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by Bianca Laureano

It’s been two great years and for my 100th plus post I thought it would be a good time to share some of my favorite columns I’ve written. Do you have a favorite Media Justice column? If so tell me what it is! (Editor’s note:  Amplify editors name their own faves after the jump!) One of the reasons I like to do these reflections is because I get to see how I’ve evolved as a writer, media consumer, and in sharpening my own media literacy skills. For example, some of my earlier writings I used the term “female” a term that speaks more to describing someone’s sex assigned at birth versus their gender, such as “woman”. Although at times it is embarrassing I did this, it’s a reminder of how I’ve grown, what I’ve learned, and I’m not ashamed of having my learning and knowledge production public for others to see and learn from as well.  

LatiNegr@s to Look Out For in 2010 
This article is one that is very close to my heart. It marks the beginning of my work dedicated specifically to LatiNegr@s (also known as Black Latin@s/Afr@Latin@s, etc.). This was one of the original articles I wrote that lead to the creation, implementation, and management of The LatiNegr@s Project. This is a virtual project that recognizes and represents LatiNegr@s year round. We started two years ago especially to include LatiNegr@s into Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Latino Heritage Month celebrations. The LatiNegr@s Project is also in its second year and we have expanded to a team of 4 and have over 180 pages of content, that’s over 1000 articles, images, definitions, syllabi, fotos, commentary, maps, and videos. Many of these have been reader/viewer submissions, which means not only the 4 of us managing The Project have generated content, but others submit as well. If you are interested in checking out The LatiNegr@s Project , submitting,  or having us come to your school or organization visit us today.

Man Up, Woman Down
This article I am very proud of because it was a challenge for me to write it as well. I really did some introspective work in examining my own ideas on violence, self-determination, and what it means to claim violence at certain times. These questions stay with me since this article as I think more and more about liberation, struggle, decolonization, revolution, and realize that we are surrounded by all of these right now in different ways. I still don’t have too many answers to these questions but I think sometimes the questions are more important than the answers.

Communal Survival: Holding Each Other Accountable and Healing 
When I wrote this article nothing else really mattered to me for 2 days. I was so absorbed into this piece, reading what others wrote, listening to songs by Roxanne Shanté, thinking about how healing has been institutionalized in our society in a way that makes certain forms valid and others questionable. It was one of my first articles for the Media Justice column and I wasn’t too sure if it would “fit,” but I was reassured that it would fit perfectly! This is a post that shows my evolution as a writer and using terms such as “female” when I meant “woman.” It’s also the one post that I received some of the most interaction with readers via social networking.

Major Lazer: Cyborgs, Dancehall, Racism & Colonization in Music 
This was one of my first collaborations with my homeboy and music mentor Hugo. It’s one of the more popular posts that I’ve been a part of and we’ve received many compliments and comments about it via social networking. I’m really proud of this piece because it demonstrates my understanding of my limitations, I’m honest about my impressions, thought process and how learning is a communal activity, not something we just do by reading a book. We do a lot of learning with one another and that’s why I love this piece. A while after it was posted and I had talked to Hugo again about creating another article, I realized that he was a co-writer of this piece, not just someone I interviewed/spoke to. As a result, we share writing credit with one another on our personal blogs and resume’s, and I shared half of the income I received for writing this piece. Hugo and I are working together and sharing with one another our expertise/passions. I go to him for music support and he comes to me asking for writing tips and suggestions for online publishing. I’m proud this piece demonstrates how complex we both are and how we have one another’s back.

The Power of Our Jiggly: Jiggly Boo Dance Crew 
Still one of my favorite testimonios I’ve written for the Media Justice Column. Here I share my experiences being a part of the fat dance crew Jiggly Boo Dance Crew. It’s been over 2 years since we danced together, but we are still connected, loving, and supporting one another. Our workshop that we hosted in June was amazing! We had about 15 participants, we stretched, breathed, moved, danced, and painted together. I still have the image I painted/created during the art therapy segment I facilitated and listen often to the playlist I created for this session. For art therapy each person picked a location to begin at where a different form of art was located (i.e. markers, water color, finger paints, chalk, pastels) and as they danced they created something using the item at their location. People had the choice to move around to other locations to use different forms of art and left with their creations. Some of us imagined our paper as a partner we would dance with and each time a song changed we’d find a new partner or color. I’m so amazed that I have had this experience and still have my Boos to call family.

Tattooing As Media 
This article I had thought about writing for such a long time. I had to really get myself together and think about how this message would be constructed, what I would share, how I would discuss these experiences and the choices that come with making them. It is one of the most exciting pieces I’ve written because it brought me closer to an artist whose work I’ve admired and had tattooed on my body: Isis Rodriguez. She reached out to me shortly after the article was published and we corresponded about her current work in Mexico. It was amazing to have someone I value reach to me and thank me for including their work and valuing it the way I do. This article is a testament to some of the positive outcomes that may emerge from all of our technology.

Why I’m An Adiposer 
Not too many people know I posed for the Adipositivity Project (yes even after I’ve written about it!). However, writing this post was one way for me to “come out” as someone who is connected to and dedicated to examining the ideas of how race, ethnicity, gender, class, and body shape and size impact our lives. I am still a part of challenging the stereotypes people have about people of different shapes, sizes, and weights. Part of valuing a healthy at every size philosophy is to first come to love and appreciate my own body and what it holds. This is not always easy. There have been times where I’ve been shamed for the way I look, questioned if I was doing the right thing, and considered drastically altering something about myself, habits, and body to fit into an ideal the US has constructed for women of Color. I recognize now that this is a process. That posing for the Adipositivity Project is part of the process, questioning if I did the right thing or if I will have the resources I need in the future are also parts of the process. It is from within the process that I can find self-determination and liberation.

American Idol and Representations of Working Class Whiteness 
If only because American Idol (AI) is still on television, that’s reason enough for me to adore this piece. It was one of the first times that I decided to focus this column on racially white people. I think it’s important for us to be honest about when we see representations of working class white people and what those representations tell us about the country we live in. It’s not often we critically look at how race intersects with specific examples of whiteness or how that also connects with geographic location and gender. Today, several seasons of AI since it’s publication, I realize that this representation is a formula that AI incorporates because they think it works. And maybe it does, but it’s still a formula and I would not have seen it so quickly had I not taken the time out to share some of these thoughts.

Make-Up As Media Making 
This is one of the newer posts that I’m really proud to have created. I really needed to vent and share some of the commentary I made to someone who insisted that people of Color who wear their hair naturally had “internalized oppression” because if they didn’t they would be wearing their hair “natural” (i.e. without chemicals). One of my responses was that some people (i.e. “feminists”) have judged me for wearing make-up and claim that by painting my face I’m conforming to certain standards of beauty, when in fact I don’t just paint my face, I paint my entire body! I needed to share how my face paint was something more meaningful to me, that it connected me to my culture, my mother, and my own form of personal liberation. What I never imagined was that other friends of mine, many who identify as “femme” embraced this piece, shared it everywhere, and gave me a lot of praise which was a magnificent experience which continues to this day.

Media Justice for Outlaws 
This post still brings me to tears at times. When I was writing it I was thinking about where I was in my life and what my parent’s responses were/are to my work in reproductive justice and sexual health. Hearing Sandra Cisneros and Dorothy Allison talk about how their parents respond to their work helps me. I wonder if I could be the person I am today if my parents were more “connected” online and able to see and witness what I was creating. Instead, their work is more manual and doesn’t offer them this ability. Putting my “Action Plan” into actual action was something I did do shortly after writing this piece. I sent my father for Father’s Day a piece I wrote about his presence in my life and how this challenges what I read about “machismo” in our culture and community. His response was short and he basically said “ok.” I had to be honest with myself that I desired something more from his response. That maybe I just won’t ever have a response from them. It hurt. Part of that pain is connected to my parent’s aging and their memory fading. But I’m at a place where I realize this is how it may be and that’s when chosen family and community come into play.

Editor’s Note:  At Amplify we love having Bianca and this column, and we wanted to chime in with some of our favorites as well!

1) Bianca’s online course in Human Sexuality:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.  This is an invaluable contribution in a world where many young people never learn the facts about human sexuality in high school.  We are DEEPLY grateful to have it shared here. 

2) La Femme Fetal:  Bianca linked last week to this great post about a song that’s almost 20 years old but still among the only, if not the only, overtly pro choice music out there.

3) Bianca’s work on Net Neutrality – most recently here, with links to previous entries. People need to know about this very important issue.

4) Bianca’s discussion of Charlie Sheen and ableist uses of the word "crazy" and synonyms. It’s too easy, too glib, to call things we don’t like "crazy" and we need to be reminded often. 

5) GaGa Fans:  Please Explain:  Bianca wonders about the weird and unfortunate terms used in "Born this Way"

6) And as a dance crew fan this editor (Emily) was really psyched about this oldie but goodie, ABDC’s Vogue Evolution.

Check all these out, and keep coming back each week!