyler Perry Gone Do What?

It was the news heard around the world, heard in every black café, posted on every Facebook mini feed, screamed in abject horror in every black theater class, whispered in body stealing tones in every black feminist mind that Tyler Perry also known as Medea also known as He Who Has Oprah’s Seal of Approval meaning it’s safe for white suburban soccer moms will direct, produce, and perhaps even star as the woman in red in a film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

When I heard the news a part of me laughed and said, “Seriously you’re kidding right. How can a black man who always portrays black women as prostitutes (i.e. Madea Goes to Jail), drug addicts (i.e. Diary of Angry Black Woman), controlling spouses (i.e. Why Did I get Married), abused women, psychopathic black mothers (i.e. Family Reunion), and emasculating black women (i.e. Daddy’s Girls) direct and produce a film about black women finding and owning their voices?” And of course, the answer to my question is that unless he works with Julie Dash or Aishah Simmons his work is doomed to silence black women.

Okay, I will admit I’m no saint. I’ve watched some of Tyler Perry’s movies because I can’t afford HBO so I watch TBS the home of all things Tyler Perry. And sometimes family gatherings entail a Tyler Perry’s Marathon where my great aunt proclaims in her best evangelist voice, “You can talk about my Jesus, and perhaps my momma, but nobody better talk about my Tyler Perry.” I say all this to say I’ve seen his movies to know their limitations. Meaning, I cannot fathom let alone imagine how Tyler Perry can cinematically enrich Shange’s play whose very origin was a critique of black male violence against black women.

Perhaps, he has not read the play therefore he’s unaware of this critique or perhaps he has read it and assumes that the character, Madea, can throw hot grits on all the violent black men in Shange’s play and that will end violence against black women. If it was only that easy then Quaker Grits would be in every domestic violence handbook around the world. So, once again I ask the question, how can Tyler Perry produce and direct a film that speaks to the souls of black women? And the simple answer is he can’t. To say the least, I am pissed. Furthermore, I find myself ruminating on how he will adapt my favorite line from the play, “I found God in myself and I loved her I loved her fiercely.” Perhaps, it will become Vickie Winans’ gospel song, “I found King Jesus and I don’t need nobody else.” Perhaps it will become, “I found da lorde in dis good black man and I loved him, I loved him fiercely.” Or, perhaps it will become, “I did not find enuf in myself as a colored girl so I committed suicide.” Yes, the last translation is wee bit dramatic, but given Tyler Perry’s track record it seems quite probable. So, for those who love the play, For Colored Girls what are your sentiments about Tyler Perry producing and directing the play?

So, I decided to end this blog with pictures from various performances of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Sucide When the Rainbow is Enuf to show how powerful this play is and how Tyler Perry cannot do it justice.

Who will Sing a Black Girl Song.

"Who will Sing a Black Girl Song."

Speaking Revelations

Speaking Revelations

Woman in Blue

Woman in Blue

1977 Performance of For Colored Girls

1977 Performance of For Colored Girls

Stopping (Constitutionally) Sanctioned Violence against Women of Color

On March 3rd, 2009, Aniysah was taken from her mother’s arms by New York’s Family Court System and placed in the care of Aniysah’s father who has a history of domestic violence offenses. Furthermore, there were no records verifying that she would be taken to a safe living environment or that she was enrolled in school. Questions about her health and well-being went unanswered. That was over 150 days ago. To date, Aniysah remains lost in the family court system. A system where black and brown children go missing every day. A system where black mothers like Aniysah’s are often left to fend for themselves in a brutal, dogged battle just to make sure their children are safe. On the surface, this case appears to be a simple custody dispute, however, if one digs deeper it is a story about the injustices of New York’s Family Court System and how it fails brown women and children daily and how it can be used to further terrorize and re-victimize survivors of domestic violence.

Here at Document the Silence, one of our goals is to break the silence surrounding violence against women of color, particularly those who are poor and working class. Moreover, we want to raise awareness about how this violence informs and intersects with various aspects of our culture, including the media, and the legal system. Thus, we think it’s critical to point out that the “Where’s Aniysah” campaign is not only about the failings of the family court system but is also about domestic violence and how it has shaped the legal struggles of Aniysah and her mother, Angeline. As a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of Anyisah’s father, Angeline is a living testament to the “intimate” connections between experiences of abuse among women of color and the mistreatment they experience in the family court system. Because of the case is still pending we cannot list all the facts of the case in this email, but you can find all the facts on our website.

It’s time to hold the family court system accountable. Document the Silence asks that you join them in the “Where’s Aniysah?” campaign by posting information about this case on your blogs, online social networks and throughout your community (http://documentthesilence.wordpress.com). At the website you will also find a petition, and suggestions for what you can do to demand that justice is served on August 24, 2009. We especially encourage you to leave comments on the site expressing your support for Aniysah. Also, please feel free to forward this email.

If you are in the New York City area, please show your support for Angeline’s case by coming to her next family court hearing on August 24, 2009 at 11:00 am. The courthouse is located at:

Courtroom E-123, Annex Building
Justice Fernando M. Camacho
125-01 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, NY 11415

If you can make it to Angeline’s next court hearing on August 24, 2009, please let us know by emailing us at: WheresAniysah_Campaign@yahoo.com

Thank you in advance for doing your part in breaking the silence surrounding injustices against women and children of color.

In solidarity,

Fallon S. Wilson, Document the Silence Organizer

The Push for "Precious"

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca_vv6urOCY

Just last week, I stumbled upon a movie trailer on YouTube that really caught my attention.  The independent film, Precious, tells the story of Claireece “Precious” Jones, a Harlem-bred, morbidly obese, pregnant, HIV-positive, illiterate, junior high school student who struggles with low self-esteem.  If that isn’t already an earful, Precious’ story is further complicated by the presence of her welfare-collecting mother (played by Mo’Nique), who verbally and physically abuses her on a daily basis.  While the film’s overall tone appears to be overwhelmingly bleak, Precious manages to find refuge with her compassionate and empowering schoolteacher.

Where's Aniysah? A Campaign to End Violence Against Women of Color

This week, I am going to feature a blog I wrote for Document the Silence which is a website I co-founded dedicated to ending violence against women of color. Right now, we are in the midst of mounting a national online media campaign todsc_0138 document how domestic violence and the family court system work in tandem to re-victimize women of color survivors. The title of the campaign is “Where’s Aniysah?” It is a campaign about the (in)justice system and how it fails brown women and children daily. Specifically, it is a story about a mother named Angeline and a daughter named Aniysah. The blog I wrote below gives more details about the case.

A Tragic Story of Continual Violence against Women of Color: Anyisah’s Mother’s Story, Angeline

Here at Document the Silence, one of our goals is to break the silence surrounding violence against women of color, particularly those who are poor and working class. Moreover, we want to raise awareness about how this violence informs and intersects with various aspects of our culture, including the media, politics dsc_03711and the legal system.  Thus, we think it’s critical to point out that the “Where’s Aniysah” campaign is not only about the failings of the family court system.  But, it’s also about domestic violence and how it has shaped the legal struggles of Aniysah and her mother, Angeline.  As a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of Anyisah’s father, Angeline’s story is a testament to the “intimate” connections between experiences of abuse among women of color and the mistreatment they experience in the family court system

As word continues to spread about this campaign, we’ve received two important questions about Aniysah’s story that, when considered, illuminate the ways that Anyisah’s father used the legal system to continue to terrorize and harass Angeline and Aniysah.

Many people have emailed us asking, “How did Anyisah end up in family court system?”

Answer:

  • Angeline separated from Aniysah’s father because he was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive.  Angeline has documentation of his abuse and the court orders forcing him to take anti-battering classes. Judge Fernando Camacho issued an Order of Protection for the father to stay away from Angeline and Aniysah, May of 2005.
  • Even though Angeline separated from Aniysah’s father, he continued to harass and terrorize Angeline and Aniysah by fabricating lies to Child Protective Services (CPS) and filing for full custody of Aniysah. June 2005 – October 2006 Judge Morgenstern issued several Orders of Protection for the father to stay from Angeline.
  • Judge Morgenstern granted the father unsupervised visits on the weekend with Aniysah at the father’s mother’s house. However, just as the unsupervised weekend visits begin, Aniysah begins to display unusual behaviors. She told the social worker that someone named “grandpa” touched her inappropriately. Aniysah developed a rash between her legs and Angeline takes her daughter to the doctor and the doctor reports the rash to CPS as a possible issue of child abuse. At this point, the doctor at the emergency room reported on the possibility of Aniysah being abused while in her father’s care.

The second question people have asked us, “How and why was Anyisah taken from her mother, Angeline?”

Answer:

  • The law guardian appointed to the family’s case within the court system continued to make false accusations by suggesting that Angeline is fabricating lies about the father sexually abusing his daughter. However, Angeline has not once reported these accusations and the Child Protective Services’ reports as well as the emergency room reports show that Angeline never once accused the father. These reports were filed independently by the doctor and the social worker.
  • In response to the Law Guardian’s lies, unlawful actions, and inappropriate behaviors, Angeline wrote a letter to Judge Morgenstern explaining how the Law Guardian is fabricating lies as well as not following protocol and proper procedures for reporting on Anyisah’s care when she is with her father. Judge Morgenstern disregarded Angeline’s complaints and maintained that the law guardian was following procedure.
  • Without any legal recourse to protect Aniysah, Angeline moves with Aniysah to Utah, where Angeline’s mother lives, to protect Aniysah and herself. While in Utah, Angeline starts a new and renewed life for Aniysah and herself.
  • While Angeline is in Utah, Judge Morgenstern summons her to court.  However, she was never contacted in Utah. The papers were delivered to her old lawyer who she was no longer a client of. She documented proof that she informed the law guardian that the old lawyer no longer represented her beginning in August of 2006. Because Angeline did not show up to court, Judge Esther Morgenstern granted the father custody of Anyisah even though Judge Morgenstern knew the court file contained the returned notices showing that the mother had never been served.
  • Angeline’s 20 year-old son wanted to see his mother. Angeline came back to New York where she decided to have dinner with her son. While having dinner the cops come to arrest her and take Anyisah because of the warrant that was issued.
  • Because Angeline did not have any family in New York to provide care for Aniysah, the police officers were informed by Child Protective Services that they had to take Aniysah to the paternal grandmother’s home.
  • It has been 122 days since Angeline has seen Aniysah on March 3rd, 2009. She has only seen Aniysah on two occasions each one hour visits each costing of $125.00 each visit.  She has had no physical or phone contact with her daughter at all during the month of August.

Overall, Angeline’s story shows how domestic violence and being a woman of color in the family court system are “intimately” tied to the injustices women of color endure when trying to protect their children and themselves. In order to advocate for Angeline and Anyisah, we must see the complexities of her case and how Anyisah’s father could continue to harass and abuse Angeline and Anyisah through the court system. A court system that ignores black and brown women because it fundamentally sees poor and working class women of color as women who are incapable of making sound decisions about their lives and the lives of their children. This is a systemic problem.

With respect to Angeline’s case, the two judges who have chosen to ignore the facts of Angeline’s case and the law guardian who has been unethical in her testimonies are equally complicit in the abuse of Anyisah and Angeline. They, like Aniysah’s father, must be held accountable because they represent a legally sanctioned system of abuse. “Where’s Aniysah?” is a cry countless numbers of women of color cry daily when having to negotiate the terrains of domestic violence and terrains of the family court system. Where’s Aniysah . . . Where’s Aniysah . . . and how do we protect her and her mother from continual abuse.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AybEcaiR_DI

It’s time to hold the legal system accountable. Document the Silence asks that you join them in the “Where’s Aniysah?” campaign by posting information about this case on your blogs, online social networks and throughout your community. You can find out more about this campaign to stand against injustices against our children in the legal system by visiting the Document the Silence. There are additional facts and information about Anyisah’s case, and suggestions for what you can do to demand that justice is served on August 24.  We especially encourage you to leave comments on the site expressing your support for Aniysah and any details about what you plan to do to help.